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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.).

Course Content

  1. Introduction to Landscaping
  2. Plant Identification
  3. History of Gardening
  4. Drawing Plans
  5. Soils & Nutrition
  6. Understanding the Environment
  7. Earthworks & Surveying
  8. Basic Landscape Construction
  9. Surfacings
  10. Garden Structures
  11. Park Design
  12. Home Garden Design
  13. Costing & Specifications
  14. Trail Design
  15. Tools & Machinery
  16. Plant Establishment Techniques
  17. Ponds & Pools
  18. Rockwork & Masonry
  19. Lawn Construction Techniques
  20. Irrigation Design & Installation
  21. Bush Garden Design
  22. Cottage Garden Design
  23. Playground Design
  24. Garden Bed Design
  25. Management
  26. Land Rehabilitation
  27. Drainage
  28. Maintenance
  29. Dealing with Clients
  30. Major Design Project


 The following are only some of the activities that the student will undertake in this course.

  • 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 dimensions

Course Aims

  • 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.

DURATION: 600 hours

ASSESSMENT:  You must satisfactorily complete all assignments and pass two 1.5 hour exams (to be taken after lesson 15, and after lesson 30. Exams can be arranged at a time and location to suit you.

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.

You can enrol today!

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

We will be pleased to help you with any questions about the course, or what course choices you are looking at to suit your goals and career plans.


Meet some of our academics

John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

Check out our eBooks

Climbing PlantsDiscover which climbers to use to hide unsightly walls; how to grow green, flowering boundaries for privacy; and which climbers are the best for growing on the roofs of pergolas, arches and arbours. Chapters cover how plants climb, how to use them, and landscaping. The bulk of the book, however, is given over to an encyclopaedia covering 54 genera and hundreds of species, followed by two separate and more in-depth chapters: one on Bougainvillea and the other Clematis.
Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions, and Aesthetics (making it look good). Let your inner designer out (outside). A great introductory text for garden designers. 299 high quality inspirational colour photos. 106 pages
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. It's brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a particular site or client. It contains around 300 colour photos! Knowledge gained by John Mason over several decades of visiting and photographing gardens, writing, teaching and creating gardens. This ebook deals mostly with different types of gardens from water gardens to Mediterranean, formal and oriental. 287 high quality inspirational photos. 104 pages
Getting Work in HorticultureFind out what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse the industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.