2 New Professional Online Courses Launched for November

The Oxford College of Garden Design launches two new 4 week on-line planting courses for industry professionals and enthusiastic amateurs.

The Oxford College of Garden Design in conjunction with its sister site MyGardenSchool have launch 2 new online planting design courses taught by multi award winning Hillier Nurseries MD; Andy McIndoe.

clip_image002 A Professional Guide to Choosing, Using and Planting Shrubs covers:-

Week 1: The role of shrubs in the garden and how to use them. How to selecting the right shrub for a situation and a guide to buying the best plants. Giving your shrubs the best possible start in your garden; how and when to plant them.
Week 2: Caring for your shrubs. How and when to prune flowering and foliage shrubs to control shape, size, foliage quality and flowering. Feeding your shrubs: how, when and why.
Week 3: Hard working foliage shrubs – the foundation of good planting. The importance of shrubs for structure in gardens of all sizes. Maintaining a colour scheme with foliage throughout the year and creating exciting planting combinations.
Week 4: Shrubs for interest throughout the year. A pick of the best shrubs that will work hard in your garden to deliver colour, texture and form in every situation, including sun, shade, clay, chalk and in pots and containers.

clip_image004A Professional Guide to Choosing, Using and Planting Trees covers:-

Week 1 – Tree for all Gardens – Introduction
Why plant trees?  The role of trees in the landscape and the visual impact of trees in different seasons. The environmental impact of trees and their role in attracting wildlife into your garden. Trees for screening, trees for shelter and trees for shade. Why we are afraid of trees in gardens. What are the risks and the relationship between a tree and a building.
Week 2 – Trees for Small Gardens
Choosing the right tree for a specific situation focusing on the small garden. The best choices for country gardens and for town gardens including trees for pots. Choosing trees for more than one season of interest: for fruit and flowers, bark and foliage colour.
Week 3 – Planting Trees and Productive Trees
Buying a tree; how, when and what to look for. Planting a tree: giving it the best possible start in life – the importance of staking and aftercare. Fruiting trees as an alternative to or in addition to ornamentals: including apples, lemons, olives and figs.
Week 4 – Designing with Trees
Trees as part of a planting scheme; how a tree can lead a planting scheme through the colour of its foliage.  What to plant with foliage  trees to create a planting picture. Climbers to grow through trees. Planting trees for future generations.
Both courses are on line, allowing students to study from the comfort of their own homes. The next course starts on 5th November and then monthly on the first Saturday of each month. To book please visit our website at


How to Avoid Your Contractor Going Bankrupt!


Whether a designer or client, in these hard economic times, you can’t have failed to notice more and more small businesses going to the wall. 

Whether they are nurseries, landscaping or building firms, it’s hard to make a living right now, jobs are scarce and margins tight.

A worst case scenario, is for the contractor to go under, halfway through a job, potentially costing the client $1000’s as well as designer a monumental headache, trying to find another firm to finish the work.

A designer may even be held partly liable, swept up in any legal action. So you need to be doubly careful when selecting contractors to tender and don’t skimp on the due diligence.

Taking a contractor’s word, that they are financially solvent is no longer adequate. Before signing the contract, bank references should be taken up and the client should be advised in writing to to do a credit check with a firm such as Dun & Bradstreet.

However even this may not be enough.  On larger jobs, lasting several months, the contractor could still run into difficulties. Either through poor management, or if one of  their suppliers goes bankrupt and takes them down in the process.

There is little you can do about the latter, but the designer can help manage the contract and at the same time protect the client from paying too much up front before work is completed and materials are on site.

The first and most important document you should insist on, before work starts on site is a daily work schedule. This is a day by day breakdown of what work will be carried out, to include in what order the jobs are to be completed and the number of man days involved.

Man Days

Small contractors are sometimes reluctant to provide these, as they involve hours of preparation, but I make this a contractual requirement and won’t let a project start before the client and I have both received a copy.

This document allows all parties to monitor the progress of the job.  The designer and client can see at a glance, that the work is on schedule and the contractor can also plan when materials and plant should be ordered, so the work is not delayed due to material hold ups.

