The second annual Garden Dialogues event kicks off Aug. 22 in Vancouver.

Thinking of updating your outdoor space or looking to create an entirely new garden from scratch?Landscape design expert Amelia Sullivan from Battersby Howat Architects outlines five essential steps to getting the garden you’ve always dreamed of.Villa Maris Green Roof by Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. (Photo by Brett Ryan Studios.)1. List your must-haves (and stick to them!) Sullivan says requirements like level dining space for a certain amount of guests, or gardens that need less than two hours a week of maintenance should be clearly outlined and even pinned to the wall as a reminder.2. Garden analysis. “Take an inventory of all the features (good and bad) of your existing outdoor space and then analyze how it affects your initial needs and requirements,” says Sullivan. Things like property lines, existing vegetation, microclimate etc.3. Design development (a.k.a. the fun part). This is where you get to take a look at what’s out there and do in-person recon missions of garden spaces you love. Sullivan also says the library and its stores of fine art magazines are a great resource in the research process. Other great inspirational spots are nurseries (Free Spirit Nursery in Langley is at the top of her list), in addition to building yards and social media. She loves @NigelDunnett on Twitter and look out for @battersbyhowat on Instagram.4. Final design drawings. “Once you have finalized your design, you will need, at the minimum, a scaled layout plan—with all the hardscape elements clearly shown—and a planting plan in order to get a realistic estimate from a landscape contractor,” says Sullivan. And if you have a site with a lot of level changes, she says a grading plan is also essential.5. Installation and maintenance. When shopping around, Sullivan says the lowest bid isn’t always the right bid. “A good way to gauge if the landscape contractor is the right fit is to have them show you around to at least two of their built projects and to ask for references.” This way you’ll quickly see if the finished project matches your expectations and if your personalities are compatible. “A good landscape contractor will also help you make informed decisions about final material choices,” says Sullivan. Her parting words of wisdom are that whoever takes care of the garden is the ultimate designer, so whether you’re doing it entirely yourself or hiring a professional, keep the big picture in mind and evaluate annually to stay on track.Villa Maris Green Roof by Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. (Photo by Brett Ryan Studios.)

The Ultimate Tour for Vancouver Garden Lovers

Before you get cracking on your new dream garden, get some inspiration and expert advice at the Garden Dialogues: Vancouver event running Aug. 22.Renowned landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is among the sizeable crop of industry hosts on this behind-the-scenes, full-day tour of some of the best private gardens in Vancouver. Eva Matsuzaki, Vikas Tanwar of Paul Sangha Landscape Architecture and Bryce Gauthier of Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects will also be in attendance, including a secret “master” landscape architect to be revealed the day of.The Details:

  • Garden Dialogues: Vancouver
  • Aug. 22, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Includes informal lunch at Oberlander’s home studio with food from local chef Annabelle Choi
  • Tickets: $125