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How much does garden landscaping cost?

Britain is a nation of gardeners and whether you have a few hanging baskets or a view Capability Brown would be proud of, the industry in redesigning, making over and landscaping gardens has never been busier and more popular. There are some average figures available on what a garden landscaping service might charge and some expert sites will start the quote at around £800 but the clue is in the name – this is just an average cost of garden landscaping.

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The real figure is going to depend on many different factors:

  • The size of the garden
  • Whether any clearance is required first due to neglect and overgrowth and associated waste disposal costs
  • The complexity of the design
  • The number of plants
  • Other hard materials like decking, gravel, patios or permanent pathways
  • Garden ornamentation and decoration like statutes
  • Ponds, water features and fountains
  • Whether you do some of the work yourself
  • Whereabouts you live in the UK – London and the South East are always more expensive

 

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How much of the work will you do yourself?

One of the biggest factors which can affect the cost of a garden landscaping project is how much of the work you do yourself. Some people just really want the design and the bare structure put in place and they will then finish the rest themselves – this is obviously much cheaper than a total overhaul. For others, they want to wave a wand and have the project produced in front of their eyes. Of course, you might only be landscaping one part of your garden and working through it in stages is a good way to control the cost providing you have the overall design carefully planned out before you start.

So, before you begin looking for a landscaping company, you will need to decide whether you are going for just a re-shape or something much more ambitious.

Take a look at some of the landscaping costs below

Everyone’s garden is as individual as they are so it is really difficult to generalise about costs. Laying new turf, building patios and creating and filling borders is certainly going to run up a bill of several thousand pounds but there are some specific industry averages which may be useful:-

  • Patios – patios never lose their appeal and are a great way to add functionality and usability to your garden and as a focal point where you can eat and socialise. Patios are generally costed by size and it is possible to give an average per square metre based on the base material to be used. A good ballpark figure to work to is £80 per square metre. The slabs or surface you want to use may appear to be cheaper than that but remember, there is the digging out and levelling of the area to be done, a membrane must be laid and then the whole site filled with hardcore and sand before the patio surface is laid. It will then also need finishing with mortar and cleaning off and this is all reflected in the cost per square metre
  • Decking – decking is still endlessly popular and gives the feel of something somewhere between a colonial verandah and being on board ship. Many people love the natural feeling of wood and the price per metre will depend on the type of wood that you select. Pine will average at about £70 per square metre but more expensive longer-lasting hardwoods can cost up to £200 per square metre
  • Grass – if a traditional lawn is going to be your focal point then work on an average of £10-£20 per square metre depending on the type of turf used. This is much cheaper than decking or a patio and that is because the material costs are cheaper and there is usually much less preparation work involved
  • Artificial turf – popular amongst those who don’t want any maintenance and who know the lawn is going to be subject to the wear and tear of children and animals. Artificial grass requires more preparation to lay than real turf so you will be looking at prices of about £60 per square metre
  • Laying a path – wholly dependent on the length of the path and the material used but a good average to work to might be £500
  • Ponds – digging out and lining a pond will cost anywhere from £800-£1,000 before you fill it and stock it with plants and fish
  • Raised beds – about £200 for a simple bed with railways sleepers

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Are there any hidden landscaping costs?

Most people’s focus with garden landscaping is what the end result is going to look like and so it is easy to overlook some of the other costs like clearance of the site. Most contractors can dispose of some green waste for free but there may be disposal costs associated with hard materials like old greenhouses and sheds. If you have Japanese Knotweed to get rid of then this is classified as contaminated waste and has to go to a designated landfill site at a premium rate. Sometimes it can be cheaper to hire a skip - it really does depend on how much waste you are going to have and what it comprises of. This is definitely a conversation you need to have with your garden design company.

Get creative

The late great garden designer, Rosemary Verey, once said, “True gardening is as much about the bones of the garden as it’s planting” by which she meant that most schemes are not successful without some element of hard landscaping. The different materials used such as paving, aggregates or wood add variety, colour and texture and introduce character and contrast and a hard structure from which the greenery and flowers can achieve form and flow leading the eye through the landscape.

The blank canvas of a new garden is so exciting but many people find this just a little bit daunting as well because literally, anything goes and there is so much choice and so many possibilities, it can be hard to finally settle on a scheme. Here are some pointers to get you thinking and put some flesh on the bones of your new garden design scheme.

