Qualification - Certificate In Garden Design

Course CodeVHT012
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

Become a Garden Designer Work from Home, and tailor a business to your lifestyle.

 A Garden Design Service can be offered in the following ways....

  1. A Consultation Only
    Visit, give verbal advice, and no more.
  2. A concept plan
    A plan drawn to scale, but lacking detail -only providing a broad concept.
  3. Garden Design
    A plan drawn to detail, showing planting details, specifying other features and components but not specifying the construction detail of hard landscaping (e.g. the plan may indicate the location of a wall and say it is to be built with stone, but it will not specify foundations, drainage etc. to be incorporated into the wall).
  4. Full Landscape Plans and Specifications
    These contain full and fine detail, including construction details of structures (e.g. a plan of how to build a wall showing the drainage, foundations etc.).

Lesson Structure

There are 30 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Landscaping
    • Scope and Nature
    • Principles of Landscape Design
    • Design Elements
    • Creating Landscape Effects
    • Using Space
    • Making a Small Garden Look Larger
    • Choosing Plants
    • Using Colour
    • Decorative Touches
    • Light and Colour
    • Pre Planning Information
    • Healthy Gardens
  2. Plant Identification
    • Plant Classification and Taxonomic Hierarchy
    • Binomial System
    • Botanical Classification
    • Phyla, Classes, Families
    • Genus, Species, Hybrids, Cultivars
    • Differentiating important Ornamental Plant Families: A basis for learning plant names
    • Plant Culture
    • Garden Renovation: Methodology and Tasks
    • Pruning
    • Weed Management
    • Dealing with Plant Problems
  3. History of Gardening
    • Formal, Informal and Natural Gardens
    • Garden Styles
    • Japanese Gardens
    • Naturalistic, Eclectic, Permaculture, Minimalist Gardens
    • Gardens through Time, Ancient Middle Eastern, Chinese, Roman, Spanish, Monastery, Elizabethan, etc
    • Recent Influences ; Le Notre, Rose, Brown, Kent, Jekyll, Burle Marx, etc
    • Some Modern Trends; Bush Gardens, Permaculture Gardens,
  4. Drawing Plans
    • Elements of a drawn garden
    • Scale
    • What to Draw With
    • Lettering
    • Landscape Symbols
    • Design Procedure
    • Step by Step Drawing a Plan
    • Introducing Computer Aided Design
  5. Soils and Nutrition
    • Importance of Soil
    • Soil Composition, texture, horizons
    • Naming a Soil
    • Improving Soils
    • Landscape Supplies
    • Terminology
  6. Understanding the Environment
    • Ecological Concepts
    • The Ecosystem –abiotic and biotic components
    • Environmental influences on soil production
    • Types of Australian Flora; Indo Melanesian, Antarctic, Australian Sclerophyll
    • Review of Australian Plant Families
  7. Earthworks and Surveying
    • Moving existing earth
    • Settling Soil
    • Soil Degradation
    • Erosion
    • Soil Compaction
    • Chemical Residues
    • Basic Surveying
    • Triangulation
    • Slope
    • Levelling Terminology
    • Levelling Procedure
    • Earthworks Calculations
    • Using Triangles
    • Horizontal Measurements
    • Horizontal Angles
  8. Basic Landscape Construction
    • Specifications and Contracts
    • Contract Terminology
    • Drainage and Erosion
    • Walling
    • Rockeries
    • Steps
    • Types of Playgrounds
    • Making Stable Mounds
  9. Surfacing
    • Gradients
    • Surface Materials; gravel, mulch, lawn etc
    • Choosing the appropriate lawn
    • Pavers, stone and gravels
    • Types of Paving Materials
    • Methods for Laying Pavers
    • Concrete
    • Gravel
    • Asphalt
    • Coloured Surfaces
    • Artificial Sports Surfaces
    • Substrates
    • Performance Considerations
  10. Garden Structures
    • Understanding and Designing Garden Rooms
    • Furnishing a Garden Room
    • Sculpture
    • Walls
    • Mirrors
    • Water
    • Fountains and Water Displays
    • Feature Pots; Container Plants
    • Layout Problems with Garden Structures
    • Motorised Vehicle Parks
    • Skate Facilities
    • Outdoor Furniture
  11. Park Design
    • User Friendly Gardens, seating, shelter, fragrant plants, etc
    • Recreational Landscaping
    • Park Design Criteria
    • Playgrounds
    • Making Community Participation Work
  12. Home Garden Design
    • The Entrance
    • Designing a front Garden
    • Scale in a Design
    • Techniques to maintain scale
    • Creating space in small gardens
    • Garden Features for small gardens
