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Sam McGowan works in one of three ways as a garden designer:

As an hourly-paid consultant.  Usually the system used when a client wishes mainly help and advice with the design of their garden but requires few or no drawings or other contract documents.  Normally, a short-term arrangement.

On a retainer basis.  A method often employed when a client wishes to carry out some or all of the work themselves and wishes the designer to be available to give help and advice with the design, construction and planting of their garden over a period of time.  Normally, an agreement will be made as to the amount of work to be provided and as to the timing and amounts of periodic fee charges.  Design and drawings may be included or charged as separate items.

On a project basis.  The commonest method of working as a garden designer,where a client wishes a design to be provided and then achieved by bringing in one or more contractors to carry out the work, usually with the designer acting as client's representative and monitoring the work.  Fees are charged either on a monthly basis or on completion of discrete sections of work. Below is the structure of a typical project with the timing of fee charges indicated. (Click here to see details of a project in progress.)  Generally, fees are estimated and agreed in advance of each section of work being carried out.

1. Initial visit
This involves a preliminary inspection of the site and a meeting with the client to take a brief and to establish the working relationship which is necessary to take the project forward. The meeting will include a fuller explanation of the garden design process, including the presentation of a portfolio of past work. A short report will be prepared on this meeting which will include a fee estimate for a sketch design. No work will be carried out until this estimate has been accepted. A fee will be charged for this visit to cover expenses.
2. Sketch design
This may include carrying out a full survey if the site is too complex to do this at the initial visit. Drawing(s) (Click here to view a selection of drawings) will be prepared to illustrate the initial design ideas. This is intended as a discussion document. Fee will be charged on completion.
3. Outline design or Masterplan
This is based on the sketch design, refined and amended in the light of discussions with the client. Fee charged on acceptance by the client.
4. Hard landscape drawings and documents
Preparation of construction drawings and contract documents including specifications and the choosing of appropriate contractors. Fee charged on issue to contractors. (Click here to see a selection of landscape details under construction).
5. Monitoring of hard landscape contract
Visiting the site to ensure work is carried out to specification, to approve materials and to solve problems that might arise during the contract. Fee charged per visit, either on completion of contract work or on a monthly basis for larger contracts.
6. Planting plans and documents
As 4 but for planting. On smaller projects, the hard landscape and the planting may be carried out by the same contractor as one contract and the design work bundled together (Click here to see further information on planting design).
7. Monitoring of planting contract
As 5.
8. Aftercare
Visits to ensure that no problems arise and that the client knows how to carry out maintenance. Can involve finding contractors to carry out maintenance etc. and even the preparation of a landscape management plan.

On larger projects which are broken into several phases of work, items 4 to 7 can be repeated several times, once for each phase.




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Last modified:30th January 2011

Copyright Sam McGowan 2011