Diploma in Garden Design | National Design Academy

Diploma in Garden Design

Enrol online

If you are interested in a career in garden design or have a passion to learn more about the work involved in styling and presenting an outdoor space, then the Diploma in Garden Design Skills is the perfect place to start. At NDA 'online flexible learning' means exactly that! Unlike other institutions, at NDA there are no terms or semesters, you can choose your own start date and study at your own pace - not the pace dictated by the institution or other students. At NDA we treat every student as an individual. Find out more.

About the course

The Diploma in Professional Garden Design begins with an overview of garden types, explaining how garden design has evolved over centuries into its current form. External factors such as social and economic considerations have shaped this development are looked at in detail in order to establish a solid foundation from which to progress through the course. The ways in which cultural influences have shaped garden design are also discussed, with examples provided by a comparison of the work of garden designers throughout history. Gardens often belong to a particular, recognisable style such as; Paradise (Persia), Formal (Europe), Landscape (English), Prairie (USA) and Zen (Japan). The fundamental features of such gardens are analysed with a view to developing the ability to identify and understand the visual language of each garden type.

On completion of the 10 units you will receive a Level 3 Diploma in Professional Garden Design.

Who should do this course?

  • Do you love garden design as a hobby and spend ages in your own garden?
  • Do you help family & friends design their gardens?
  • Do they often suggest you start your own business?
  • Would you love a career in garden design but lack the necessary qualifications?
  • Do you have creative talent but lack professional training?
  • Do you read garden magazines & watch all the garden programmes on TV?

Then this is the Garden Design course for you!

Some materials will be required if you wish to complete work by hand these include :

  • A Scale Rule with 1:10, 1:20, 1.50 and 1:100 scales
  • Adjustable set square
  • A3 Paper
  • A3 Tracing Paper
  • Pencil
  • Drawing Pens 0.5, 0.3 and 0.1
  • Watercolour pencils
  • An A3 or A2 drawing board (this is optional)

Study online

You can enrol at any time! This diploma course is studied part-time, by distance learning through our specially created Virtual Learning Studios (VLS) via the internet using your computer. Here you can access your course, mail your tutor direct, meet new friends and keep in touch through the Student Forum.

Everyone is different. If you can study for 10-12 hours per week you can complete the course in 10 months. If you have more time to spare then you can complete your Diploma more quickly. Most students complete the course in 6-12 months. Students are expected to complete the course within 12 months.  

Employability & Progression

Further education

Many of our students who complete the Diploma in Garden Design Skills course become totally passionate about design for the outdoors. Consequently, a popular pathway is to continue on to the BA (Hons) Design for Outdoor Living degree.

Alternatively, many students enjoy taking a sideways step and enrolling on an alternative diploma level course in order to broaden their knowledge of the design world, such as the Diploma in Professional Interior Design Skills or the Diploma in Skills for Curtain Making & Soft Furnishings.


Once you have completed our Level 3 Diploma in Professional Garden Design, you are guaranteed a place on our Foundation Degree (FdA) in Interior Design; validated and awarded by our partner, Staffordshire University. It may be necessary to take selected units from the Interior Design Diploma.

This is delivered online by our Virtual Learning Studio (VLS) in exactly the same way as the Diploma course and offers you further progression to BA (Hons) Design for Outdoor Living.

Alternatively, you can become a freelance Garden Design Consultant or work in a related industry.

Course content

Show course modules

This Unit investigates garden design through its history, styles and most influential designers. It explorers the concept of a designed garden, from its early origins in the first civilisations, through its continual development over historical periods and between world regions. It then looks at some of the most influential designers of contemporary garden design and at the many garden design styles that are used today.

This module introduces the processes and realities which make up a garden design project. It details the stages involved, the client, site, contractors and specialist consultants which may be required. The Unit describes how and why a good design brief is produced and used to guide a project towards completion; ensuring the ultimate success of a garden design through identifying and addressing the approaches used to fulfil the requirements of client and site.

Garden designers must understand and communicate the information from survey, analysis and design to clients. This Unit looks at the thought processes and various technical skills which will be required for successful communication of garden design information and ideas. It covers the background to the various drawings types and styles that can be produced, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each type, indicating their most suitable applications and techniques.

This Unit discusses how the components of garden design; the plants, boundaries, structures, ornaments, landforms and surfaces, can be selected, arranged and combined to make gardens which make more than the sum of their parts. It shows how on many levels and for any design, each component should be considered in relation to all the others and to the whole garden design vision. It considers the basic physical functions of allowing movement through the space and the control of emotional and intellectual experiences.

Planting is a key component which provides much of the character for the majority of gardens. This Unit, the first of two specialist plant Units, looks at the physical structure and features of different plant types. It also looks at the garden environment in which plants will be asked to live and reproduce: the light, water, air, nutrients and soil conditions which will affect their chances of success.

This Unit looks at the range of materials which can be used in the garden and the specific uses and applications for which each type is suitable, via their functional and visual qualities. It then considers the many external factors which need to be considered in the appropriate selection of materials such as availability and cost, sustainability and realistic options for construction.
The second specialist planting Unit expands upon the first, this time concentrating on the benefits that plants bring to a garden design, their visual features, arrangement and functional uses. It looks at how to source, select and design with the unique qualities of plants. It also introduces a range of commonly used plants, identified by type and by specific species, applications and uses.

This Unit discusses the types and uses of furniture and features which bring added functionality and experiences to the garden space for your client. It considers the requirements of style, budget and positioning of these additions. It also looks at additional elements such as lighting technologies and applications, the addition of water features and adding the finishing touches to a design with essential accessories and specific garden activities.

This Unit looks at the various skills and approaches which should be followed when practising and looking for work as a garden designer. This includes aspects of marketing and sourcing work, professional approach to charging for work produced and in the sourcing of suppliers and contractors for your client. It also looks at potential sources of employment and routes for progression.

The cumulation of the design elements of the course; this Unit looks at how the various design components can be woven together across the whole design spectrum to create integrated, harmonious garden designs. It links all the stages of the design process, from using the brief to generate concepts and ideas, through the development of the design, to the final detailed drawings which landscape contractors can use to build a scheme.

Discover more about this course

Share this page