Photograph of an Italian garden

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

At a Glance

  • Live online course
  • Tuesdays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 10 weeks: January to March
  • Tutor: Deborah Trentham
  • Fees from £140 to £235
Booking link

On a fascinating online course, Deborah Trentham of the Garden Historians will lead us on a journey to discover the remarkable history of botanical gardens. With their earliest origins stretching back to the ancient Levant, botanical gardens as we know them began life in the Middle Ages as medicinal herb gardens, but they developed rapidly in the Renaissance, not least under the patronage of the Italian courts, to become significant status symbols and repositories of scientific knowledge about the nature and the world. Later this patronage was taken up by Western monarchs, not least Louis XIV of France and George III of Great Britain.

On the course we will see how early garden-makers were inspired by classical literature, drawing on the descriptions of ancient Roman gardens in the letters of Pliny the Younger and the poetry of Ovid and how renaissance artists were important too in the development of the garden.

But botanical gardens were also caught up in the growth of empire in the early modern period, as Western plant hunters began to travel the world alongside traders, colonisers and event pirates in search of ever more unusual and exotic plants to add to their gardens' collections.

Whether you enjoy gardening or visiting gardens, or are just fascinated by history, art history or the renaissance world, join us on this extraordinary exploration into the birth of the modern gardening.

The online sessions are informal and interactive, so your experiences of visiting historic gardens will be welcome additions. However, there no formal course work and no previous knowledge of garden history is required.

Live Online Course

This course will be taught live online (via the internet). To take part in the course you will need a suitably equipped device for session attendance each week on the weekday and time shown above.

Class Recordings

Where feasible, for this course sessions will be recorded for subsequent viewing


Attendance Certificate


Successful completion of this course leads to the award of an Imperial College attendance certificate


Terms and conditions apply to all enrolments to this course. Please read them before enrolment

Course Information

Course Programme and Additional Reading

Course Programme (subject to modification)

  • The earliest records – texts revealing botany in Egypt and plant use in ancient times
  • The Kingdom of Flowers – China – oranges and camelias
  • The rediscovery of the ancients – texts and gardens in the Renaissance
  • Pisa, Padua and Florence – gardens for learning and collecting
  • Portugal – plants, spices and parrots
  • Spanish botanic discoveries and Philip II’s garden notebook
  • Herbals and a little plagiarism
  • Dutch East India Company, piracy and pineapples
  • France and the gardener botanist
  • Botanists and the Enlightenment

Additional Reading

There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text.

Your Tutor

Debbie Trentham trained in the history of art, architecture and garden history, initially at Leeds University, and has been teaching garden history for fifteen years. Formerly a teacher of garden history at Birkbeck (University of London) and Capel Manor College where she also taught the history of architecture, Debbie currently teaches garden design students for KLC School of Design at Chelsea Harbour and Hampton Court Palace, along with lecturing at Imperial College London. She has published articles in magazines and periodicals, and appeared on radio and television, including

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
 20 10 £235   (£11.75 p/h)
£140   (£7 p/h) £185   (£9.25 p/h)
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course. Part-payments are not possible. Equivalent to hourly rate is shown for comparison guidance only, it is not possible to pay pro-rata hourly rates.


Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Available to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors)
  • Individuals enrolling under our Friends & Family scheme
  • Staff of the English Chamber Orchestra
  • Students, staff and Governors of Woodhouse College and the IC Mathematics School

Associate Rate

  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Co-operative College members
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Friends and Patrons of the English Chamber Orchestra
  • Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
  • Friends of Leighton House/ Sambourne House
  • Friends of the Royal College of Music
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Members of the Kennel Club
  • Members of the London Zoological Society
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • National Health Service (NHS) employees
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Teachers and other staff of UK schools
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many of our adult education courses after the course has already started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Friends and Family Scheme

This course is eligible for the  allowing Imperial College students and staff to share their discount with their friends and family.

Term Dates 2022-23

HoursWeeksSpring termSummer termSummer School
 20  10 Week commencing 16 January to week ending 25 March 2023* n/a n/a
*This is a 1-term course

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment is now open

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. When enrolling:

  • Do check on the drop down menu above called "Course Fees and Rate Categories" to see if you are eligible for a discounted rate and also do make sure you select that rate when enrolling on the eStore
  • If you are a first-time eStore user you will need to create an account before enrolling. You can do this by entering an email address and password. This account can then be used for any future enrolments via the eStore.

When you have enrolled you will be sent the following email notifications:

What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Is sent instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • This is a receipt for your payment and includes payment date, order number and course title
  • Confirmation of your place on your chosen course will follow later
2. Enrolment confirmation Is sent within 10 working days. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-confirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms the day and time of your course
3. Programme information Is usually sent on Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains joining instructions for your course, incl. tutor contact details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Any Questions?

If you have any questions about the academic content or teaching of this course please contact the programme manager for adult education, Dr Michael

If you have any questions about your enrolment or payment processes please contact the Programme Administrator, Christian Jacobi,