Diploma in Garden Design -

Sarah Plested

Garden Designer

What were you doing before KLC and why did you decide to study with the school?
I was running a garden maintenance business, having completed the RHS Horticultural Certificate. Planting design was very much a part of developing clients’ gardens and I wanted to steer my business towards garden design rather than maintenance. I chose KLC because the study could be arranged around my work commitments.

Can you identify some of the highlights and challenges of your time studying with KLC?
Because I was already working in gardens, I was able to put into practice the theory I was learning whilst studying. This helped bridge the gap between real life experience and textbooks which can be a problem in correspondence courses. Several of my client’s gardens feature in various diploma projects!

I found the hand drawing quite time consuming and very quickly taught myself Sketchup so that I could present my plans in this format. This grounding has proved invaluable as I still use Sketchup along with Photoshop to produce my visuals.

How has your career evolved since graduating? Tell us about your professional experiences and employment thus far.
I graduated in 2016 and the business transition from maintenance to garden design was complete by then. I continue to work on predominantly residential projects and love the variety of gardens and clients I work with.

Garden design is a continual learning experience as every project is different and comes with its own unique set of design challenges. One of the many rewards is having the opportunity to design not one, but two gardens for a client, as their family grows and they move to a new house and garden.

What kind of projects have you been working on recently?
I am currently working on a broad mix of projects, the two extremes being a very small garden for a couple who have a love of bold colours. I have been able to incorporate this into their cosy dining and relaxing space, using rich orange cushions and wall art and contrasted with lime greens, oranges, purples and deep magentas in the planting scheme.

At the other end of the scale, we are currently planting in a 7 acre garden that I started designing a few years ago. We’ve had some great tagging trips selecting large Carpinus box pleached trees, cloud pruned Parrotia persica and the largest Cornus controversa in the nursery!

Do you have a favourite project you can share with us?
My favourite projects are those where the client is receptive to learning about plants, and the role their garden can play in supporting biodiversity and environmental sustainability.

I feel very strongly that garden designers have a responsibility to educate and encourage clients to embrace the idea of creating a garden that can provide a haven for wildlife and pollinators and this has become my goal for each garden I design.

The most rewarding projects are those that during the creative and build journey, clients discover a love of gardening and the pleasure it can bring.

What advice would you give anyone starting out in the industry?
We all start out feeling like we’re winging it and that’s ok! Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, there are lots of suppliers and people in the industry happy to share their knowledge and advice.

After 10 years I am still asking questions and have learnt that they aren’t so wrong questions after all.

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