Where can tourists participate in workshops about traditional English garden design?

11 June 2024

Enter the world of traditional English gardens, a rich tapestry of history, beauty, and design intricacies. From the grand gardens that grace historic houses to the quaint cottage gardens nestled in the countryside, every English garden tells a story. For those of you who are keen to delve deeper into this story, there are numerous workshops across the UK where you can immerse yourselves in the art and science of English garden design.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Nestled in the heart of London, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is home to the most diverse collection of living plants in the world. But beyond its impressive plant collection, Kew is also a leader in English garden design, offering a range of workshops and tours for garden enthusiasts.

Every year, Kew's Spring Festival is a must-visit event, where workshops about traditional English garden design take center stage. These workshops are designed for all levels, so you can learn about the foundations of English garden design, including the importance of structure, the use of color and texture, and the principles of planting design. You will also get the chance to visit Kew's historic gardens, which have been shaping the English garden design since the 18th century.

RHS Garden Wisley

The RHS Garden Wisley, located in Surrey, is one of the most visited gardens in the UK. It is managed by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the UK’s leading gardening charity, and is a beacon for garden enthusiasts worldwide.

Wisley offers a range of workshops throughout the year, covering a wide spectrum of subjects including plant propagation, pruning, and traditional English garden design. The design workshops offer insights into the design principles that shape the English garden style, such as balance, rhythm, and focal points. Moreover, Wisley’s extensive gardens are an excellent illustration of these principles in action, from the grand Mixed Borders to the intimate Rock Garden.

The Eden Project

In Cornwall, you will find the iconic Eden Project, an educational charity and a fascinating visitor destination. It is well-known for its two huge biomes housing plants from diverse climates and environments, but did you know it also offers garden design workshops?

At the Eden Project, you can join a workshop about English garden design, and learn directly from the gardeners who curate and maintain the beautiful outdoor gardens. These workshops are hands-on and interactive, with a balance of theory and practical activities. You will learn about the selection of plants, the creation of 'mood' with plants, and the design principles fundamental to English gardens.

The Beth Chatto Gardens

The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex are a testament to the lifelong passion of renowned plantswoman Beth Chatto. Her philosophy of planting the right plant in the right place is a key tenet in English garden design.

The Beth Chatto Education Trust offers workshops about the principles of ecological gardening, an important aspect of English garden design. You will have the opportunity to explore the gardens, which are a living example of the design principles taught in the workshops.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the UK, is a treasure trove of over 5,000 different types of plants. It is also a centre for learning, offering a variety of courses and workshops in horticulture and plant science.

The botanic garden's workshops cover a range of topics, including English garden design. You can learn about the theory and application of design principles, as well as the role of plants in creating structure and interest in a garden. The botanic garden itself is a fantastic resource, providing ample examples of design elements in its various garden sections.

Remember, whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting your journey in garden design, these workshops offer a rich and immersive experience into the world of traditional English gardens. They provide the opportunity to learn from experts, explore historic gardens, and above all, foster a deeper appreciation for the art and science of garden design.

Hollister House Garden

Step into a magical setting of beauty and tranquility at the Hollister House Garden located in the picturesque region of Litchfield County, Connecticut. Although not in the UK, this American garden is renowned worldwide for its exquisite representation of classic English garden design. The enchanting 17th century style house and garden offer visitors a unique opportunity to appreciate an authentic English garden without leaving the American soil.

The Hollister House Garden runs structured workshops throughout the year, allowing garden enthusiasts the opportunity to delve into the intricacies of traditional English garden design. These workshops are well-rounded, covering various aspects from the early century garden scheme, the historic site's development to the current garden design practices. By participating, not only will you learn about the grandeur of formal gardens, but you will also be acquainted with the charm of the cottage garden, the functionality of the kitchen garden, and the romance of the rose garden.

Designed to be an immersive experience, the workshops allow you to engage directly with the garden. As you tour the diverse sections of the garden, including the beautifully walled garden, you will gather insights on how different garden elements contribute to the overall design.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an annual spectacle showcasing the best of the best in gardening. Hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, it is the most famous flower and landscape garden show in the UK. The show provides a platform for the top garden designers, plant specialists, and florists to exhibit their exceptional talent.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show isn't just a visual feast, but also an educational one. During this event, various workshops are organized, giving you a chance to learn about the different aspects of English garden design from renowned experts. These workshops help you understand the design principles behind the spectacular displays, how plants are selected and combined for maximum impact, and the strategies used to create the desired 'mood' in an English garden.

Moreover, you will have the opportunity to learn about the National Garden Scheme. Through this, you can understand how gardens across the UK, including house gardens and historic gardens, contribute to the rich tapestry of English garden design.


From the heart of London to far-flung Cornwall, from the oldest botanic garden in Oxford to an English garden in America, opportunities abound for tourists and locals alike to learn about traditional English garden design. Whether you're walking the grand paths of Kew, exploring the diverse plant collections at Wisley, engaging in hands-on activities at the Eden Project, understanding ecological gardening at the Beth Chatto Gardens, delving into history at Hollister House Garden, or marveling at the stunning designs at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, you're in for a treat.

Immerse yourself in these workshops, and you'll leave with not just a greater understanding of the art and science of English gardens, but also inspiration to create your own piece of this proud tradition. Whether it's the structure of the formal gardens, the charm of the cottage gardens, or the romance of the rose gardens that captures your imagination, you'll be well-equipped to bring a piece of the English garden tradition into your own space. Happy gardening!

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