Julia Brigdale

Garden Design & Writing

Design Process

The client may initially request a simple consultation to brainstorm a design or planting issue for which a sketch or planting plan may be all that is required. However, the full design service will involve some or all of the steps below:


* Consultation meeting

* Design Brief, Quote and Terms of Engagement

* Survey of site

* Concept/draft sketches

* Masterplan

Planting plans

Construction drawings

* Project Management


 The first step in the design process is an initial consultation meeting with the client on site. This involves a small fee, but will be subtracted from final fees if the design process is commissioned in full. The meeting is an opportunity for the client to see some of my previous work and for us to start building a working relationship. Most importantly, it is also a chance for me to get a feel for the site and to understand some of the client’s aspirations and requirements. From the discussions at this meeting I will put together a design brief and a quote outlining my fees. This will be sent to the client in writing after the meeting. If the client chooses to commission me, I then put together a simple ‘Terms of Engagement’ document which outlines clearly the agreement between myself and the client and explains in more detail what the project will involve.

The second step is to produce a professional survey of the site. Depending upon the size and the nature of the garden, this will be undertaken either by myself or by a company specializing in surveying. It is essential to have these details of the site in order to produce designs for the garden to scale, to note any existing features and trees and to gather information about utilities and conditions for whoever will be building the garden. This information also enables a contractor to offer an informed quote should one be procured and also ensures that my designs take into account all the necessary details pertaining to the site. It is at this stage for instance that any TPO’s may come to light (Tree Preservation Order), or any planning or conservation issues.

The third step is where I draw up 2 – 3 draft/concept sketches. These will be drawings that reflect features, requirements and design styles that I and the client will have discussed and may be accompanied by a mood-board of images to help visualise the ideas for the design of the garden. They will not contain specific details of planting or construction, but will indicate moods, styles, some suggested plants and hard-landscaping materials and a general layout of the site. Together, we will then discuss these sketches to hone the ideas for the final design, the Masterplan.

The fourth step is the production of the Masterplan. This drawing (or collection of drawings) represents the final design and will show hard and soft landscaping areas with general information regarding both. Planting plans will be provided separately, along with construction drawings for the contractor if required, as part of the Masterplan package.  The building of the garden can be implemented from these drawings and the client will have an understanding of the overall look of the completed garden. Any major changes to the design requested by the client at this stage will be subject to an additional fee.

 Finally - Perhaps the most important element of the whole process is overseeing the implementation of the design. While the plans and construction drawings can be interpreted by the contractor or the client, there can be tweaks and adjustments to make, or unforeseen issues that arise during the construction process that need to be addressed. I see this as part of the design process and therefore I like to remain involved with the implementation of the design where possible. Indeed I would recommend this element as an essential part of the whole design and build project. For the client’s peace of mind I am able to over-see the correct implementation and interpretation of the design by working closely with the contractor, ensuring the client gets the garden they hoped for.


I work with a small number of contractors whom I have got to know well over the years and who are qualified and experienced in their field. They have built gold medal winning gardens at The Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court and all take a real pride in the quality of their work.


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