Fine Artist, Sarah Naybour…..The Next Gertrude Jekyll?

Posted on: October 24th, 2009 by Rob

Talented Oxford College of Garden Design new graduate, Sarah Naybour, has won the prestigious Student Designer Of The Year (2009) competition.

It’s the second time in four years since the national award was launched by the UK’s Society of Garden Designers (SGD) that a student from the Oxford College of Garden Design has won it. This is testament to both the design talents of those winners and the quality of teaching on the one-year Postgraduate course in Residential Landscape architecture, widely recognised as the most highly regarded course of it kind.

Notifying Sarah of her win, the judges told her: “Your design was felt by the judges to be an exciting and dynamic design which related very well to the architecture of the project, created a contemporary space for the clients to utilise and enjoy and which very ably fulfilled their brief.”

Sarah who, just like the world-famous English designer, Gertrude Jekyll, trained in fine art, and whose career continues to thrive in the midst of an economic downturn, is quickly establishing herself as “one to watch” in the world of garden design and is now launching her own garden design business (

She says: “My art background meant that I approached the design from a composition and proportion perspective. I wanted the art to be part of the garden, not just plonked there as an after-thought. I designed a white steel pergola in the shape of an incomplete cube with the underside painted russet and planted in blocks of colour which was like creating a living painting.”

Duncan Heather, founder and principal of the Oxford College of Garden Design (, who is himself an award-winning designer, congratulated his former student, adding: “Sarah is an enormously talented and very motivated designer with an artistic background that supports our teaching ethos that garden design is an art form. Heather added: “It’s interesting that in such difficult times and during a recession, this year has turned up some of the best creative talent we’ve seen in years.” Sarah, like many other students changed her career in her mid 40s to focus on launching a creative design business.

The Oxford College of Garden Design has trained some of the country’s most inspirational and influential garden designers and a number of those impressive Alumni – including Luciano Giubbilei, (, who is best known for his sharp, minimalist designs – will be returning to Oxford in 2010 to give a series of Garden Design Master Classes organised by the Oxford College of Garden Design and open to the public.

According to OCGD principal, Duncan Heather, there has never been a better time for people, especially those considering a switch to a second career, to consider re-training as garden designers.

Recent surveys show a record number of mature adults returning to education this year with the number of students over the age of 25 up by more than one-fifth in the last year and more than a quarter of new business set-ups are now started by people aged between 50 and 65. Between 2001 and 2005, older entrepreneurs created 93,500 news companies, generating 400,000 new jobs and the best news, says Heather, is that so-called “olderpreneurs” suffer a much lower new business failure rate than their younger counterparts.

Oxford College of Garden Design places a firm emphasis on teaching design students the business skills that will be essential to their long-term survival in a competitive market place and the appointment of a new Vice Principal, award-winning London-based garden designer, and successful businesswoman, Sally Court, is, adds Heather, a strong sign of that continued commitment to training designers who will become successful in their own right.

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