Words by Meridith Moore
Dreaming of your own Mediterranean paradise? Picture yourself enjoying the vibrant fuchsia of bougainvillea while sipping your morning coffee. A lazy day spent poolside, the air heavily scented with lavender and pine, or sundowners under the shade of an ancient olive tree.
If your current outdoor space falls short of these idyllic scenes, landscape design can work wonders in transforming your garden into the Mediterranean retreat you’ve always wanted. I spoke with Alexander Warren-Gash, Lead Garden Designer at Mashamba Garden and Terrace Design in Mallorca, to find out the questions you need to ask before hiring a landscape designer to make your Mediterranean dream come true.
Landscape designers can be divided into two main categories based on the services they provide. Depending on your project needs and desired level of involvement, you’ll find a suitable match among these options:
Design-only | These designers focus on the creative aspect of garden design. They listen to your vision, conduct consultations and site visits and then create detailed plans and drawings for you and your landscape contractors to implement.
Design & Install | Design and install landscape designers not only offer conceptual and artistic services, but oversee the installation of the garden, including ground preparations, irrigation systems, planting and detail work. This option offers more accountability since the designer is responsible from conception to the garden maturing. Make sure to ask exactly what services they offer, some designers don’t manage aspects like building work and lighting.
Ensure that your landscape designer has experience and references that align with your project. The skills, knowledge, and design style required for transforming a suburban garden differ from those needed for a vast estate.
Local experience is also crucial. Mediterranean plants and gardens are very different from other regions in Europe such as the UK. Microclimates can vary even within the same island, so designers with knowledge of your specific area can select the right plants that create a sustainable and low-maintenance landscape. They will also be familiar with local permitting processes and invasive species regulations.
Every landscape designer has a signature style, so it’s essential to find one that matches your aesthetic preferences. Before meeting potential designers, spend time on platforms like Pinterest to gather images of gardens you like and dislike. During the interview and planning process, share these images with the designer.
Ask to see a portfolio showcasing their work, preferably through photographs. Alexander warned us that, “While life-like renderings can be captivating, they don’t show the reality of the garden installation. It’s also important to see pictures captured at different times of the year, ensuring that there’s year-round sensory appeal.”
Typically, a garden design project consists of two phases: the proposal and design phase, followed by the garden installation phase.
For existing homes, the design phase can start once the designer is available.
When building a new home however, contact garden designers early. You can go through the interview and selection process, but it’s likely that they’ll wait until the structure is in place before starting on the garden design. This allows them to get a feel for the setting and design the garden to fit the environment.
The proposal and design phase usually take about two months, with the designer using plans and site visits to create a comprehensive proposal. The installation phase timeline varies based on project size, scope, material availability, and weather conditions. Large-scale planting projects typically take around three months to complete, smaller projects less.
Before meeting with landscape designers, establish a clear budget and create a wish list of desired outdoor spaces and experiences. If you have no idea what a garden can cost, designers will have an approximate idea of costs and can help you prioritise the work to be done. A realistic awareness of costs before you get started is important for both you and the designer. They can tailor the garden to your needs and you avoid any surprises.
A skilled landscape designer can help you maximize your investment, both in terms of outdoor enjoyment and property value. Alexander said, “A nice garden in many respects is the ultimate luxury. Your very own Eden, with the added bonus of being a good investment.”
Inquire about the contract structure and payment terms, as designers usually require a retainer for the proposal and design phase. Payments for the garden installation phase are often divided into installments, paid in advance, with the final payment due upon project.
It’s a good idea to gather any plans you have for the property, especially topographical plans and the ground floor layout of the house. Have a rough idea of how you would like to use the space and list any features or plants that you would like included. It is also helpful if you have some inspirational pictures prepared to guide your garden designer.
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