In fact, once the contactors see the benefits of this document they will continue to prepare one for each and every job they do.  Not only will this help protect your clients by keeping the job on schedule it will also likely improve the contractors profitability.

Secondly the designer can protect the client by ‘Project Administering’ the contract. Note the word ‘Administer’ NOT ‘Manage’ Most designers are not qualified to ‘Project Manage’ a site, as this implies quality control and would require the designer to be onsite throughout the build.

At the Oxford College of Garden Design  our students are taught to project administrate jobs. ‘Project Administering’ a contract, involves weekly site meetings to assess the works progress.  The designer can remind the contractor to order materials in good time to avoid delays and is also in charge of signing off the weekly/monthly invoicing.

This involves making sure that the contractor only invoices for work completed and for materials on site. An agreed % is then held back (usually 5%) until the penultimate invoice when only 2.5% is withheld until the final certificate of completion is issued (usually after a defects liability period of 6 months)

By going through this process the designer is ensuring that the client never overpays before work is completed onsite.  In the event that the contractor does go bankrupt, then the client should still have enough funds to bring in a second contractor to finish the job.

Some professional bodies guarantee their members, so it would be worth looking carefully at these and maybe choosing contractor.  Organisations like SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trade Association) in the UK guarantee that if one of their members goes under part way through a job another member will finish the work for the outstanding agreed contract cost.

Finally a last piece of advice is to split large contracts down into smaller ones. Consider different contractors for different parts of the job to spread the risk.

Ground workers for excavation, drainage and contouring; Pool contractors for swimming pools; pond and lake specialists for water features; Stone and masonry specialists for hard landscape features such as paving and walls; Turf/Sod contractors for lawns; Irrigation engineers and lighting technicians; and finally soft landscape specialist. 

I have always preferred women contractors to do my planting, as I consider them more conscientious and careful with young plants.


New Book by Luciano Giubbilei: Nature and Human Intervention

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Nature and Human Intervention is Luciano Giubbilei’s second book. The book details the process behind the 2011 Laurent-Perrier Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal garden,a collaboration between three acclaimed artists-garden designer Luciano Giubbilei, architect Kengo Kuma,and sculptor Peter Randall-Page.

Captured in 250 colour photographs by Steve Wooster and Allan Pollock-Morris and essays by garden historian Kathryn Aalto,the book shows how artists, craftsmen, and suppliers worked together to expose, highlight, and craft beauty from Nature. “We return time and again to the comfortable vocabularies, images, sounds, memories, thoughts and feelings that constitute the boundaries of our experience and expression,”says Luciano  Giubbilei.“Yet every now and then, we encounter a breakthrough moment– a rare instant when the daunting constraints of possibility melt away and when we gain the courage to focus through new lenses.

”The book is published as a limited edition of 1000 numbered copies, of which only 500 copies are to be released to the general public. Retailing at £35.00 to purchase a copy please visit


Nature and Human Intervention

By garden designer Luciano Giubbilei.

Leading British sculptor Peter Randell-Page and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma contributed to the garden with a sensory bamboo pavilion and three commissioned sculptures.

The Laurent Perrier Garden Nature and Human Intervention by garden designer Luciano Giubbilei Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Divided into two distinct areas, one space evoked a calming and meditative mood, whilst contrasting with a more vibrant densely planted space. It was designed to create a romantic atmosphere, with colours varying between browns, bronze and soft pink, reflective of Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé champagne.

The Laurent Perrier Garden Nature and Human Intervention by garden designer Luciano Giubbilei Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Exploring the theme of “nature and human intervention”, the intention was to bring together both garden, art and architecture in a composition that reveals, complements and enhances a shared philosophy. The theme of the garden was conveyed by a strong design layout against a softer style of  planting. At one end was the pavilion, at the other is a densely planted, romantic and elegant space that frames the water and is designed to be walked through.

The Laurent Perrier Garden Nature and Human Intervention by garden designer Luciano Giubbilei Chelsea Flower Show 2011

The main structural planting consists of Parrotia persica, positioned to interact with each of the other elements in the garden. Parrotia persica’s twisted clear stems show both how nature creates beauty and the skill of the modern nurseryman in exposing it.

