If you are planning to redesign your garden, either yourself or with the help of a garden designer, making a few assessments up front will help to make the best decisions. Here are a few of the most important ones.
When imagining your ideal garden (within the parameters the space available to you) try to capture the essence of what you would love to achieve in a brief sentence. For instance: a place to sit quietly in the evening / grow vegetables / entertain once a month / a lawn for children to play. Where space is limited, put these in order of priority so that the brief fulfils your needs in order of importance.
Who is the garden for?
Think about who uses the garden most of the time, what times of the day, and how. This includes you and the people that live with you, pets, friends, family and other visitors. It also includes wildlife: you may wish to maintain habitat for existing wildlife, or attract new wildlife into your garden.
Connected to this is how the garden will be maintained. You may love gardening and want to be out in it every weekend; however if you prefer a low-maintenance garden, you'll need something that requires minimal and easy intervention in terms of the layout, materials and the plants used.
What do you feel are the best parts of the garden in terms of space, privacy, existing features and future potential? Also note down the places that receive the most sunlight in the morning, lunchtime and evening.
There may be beautiful views that you want to preserve - where are these best seen from? Conversely you may be overlooked and keen to create some privacy, so have a think about anything that bothers you in that respect.
What practical features need to be included, e.g. bin stores, storage for tools / toys / bikes, oil tanks, pet safety etc.
Right Plant, Right Place
What thrives in your existing garden, and what struggles? Choosing plants best suited to the given environment will give them the greatest chance of reaching their optimal performance. This requires analysis of the following conditions:
Are you aware of anything that might pose a challenge in creating your ideal garden, for instance:
It is important to think about the kind of budget you want to work with as early as possible in the process. If you advise your garden designer at the beginning, they will design with that figure in mind. This avoids the potential for disappointment further down the line, when you might achieve a design that you love, but then find out it's too expensive and needs to be rethought.
Building and maintenance
You may want to undertake the landscaping work yourself, or to hire in a professional team. A garden designer can guide you in sourcing the best landscaper for your needs, and put together a drawing and specification package to support your chosen design.
Once the garden is created, you may enjoy maintaining all aspects of its needs, or decide that you would like help with some regular tasks that you don't enjoy. Your garden designer can provide you with a maintenance plan so you can gauge the levels of work and frequency required.
If you choose to work with a garden designer or landscaper they will ask many more questions before they start, to make sure they help you create the best possible garden for your needs and enjoyment now and in the future. If you can have some of these prepared in advance it helps get the project off to the best possible start.
I have briefly outlined the different ways you could work with a garden designer in Process.