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Diary of a garden design project
Landscape construction
Planting design
DIY gardens

This page details the bare bones of a garden design project (which is still ongoing) from initial meeting, through preparation of drawings and appointment of different contractors to construction and planting. It is intended to give some impression of the work of a garden designer. This page will be updated periodically as the project continues.

Major landmarks in the process. (Click on a heading to go to the relevant part of the more detailed diary).

First contact

Sketch design

Planning permission granted (The house is a listed building)

First woodland planting

Earthworks and drainage

Hard landscape start

Start of lawn and meadow work

Second woodland planting

Paving complete

Turf and seeding complete

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March 1999

First site visit, meeting with clients and taking of brief

Report of meeting sent along with initial fee estimate.

Fee estimate accepted

Land survey received from land surveyors

Initial concept drawing provided for discussion

April 1999

Sketch masterplan supplied to clients.

Sketch masterplan sent to local planning office to find out if a planning application is required.

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May 1999

Meeting with clients to discuss design, including proposed materials, drainage, the question of land purchase to extend the garden, timing of work and alterations to some details.

Meeting with planning officer - planning application will be required for hard landscape work since house is a listed building.

Woodland Grant application set in motion.

Draft copy of feu plan prepared outlining new title deed to include purchased land.

June 1999

Woodland grant application submitted to Forestry Commision

Drawings prepared for planning application and approved by clients

July 1999

Planning application submitted

August 1999

Additional information supplied to planning officer

Meeting with Forestry Commission woodlands officer

Amended woodland grant application submitted

September 1999

Detailed drawings for drive and paving prepared

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October 1999

Planning permission granted

Building work commences on house

Woodland grant application successful - contract sent out for signing

Amendments made to feu plan

Woodland planting plans and contract documents prepared and sent out to 3 contractors

December 1999

Feu plan finalised and sent to client, including original on stable drafting film

March 2000

No price in yet from forestry contractors so deadline issued

One price received - far too high - no response from other contractors

Decision taken to split forestry contract into two contracts - machinery work and planting work and to coordinate them myself. Small planting contractor and agricultural contractor contacted for prices.

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April 2000

Forestry contracts awarded

Application sent to environment protection agency for spraying close to river

Forestry area spraying carried out

May 2000

Ground preparation for forestry planting carried out

Meetings with different landscape contractors to check their ability to carry out hard landscape work

Forestry planting completed

Revisions to design of area between house and river

June 2000

Drawings for earthworks and drainage prepared

July 2000

Contact documents and drawings for grass seeding and turfing sent out for pricing

Earthworks and drainage contract awarded to agricultural contractor

Turf and seeding contractor appointed

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August 2000

Earthworks etc underway

Precontract meeting with hard landscape contract on site

Hard landscape contract awarded

Earthworks delayed by wet weather

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September 2000

Earthworks completed

Turfing contractor on site; area beside river seeded but rest of ground too wet - so left for drier weather

Hard landscape contract underway

October 2000

Hard contract suspended to allow house building work to be completed

November 2000

Second woodland grant application submitted to Forestry Commission

Delays to building work caused by wet weather delaying landscape works

Caithness stone paving delivered late in the month


Hard landscape work continuing

January & February

Landscape work suspended due to frost and snow

March 2001

Woodland grant approved

Forestry contract documents sent out

Hard landscape contractor back on site

April 2001

Forestry contract awarded

Planting plans prepared

Paving works complete

Planting plans sent to landscape contractor for pricing

Turf contractor back on site to carry out cultivation work

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May 2001

Planting contract awarded

Forestry spraying and cultivation carried out

Forestry planting carried out

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June 2001

Main seeding work (lawn and wildflower meadow) completed and formal lawn laid with turf

Hard landscape work virtually complete but list of snags and omissions sent to contractor

Planting carried our in areas beside new hard landscape

List of proposed wildflower plugs sent to client

July 2001

Wildflower plugs agreed with client and ordered for March 2002 delivery

Meeting on site with contractor to check seed germination

Drawing prepared for discussion with client concerning planting in front of house.

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August  2001

Forestry maintenance work carried out.

September 2001

Forestry contractor informs he is emigrating to Australia.  Decision taken to find a local gardener to carry out essential maintenance work including forestry areas.

Gates fitted to entrance.

Fertiliser applied to lawn areas to correct deficiencies.  Report sent to turfing contractor on defects.

October 2001

Completion certificate issued for lawn works with retention withheld until defects put right.

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November 2001

Local gardener interviewed and method of working agreed between him and client.  Work to include planting of wildflower plugs in Spring.  Drawing outlining planting positions for plugs sent to client for approval.

December 2001

Hard landscape defects put right.

January 2002

Final certificate issued for hard landscape works and contractor's final account passed to client for payment.

February 2002

Planting plans for next phase of planting sent to client for consideration. 

March 2002

Meeting on site with client and gardener.  Client is prepared to carry out some planting work himself so schedule of work prepared for this and issued to him.

Gardener informs that after spring plug-planting he will be unable to carry out further work so search on for a replacement gardener.

April 2002

Replacement gardener found and meeting arranged.  Wildflower nursery informs of problems with germination with certain species which will delay delivery of part of order until Autumn.

Meeting with replacement gardener, a qualified National Trust-trained horticulturalist.  Client happy so now in place.

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May 2002

First tranche of wildflower plugs delivered and planted.

Turf contractors having problems putting right last few defects.  Decision taken to have this work carried out by gardener and to subtract the value of this work from the turf contractors' final account.

Gardener starts work, including putting right lawn defects.

June 2002

Mushroom compost spread on previously-planted shrub beds as mulch.

August 2002

Meadow area mown by agricultural contractor in preparation for planting of final wildflower plugs.

September 2002

Wildflower plugs delivered and planted by gardener.

Final meeting of the year with client and gardener.  Work to be carried out over next 6 months decided on.  Decision to replace shrubs and a few trees in woodland area damaged by browsing deer, accidental strimming or weedkiller drift some 115 plants in all.

October 2002

River floods lower part of site; little or no damage.  Burn overflows and washes away temporary bridge installed by client.

November 2002

Replacement root-trainer shrubs and trees delivered and planted.  River floods again.

June 2003

Site visit finds that the meadow has an infestation of creeping Buttercup.  Client will treat worst areas with 2 applications of selective herbicide.  The areas can then be scarified and oversown with a selection of wildflower seed to replace plants damaged by the herbicide.  One or two losses in shrub planting during recent winter but most planting has now established well.  Gardener proceeding to carry out further planting.

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Additional tree and shrub planting carried out in woodland areas.


New ornamental shrub planting carried out in areas close to established woodland along roadside to increase privacy.

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Last modified:30th January 2011

Copyright Sam McGowan 2011