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The real design cost; GAYNOR WITCHARD An outsider's view.

Whenever I'm asked to give a design consultation to a prospective client, I'm always asked 'How much will it cost?' People often have unrealistic ideas about the cost of building a new garden, or improving an existing one. This may be because of 'makeover' programmes giving a false impression of the true cost, skill and time involved, but more often it's inexperience.

Most designers and landscapers will ask you to define your budget before presenting you with a design or begin any building work. This is not a ploy to ensure they get all your money from you. It is because your budget will influence the layout and material choice.

It's unlikely that anyone will design and build the same garden more than once, so getting it right the first time is essential not only for your garden but also your pocket. Before you engage a designer or landscaper, think about how much you want to spend.

Most designers and landscapers have websites, and some of these also give basic pricing details that will give you a good starting point.

Allow between 5 and 10% of your house value, but if that's not possible, opt for a partial design or just look to improve what's already in existence.

For example, replacing a tired old patio with modern materials or a different style can make a big difference.

Although we all want the best possible service for the lowest possible price, if you look at price alone without taking into consideration skill and experience, then you may find that quality is sacrificed.

Look at your garden as an investment in the same way as you would a new kitchen or extension. If you plan to sell your house in two to three years, however, then lower your budget so you can profit in the short term. In this case, you will need to build a garden that will appeal to prospective buyers rather than suit your own personal taste.

If the garden is for you to enjoy, then make a wish list for your designer or landscaper. What you would like to achieve for your budget can then be discussed honestly. If money is no object, then your contractor can provide a quotation for the work to be done, or 'tweaked' to accommodate a design if you have a set budget.

Remember that the cost of building your garden is not based on material prices alone - there is also VAT to consider, labour and waste removal. General items like sand, cement, membrane and so on will also need to be taken into account. Then, of course, follows the cost of plants and planting after the garden has been constructed.

Look out for a new television programme called Garden ER to be shown on Five next week. Presented by David Domoney, a garden expert, it promises to deliver 'real' garden makeovers.

Gaynor is the winner of the 2010 and 2011 RHS Cardiff Best in Show Garden. See www.witchardgardens.com

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 9, 2011
Words:507
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