Casual Gardener: Grand garden designs at Serc’s Holywood Campus

Casual Gardener: Grand garden designs at Serc’s Holywood Campus

South Eastern Regional College is offering a chance to hone your garden design skills…

MOST gardeners are garden designers, whether they realise it or not. Choosing where to place a particular container or deciding which two plants work well together is part of a process that seeks to maximise the impact of a space on the eye. When taken to extremes by the likes of Capability Brown, the 18th century landscaper, garden design can involve acres of land, huge amounts of labour and thousands of plants. But good design can be just as crucial in a small space, where planting and hard landscaping can together create a look and atmosphere that transcends its location. This in many ways encapsulates the challenge to the garden designer, whether its creating a wild landscape at Chelsea or bringing tropical exotica to an urban back yard.

If you’re interested in developing or perfecting your garden design skills and don’t live too far from South Eastern Regional College’s Holywood Campus, the college is launching what it terms “the only course of its kind” in the north – an OCN level 2 certificate in garden design. Serc’s associate horticulture lecturer Joanna Loane says the course is “suitable for aspiring professional garden designers; for landscapers wishing to upskill and gain a qualification, or for those who want to gain the skills to be able to design their own garden”.

With no prior gardening knowledge necessary, students will be schooled in surveying garden sites, learn to draw to scale, and cover the principles of garden design and hard landscaping. They will also develop their plant knowledge, learning about plant selection and the use of colour and texture, while also gaining the opportunity to study the work of influential garden designers, both historical and contemporary.

“Garden Design is a popular and growing industry with factors such as the changes in lifestyle during the Covid lockdowns leading people to appreciate their gardens in a whole new way,” says Joanna.

“Here at Serc we have been delivering successful garden design courses since 2003, building on this experience, this new course has been developed with OCN NI to help fulfil this growing interest.”

Equipment-wise, Joanna says garden design practitioners “need only a basic amount of drawing equipment”.

She also insists that it’ll suit gardeners of all tastes: “Whether your preference is clean simple lines of ultra-contemporary gardens, or the informality of wildlife gardens, students will have the opportunity to develop their design skills within their own area of interest.”

If you fancy yourself as the next Bunny Guinness (God forbid) or Diarmuid Gavin (Yikes) and dream of creating a haven for relaxation or something that’ll satisfy the needs of a family, Serc’s course could be right up your gravel and red brick garden path.

The course runs for three hours on a Tuesday morning each week at the Holywood Campus. Graduates will have the skills to create design solutions and layouts to suit any brief, from a small garden which must house refuse bins or a fuel tank, right through to larger landscapes.

There’s an option to continue into a second year to achieve an OCN Level 2 Extended Diploma in garden design (3 hours on a Tuesday afternoon), which involves studying garden styles, plant and soil science and plant care. Ultimately, students could progress to the RHS Level 2 Plant Growth and Development also offered at SERC.

The course costs £277 for the year, with a 25 per cent concession for those aged over 60 and a further concession for those who are eligible in receipt of benefits.