The Laurent Perrier Garden Nature and Human Intervention by garden designer Luciano Giubbilei Chelsea Flower Show 2011

The trees will provide interest throughout the year, with autumnal colour, the structural form and flowers in the winter, and glossy green foliage for the spring and summer. The Pinus mugo at the rear of the garden are planted on a backdrop of gravel, silhouetting the clipped cloud like form. Being an evergreen they will also provide winter interest.

The Laurent Perrier Garden Nature and Human Intervention by garden designer Luciano Giubbilei Chelsea Flower Show 2011

The composition of the flower scheme is designed to create a romantic atmosphere. The plants were selected for their colour combination, which predominately varies between browns, bronze and soft pinks.


Plants list  

Parrotia persica
Carpinus betulus
Flowers (Perennials - Victorian Pink)
Chaerophyllum hirsutum Roseum
Pimpinella major Rosea
Aconitum Pink Sensation
Astrantia Roma
Astrantia maxima
Astrantia Buckland
Digitalis × mertonensis
Papaver Patty's Plum
Papaver Royal Chocolate Distinction
Papaver Harlem
Papaver Manhattan
Nectaroscordum siculum
Salvia pratensis Lapis Lazuli
Salvia nemorosa Rose Queen
Salvia nemorosa Amethyst
Geranium phaeum
Iris germanica Quechee
Iris germanica Carnival Time
Iris germanica Sultan's Palace
Iris germanica Dutch Chocolate
Iris germanica Fortunate Son
Iris germanica Louvoir
Iris germanica Cable Car
Sanguisorba menziesii
Thalictrum aquilegifolium Thundercloud
Thalictrum aquilegifolium
Thalictrum Ellin
Thalictrum Black Stockings
Verbascum (Cotswold Group) Pink Domino
Verbascum Merlin
Verbascum Cherry Helen
Pinus mugo mops - Green cushion plants
Sanguisorba minor
Bupleurum longifolium sub. Aureum
Salvia pratensis Twilight
Papaver Lauren's Lilac
Verbascum Petra
Verbascum Valerie Grace
Verbascum Apricot Sunset
Salvia pratensis Rose Rhapsody
Panicum virgatum Rehbraun
Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing
Deschampsia cespitosa



6 Must See Garden Festivals for your 2012 Diary


Chaumont-sur-Loire - Garden Festival (April 22 to 16th October) This French show is probably one of the most exciting and query of all the festivals

Chelsea Flower Show (May 22-26) Relatively small but oh-so-smart, has now spawned its own Chelsea Fringe

Singapore Garden Festival (July 7-15) A biennial blockbuster majoring on spectacular orchids and top international designers.

Floriade (April 5-October 7) Held every 10 years in Venlo, Holland. An improving mix of environmental message and traditional commercial horticulture.

Philadelphia International Flower Show (March 4-11) Next year’s theme is Hawaii, the scale is vast and outstanding horticulturists flock here from all over the United States

Landesgartenschau Nagold (April 27-October 7) The Germans take gardening very seriously and this event is a must-see for anyone interested in new ideas about environmental design



Landscaping Quiz: 30 Landscape Design Terms You May Not of Heard of!

logo 1Test yourself to see how many of these landscape terms you are familiar with.

Keep a record of the number of terms you don’t know and find out at the end how much of an expert you are!


