Garden Design

Short course


£ 438 VAT inc.


  • Typology

    Short course

  • Methodology

    Distance Learning


To enable you to design a garden of any size in a professional manner, in both layout and planting. How will you achieve this? - By developing your ability to analyse the site, including surrounding views and orientation. By understanding what is wanted from the garden and how best to achieve it. By surveying the garden and drawing it up to scale. Using a grid to balance proportions, linking the garden with the house and determining the best possible use of the space. By manipulation of space, creating direction and movement using vertical and horizontal elements.

Questions & Answers

Ask a question and other users will answer you

Who do you want to respond to your question/enquiry?

We will only publish your name and question

Teachers and trainers (3)

Gill Lotter

Gill Lotter


Rosemary Alexander

Rosemary Alexander


Simon Pyle

Simon Pyle

Vice Principal

Course programme

Suitable for gardens no smaller than 50 square metres.

Garden design is a complex art form: it encompasses disciplines ranging from soil science and surveying to plant selection; it deals not only in three dimensions but also with the additional dimension of time. Our classic course unlocks the secrets of effective garden design - why, how, what and when. This is our most comprehensive design course: it teaches the design process in great detail and includes extensive sections on plants and visual presentation.

There are seven projects in Garden Design, with shorter exercises throughout the course. On average the course takes 12 to 18 months to complete, working at the rate of about one evening a week.

The Materials

You will find details of necessary materials in the course book.

1 drawing board A2 size, 1 set of ink drawing pens, 3 nib sizes, 1 45 degree set square, A3 and A2 tracing paper, A2 graph paper, HB pencils, eraser shield, eraser, scale rule, compass and extension arm, circle templates, scalpel (for correction on tracing paper), flexicurve, coloured pencils.

Structure of the course

The course consists of an introduction, reading list, list of equipment, plant notebook and five chapters of text with practical exercises:

Chapter 1 Research and Preparation
Chapter 2 Garden layout - transforming your ideas into a garden
Chapter 3 Vertical and overhead planes, materials, lighting and garden accessories
Chapter 4 Designing with plants
Chapter 5 Visuals and garden construction

Chapter 1 Research and preparation

Introduction, time allocation guide: exercises 1.5 to 2 days; projects 1.5 to 2 days

Client brief, client checklist, practical and aesthetic considerations

Exercise 1: Filling in a checklist of client requirements

The garden and its setting

Views, the influence of your garden on its surroundings, boundaries

The site survey

What to measure and record, using the equipment, measuring systems

Measuring the house and nearby elements, more distant elements, trees, curves, slopes or changes in level

Exercise 2: Measuring the site

Assessing the soil

Exercise 3: Soil testing

Recording non-measurable details

Exercise 4: Recording non-measurable details

Photographing the garden

Exercise 5: Using a camera to record views and details

Site checklist

Exercise 6: Filling in a checklist of existing site conditions

Drawing up the survey

Setting up your drawing board, drawing to scale

Preparing the project

Stages in drawing up the survey

Exercise 7: Practising drawing to scale

The site analysis and inventory

The site appraisal

Preparing a concept diagram

Positioning the items

Legal considerations

Conservation areas - tree preservation orders, neighbours, boundary ownership, trees, weeds, right to light, protection of existing features

Summary of chapter

Project 1 - site survey, site inventory, analysis and concept diagram

Chapter 2 Garden layout - transforming your ideas into a garden

Introduction, time allocation guide: exercises 2 to 3 days; projects 2 to 2.5 days

Plan presentation

How to lay out your sheet, designing a title block, information panel, border

Exercise 1: Designing your sheet

Graphic symbols

House walls, surveys, paving and ground surfaces, free-standing walls, trees and shrubs

Exercise 2: Drawing symbols


Exercise 3: Practising lettering

Colour and rendering techniques

Which paper to use, what colours to choose, different media and how to use them, applying tone or rendering

Experimenting with pattern

Creating patterns of different character, adding depth, relating patterns of gardens

Exercise 4: Experimenting with pattern

Creating grids for different sites

Why use a grid?, where to start, dividing up the space, the benefits of a square grid, grid size

Exercise 5: Devising grids for different sites

Moving and turning the grid

Exercise 6: Turning the grids and translating them into areas of hard and soft landscaping

Experimenting with themes, alternate themes, designing with shapes

Three dimensional effects - mass and void

Exercise 7: Contemplating the proportions of mass and void for your proposed designs



Light quality and intensity, creating special effects

Scale and proportion

Designing steps for exterior use

Exercise 8: Assessing the space needed for typical garden features and functions

Exercise 9: Assessing the difference between interior and exterior dimensions

Using water in the garden

Historical tradition of water, the qualities of water, still water, colour, moving water, designing with water, formal and informal water features, size, location

Exercise 10: Studying the reflective qualities of water

The disadvantages of water

Refining your ideas

Perspective distortion, horizontal elements, vertical and overhead elements, boundaries

Selecting materials

Inspiration, points to consider


Loose surfacing, fluid and rigid paving materials, timber decking, grass, edging

Exercise 11: Analysing surfaces and structures in your locality

Exercise 12: Collecting brochures and samples of surfacing materials

Summary of chapter

Project 2: Core plant list

Chapter 3 Vertical and Overhead Planes, Materials, Lighting and Garden Accessories

