I admit that is a statement I was never expecting to make. I’ve been designing gardens professionally for the last eighteen years. It’s how I earn my living. I charge people a fee to convert their ideas and lifestyle aspirations into a beautiful garden. So, why after so many years in the business have I come to the conclusion you’d be better off doing it yourself?
Two weeks ago I interviewed Anne Wareham to kick start a new monthly feature on Inspirational Gardens and the people behind them. I knew very little about Anne before the interview; turns out she’s not a trained garden designer. She’s self-taught from books and studying gardens intensely. That’s quite something when you look at what she’s achieved in her garden.
Are Garden Designers Really The Best Option?
Whilst researching for my interview with Anne, I came across an article by Tim Richardson, who writes for the Society of Garden Designers. He wrote a while back, that most of the iconic or outstanding contemporary gardens have not been created by professional garden designers. He commented that if he was a garden designer he would be somewhat miffed by that fact.
Upsetting News for Garden Designers?
No, I don’t see it that way. For me, it’s not a true comparison. It is like comparing a book to a film. No matter how good the film is, it is an abbreviated version. A filmmaker simply cannot fit every detail and nuance into a movie. Also, there is less room for your own interpretation. It’s all been laid out for you; the intimate co-creation that occurs between author and the reader is very hard, if not impossible to recreate in a film.
I feel the same is true between the difference someone can create in their own garden, with the necessary studying and time on their side, and calling in a garden designer. I’m not trying to do myself out of a job or knock my profession. It’s simply a case of time and practicality. A professional designer will see a client and garden they’ve never met before, for one or maybe two hours. In that time they have to assess the personality of both client and garden.
In that one brief experience, that single moment in time defines the designer’s entire experience of that garden. The designer will not have seen the transitions of the seasons. They are unlikely to have witnessed the play of light around the garden from dawn to dusk. They won’t have ‘lived’ that garden in the one or two hours they were there.
For me, designers offer a translation service for those who can’t and don’t want to speak the language of their garden. Considering the short amount of time we see the client and garden, I think designers do an amazing job. It’s no easy task to get inside another person’s mind and dig out their dream garden. Very few people are able to articulate exactly what they want. It takes a truly skilled designer to create a garden that not only ticks all the boxes for the client but delivers more than they ever thought possible.
I notice the difference between the book and the film. I feel that professional designs can have a somewhat precise and almost clinical nature to them. A flatness, if you will. They miss that spark of true magic that is created by someone that lives and breathes their garden. And add to the fact that gardens are not static objects; they mature and change over time. Try as a designer may, you can’t think of everything that might happen in a garden for the entirety of its existence with one plan, the garden needs to evolve over time.
Not Really Something Professional Garden Designers Want to Admit To
So, if the best gardens haven’t been done by designers, then my belief that homeowners are more than capable of doing their own garden, with the right training, is not only justified, if anything, I’ve underestimated what can be done by non-professionals. Think about the exciting possibilities that exist if people put their mind to consciously creating their gardens…
Should You Employ A Garden Designer?
Not everyone wishes to employ a garden designer, which is fine, but so few people actually do anything with their garden. And fewer still take the time to learn the principles of design to do it well. Why is that?
I have a few thoughts on why, and I think I have come up with a plan to help address the situation. After my interview with Anne Wareham, an idea sparked, one that will hopefully involve lots of other garden designers, landscapers and, I hope, you too. In case you are wondering, no, it won’t cost you anything to take part. I will tell you all the details in the next blog post which will introduce you to a free landscaping guide I’ve put together…
In the meantime, if you would like learn more about how to avoid BIG mistakes in your garden, enter your email address in the box below. You’ll never miss a blog post and I’ll send you a free report on what to avoid doing with your garden.