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How I got where I am!

posted in Me & my garden

How I got where I am!

Becoming a garden designer

This is about what happens in my own garden, studio & life beyond smart photos of my clients completed gardens. Lots of designers do that but here’s a behind the scenes look at everything else that goes into being a garden designer. How I got here, why I love what I do & how I’m doing with my own garden & interior projects. I love all aspects of design & lots of things inspire me & my work – often nothing to do with gardens & gardening! My own garden is quite a project that has been evolving since we moved here 3 years ago. You can chat to me too – I’m on twitter & will reply to any emails. It’s not all about finished work – there’s quite a process…

I originally trained as printed textile designer at Loughborough College of Art. I absolutely loved art college – it was a truly fantastic time where I learnt so much & had three years learning & experimenting with a mixture of brilliant creative folk. I couldn’t get a job as a textile designer as I had no experience – the usual issue for new graduates so I set up Joanne Alderson Design in 1987 & travelled the UK & America with my portfolio.

Working from a converted Fire station I put together collections for Ralph Lauren, Habitat, M&S, Harrods, Jeff Banks & lots of others. Really hard work but It was great. I learned to work with pattern, colour & texture, to properly answer briefs & always be on time & full of ideas. I use the same skills today & probably look at gardens slightly differently because of this beginning. Structure is massively important to me as is colour & drama!

I retrained in 2000 at Warwickshire College in Garden Design & Horticulture as we had a recession & work had dried up. I always loved gardening & it was a natural transition but being a mature student was hard, two years of exams & essays but I loved every minute of it & have never looked back.


Lucky me – I got to Chelsea Flower Show as a new graduate & won both a silver medal & the BBC’s coveted People’s choice award for my garden design titled The Chic Hip & Groovy Dance Pad. I know – daft in every way but it was designed to be fun, stand out from the crowd & grab attention which it did. I haven’t looked back & now work on so many different projects & feel very lucky indeed.

How I work

I’m lucky enough to have a lot of space in a great attic room with views over Berkshire. It’s bright enough & big enough to cope with the dark grey paint I’ve used called Downpipe by Farrow & Ball. As we live in a large Victorian place we do have some chandeliers – some original, some funky & these two are huge chandelier stickers. They are quite witty & I love the dramatic effect. It’s been like this for a couple of years now & I’m not tired of it yet! Note the dog bed – there’s usually one of the cats or our dog Charlie hanging out with me too.

Spot the Starck fly swat – We don’t get flies – I just love his work. My board was my Dad’s – he’s an architect & this was spare so it’s pretty old & pretty special. That’s his chair I pinched too!

My other great bit of kit is my 27″ mac which I could not manage without. I love to play around with images & I use pages to put my specifications together. As well as a detailed scale drawing, I put together a book of notes with lots of illustrations so both client & contractors know exactly what we are aiming to build. It’s a lot of work but makes all the difference.

That’s all for today, but if you come back tomorrow, I will be talking about my drawings, which are all hand drawn and unique to each of my clients. Thanks for reading!