Garden Design Course – Become a professional landscape designer

  • Garden design courses

    “From day one, this course opens your eyes to the most amazing possibilities in the world of garden design”

    Sue Squire
  • “From day one, this course opens your eyes to the most amazing possibilities in the world of garden design”

    Sue Squire
  • “From day one, this course opens your eyes to the most amazing possibilities in the world of garden design”

    Sue Squire

The Garden Design Course is our flagship online course, perfect for those wishing to start a professional career in garden and landscape design. No previous design or plant knowledge is needed – just a passion to learn, artistic flair and a good grasp of English. You’ll gain a comprehensive knowledge of the industry from the ground up, ready to charge professional fees from day one.

There’s no commuting, and you’ll never miss a lecture. Unlike other online garden design courses, this is not a correspondence course. (i.e. lectures are not just text based) All our lectures are pre-recorded videos. They’re identical to our former classroom seminars, except everything is available to replay 24/7 on your smartphone or computer.

Taught over 3 Semesters (40 weeks) it’s the most thorough landscape design course of its kind, so there will be no gaps in your knowledge. You’ll learn everything you need to start and run a successful business.

Course Duration 1-3 Years

  • You could graduate in 1 year with a minimum of 25-30 hours of study per week.  Or with a minimum of 15 hours per week, you could finish in 18-24 months.
  • After graduation, you’ll receive a further 12 months of business mentoring to help your career take off.
  • Alternatively, you can cover 1 semester a year, if life gets busy and extend the course for up to 3 years
  • The video tutorials are always in your pocket, available to playback at any time.
  • You’ll have weekly webinars with your tutor – individual feedback, advice and support for your projects and assignments.
  • Tutors are at the end of the phone 7 days a week. We’ll usually get back to you within a few hours.
  • Log into our virtual classroom and chat with other students, talk through any problems and share ideas.

This course represents a huge life change, the new career you’ve always wanted. But rest assured that you’ll be supported every step of the way, even after graduation. Besides this, our reputation within the industry will give you an automatic head start. Our graduates are seen as the most employable in the country.

  • Garden design courses

    “The diploma is much more than a distance learning course… Its use of online technology is an improvement on traditional classroom teaching.”

    Ben Norris

Student profile

The most important requirement is a passion to learn and some artistic flare. No previous design experience is required as this will be taught during the course. An art background is useful, but not essential, but some sort of creative ability would be beneficial. This doesn’t mean you can draw or paint, but knowing when something looks and feels right will certainly help. Plant knowledge is not required, as this will be taught on the course. In addition, you will need a good grasp of English and some basic computer skills. If you can email and download a file then you can do this course! We set out to produce students with the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary to become professional garden designers who can offer a professional service and charge professional fees.


Our students have won the both the APLD and SGD student of the year awards numerous times, as well as the BBC garden designer of the year award. Many have produced medal-winning show gardens and have worked with some of the leading landscape designers around the world including Anthony Paul, Arne Maynard, Luciano Giubbilei, James Alexander Sinclair, and Charlotte Rowe (herself an OCGD student!)

  • “I have learnt so much more than I anticipated - not just the design process but a complete professional training. I now feel confident and ambitious to be one of the best!”

    Gill German, MSGD

The professional course is modelled on our one-year postgraduate level course and is based on the notion of 1200 hours of your effort to complete, including all online/studio contact teaching time and private study.

This is a very inexact science but is based on years of experience. The time required to complete tasks will vary according to your personal organisation, ability and application. Feedback mechanisms are used regularly to monitor all aspects of the course including levels of effort required to successfully complete each section.

Assessment is by coursework together with continual assessment of design projects and associated technical studies. The course is student led, with ongoing evaluation over one to two years. Assignments make up 60% of the possible marks, research work accounting for 40%.

Design work carried out through studio projects and taught by online tutorial, form the heart of the course.

  • “Professional garden design in its entirety, in one year. It is tough but you come out of it confident to take on even the most complicated project, and enjoy it.”

