Hard landscaping is the structure of a garden, all the timber and stone that defines areas and gives them purpose. Soft landscaping is what brings it to life – the grasses, the plants and the trees.

The answer is there is no such thing as a typical garden; they are as individual as the people that own them. Published research shows that complete garden rebuilds cost between £30 and £250 per square metre which really isn’t very helpful !

The best approach is to start with an overall budget in mind, this helps decide the materials you use and the complexity of the design. Budget is always a tricky subject, most people don’t go through this process very often and we all want best value, but it’s definitely the case that you get what you pay for – any shortcuts are a compromise in quality and in a garden that means how long it lasts!

Here’s a list of things that may push the price up;

  • Retaining walls and big level changes.
  • Bespoke items of furniture and features.
  • Intricate patterns.
  • Ponds and water features.
  • Really big areas of paving / decking.
  • Very poor soil conditions.

To find this, measure the length in metres and multiply by the width in metres, if you don’t have a tape measure that long but you have fence panels each one is usually just under 2 metres so count up the whole panels. If your garden is an odd shape don’t worry we will measure it when we do the consultation.

This question is often asked at the early stage of design and quoting and usually followed at about ¾ the way through a build with – “wow I did not realise how much work and material is involved”.

Mostly what costs the money is that we need to build the structure of your new garden before we put a finish on it and the finish has to endure extremes of temperature and months of wet and then drought.

Let us consider patios for instance. If you have a tiled floor done in your kitchen there’s a lot of prep and making good, but there’s already some sort of floor to tile onto, walls to butt up to and levels are decided.

A patio, by contrast, has to have a sub base installed which means removing whatever is there first, and working out where the water will go when it rains, where the drains run and if they are working ok. The subbase aggregate (we use crushed granite) needs compacting to a depth that won’t move around and cause issues. The patio finish, usually a paving slab or porcelain tile, needs to be set on bedding that will fully support it and stick it fast. Then it needs neatly grouting and finally cleaning.

That’s all heavy and precise work if you do it properly, and if the levels need adjusting you may need a retaining wall.

Most people are happy to pay to have good quality as long as what they are buying is important to them. Some bits however are just a necessity; level changes are usually done because the lay of the land demands it – retaining work is often a big price item – but levels, as well as being necessary, create interest and help increase usable area. A slope is probably cheaper but you do lose some space and increase maintenance!

Materials play a big part in the final budget, there is usually a trade off to consider – loose aggregate surfaces make for a cheap pathway or drive solution but does it have the look you want and will loose shingle get in the lawn or be more maintenance?

If you are redesigning a garden it helps to decide your style first, this makes your decisions on the various elements cohesive and ultimately the finished garden will be more pleasing. You don’t have to have one style for your garden, you may want gardens that are modern with exotic planting or architectural and formal.

Formal – topiary, structure, symmetry.

Traditional – Usually several areas (rooms), a lawn surrounded by borders, some formality, a mix of shrubs and perennial planting.

English Country – Traditional and formal, wide paths, deep borders.

Cottage garden – lots of flowers (perennial), relaxed and pretty in spring/summer, fruit trees, veg area, paths in brick or shingle.

Architectural – not a style of its own but a layout and materials reflecting the style and period of the house. You can rigidly mirror the style of build or just carry this theme out into the garden.

Urban (outdoor room) – Hardscape and furniture with statement planting, very much an extension of the house.

Contemporary (modern) – innovative materials, geometric and asymmetric, clean deliberate lines, controlled planting schemes.

Mediterranean – dry garden, grasses and drought tolerant planting, rock and gravel. See also coastal and Japanese.

Exotic (jungle) – Dense tropical looking (but temperate) planting, no lawn, winding paths

Wildlife friendly – not really a style but a theme to be applied, wildlife friendly planting, wildflower, water is essential.

Japanese – balanced and harmonious, focussed specimen planting, textured (lichens and moss) Ikebana planting, water features.

Eclectic – each area has a different style, drawn together with common materials or theme, reflects the personality and style of the owner. Caution, there is a fine line between quirky and hotch-potch.

Woodland – calm natural and shady, under planting with bulbs, ferns and wildflower, structural but bare in winter.

Timber sleepers are a great resource, untreated oak lasts well, looks great (if rustic works in your theme) and requires about a 1/3 the work that brickwork or blockwork does – but there are limitations – it’s tough to build curves in 8 foot long chunky wood. It’s quicker to construct and flexible but it will weather, shrink and crack a bit.

Brickwork, stone blockwork, clad or rendered concrete blockwork – there are lots of solid walls and finishes which will last decades if done well but they need a foundation and engineering properly to stay looking good and functional for all that time.

There is a balance to be had between hard and soft landscaping in any garden.

Lawn is about ¼ the price of paving. Planted flower bed about ½ the cost of paving, so if you need to reduce the budget ask yourself – do I need that much hard landscape or could I have a bit here a bit there and link the two with a path?

Everyone wants low maintenance – we all have busy lives – just be aware that the more convenient a surface, usually the more costly. Composite deck for example is super easy to look after and lasts for decades, but each board costs nearly 3 times what a treated softwood one does.

These are very approximate costs and considerations for installing a lighting scheme:

You need a separate circuit breaker to make sure a fault with the garden lights doesn’t switch everything in the house off. So get an electrician to check your consumer unit has capacity for this.

Decide on a 12Volt system or a 240Volt one, 12volt is safer and easier to install but can limit your choices.

Timer or controller? How much control do you want over it? We like a remote switch with a few different zones – so you don’t have to have all the lights on if you only need a few. This is going to be about £600 to £800. If you just have a dawn/dusk sensor its about £200 to £300.

Which lights to choose. Basically you get what you pay for – outside lights need to last years and endure rain, snow and occasional blistering sun so cheap lights usually are a false economy, expect to pay £ 90 to £200 per fitting.

Connections and wiring, as a broad brush you can work on £90 per connection.

Brick path in gravel with stepstones


Garden Design FAQs

This depends on area, complexity and bespoke features as well as complex levels and structural considerations, material sourcing – We have a tiered tariff guide so you know what to expect.

Good design is about considering the many different aspects of the space, its use and aesthetics and the best way to keep that in budget, that takes time – quality landscaping is an investment and you want to get it right first time – if you don’t it will either bother you every time you go in the garden or cost a lot more to change it again.

A design usually takes 5 to 8 weeks from first visit to presentation. Once we have an agreed a design that you are excited about and a quoted price you are happy with, we can schedule the start date. Generally we have 12 to 16 weeks lead time in spring and summer, less in autumn and winter so it is worth beginning to plan your garden sooner rather than later.

A garden should be a place to relax and enjoy, not cause you stress, we have a sister company dedicated to maintenance and looking after gardens we have built – they will help you decide on a package to keep your new garden looking great and maintained the way you want it at a monthly price you are happy with.