  • Arcade: a series of consecutive arches, including tree-lined walkways.
  • Baluster: a series of supporting vertical rail posts that form a balustrade, or the building's roofline surrounding the border of a staircase or porch.
  • Belvedere: a roofed open gallery, such as a gazebo, that commands a good view of the surrounding countryside.  
  • Cascade: water falls arranged in stages of succession, either through a rock formation or over a series of steps. . 
  • Espalier: a series of fruit trees that form a hedge in gardening landscaping.
  • Façade: the front of a building given special architectural treatment.
  • Festoon: a painted mural of leaves and ribbons that are separated between two points.
  • Folly: a garden building aimed at “fooling” the eye.
  • Glade: the open and grassy area, often surrounded by woods.
  • Grotto: an underground passage decorated with crystals, broken pieces of shells and mirror, and incorporates running water in pools and streams in order to promote a mysterious effect.
  • Guglio: an obelisk, often topped by a pyramid, which acts as a fountain.
  • Ha-ha: a sunk-in fence, or a ditch with identical sloping and vertical sides, often built into a retaining wall. The ha-ha serves as a barrier for sheep, cattle, and deer in order to allow an unbroken view of the surrounding landscape .
  • Herm: a statuesque head of a Grecian god, often placed on a square stone pillar.
  • Hermitage: a garden building intended as a hermit's living quarters. It serves to raise the appreciation for contemplation within the context of a natural setting.
  • Knot: a small, rectangular garden, created during Tudor times, which consists of intricate, geometric, knotted and sprawled out dwarf plants, including box and rosemary.
  • Loggia: an upper-level gallery and arcade located on the rooftop of a building.
  • Obelisk: an uppermost, four-sided, and tapered stone wall pillar within a pyramid, often inscribed or plain. Obelisks are located at the centre of a pool, near the crown of a hill or terrace walk.
  • Orangery: a building with multiple windows, often built with the intention of housing potted orange plants during the winter months.
  • Parapet: a protective wall or railing surrounding the edge of a walkway, embankment or rooftop.
  • Parterre: flower garden beds and paths designated to form a pattern similar to the design of an indoor Persian carpet.
  • Patte d'oie: radiating garden avenues, particularly named after a goose's foot.
  • Quincunx: the arrangement of five objects, including trees to form a rectangle. Each object is placed at the four corners with one remaining at the centre of the pattern.
  • Quoin: a series of consecutive stones laid at the exterior corns and angles of a building, and consists of contrasting material of that wall.
  • Rotunda: a circular or domed-shaped building or hall.
  • Rustication: the rough finish, either naturally or artificially created on blocks of masonry.
  • Theatre: a series of tiers or terraces along a hillside, which resembles the formation of outdoor seating in a classical theatre.
  • Tonsure: the shape of evergreen clippings.
  • Topiary: a garden trimmed and hedged into specific geometric or animistic formations.
  • Tufa: calcareous and siliceous deposits of fresh water sources, including rock composed of volcanic ash.
  • Vista: an extended view into the countryside.

How Many Didn’t you know?

More than 20: need further study

15-19: Average Knowledge

10-14: Good Landscape Knowledge

Less than 10: Expert….We’re not Worthy!

The Oxford College of Garden Design offers several short 4 week Design, Horticultural and Gardening courses as well as our Professional On-line Postgraduate Diploma Level Course

5 Golden Landscape Design Rules



Rule 1: The House is the Most Important Part of Any Garden.

You can’t ignore it! It’s almost always the largest, most dominant structure in the garden. Your journey starts and ends with the house and therefore any garden plan, should always start from the building and work outwards.

Rule 2: The Designers Main Objective is to Link Building with Site.

Probably the most important rule of all and yet the one that is least understood. This rule applies to any landscape scheme, whether residential or commercial. If the design is to be successful, then it must blend the building seamlessly into its environment. To achieve this, the designer needs to be able to combine symmetry with biology, i.e. architecture with landscape. Because most buildings are made from geometric shapes and the garden is essentially a biological environment, great care is needed to join these two opposing forms together. Try linking them too quickly and they will clash, creating a meaningless amorphous squiggle where the house looks like it’s just landed from space.


Rule 3 All shape close to the house should be Symmetrical.

This follows on from rule 2. Because the building is predominantly made up of straight lines based on squares and rectangles, the area around the building should copy these geometric, mathematical shapes to help link the house with the garden. The terraces, paths, formal pond and planting beds should be designed using straight lines.

If you don’t believe me, I will try to convince you by using an interior design analogy. “You would not put an amoebic shaped rug into a rectangular shaped room. Instead you would use a geometrical rug/carpet.” The same rules of interior design are just a relevant for outside design. The lawn is the carpet of the garden and the worst thing you can do, is to put a wiggly edged lawn into a rectangular shaped garden. Creating wiggles and squiggles won’t make your garden look natural. Nature makes it natural! As soon as you add planting to a straight edged border the plants grow and spill over and soften all the hard lines.

Sketch Plan colour

Rule 4 Use a Grid to help you Design.

