When you don’t want a full garden design, just a little bit of help, where do you go? The answer depends on what you want – and when you want it.
Want it right now? Sudden Garden Syndrome is the intense impulse to immediately convert that bare balcony/courtyard into something beautiful. Tim Pickles, from Tim’s Garden Centre in Sydney’s Campbelltown, recognises the symptoms. “People get the urge and they don’t want ideas, they want a garden – today!”
Pickles advises sufferers of SGS to use the compass on their phone to identify which way the space for the new garden faces, and the camera to take lots of images, and then come to the nursery. He and his staff will select pots and plants that look good together and suit the conditions, as well as offering advice about planting, positioning and ongoing care. By the end of the day the garden can be in. The advice is free – all you pay for is the garden itself.
Alternatively, you might want fresh eyes on a long-loved garden. Many of the clients of garden designer Linda Ross have heritage gardens that have become overgrown and unbalanced. “When you’ve looked at things a million times you no longer see them. You need critical fresh eyes to assess the landscape, the seasonal treasures, and the plants that are doing nothing but taking up space,” she says. You also want someone with horticultural knowledge about the plants in your garden and how they can be pruned to show their best selves and contribute to the whole space.
A one to two hour on-site consultation with Ross costs $500 and includes written recommendations and often a quick sketch. “That first consultation is all about reading the garden, knowing what will happen with the plants and light over a whole year, getting to know the client and how much gardening skill they have.” If needed the conversation can lead to a full design, plus install and ongoing care. (Ross, like many garden designers, deducts the cost of the initial consultation from the bill for a full design.)
Or you might simply want a chat with someone who can recognise the pitfalls and opportunities of your situation. Designer Michael McCoy, of Dream Gardens fame, is taking the power of a good conversation to a whole new level. McCoy offers one-hour phone consultations for $250. Clients have usually undergone some big garden shake-up – a new build, an extension that ravaged the previous garden; though some are simply disappointed with their current gardens and want to do better.
“It’s unbelievable how effective the phone is, so much so that I discourage Zoom,” says McCoy, who looks at photos and video prior to the conversation. “The phone forces our thinking to be principle-based, to help people ask the questions that will provide the answers that will work for them.”
Whatever you want the garden to be, you don’t have to do it all on your own. Ask around, there’s help available.
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