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Not dedicating his time to designing means the process can be cut short or drawn out. Designing takes time and to squeeze it in between having dinner and putting kids to bed is not the idea way to be creative!
Having been in this position myself many years ago, I can say with honesty that many landscapers will design what they like to build! – Again there may be nothing wrong with this but for maximum creative input you want a designer who will come up with ideas that sometimes aren’t the easiest to build but will be the most rewarding. There are many landscape companies that are capable of designing for you, just make sure the design is separate to the builder of it.
Some designers have a model they follow. They may specialise in formal gardens; indigenous gardens; contemporary; etc. Many designers work across the various styles and therefore can bring in elements from an array of influence. Review the designers’ work to ensure you are engaging one that will design in the style you enjoy best. Ask to see examples of their work; homes you may visit; perhaps testimonials you can read; etc.
Experience – what involvement has the designer had with building one? The number of times over the years I have been handed a design only to have to alter it. Simple examples are: designing a sleeper wall with odd lengths rather than what can be purchased, i.e. 2.4m long is the standard and the designer builds 2.2m long garden beds which will mean more cutting and waste. Likewise drawing walls at 2.3m long built out of concrete blocks, which come in 400mm lengths; Or suggesting 140/19mm spotted gum decking boards to be nailed onto the joists – these boards are very strong and will ‘cup’ even when screwed so you would never nail them. A lack of experience can spell disaster at construction in terms of result and blow out costs.
Does the designer get involved at construction? I.e. do they visit site and advise on any aspects? – Watch Jamie Durie or Brendan Moar or others on TV and you will see that they often makes changes to the design during the construction phase. Designs are often built as designed but if you are keen to see your design bear the greatest fruit, then allow the possibility for ‘evolvement’ of the design at any stage. For example, you clear the site and suddenly with all the trees gone, you see this big ugly tin shed you didn’t know existed next door or the reverse, you now see a view of the city that adds depth. Here the design may need to be altered slightly to take advantage of this. Here is where you need a designer who offers the service of ‘design supervision’ if not, you or your landscaper now have to wear the ‘hat’ of designer!