Daniel Robinson: from finance to Garden Design

Plant a seed and watch it grow

After 17 years in the fast-paced high pressure of London city finance, Dan was ready for a change. The rigidity of the lifestyle was bearing down on him and with a second child on the way, he knew something had to give. The first step was upping sticks and travelling across the water to settle in Ireland, but what was Dan’s next move? 

Growing up in Essex, Dan would spend time on his parents’ allotment and was fascinated with how a bounty of food would emerge from something as tiny as a seed. With a flair for art and drawing and a garden in London where he would potter about; Dan found himself drawn to Garden Design. 

Image courtesy of Daniel Robinson.


Dan had spent years assessing credit risks and analyzing trade deals, so he wasn’t going to dive into something new without weighing up his options. He was going to need something that offered flexibility of time, was not very costly and came with industry and academic accreditation.

Our Academy was the perfect marriage of Dan’s needs.

By the time Dan graduated, the timing was a strange bouquet of terrible and brilliant. Covid and the subsequent lockdowns meant new business was going to be challenging so he began taking on small projects for friends. The timing worked well with friends as many were moving into their forever homes, but Dan was conscious that garden design was a luxury for many people. Soon he found that those who had been lucky enough to maintain employment during the lockdowns not only had much more disposable income, but they were spending more and more times outdoors.

Garden design became a massive trend and neighbours began competing for the perfect pergola or a summer meadow in their backyard. It was a trend even the most astute risk analyst, could not have seen coming. 

Image courtesy of Daniel Robinson.


Calculated risk

The challenge of embarking on a new career is to first make people aware of your existence, and then your skills. Dan was in a new town and with no previous track record in Garden Design, so he was going to have to take a patient and steady path.

First were the friends who would advertise Dan’s talents by word of mouth, but he needed to branch out. Dan would visit garden centers and events and leave business cards with landscapers and contractors. One day, while assembling a quotation for a client, Dan visited a landscaping company who, despite the fact they advertised an in-house Garden Designer, were in fact in need of a go-to-guy.  Dan would become that man and for over a year Dan worked on up to 20 projects and built up a healthy portfolio. 

Dan is not a greedy guy and after a year of collaborating with this company, he decided to stick to his own projects. He had planned his new venture well and because the Academy is not a huge financial stretch, he was happy to allow a little time to pass. It had been a calculated risk but as far as he was concerned, if the only takeaway from his whole experience was that he became a ‘better gardener’ well, so be it.

Image courtesy of Daniel Robinson.


Flexibility and wellbeing

Dan works almost exclusively with residential properties, but as a devoted dad, the one commercial project he accepted was for a creche. There he created a sensory area for children and used the natural slope of the property to create a slide. He loved it.

Dan prefers to draw all his designs by hand and with his newfound flexible pace of life he has made it work for himself and his family. On an ‘awful rainy day’ he can ‘sit in and work on designs’ and on ‘dry nice days’, he is outside ‘working on planting’. His meeting of clients is casual, friendly, and generally in people’s homes and he may even pop around a year later and see how his garden has matured.  It is a massive departure from the concrete jungle of London and speaking to Dan, it is clear that the easy going, patient and slow pace of garden design has had a positive impact on his wellbeing. 


To find out how you can become a garden designer, visit our courses page.


at 2022-08-09 20:01

Dan's story is really encouraging. :)

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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