Professional Diploma in Garden Design

  • The Garden Design Studio / On-site
  • Tuesdays from 21st September 2021 to 5th July 2022
  • 10.00am - 4.30pm
Enrol on this course

Term dates: First Term: 21st September 2021 - 30th November 2021 Second Term: 11th January 2022 - 22nd March 2022 Third Term: 26th April 2022 - 5th July 2022

Tuition fee: One payment of £5,750.00

To enrol email:

About this Course

This course is open to those seeking a change in career and who have no previous experience in garden design.

Based on what a course should cover, offered by the Society of Garden Designers (the only professional association that exists for garden designers), it provides a sound vocational basis for the real world of business. It is also a course to advance the career of those already running their own business in landscape contracting or nursery practice who wish to offer the additional service of design to their clients.

Since the course is completed in one year and the timetable allows the student to continue working part time while studying, it is also a very practical option for the serious career person.

Good garden design, like any other form of design depends upon a pleasing interplay between basic principles such as form, composition, balance and contrast. These images illustrate some of these principles.

The aims of this course are to deliver dynamic and up to date information in a short but practical timeframe, so that the student can start the business of designing gardens as soon as possible. It is encouraged that students take on design work (be it for themselves, friends or family) whilst on the course in order to grasp the practicalities as the theory is being learnt.

The course is organised for small class sizes and plenty of one to one tuition, allowing for flexibility in the teaching methods to suit individuals. Garden visits and site inspections can be organised at shorter notice and the student lecturer ratio means a greater understanding of the methods involved in bringing about a more effective design. New garden designers are always wishing to work alongside more experienced designers in the early part of their careers so here is a chance to do just that whilst still on a course.

Flow of Ideas

Students from past years have come from a diverse array of interesting backgrounds, often entirely unrelated to garden design. A vital part of studying any new course involves the people you meet and how they influence you. Skills and experiences from other careers make stimulating and informed sessions.

Since 1996 many students have gone on to become practising garden designers, full members of the Society of Garden Designers, a Chelsea and a Hampton Court medal winner.

This course is only the beginning of a career in garden design. To help set goals and monitor future achievements, students should aim for full membership of the Society of Garden Designers.

To do this there is a requirement of three completed projects from design to construction. These need to be presented to an adjudication panel of registered members. For more details visit All students on the course are included as a student member of the Society of Garden Designers.

Course Structure

See below details of how this course is structured, and what you can expect from each section.

Course Syllabus and Content

The course has been carefully structured to include lectures, demonstrations, visits and projects taking the student through everything from basic and advanced design principles to practical knowledge of both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ landscape materials. The content and syllabus of the course are closely allied to the recommendations laid down by the Society of Garden Designers.

Garden Design Projects

There are three design projects of ranging complexity culminating in a final design which will combine all the elements taught throughout the year. These projects will familiarise the student with the process of designing a garden, help initiate the students’ personal work portfolios and will involve visits to established gardens, working landscape projects and suppliers. These projects allow the student to work in three different scales and experience the different techniques required from a small enclosed garden to a two acre plot.

Hard Landscape Projects

Hard landscape projects explore the potential use of hard materials in design. They cover the area of paving, walling and changes in level. The idea is for the student to understand both the aesthetic and practical use for these hard materials and to recognise whether or not they are successful in their landscape setting.

Soft Landscape Projects

Plant knowledge is important for all garden design students. The projects set will give the opportunity of allowing the student to explore both the practical placement of plants and also the aesthetic associations for producing exciting planting plans. Individual portfolios of plants will run as a theme through out the year.

Studio Sessions

There are two studio sessions per term where time is used for working on the drawing boards in the design studio. Here the student has a chance to work on the drawings of their design projects under the supervision of the tutors and in the company of their fellow students.

Computer Aided Design

A new addition to this part of the course will be the use of computers and the programme sketch up. This 3D programme will enable students to look at their design in three dimensions allowing them to make informed decisions on the progress of their design work. A tutor is on hand to guide the development of each design.

Home Study

It is essential that some of the work is carried out by the student in their own time. It is recommended that at least a day and a half is set aside for this purpose. This is an intensive course, which will involve dedicated regular time for private study in order for the student to complete the project work to a satisfactory standard. At the very least the equivalent of one day a week of time in addition to the formal classes is recommended.


The course takes place once a week on Tuesdays.

  1. First Session: 9.30am – 10.45am
  2. Second Session: 11.00am – 12.30pm
  3. Third Session: 13.15pm – 15.00pm
  4. Fourth Session: 15.15pm – 16.15pm

Garden and Site Visits

This year there will be an emphasis on visits to designed landscapes during their construction where the student can discover first hand the relationship between the contractor, client and designer. This is a new addition to the course to help the student gain an insight into the real ‘on site’ issues and how they are addressed by the designer.

Visits will also take place to local nurseries and manufacturing outlets so that a greater knowledge of where different landscape elements come from and how they can be used within the landscape industry. Visits in the past have included stone quarries, brick yards, garden furniture makers and glasshouse manufacturers.

Part of the course includes creative installations where students explore the excitement of making art within the landscape. This takes the form of spending a day in either woodland, coastal or open countryside.

Optional visits to important gardens such as Sheffield Park, Wakehurst Place and Nymans are scheduled into the timetable.

Student Feedback

“If you are really serious about becoming a garden designer, you put the work in and are able to feign confidence in the real world, this course will certainly help you down the professional route.”

“There was a good quality and variety of speakers”

“Exactly what I wanted and able to adapt it to run my own small design business”

“The lectures were packed with information but very relaxed. Discussions, questions, anecdotes and having a laugh were all part of it. I really looked forward to my Fridays. Coursework was tough, but I was lucky to have had a day and a half free to work on projects, I would strongly recommend thinking hard about what you are taking on if you don’t have much time to spare” Sarah Ashworth.

“So..why choose Nigel’s Philip’s Diploma in Professional Garden Design at Plumpton? I have a busy gardening and landscaping business which has been established over 10 years. I was finding that more of my new customers were asking for their garden to be designed and I felt that I lacked the relevant skills. When choosing which design course it was very important to me that the principal tutor was an experienced and active garden designer firmly connected to the world of small business. I have not been disappointed. Whatever your interest you will find this course challenging, stimulating, exciting and interesting. If you would like to ask me a question my email address is” Jason Cornes.

“A fantastic course for the enthusiast wanting to take their knowledge and experience to the professional level. There is a lot of work to make this course effective for your future. I don’t recommend working full time whilst doing this course!” Ann Christian.

If you are interested in this course, give us a call on [ld_default] or fill out our contact form.

See our other courses here.

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BALI 2016 Award Winner National Landscape Awards
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What a fabulous day designing my new garden with Nigel. We had a blank canvas to play with and Nigel, having discussed my must haves, nice to haves etc, went…

Louise Turner

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