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GARDENS


Great gardens – by design Enhance the value of your property with a designer garden, says Matthew Appleby


Choosing a garden designer can be a tough decision. But now the economy is on the upturn, there’s more skips outside houses, full of old bits of fences and the like - a tell-tale sign that more and more of the biggest rooms in the house are getting a makeover. The garden is often the last area homeowners turn to add value to their house, yet Royal Horticultural Society surveys suggests 95 per cent of people believe a decent garden adds value to a property.


Figures from Homebase show that Britons have invested more than £80 billion in their gardens. A separate survey from Lloyds TSB Insurance said the typical garden was worth £1,928. And a survey from Home Counties- based garden centres Squire’s suggested a garden can add £115,000 to the value of a London house. So it’s worthwhile getting the garden renovated properly.


The first thing to do is decide what you want, be it a simple Groundforce-style makeover, with decking, paving, patio, water feature (a pond?), lights, sound, heating, planting, lawns, trees - the permutations are endless. Then it’s choosing a designer/contractor. They’re not the same thing. The designer might not want to get his or her hands dirty, or might just offer a design and planting service, subcontracting hard landscaping - paths, walls, pools, lights and trees to another firm. Check if they do an all-in-one service or who is doing the sub-contracting, if you fear extra costs, overruns or variable quality of work.


As well as asking friends and neighbours who to use, go to shows like Chelsea and Hampton Court to find designers - and


inspiration. Chelsea veteran designer Jo Thompson tells me she gets most of her work through word of mouth. But, of course, gardens like her 2015 M&G- sponsored design at Chelsea are great advertising platforms.


For a cheaper option, you can go it alone with the design and then get a contractor in – or even build it yourself. But for the million dollar finish, an amateur design or job might not be the answer. You probably wouldn’t design and build your house yourself, would you?


Raynes Park-based Andrew Fisher Tomlin agrees recommendations are the best way to find designers: ‘That’s how I buy things on Amazon,’ the RHS judge says. ‘The statistics now show 60 per cent of people buy things on recommendation. People I go and see know who I am because I’ve been designing gardens in the area for 25 years.’


Andrew says choosing a local designer is a good idea because they know local conditions: ‘For instance, in Wimbledon certain areas have five metre strips of gravel underground. I know the type of soil at the top of the Ridgway.’


On the question of design and build, Andrew says a designer should be able to recommend at least three landscapers who can do the work. Andrew adds that nowdays there is an expectation that a designer will be able to do the whole job. ‘If a designer comes along and says he can do the design for £300 or even nothing at all, you’re still going to be paying for it somewhere.’ That money may well be for the landscaper.


Andrew says that paying a proper design fee pays off. Over the years, he says he has saved the fee he charges many times over in the long run for many clients because, for instance, paving over a front garden is often recommended by landscapers but planting more of the area is actually cheaper, as planting is the less costly part of garden design, compared to hard landscaping. Maybe choosing a garden designer isn’t that difficult after all, he


suggests. Simply use professional advice. t&l


Matthew Appleby edits Horticulture Week and Garden Retail magazines and contributes to national publications. He is writing a book on the subject of gardening with children


GARDEN DESIGN


TRENDS FOR 2015 Recycled materials in gardens, such as old machinery made into water features, recycled wood. Also new materials including sheet Accoya and flexible timber.


Outdoor showers, pools, pool houses, spas, underground rooms with pools and offices, Hobbit house-style garden rooms.


Intricate patterned paving, including on the bottom of pools.


UK planting rather than exotic plants, which has died in recent winters. Perennial meadows are going out of fashion.


Alternatives to box, which is prone to blight disease, such as Pinus mugo and Fagus sylvatica, Ilex crenata ‘Convexa, Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’


Burnt wood - the ‘v’ seen in Andrew Wilson’s Cloudy Bay garden at Chelsea 2014


timeandleisure.co.uk . January 2015 . 49


BIG BUILDGARDENS


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