Oliver Rutman Garden Design

This post aims to provide the answers to some questions we are often asked when designing gardens … if you have any further questions please get in touch. Details can be food on our contact page.

How does the design process work?

The design process has several different stages outlined simply below:

  • Initial Meeting – A meeting with Oliver to discuss your project with you.
  • Survey – Conducted by a land surveyor.
  • Concept Design – A flat plan with supporting visuals to accurately show you our vision for your new garden
  • Construction Design – Construction drawings and specifications are a key element for contractors to accurately price the construction of the garden.
  • Planting Design – Planting mood boards are created once you are happy we create a planting plan to determine number of each plant.
  • Lighting Design – Plans indicating positions of lights and recommending lighting products.
  • Planning – In some cases planning may be required.
  • Tender – The majority of our projects enter a tender process with three trusted landscapers.

How long does it take to design the garden?

The size of your garden will influence the time it takes to design. Currently we can get a design together for you in between 3-6 weeks. (NOTE: This is once we have had an accurate survey of your garden completed). Once the design has been agreed then we progress into the construction design and planting design stages.

How long will the build take?

The construction of gardens can vary from under a month for some small gardens to over six months for larger projects.

When is the best time to start having my garden designed?

You can start the design process at any time of year, ideally if the garden is linked into a house renovation it is wise to get a designer on board once you have got planning permission for the house works. This enables the hard landscaping around the house to be designed so the house and garden blend together.

How much does a new garden cost?

New garden transformations start from around £25,000 – £30,000. The design process runs smoothly if you provide a budget for your garden. If you don’t this can lead to costly revisions that make the process very disjointed.

When deciding on a budget it is important to consider that most garden transformations cost around £190 – £300 per meter squared. If your garden has a level change it is likely to be more costly to build than a garden that is completely flat.

Are you able to offer planning advice?

Many elements such as swimming pools, tennis courts and garden buildings require planning permission. Also in some cases such as permitted development restrictions or listings will require the entire garden to be submitted to the planners for approval. We are able to advice and produce drawings for all planning situations.

Will a new garden add value to your property?

They say a well designed and maintained garden can add up to 20% onto your property value. Often first impressions are very important so a well maintained front garden and street in urban areas are very important.

What is the best time to plant plants?

The best time to plant plants is October – March.

Bulbs must be plated October – December. If you miss this time but want bulbs in the spring you can buy them potted.

Can you organise a landscaper to build our new garden?

We can recommend several landscape contractors who can provide a quote for the garden build and planting.  

(Please note, we have no control over their schedules or admin processes.)

Are you able to source plants, trees and garden features?

Some of the elements we are regally asked to source are: plants, trees (all sizes), furniture, sculpture, stone (including rocks) and pots.

Are we able to phase the build of the garden?

This is not a problem many builds for larger gardens are regally phased as some elements may be able to be constructed without planning so we can get cracking on them while we wait for planning to come through for the rest.

When should you start planning your new garden?

There is no set time of year that we can say is a good time to start just when you are ready. Larger gardens are often more time consuming to design and also to build so will take much longer than a small urban garden.

If the garden is part of an entire house renovation then it is wise to speak to a garden designer about putting a design together once you have received planning for the works to the house. Once the design has been completed you can choose to progress with it at the same time as the renovations or wait a few years until you are ready to progress with the garden.

There are a number of benefits of working in this way. The main one being that sometimes builders will include some hard landscaping around the house or new extension as part of the build cost. There is then a rush to decide how bit it can be or where it should be without considering the rest of the garden. This then leads to compromises when designing the garden. These compromises could include material choice or a missed design opportunity.

When is the best time to build your new garden?

There is never a bad time of year to build the garden as works can take place all year round. The best time to plant is October – April. However, you can plant thought the summer (plants will need lots of watering) and winter.

Planting can often be in phases. For example Perennials, trees, shrubs may be planted in April and then bulbs to provide spring could could then be planted after. Best time to do bulbs is October – December.

If you want your garden completed by next summer when should you start planning it?

As a result of the disruption caused by BREXIT and the increase in demand for gardens brought about by the pandemic there is long lead times for certain materials, plants and contractors.

This has made future planning essential when planning your new garden. In short if you want your garden completed by next summer then you need to start giving it some thought now! From initial meeting the production of a design can take 6-7 weeks particularly if a land survey is required. However, if you may be keen to get going and we appreciate that. It is still important not to rush things though as a good design and details takes time and thought to evolve.