Functionality and usability

  • Do you want somewhere to sit outside and relax and eat with family and friends?
  • Is your house bursting at the seams and does a new outbuilding which can be used as a home office also feature in your plans?
  • Are you planning a designated play or sports area for the children?

Imagination and design

  • Does colour feature highly when you picture your new garden or do you see something more monochrome with greys and greens?
  • What is your taste, are you a stickler for regularity and uniformity or does the wild side appeal with unstructured areas and little pieces of wilderness? Formal gardens tend to be geometric and tidy with lots of straight lines and clipped hedges, informal gardens are more organic and made up of curves with relaxed planting programmes

Practicality and maintenance

  • Is this going to be your life’s work in retirement when you will be out there daily tending to your plants or do you have a busy life and want a garden that will largely take care of itself? This is a very important consideration as some of the most beautiful designs require knowledge and more than a little time to keep them looking fabulous and you may not have either of these
  • Do you have some gardening skills but lack in other areas? Don’t design a garden that you will struggle to look after because you don’t have the expertise

How to start your planning

  • Begin with research, there is endless inspiration online looking at other people’s creations
  • Visit large formal gardens and see how the professionals do it – what do you like and dislike? Once Covid has run its course, the National Gardens Scheme will come back to life; this will allow you to visit usually private gardens open to the public for just a couple of days a year to raise money for charity and all local to where you live
  • Create a mood board and keep a visual record of all the elements you have liked during your research

Key planning elements

  • Boundaries and walls
  • Hedges and fences
  • Paths and patios
  • Lawns
  • Water features
  • Zoned areas for dining, play and that all-important shade
  • Planting – trees, flowers, shrubs and pots
  • Outbuildings – sheds, offices, cabins and greenhouses
  • External lighting

Look carefully at the size and shape of the plot. Think carefully about which direction the garden faces, the style of your house and the overall balance of the garden in relation to the property. Consider the seasons – your garden will change throughout the year and will look quite different from summer to winter.

What is your favourite style?

There are endless options from rural and rustic to sleek, modern and minimalist. If you are going for a very contemporary look then expect to use lots of different hard materials - concrete, painted walls, metals and mirrors – whereas a more traditional garden will be more about the foliage and blooms. That’s not to say you can’t mix and match but if you do the like the disparate look then make sure it works as one homogenous design when it’s finished. Don’t overcomplicate the style, whilst it is tempting to throw everything into the design, less is often more and the most successful gardens usually have simple, elegant detailing. Cramming too many ideas into a small space can make a garden look hectic, chaotic and fussy.

What are the common landscaping materials you could consider?

These include:-

  • Bricks
  • Railway sleepers
  • Timber and decking
  • Paving slabs with infinite varieties of size and colour
  • Aggregates – sand and gravel
  • Concrete and mortar
  • Exterior paints and wood stains

Who should do the work?

This really depends on your available time, expertise and budget and is a personal decision for each project. Some people just pay for a garden design company to create a plan which they then use, particularly helpful if you are not the creative type. You may do the clearance yourself if needed and leave the entire job to a firm of professionals or, they could put in the hard structures and leave you to do the softer work and planting.

Is it possible to do your own DIY garden landscaping project?

It is possible for the average householder to tackle a landscaping project themselves and there are several advantages to doing this:-

  • It might take more time but it will be considerably cheaper
  • You can still have a design professionally produced for you to work from
  • If you change your mind about different elements of the garden as you go along then it doesn’t matter

Start with your garden design and then once you have the plan, organise the work into logical stages allowing for your available time, the weather and the cost of buying materials and storing them. Working like this in bite-sized chunks means that anyone can makeover their garden and achieve a fabulous result and it helps to spread the cost of gardening as well. You could consider a halfway house, where you do some of the work but employ contractors to do the more specialist or heavy jobs like laying patios.

Don’t get caught out on costs

Some things which can add to the bill and which are easy to overlook include:-

  • Machinery hire – diggers and cement mixers for laying hard surfaces
  • The wastage from more ornate or curved designs – off the peg materials such as bricks, blocks, slabs and timber are rectilinear so if your design is full of straight lines then this will save you a lot of time and money. If you really can’t do without the curves and swirls then opt for more flexible materials such as poured concrete, gravel or dry stone techniques
  • Don’t forget the new garden furniture, this can be pricey and no-one wants a brand new patio or decking area with a load of tired and worm furniture

How to choose a professional design installation company?

