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Sarah Naybour Oxfordshire Garden Designer

Garden Designing

By Sarah Naybour, Oxfordshire’s premier garden designer and three times Chelsea Flower Show winner
Sarah Naybour Oxfordshire Garden Designer

This will often involve lots of odd diagrams and sketches which only I can understand!

I am responsible for creating such a personal space that it is imperative I understand my client fully. Not just what they want in their garden, but how they want to use it; who will use it; and more about who they are. So I need to really get to know them well. What do they do? Where do they shop? And what is their style?

Getting to know and understand them well in our initial consultation is just the beginning of a very collaborative process which will include many proposals and discussions, to culminate in a beautiful outdoor space that the client will love.

I always start my consultation with a walk around the space, and let my clients talk. Tell me what they like, what they don’t like, discuss the physical structure of the garden and its surroundings. I also like to get to know them as people as far as I can in that first hour.

Sarah Naybour Oxfordshire Garden Designer


I also take lots of photos not just of the whole garden as it is.

But also details of door thresholds, drainage levels etc. These are vital for construction information, and knowing what is and is not possible. As Joe Swift said several times on the recent Great Chelsea Garden Challenge

“It’s all very well designing a garden, but you have to design one that can actually be built!”

It is always necessary to survey the plot, which may sometimes involve a professional land survey. Even with simple new build sites, the boundaries are rarely square to the properties.

Once I have all this information I put together a Client Brief. This is basically the client’s wish list, as I understand it. They have to approve this as it forms the basis for the design requirements, and often has a huge impact on budget.

Ah! Yes! Money! It is vital to discuss this early on. Gardens cost. Especially the hard landscape elements, walls, pergolas, lighting, water features….. Large trees and specimen shrubs can also be expensive. The lawn and perennials are the cheapest bit!
Small urban gardens are often proportionally more expensive per square meter than large country gardens because of this.

Once I have the client brief and budget in place I can start an outline plan. This involves analysing the survey, the photos and working out and strong ground plan, which not only has a clear composition, but that will work functionally for the people who are going to use it, and the space in which it sits.

This will often involve lots of odd diagrams and sketches which only I can understand!

From this I develop an initial outline plan and a simple computer model, which I can show to the client and develop further into a Master Plan.

Computer modelling also allows me to see how the sun tracks around a design and where shadows will fall. This is not only essential for placement of terraces, but also has a huge impact on planting.

In order for the design to get built, the contractor will need a full set of construction drawings and specification documents as well as careful project management.

- Sarah Naybour


Related Articles: First Garden Design | Sarah Naybour’s Designs for the Chelsea Flower Show