If you need help to make the most of your outside space, asking a garden designer to bring your ideas to life could be the best investment you’ll make. If you’re wondering how much does a garden designer cost, taking this major step is easier than ever; many garden design professionals offer flexible services offering targeted advice focussing on what homeowners really want to see in their garden ideas.
‘Garden design is no longer the sole preserve of the wealthy and landed, “ordinary” people can have even a small garden professionally designed,’ says Juliet Sargeant, who is the owner of Juliet Sargeant Gardens & Landscapes, a member of the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) and a recent RHS Chelsea Gold Medal winner for her Blue Peter ‘Discover Soil’ garden.
What does a garden designer do?
A garden designer will pull together all your ideas, from the latest garden trends to your favourite plants, and help you source everything you need to complete the look you want, including helping you to choose the best garden furniture for your scheme.
‘Designers will oversee the project from concept to completion, removing the stresses of the build from the client,’ says garden designer James Beadnall, owner of James Beadnall Garden Design (opens in new tab). ‘They come up with functional and aesthetically-beautiful solutions for the space before creating masterplans and construction details for landscapers to work from.
‘If you want them to, they will source materials, landscape teams, and plants, and also manage the build. They will also carry out regular site visits to make sure everything is going to plan.’
How much does a garden designer cost?
In the UK, the average cost paid for a garden design is £1,950, according to Fiona Jenkins, garden expert at household jobs comparison site, MyJobQuote (opens in new tab). The price range, however, is wide. To hire a garden designer to plan out, in detail, a new or renovated garden could cost from £600 to £4,500.
This will vary around the country; generally speaking, it’s more expensive to hire a garden designer in London and the South East than in the North of England, Scotland, or Wales.
Phil Hirst, owner of Phil Hirst Garden Design (opens in new tab), says that designers calculate their fees in two very different ways; either as a percentage, typically between eight percent and 20 percent of the overall expected budget for the garden, or base their fees on an hourly rate. Bear in mind that according to MyJobQuote, garden designers tend to charge from £60 to £200 an hour. Most people with more modest gardens tend to favour the hourly rate option, professionals say, so they can keep a close eye on how much their garden design will cost.
Planning and design stage
‘Budget on an approximate cost of £30 to £150 per sqm for the whole design to be put into practice, from design to execution,’ says Fiona. If you’re looking for easy garden ideas your design will potentially cost less, as there will be fewer features.
For example, creating and finishing a 10sqm garden should cost between £3,000 and £15,000, but this price could double if you wanted to spend on high-quality planting, premium landscaping materials such as limestone or York stone, and expensive features such as outdoor kitchens.
Landscaping and structures
When your garden design is completed, you will need to consider garden landscaping costs in detail. If you’re concerned about how much your garden design will cost, this is where you can make savings, by working with your designer and contractor/s to find the best value for money materials.
These might include timber and stone, and structures such as fences and pergolas, substituting expensive for economical options if necessary. You will also need to add in labour costs; experienced landscapers typically charge about £150 to £200 per day, according to MyJobQuote.
There may be additional costs to pay if your garden is tricky to access; for example, if items such as furniture and fencing have to be craned into place rather than carried down a path. The extra time it takes and the hire of any equipment will need to be taken into account.
Most contractors will dispose of debris in the most economical and environmentally-friendly way possible. However, if there is a lot of waste to remove, skips will be needed. Hire prices vary around the UK, but MyJobQuote suggests for example, that a two to three-yard ‘mini skip’ which will take approximately 30 bin bags, costs between £60-£130 for a week’s hire (opens in new tab).
Is garden design expensive?
It doesn’t have to be. Garden designer, vlogger and BBC1 Garden Rescue TV presenter Lee Burkhill, known as ‘Garden Ninja’, says his own garden designs start at £1,000, increasing in cost based on size and complexity: ‘Once the quote has been given for the design this is then fixed, so no surprises. Even on the tightest budgets, professional garden design can save you bags of money and avoid many costly mistakes.’
His tip for keeping the cost of garden design in check is to employ a garden designer based on the amount of time they will spend on your job, rather than paying them a percentage of the overall budget: ‘This often saves you money, rather than a one-size-fits-all percentage of the overall cost.’