If you have a plan in mind then approach two or three landscape companies to produce the drawings and cost out your project. Ask to see previous gardens they have created and check them out online for bad reviews or complaints. A personal recommendation is always best but do bear in mind that your garden project may be quite different to that of your friend or neighbour who recommended that company to you. There are trader platforms that will take your details and contact landscaping firms on your behalf but some of these are no more than glorified advertising directories so research them thoroughly before you decide which one to use.

Budgetary constraints

Here are some suggestions for small budgets, it’s surprising what you can do with not very much:

No money – clear up, tidy up, prune overgrown shrubs, remove self-seeded trees like sycamores, edge the lawns, clear the weeds and swap plants with friends or via a community gardening group

£100 – re-gravel or mulch the flower beds to suppress weeds, wander around a local reclaim or salvage yard and see what you can pick up in the way of bargains, old Belfast sinks as planters or pieces of timber to create raised flower beds

£500 – this budget will allow you to consider hard building materials as well as plants so fence panels or concrete slabs, you could also re-turf your lawn or invest in some new garden furniture

How long does garden landscaping take?

Time taken depends on two factors; who is doing the work and how much they have to do. If you are doing the work yourselves and fitting it in around work and family commitments then you should treat it as a labour of love as it will probably take weeks or months, compare this with a professional landscaping company who could be in and out in two weeks or even less. If you following a halfway house plan and doing the work in stages then this can be the best of all worlds. You can see progress happening but it is kinder on the finances and means you also don’t have to live with continuous disruption and noise plus, you can cherry-pick to a degree around the weather and the seasons.

Top Tips for a successful design

  • Base your scheme around the plants rather than vice versa – a good selection of flowers, trees and shrubs will create year-round interest
  • Get to know your soil in terms of type and sun, shade and exposure
  • Use trees and hedges for structure
  • For colour go for potted flowers or plants which can be easily moved around so you can alter the design whenever the mood takes you

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Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to landscape your garden?

Winter is a good option as the plants are dormant but you will have to contend with bad weather and shorter daylight hours. However, working in the summer allows you to understand how to use the space and there are long hours available after work and at the weekend to really get stuck in. You could split the work between the seasons which makes life easier on both time and budget.

How do you keep your neighbours onside?

There is no doubt that major garden landscaping works which last for several weeks will considerably impact on your neighbours’ quality of life. Always keep them informed about what you are doing and try and keep noise and disruption to standard working hours i.e. not late in the evening or at weekends. If you are working on or near a shared boundary then you will need to get their written consent under the regulations laid out in the 1996 Party Wall Act. This doesn’t just refer to the walls of the property but includes any shared external boundary as well.

What’s the procedure if I want to hire a skip for hard landscaping waste?

Sometimes hiring a skip is the cheapest and most time-efficient option to get rid of landscaping waste materials. You can also dispose of soil, rubble and unwanted plants. Most skip hire will be around £150-£200. You will need a licence if the skip is to be left on a public road and you apply for this via your local council. If you are using a landscape garden company to undertake the works then they will usually arrange all of this for you. If you are doing the work yourself, remember that your local tip and recycling centre will take some of the waste from a private household for free so this could save you some money and allow you to hire a smaller skip.

Do you need planning permission for a garden landscape project?

Any planning issues are usually dictated by the scale of the project, here are some of the common triggers for a planning application:-

  • Walls over one metre in height by a road
  • Walls over two metres in height anywhere else
  • Laying impermeable membrane in a front garden
  • Listed buildings and those in conservation areas may need planning permission to remove and install hard landscaping
  • Decking and outbuildings should not take up more than 50% of the garden

It’s always better to run your drawings and ideas past the local council’s planning department to ensure you do not fall foul of the law. If you do need to apply for planning permission then this usually takes around six to eight weeks and there is a fee attached.

For most people, the real art of successful landscape design is to combine beauty with practicality so they have somewhere that is lovely to look at but also light on maintenance, user friendly whilst also delivering on the quality of life they want for themselves and their family in the great outdoors.

For more information, take a look at information from the Association of Professional Landscapers and the Society of Garden Designers.

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