With government targets fast approaching clients are asking us how they can generate energy. This may be as simple as them wanting to install solar panels on their house, garden room, pool house, outbuildings, etc or on a larger scale devote a field to solar or ground source heating in order to become self sufficient.

This has become a popular option due the the governments Renewable Heat Incentive. If you are domestic the government will pay the installation cost of a system up to a certain value. However, if you are a business there is no limit on the system cost and the government will pay it in full over a number of years.


Lots the large systems such as ground source heat can be combined with meadow creation benefiting the environment and the local biodiversity. We can assist in creating a meadow mix that blends with the area and environment your garden sits in. Often clients like to have their solar panels screened to they can’t see them. This is often a benefit of using a garden designer when you are planning a system like this as the screening can be incorporated into the design rater than an afterthought that compromises it.


With the winters becoming wetter and summers dryer water has become something to consider when planning a new garden. This can take a number of forms from reservoirs to underground water storage tanks.

Most commonly underground water storage tanks are used to collect rain water off roofs on the property for example house, garage, greenhouse. All the buildings can be channeled into one tank. This often sits below the drive or terrace where work is already being done to install the surface and all the extra work is to dig down below to include the tank and then pave on top with an access cover to inspect the pump or water level.

The water storage tank or reservoir can be connected to the gardens irrigation system so reduces mains water going onto the garden and is also environmentally sustainable.

With International travel for leisure limited and 80% of people planning to do a staycation in the UK this year we thought it would be useful to create a list of gardens that you may consider visiting.


  • Kew Gardens
  • Chelsea Physic Garden
  • The Garden Museum
  • Barbican
  • Olympic Park


  • The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle
  • Sissinghurst
  • Great Comp Garden
  • Prospect Cottage
  • Scotney Castle

Surrey and Sussex

  • Great Dixter
  • Gravetye Manor
  • Charleston
  • Nymans
  • RHS Wisley


  • Bramdean House
  • West Green Gardens
  • Mottisfont Abbey Gardens
  • Hillier Gardens and Arboretum
  • Gilbert White’s House and Garden

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire

  • Rousham
  • Stowe
  • Cliveden
  • Asthall Manor
  • Waterperry Gardens

Bedfordshire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire

  • Chatsworth
  • Coton Manor
  • Cottesbrooke Hall
  • Thenford Gardens and Arboretum
  • Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens

Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex

  • Beth Chatto gardens
  • RHS Hyde Hall
  • Hatfield House
  • Silverstone Farm
  • Houghton Hall

Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

  • Hidcote Manor
  • Kiftsgate gardens
  • Stourhead
  • Iford Manour
  • The Garden House

Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset

  • The Garden House
  • Wildside
  • Ston Easton Park
  • Athelhampton House and Gardens
  • Hauser and Wirth

The Midlands

  • David Austin Nursery and Garden
  • Wollerton Old Hall
  • Arley Hall
  • Maitreya
  • Morville Hall

Northumberland, Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire

  • Levens Hall
  • Scampston
  • Lowther Castle
  • Alnwick Garden
  • Gresgarth Hall

The discussion around the use of peat in our gardens has been going on for a while. In this post we aim to create a short summary to explain the peat problem and also offer some solutions and alternative products to try and combat it.

The peat issue

When you are faced with the many different compost options at the garden centre you will notice lots of them contain peat as a component in the mixes. Peat is a natural material that can be found in peat bogs. Peat bogs are intentionally rare habitats that support a wide range of wildlife. When it rains the peat bogs can soak up all the rainfall and release it slowly helping to mitigate flooding. Peat bogs also help to store a lot of carbon, for example the peat bogs in the UK store tree billion toons of carbon. This is more carbon that the carbon that is stored in the forests in Germany, France and the UK put together. In order to extract peat from the peat bogs to use in compost it needs to be dug up. the process of digging up peat flows oxygen to get in it and therefore allows the carbon that was stored in the bog to enter the atmosphere. This then will go onto harm the environment.

What to do

The solution is simple, when you are in the garden centre buy compost that says peat free. Most big garden centres will have a peat free option somewhere. A good brand to look for is Dalefoot Compost a British company based in the Lake District that just sells peat free!

However, some people may feel that they want to be even more environmentally conscious and make their own. This is incredibly easy to do just put all your grass cuttings, plant cuttings, hedge cuttings, food waste on a heap leave it to root down and then you get fantastic compost for free!