    • Outdoor Living Areas; patios, seating, garden structures, etc
    • Pool Areas
    • Barriers
    • Fences
  13. Costing and Specifications
    • Buying Plants; what to look for
    • Cost of Garden Maintenance
    • Expensive Areas in Gardens; lawns, containers, annuals, vegetables
    • Less Expensive to Maintain areas; shrubberies, paving, natural bush areas
    • Costing Jobs
    • The Market for Landscape Contractors; government sector, developers, commercial sector, private sector
  14. Trail Design and Sporting Facilities
    • Paths
    • Advantages and disadvantages of gravel and bark paths
    • Planting in Paving
    • Trails
    • Designing a Trail
    • Trail Types; environmental, fun and fitness, sensory, cryptic
    • Design of Sporting Facilities; slope, gradient, dimensions
    • Sports Courts
  15. Tools and Machinery
    • Choosing the right tools
    • Manual Tools and Equipment
    • Rakes
    • Spades and Shovels
    • Wheelbarrows
    • Rollers
    • Sprayers
    • Tool Maintenance
    • Manual Handling
    • Power Tools
    • Safety and Maintenance with Power Tools
    • Chain Saws
    • Mulchers
    • Rotary Hoes
    • Tractors and tractor mounted equipment
    • Buying equipment
  16. Plant Establishment Techniques
    • Timing
    • Soil preparation
    • Plant and pot size
    • Planting technique
    • Establishing Trees
    • Physical Plant Protection; staking, frost protection, protecting from animals, etc
  17. Ponds and Pools
    • Types of Ponds; formal, informal
    • Position, water quality, depth etc.
    • Water effects
    • Finishing Touches
    • Planning a Water Garden
    • Alternative Types of construction
    • Aesthetic Affects
    • Plants for Water Gardens; oxygenating plants, deep water plants, edge plants etc.
  18. Rockwork and Masonry
    • Building rock walls
    • Dry Stone Walls
    • Wet Walls
    • Retaining Walls
    • Concrete; mixing, reinforcing, rodding, etc
    • Rockeries
    • Making Artificial Rocks
    • Coloured Pebbles and Gravel
  19. Lawn Construction Techniques
    • Common Turf varieties
    • Selecting Turf for lawns; what to grow where
    • Wild Flower Meadows
    • Turf Establishment
    • Soil Preparation, seeding, sodding, stolonising, plugging, etc
    • Mowing and Fertilising Turf
  20. Irrigation Design and Installation
    • Planning an irrigation system
    • Micro irrigation
    • Sprinkler irrigation
    • Using a watering system
    • Automated Systems
    • Maintenance of Irrigation Systems
  21. Bush Garden Design
    • Scope and Nature
    • Birds in a Garden; attracting, feeding, etc
  22. Cottage Garden Design
    • Scope and Nature
    • Components
    • Paths and Fences in a Cottage Garden
  23. Playground Design
    • Planning for Play
    • Playing at Home
    • Play Equipment; sand pit, cubbies, swings etc
  24. Garden Bed Design
    • Making Garden Beds; size, shape, edges, topography, soil, surfacing, irrigation,
    • Raised Beds
    • Sunken Beds
    • No Dig Beds
    • Plant Application; trees, shrubs, ground cover
    • Aesthetic Criteria in Garden Bed Design , line, form, texture, colour, balance, repetition, etc
    • Procedure for Planting Design
  25. Management
    • Scope and nature of Office Work
    • Office equipment; selection and use
    • Information Technology
    • Business Letters
    • The Law and Business
    • Work Scheduling
  26. Land Rehabilitation
    • Soil Degradation
    • Earth Works Different types of equipment (Cat, Rotary Hoe, Dozer, etc)
    • Importing or Improving Soil
    • Plant Establishing Techniques (pocket planting, slope serration, wattling, etc)
    • Planting Arid Sites
  27. Drainage
    • Scope and Nature of Drainage
    • Sub Surface or Surface Drainage
    • Types of Sub Surface Drains
    • Water Outlet
  28. Maintenance
    • Maintenance Decisions
    • Making Compromises between costs and garden style
    • Construction decisions
    • Design for minimising pests
    • Using Timber in a Garden
    • Choosing a Timber
    • Managing Termites
    • Wood Preservatives
    • Keeping a Garden Clean
    • Garden Maintenance Equipment
    • Designing for Low Maintenance
    • Review of Garden Pests and Diseases
  29. Dealing with Clients
    • Effective Communication Skills
    • Awareness
    • Reactive Patterns
    • Understanding Communication Processes
    • Introduction to Marketing
    • Making Contact with potential clients, communicating, then convincing
    • Writing an advertisement or promotion
    • Effective Selling
    • Cost and Clients
    • Garden Investments
  30. Major Garden Design Project