Because you want your garden to link back to the house, it make sense to use shapes and pattern on your plan, that relate back to the scale and proportion of the building. “The Scale of the Grid is derived from the Mass of the Property”. Every grid is unique to site. This may in reality appear subliminal, but using a grid which is derived from the proportions and scale of the building means that all the patterns you use for the garden plan, relate directly back to the house and the grid also acts as a guide for the designer so they can quickly check size and scale of different features.

Sketch Plan

Rule 5 There are No Rules.

This isn’t strictly true because I have just given you a small sample of some. However you first need to understand the rules of geometry and design before you can break them. If we all stuck rigidly to rules, we would end up with some very dull design, but conversely, few universities and colleges give any clear guidance to design teaching, so that students graduate without a clear design philosophy.

At the Oxford College of Garden Design we run a professional On-line postgraduate level course and together with our sister site MyGardenSchool we also offer 4 week On-line short courses in all aspects of gardening. One of the main reasons our students have been so successful, is that we do teach a design philosophy by verbalising and explaining why something works and why something doesn’t.


$25K prize for best urban garden design

14-09-2011 07-57-29

The Trinity Avenue Farm Design Competition is a competition developed to inspire creativity and innovation as the City of Atlanta works to establish an effective and aspirational model for urban agriculture within Atlanta communities—showcasing how fresh food can be grown locally and sustainably.

The competition is open to professionals, students and educators in agriculture, architecture, construction, design, development, engineering, horticulture, landscape architecture, planning and others fields interested in urban agriculture. Entrants must be residents of the state of Georgia.

The winning farm design will be developed on the 0.8 acre lot located across the street from City Hall on the corner of Trinity and Central Avenues (formerly the site of the Atlanta traffic court building). The physical address is 104 Trinity Avenue, Atlanta, GA, 30303.

How the Competition Works

  1. Interested parties must first provide notification of their interest to participate in the competition by registering online by the 5 p.m. (EDT) deadline on October 14th, 2011.
  2. Submissions following the competition guidelines must be received by the City of Atlanta no later than 5 p.m. (EDT) on November 1st, 2011.

All design submissions will be evaluated by the Trinity Avenue Farm Design Competition Review Committee to determine the competition finalists. Selected finalists will present their designs to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who will choose the winner. Once the winning design is chosen, the preparation of the land and design installation will begin immediately. The farm is scheduled to open to the public in Spring 2012.

Download site plan here

Download Contour Plan

Download all photos and plans here



Do Gardens Need Plants?

Well according to almost every dictionary definition the answer must be yes!

  • A plot of land used for the cultivation of flowers, vegetables, herbs, or fruit.
  •  gardens Grounds laid out with flowers, trees, and ornamental shrubs and used for recreation or display. Often used in the plural: public gardens; a botanical garden.
  • A fertile, well-cultivated region.These are just a few of the many definitions, but could these be out of date? Why do gardens need plants?

Over the last 30 years, demand for building land has increased, land prices have exploded and so consequently, gardens have got smaller.

In this time, peoples’ expectations have changed and they demand bigger, brighter homes with more living space and larger rooms.

When you have a 4-5 bed detached house on a pocket handkerchief sized plot, the garden you are left with, is often no bigger than the lounge or drawing room.

So why not treat this space like any other room?


There are some fabulous outside wooden and wicker style 3 piece suites with water proof cushions, which a few years ago would have cost a small mortgage, but are now very affordable and are sold in many DIY and garden super stores.

Dining furniture has come a long way from those horrible white plastic tables and chairs our parents owned and even outside cooking facilities have come of age with some gas BBQ’s offering more cooking options than a standard kitchen hob.

People are even building entire outside fireplaces with remote control gas fires and chimneys.

You can clad old fencing in timber to give a modern architectural feel. You can even render boundary walls to look like plastered internal walls. These can then be painted in colours to compliment the internal decoration of the house.

You can now buy water and UV resistant canvas photographs, which can be hung outside all year round to create an external gallery, a perfect solution, for that dull side ally where your windows look out onto a boring fence or wall.

