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Many fine gardens evolve gradually through the loving attention of their owners with little or no outside help. Some of these questions might be answered by a knowledgeable gardener, others by a landscaper or builder, but for professional advice covering the whole process of planning and making a garden it is best to consult a qualified garden designer.
A professional garden designer will listen carefully to your wishes before making any detailed proposals; time spent discussing practical needs and your likes and dislikes will help achieve a result that both you and the designer can be excited by. There is no denying that creating a garden can be expensive: expect to spend about the same on a new garden as on a complete new kitchen. The Society of Garden Designers, established 1981, is the only UK professional body dedicated to garden design.
Many of us sense a problem when a garden lacks good "flow" - even though we may be happy with planting and individual features. If you are in this position, a consultation with a designer whose work you like can open up a world of possibilities in terms of new materials, plants and layout solutions.
Major structural works, which could involve buildings, water features, large areas of hard surface, changes of level, installation of walls, and laying on of an electricity supply, may be subject to building regulations or may even need planning permission, so they are best left to a qualified professional who is up to date with the law and fully insured. Garden designers are usually keen plantsmen and women who are also knowledgeable about maintenance.

But when it comes to creating a new garden design, or taking over an existing one that has fallen on hard times or that does not suit your taste or needs, it is well worth seeking advice from a professional garden designer. Of course, before engaging any professional advisor you should first check their credentials and satisfy yourself that they are someone you can trust to interpret your brief in a sympathetic manner.
A garden designer will have thought through the practical implications of his proposals, including cost.
Spatial organisation, as John Brookes says, is the primary concern of a professional designer.
Most designers offer services ranging from a one-off advice session through to design and build. The Society of Garden Designers, now celebrating its 25th year, is the only professional body in the UK devoted solely to garden design. He will be able to provide detailed working drawings and to source materials and plants, giving you a much wider choice than could be found at your local garden centre or builder’s merchant. A well designed garden makes good use of space that might have been wasted, making a small plot seem bigger and a large uninteresting space more intimate. Registered members have had their work individually assessed and must adhere to a code of professional practice.

The benefits of a new garden go on improving over time – planting typically takes three to five years to mature, for a larger garden ten years or more. In the United States the equivalent body is the APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers). Research shows that patients who have access to a garden, even if they can only look at it from a hospital bed, recover more quickly than those who do not, confirming what gardeners have known all along: gardens are good for you. The public had half-hour slots for face-to-face discussions with a rota of designers who gave their time.
Yet more often, neither the camera nor the voice-overs seemed capable of analysing the gardens themselves. A designer’s principal concern is spatial organisation in a garden of whatever size. The next concern is the architecture of the garden – the paving, walling and boundaries.

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