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Design process

Why use a garden designer?

Alexandra Gray Garden Design brings expertise in computer-aided and hand-drawn design, spacial awareness, plant habits and combinations, soil science, climatic considerations, hard landscaping materials, decorative features and technical knowhow to a project. We combine these skills to help you solve problems, bring in new ideas and prevent costly mistakes.

The design process can be broken down into a number of stages and, as each client and project is different, not all of these will apply to every job.

Stage One – initial meeting

The initial meeting is for us to meet and see the site, listen to your requirements and find out a little about you. It is useful if the client has give some consideration to budget in advance. In some cases a consultation based on an hourly rate followed by a report is all that is required but, more often, we will send you a quotation for producing a plan. We will advise you in advance of the fee for this first meeting and is refundable against any work done. 

Stage Two – designing the masterplan

Sketch of garden planOnce the quotation has been accepted, we will meet again to complete a simple questionnaire for us to understand more about you, your garden desires, likes, dislikes, problems and, if possible, the budget for the project. We will also do a site analysis, including photography and soil testing.

Before we do any work on your garden, you will need a site survey. If you have a small, simple garden this can be done in-house – but more often it requires a specialist surveyor. We can arrange this with the client's approval and ask the surveyor to invoice you directly.

With this information we will draw a concept plan, with visualisation, of the garden, showing the shape of the various areas, and outlining how they will be used. This is the chance to discuss the design and make any changes.

Next, we will finalise the masterplan. This shows the basic shapes, levels, features, surfaces and key planting/trees, but without a full planting plan. Where appropriate cross sections to indicate level changes and profile visuals may be included. 

Stage Three - tender documentation

Sketch of garden planWe prepare documentation to go out to tender to various landspapers/contractors either that we have worked with before or  you may have your own contractors in mind.

We include specifications, how and of what the garden should be constructed, together with a setting out plan, giving measurements for the landcaper to lay out on the ground, and detail drawings, as applicable. These technical drawings ensure that features such as steps, pergolas or water features are built exactly as we want them to be.

Not all jobs require the full written brief – for example, if we are working closely with a trusted  landscaper on a relatively small job - but they are a provide a basis for contractors to quote against and then build to.

Stage Four – planting plan

Sketch of garden planting planYou may require a planting plan to improve an existing border, for a new scheme or to cover the whole garden. The plan will show botanical names and quantities of the plants, and include a plant schedule and, where appropriate, spacing and pot sizes.


Stage Five – constructing the new garden

Sketch of garden plan, house view Once a landscaper has been appointed, we will liaise with them, you, the architect (if applicable) and suppliers and make regular site visits to ensure all runs smoothly.

Some decorative items will need to be approved by the client, for example, paving, ballustrading, sculptures. We can choose and source these but the client may wish to be more closely involved. 

Stage Six - planting

Depending on the job, either the landscaper will supply the plants themselves or we may supply them, but in all cases we would lay out the plants. In small gardens/projects it may be appropriate for us to do the planting ourselves.

Stage Seven – after care

We always supply some notes on what to do to get the best out of the garden, however we can also prepare a maintenance schedule, which helps the client and/or their gardener look after the plants correctly.

Regular check ups – We tend to stay in touch with past clients and like to go back to see the gardens as they mature, but we also offer a regular review service where we will return to offer advice and help as the garden evolves.


The quotation covers the design of the masterplan and, once the shapes are known, may include a planting plan. Further work is charged at an hourly rate plus expenses, due to the unknown quantity of the project at the start.. However an estimate of likely costs at various stages can be provided for budgetary purposes.