The design process - sketch plan
What does a garden designer do? They create a whole living environment linking people, house, plants and setting.
Garden design is fluid process of discovery and problem-solving
Making a garden is not about planting pretty flowers. That is just the icing on the cake, the final touch. A lot of invisible work goes into making a succeful garden, and that's what a garden designer is really paid for. A plant nursery can supply you with the plants and maybe even good advice, but they don't know your specific site and taste. Some big nurseries offer design service, at times excellent, but the time they may devote to your project may be limited, and the design will be based on the stock that they specialize in, because nurseries sell plants, preferably their plants. It's their job. As an independent garden designer my duty is to the client, I will choose the materials and plants that work best for their specific garden, and I'll plan everything so the plants look good year round, without needing to be replaced. That's my job.
Here I'd like to outline just what a designer does, the different phases of the design process that leads up to a succesful garden. A lot of information has to be gathered on site and by interviewing the clients, generating different documents. A site analysis plan records all relevant features: car and pedestrian access, good views to be framed, bad views to be hidden, exposure, anything which will affect the garden in positive or negative way.
As the idea for the site starts to form, they can be recorded in a functional diagram. This shows the use of different areas of the garden, how they link to each other and to the house. There are indications of paths, hedges, borders and paved areas, but their exact design is not specified yet.
Now that the nuts and bolts are in place, we can start working on a sketch plan, which lays out a design proposal for the whole garden. This is the first important document which will be discussed with the client. A sketch plan lays out the design features distinguishing clearly between hard landscape and green areas. There are enough details to allow the client to visualize the layout of lawns, borders, trees, paved areas and paths. It is the preliminary to further drawings on which the garden can be more accurately priced and built. Large gardens can be seen as a series of rooms, linked in a logical sequence and held together by a coherent ground plan.
Smaller town gardens can be seen as single open air room, which is best kept together by a single strong design. Paving, built elements and green material are the 'furniture' which make up this outdoor living space. Garden Design is a fluid process, in which problems and opportunities are discovered gradually. Each draft is part of the process of discovery - it's important to try everything out on paper first, to avoid expensive mistakes during the building phase.