    Sarah Naybour, RHS Gold Medallist

What will I learn on the Garden Design Course?

The course is divided into 3 parts: design, construction and planting.  Here’s an overview:

  • Design – Courtyard gardens, large town gardens, right up to rural country estates. In addition, a thorough grounding in commercial landscape design will allow you to confidently work with architects, contractors and local authorities. You’ll complete 15 different gardens during the course, an invaluable start to your sales portfolio on graduation.

  • Construction and professional practice –How to run your business from the ground up, including contract law, client relations and how much to charge. You’ll also be confident and capable with other professionals, specifying how to build and which materials to use.

  • Planting design – This is the reason why you’re here. It’s the firm foundation of knowledge that will grow with you for life. We cover planting design techniques and philosophy, and you’ll gain a deep understanding of the plants that respond to your designs. You’ll graduate with knowledge of over 200 species – more than enough to get you started.

Take a look at the full curriculum below, and if you have any questions just give us a call on +44 (0)1491 628950 or send us an email.

  • “This diploma went well beyond my expectations and opened my mind and my heart to the beginning of a new adventure!”

    Brian Dove, Mauritius

Landscape Design Course curriculum

Designing space

This module will teach you how to think and design in 3D. You’ll learn to manipulate simple shapes into coherent patterns, and then use this approach as a tool for designing in three dimensions. You will be encouraged to exploit art to expand your repertoire of responses to design assignments.

SketchUp training

Architecture, design, and media professionals the world over use SketchUp to create detailed 3D models efficiently and quickly. You’ll cover the fundamentals of the application, the interface, and how to use the Sandbox extension to create realistic organic shapes and terrain.

Garden history

You have to understand the past before you can design for the future. This module explores manmade landscapes, from early Middle East agricultural societies to the present day. We’ll explore trends in design and their relation to art, architecture and socioeconomic activity in different societies.

Image manipulation

These tutorials are packed with tons of useful tips on managing your photo library. You’ll quickly learn how to organize, sort, rate, and locate specific pictures as well as how to rotate images, remove red-eye, and adjust exposure settings. You’ll also learn how to share your photos via email, the internet, across a network, and even how to organise prints and books online.

Urban garden design

Urban spatial development.  In two separate exercises you’ll  survey a courtyard and a small garden using running dimensions and triangulation, making note of all relevant site details. Site data will be evaluated, including the potential for fulfilling the client’s brief.

Hard landscaping theory & practice

A detailed look at construction and specification in landscape and garden design.  You’ll be able to specify and instruct contractors to build all manner of landscape features including ponds, pools, pergolas, arbours. walling, fencing, paving, drives, steps, drainage, decking and concrete.

Landscape construction

Design detail and creative planning. This module covers hard landscape construction – working drawings, surveying, levels, drainage, construction details and setting out, as well as the properties of construction materials.

Garden photography

Comprises a series of photographic lectures and practical exercises. The module is very hands on, with the core segment revolving around creating photos of plants and gardens suitable for your web presence, fine art and magazine publication.

Soft landscape form and colour

You will explore the relationship between plants and their optimal living environment. The module includes plant physiology, form and structure, and their inter-related variables. You will also analyse the different planting styles used by leading designers.

Garden design masterclasses

Exclusive lectures from top designers and artists such as John Brookes, Anthony Paul, Luciano Giubbilei and Jilly Sutton. 

Country garden design

Using your design knowledge, plus the full range of skills learnt on the course, you’ll draw up a proposal for a large country garden.

Business and professional practice

The fundamentals of contract law governing the relationship between designer and client, and between client and contractor. You’ll receive lectures on setting up, marketing and sustaining a design business – a step by step guide from working professionals on how to maximise your chances of success.

Computer modelling & Vectorworks training

3D modelling and Vectorworks Landmark training are an absolute necessity if you want to follow a professional career in garden and landscape design.

  • “Duncan and his tutors are patient and flexible, which has allowed me to pursue the course while raising 3 children in middle school.”

