Zoe’s story

Zoe studied the Garden Design Certificate (Level 2) at Capel Manor College before progressing on to the Certificate in Plants and Planting for Garden Design (Level 3), and the Certificate in the Principles and Practice of Garden Design (Level 3).

“I had heard of Capel Manor College as I live near Brooks Farm in Leyton, and I visit the Farm there with my two small boys. I had taken an online taster course in garden design to see how I liked it as I was considering a career change. There was an Open Day at the Brooks Farm Campus so I went to find out more, and then subsequently went to another Open Day at the Enfield Campus.

Prior to joining the College, I gained a BA Hons and Master’s Degree in Fashion Design and worked as a fashion designer for over 20 years. I wanted a career change as I had fallen out of love with the industry. I was not happy with the environmental impact of fast fashion, and the long hours and lots of travel with young children at home was not something I wanted to do anymore.

I wanted a financially viable alternative career, and realised that as I loved gardens and gardening this could be a potentially good move as I had many transferable skills.

I chose to study garden design at the College because the Level 2 and Level 3 courses sounded like they would provide a good grounding in the subject and were conveniently part-time. I had a newborn baby and was on maternity leave so one day per week with homework, was just about manageable for me to try to transition away from my old career.

All three of the courses that I studied were well structured and provided a good knowledge base for all the areas needed for working in garden design. I was able to learn from talented and knowledgeable tutors, who were also great at pointing you in the right direction for further learning if desired. Capel Manor College is a lovely place to go to each week to learn and the tutors and teaching are fantastic. In addition, it is good value as the level of teaching for the price is outstanding, unbelievable really. I would say I gained a lot from being on the courses I chose to study.

I enjoyed meeting up with like-minded people every week to talk plants and gardens, and visit the lovely gardens of Regent’s Park and the Enfield Campus. Additionally, I enjoyed having groups of ex-classmates to share knowledge with and ask questions once out in the real world. We have WhatsApp groups that we still catch-up in regularly!

It was a real privilege to be an adult learner, and to have the opportunity to study again, and put my all into being creative. The Certificate in the Principles and Practice of Garden Design (Level 3) was brilliant and mostly taught via Zoom during the pandemic. During this time, I was also juggling a big house renovation and home schooling, so I felt that I did not get to make the most of the year, as I would have liked.

I waited nine months to complete the Certificate in Plants and Planting for Garden Design (Level 3) as I did not want my final year of learning hindered by my home-schooling efforts. Thankfully, this paid off, as it was during this break that I set up my own garden design and maintenance business, which I am still working on today.

I recently won a Gold medal at BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2022. The theme for the show this year was ‘Wild’, which made me think of the classic children’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. I loved this book as a child and my two boys love it now. It also immediately brought to mind an idea of an opportunity to design a border using lots of large-leaved plants and architectural foliage, which suits my taste and style.

There was also a miniature pond and a tiny origami boat to represent the boat that Max travels on to take him to the place where the wild things are. All the plants were relatively accessible, easy to find and grow plants that visitors to the show could take ideas from and replicate in their own gardens.

I am confident that my business will continue to grow and be successful. I will be referring back to my notes for a while to come as I find my feet with my new business. It is great to know you have such a good grounding!

I am happy I chose Capel Manor College and made the change as it helped me to get to where I am today.”