The outside space can be further furnished and decorating with pots and sculpture. Running water can be added to help mask background street noise and garden lighting can transform the space into an outside night-time oasis.

People equate plants to maintenance! Remove plants from the equation and you can furnish and decorate your outside room in exactly the same way as you would any other room and by doing so add to the living environment of your home.

Duncan Heather is Director of the Oxford College of Garden Design and MyGardenSchool

The Design Process

Designer Duncan Heather argues that more can be made of the preliminary research documents, when it comes to winning design contracts and selling schemes to clients.


When first being taught to allocate space, the landscape student is guided through several different processes before they reach a final design solution.

It all starts with an accurate topographical land survey. A plan of the site is then drawn up to scale, to include boundary walls, existing buildings, trees, services and existing levels.

Having gathered this information on a local scale, the student should then expand their area of study to the surrounding landscape. Topographical, historical cultural and architectural information can be gathered from maps and the internet, which helps put the site into context and may suggest a theme on which to hang their eventual design.

Shadow plans are then calculated to assess the impact of spring and summer shade patterns and a sight Analysis plan developed to note the influencing factors of the site such as existing features, wind direction good and bad views etc.

Once all this information has been compiled, the student can start to experiment with space allocation in the form of bubble or functional diagrams.

All this work is a prerequisite to the creation of the presentation or master plan.

But what happens to all this research once the presentation plans are completed?

What many student fail to appreciate, is the difficulty many clients have in understanding the 2D plan drawings.
While we take it for granted that the ‘house’ is the big black rectangle in the middle of the drawing, it’s surprizing how few clients realise this. You can be waxing lyrical about how great their new garden is going to be, while showing them the plan and they simply can’t make head nor tail of it!

At the Oxford College of Garden Design we teach our students to overcome these difficulties by using the research and preparation drawings as part of the sales presentation.

The diagram above, illustrates the 4 preliminary design stages and can either be presented on separate sheets, or combined into one or 2 presentation drawings. These allow the designer to start their presentation, by going through the site survey and pointing out the house and the important features of the garden. This allows the client time to digest the plan and to familiarise themselves with the graphical nature of the drawings.

Next you can explain how you developed their ideas, by running through the site analysis plan and the bubble/functional diagrams.

Explaining the thought process to your clients helps you justify why you have arrive at a particular design solution, but also it help the client to understand how much work goes into the preparation of a landscape plan.

When you are charging several $1000 for an outline proposal arriving with just one sheet of paper can give the client the impression that they are not getting value for money.

Remember! you only get one crack of the whip at presenting your ideas, so you need to make that ‘sale’ in no more than about 60 minutes, otherwise you won’t get the rest of your design fee and more importantly the garden will never be built.

Arriving with 2-3 sheets of research drawings plus the garden plan, plus any coloured perspective and a mood board, suddenly starts to look like a lot of work and thought has gone into the design.

So if you want to improve your sales and get more of your gardens built, spend a little extra time ‘prettying-up’ your research drawings and use them as part of your presentation.

Duncan Heather is director of the Oxford College of Garden Design and MyGardenSchool and one of Europe top garden designers


Builder or Landscaper! ….But Which is Better?


I came across a very interesting blog by Garden Design Lisa Cox this week in which she laments the insistence of clients, to use their own builders for the garden, rather than getting a specialist landscape contractor involved.

Lisa believes that “landscaping is a completely different discipline to a house building project.” and to a certain extent this is true, but when it come to the hard landscape construction, I would be just as happy to employ a good builder, as I would a good landscaper.

The construction of walls, paving and steps are the same in both house and garden, decks and pergolas, are comparable to laying floor and roof joist and even pond construction is similar to tanking a basement or cellar.

Lisa is not alone in this view, as many garden designers share this belief, but some of them don’t appreciate that most, if not all the problems they experience using builders, boils down to their inability, or lack of training, to communicate the construction process and detailing sufficiently.

Very few garden design courses cover professional practice in anyway near enough detail so that students can go out and write sufficiently detailed contracts.

At the Oxford College of Garden Design, we were so worried about this, that we ended up writing our own model specification document, which has now been adopted as the industry standard.

