Oxford College of Garden Design Introduces Its Post-Graduate Students to John Brookes MBE – A Man Described As One Of The Most Influential Garden Designers of the 20th Century.

I had been asking for years but what with one thing and another, it had just never quite happened. So imagine my delight (never mind the thrill for our students) when the man who’s been described by many as “The greatest living contemporary garden designer” agreed to spend the entire day with us in the classroom at Oxford Brookes University as part of our popular Postgraduate Diploma in Residential Landscape Architecture course (

Now it’s not often I get to see my post-graduate students star-struck – many of them come from highly successful previous careers, albeit in different fields, and so have been accustomed to mixing with The Great and The Good - but there was a definite air of excitement as they arrived in class on the big day with their cameras, their John Brookes textbooks for him to sign and their own garden designs to show the man himself.

I was trained by John and so know that although he can be, initially, somewhat shy, with the right audience he will soon warm to his theme and that anyone with an interest in garden design who is lucky enough to meet him in person will come away deeply inspired.

The students were not disappointed. John presented a MasterClass in Garden Design which included his thoughts on how the subject has changed, even in his lifetime and what the next big trends are likely to be. He very generously gave us a whole day of his time and not only critiqued the students’s own work (for those who asked him to take a look) but talked us through many of his own past and present projects.

A designer, teacher, author and lecturer, John has designed well over 1,000 gardens for clients all over the world and was awarded both an MBE for services to horticulture and garden design in Britain and an Award of Distinction by the American Association of Professional Landscape Designers.

He says “I like to create a simple bold design which I then plant up generously.” As with all gurus, he makes it look easy and sound simple but our students understand that achieving that apparent simplicity demands a high level of skill and design ability.

You can see John’s design skills and learn more about his extraordinary contribution to garden design by visiting

I’m not sure if I’ll ever manage to persuade him to come and inspire my students in the same way again but I do know he had a good time spending the day with them, sharing the insider tips he has picked up along the way and that each and every one of them walked away with a deep respect for the genius of my former teacher and mentor and a man I am proud to call a friend.