By stopping buying peat composts you are helping the environment and biodiverse wildlife habitats. What could be a better thing to do for our planet!

Pro Landscaper 30 Under 30 Update

In 2019 our Director Oliver was selected as one of the Pro Landscaper 30 under 30. In the April issues of the Pro Landscaper magazine Oliver is interviewed about his time at the world famous garden, Great Dixter in Sussex and building up our practice in the pandemic.

Read the full article below:

As part of our climate series over on our instagram we addressed the issue of plastic pots. This blog post is a summary of the discussion that can also be read on our instagram!

Plastic pots what’s the issue?

What if we told you every year 500 million plastic pots are in circulation in the horticulture industry every year in the UK!

This issue is when we or you go to a nursery of garden centre and buy our pants they all come in plastic pots most of witch are black. Once we have planted the plant in the ground the plastic pot becomes redundant. The natural path is for you to put it in the bin. However, if you bin a black pot the recycling technology will not pick it up so it will go to landfill. Great use of plastic! This ultimately means lots of plastic pots unfortunately end up in landfill taking decades to break down and making more needing to be produced.

I was on a good friend Marc O’neill’s instagram and I saw on his story that he found a plastic pot wash up on a Kent beach. The thought our plastic posts are ending up in the ocean is horrifying so we need to do something to sort this issue out!

The Solution!

We had an incredible response on Instagram with solutions and it was great to find so many people are thinking about the issue and making small changes to their businesses to help play a small role in solving the problem.

  • Architectural Plants in West Sussex offer you vouchers to spend in the nursery when you return your plastic pot for them to reuse
  • Great Dixter Nursery will dispatch there plants in newspaper if you order them by post allowing them to reuse the posts. They are also open to people returning there pots once they have planted there Dixter plants!
  • Steve Edney (Head Gardener at the Salutation in Sandwich) uses Viposts. These are made out of natural materials so are biodegradable. You can use them a few times to grow plants in before they break down so are not a single use item.
  • You can also use other things to grow platens in e.g. old tin cans or plastic food pots. This helps to prolong there life instead of just going straight in the bin!
  • Howard Nurseries also suggested that maybe field grown perennials could be the answer to supply in winter to reduce posts. I know Christopher Lloyd used to grow in terracotta post and then wrap the plant in newspaper for costumers to take home so he could re use the terracotta pot.
  • The Hairy Pot company apparently grow in a pot made from waste coir fibres bound with natural latex. You can plant them straight in the ground in the pot and the pot breaks down in the soil.

What are we doing to help?

When we plant gardens we can use 100s of plants each coming individually in plastic pots. Our policy is that we only buy from nursery who we are able to return the pots to as then we do not waste plastic. Also when we buy trees and shrubs we try to get them grown in air pots. This not only helps with there establishment in your new garden but also helps to reduce plastic as the nursery will reuse the air post onsite.

What does climate change mean for gardens and garden design?

When you decide to create a garden some people do it to improve the environment or to encourage wild life. Although gardens are great at this we thought it was important to tell the whole story.

Material choice

We are very lucky there are a huge range of hard landscaping materials that can be used in gardens. However, we think it is important that our clients know where the material has come from and its impact on our climate. Many of the materials that are available unfortunately have to be imported. When we are talking to our clients about what hard landscaping material to use we always give the option of at least one British option and fully disclose the environmental impact of the other options.


Did you know that in the UK the construction industry accounts for 10% of the nations carbon emotions?

Naturally the whole construction industry is not just building gardens but the impact of the construction is an important consideration.

In efforts to minimise the environmental impact we aim to detail the hard landscape by using the minimum amount of concrete. It may also be possible to recycle old features in the garden to prevent bringing more materials to site and waste of the old features. It may also be possible to use electric machinery to minimise emissions too!


The majority of plants sold in the UK are grown in the EU. There is naturally an environmental impact in transportation from the EU to UK and then onwards to your garden. When sourcing plants we try our hardest to use nurseries who are growing their own stock in the UK. This not only helps the environment but also helps keep the plant growing skills at these nurseries so they are not lost.

With climate change the UK climate will change and this will also lead to us to change the type of plants we use in our gardens.

What are we doing?

We take climate change incredibly seriously. We are constantly trying to reduce our impact of the environment through how we work. Our ambition is to be able to take our studio off grid with solar and geothermal energy … we are now quite there yet.

