Working creatively with plants and outdoor spaces has huge appeal, whether you are looking for a new career, returning to work after having children or wanting a different pace of life. But garden design is a competitive industry and there are some vital considerations to weigh up before you make any decisions. Read our guide to garden design courses.

Gardeners at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Credit: RBG Kew

What skills do I need to become a garden designer?

Garden design is a broad discipline that combines visual and creative skills with business acumen and project management. Designers come from diverse backgrounds.

Do I need experience of design and horticulture?

Learning about plants is a never-ending process and it's a good idea to get some hands-on gardening experience before, or in addition to, any training. Plant knowledge may be a fundamental part of the tool kit, but more practising designers say that it's absolutely essential to have a good understanding of three-dimensional space, scale and proportion. As designer Cleve West told us: "If you can understand space and ergomomics, you can understand landscape and plants."

Do I have to run my own business?

There are some design positions available with nurseries and established practices, but more garden designers work largely for themselves. Therefore dealing with clients, managing projects and marketing your business successfully is as important as the creative side. You need to be highly self motivated and its worth thinking about your long-term business plan.

Where can I study garden design?

There are many garden design courses in the UK, offering a range of qualifications over varying timescales and at different costs. Juliet Sargeant, garden designer and former chair of the Society of Garden Designers, says: "Look for a course that will teach you what you want to know for the gardens you want to design. Some courses focus on plants, others on design and construction." Talk to tutors and past students. It's also important to consider the hours and work involved. Many courses are part time, but there may be a lot of course work. Think about your budget and location, too, as part-time study is a big commitment and needs to fit in with the rest of your life. Most colleges now offer online learning options.

How much will I earn?

Garden design is not a high-earning profession. Most people do not go into it for financial gain. Many designers supplement their income with work in teaching, writing or garden maintenance. It's important to remember, as designer Sarah Price told us: "You have to make your own opportunities. The courses give you a foundation, but as a career, it's not going to come in a neat package."


Don't miss our round up of the best garden design courses