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Garden Design Essentials 1: The Brief

How to design a garden: the Brief

Designing a garden is truly a collaborative process. It’s a team effort between you, the client, and me, the garden designer. At each stage we work together to ensure the garden at the end of the project reflects what you love, want and need.

I’m going to be taking you through the different steps involved in designing a garden in a series of blogs called ‘Garden Design Essentials’.  And in this post, I’m focusing on step one – the Brief.  One of the best ways for me to explain how this works is to tell you about a garden design project I’ve been working on this year.  Meet Gloria and John…

Gloria and John, a retired couple who have downsized to in a new build home in Skipton, to be close to their daughter and grandchildren.

At first glance, Gloria and John’s goal sounds simple: create a garden that they can enjoy and relax in together. But dig a little deeper and there is a more specific need to take onboard.

For John, who has vascular dementia, and Gloria, top of the list was creating a sheltered, seating area. An area to sit out in, relax and enjoy the view. Gloria had been doing her research and had found pictures of gazebos and pergolas that she thought would work well in a recessed area of the garden.

Initial consultation – exploring ideas

We explored Gloria’s ideas via a questionnaire and images. But, visiting the garden for the first time, I saw that the recessed space outside the living room patio doors might not be the best spot for their sheltered seating area, for various reasons:

  • The garage door opened onto this area
  • The intended bench would block the patio doors leading from the sitting room
  • The views from this area look towards neighbouring houses with overlooking windows

While walking round the garden, I started looking for alternatives and started to think about verandahs rather than pergolas and gazebos.

Why not put the verandah outside the kitchen doors?  It would be a stylish and practical option, it would also link the house and garden nicely. It would give Gloria and John sheltered seating, as well as cover for outdoor boots and shoe storage when the grandchildren visited. A practical need they mentioned at the start. An idea I suggested to Gloria.

This is why these early exchanges are so important. With a fresh pair of eyes, I can suggest a practical and an aesthetic perspective. These conversations also help us to decide what will stay, change or be removed from the garden – all of these are added to the Brief.

The design brief

After this first visit, I summarised our conversation into a short document and sent it to Gloria and John, the notes reflecting our exchange of ideas to date.

This document and the mood board mark the start of the garden design process and the creation of the Brief. This information weaves in and out of the design process from the early concept stage through to the final design details including planting – which is why it’s so important.

Having a clear brief that we all agree on, means I can work on a design that is just right for you. A garden that reflects what you want, and what is feasible given the site and budget.

Guide to a successful working relationship with your garden designer

I love these early stages of a garden design project. It’s exciting getting to know a client and exploring a new garden. And my technical background means I love analysing the space, finding the challenges and opportunities.

A collaborative approach to garden design

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, garden design really is a team effort. My role as a designer is to listen to your needs and wants. And the best results come when the client is open to ideas and I can fully explore creative solutions.

This is why I like to spend time developing a Brief that’s spot on. Time spent getting to know each other and your garden all helps me to design a garden that is right for you.

Thank you for reading,



Other Reading

Garden design: 11 steps to plan and design a garden”, Real Homes, 7th August 2020

The Traditional Verandah Company, UK

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