Emma Townshend: 'Calling in the professionals to create an outdoor space might require a Lottery win - but it ain't half worth it'

 

'Twenty grand might just about do the labour, plants and hard landscaping in a small back garden'

Late summer does tend to give rise to moments when things just bend. And sag. And then break off. Leaving your whole garden looking stupid. It's at this low moment that the Society of Garden Designers Awards shortlist for 2014 arrives; along with the email come thumbnail images of the shortlisted gardens, which all look like jewels against a Scandinavian-blue backdrop.

Calling in a professional garden designer is one of those things we'll all be doing – when we win the Lottery. Maybe. Off the record and sworn to secrecy, many in the industry have startling tales to tell of clients who have spent millions on the house and who hope to get the garden done, for, ooh, about 20 grand.

Twenty grand might just about do the labour, plants and hard landscaping in a small London back garden, but it won't even cover a terrace, chairs and a table for your Lottery winner's pile. Especially when the to-do list begins with "taking out the swimming pool, which was just completely in the wrong place".

Yet flicking through the gardens picked from the hundreds of entries this year, I can see exactly why people do finally grit their teeth and pay for these particular professional services rendered. Beautifully balanced alleys of trees; glassy pools of water; elegant outdoor eating areas, with swishy connections back and forth into the house; calm, minimalist outdoor fireplaces, increasingly standard in posh exterior designs.

Carefully considered, cleverly hidden lighting is one of the biggest differences between "home-made" gardens and those drawn up on computer by an expert. Choosing to light individual trees, or even a set of antlers, the designer can make you look just where they fancy. Even storage becomes a feature: look closely at these designs and you'll see drawers, cupboards and even bike sheds hidden with great care and skill.

But garden designers see all these elegant accoutrements as a means to an end. "You're trying to make it feel as if it's always been there. But to do that, making it look as effortless as possible, you have to put a lot of effort in," explains Ian Smith from Acres Wild, shortlisted this year for his work at Millwater, Surrey.

Effort was certainly put in at Millwater – a large country garden to the west of London. "We worked with the client for five or six years, in total, in a number of phases, and it's a real treat to go back there," says Smith."They have a really good team of gardeners who look after it; you don't often get a chance to go back and see your work, but when you do, it's really fantastic."

Elsewhere on the shortlist, Cleve West's delightful Horatio's Garden, for a spinal-injury treatment centre in Salisbury, takes up a developing tradition of the Great British therapeutic garden, connecting back to the medieval origins of physic and botanic gardens, but filled with modern life. And Charlotte Rowe, based in west London, has two projects shortlisted, both for town gardens that have enormous poise and elegance.

Ian Smith's practice partner at Acres Wild, Debbie Roberts, is also shortlisted this year: her courtyard garden in Guernsey uses calm, soft-coloured paving stone to quiet the space, (surrounded on three sides by the higgledy-piggledy stone walls of a traditional cottage house), then fills borders with lush planting to relax the atmosphere.

"When you get a client who understands how you're trying to work with the space, you're walking through an open door," says Roberts, summing up how the relationship between garden designer and client should work.

Here, bleached-wood zig-zag benches run along the edges of an enticing swimming pool; lower garden walls, holding in beds of lavender, cistus and euphorbia, take the same pattern as the walls of the house. And a long summoning path calls the viewer out to a white bench at the edge of a lush meadow. With absolutely not a bend or sag to be seen.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker