I studied a degree in Garden Design at what is now called Leeds Beckett University. I started this journey in 2009 when the university was Leeds Metropolitan and I graduated July 23rd 2015. I gained a high 2:1. I studied the course part time, a normal degree is three years whereas mine doubled to six, one year taking two. It has not been an easy or smooth process. How can it when you are not only studying but running a business full time. Not to forget all the other things in life which have to be taken care of.
My intention when I set out on this course was very simple to combine my art education of seven years with my love of the landscape and in particular plants. Over time many other things developed some of those being, wanting to feel comfortable offering skills that were backed up by knowledge and training, to be more creative and feel like I was using my brain and just to learn and keep learning. For this reason I am a strong advocate for continued training and education. I believe it broadens your horizons, gives you knowledge and can take you to places you never imagined not just literally but also academically. In the course of my studies I have met many interesting people who practice Landscape Architecture and Garden Design who have freely given their time and knowledge. I have engaged with other students not just from the UK but from all over the world and seen some fascinating lectures by James Hitchmough and Piet Ouldolf to mention a few. By being exposed to interesting people, situations and ideas we become open minded, interesting, inspired individuals and designers.
Garden design has many facets but the thing that is the backbone of all good design is the details. I have learned that it’s the subtle details that can make the difference between an okay design and an excellent design. If a project is well thought out and all elements put on to paper in a clear logical manner with attention given to how the whole fits together, then construction will be a much easier process. That is not to say that difficult situations don’t arise, they do, but they can usually be ironed out much easier. It is brilliant to have crazy ideas and concepts but when it comes to making it work on the ground you can’t beat good old pens, paper and software for making it all fit together.
As stated garden design has many facets there is Fusion, Japanese, Traditional, Xeriscape and so on but one of the genres I have come to love is Conceptual Gardens. Coming from an art background as I do, these gardens appeal to me with their quirky, sometimes over the top themes. They combine art, are often brightly coloured, sculptural and in general have a central theme the designer might wish to highlight. It is for these and other reasons I studied them for a personal module and wrote a paper, to try and understand how and why they were put together and the principals behind them. You can see them put together at some of the garden shows such as RHS Hampton Court and Tatton but also at Chaumont which is held every four years and devoted to these inspiring, quirky gardens. I think they are great and it would be amazing to be able to design and build one…one day.
This is just one interesting aspect I have found studying garden design. There are many places I would love to visit which are contemporary, traditional or historical. If a space is well thought out and well made I can now appreciate it in all its forms. Even those designs which are less well put together have something to teach. We all have to start somewhere and we don’t always get things right. I think what makes a great designer is to know your strengths and weaknesses. Being able to build on strengths and develop the weaknesses or ask for help from other professions which are more suited to the task. I think all businesses should help each other where they can there is much to learn from others and their professions.