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The Essential Garden Design Workbook: Book Review

The Essential Garden Design Workbook is a wonderful book aimed at hobbyist garden designers, landscape design students and anyone who wants to specialise in creating awe-inspiring outdoor spaces.  However, there is plenty here to inspire the more experienced garden designer too.

In fact, it is a later edition of an already ‘tried and tested model’ that has been updated to take into consideration sustainability and the carbon footprint, including references to sustainable local materials, sustainable planting selection, use of water, green roofs and living walls.

If you just want to skip the blog and buy the book (we don’t get a commission, we promise!) you can buy it here – at Waterstones.

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The Introduction itself, shows the level of complexity of garden design as a profession and the vast range of skills required.  Organised chronologically, the book takes the reader through the entirety of the garden design process, being broken down into three sections: Pre-Design Phase, Design Phase and Post-Design Phase. These areas are covered extensively in our Garden Design & Landscaping Diploma.

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Written with practicality at its heart.  The text is sub-titled and bulleted to ensure that it is readily digestible and is supported throughout with excellent examples of plans, line drawings and photographs, each one being carefully considered and never superfluous.

One of its strengths is undoubtedly the clear way in which basic drawing and surveying equipment and techniques are covered.  The author introduces the grid system of design.  While this is by no means the only way of designing gardens, it is a very helpful starting point, especially for those who have never done any kind of design work before.

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Another clear strength of this book is the way in which planting design is delivered, enabling the reader to break their planting design down into clear and concise steps, resulting in planting with structure, layers of interest, appropriate seasonal interest and that is aesthetically pleasing in colour, texture and form.

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This can be digested, safe in the knowledge that you are in good hands, the authors having a proven track record.  Rosemary Alexander, founder and Principal of The English Gardening School, has designed gardens lectured and delivered masterclasses all over the world.  She is a frequent judge at Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) show, such as Chelsea.  Her own garden at Sandhill Farm House in Rogate, Hampshire, opens regularly as part of the National Gardens Scheme.

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Rachel Myers runs a practice specialising in small garden design.  She has designed gardens both in the UK and overseas, with her work being featured in a variety of publications.  She lectures in Garden Design and Practical Horticulture.

As stated in the very convincing summary:

“There is an immense amount to learn, and endless practice and experience is required before you can create beautiful and useful spaces.  This book addresses the core requirements that any designer, professional or amateur, will need to face…”

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While there will undoubtedly be areas where the reader would like more detail, it is important to recognise that a book of this kind cannot be all things to all people – well not without growing to encyclopaedic proportions!  Certainly I have never come across an alternative that so successfully and thoroughly covers such detail. If this book finds its way onto your shelves, it will undoubtedly become a reference point to which you return time after time.

If this blog has got you buzzing, why not sign up for our Garden Design Diploma? You can study either online or in-studio, with 5 days working with our expert garden designers, then study at home and return to the studio for a further 5 days. It’s a great, fun way to get a professional qualification in a subject you love!

Thanks for reading!

**All Images sourced from


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