Garden and Tree Maintenance

Garden and tree maintenance aren’t top of the list for most interior designers!

But when you are putting together a house or a project you may be required to tidy up the exterior of a property, either in preparation for the building work to take place or after the building work has taken place.

I often look at gardens as space for my workmen to work in, as well as places of interest for my clients.  At the project in Chelsea, there was a relatively small garden attached to the house: one at the back and one at the front. 


garden and tree maintenance


Not a great shot I grant you, but you can see that it’s small and although overgrown, there is plenty of space for workmen to use.

I knew that over the summer months, the workmen would need the back garden to use for carpentry and for cutting tiles, not to mention a place to store the rubbish and rubble before it was collected.

Most clients know that gardens will be used during the renovation process but few realise quite how comprehensively gardens can be ruined by building equipment and rubble from their own homes.

You can protect gardens to a certain degree but never 100%. Even if you could cordon some areas off, they would still be subject to dust and possibly other flying debris from the project. 

The easiest thing to do, therefore, is to inform your clients that the garden will be used during the duration of the works and that they should consider a garden designer to come in afterwards to create a garden that they will want to spend time in.

What should you do when planning works that would affect gardens and what should you inform the client of before work commences?

  • tell the clients that the garden will be affected
  • tell the clients that the garden will be used by the builders – to not only work in for some of the messy projects they will undertake, but that the garden will also be used for storage purposes
  • take pictures of the gardens both front and back so that their current condition is recorded just in case there are any damages or condition issues both during and after the project
  • speak to the builders personally – don’t leave it to the head contractor – and tell them what things to look out for and what items need to be taken care of
  • keep an eye on things as the project progresses. Watch things being lent up against trees and items flattening flower beds!

You will find that most clients accept that gardens should and will be used during renovation work but it takes clients a little while to realise the full extent of the space needed when doing even a small sized renovation.

Tools, personal items, equipment, new fixtures and fittings, rubble and waste all come with needs for space. Not to mention the workmen who have to move around these objects sometimes within a confined space.

Garden and Tree Maintenance

At the project in Chelsea, you will see from the video that I ordered my tree surgeons to come and tidy up a few large trees and some small or large shrubs, so that they did not get in the way of the workmen.  

I think that these particular trees and shrubs had not been cut or shaped or pruned for many years.

You will find that trees and shrubs need regular tidying in order for them to look their best and to give the maximum amount of space and enjoyment to the gardens that they are situated in.

As you can see here, the magnolia and laurel trees have grown out of control.  Various pots and paraphernalia have been left in the garden as well.  It will look lovely when everything is finished but for now, the trees need a good prune for their own good!


garden and tree maintenance

Things to note…

  • Tree surgeons work very quickly. They don’t hang around so you get emotional about the trees and bushes that they are asked to cut back and sometimes remove.
  • At the Chelsea house there were at least 3 or 4 shrubs and trees that we wanted to remove in order to let more light into the garden. These took a matter of seconds to remove. 
  • There are regulations of course and you will have to check with your local council or planning restrictions to see what you are and are not able to cut down. As a rule of thumb I would say that any tree with a trunk that is more than 10 inches in diameter, I would wait and take advice. You do not want to  have a lawsuit drop through your door because an angry neighbour is upset that you have cut down their favourite tree, despite it being in your property grounds.  
  • Likewise with gardens there are rules and regulations pertaining to what you can cut down. Particularly things that overhang your boundary fence or wall. We have a law in the UK for example, that stipulates you can cut branches from a tree, say, that is draped over your garden. But that you cannot keep the branches that you have cut off.  You have to give them back to the owner. So often an owner can come back and find branches lying in the garden that their neighbours have lopped off.   Best to be on the safe side and speak to your neighbour before any work is done and explain to them that a tree or a shrub in their garden is protruding over to your side and it is your intention to cut the overhanging branches off.  It is only fair and neighborly to do so. You could also offer that your tree surgeon goes next door to them to see if there is any work that could be done from their side if they so want to engage him.

For my part,  I always look after trees and shrubs and advise clients to keep what foliage they have. Especially at the front of properties as it will help enormously with noise reduction.

The only thing you have to watch is that the trees are not the type that drop leaves every autumn as that can cause blockages to drains and will require bi-weekly garden and tree maintenance for the front garden specifically.

Happily in this case, the two large pine fir trees at the front of the Chelsea house are being retained and some smaller trees were to be removed.  This is where Chris and his team came into their own. 

If you are a designer and you have engaged a tree surgeon or a gardener, please be aware that you should monitor their work and be very clear as to what trees should remain and which should be cut back.

This decision is on your head and you are responsible for your contractors work.

Of course when you have  booked a tree surgeon or gardener to attend the site, you should let the head building contractor know and as many of the building team as possible know the date and time of the gardeners arrival. 

It’s common courtesy and it may be imperative that certain members of the work team may need to be moved to other jobs whilst your remedial garden work takes place.

Once the building work is done and the builders are no longer on site, with everything cleared away you will see what damage if any has been done to the garden.  This is where garden and tree maintenance come into play.

It’s most likely that there will be minimal damage to the garden apart from plaster dust and any small items of waste that the builders may have missed.  I have on occasion booked gardeners to come and clean up the garden after the builders have gone.

You can do this but it is mostly not necessary as the majority of clients understand that there will be some result from the renovation work.

In this case there was a small amount of dust which was washed away by the rainfall in Autumn.  In any event, the clients are settling into their new home and the garden, being now that it is winter, is far from their minds.   There is the back gate to consider, pictured below.

garden and tree maintenance

The wood has rotted through at the bottom and it’s in poor shape. But it is locked and is practically welded or warped into position!  No security issues here!

I will get the builders to tackle this job when we take care of the outside of the house – notably the painting of the building and windows and the repair of the guttering work on the front and back.

The front garden, however, is due to be redesigned. This is where the two fir trees are situated and also where the new air conditioning condenser will be situated. 

A garden designer is currently working on the plans to accommodate both the trees and the air conditioning unit. 

The plans include limestone steps up to the front door, leveling out the paving and landscaping the area nearest to the house.  

On my list is a new garden gate. This is already being talked about so I will be involved at some point. 

Be careful when you are taking on interior work to not get too involved in the exteriors of a property. 

By all means deal and manage the walls of a property but leave the gardens and trees to the experts!

Happy designing!

garden and tree maintenance