Photograph of La Gamberaia Garden

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

At a Glance

  • Live online course
  • 2 x 45 minutes plus break
  • Mondays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 10 weeks: January to April
  • Tutor: Deborah Trentham
  • Fees from £125 to £210
  • Imperial College attendance certificate (T&Cs apply)
Booking link

As we look out from the depths of winter to the coming summer, what could be better than joining Deborah Trentham of The Garden Historians every Monday evening for a journey into the beauty and history of some of the stunning gardens of Tuscany.

On a fascinating online course, Deborah will look at the writers, artists, art historians, garden designers and garden owners based in and around Florence at the turn of the twentieth century to ask why was this largely expatriate community in Tuscany, and why were the gardens the created and encountered so important to them?

We will examine the Renaissance gardens and villas they brought back to life and the gardens of their own design. In particular we will look at the work of the architect and garden designer, Cecil Pinsent; the art historian and connoisseur Bernard Berenson; and the writer Iris Origo, from her childhood at Villa Medici in Fiesole to the creation of her own garden La Foce. Some of the astonishingly beautiful gardens we will look at include I Tatti, La Pietra, Le Balze and La Gamberaia.

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 garden five centuries ago!

Sessions will be informal and will involve no course work. No previous knowledge of garden history is required.

Online access to course

This is a taught live online course which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time on a specific day of the week. To take part in the course you will need a suitably equipped and internet-enabled device. Please find full details and instructions below under 'Course Delivery'.

Attendance certificate

Those who attend at least 80% of the course sessions will receive an attendance certificate from Imperial College London upon completion of the course.

Course Information

Course Programme

Provisional Course Programme (subject to modification)

  1. Introduction – who, where and why
  2. The Actons – La Pietra
  3. Bernard Berenson
  4. Cecil Pinsent
  5. Villa Gamberaia and Villa Palmieri
  6. Writers in Florence
  7. Sybil Cutting and Villa Medici
  8. Iris Origo and La Foce
  9. Janet Ross at Villa di Poggio Gherardo
  10. The Sitwells at Montegufoni

Please note the first session for this class is Monday 31 January 2022. The class lasts 10 weeks and each session runs from 6pm to 8pm UK time.

Additional Reading

There is no compulsory reading required for this course, and there is no set course text, however each week Deborah will recommend books you might want to look at.

About Your Tutor

Photograph of Deborah Trentham reading a mapThe Garden Historians were established in 2013 to address the lack of teaching in garden history and to promote the study of the subject more broadly. Enjoying immediate success at Burgh House, the Garden Historians increased their courses to two sessions per week. During the summer term they teach class-based sessions and run site visits. Burgh House has also provided a venue for a varied range of introductory sessions for new students. It is also planned to offer a further range of lectures and study days in the future. Courses will continue to evolve in theme and content allowing students from previous years to continue their study, whilst encouraging new students to join.

Your tutor, Deborah Trentham, was trained in the history of art, architecture and garden history. She has been teaching garden history for fifteen years including at Birkbeck (University of London) and Capel Manor College where she also taught the history of architecture. She currently teaches garden design students for KLC School of Design at Chelsea Harbour and Hampton Court Palace.

Deborah has also been a judge for the Society of Garden Designers Awards and has published articles in magazines and periodicals such as Art Quarterly and Homes & Gardens, and has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and Channel 5 Television (UK).

Course Delivery Method: Live Online (Zoom)

All our online courses are taught live which means you will be taught alongside other students on the course by a tutor at a specific time. To take part in the course you must be able to attend the online session at the time stated for the course description.

All times stated are British Standard Time.

To take part you will need a computer, or laptop, or tablet computer, connected to the Internet. The device you use will also need to have a camera, microphone and speakers. Most devices now have these built in, but if not you might have to buy them from a computer shop and to connect them to your device.


This course will use Zoom as its online delivery method. Zoom is very easy to use and you do not need to set up a Zoom account to use it. Near the date of your first online session you will be sent an email with a web address (or URL) that will allow you to access the course. This is called the Course Link. All you need do is click on the Course Link in the email and you will be asked to enter your name. This is the name that will be seen by your tutor and other students in the class.

Once you have entered your name you might be asked to enter a password to enter the class. The password will be included in the email sent to you. Once you enter the password you will either be taken directly into the class, or asked to wait in a virtual waiting room until the tutor is ready to let you into the class.

We have also produced a Handy Guide to Zoom [pdf] which gives you basic information on how to use it.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
 20  10  £210   (≡£10.50 per hour)
£125     (≡£6.25 per hour) £165    (≡£8.25 per hour)
All fee rates quoted and due are for the whole course. Part-payments are not possible. Equivalent to hourly rate is for comparison guidance only. There is no early-bird discount for January intake courses.

Rate Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable 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
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should contact before completing the online enrolment form

Associate Rate

  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Cooperative College Members
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • Friends and Patrons of the English Chamber Orchestra
  • 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)
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • National Health Service (NHS) employees
  • 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 CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has 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.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read the Terms and Conditions [pdf] before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer termSummer School
 20  10 n/a w/c 31 Jan - w/e 9 Apr 2022 (10 weeks)* n/a n/a
* This is a one-term course

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 5 November 2021

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details after your course choice and applicant details are collected via an in-built questionnnaire
  • The following email notifications are sent:
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 daysPlease 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 enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.