Are so called professional body; the Society of Garden Designers, has forced through what I consider to be the worst piece of legislation in its pitiful 30 year history.It has decreed that from 2010, if you want to apply to become even a lowly corresponding member you have to submit work before a panel of your piers to be weighed, measured and no double found wanting!Its bad enough having to apply for full membership in this patronising and archaic fashion, but to expect potential probationary members to go through this as well is frankly bonkers.It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the whole membership thing is in a mess. Why is it that the membership ratio of full members to corresponding has never risen much above 1-10.That’s right; after 30+ year there are only about 180 full members of the society in the whole world! This despite consecutive councils trying their best to up the numbers.Councils discuss the same things and make the same mistakes time in, time out, like some giant horticultural ground hog day.They think by vetting the ‘newbie's’ and putting a 2 year time limit on them to apply for full membership they will improve things.Far from it! I predict the membership will fall further and the organisation will become even more redundant than it already is.In any other professional organisation, education is the route to full membership. Surveyor, engineer, architect, all have to have a first degree before they can apply.Unfortunately the SGD has been too much of a coward to go down this route, because so many of the founding members have a vested interest in the lucrative garden design education market.Take away the corresponding members and you don’t have a viable membership. So the Society has become little more than a Surrogate training centre for sub- standard design schools.It’s not until students have completed one of these lesser courses, that they realise how poor their training has been, only to be taken up by the SGD’s seminar program which in itself is a poor substitute for proper tutorage.Instead of this controversial adjudication panel, I propose the SGD introduce and examination. This could then be sold to the schools and colleges at a profit and would weed out those courses not capable of passing it.The colleges could then use there exam marks as a guide to the quality of the course.If they still wish to have a period of professional practice before full membership then so be it, but stop this lunacy before more of us give up on you and don’t renew our memberships.
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  • I certainly support Duncan's view that the SGD's membership statistics are appalling for a professional body aiming to be "the only game in town" and I agree that the membership category change is a bad move - but I disagree completely with his proposed solution.

    For me, the SGD should be a standards setting body, with its efforts directed to recognising (and thus rewarding) those design courses which have a syllabus teaching the procedures & practices of garden design to the required standard, and which have an externally-verified process for determining that its students have achieved the required standard. The SGD does not have the resources to be an examining body and should not waste what resources it does have trying to achieve this.

    I would go further and suggest we need a tiered, recognised (i.e. allowing members to declare their "bronze", "silver" or "gold" status), membership structure, which designers can progress through as they gain experience from continued professional development and professional practice - similar to that of other professions, or even OU-like "credits".

    I wrote a piece along these lines on the SGD Members Forum ("Professional Status", posted 27th August 2009) but, sad to say, it didn't raise a single comment either "for" or "against", so I have to conclude that the SGD membership is completely apathetic to debate of this nature and is only prepared to whinge and not seek positive changes.

    (If any non-SGD members would like a copy of my forum piece, please email me:
  • Going to my forum in a few weeks time - not exactly feeling motivated it must be said. Rather annoyed about having to jump through these hoops when I should be spending the time earning money and running my business. My last college course expected work of the standard I am having to submit - wish that more courses were similarly rigorous. If the SGD could produce a suggested list of colleges that would be really useful - and would have saved me doing two previous courses first!
  • PRO

    It's been over three years since Duncan's post.

    Steve clearly has a different view to Duncan in respect of his proposal. What I'm wondering (and I'm sure others must also be interested to know) is, if anything, what has changed?

    Has the SGD merely bumped along since it introduced the membership changes or have there been real developments and cohesion within?

  • Unfortunately the SGD hasn't listened and according to my sums, have lost nearly 2 out of every 5 or their members since that article was written.

    At their peak they had a membership of around 1800 which is now down to little over 1000.

    I would imagine this has put them in a very difficult financial position with a magazine contract that should never have been signed in the first place and will now be hemorrhaging money.

    In hind-sight, they should have merged with BALI when they set-up their design category, as the SGD is too poor to publicise its members which is primarily what they want.

    I suspect that things are only going to get worse for them, as the building industry in the UK isn't predicted to start growing again until at least 2017.

    Garden design will remain in recession until at least then, and I will only be teaching new students via our online course, as I don't believe its prudent for students to give up a full time job in order to retrain as landscape designers, when they will only struggle to make a living after they graduate.

  • PRO

    "I don't believe its prudent for students to give up a full time job in order to retrain as landscape designers"

    An interesting comment Duncan. I don't know if you are right, or wrong, about the 2017 date but I'm pretty sure there's a recessional lag when it comes to new landscaping projects coming through.

    I know we all get frustrated by it but it's a fact that landscaping is still viewed as a major luxury by many with holidays and household luxuries still taking precedence.

    I would not hold you breath if you are waiting to see a joining of any of the associations but if it were ever to happen, it would result in a larger, but doubly weaker organisation afterwards.

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