Remembering ‘Maintenance’ at Each Stage

By Karen McClure Garden Design. At Karen McClure Garden Design we are working to improve our own focus on thorough garden aftercare for our business improvement, but also to help raise the value placed on garden aftercare and hiring trained professionals across the industry. In pursuit of that aim, we are developing a check-list for each stage of the design process.

Work load can get very hectic, and the focus can be too much on upfront design aspects and managing client expectations about money. The process outlined below helps us as an internal reminder to not forget the garden needs maintaining for it to develop and for successful longevity. We now reference this check-list at each stage of the process.

This is our initial draft of our own process and we would very much welcome any thoughts on improving or changing this from other designers and garden aftercare professionals. Please feel free to add a comment at the bottom of the blog post.

Step 1: Client Brief to include a focus on maintenance

• This is an ideal moment to assess the client’s attitude to garden maintenance and educate the client
• Questions should be added to the client questionnaire to assess this attitude further
• Close attention should be paid during the initial visit to the existing condition of the garden, the soil, the prevailing care regime of the plants
• Discussions should be had about how the client will ensure the correct maintenance of the garden after installation
• Elements could be included in the contract about the initial planting and subsequent maintenance

Step 2: Site Analysis, Landscape and Historical Context

• A further opportunity to assess the site, this time in more detail.
• Soil samples are taken to check soil type, moisture, pH and level of organic enrichment
• At the same time, careful observation of the condition of the existing plants, the maintenance of the soil, attention to weeding can be checked

Step 3: Developing a Concept

• At the heart of the concept is adherence to the client wishes with regard to ongoing maintenance
• The concept must be designed in accordance with these wishes
• Plants’ maintenance requirements can be checked on Shoot to assess their suitability for incorporation into the design concept

Step 4: Creating Collage, Moodboard and Masterplan

• At this stage, maintenance requirements must form the backdrop to how these are presented

Step 5: Present back to Client

• An important moment to summarise the projected maintenance requirements and anticipated maintenance schedule
• In agreeing the contractors, the importance of selecting an “expert” gardener should be emphasised
• Discuss how to select a suitable gardener (minimal skills, knowledge and qualifications expected, how they were trained, what experience they have acquired, rates of pay anticipated for the qualified gardeners, etc.)
• Ideally the designer has a recommended list of expert gardeners. The designer might suggest suitable gardening contractors at this stage
• Often clients may have their own gardener, and this is the moment to agree a subsequent meeting with them to ensure they can be briefed directly on the design’s upcoming requirements

Step 6: Zoning and Planting Strategy/Planting Plan

• Maintenance requirements must form the backdrop to how these are
• Plants’ maintenance requirements can be checked on Shoot to assess their suitability for incorporation into the concept

Step 7: Roll out to include Ordering Plants, Landscaping and Planting

• In constructing the order for the plant nursery and other suppliers (reference can be made to Shoot)
• It is useful to use a contract specification
• Example of items to include in specifications:
• Supply of Trees: shall comply with ‘Code of Practice for Plant Handling’ by the Committee on Plant Supply and Establishment (CPSE)
• Plant Labeling: All plants shall be clearly and durably labelled with exact genus, species and cultivar
• Plant failures: provisions established for replacement in the event of plant failure

Step 8:  End of Build Review

• A crucial moment to ensure the client appreciates the importance of maintenance
• The client needs to understand the importance of managing the gardener: ensuring the integrity of the design is correctly maintained
• Agree with the client how the garden will be maintained
• It is essential that the gardening contractor is briefed thoroughly by the designer, to ensure subsequent control over the design
• Agree follow-up visits at 3, 6, and 12 months
• Send a regular maintenance reminder, say, monthly. An ideal mechanism for this is provided by Shoot, who will mail the precise monthly maintenance applicable to the plants chosen in the design
• It may be helpful to brief and involve the gardener directly in this, to ensure their understanding of how their maintenance schedule will be managed going forwards. Some gardeners have initially not understood the value the Shoot care calendar can play in supporting their role. We explain that by providing a visual and interactive online tool to the end-client, they are more likely to understand the need for garden aftercare and the tasks to do each month. Shoot plays a supportive role to the importance in that activity.

Step 9: Follow-up Visits at 3, 6, and 12 Months

• Follow-up visits as agreed to see how the garden is developing

Note from Shoot: This blog post follows on from events we have held previously on the topic of aftercare. If you are interested in participating in our next event on 18th January 2018 please click here for details. We will also be live streaming this event over Facebook. Contact Ben Sparks at for more details.

2 Replies to “Remembering ‘Maintenance’ at Each Stage”

  1. That’s a great checklist, thanks for publishing it. I ask about maintenance in the initial brief, however as I design, I notice I can get carried away in my plant enthusiasm, and have to rein it in to keep to the initial brief. So a checklist is a good reminder of how important this is – for a happy client and a good reputation!

  2. A couple of thoughts on things you could add: – at the quote stage, sell maintenance schedules, and at the planting plan stage, use the RHS website as well as Shoot re information about care of plants, eg how to grow and restrict bamboo, more information on different pruning groups, etc.

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