3 years ago I decided it was time to sell up my house and move to a larger property. With kids on the way and the change of lifestyle that would bring about, I wanted more space and to not feel like storage would be an issue.
To achieve the space I wanted without buying a property that was either over budget or requiring years of investment to modernise, I opted for a new build David Wilson home allowing me to just move in with nothing more than painting to a colour of my choice required.
The downside of buying a new build property however is that the garden you receive is generally quite small and uninteresting. Typically a small patio area is provided and the rest is laid to lawn with no design consideration whatsoever and this was no different for me.
The garden that I had was on a steep downward slope, had a patio barely big enough to fit a table, and comprised of heavy, compacted clay soil leading to a lack of lawn quality and patches of standing water. This made for a pretty poor garden, that along with the slope, was also rather unsafe for kids.
Wanting to make the garden a bit special I decided to get the garden professionally done by someone who knew what they were doing and got on the phone to a landscape gardener.
Landscape garden design consultation
Having made a couple of enquiries the first stage in the process was a design consultation. This effectively involved an interview with the landscaper to determine the sorts of ideas and styles that were of interest to me, “must have” elements within the design, and finally a discussion around how I intended to use the garden such as if it were to be a space for entertaining, kids to play in etc.
For me it was a case of it being critical to level off the garden, extract and replace the poor clay soil and design a modern and functional seating area that maximised the experience of my south facing garden.
Happy with the design I put pen to paper, signed a contract and waited for the job to start!
Landscape garden build
The build stage of the garden was of course the most exciting one. When the team turned up at my property on the first morning a thorough walk through was completed with the head landscaper of the job to be done, and then all of the preparation was done with my brick driveway covered in plywood to protect it from damage, however I also agreed with the team that they could use the space for material storage and wet mixing etc as it was a large space.
Following that a section of the fence at the bottom of my garden was removed which allowed for easy access from the road into the garden.
Without around 2 hours all of the preparation was complete and then it took the remainder of that first day and all of the Friday to get the setting out done. This involved getting all of the measurements made as per the design, and putting wooden stakes in the ground to mark out the various angles prior to using spray paint to outline the various edges and key areas to addressed.
The following week then become the start of the messiest phase of the job with a mini digger being brought in to dig up the existing lawn area, relocating a lot of the material elsewhere in the garden to help build the levels up.
With the excavations complete, work then commenced on building the wooden sleeper retaining walls which took several days. The design also had to be changed (at no extra cost) at this stage to put additional sleeper walls in as it was felt the drop at the bottom of the garden would be too high for young children without it.
With the retaining wall complete work could the begin on bringing in around 15 tonnes of topsoil to level the garden off and around 7 tonnes of hardcore to create a stable base for the new paving area. A compactor was then used to firm up all of the stone area ready for slab mix to be put on later in the job.
With the lawn area and paving spaces largely prepared the guys then got to work on starting to lay the paving.
This was a large job and took several days to complete – as my design has a diagonal rotation lots of tile cuts were needed along the edges of the patio and lawn.
With the paving complete things really started to take shape with the new garden starting to reveal itself as to what the end result would look like.
Finally several more tonnes of material were brought in, this time sand, which was spread evenly and compacted in the area to be laid to lawn.
It was also at this point that the planting was completed prior to having bark chipping spread evenly across all of the beds to retain moisture in the soil and help limit weed growth.
I also opted to have built a wooden arbour over a south facing seating area to add a more informal space to garden away from what would ultimately be the garden table by the back doors.
Finally it was time for the last major job which was to lay the lawn. This was completed in around an hour as the space is quite small, involving unrolling the turf, compacting it into the sand layer, tightening up the edges between rolls of turf and then giving it a good watering in.
So, what was the end result? Take a look for yourself, I am absolutely delighted with the finished product and can’t wait to enjoy many summers here with my family.
How much does landscape gardening cost?
The cost of landscape gardening varies wildly as there are so many variables involved. If you have a large space to be modernised then it’s likely to take longer to finish, will require more plants, larger areas of hard landscaping and possibly extra people on the site to get the job finished.
Additionally the finishes that you choose will play a significant role in your quoted price. You can opt for sandstone tiles for a paving area which are one of the cheapest options or you can opt for materials such as polished porcelain which can double, if not triple, the cost of your paving.
Within my design the most expensive element was the hard landscaping due to the requirement to lift the garden by around 3 to 4 feet. The landscaping company brought in around 15 tonnes of top soil and a couple of tonnes of sand along with building several retaining walls with sleepers which all needed to be concreted into place.
To keep costs as low as possible I also opted for junior plants which would take 1-2 years to establish. By doing this there was a substantial cost saving to be had an with plans to move house for the next 15 or so years it felt like a good financial decision.
My final invoice for the garden came in at just under £14k which excluded paying £250 for an initial design consultation. This was based on a price in Milton Keynes for my garden in which is around 15m long and 15m wide.
Now of course everyone has an opinion and I’m sure many reading this will state it’s either too much however having received 4 design quotes from separate landscape gardening companies this price was aligned to the other quotes received so I felt it was a fair price to give me a wow factor garden that I can enjoy for the next 15 or so years.
The price was also given during the pandemic when material costs were heavily inflated due to a lack of materials so it’s possible that post-Covid this price would perhaps be a grand or 2 cheaper but it’s unlikely to be much.
How long does landscape gardening take?
Similarly to the cost of the job the time it takes to give you your finished garden really does depend on the design and material choices. If you need concrete it’s going to take longer as time will need to be allowed for it to set prior to the next stage of the job commencing.
The time of year will also play a part in the time the job takes too. Most of the mixes that patios are laid on don’t set below 2-5 degrees so if the job is being completed during the winter months it may take longer than expected for everything to harden off before grouting and other activities can be completed.
For my garden the guys turned up on a Thursday morning and worked from 8am-4pm every day with very few breaks until 2 weeks later finishing at 3pm on the Friday. So all in all this job took a team of 3 guys, 12 working days to compete from start to finish.
Landscape gardener in Milton Keynes
My garden was completed by a Milton Keynes based business called P&P Gardens (formerly Prune & Plant). If you would like to get in touch with them to take a look at your garden space head over to https://www.garden-design-milton-keynes.co.uk and get in touch with Roger Costelloe.
Is landscape gardening worth it?
Well, based on my experience it is worth every penny. Although there’s no getting away from the fact that landscape gardening is an expensive investment in your property, it is a large space, and one which is often completely ignored by homeowners beyond having an uninteresting central lawn area and narrow planted border.
For me personally it is now completely fit for purpose for myself, my wife, my kids and my family and friends to enjoy every summer and I love that it exudes that show home wow factor.