When you don’t want a complete garden design, just a little help, where do you go? The answer depends on what you want – and when you want it.
Want it now? Sudden Garden Syndrome is the intense urge to immediately turn that bare balcony/yard into something beautiful. Tim Pickles, of Tim’s Garden Center in Campbelltown in Sydney, recognizes the symptoms. “People want and they don’t want ideas, they want a garden – today!”
Pickles advises people with SGS to use the compass on their phone to identify which direction the space for the new garden is facing, and the camera to take lots of pictures and then come to the nursery. He and his staff will select pots and plants that go well together and suit the conditions, as well as advice on planting, positioning and ongoing care. At the end of the day, the garden can be set up. Advice is free – all you pay for is the garden itself.
Alternatively, you might want a fresh look at a garden you’ve loved for a long time. Many customers of the garden designer Linda Ross have overgrown and unbalanced heritage gardens. “When you’ve looked at things a million times, you don’t see them anymore. You need a fresh, critical eye to assess the landscape, the seasonal treasures and the plants that are just taking up space,” she says. You also want someone with horticultural knowledge of the plants in your garden and how they can be pruned to show their best and contribute to the overall space.
A one- to two-hour on-site consultation with Ross costs $500 and includes written recommendations and often a quick sketch. “This first consultation is all about reading the garden, finding out what will happen with the plants and the light for a whole year, getting to know the client and their gardening skills.” If necessary, the conversation can lead to a complete design, as well as installation and ongoing maintenance. (Ross, like many garden designers, deducts the cost of the initial consultation from the invoice for a complete design.)
Or you might just want to chat with someone who can recognize the pitfalls and opportunities in your situation. Designate Michael McCoyof dream gardens fame, takes the power of a good conversation to a whole new level. McCoy offers one-hour phone consultations for $250. Clients have typically undergone major garden redesigns – a new build, an extension that has ravaged the previous garden; although some are simply disappointed with their current gardens and want to do better.
“It’s amazing how efficient the phone is, so much so that I advise against Zoom,” says McCoy, who looks at photos and videos before the conversation. “The phone forces our thinking to be principled, to help people ask the questions that will provide the answers that will work for them.”
Whatever you want for the garden, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Ask around, there is help available.
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