Garden Design

Start Date

Enrol at any time & choose your start date. No term times or semesters.

Entry Requirements

No previous qualifications required, just an interest & enthusiasm for garden design.

Course Duration

Online: 9-12 months (flexible)
In-Studio: 10 days in studio + 10 weeks at home - total 12 weeks


No exams — Tutor assessment only, portfolio moderation by AIM Awards.

Course Summary

No qualifications are required for this course so this Diploma in Professional Garden Design is the ideal course for garden enthusiasts. It will teach you step by step the professional techniques required to create amazing designs for your own garden, or how to start your own garden design business or enter a new career in the industry. If you already have a gardening or Garden Design business but don’t have formal qualifications, then you can study this Professional Diploma flexibly to fit around your existing clients.

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Who Should Do This Course?

  • Are you someone who loves natural surroundings, combining trees, plants and the colour of flowers with everyday life?

  • Do you dream of designing beautiful gardens and landscapes?

  • Have you got the creative talent but lack the professional training?

  • Would you like to start a career in garden design?

If the answer is yes… then this is the course you are looking for!

The NDA Diploma in Professional Garden Design will put you on the path to starting the business you have always wanted. It will also give you the opportunity to study one of our degree courses (such as BA (Hons) Design for Outdoor Living,) if you decide you want to push your skills further.

What Will I Study?

You will study ten dedicated units during this professional diploma

Background to Garden Design

This unit introduces you to the definition of Garden Design and key Garden styles. It covers the history of Garden Design and the main design principles Garden Designers work with in the present day. This unit also includes:

  • The definition of Garden Design
  • The history and development of Garden Design
  • The effect garden design history has on contemporary gardens
  • Garden Design styles, e.g. formal, classical, urban, rural, cottage etc.

The Role of the Garden Designer

This Unit introduces you to a design brief and takes you through the different stages of the garden design process, giving you an understanding of the role and responsibilities of the garden designer. This unit also includes:

  • Skills required to fulfil the role of Garden Designer
  • Stages of the garden design process
  • The importance of the design brief
  • An introduction to the virtual client, whose garden you will design throughout the course

Presentation Techniques

Within this Unit, you will learn how to measure a garden and draw it to scale. You will also learn how to start the process of developing conceptual designs for a client. This unit also includes:

  • Site surveying – how & what to measure or record on site
  • Surveying tools
  • Understanding scale
  • Developing technical plans to scale, step by step
  • Hand drawn or CAD – students may produce either
  • Industry standard drawing conventions

Components of Garden Design

This unit focuses on how you organise and fill your garden design effectively. You will have the opportunity use your creative skills by preparing and presenting your ideas working to a specific garden design brief. This unit also includes:

  • Planning the space
  • Colour theory & how it will affect your garden design
  • Creating a variety of effects using garden components: boundaries, structures, planting, soft & hard landscape
  • Using furniture, accessories, play equipment, pets, wild animals and water features for garden design
  • Light and shade as part of the garden design
  • Concept and design presentation to a client

Understanding Plants

This Unit will help you to understand planting biology and the importance of selecting appropriate planting as part of your design. This fundamental knowledge will complement your presentation skills when developing a design and help you to communicate your initial ideas. This unit also includes:

  • Plant identification
  • Plant features: flowers, fruits, leaves, stems
  • Hazardous plants
  • Basic plant biology
  • Plant names and classification
  • Soil types and suitability for plants

Using Hard Landscaping Materials

In this Unit, you will learn how to select specific Hard Landscaping Materials to enhance your design. Increasing your knowledge of sustainable products and practices It also covers how to communicate your ideas visually to your client and how to specify your requirements to a contractor. This unit also includes:

  • Types of raw, natural & man-made materials: stone, aggregates, stone composite, metals, glass, timber, synthetics
  • Recycled and reclaimed materials
  • Using materials for walling, paving, decking, pergolas and arches
  • Drawing a Hard Landscaping plan
  • Communicating your design via a presentation board
  • The importance of a specification

Selecting Plant Types

This Unit looks at how you source your plants and the practical and aesthetic considerations to be considered when developing a planting layout to a design brief. You will also learn how to present a planting plan to a professional standard. This unit also includes:

  • The role of plants in the garden
  • Selection & design for site context, functionality and client requirements
  • Selection & design for visual aesthetics
  • Producing a planting plan
  • Planting specifications