We have just donated it to the Society of Garden Designers in the hope that they may finally start taking some responsibility for garden design education and insist that courses teach specification writing properly and to a minimum standard.

As for Lisa; she does produce both construction detail and a specification document as part of her contract documentation.  May be as she says, she has been unlucky with her builders.

One thing I would say is that the landscapers profession does tend to be less chauvinistic and sexists and may be Lisa was unfortunate enough to run into some dinosaurs who believe women should be in the home and not on the building site……….But that’s a discussion for another time!

Do visit Lisa Cox’s website and also subscribe to her excellent blog


5 Applications to Help you Design Your Own Garden



This article, I admit to writing with a massive pinch of salt, because most people understand that the computer is only as creative as the person using it.

At T
he Oxford College of Garden Design we teach VectorWorks Landmark, but this is  expensive and more complex than most homeowners need. For those wishing to have a go them selves, we have several 4 week online courses at MyGardenSchool on both planting and landscape design. The following list of software I hope may be of interest to those wishing to have a go themselves.

SmartDraw 2010
SmartDraw is a drawing application to design floor plans business graphics, diagrams and charts of all kinds. The program improves communication, organization, management and planning by drawing any processes. If you know Microsoft’s Visio, this program will be familiar to you. The application also has tutorials to help.

DeltaCad is more than just a paint program, because you can edit, scale, move, rotate, copy, etc. individual objects, not just paint pixels. DeltaCad allows you to zoom in to draw fine details or zoom out to see the whole drawing.


Showoff Home Design
The program features many in-built tools and options. The user needs Internet connection to work with the application. It features a category list with an option to choose annuals. The catalogue tab helps to choose from landscape plants, home improvements, furnishings and décor, or other items that cover a broad range of home improvements.

Realtime Landscaping Architect
New landscape design software for creating professional plans and presentations. Design houses, decks, fencing, yards, gardens, swimming pools, water features, and much more with easy-to-use tools. Give your plans a hand-drawn look using a wide variety of plant symbols and colour washes. Add plant labels automatically using the wizard, and add a plant legend with just a few mouse clicks.

Home Designer Landscape and Deck
With Home Designer Landscape & Deck by Chief Architect Software you can plan and design your perfect outdoor living space! Landscape & Deck makes it easy to quickly design the virtual look and feel of your backyard, deck, patio, pool or other outdoor project. Just point-and-click to add pre-arranged landscaping beds and any of over 4,000 Library items and over 3,600 realistic plants to your design.


Why Study On-line?

HiRes (3)


Traditional or "face to face" landscape design schools require you to attend classes in person, whilst a video based online garden design program offers all of the coursework through an online learning environment. Traditional programs require you to attend school on specific days and times, with classes varying in size from 5 - 40 students. Video based on-line programs such as those at Oxford College of Garden Design provide courses that can be taken 24/7, with class sizes limited to a maximum of 10 students per tutor. Tutor and student interaction in these programs occurs via our virtual classroom with webinars, VOIP, email, and other technologies, so that you are not required to be “in class” at any specific time.

Here are some other considerations when choosing between the more traditional garden schools and the online program at the Oxford College of Garden Design:

Traditional schools

Oxford College
Online Diploma

Will my course equip me to practise as a professional garden designer?



Can I continue to work full time?



Will I have to give up my salary?



Can I continue to earn a living while starting my new business?



Can I study whenever and where ever I want?



Can I repeat my lectures?



Can I extend my course for up to 36 months?



Are my tutors working designers?



24/7 access to course materials?



Daily access to my tutors and classmates?



Multimedia instructional videos?



Group discussions and 1-2-1 critiques?



Flexible hand in dates?



Classmates from around the world?



Able to ask questions 24/7?



Will I have train/petrol parking expenses?



Will I have to spend time commuting?



This is not a correspondence course delivered online. This is the world’s first and only video based course where you get exactly the same lectures via the internet as you would if you were sitting in the classroom in person.


Double Gold for Former Students at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

The Oxford College of Garden Design has two students who have won Gold at this years RHS Hampton Court Flower Show
Dan Lobb won gold and Best Conceptual Garden and Melissa Jolly got a Gold for her garden entitled ‘Picturesque’ also in the Conceptual category.

