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.

Successful Garden Design Tips – Video 1 – Line it up!

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Adding the wow factor to your garden with a very simple but often overlooked designer trick…

To download the free cheat sheet that comes with this video go to:

In this quick Successful Garden Design Tips video Rachel walks you through a simple designer trick of lining up elements within the garden that make sure your design works well and flows properly in the whole garden.

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

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[DESIGN SHOW 19] – Mediterranean garden tour & adding the WOW with colour

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Details of William and Robert’s fantastic mountain Med garden can be found here:

If you’d like to volunteer to help in the garden, details of how to do that are here:

And if you’d like to stay at their lodging, details here:

Here’s what William and Robert had to say about their garden: “It’s a mediterranean mountain garden and as such, enjoys a climate similar to a mediterranean coastal climate, but with the added challenge of cold winters and the affect of altitude.

What we find is that plants that grow here will grow very well if looked after, and those that don’t will let you know by refusing to survive no matter what we do. The hardest thing is to get plants through their first year or two.

We are always looking for volunteers to help us since most of the work is done by just the two of us. Volunteers can be residential or can offer time on a regular basis i.e. one day a week/month/whenever they can.

We also have accommodation here at Cortijo Opazo or at our Green Mountain Yurt. We can prepare meals for guests and try to use produce from the garden if we can.

Most importantly, our garden is open on Fridays from April to the end of October and for events. We welcome groups to get in touch to organise specific visits, which can be on any day, subject to our availability. Groups should be 10 or more. If a group wants to stay over in the area then we can make suggestions as to suitable local accommodation.
There’s plenty to see in the Alpujarras, a unique and fascinating part of Spain, so a visit to Jardín de la Alpujarra could be a part of a bigger trip.

Refreshments always available for visitors.

The beautiful courtyard garden in Jimena de la Frontera house for sale can be viewed here:

If you’d like to learn how to design your garden, attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Garden Case Study – ‘Blank Canvas’ Backyard Transformation (SGD student)

In the last garden case study, we featured a small front garden makeover, a reader had created after watching the Garden Design Workshop. The garden we’re looking at today is from a Great Garden Formula course student called Ingrid, living in Ontario, Canada.



Meet Ingrid – a Successful Garden Design ‘student’!

Ingrid started her garden just 2 years ago, with NO previous design experience of any kind. She had created one other plant garden, but this was her first time at designing the layout.

Her garden was a sizeable blank canvas. There were restrictions with regard to placing gazebos, walls or similar permanent structures in the garden because of the proximity to the river and the 100-year flood plane.

I asked her how she went about the process of designing her garden, here’s what she had to say…

“While I was fairly confident with regard to what plants I might want to plant, the shape of the garden and the location of flowerbeds, paths and lawn surfaces left me in a conundrum. I looked for help on the web, found your site and decided to purchase your garden design course.

I loved your approach to design. It really spoke to me, and I learned a lot, such as combining form and function, and the importance of creating focal points. It also placed importance on creating a proper design before planting the first plant.”

Here’s the well-worn garden plan that Ingrid created after doing the Great Garden Formula course:


“Once I understood that geometric shapes make garden design so much easier, I completed several basic designs – square/rectangular and circular surfaces – and settled on the current design. I also wanted to create some interest and focal points.”

“With a clean-slate-garden, I was excited to get started. My new neighbours were more than a little intrigued by the orange markings on our lawn and kept asking questions and watching the ongoing progress.”

Action shots of Ingrid hard at work making her dream garden a reality

Action shots of Ingrid hard at work making her dream garden a reality with the help of spray paint and a wheelbarrow!

Oh, I remember many an hour spent bent over, ‘graffiti-ing’ other people’s gardens, and trying not to get high on the paint fumes…! Marking out your garden with bio-degradable spray paint (or a garden hose) is a great way to check your design will work out, before you build it.


Riverside seating area construction

“The removal of the sod (turf) and the improvement of soil were additional hurdles. While it was hard work, it was not insurmountable once I had settled on the design.”

I often find this with clients, both budget and the amount effort become a lot less important once they have a plan and can visualise how the finished garden will look. The end result makes it all worthwhile.


I asked Ingrid how the course helped her overcome the difficulties of designing a blank canvas garden from scratch:

“The [Great Garden Formula] course inspired me to create a proper garden design. Learning about garden design principles and approaches, and being able to apply them has resulted in a garden that makes me happy. While I chose to do the work myself, anyone can do this with or without outside help.”