  • Discuss the principles of Garden Design.
  • Develop a foundation for systematic identification of plants and systematic determination of cultural requirements.
  • Develop an awareness of different styles of gardening, principally through the study of the history of gardening.
  • Develop the basic skills of landscape drawing as well as developing a basic understanding of contracts and specifications.
  • Identify soil conditions appropriate for a garden design.
  • Identify and properly account for environmental conditions within a garden design.
  • Determine earthworks required for a garden design.
  • Consider the relationship between design and construction when designing a garden.
  • Determine appropriate surfacing for different gardens
  • Determine appropriate garden structures for a garden.
  • Evaluate the functionality of a park design.
  • Evaluate the design of a home garden.
  • Develop an appreciation for the impact that design can have on the cost of a garden.
  • Discuss the functionality and design of surfaced areas in a garden or park, including paths, trails and sporting facilities.
  • Discuss the scope and nature of tools used to landscape gardens.
  • Discuss ways that plants may be better established.
  • Discuss the design of water gardens.
  • Discuss the use of Rock, Stone, Brick and Concrete in garden designs.
  • Discuss the appropriate use of lawns in garden designs.
  • Discuss the appropriate use of irrigation in garden designs.
  • Discuss the design of natural gardens.
  • Discuss the design of cottage gardens.
  • Discuss the design of children’s play areas.
  • Discuss the design of garden beds.
  • Identify Management skills required to be a commercially viable garden designer.
  • Explain methods of rehabilitation of degraded landscapes.
  • Explain methods of dealing with drainage problems in a garden design.
  • Discuss the relationship between garden design and maintenance.
  • Explain how a garden designer should successfully deal with clients.
  • Prepare a significant garden design.

