Whilst the prospect of the Christmas festivities may currently be taking centre stage in your household, be aware that if you are hoping to make some improvements in your garden for next spring – it’s time to start thinking now!

Creating your perfect outdoor space takes a lot of effort and generally some form of investment, so make sure you spend your money wisely by coming up with a well thought out plan of action, as well as a realistic budget. 

You may be looking at a total redesign of the garden in which case it could be worthwhile employing the services of a garden designer to help you translate your designer garden dreams into a reality.  Alternatively, you might be simply looking to add a dash of flair to your outdoor living accommodation by incorporating inspirational styling ideas guaranteed to add designer kudos – and deliver instant gratification! A splash of bold colour to a wall, chic garden accessories, updated garden furniture, a striking new water feature – these are just some of the suggestions that can transform a dull space into an inviting outdoor haven.

A great place to start when looking for a garden designer is with a landscape & garden design trade body such as the British Association of Landscape Industries (www.bali.org.uk) or the Society of Garden Designers (www.sgd.org.uk), both trade organisations have garden designer members working nationally and locally.

If you think you will require the services of a professional landscaper to realise your great garden expectations, sit down and put together a written brief outlining what you want the landscaper to quote on.  It always pays to seek out a range of quotes (usually three) and by committing the desired works to paper, it will make it easy for you to compare the pricing of the companies competing for your business.  Ask to see examples of the landscaper’s previous work or better still, talk to any previous clients to gauge their personal garden transformation experience at the hands of the chosen landscaper.  Don’t forget to request sight of the materials that the landscaper is recommending and be very clear exactly how your hard earned cash is being spent. A real York stone patio can cost substantially more than an imitation stone patio. Similarly, there are different grades of turf, and trees and shrubs can cost a little or a lot depending on the size you specify.

If you want to find an accredited landscape company, that is inspected annually to make sure they retain the highest standards, visit the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) site.  The APL is the only landscaping scheme operator of Trustmark, a Government endorsed initiative that promotes professional trades to consumers. Visit www.landscaper.org.uk/find-your-landscaper.

Initiate your transformation in winter and you will benefit from the following:

• Most plants are dormant at this time of year so if the proposed garden make-over project involves a lot of cutting back of existing stock,  it is more likely that the trees / plants will be able to survive this intervention and any other disruption caused by machinery etc

• Rather than having to plant out new trees and hedges from pots, in winter it is possible – and preferable – to use bare rooted stock.  In addition to establishing early successful growth your pocket will benefit too, as bare rooted stock is traditionally cheaper to buy than pot grown trees and hedges

• Whatever the scale of project, you need to prepare yourself for some degree of disruption if work is to be carried out on the garden.  If you can organise for the hard labour to be conducted during the Winter months, you will minimise the interference to you and your family, as it is unlikely that you’ll be spending as much time outside at this time of year

• Getting to grips with your garden now will save you having to join the queues next year – and when those around you are struggling to find a professional with time to take on the job, you can sit back and enjoy your stylish newly transformed outdoor space

Photo by Diane Holme - 2013 competition winner.