Garden Design Course and Horticulture Course

The Garden Design - Level 3 Course is a positive step in taking control of how you can plan and create your garden. It could also be the first step towards a successful garden design business.

The horticulture home study courses are designed in easy to follow units, with set exercises along the way to ensure you understand the areas covered.

Students will have access to a personal course tutor by email and mail. The course tutor is a highly experienced Botanist and Designer and tutors in Garden Design, Horticulture and Plant Physiology at several UK Colleges and also holds a degree in Botany (Bsc hons). The Garden Design course also has 3 tutor marked assignments, which will be marked and commented on by your personal course tutor.

On successful completion of this course students will receive an accredited Level 3 Certificate Award.

Garden designers need to be trained in the principles of design and in horticulture, and have an excellent knowledge and experience of using plants.

Garden Designer Courses & Horticulture CoursesOur distance learning Garden Design course will teach you about the Design Layout, considering elements such as paths, walls, landscape features, water features, sitting areas and decking.

The home study courses also cover information about the plants themselves, with consideration given to their horticultural requirements, their season-to-season appearance, lifespan, size, speed of growth, and combinations with other plants.

Click here to view a small sample of the course materials 

The Garden Design Course Includes the Following 14 Units:-

  • Unit One - Garden Design & You

The following topics are covered: Introduction to design; History and development; How gardens started; The beginnings; The garden today; Designers; Types of garden designers today; Where to find information; factors to consider; The gardens around you; And Unit 1 Summary.

  • Unit Two - What Good Design Achieves

The following topics are covered: Designers, what they do and why they are needed?; The design process; The owner's requirements; What the designer does; The benefits of using a garden designer; Providing guidance; Types of client; You as the designer; Taking instructions; Drawing skills; and Unit 2 Summary.

  • Unit Three - Starting to Design

The following topics are covered: Getting started - Equipment & Dress; Design by computer (CAD); Impressions of the garden; The initial visit; The client checklist; The design recipe; Site assessment; Surveying and measuring; Slopes; The rough sketch; The FLP (Functional Layout Plan); Triangulation and chain surveys; drawing to scale; Labelling, heights, number charts and keys; The design principals of Direction, Rhythm and Harmony, and what they mean; and Unit 3 Summary.

  • Unit Four - The Importance of Soils & Sites

The following topics are covered: Soil and horticultural potential; soil and sites; climate (oceanic, etc); temperature; Light, shade and shelter; Rainfall and humidity; Soil types and pH; Topography; The soil environment and horizons; profile pits; Improving the soil with manures, fertilisers, line and mulches; Cultivation and drainage; Soil life - good and bad; and Unit 4 Summary.

  • Unit Five - Starting Real Design Work

The following topics are covered: Getting down to design; Arranging plants; practicalities; function and form; Right plant, right place; Height, borders and beds; Information sources; Plants for problem positions; Plants for alkaline and acid soils; Shade; Sunny; Dry; Plants for particular uses (focal points, climbers, ground cover); Designing for shapes and sizes (formal, informal); Linking shapes; Playing with ideas and concepts; Problem sites; Downward slope; Upward slope; Long and narrow; Short and square; L-shaped; Corner; and Unit 5 Summary.

  • Unit Six - Planning

The following topics are covered: Planning for themes & ideas, styles and how to enhance; Plants for colour and height; The colour wheel; Getting the planting mix right; Colour patch bedding; foliage; Features needing thought; Fruit growing in small areas; Containers, tubs and patios; Plants to define areas and give direction; Rockeries and alpines; Hedges; and Unit 6 Summary.

  • Unit Seven - Designing for Interest

The following topics are covered: The garden in winter; Attracting wildlife; Managing wildlife; Herbs and weeds; Other services; Lighting; Furniture; and Unit 7 Summary.

  • Unit Eight - Water in the Garden

The following topics are covered: Introduction and uses; Siting a pond; Materials, depths and size; considerations; equipment; safety; filters; planting the pond; planning for timing and colour; Maintenance; Lighting and lighting design for water; Water features; construction diagrams; and Unit 8 Summary.

  • Unit Nine - Children & Pets

The following topics are covered: Children; Play areas; Children's gardens; Equipment and toys; Plants, poisonous plants and other potential threats; Safety - water and children; Pets in the garden; Clients' dogs; Dogs; Cats; and Unit 9 Summary.

  • Unit Ten - Gardening for Users with Disabilities, the Elderly and Garden Safety

The following topics are covered: Access; Paths; Safety, features other issues; Watering; Tools; Visually and sensory impaired sensory gardens; Conclusion; Safety checklist; and Unit 10 Summary.

  • Unit Eleven - Upkeep & Maintenance

The following topics are covered: Introduction; Assessing maintenance; Builders, diggers and landscapers; Plants; Ponds; Structures; Lawns; Beds; Schedules of work; Maintenance schedules; Cost issues; Practicalities; Plant schedules; and Unit 11 Summary.

  • Unit Twelve - Structures in the Garden

The following topics are covered: Walls, fences and trellis; Timber; Iron; Wire; Paths and patios; Green houses, sheds and stores; Other structures; Summerhouses; Furniture; and Unit 12 Summary.

  • Unit Thirteen - Marketing Your Garden Design Business

The following topics are covered: Where are the clients; How to reach clients, Word of mouth, Advertising; Portfolio and plant files; Shows and fairs; Visiting potential clients; Clarifying your service; Charging; Keeping records; Tax and accounts; Help; VAT; Insurance; Unit 13 Summary and Final Course Project (Full Design).

  • Unit Fourteen - Tricks of the Trade

An additional unit crammed with useful hints and tips for garden designers.


There are no particular entry requirements.

Course Duration & Support:

Students may register at any time and have a full year to complete their studies. You also have access to a personal tutor by mail or email for a 12 month period. As the home study courses are self study you can complete in as little or as long a time as you prefer.


You will be assessed on coursework which is detailed in the course materials. There are 3 tutor marked assignments and many additional exercises to be completed. Your work can be sent back to your course tutor by email or by post.


NCFE On successful completion of this course students will be awarded a Garden Design certificate of achievement by NCFE.

The course measurable learning outcomes have been benchmarked at Level 3 (using Ofqual’s Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) level descriptors) to allow you to consider the depth of study, difficulty, and level of achievement involved.

Further information about Ofqual’s Qualification & Credit Framework level descriptors can be found at

NCFE is recognised as an Awarding Organisation by the qualification regulators for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who are: the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (Ofqual) in England, the Welsh Government, and the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland.

NCFE accreditation gives assurance that the content of a training course is of a high standard and meets the rigorous requirements of a national awarding organisation. NCFE accreditation also gives formal recognition to courses which result in the award of a certificate of achievement but does not qualify you for a nationally recognised qualification. This course has been accredited under NCFE IIQ Licence by Kendal Publishing which has been approved as an NCFE Investing in Quality (IIQ) centre to give formal recognition to our courses. We have designed our training courses specifically to meet the needs of learners who prefer to study from home.

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