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Aspire and Specialise

How training as a garden designer will change your whole outlook on life.

Versailles Palace gardens, Paris, France.

Aspiring garden designers, just like any students of a new discipline, may have dreams or ambition to design other than domestic or local commercial landscapes. The world of landscape and garden design is just that: a big wide world full of opportunities and challenges.

Your design course will give you a thorough grounding in the history of garden design through the ages, in climates and conditions some familiar, others that may be completely alien to the environments and climates you have experienced. You will learn how to manage and exploit to the optimum differing soil conditions, difficult, awkward sites, aspects, plot sizes and level changes. You will absorb the elements of good contemporary design – form, harmony, balance and rhythm, plant knowledge, business planning and working practice.

Beautiful french garden with nice tight trimmed shrubs

And much as a student of contemporary dance or music benefits from an understanding of classical style and history, you can build on those basic building blocks to expand both the theory and practice of design on many different ways.

Armed with this new knowledge and with your diploma achieved you can then dream big. It is often a good idea in a competitive market to specialise – focus on a particular area in which to become expert and hopefully sought-after. The simplest and most immediately accessible way to further your newly earned expertise is to look at the particular challenges your own environment presents and choose a particular aspect in which to specialise.


This may be gardening on shallow chalk, boggy or windswept land, a coastal belt, or ultra dry, free draining and nutrient poor soils. Perhaps your own previous business background, lifestyle or environment can provide you with that little extra knowledge to build on. Thinking out of the box you could specialise in roof gardens, hospital gardens, gardens for international hotel chains, for historic buildings, for the sight or mobility impaired, river bank regeneration, school playgrounds with quiet spaces, public parks, communal gardens, gardens for the under-privileged.

You could work abroad, helping people in developing countries to maximise the return on their own produce and educating those with little or no knowledge in the development and use of sound organic practice.

Farmer harvesting beetroot in the vegetable patch garden

You will need to raise your game, do lots of research and know whom to consult for technical expertise. You will think carefully about how to present, discuss and negotiate your ideas, plans and fee structure confidently and professionally, but with a willingness to listen and learn, so that you gain the respect of your partners and clients. The clients may be big budget.

Garden Design Plan

Structural engineers, surveyors, boards of governors, trusts, government agencies and boards of directors may severally or all be involved, dependent on the project. You will need patience and perseverance – the time scale will almost certainly extend way beyond that of working with smaller private clients. But most of all remember that your horizons are limitless. It’s not all about Chelsea!

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