Penelope’s story

Penelope discovered Capel Manor College at a family day out at the Hertfordshire County Show. Once a primary school teacher, Penelope embarked on a new garden design career after completing her studies at the College.

“I found out about Capel Manor College at a family day out at the Hertfordshire County Show. I had always had a love for gardening but had never really known about the different career opportunities available in the industry.

Before joining the College, I was a primary school teacher and was considering a possible change in career. I chose Capel Manor College as I had heard they had a good reputation in the garden design industry, it was close to home and offered a range of courses that were part-time and could fit around my family life. I decided to try the 10-week Level 1 course as a taster to see if I could turn my love of being outside and gardening into something more tangible. We had a wonderful lecturer, who was so enthusiastic, knowledgeable and gave us all so much confidence, that I did not look back. 

After the Level 1 course, I completed the Planting Design (Level 1) course. I then moved on to the Garden Design Certificate (Level 2) and finally the Certificate in Plants and Planting for Garden Design (Level 3) and Certificate in the Principles and Practice of Garden Design (Level 3). I thoroughly enjoyed all the courses and the progression of knowledge each year. We not only learnt about good design, but also about the practical aspects of building a garden. The courses all had a good balance of studio work and practical experience. 

While studying at the College, I made some wonderful new friendships and met people who had come from many different professions and careers who all brought their own knowledge to the course. I have remained in contact with many of the people I studied with, especially those that I started my journey with and who I now regard as life-long friends. Through these friendships, I now have an invaluable group of contacts for help and advice in the industry.

Thanks to my studies at Capel Manor College, I have now started my new career. I am currently running my own garden design studio, mostly working alone, but I also collaborate with other colleagues from my time at the College. I mainly work on local private gardens but have also been involved with voluntary work for the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) ‘Green Plan It’ scheme and a local care home. As well as this, I have been asked to work collaboratively with a local landscaping company.  

I have learned so many new things, met so many interesting people, and gained enough self-confidence to set up my own business – something I would not have dreamed I would ever be able to do four years ago when I started my studies. It really has been a life-changing experience for me and I have loved every moment so far. In the future, I’m planning to continue with my professional development, and I hope to design gardens that are good for the environment as well as make my clients happy!”