Fancy a backyard makeover? Better join the long queue for a garden designer | Gardens


In his mind’s eye, garden designer Andrew Duff can see it clearly: the orchard of apples, pears, cherries and quinces, the beautiful formal terrace, the meandering little paths that lead out into the bordering natural meadows.

But in reality, it will be a month until his current project – a four-acre garden in Oxfordshire – is complete. And with 15 other gardens to design and work on this summer, even in the shade, he is feeling the heat.

“I’ve been a garden designer for 30 years. This week, for the first time, I turned a client away,” he told the Observer. “That was a big deal for me because I never say no. I always slot them in at some point.”

There is an “unprecedented” level of demand for garden designers in the UK right now, according to the Society of Garden Designers. The latest snapshot of the Britain’s landscaping market, published this month by Pro Landscaper magazine, revealed a 166% increase in month-on-month enquiries, with garden designers simultaneously reporting a 140% increase in turnover.

A garden by Andrew Duff, who says he is having to turn potential clients away as he is so busy.
A garden by Andrew Duff, who says he is having to turn potential clients away as he is so busy. Photograph: Andrew Duff

Lynne Marcus, chair of the Society of Gardeners, has been amazed by the demand this year: “I’ve been in practice for more than 20 years, and I’ve never known it as busy,” she said, amid reports that designers and landscape contractors are booked up months in advance. “Anyone asking for a garden now is going to be disappointed. We’re talking about summer 2022 before a garden would potentially be ready, and that’s assuming they go with a design pretty sharpish.”

The reason, garden designers agree, is lockdown and working from home. Duff has noticed “massive changes” in how gardens are being used over the last year. “Because so many people are working from home, they are spending more time in the garden, catching 10 minutes with a cup of coffee there between Zoom meetings. It is an important place to relax,” he said.

In Cambridgeshire, award-winning garden designer Robert Barker is also turning potential clients away, while juggling 20 projects. “In the first year of lockdown, people probably thought they could do the work themselves. And then they realised that actually they couldn’t, and they want expert advice before they spend any more money on the wrong plants or the wrong type of materials.”

He says he has seen a threefold increase in demand over the past 12 months. Many of his new clients found sanctuary in their gardens at the height of the pandemic, and have reconnected with nature while working from home. “They’re people who have a modest budget, who wouldn’t necessarily have decided to use a garden designer in the past. Now, in their mind, the garden is more of a priority than it was.”

Thanks to the recent boom in house prices, suburban homeowners are finding it more worthwhile to spend their spare cash on their garden, he says: “I think some people who can’t…



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