Dan’s garden is a subterranean underworld. Above ground the garden may appear somewhat austere with steel periscopes surrounding a tilted panel of turf - but gaze through a periscope and you can enjoy your own private view of the extraordinary garden below.
The undulating landscape of Landscape Obscured is planted entirely with edible fungi interwoven with mosses and liverworts surrounds a “lake”. The imagination feasts on this surreal, subterranean world reminiscent of fairytale forests while the angular, modernist steelwork reflects Man’s relationship with the land. Fungi form the longest living and largest communities on earth and are often overlooked. This garden provides a glimpse of these fascinating life forms.
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While Melissa’s garden aims to evoke the works of specific artists or genres through the use of planting. By replicating the layout of an art gallery, openings in the gallery walls frame the different compositions of planting and the viewer’s attention is focused on each contrasting picture.
Picturesque illustrates how both gardens and plants can be seen as forms of art, and demonstrates a method for creating beautiful views even when external space is limited.


Gold Medal for Former Student

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Melissa Jolly a former student of the Oxford College of Garden Design has been awarded an RHS Gold Medal for her 2011 Hampton Court Show garden entitled ‘Picturesque
This unique and innovative installation is more art than garden, using plants to represent famous paintings.  Designed as a gallery, the public are invited in to so a series of recessed pictures made up of a combination of collage, photography and planting.
As part of our online diploma course student have to design a Chelsea Flower Show garden as an exercise and are taught to think outside the box. 

Melissa, who has already won several other medals for her show gardens says “that this exercise was invaluable in helping her think creatively.  I wouldn’t design a garden like this for a client, but this show that I can create something special for my clients.”
She then went on to say “I can't quite believe it and have had some really lovely feedback from the press...esp. The Independent journalist who said I should see if I can take it to the Royal Academy”

We would like to extend our congratulations to Mel for her well deserved award and hope this spurs all are students on to bigger and better things.
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Career Prospects for New Garden Designers



I was asked recently by a potential new student what his career prospects were like if he chose to do our Online Postgraduate level Diploma in Garden Design

Career prospects are a tricky issue, as the one thing that I can't do for my students is to make the telephone ring for them after they graduate.

I have heard stories of a principal from one particular London college, bragging to a prospective students,  that if they are taught by him they will be guaranteed to get work after they graduate which is not only extraordinarily arrogant but quite frankly rubbish.

The only way you can tell if a school is performing well, is to look at its past students

The Oxford College of Garden Design has one of the best track records in the country with our student working for almost every top design firm in the country and those that choose to set up their own design practices getting plenty of work and winning many of the major design competitions.

What I will say is that it takes at least 12-18 months after you graduate for you start to earn a reasonable income, as it takes a while to get your name out and to market your self.

Personality also plays a big part in this as if you can't communication or sell you can be the best designer in the world and you still won't get work.

I tell all my students that they need a contingency plan to make sure they allow for this 12-18 month start up time after they graduate but this is true for any new business.

I am not in the habit of giving students an unreasonably optimistic outlook when they first start. I suggest they should look to complete approx. 4 projects in year 1, 8 in year 2 and 12 in year 3

The online course allows student to continue to work while they study and in the current economic climate I see this as a real advantage.


Gardening’s Answer to 21st Century Learning

MyGardenSchool website, goes live this weekend with courses starting on the 30th April 2011
MyGardenSchool is a new online interactive garden school offering 4 week courses from some of the worlds top gardening experts
You could find yourself doing a 4 week roses course with David Austin,  or a Design Your Garden Course with John Brookes  You could learn about Lawns from the Chairman of Hillier’s Nurseries or become Organic Gardening with Stephanie Donaldson garden editor of Country Living Magazine.
Students will have over 15 courses to choose from and we have plans to increase this to around 50 within the next 12 months.
We are bringing together some of the world’s top horticulturalist and offering students unfettered access to them. The courses comprise interactive online video tutorials and include a weekly assignment, video lectures and downloadable notes; all available from your virtual classroom on our web site.
You will be able to ask your tutors specific questions and get expert replies. Nowhere else would you have access to just a prestigious faculty of teachers and all available from your very own PC or mobile device