What were you doing before KLC and why did you decide to study with the school?
After a career in marketing I started up a garden maintenance company alongside studying for the RHS Level II Certificate in Horticulture as an open learning course. After running the business successfully for a number of years I became more interested in the design aspects of the job and also became aware that I wasn’t getting any younger and I needed a career that was physically less demanding. I recognised that in order to feel confident transitioning to garden design I needed a diploma in garden design and after researching various courses, I chose KLC OL as it enabled me to continue with my business at the same time as studying.
What were your highlights of the course and did you face any challenges?
The main challenge of the course was finding the time. Unlike my previous OL course, I couldn’t sit in bed at night reading notes etc; I needed time at the drawing board. Most of the units were completed during the winter months when the maintenance work quietened down. As much as I enjoyed hand drawing it became obvious that it wasn’t the most efficient way to produce plans and if I was to make the business profitable, I was going to need to learn CAD. I enjoyed the later units the most when I used my new CAD skills, particularly creating the designs for the hospital and show gardens. I was also able to use two client projects for the units which killed two birds with one stone!
Do you have any tips or advice for current students on managing their course alongside personal commitments, and staying motivated on an open learning course?
I already had a successful horticultural business and my goal was developing it further to provide a sustainable income. I think staying motivated depends on the end goal, if you are working on the course with a view to a career change then write a business plan that includes your diploma and a transitional timeline that is achievable. If there are no concrete plans, then something will always take priority over your course.
Did you undertake any work experience or internships during or after the course?
I joined the SGD soon after starting the diploma and I’ve attended many of their courses during the years I’ve been a member. One of the challenges of Open Learning is the lack of hands-on experience and so I spent many hours on site with a very tolerant landscaper (who now builds the majority of my projects) asking questions and I visited gardens regularly for inspiration on style and planting combinations.
How has your career in Garden Design evolved since graduating?
Each project is different and so further develops my skills set, knowledge and experience; I don’t think you ever stop learning as a Garden Designer. I have a steady stream of projects, mostly residential and they range from medium sized urban gardens to larger country sites. The majority of projects are in the local area, but I have also developed contacts in North London and completed a number of larger projects in that area. I also design for a local landscaper who works with developers and I design show home gardens and marketing suite areas. I am a pre-registered member of the SGD and have passed Stage 1 of the adjudication and run the SGD Basingstoke and Reading Cluster Group. I am also an associate member of BALI, a member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and a member of the APL. During the last couple of years, I have been developing my writing skills and written articles for a number of lifestyle and industry magazines. I have spent the last year having mentoring sessions from an FSGD member on business development which has been very useful, and I continue to identify gaps in my knowledge which forms my annual plan for CPD.