“How much will my garden cost to build?”

I love getting my teeth into a new project – but too often, I’m tripped at the first hurdle by this perennial question.

It’s a question that isn’t easy to answer simply, but a landscaping friend of mine and I came up with a couple of attempts: “Well madam, it’s about the same cost as this here luxury kitchen we’re sitting in!”, or: “Well sir, it’s about half the combined cost of the Range Rover and Mercedes on your driveway!”. Of course, neither of us have been bold enough to use these phrases yet – but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been tempted!

I’ve learnt the hard way that some clients can employ especially crafty negotiating tactics. As a case in point – some years ago I went to see a well-known surgeon to discuss his garden design. Arriving at his impressively large house in Buckinghamshire, the most noticeable thing was a pair of rusty old bangers parked in the driveway. Feeling that he must evidently be down on his luck, I proceeded with the quote and agreed on a contract, with those rust-buckets in the back of my mind. Imagine my surprise when, retuning to start work on the project, I found the same grand house – but a Bentley and a Maserati in pride of place on the gravel! The crafty client had asked his cleaner and gardener to leave their cars up front for the day of our first meeting. Needless to say, I felt somewhat betrayed!