Selecting Furniture & Features

This Unit looks specifically at sourcing furniture, lighting, water features and accessories from the huge variety available, to meet your client brief. You will learn about the main types of garden lighting and how to present this information on a Furniture, Lighting and Accessories Plan. This unit also includes:

  • Furniture: human scale, bespoke, style
  • Garden lighting: function, types and specification
  • Water features: types, style and how to design
  • Garden accessories: pots, sculpture, garden art, statues, heating, barbeques / outdoor kitchens
  • Presenting your selection to your client
  • Designing to accommodate pets and wildlife

Professional Practice

This unit shows you everything you need to know about how to set up your own garden design business. It also helps you identify other career opportunities within Garden Design, such as working within an established garden design practice or moving on to studying for a degree. This unit also includes:

  • Different roles within the Industry
  • How to set up a garden design practice
  • Marketing and promotion
  • How to calculate your fees
  • Handling clients and the client brief
  • Sourcing suppliers and contractors
  • Managing the project

Producing a Garden Design

For the final unit of the course, you bring together all your newly learned skills by producing conceptual designs and a design pack to create a wonderful garden design for a new client. When complete, your work will form an asset to your developing portfolio to show future clients. This unit also includes:

  • Creating concept plans
  • Creating a planting plan
  • Creating a hard landscaping plan
  • Concept sketches
  • Specifications, rationale and order of works

Student Gallery

A sample of work completed by our talented garden design students

One Course, Two Ways To Study

Choose from flexible online learning or in-studio classes in the UK

Study Online

9–12 Months (Flexible)

The online Professional Diploma course is designed to be flexible to allow you to study around your career, family, and other commitments. Choose your own start date and study from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.

The online diploma is a 9-12 month course however, many students who have more time to study complete earlier. All assignments consist of design projects which are assessed by your Personal Tutor – there are no examinations.

Study In-Studio (UK)

10 days In-Studio 10 weeks home study (12 weeks total)

If you prefer a classroom-based study environment then our In-Studio blended learning course could be for you. It is particularly useful if you are looking to fast-track your qualification, either for a new career or for progression to degree level study.

You spend  5 days in-studio followed by 5 weeks home study projects, then a further 5 days in-studio with up to an additional 5 weeks to complete any project work for submission. Throughout home study, you have full online access to our resources and your Personal Tutor.

  • UK Government Funding (Diploma)

    UK residents pay approximately 50% course fees and funding from the UK government will pay the rest.

  • UK Government Student Loan (Diploma)

    No upfront course fees to find. If you are aged 19+ and have lived in England for 3+ years you are eligible.

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All NDA Professional Diplomas are accredited by AIM Awards. NDA is the only design school to be able to offer funding & student loans because our Diplomas are fully accredited.

Online Diploma Course Fees

Full Course Fee £1,590
UK Government Funding
NDA Funded Course Fee £695
There are three ways for UK students to pay for their Online Diploma:


£ 695 On Enrolment
Most Popular

8 x Monthly

£ 99 Per Month*
  • £792 in total

Student Loan

Covers Full Course Fee
£ 50 Admin Fee
  • on enrolment refundable

* Monthly payments include admin fee.

You can also Fast-Track your Diploma In-Studio!
There are two ways for International students to pay for their Online Diploma:

One Payment

$ 1,700 On Enrolment
  • Save $250 by paying in full
Most Popular

8 x Monthly Payments

$ 1,950 In Total*
  • $599 on enrolment
  • + 7 x $193 monthly repayments

* Monthly payments include admin fee.

All fees in US dollars.

You can also Fast-Track your Diploma In-Studio!

What's Next?

Higher Education

Once you have successfully completed the NDA Diploma in Professional Garden Design, you a will be offered a guaranteed place onto one of our online degree courses, such as BA (Hons) Design for Outdoor Living, with a generous Progression Scholarship. Degrees are awarded by our academic partner, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), and they are studied online in the same way as your Diploma.


The Diploma in Professional Garden Design is designed to help you start your own Garden Design business. Like the Diploma course itself, you can work flexibly for your clients around your family commitments and gradually expand your business. Many of our Diploma students start their own business and study for their degree flexibly alongside their client projects.

Ready to pursue your passion for Garden Design?

What Our Students Say...

Hear what past and present students have to say about studying at the NDA