Sam’s stunning garden – update

We featured Sam’s garden last year. To refresh your memory, here’s what she started out with…

Sam says “I completed Rachel’s Great Garden Design Formula during the winter of 2015-16 and spent every minute of every waking hour imagining what my completed garden could look like. I got the chance to build it in spring 2016 and when it was finished, I couldn’t believe that what I’d had in my head for so long was finally real. 

This summer, the long-awaited blooming of the garden has given me so much pleasure. I love wandering down the garden to see what is in bud, and what has just opened into flower, and now the raised beds at the back are starting to really provide for us with tons of strawberries, raspberries, peas and beans, lettuces and garlic, plus masses of sweet peas to pick for the house.

I couldn’t be more delighted with the layout of the garden, although I do plan changes in my head all the time – in terms of which plants need to move around in the autumn, or what I’ll sow as seed as annuals next year. 

Just before building the garden I was lucky enough to attend Chelsea 2016, a day which in many ways transformed my life. I was so inspired, I stopped simply toying with the idea of becoming a garden designer – I became serious about it. I enrolled on the diploma course at the London College of Garden Design in September, and I have just graduated.

It’s been such an amazing year, I’ve learned tons, been inspired by seeing the collections at Kew where we’re based change throughout the seasons, and by attending the Chelsea Flower show and getting behind the scenes tours from the designers on their exquisite gardens.  This summer I’ll be launching my new garden design business – feel free to follow my adventures on Twitter (@sam_cowen) and visit my new website ( where you can see the designs I’ve come up with to suit gardens of all sizes and shapes. 

Many, many thanks to Rachel for helping me take my first steps on this incredible journey. 

All the best


Great job Sam!

Huge congratulations to Sam on graduating and becoming a professional garden designer and for creating such a beautiful garden at home.

If you’d like to do the same SGD course she did then take a look at our Great Garden Formula online course.

Small Front Garden – SGD Student Anne Fries, Melbourne

I always love it when people send in photos of their gardens after doing one of our garden design courses.

This garden is no exception…

With NO previous design experience, Anne and her husband have done a tremendous job transforming their boring front yard into a beautiful garden…

I’ll now pass you over to Anne to tell you about her garden…

“In November, my husband and I moved into a new home which needed the front and back gardens designed and built. Whilst it was lovely to have the proverbial “blank canvas”, it was also rather daunting.

The builders had put in a very basic garden at the front, but it wasn’t what we wanted (see photo above).

I bought your online courses before we moved, and had a lot of fun drawing shapes and paths, scrapping them, and starting again!


The main challenge in the front garden was working around the two water meters and taps (we are fortunate to be in an estate that has connected Class A recycled water to every home for garden use, etc), an inspection hatch, and a stormwater vent, all within a wide but shallow garden.
I found the Small Garden Design Course particularly helpful, as it showed me how to break the garden up into shapes that made it look and feel deeper.


We built the garden together, with a rotary hoe and lots of elbow grease! My husband did a great job with the paving, edging and the connecting boardwalks, which take the eye on a journey.

We wanted some water in the garden, so to add some life and sparkle, we bought a tiny solar fountain ($15 on eBay), and placed it in a water dish. It adds a point of interest, some movement, and it’s fun to watch it respond to the changeable Melbourne weather!


We still have a couple of things to plant when cooler Autumn weather arrives, but it’s mostly done. Once some of the ‘larger’ plants have grown, we’ll be able to plant in their shade, but that’s quite a way ahead! We’ll just have to possess our souls in patience, as we wait for everything to grow!

I loved working through the courses, and applying what I learned to the challenges we faced. We love our garden, and it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without your inspiration! Thanks for all your wisdom and practical advice. I really would have struggled and become so frustrated without it!”

Do you need ideas and help with your garden?

If you’d like to take the same course Anne did – take a look at our Small Garden Formula online course. It walks you through everything you need to know to be able to design a small space garden, no matter what shape.

Modern, awkward shape garden design – Wolfgang’s garden

I’m very pleased to be featuring Wolfgang’s garden in this week’s SGD Student Hall of Fame. Wolfgang lives in Germany and this is the garden he had to contend with once the house was completed!

