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It’s not all Country Life: the new urban garden

Duration 10 weekly meetings
Tutor Stephen Parker
Course code SCI23A5519A
Fee £186
Concessionary fee £148 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

Online course

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The 21st century is proving to be a sea-change in how we create and maintain our gardens.

Climate change, new plants and developing design challenges combine to create a whole new dialogue around the contemporary garden.

We discuss the many ground-breaking new gardens, designers and approaches, rural and urban, small and large.

Today, gardens are being created everywhere in a desire to make our cities more liveable.

This strong shift from the country estate, so prevalent throughout garden history, to a more urban environment also connects to contemporary architecture and post-industrial development.

From courtyards and rooftops, to parks and small green spaces - even vertical gardens and forests abound.

The makers of the new urban garden are a diverse group of designers, artists, architects, and activists who are working to transform urban spaces into vibrant, green oases that provide a range of benefits to their communities.

These gardens are often created in response to a variety of social, environmental, and economic challenges facing urban areas, including air and water pollution, lack of access to fresh food, and social isolation.

A few examples of the makers of the new urban garden and the gardens that they are creating would include:

Guerrilla Gardeners: Guerrilla gardening is a grassroots movement that involves transforming neglected or abandoned urban spaces into green spaces without permission from the authorities.

Guerrilla gardeners plant flowers, vegetables, and other plants in public spaces such as sidewalks, medians, and abandoned lots, often using recycled materials to create planters and other garden features.

Urban Farming Organizations: Urban farming organizations are groups that work to create productive green spaces in urban areas, often with a focus on providing fresh, healthy food to local communities.

These organizations may create rooftop gardens, community gardens, or urban farms, and often use sustainable farming practices such as composting, rainwater harvesting, and vermiculture.

Community Gardeners: Community gardeners are groups of local residents who come together to create and maintain shared garden spaces. These gardens provide a range of benefits to their communities, including access to fresh food, opportunities for social interaction and community building, and the creation of green spaces in otherwise urbanised areas.

Overall, the makers of the new urban garden are a diverse group of individuals and organisations who are working to make cities more liveable, sustainable, and resilient through the creation of green spaces.

Their work is helping to improve the quality of life for urban residents and promote a more sustainable future for our cities.

Learning and teaching

There will be lectures, case studies and group discussions.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved.

Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects. The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning.

Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • Stephen Parker; England's Gardens: A Modern History. ( Dorling Kindersley 29 Jun. 2023)
  • Wild: The Naturalistic Garden, Noel Kingsbury , Phaidon Press (17 Feb. 2022)
  • Gardens Under Big Skies: Reimagining Outdoor Space, the Dutch Way, Noel Kingsbury, Filbert
  • Press (11 Nov. 2021)
  • Planting the Natural Garden, Piet Oudolf, Timber Press; Illustrated edition (3 Oct. 2019)
  • Tom Stuart-Smith: Drawn from the Land , Tim Richardson, Thames and Hudson Ltd; 1st edition
  • (18 May 2021)
  • The Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design, Jinny Blom, Jacqui Small
  • LLP; Illustrated edition (16 Mar. 2017)
  • Naturalistic Planting Design The Essential Guide: How to Design High-Impact, Low-Input
  • Gardens, Nigel Dunnett, Filbert Press (21 Mar. 2019)
  • Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, Thomas
  • Rainer, Timber Press; Illustrated edition (13 Oct. 2015)
  • The View from Federal Twist: A New Way of Thinking About Gardens, Nature and Ourselves,
  • [James Golden, Filbert Press (28 Oct. 2021)
  • A Beautiful Obsession: Jimi Blake's World of Plants at Hunting Brook Gardens , Jimi Blake, Filbert
  • Press (2 Sept. 2019)
  • Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City, Dan Pearson, Conran Octopus; 1st edition (7 Mar. 2011)
  • The Naturally Beautiful Garden: Contemporary Designs to Please the Eye and Support Nature,
  • Kathryn Bradley-Hole, Rizzoli International Publications; 1st edition (13 April 2021).

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.