How a professional approaches landscape design

Landscape design is a lot more than digging holes and building walls. In fact, to be honest the digging holes bit is a lot less interesting than the actual design. There are all sorts of dynamic trends happening in this field. We’re constantly looking at other designers around the world. We study how things are put together and how people use their garden. We want people to be able to live in their garden as well as their home.

Especially during the pandemic, people have been spending more and more time at home. And while doing so they’ve been sitting and looking out at the garden … and thinking, ‘That looks terrible outside—how am I going to fix that?’

Landscape design is our forte at Masters Landscapes. Our creativity and design flair is what sets us apart from the other landscape firms in the mountains. There is a tradition of unique landscape design up here. The Danish designer, Paul Sorensen, set the template for a Blue Mountains garden back in the early 20th century. And in the same way you can recognise a Sorensen garden as soon as you see it, you can recognise one of ours. 

The starting point for landscape design

The design process for a garden starts with the house it surrounds. The architecture of the house and garden have to match. We also look at the borrowed view when designing. Everything has to work with the surrounds (which include the neighbours’ gardens). You take in the borrowed view and try to integrate it.

We also talk to clients about what they want to see when they look outside. We’ve built a couple of houses for ourselves. We can understand the frustration when you can’t see something beautiful outside. The house we’re living in at the moment has huge glass windows. Even when it’s a three-degree day, we can still appreciate our garden outside. We believe the inside and outside work together. So you can still enjoy the garden when you’re stuck inside.

Start with what you have

The starting point for designing your garden is what you have, where you live, and what you want to see. It is a very collaborative process. Budget is often discussed right up front—there’s no point in us designing a champagne garden on a beer budget. But a limited budget doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.

We do a preliminary meeting, when we meet for the quote. Then we would create a concept, or a palette of the style of garden. There would be no drawings of where the wall or where the path would be. It’s more the feel and the style of the garden. We would draw up a selection of plants, a colour palette, and the style and feel of the garden, as an overview.

Think of it more as a mood board. A lot of people come to these meetings with ideas that they have. Then we work with them to narrow it down. What we’re trying to do at this stage is balance the budget and what they need out of their garden. We also think about the access in the garden.

What comes after design?

The design process for a garden should always deal with these aesthetic ideas first. What follows is an inspection of the site to look at any problems that have to be solved. The digging, in many ways, is the end of the process.