With sites across the UK we travel a lot of miles by car. This has lead us to try to think how we can offset these huge milages. Our solution has been to sign up to Ecologi a subscription service that aims to offset your carbon emotions. They do this through funding eco friendly energy project and planting trees in areas where deforestation has occurred.

So far we have planted over 1,000 trees and removed over 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent to driving 57,000 miles in a car or taking 7 long haul flights.

Click on the logo below to view our forest and see the impact we have had on the climate.

We often find when people contact us they come with a budget that does not reflect the works they want to carry out. This is the reason why we have put together this guide to give you a indication of what a garden costs to construct.

What to budget?

Garden construction can vary wildly, and the main factor we find that effects build costs in access to the garden. If you can remove some fencing panels and drive a digger to dig out foundations for paving then it is much cheaper than having to fill buckets and carry them out of the garden. Another common factor is levels, if the garden is on a slope and needs terracing and walls built then it will cost more.

A good guide is look to spend £200-£350 per meter square. Another way of looking at it is 5%-10% of the value of your house. If you compare this to a ground floor extension where you could spend £1000 (or more) per meter square. This figure naturally depends upon access, levels and quality of materials. Using high quality materials will cost more.

How long will it take?

There is never a bad time to start planning your new garden. If you start planning in spring it is likely that the build may take place in the summer or during the winter ready for the following summer. However, this does depend on the scale of work required a small urban garden will be quicker to build than a large rural garden. Some urban gardens can take 5 weeks to build while larger gardens can take over 6 months to construct (depending on work required).

The key to the success of your garden is to use a landscape contractor. Would you trust a plumber to do a good job at your electrics? The same analogy can be applied gardens. The landscape contractor is highly skilled in all types of hard landscaping, lighting and irrigation insulation and also planting plants. We have occasionally worked with builders to construct gardens and it has caused a great deal of hassle for us and the client as the builder has not been able to fully do the job. For example, they have not wanted to touch plants. With a landscaper contractor you get the full package. They may be a bit more expensive but there work will last for longer.

How much does a designer cost?

When designing a new garden lots of people like to employ a professional designer to help them make the most of there outdoor space. This can cost anything between 8%-15% of the budget. Designing the garden and detailing it takes time. The designer will also have great relationships with nurseries and contractors saving you the hassle of sorting these elements out yourself.

At our studio we undertake complete redesign projects from £20,000 – £500,000. However, you may only want a single area of your large garden designed or a planting border renovated. We do undertake this work too and are happy to discuss this with you.

Does having a well landscaped garden help my properties value?

A well designed garden can increase your property value by 10%-15% and many prospective buyers like the look of a well maintained and structured garden.

It is well documented that in urban areas if your front garden looks good and full of greenery it is great for first impressions and the property will sell quicker. First impressions count!

Why garden rooms?

Since the end of the first lockdown we have seen an increase in clients wanting to include garden rooms to use as home offices, gyms or spaces to relax in. Lots of the garden room companies have become inundated with orders and lead times have been long.

However, we are lucky to have a part time architect in our team who can detail garden rooms and other garden structures. This means a garden room designed by us can be included in a wider garden design and built by the landscape contractor. This enables garden room, paving around it and planting can all be designed at the same time. This prevents you getting caught up in lengthy garden room company lead times delaying the build of your room.

How much do garden rooms cost?

A good well built garden room with bifold doors, electrics, water etc can start from between £25,000 – £30,000. Particularly with so many people working from home and looking to work from home in future it is now seen as an essential investment and will look good for prospective buyers when you sell too!

Before and after garden room transformation in our Cambridge garden (Construction starts March 2021)

We have created a quick guide as to how we are operating during the pandemic.

This page was created in March 2020 and is frequently updated and renewed.

We are fortunate to be able to be able to conduct lots of our work from home so are less impacted than other industries.

We do however, have to go to site meeting and view potential sites. This is happening in person if you would like it to or alternately over video meeting software such as zoom.

If you would like us to come and see you in person we are asking that you fill out our Covid-19 form this can be found below:

As people have been spending a lot of time at home during the pandemic there gardens have risen in priority. This has created a great deal of enquires for us and the industry. In order to speed up our enquiry process we have created a short questionnaire for you to fill out so we can gather some key details about your project. You can find this questionnaire below and on our contact page.

We continue to monitor the situation and change our practices as and when required.

As part of the RHS Young Designer press coverage we got featured in a selection of online articles. Click on the logos to read further: