It’s really important to take a hard look at your garden and decide what’s good – and bad – about it, and how you would like to use it. Consider who actually uses the garden and what for; how much time you want to spend looking after it; are there elements you must have, and others you’d like to have but are not essential; are there particular problem areas; what’s the soil like and which are the sunny/shady parts. This will provide a really helpful brief that you can send to your potential designer before you have your initial meeting.
Importantly, you should know how much money you have to spend as this will give the designer an idea of what they can include in the project.
You also need to think about the kind of feel you want your garden to have. One of the best ways to communicate this to a designer is to make a moodboard of images. These could include photos of gardens you’ve visited and liked; clippings taken from magazines and newspapers or photocopies of books; or sketches of your own. Think about the hard landscaping as well as the plants and include images of furniture, pieces of sculpture, artwork, or simply colours or materials that you find appealing. You could make your own scrapbook or use a website, such as Pinterest to collect images.
Many designers will offer a range of different services so it’s important to establish from the beginning what you want from them and how much work you are willing to do yourself. For instance, you may feel happy to source and plant your own plants, but feel less confident about managing the build. The three most common packages are; design only, which involves drawing up concept and detailed plans including, usually, planting plans and construction plans for any hard landscaping; design and build, which means the designer takes responsibility for building the project, and design plus overseeing the build. If you choose the latter option you will employ the building contractor directly, although the designer may recommend one he’s worked with before, but, the designer will check on the build to make sure all is going to plan.