London School of Horticulture

Garden design for Beginners

... you don't need a diploma to have a go!

Unlike more formal Garden Design courses, our Garden Design for Beginners course wasn’t aimed at people who want a career change, are at a crossroads in their life, or have embraced a new career in gardening during lockdown. (Although, of course, all students are more than welcome.)  It was designed for normal people, with or without jobs, with a Saturday afternoon to think about learning a new skill, to learn a bit about what a designer does, and another one to have a go themselves.

Practical skills you can use straight away

We covered the theory and demystified some of the terms in Garden Design.  We also  wanted to offer students the opportunity to draw a plan to scale, to measure outside, to do a garden appraisal, to learn a bit about garden styles and in the end to design a little terrace themselves.  For some students this might be a practice before trying to design their own gardens.  For others it was just to try out a new skill and consolidate what they’d learnt by doing it straight away. The students themselves were, as ever, a real mix, some with plans to redesign their own garden and some just exploring Garden Design.  All seemed happy to get stuck in to appraising, measuring and redesigning this space outside the classroom and rose to their hypothetical brief.

Decked terrace outside classroom
Redesigning our terrace

Brett  is a structural engineer: grown-up children, always working on the fringes of design and architecture and keen to have a go himself, out of curiosity. He was very helpful with the measuring and said it was a long time since he had used a pair of compasses.

He had two cracks at the practice design, one at home and one in the second class. His final design for the terrace changed from being a low-cost planted landscape to becoming a hard-landscaped box, tidy and enclosed, once he was told the hypothetical budget was no object. You can’t take the structural out of the engineer!

Fiona is hardworking, with no garden of her own.  She had a strong sense of what she wanted in her design which ended up with Breedon gravel, planting, willow fencing, a lovely soft organic landscape.

She really enjoyed using the watercolours to bring her design to life at the end.

It was another great group, small and really fun! It was a shame that Helen sadly couldn’t make the second week and Gubby got Covid between the two sessions, but we zoomed them in, one live and one later, and hope they’ll have a go at the practice garden or their own.  They’re both interested in redesigning their own gardens so we hope we’ve given them some food for thought.  If they send us any designs to look at we’ll add them here!

The students also seemed delighted to be thinking about plants – aren’t we all – and we put together a long list of useful ones.

We’d kept the course short on purpose but it was a shame to have to say goodbye after just two sessions. Hopefully they’ll be back … scale rulers in hand … to learn some more handy horticultural skills to go with their design skills. Or maybe they’ll get the bug and go and do that diploma or career change after all!   Here’s one person’s feedback:


I was looking for a taster of the main elements of garden design and this course was perfect for that. It was friendly and informal, and provided a nice balance between theory and practice. All the paper and equipment we needed was provided and we all got to design a small garden as part of the two classes, which was a great way to learn. Thank you!

You can read more about our Garden Design for Beginners course on our Courses page, check when the next one is on our Calendar page, and book in on our Register page.  You may also be interested in our new Design Your Own Garden short course.