Being responsible for the design and build of a commercial garden can be daunting, it is always advisable to consult a professional designer who will consider elements that you may not have considered.
First impressions always count but good garden design can also improve security, increase property value, and boost employee mental health. Gardens also continue to evolve, and you may wish to consider designs that maximise colour in the summer months and provide green foliage cover in colder parts of the year. So where to start?
An initial visit by a garden design professional will allow them to understand your objectives. Most requirements are unique, but a good garden designer will drill into what you really want to achieve with your garden. How will it be used across the year and what is it possible to achieve in both the short and longer term. Importantly, how often will the space be maintained going forward.
Preparing a Brief
Professional providers will expect you to provide them with a detailed brief. This document should outline your requirements, preferences, expected budget and timelines. Your supplier may enable this process with a questionnaire but either way it is an important step. It is worth collaborating on this document with multiple colleagues from separate departments in your company.
Your designer will want to survey the site to record existing features, soil types and other relevant conditions. This will include any necessary planning requirements or restrictions applicable to the site. If any form of planning permission is required your design company should be able to manage this for you.
An outline plan is generally a scaled drawing of the proposed layout of the new garden. It will detail the different areas including hard landscaping, planted beds, lawns, and any proposed features. A mood board and 3D views may be provided. This concept is the discussion piece and will come with a series of questions. Be prepared to spend time on this important stage.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has an excellent garden design resource, that can be found here.
Final Design Plan
Ongoing discussions will lead to the evolution of a final design plan. It is this document that will enable the accurate calculation of materials and construction cost. The final, detailed quotation for sign off and timeline agreement. Again, it is advisable to involve multiple parties in your organisation in the approval process.
Design and Build
At this stage of the process, you can choose to use your own contractors for the build or to retain all services within a design and build company. One company for all elements, the important design and all works to completion is generally the least stressful and most productive option. Ideally your garden designer should oversee the construction phase ensuring plans are closely followed. Similarly, the planting schedule is more likely to be accurate to the original brief if conducted by the garden design team. Expect to pay for the full design and build service in increments.
Annual Review Visits
Ideally the development of a garden should be reviewed annually. Lots of things can change over time, it makes sense to maximise your investment with a professional review and recommendation process. Your design and build company may build this into the original contract. Ongoing maintenance should not be neglected including soil improvement, re-planting, and pruning.
Whatever your objectives, remember that this garden will be viewed and used by staff, customers, neighbours, and affiliates for many years to come. It is a worthwhile investment that is very worthy of the time and effort.