The Report – A Garden Design Tool

In the September issue of the Garden Design Journal Caroline Tatham discusses presentation techniques, which designers can use to show their ideas to clients. These range from something as impersonal and basic as picture books right through to a fully personalised, coloured and inked master plan with associated sketches.

Caroline mentions reports as one of these techniques:

‘Some clients do not want a drawing at all. Maybe the job is small with few alterations apart from planting, or perhaps the client is just looking for a bank of ideas to draw on as he or she develops the garden him or herself. In this case, a simple report with recommendations and images is very effective.’

I think this undersells the value of a report, as it is one of the tools which Lesley and I find most useful.

On our first visit to a client we can be called in to deal with issues as diverse as obtaining permission to fell trees in conservation areas through cultural problems such as pest damage to land management issues. The client may alternatively be seeking some generalised planting suggestions or even specific plant lists. So a report following this initial visit might contain a felling list, perhaps a programme for care of an area, a list of plants which the client could use to extend their repertoire, a contact list of potential contractors and so on.

A report might also, as Caroline suggests, provide some general and even specific creative ideas which will bear out any discussions we have had with the client on site such as the general positioning of major features such as a summerhouse, pool or border etc.

But it is also useful if major design changes are actually envisaged, but neither client nor designer are sure of the direction in which the brief is going to travel and what may be needed to create that perfect landscape. Truth to tell there is in all of us a certain amount of denial about how much may need doing. It is rather like knowing that your roof is leaking, but you are surely hoping it is not a complete re-roof with the concomitant bill!

The report can therefore be an initial stage on this journey which will lay out the framework and establish our thoughts following the initial visit’s discussions. It may also include certain fundamental design principles and main design suggestions. What we will not include is any unmeasured ‘quick sketches’. In order to do the best job for the client, accurate measurements of the site need to be taken before drawing up any ideas into a full design if that is what is required.

The report gives the client more time and information before committing to having any work done and is a documentary tool for them to use, act on, re-examine and think about at their own leisure.

There is of course never any benefit from overselling your professional services. If all the client needs is a little advice there is no question of trying to sell a full redesign. This would be professionally incorrect as well as incorrect advice! It may be that the report itself is sufficient for the client to work with.

However, if a clients does decide that a design is the next sensible stage then the report is a valuable tool at our disposal when we come to the creative stage of the process. So in essence the report can actually be for both parties the springboard to the realisation of a garden’s full potential. And as such is a very useful document for all.