Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Plants glorious plants.

Been thinking quite a lot about plants and planting plans over the last few days - we had an SGD (Society of Garden Designers) meeting in Edinburgh tonight where we all discussed how we take care of the planting part of the design process - everything from how we gather the brief, draw up the plan, source the plants, planting itself. There were about 14 of us there, all with different levels of experience and it was fascinating to hear how everyone goes about it. Here's what we discovered:
1) most of us gather a basic planting brief when we first meet our clients where we'd talk to them about colour, maintenance levels, style. It helps with the initial garden design, but many of us went back to the clients once the final garden design had been agreed to firm up the exact plants for the garden. I tend to have a minimum of 2 meetings with them - first to take an electronic moodboard with me (where would I be without my trusty laptop??), where we can get a flavour of the plants they'd like. I find photos help a huge amount. Next we'd meet to talk over the final list before I go and order them. At this stage I prepare an Excel spreadsheet with all the plants listed - give this to the nursery for them to price plants for me and also give a copy to client so they can see how their money is being spent. So here's the kind of thing I did for a client who wanted a purple, blue and white planting scheme, one side of the garden was in shade, the other side sunny. They wanted colourful foliage and a good mix of shrubs and herbaceous planting:
2) Most of us seem to try to do a full planting plan for each garden (as opposed to visiting the nursery and just trying to pick out plants by eye).  I use a combination of Sketchup and Photoshop to create the planting plan - not only does it provide a guide for me to lay out and plant up the garden, but it makes it easy to change the final plan should I tweek and move plants around a little when I am actually on site. In Sketchup I have a master file that contains plant circles of all the sizes I will need, and can drag them into the Sketchup model of the garden design outline I'm working on (more on that process in another later blog methinks). So I can ultimately create this:

3) Sourcing the plants - many of us had learnt the hard way about creating a plan with all the plants in that we fancy using and then realising we'd have to go to 3, 4 or maybe even more nurseries to get hold of them which really isn't a good use of our time as designers we reckoned. In the central belt of Scotland we've got a decent choice of places to choose from, with some very helpful nursery owners. One discussion was around the topic of whether there is ever truly a 'One Stop Shop' nursery where you can get all your trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants from. A few folks used McLarens on the far side of Glasgow, and they are happy to deliver to Edinburgh and beyond. Macplants is a great herbaceous nursery in East Lothian (http://www.macplants.co.uk/home.asp) and Binny Plants (http://www.binnyplants.co.uk/index.asp) in West Lothian has a very knowledgeable owner and a great online catalogue.
4) There was a mix of experiences when it came to planting up the garden. Around two thirds of us planted the gardens ourselves and if a contractor was going to be planting it, we would usually lay out the plants for them. Most of us agreed that we looked forward to this part of the process and if we were able to plant up with either the client or another helper that it made it even more enjoyable.
5) Whilst discussing how we charged for planting there seemed to be agreement that most of us gave the client a fee for doing the planting design at the start of the planting process and an estimate on the cost of planting up. We agreed it often took longer to plant than we might initially envisage so would charge the client hourly for this part of the job, whilst giving them a maximum amount of hours we might take.
The planting for the design above was done early last summer, so need to go back and photograph it this summer. But for another project I was working on last spring looked like this after only a month or two:


Martin Ritchie said...

That's a great summary of the evening on Monday, Tracy. I love your electronic mood board - how exactly do you arrange the pics together on one page? Is it a photoshop programme that you are using?

Tracy McQue said...

Hi Martin, thanks for that. Yup, used my old favourite Photoshop to create moodboard, but something like Powerpoint would work equally well I'm sure (something that allows you to drag & resize photos easily).

00264167 said...

ive always wondered do garden designers pay the same retail price for plants that the public do? i couldnt imagine planting up a garden when a 2 litre pot plant costs £6-9 each nowadays.