Yikes! What to do with a garden like this?

Firstly: LEARN ABOUT GARDEN DESIGN (if you’re going to DIY).

The best way, and of course I would say this, is to buy an online garden design course! Specifically The Great Garden Formula – which is exactly what Wolfgang did.

He tried various different designs as he progressed through the course, the first one we show in the video he’s kindly created showing us around his design.

Video Tour of Wolfgang’s Design

I really love the metal panel sections in between the hedging, that you can see in the video – think I might have to ‘borrow’ that idea! And thank goodness Wolfgang came to my rescue with navigating on SketchUp!

The Construction Process

Wolfgang had NO previous garden design experience before doing the course and he has painstakingly built the entire garden, virtually single-handedly, in his spare time!

Progress has been slow, but I think you’ll agree, all his time and effort has paid off handsomely. We look forward to seeing how the garden looks when it’s finished.

On Completion

The garden should look like this once it’s complete.

Want to learn to DIY design your garden?

If you’d like to do the online training course Wolfgang did – the Great Garden Formula online course.* You can find out more details about that here:

* Please note: we don’t train students how to use CAD or Sketchup, our methods teach how to sketch out ideas by hand – but some people prefer to use a computer – either way, it’s the design principles that are important, not how you implement them!

The Great Garden Formula is our flagship course and it teaches you everything you need to know about design and is geared towards people who might want to design gardens professionally or for professionals who want to increase their skills.

We have a variety of other courses that are smaller – you can see them here:


Wide Garden Design – Howard’s Garden Update

Normally, the SGD Student Hall of Fame is for gardens designed by you – on this occasion I’m slightly breaking it as I designed this one, live, in the Wide Garden Workshop we did in Oct 2015…
The reason I’m including it is because the owner, Howard built the garden, with no previous experience as a ‘retirement project’!

Be Honest, How Good Does Your Garden Look in the Middle of January?

If you’re like most people, probably not great… this garden is under a year old and still has more planting to do – it shows just what the right design can do…

Building the Garden

Howard did all the work himself apart from laying the main patio by the conservatory and then the new lawns being laid a couple of weeks ago.
The garden project involved him laying 2000+ setts on concrete foundations, which as Howard commented in his email “takes a long, long time!”
He went on to say, “Friends are amazed by the fantastic transformation in the garden from the original…so much more attractive views from the house and conservatory.
Hard landscaping is nearly finished, but more work to do on the planting next year. With the open space behind, the garden is exposed to SW gales bouncing off the house, and NE gales from Botany Bay in front funnel between the houses.  Need to put in some windbreaks and grow more wind resistant planting…”

The Power of Good Design…

Watch the video below to see how the garden all came together from design to build.

Well done Howard – you’ve done an excellent job, I hope you’ll give us another update in the summer once you’ve finished the planting :o)

I hope Howard & Anne’s garden has inspired you to properly design and plan your garden. If you’d like some help with that, do check out our online garden design courses where I walk you through the entire process, step-by-step.

If you’ve a ‘wide garden’ like Howard and Anne, then take a look at the Wide Garden Formula course.

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes and learn how to design your garden…

Register on this page:

Long Modern Garden Design – Part 2

In part 1 looking at SGD student Sander’s long modern garden design in Holland we focused on his design. Now we’re going to see how the garden turned out…

And Sander’s going to share his top 3 tips he learnt from designing and building his garden…

Garden Construction


Sander’s Top Tips for Creating a Successful Garden Design!

1. If you are a plant-a-holic: make a Pinterest board of flowers/foliage you love. Then scrap (at least) half of the pictures when you make your final design to avoid a mish-mash.
2. Don’t be scared to try again, again and again. I made 6 designs before I was happy (you can see the final design in part 1).
3. Prepare your soil well. I had a layer of 25cm of heavy clay in my garden replaced by a mix of potting compost and garden soil.

The Garden’s First Summer


How Sander Achieved Such Great Results…

Many thanks to Sander for sharing his first garden design with us. If you’d like to do the online training course he did – the Great Garden Formula online course. You can find out more details about that here:



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