How can I reduce the cost of garden design?
There are a number of ways you can save money on professional garden design. One option is to hire a garden designer for a partial or limited design service. This might involve, for example, getting help with designing the layout of your garden, or choosing plants, landscaping materials and built-in elements such as bench seating, but not with the actual construction or installation.
Stick to a budget
Part of the satisfaction of designing a garden for a client is sticking to a budget, says Andrew Duff, vice-chairman at SGD. ‘If you had a certain figure in mind, for example, £5,000, and you said, “I want to spend this, what can you do?” there are certainly designers that would be happy to work to that. And whatever the budget, a line is still a line, you might be looking at the difference [in cost] between lawn and gravel, or York stone, but the line is still there. The design has been made.’
To reduce the number of hours your garden designer might spend researching ideas, he advises creating a digital – such as Pinterest – or physical, such as a mood-board or scrapbook, resource of your own to share with your professional, collating images of gardens, plants and garden features you like.
If you already have a good idea how to plan a garden and just want expert advice on a certain aspect such as planting for a tricky spot, or creative ideas on how to deal with challenges such as privacy, you could ask a garden designer for a one-off consultation. For example, Lee Burkhill charges £200 for his 60-minute Remote Garden Consultancy Service (opens in new tab).
Source your own plants
You can always ask a designer to simply create a scheme, then source your own plants; you may even decide not to fill all of the garden at once. However, you should always consider long-term plant growth and maintenance, so you will need to discuss this with your designer first. ‘On a very basic level a maintenance schedule is produced for the client,’ says James. ‘This classifies all the plants in the garden and explains when to do what with each of them. This is very useful for clients wanting to tend to their own garden or for them to hand over to their gardener.’
Use technology and free garden design services
If you’re planning a major garden design project and sourcing a lot of plants or materials such as hard landscaping from a particular garden centre or specialist supplier, ask if the company offers any free design services to keep costs down.
Or, if you’re technically-minded, there is a choice of free or low-cost garden design software such as Shoot Gardening (opens in new tab), £59 subscription for one year, and apps that you can use to create your own garden design such as the app iScape Landscape Design (opens in new tab), free for amateurs and Home Outside (opens in new tab), £2.49, Apple Store.
Is it worth getting a garden designer?
Andrew says definitely yes: ‘The thing about a garden designer is that they know how to get the best out of you; a good designer will look in your head and bring your ideas to life. That’s the precise job of a garden designer.’
Does a garden designer add value?
British house buyers would be willing to spend an extra £15,000 to buy a house with a well-designed garden, found a survey undertaken by SGD and property portal Zoopla (opens in new tab). This survey also found that around three-quarters of homeowners either already have or would consider spending money on their garden to increase the value of their property, with 40 percent saying they would consider employing a professional garden designer to help create their perfect garden. ‘Nowadays more people understand the value of having their garden professionally designed,’ says SGD member Cleve West (opens in new tab). ‘Many see it as a long-term investment.’
What are the benefits of a garden designer?
They bring vision and discipline, which go hand in hand in garden design, whether you’re looking for neat and tidy front garden ideas to maximise kerb appeal or tackling several acres of untamed wilderness.
‘Working with a garden designer is similar to working with an architect and with an interior designer, but we kind of fuse the two things together,’ says Lee Bestall, founder of garden design company Bestall & Co (opens in new tab), and SGD member. ‘We are expected to know lots about plants, site, situation. We have to know lots about the infrastructure, but also how to light it, how to dress it. We’re really both jobs amalgamated into one, as well as a plant doctor.’
When should you not have a garden designer?
If you are worried about how much a professional garden designer will cost, or you want the satisfaction of designing your own garden, there’s no reason why you can’t do it yourself.
You will need a strong visual eye and sound plant knowledge, plus an understanding of the way the physical aspects of your garden will perform; so you will need to consider factors such as the type of soil, drainage and orientation.
‘You can actually do it yourself, but if you engage a garden designer, you’re often paying for years of experience and where they’ve learnt through their mistakes,’ says Andrew. ‘They know what works as well as what can go wrong.’
Written by Jayne Dowle