    Elisabeth Giovine, California, USA

Marked Assignments


Students will be able to survey a small site using running dimensions and triangulation making note of site details such as the position of trees, buildings, simple level changes, and services etc. They will be able to evaluate the data collected on site and produce a scale drawing at 1:50 to accurately portray the site’s characteristics. They will write a simple client brief and produce a sketch proposal based on that brief. Students will apply pattern analysis concepts which have been taught concurrently. The proposal will be drawn using pencil and then draughting pens, on architectural blanks using the title blocks to display appropriate information. Students will demonstrate an understanding of special concepts and design philosophy and demonstrate a reasonable knowledge of landscape graphical symbols.


Students will complete project 2 in the same manner as for project 1 with the additional use of Survey Analysis and Design concepts (S.A.D). Students will be provided with all the survey information required and will produce an additional site evaluation plan. Using this information, they will produce functional diagrams for the site and its layout. With this information, a sketch plan will be produced. Having completed this, they will then use CAD to produce a Key Plan and layout drawings containing spot heights, dimensions and specification on paving materials and construction details.


Design project 3 is as above with the students having to produce full plans and details for the whole site to include construction details, specification documents, costings and schedules of work. Full planting plans will be required. These will include a plant list containing descriptions, maintenance information and plant numbers to facilitate ordering.


Using CAD, students will produce a hard landscape portfolio comprising of 10 constructions details. Aim – To develop an understanding of how landscape elements are constructed and to enable students to provide the contractor with specific graphical design instructions. Garden elements will be organised in the following categories:

  • Surfaces (vehicular, pedestrian, in-situ, flexible, rigid.)
  • Enclosures (walls, fences, trellis, gates)
  • Level changes (steps, ramps, retaining walls)
  • Structures (pergolas, arbours, gazebos)
  • Landscape materials used will be brick, stone, concrete, timber and/or others such as plastic, metal, canvas, etc.


Students will be taught to illustrate their work using 2D & 3D computer modeling software to produce life-like representations of their design. These will be used both in the design process and also to aid client appreciation and understanding of the design. Advanced CAD Workshop Having learnt the basics of the software you will now cover planting design and how to product detail layout and construction detail to print and use on site for both planning applications, tendering and onsite as working drawings for the contractor.


Part 1 How to Use a Camera You will be taught how to use a DSLR camera and cover the basics of both aperture and shutter speed, to control exposure, focusing depth of field, and sharpness.

Part 2 Documentary Garden Photography You will be taught what is required by magazines and news media for a garden documentary story. You will be able to photograph a garden using different images from wide-angle story-telling shots to macro close-up detail images. This will allow you to photograph your own gardens and get valuable media coverage to help promote your business.

  • “From day one, this course opens your eyes to the most amazing possibilities in the world of garden design”

    Sue Squire

Fees and Dates

Course Start Dates

The college has two intakes per year the first at the end of April and the second at the end of September.  Places are limited to a max of 8 students per tutorial and are supplied on a first come first serve basis.

The next course start dates are 
29th April 2022
29th September 2022

Fees: Garden Design Diploma £9495.00


To secure your place, all students will be required to pay a non-refundable enrolment fee of £500 which guarantees them a place and includes immediate access to two modules of the course. Once approved, a reading list and your first CAD lectures will be issued, for students to make an initial start.  In order to be awarded the college’s Diploma, students will be required to complete and pass all sections of the course within 12-36 month period from the course start date. Additional 12-month extensions to the course can be purchased at an additional cost of £650 pa if required.

Once you have paid your enrolment fee, you will be invoiced for the balance (to be paid via bank transfer), prior to the start of the course. In the event of illness or other crises, the college will do its best to assist students, by moving them to the next subsequent course, so allowing them to complete their studies.  It is regretted that no fees can be refunded for whatever reason including non-attendance, once the course has commenced. (As per our Terms of Enrolment) The college reserves the right to change the course dates and structure without notice.

Oxford College of Garden Design
Oxford Science Park,
John Eccles House,
Robert Robinson Avenue,
Oxon OX4 4GP

T:+44 (0)1491628950

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