We love to feature the work of our Successful Garden Design students on the website – Sam’s personal garden may be familiar to some of you already, but today she tells her full story of becoming a professional garden designer…

Sam’s Garden

In 2015 my husband re-discovered photography. He was recommended to do a course by a friend and got so into it, he spent all his waking hours taking photos, processing and photoshopping them, planning his next shoot. I thought: ‘I wish I could find something I love as much as that’. That was just before I discovered Successful Garden Design.

We’d moved house not long before, and I’d spent the summer putting plants in the border to perk it up, but wondered why it didn’t really ‘do’ anything – it didn’t have the wow factor, or hang together. It was just a collection of oddments.
I’d thought about taking up a course in floristry or something plant related, but then, doing a random online search, I discovered garden design via Rachel’s online courses. Suddenly I was hooked. I spent every waking hour thinking, planning, sketching, scanning the neighbour’s front gardens as I walked to work, seeing what grew well and what didn’t.
Before long, after completing the full programme of courses with Successful Garden Design, I’d redesigned our back garden completely, even got approval from the client (my husband) and in spring 2016 got landscapers in to commit to reality what I’d only before committed to paper. Seeing the shape I’d drawn come to life was one of the most exhilarating things ever.

The Road to Becoming a Professional Garden Designer

I had the opportunity to shadow a couple of local garden designers, which I loved but they told me it was hard to earn a living from it. By chance, I won a pair of tickets to Chelsea Flower Show via a competition on Twitter, and I was blown away. I got chatting to the Society of Garden Designers on their stand, who recommended the diploma course at the prestigious London College of Garden Design, based at Kew.

Within a week I’d interviewed for place and been accepted onto the diploma course, which started that September, and by July 2017 I’d graduated with Distinction and found a job as a junior designer at a design practice halfway round the M25. It was a long daily commute but worth it – I learned so much and really took every opportunity to grasp every aspect of being a garden designer and running a successful and dynamic practice.

After 3.5 years, I finally took the plunge and went solo, cushioning the jump with some freelance work. Since 2021, Chiltern Garden Design has been going from strength to strength, designing spaces large and small in and around my beloved Chiltern Hills, and in 2023 I completed the multi-stage adjudication process of the Society of Garden Designers to become a fully Registered Member, a widely recognised and respected professional qualification within the industry, and one of only a few hundred MSGDs in the country.
Huge congratulations to Sam for following her passion and becoming a successful professional garden designer. She has achieved a truly astounding amount in such a short space of time!

If you’d like to do the same course Sam started with, take a look at the Great Garden Formula

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Or take a look at our FREE garden design web classes



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    4 replies to "From personal to professional – Sam’s garden designer story"

    • Mary Gibbons

      What an inspiration….Great story…..Good for her!

      • Rachel Mathews

        Thanks, Mary! Yes, Sam’s story is very inspiring, I’m glad she shared it here 🙂

    • Susan Strachan

      What a fantastic achievement and well done Sam. We took the course during Lockdown in Dec 2020 and have been planning our garden since. Its almost finished and I will post some photos to Rachel once it’s done.

      • Rachel Mathews

        Thanks, Susan. I can’t wait to see your photos when yours is done!

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