What You Will Do

  • Find a site to be landscaped. (It could be a park or home garden; it could be a new development or a redevelopment of an older garden). Visit the site and record pre planning information required to design the landscape.
  • Find five examples of the use of landscape principles. Using sketches and written descriptions, describe the way the garden has been laid out in order to achieve those particular effects.
  • Find gardens which represent three different styles. Submit a photograph or sketch plan of each along with a half page written description of the style of the garden.
    • Explain any historical influences, including the influence of those who build to owned the garden. The gardens may be gardens you have actually visited, or can be gardens you have seen in a magazine or book.
  • Copy the drawings of symbols (i.e. drawings which show you how to represent plants, walls, rocks, etc. when you draw plans). Practice drawing these various components of a landscape.
  • Using the pre-planning information collected, produce a design for that area. or part of that area.
  • Take a sample of soil and attempt to name it using the test given.
  • Obtain components of potting or soil mixes; make up different mixes and test their characteristics.
  • Survey an area requiring earthmoving. Draw a plan of the area, to scale, showing the area to be excavated.
  • Calculate the volume of earth to be removed. Calculate where it is to be put.
  • Find, observe & report on some bad landscape construction work. (You might discuss a poor rockery, a wall which is falling over, or some playground equipment which is unsafe).
  • Find three examples of bad selection of surfaces in a landscape (i.e. home garden, park, sports oval, tennis court or whatever). Describe the material used and explain why they are bad. Consider both the aesthetic and functional qualities of the surfacing.
  • Develop a redevelopment plan for an existing park. Submit a photograph of the park as it exists at the moment (otherwise submit a rough sketch). Prepare a design for redevelopment in line with the suggested changes.
  • Choose an established home garden (your own or a friends), and draw a sketch plan as the garden exists. Explain how well do you think this garden is designed?
  • Find another home garden, needing either a new design or redevelopment. Prepare four rough sketches showing the stages you would go through in designing or redesigning that particular garden.
  • Develop a detailed explanation of how you prepared your costing in the set task. Show the various components of the costing and explain how and why you costed it this way rather than higher or lower.
  • Design a trail. It can be any type of trail (fun & fitness, nature, history, etc.) and may be located anywhere (a street, park, home garden, etc.).
  • Find and visit some recently landscaped gardens (completed within the last 4 months). Visit up to three different properties. Take note of any problems with the maintenance. Consider what could have been done to prevent these problems occurring.
  • Design a perennial border along the front wall of a brick house
  • Prepare a plan for the establishment of a large number of trees in a degraded area. This plan should cover at least 5 years. You should indicate clearly what the problem is and how you are going to use the trees to help rehabilitate the area.
  • Design a water feature (e.g. a pond or creek bed) for a bush or natural garden. Submit plans and a step by step description showing how you would construct such a water feature.
  • Design a rockery area for a bush garden.
  • Design a bush garden using mainly ferns, for a small courtyard of specified dimension

Features Can Make a Garden Special

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and varying levels of complexity. 

You don't need to be an expert to plant a lawn and surround it with a few trees and shrubs; but choosing the best trees and shrubs and creating a lawn that will look good and stay  healthy requires a degree of knowledge and understanding.. Gardens that look special, are functional and easy to be maintained require expert planning. Adding features such as sculpture, ponds, garden furniture or topiaries can make a big  difference to the aesthetics of a garden. Features need to be used properly though to be effective. A good feature in the wrong place may be worse than no feature at all.

Learning Garden Design involves both learning to choose the right components for a garden, and also learning where to put them in the garden.

Water features for example,  are an indispensable element of a well-designed garden. Large or small, ornate or simple, water features add a special dimension to outdoor spaces. A well-chosen water feature can create a restful and tranquil feel or provide a sense of drama and interest. Even small gardens can have a water feature. It may be difficult to provide more than half to one square metre of water surface, but even that can allow for a pleasing water feature.

The scale and style of water gardens is almost limitless, ranging from small courtyard wells or water sculptures, to tranquil backyard goldfish ponds, through to large fountains, dramatic cascades and large formal swimming pools.  Depending on the theme or style of your garden, you might decide on straight edged or geometrical designs for a formal garden, smooth curved designs for a modern garden, or irregular shaped designs for less formal and natural style gardens. You might have a single pond, a series of ponds with water cascading from one to another, or perhaps ponds linked to each other by narrow waterways. 

Water can add a great deal to a garden:

  • It can create the effect of coolness.
  • It can be used to reflect images (statues, trees etc.).
  • It can be used to provide a physical barrier.
  • It can be used to provide a feature or an accent by introducing a contrast or change in texture, colour or form.

Water can be used in various ways in the landscape. Some examples are:

a) As a setting – where the water becomes the setting around which the rest of the garden is built. For example, a large lake is the focal point of a garden which surrounds it; the bank of a river is the main feature of a garden which stretches along its banks.

b) As a spine – where the water acts as visual or main axis backbone of the garden. A river, stream or canal which flows through the centre of a garden creates a line around which the garden is developed. It can act as a unifying force to all of the components of the garden, but also a directional force controlling the line along which a person's attention is drawn.

c) As central focus – where water (a fountain, pond, or even a bird bath) becomes the decorative focus of a garden. The feature or body of water may be used as a feature at the centre of a garden, which attention to itself from all other parts of the garden. The area where the water is located might also be developed as the centre of activity in the garden, or it might remain a visual centre around which activity occurs.

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We hope we have provided you with enough information on the course, but if you do have questions you can submit them to our specialist horticulture tutors, or phone us on -

(UK) 01384 442752

(International) +44 (0) 1384 442752

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