Garden makeovers

An expert guide

Whether you’re after some inspiration or already planning a garden makeover, here are some top tips from garden experts.



Dreaming of a garden makeover? Maybe you’re after more space to socialise, an area to grow fruit and vegetables, or a complete revamp to add value to your home?

Whatever your goal, there are a number of areas to consider.

We’ve gathered top tips from experts – including gardener and author Bob Flowerdew, Gardens Trust president Dominic Cole, Society of Garden Designers (SGD) chair Philippa O’Brien and editor Victoria Harrison – to help you plan improvements to make the most of your outdoor space.

Where to start

Before you start planning, consider what you want to achieve with your makeover.

“Is it to add value or interest, amaze your friends with your ecological or wild garden, or to grow food?” asks author Bob Flowerdew. “Once you know your most important parameters, it’s easier to plan.”

Assess the shape, size and slope of your land and think about which plants, materials and colours you like. If you’ve visited any gardens you particularly liked, try to pin down exactly what appealed to you.

Images from magazines and websites can also inspire you. Houzz – an online community for home renovation and design – is filled with inspiration and advice to help with each stage of the planning process.

“Never do more than what is needed to create an effect. Fussy detailing can spoil a garden and is an unjustified expense if thinking of property value,” says Gardens Trust president and landscape architect Dominic Cole. “Considering everything, from where the sun shines at different times to the levels of your land, can help you plan to do just what’s needed.”

There are also a number of online tools to help you visualise your garden makeover. One to try is My Garden from Gardena – it's a simple site that allows you to drop a range of objects, such as plants or paving, onto a blank space in different designs.

Working with a professional

With larger makeovers, you might be considering a landscape architect or garden designer. But it’s important to find one that’s right for you.

Essentially, it’s important to do as much research as you can. Ask prospective designers as many questions as possible, scan their websites, read references and see if you can visit previous projects.

“You should be prepared to offer to pay for a first visit from a designer to have a look around,” Dominic says. “Find out if you like them and could envisage working together – but also if they are comfortable with the size of your project. Different designers cope with different scales of a job. I enjoy working at any scale – from the Eden Project to small urban gardens – but not all designers do.”

“Ultimately, a designer should help with inspiration as well as planning,” says Society of Garden Designers (SGD) chair Philippa O’Brien. “A trained garden designer should guide you through the process, in much the same way as you would expect an architect to work on a home extension. The best relationships, in any circumstance, are built on trust.”

The SGD has a comprehensive Find a Designer tool to help you find a registered garden designer by postcode and area.

Be realistic about the timeframe – and the cost

A complete garden makeover can take time and will depend on the size and scope of the work.

“A small-scale makeover – such as adding a trellis, painting and limited planting – could cost just £1,000 and result in a satisfying change within weeks,” says Dominic.

But a larger makeover will take longer and cost more.

One option that’s growing in popularity is the ‘garden room’ – an outdoor structure which can be used as an office, spare bedroom or studio. These additions can cost between £5,000 and £25,000 depending on the size, specs and design1.

“A good measure for larger scale work is to expect to pay as much as you would for a kitchen or bathroom makeover, which can cost about £5,000. You could be looking at anything north of £90,000 for more elaborate works that take six months or more,” says Dominic.

Bob adds: “Consider and plan a garden in the same way you would when refitting the kitchen and, similarly, be prepared to spend realistic amounts of money initially.”

“It’s important to be honest about your budget, as a designer will produce tailor-made designs to match the amount you specify,” Philippa says. “If you under-estimate you could restrict the initial creative concept, but if you over-estimate you could be disappointed when it’s scaled down.”

Charges and payments will vary from designer to designer, so make sure you understand what your budget is covering and when you’ll be invoiced. A good designer will provide a written estimate of costs and explain the payment stages. You’ll also normally be asked for a percentage of the payment before the design is completed.

Small space? No problem

“Although most of us would prefer a larger garden given the choice, it is surprising just what can be done with smaller ones,” says Bob. “Even the tiniest plot has room for herbs, for example, and they can be extremely undemanding and more cost effective.”

“One small touch that works is using light-coloured paint to freshen up a basement wall or fence, to bounce natural light around,” explains Dominic. “Even a small, shady spot can be perked up and made attractive – sometimes just a few well-placed plants can transform a space. It’s the same with surfaces and furniture – it doesn’t have to be elaborate to turn a dingy, muddy patch into an area you’ll use every day.” editor Victoria Harrison has several tricks to make the most of your garden – even if it’s limited in size. “Transforming tiny plots is a real interest for our users,” she says. “We see so many clever tips from the Houzz community, including flexible seating, hanging baskets and mirrors.”

Quick tips for a painless garden makeover

  • Be prepared for disruption. Building a new garden can be as disruptive as fitting a new kitchen or bathroom
  • Discuss any issues early. Voicing your concerns as soon as possible can save time and additional costs
  • Make a list and keep a diary. Writing down everything, from contractor visits to planting plans, can help you keep track
  • Be flexible. Let your designer do what they do best. You’ll have a more successful garden if you don’t dictate every aspect of the design
  • Consider quick fixes. A quick fix or paint-job could help you enjoy your garden this summer and give you time to plan a larger makeover for next year

How we could help

As a Premier customer, Premier Barclayloan could help you to fund home improvements and get more from your property. With Premier Barclayloan, you could borrow from £1,000 up to £50,000 for terms from 2 to 5 years.

If you’re undertaking a complete garden makeover, knowing how much you have to spend could really help your project.

If you bank with us, you might be able to see what your Premier Barclayloan could look like with a personalised rate and limit that is exclusive to you. If you’re registered, log into Barclays Online Banking or the Barclays Mobile Banking app to see if you have a personalised price quote or provisional loan limit.2

The rate you’re offered will be based on your personal circumstances, the loan amount and the repayment term. Loans are subject to status. Early settlement fees apply.

Find out more about Premier Barclayloan here.

You may be eligible to apply if you're at least 18 years old, a UK resident and a Premier customer. To become a Premier customer, you need a minimum of £100,000 saved or invested with us - or an annual gross income paid into a Barclays current account of £75,000 or more.