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  • Writer's pictureDan

Journey of a self employed garden designer; new beginnings

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

I am often asked how I got I to designing gardens, as it is not necessarily an obvious career choice for a lot of people. So, I thought a bit of back story about how I got here might be a nice blog. So here goes...

I spent my early career, after a studying for a degree in illustration, in the hospitality sector unsure quite how to put my passion for drawing to good use. The hospitality sector was an easy back up, as I had worked in hotels since the age of around 16. I have always enjoyed working in a customer facing role and took great pleasure in reorganising bars, restaurants and cafes to get the best use of the space from a customer perspective.


Despite having a love for food, drink and table service, th industry was an eventual drain on my mental and physical health.

It was the element of design that ran through everything that I did at work that convinced me to take my talents and put them to better use.

The love of gardens came from an early age too, but it was just before I was due to get married and began to search for a career which would offer more steady hours, that I considered joining my passion for gardens with my skills in illustration.

I undertook a diploma in Garden Design at the Bristol Garden Design School, based at the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens.


The first few years of this new career have been marked in my personal life by both incredible highs; the birth of my first child, and incredible lows; losing my dear brother to cancer. Surprisingly however, the global pandemic that 2020 has brought has not had the negative impact I might have expected. I have experienced a higher number of design enquiries than in previous years.

From day one, in fact before day one really, before I could afford advertising, I had my social media profiles set up with a stock of garden-type photos ready, the website published and twitter retweeting garden design news. When I could, I started to drop flyers, then post some free ads. The paid ads came next and I pulled a couple of favours for free printing and testimonials for my website.


A combination of situations came together to help me; people stuck in at home staring at un-loved gardens during lockdown, a realisation of the limitations of the home with the addition of home schooling, working from home and finding space for relaxation. And for some, new savings from staying safe at home.

After a period of not working during lockdown, as many of my suppliers closed too, I started landscaping again at the end of June, just two days a week. Initially I was worried this wouldn’t be enough, but found that new enquiries for both garden design and garden landscaping started to come through. A lot of people across Bristol are looking ahead at a summer of working from home, and are keen to create more inspiring outdoor spaces.


When I initially left the Bristol Garden Design School, diploma in hand, I wrote myself a 5 year plan. This current chapter wasn't meant to happen yet, it was meant to be year four at least, the pandemic has brought my business forward by a year or more.

Now, as I type, I am excited for the future, however the journey takes a new turn. I can’t help fear a global recession, it is expected by experts, this will inevitably slow things.

So I have taken on more landscaping, as a way of getting ahead of the situation, preparing to prepare. Securing the dream for the long run.

I'm still on the journey, its a bumpy road but at every turn I learn to be stronger, better and more respectful of how good I can be at this job, how much I enjoy it and how lucky I am.

Onwards to the next turn, to year 4, or 5, or whatever it is.


If you would like to hear more about the garden design service I offer please go to my website and drop me a line!

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