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The Future of Gardens

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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.

Moving away from the mild manicured gardens of previous era’s we will discuss the revolution within planting, of a more eco-aware aesthetic and will discuss the leading designers of this approach.

The global shift towards a more sustainable approach that is both natural and wild.

Gardens and garden-makers will be discussed from an international perspective and will include gardens from the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Europe, Britain and the Far East.

We will discuss both private and public gardens that share a common goal of style and sophistication while considering both their various climatic conditions and their utility of available resources and materials.

The international approaches to working with nature and not against it will be an under-ridding principle throughout all the gardens discussed.

Plant choice, the significance of trees, Xeriscaping, rain and water use, and their consideration toward pollinators, birds and further insects will all be considered within the creation of what are largely modern gardens stylistically.

Throughout the course the fundamental principles of organic horticulture will be considered and the emphasis is always upon a curated, considered contemporary approach, with particular attention towards new plant breeding and plant methods.

Both urban and rural gardens and landscapes will be considered, from a forest in Japan to a private garden in Ireland, from prairie planting to the urban rigour of rooftop and city courtyards in many of our major 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

  • 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.