Class Of 2007/2008….Where Are They Now?

It’s less than a month since the OCGD post-grad intake of 2007/2008 wowed the industry with their end-of-term Student Exhibition and while the course is structured so that students complete a summer planting portfolio and so do not graduate before the Autumn, many of them are already launched and working on impressive projects.

For example, Susan Clark, ( a journalist who decided to take to the OCGD course so she could write more knowledgeably on garden design, has been commissioned by the top UK film director Gurinder Chadha, (Bend It Like Beckham…and her new film is the quirky teen smash Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging) to design the outdoor space at her new Primrose Hill family home, including a large roof terrace, Japanese-style adult courtyard and kids’ play garden and Christopher James, a fellow Class of 2007/2008 student, has been snapped up by another former OCGD London designer and success story, Charlotte Rowe.

And as if that wasn’t glamorous enough, half-way through the course, student-turned-presenter, Shatsi Sabri, landed her own tv garden series fronting a garden show for a Pakistani production company which has just been commissioned for a second series.

For more updates on Where Are They Now? for the Class of 2007/2008 and previous years, check in on the website where we’ll be posting interviews with OCGD students who have successfully launched design careers and for an insight into why they are so successful, or register for update alerts for my garden design blog


OCGD TV Gardens Scoop!

I am very pleased to say that an astonishing THREE of the twelve UK gardens selected for a the new tv programme on the very best gardens in Britain have links with the Oxford College of Garden Design (

They are, my garden Greystone; and the gardens of former OCGD graduates, Julia Kirkham and Kathy Brown.

The programme, Own Britain’s Best Gardens, is a Thames TalkBack TV production for Channel 5 and will be aired later this year (watch this blog for details of when).
The presenter is the flamboyant Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen who has spent the last month visiting the gardens and, together with a panel of top judges, quizzing their creators on what makes these gardens so special.

If the tv producers are right, and 25% of the gardens chosen to represent the best in Britain have been designed by OCGD tutors or students, then what does that say about the course?

It says this really is one of the most prestigious garden design courses in the world (never mind the UK).


Own Britain’s Best Gardens

Capitalising on the success of its hit series, Own Britain’s Best Homes, Channel 5 has launched the hunt for UK gardens to feature in a new follow-on series, Own Britain’s Best Gardens and guess where the producers have landed…..Greystone.

Greystone is my Oxfordshire home and this week, myself and my wife Carol, will play host to the show’s flamboyant presenter, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and a panel of Judges who will be spending two days filming at Greystone and discussing the design merits of the two-acre garden.

One of the key attractions to the programme-makers (Thames TalkBack TV) was the fact Greystone is a woodland garden with over 200 majestic beech trees. I designed the Greystone garden to take on a particular ambience at night when, using careful garden lighting, the trees take on an ethereal, almost Cathedral-like ambience. Stunning and very romantic!

What do I think about all this. Is Greystone the best garden in the UK? Probably not, but Carol and I would not swop it for anything.

As soon as we know when the programme will be aired, I'll publish it on the Oxford College of Garden design website.


Does Good Design Matter?

If you think not,then take a closer look around your own neighbourhood. You won’t have to look very far or very hard to see lots of examples of bad design which could so easily have been avoided.

The very first Golden Rule of Good Design, in my design philosophy, is that the building itself (usually the house) must be integrated into the landscape. What this means, in lay terms, is that if, for example, you have a traditional stone building, you are probably not going to win design awards for surrounding it with chunky contemporary glass walls and steel overheads (pergolas, arbours and the like).

Scale is also crucial and is again, dictated by both the existing buildings and the size of the plot.

You can easily see how crucial scale is by looking over the garden fence at your neighbours’ plots or other people’s front gardens as you drive around town. Notice how many houses will have a grand entrance and then a silly, mini-size terracotta pot with a tiddly, twisted topiary tree flagging the doorway. The wrongness of the scale will just jump out at you.

Another common bad design is the curvy, serpentine path running down the middle of a medium-sized rectangular town or village garden which breaks another fundamental “good” design rule and, worse, splits the long rectangular plot in two which, instead of enhancing your outdoor space, will end up making both sides almost unusable.

I often talk about interior design to make a point about good and bad garden design. If you have this type of medium-sized, long, rectangular garden then think about what kind of lawn you want.

Lots of people again choose a curvy, almost amoebic shape and my response to that is that if you think about the garden the way you think about the inside of the house, you would never put a squiggly-shaped carpet in a rectangular room.

Or would you?

What do you think constitutes good/bad design and are there times when good design demands that you break the rules?

Post your comments to this blog entry and for more information on good design philosophy download the Oxford College of Garden Design prospectus


Credit Crunch or Designers’ PunchLine?

The credit crunch looks likely to prove an unexpected blessing-in-disguise for garden designers and those thinking of switching to Landscape Design as either a first or second career.

How so?

Because according to a new survey just published by the UK Building Society, Alliance & Leicester, there are still millions of UK residents looking to move house over the next 12 months and therefore, seeking to do everything they can to improve the value and desirability of their current property.

The survey of over 2,000 UK households was carried out by Opinium Research on behalf of the Alliance & Leicester and showed that about one in eight homeowners are still planning to sell in the coming year, despite the gloomy downtown in the housing market.

And of those planning to make significant improvements, almost 60% said they were intending to improve their outdoor space which is where the good news for designers comes in. For example, in a street with two fairly matched houses on the market, the one with the most attractive or well-designed outdoor space will be the first to sell.

As a general rule, designers can tell potential clients that they need to spend around 10% of the existing value of their home on the outdoor space to see a guaranteed return of up to 20% uplift on the value.

That means if someone whose home is presently worth £600,000 spends £60,000 on their garden, they will then be able to market their home at up to £720,000 which in the current financial market is a better return than most savings accounts.

And, for working garden designers, a very persuasive argument to get potential clients to commit to a quality design project.