The Garden Design Academy began by providing training to garden designers and by assisting home gardeners to design their own gardens. I started offering these in the UK from our offices in Hertfordshire and when we moved to France they took on a whole new lease of life.
The small selection of distance learning courses was soon developed to include residential courses, with clients from the UK staying with us for a few days in the Loire Valley of France. In addition, we offer guided tours to the gardens of the area, with the Chaumont Garden Festival being popular with garden designers and the chateaux with American tourists.
Looking to expand, we talked to a number of writers and providers of horticultural courses and were lucky in finding a partner at a time when they were looking to expand. We now have access to a huge range of training courses written by acknowledged experts in their respective fields.
Garden designers and landscapers are still well catered for: 15 distance learning courses at the last count and residential courses including CAD and Site Survey.
RHS qualifications are rightly respected and courses working towards these are amongst our most popular; we offer the full range up to Master of Horticulture. These are currently being followed by students from the UK, mainland Europe, the Middle East, China and the USA.
Commercial crop production courses stand at 14 courses and rising, while all sections of horticultural management are supported with a selection of 8 stimulating programs, several at an advanced level.
We found that home gardeners were often following our plant courses, around two dozen short courses originally intended for professionals; we have therefore created a new section on our web site this year, specifically aimed at the amateur, but including subjects like hydroponics and plant propagation.
As the range of courses expands we find we have to create new sections of the web site to make sense of it all. The Parks and Recreation industry has always been important to us and several of our writers are notable names in this sector. Even I used to be a Royal Gardener, based at Windsor Great Park. We have now seperated out 14 courses (so far!) specifically written for the industry, including subjects like sports turf management, play ground design and a special Advanced Certificate in Horticulture (Parks and Recreation).
As the demand grows from those in the industry prefering to study at their own pace after work, from newcomers looking to make their mark and from amateurs wanting to develop their interests, so we respond with new courses to accommodate them. Some of these can take several years to research, write, develop and launch, but others are sitting on the back burner waiting for clients.
My career has included most sectors of the horticultural industry during the last 40 years, from crop production (both greenhouse and hardy stock) to garden centre management. My last business employed 20 landscape staff while I busied myself designing over 1000 gardens. At this stage in my life I am pleased to have this oportunity to pass on some of what I have learned to the new generations of gardeners, growers and designers.