Ask The Chiswick Expert

This week Litchfield Garden's Penny answers outdoor design questions

Litchfield Gardens Directory

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With the Chelsea Flower Show opening this week, the first in's Ask The Chiswick Expert series sees Penny Litchfield of Litchfield Gardens answering questions.

Q. I don't know what I want and I certainly don't know how to describe it in gardening terms. Am I beyond help?
No! Most people have only a passing knowledge of gardening or plants; some have no idea whatsoever. It's up to the garden designer to find out what you want from your garden and put the words you use into a gardening context. If you have photographs, say from magazines, of the sort of garden you want (or don't want) they will help but, generally, good garden designers will ask you the questions that help you identify what would suit you best.

Q. What should I consider when trying to describe what I want?
The most important thing is to work out what you want from your garden. Do you want to use it a lot, occasionally or just look at it from indoors? Is it for relaxing, entertaining, pottering around in or an alternative to your home-office in good weather? Do you need to accommodate children or pets or to use it as a sophisticated, adult space? Do you want to grow herbs or vegetables or savour the scents and sounds of plants and shrubs? Should it be ornamental or free flowing and organic? What mood do you want it to evoke? Then consider aspects you either like or dislike - colours, shapes, styles, structures. There is much more to consider so choose a garden designer you can trust to ask the right questions and listen carefully and attentively to your answers so you get what you want from your garden.

Q. Tell me the worst - what are the drawbacks?
Even though good garden designers use contractors who are sensitive to the fact that being "on site" means being in your home, between the before and after photographs, there is a stage when the garden looks like a bombsite and you'll wonder if you can put up with the disruption for another second. Having said that, this period usually lasts only a short time - perhaps only during the first week, when digging and moving earth and rubble out of the garden and bringing in new materials. Good contractors should always leave everything tidy every day. The ideal is when clients who go out to work say they hardly knew the contractors were there.

Penny Litchfield Litchfield Gardens

May 22, 2010