I asked Ingrid if she’d ever felt daunted by the prospect of designing and creating a garden herself:

“The only time I was really daunted was when I realized how bare the garden looked after the removal of the sod. Once I started digging and enriching the soil, and planting the first plants, my doubts disappeared.
I simply love spending time outside and watching things grow. When we are able to sit outside and I can see beautiful plants all around me, I am more than a little thrilled to know that this is something I was able to create. Not bad for a senior citizen, isn’t it?

I’ll say! I think most of us would be rather pleased to have created such a lovely and relaxing garden all by our own efforts. I am certainly very impressed by what has been achieved in such a short space of time.


Do you have a ‘Successful Garden Design’ you’d like to share?

I’d like to make this a regular feature on the blog, showcasing the gardens you have achieved by reading the website and doing the online courses we do here at Successful Garden Design, so don’t be shy, send me your photos!

You can send your photos and plans to my by using the contact form on the website.

If not, do you want to learn?

If you like to do the same course Ingrid did and create you’re own ‘dream garden’  visit:

Were you also impressed with Ingrid’s garden?

Having seen Ingrid’s results are you now inspired to take action and have a go yourself? Leave your views in the Facebook or comments box below.

Front Garden Makeover – SGD Reader’s Plans

Nicole - A Successful Garden Design Workshop 'Student'!

Nicole – A Successful Garden Design Workshop ‘Student’!

I get so excited when people send me photographs of what they’ve done in their garden from what they’ve learned here at Successful Garden Design. So I’m thrilled to be able to share with you a really simple front garden makeover that one of our readers is in the process of doing.

So these are the plans that Nicole, from Washington DC, has drawn up after watching just the garden design workshop (that gives an overview of the whole design process, it’s not even a full garden design course – we’ll feature a garden from a full design course next time!).

Successful Garden Design Workshop Viewer’s Front Yard Makeover

Front-Yard-Makeover-planWhat I love about what Nicole has done is she’s kept things really simple (hugely important).

She’s gone for a geometric shape that makes the best use of the available space, and she’s created interest through the rest of this tiny front garden with a stepping stone path that weaves through the edible planting.

Click on the image of the plan to view it larger.

The photos below show the before, we don’t have a finished photo yet as it’s still a work in progress, but I hope she’ll keep me updated later in the year.

Even though the photos don’t show the finished garden yet, you can see along with the plan image how much better the circular lawn shape is making the space look.


Helping the next generation of young gardeners learn

Nicole has not only tackled her front yard but she’s also volunteered to design and start the edible garden at her children’s elementary school. How wonderful is that!

She’s currently doing a course on permaculture methods and is trying to incorporate the aesthetics she’s learned here on this website with the practical and functional requirements of the permaculture system.

Here’s the plan she’s drawn up for it. For those of you not familiar with permaculture concepts, you basically work with nature, particularly the contours of the land so that you can make use of all available rainfall by the use of mini-ditches called swales.


Permaculture principles in a nutshell

So basically, permaculture is not only about self-watering, it’s a system that harmonises the best of nature with how you combine plant varieties, so you don’t have to dig or fertilise the soil when it’s set up properly and there’s very little weeding involved (that’s my kind of fruit and vegetable gardening – the type that does it itself!).

If you’re interested in this type of edible gardening, check out Geoff Lawton – he’s an amazingly knowledgable guy that shows you how to create a ‘food forest’ in any size garden, in any location. They’ve even managed a permaculture system near the Dead Sea of all places, it’s truly amazing what can be achieved when man works with nature…

You CAN do this too!

I’m thrilled to see how people put what they learn from the online workshops and courses to good use. Not everyone is brave enough to let me use their photos on the website, so big thanks to Nicole. I hope more of you will be inspired to have a go yourself.

If you need help…

Then do check out the Successful Garden Design online garden design courses – you can see the results people have got by going to the ‘Hall of Fame – your gardens‘ category of the website.

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Every business has got to have one these days, so here it is - Disclaimer: Please note, the information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to provide accurate, up-to-date, reliable, and complete information. No warranties of any kind are expressed or implied. Readers acknowledge that the author is not engaging in rendering professional advice. By reading this website, the reader agrees that under no circumstances is the author responsible for any losses, direct or indirect, that are incurred as a result of use of the information contained within this website or related downloads, accompanying videos, or other supplementary materials. This includes but is not limited to errors, omissions, or inaccuracies. The material contained on this website is not meant to be a substitute for formal training nor a replacement for professional training or services. Please note some of the links on the site go to affiliate websites where a small commission is earned if you purchase. Please do your due diligence on all linked to products before buying.   Find Rachel on Google+
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