Introduction, time allocation guide: exercises 2 days; projects 2 days

The role of the vertical plane

Enclosing spaces, directing and screening views, controlling exposure to sun and wind, directing circulation, unifying the house, garden and surroundings, aesthetic contribution

Vertical features

Existing house walls, garden boundaries, entrances and gateways, garden walls, fences, trelliswork (treillage), ha-has, plant barriers or enclosures

Exercise 1: Studying structures and materials suitable for boundaries

The role of the overhead plane

Controlling light, controlling scale, architectural extension of the house

Overhead Features

Pergolas, arbours, garden buildings
Exercise 2: Examining examples of overhead features
Exercise 3: Studying the character of different trees

Drawing sections through the garden


  • Walling, fencing, steps
  • Lighting
  • Function, techniques, security or access lighting, aesthetic effect
  • Garden accessories
  • Ornaments, furniture, children's play equipment

Exercise 4: Sourcing structural material and accessories

Practical considerations

Site access, site clearance, topsoil, drainage, soakaways, French drains and tile drainage systems, water points and irrigation, choosing a watering system, electricity, soil preparation, septic tanks

Summary of chapter

Project 3: Preparing the garden layout plan

Examples of students' work

Chapter 4 Designing With Plants

Introduction, time allocation guide: projects 2 days

What planting can provide

Structure and enclosure, enhancement of hard landscaping features, an affinity with the surroundings

Changing pictures

Inspiring compositions

Principles of planting design

Scale, proportion, shape and form, texture, colour, seasonal compositions

Practical considerations

Creating your planting plan, what the plan should show, the stages involved, style of planting, following your theme, structural planting

Points to consider when choosing a tree, key planting

Decorative planting, roses, herbaceous planting

Summary of chapter

Project 4 - Planting plan

Examples of students' work

Chapter 5 Visuals and Garden Construction

Introduction, time allocation guide: exercises 1 day; projects 2 to 3 days

Drawing sections through the garden

Exercise One: Drawing sections through the garden


How to convey your ideas

Photographic overlays - what they are, why they are useful

Exercise 2: Creating photographic overlays

Axonometric projections, how to construct them

Exercise 3: How to draw a brick in axonometric

Exercise 4: How to draw a shrub or small tree in axonometric

Having your garden constructed

Doing the work yourself, using contractors, maintenance and future development

Summary of chapter

Project 5 - Drawing an axonometric projection

Conclusion of course

Examples of students' work

Glossary of hard landscaping terms

  • Core Plant List
  • Templates
  • List of equipment
  • Drawing equipment
  • Drawing board - A1 or A2 size, with T-square or parallel motion
  • Set square
  • Circle template
  • Pair of compasses with beam attachment
  • A2 graph paper
  • A2 tracing paper
  • Pencils, pens and erasers
  • Scale rule to include scales 1:50, 1:100, 1:20, 1:10
  • Masking tape
  • Coloured pens or pencils
  • Surveying equipment
  • A2 and A4 graph paper
  • Metric/imperial measuring tape (30m, 100ft)
  • Metal skewer (to fix to the measuring tape with wire)
  • Rigid spring tape (2m, 6ft)
  • Clipboard
  • Notebook
  • Simple soil test kit
  • Trowel, plastic bags and labels for taking soil samples
  • A2 tracing paper
  • Pens, pencils and eraser
  • Torch
  • Photographic equipment
  • Camera
  • Film
  • Tripod (optional)
  • Spare batteries

Detailed information

A1/A2 drawing board

This can be as basic or sophisticated as you like. The most basic is simply a flat, inexpensive piece of board. The more advanced is a table-mounted laminated board with supporting adjustable legs and a parallel motion (sliding horizontal ruler). The basic board is perfectly suitable for the beginner and is the board used at The English Gardening School.

It is important with all types of drawing boards that the faces and edges are flat and smooth, and that they will not twist or buckle with normal use. Edges should be at right-angles to one another. Do not stick drawing pins into your board or use it as a cutting surface.

It is easiest to draw accurately on an angled surface, so if you buy a basic board, use a block of wood or a pile of books to raise the edge furthest away from you, thus angling the board towards you. You may need to try several different heights before you find the most comfortable angle.

T-square or parallel motion

So-named due to its shape, a T-square is required for the basic board as an alternative to the more professional parallel motion. Both of these are used for drawing all horizontal lines, the head of the T-square being held against the left-hand side of the drawing board, or if you are left-handed, the right-hand side. Do not use your T-square as a cutting edge as this may damage it.

The parallel motion should be pushed up and down evenly. It is used in the same way as a T-square.

Set square

This is a triangle of clear plastic used for vertical and diagonal line drawing when rested on the edge of the T-square or parallel motion. Set square sizes vary enormously - do not buy the smallest size or you will have trouble drawing long vertical lines. The length of the longest side should be around 250-300mm (10 -12 inches). If you intend to do your final drawing in ink, make sure you buy your set squares with angled edges that eliminate smudging. You will need either a 45º angle set square or an adjustable set square.

Circle template

Used for drawing circles, a circle template has 20 or 30 circles graded in size. Make sure the largest circle is about 50mm (2 inches) in diameter. If you intend to draw your plans in ink, it is best to buy a template with 'ink bumps' that, when used on the underside, hold the template slightly away from the paper, thereby avoiding smudging.

Pair of compasses

A medium-sized pair of compasses will be needed for drawing up your survey and for larger circles and curves. Purchase one that has a beam attachment for drawing large circles.

Graph paper

You can buy this as you go along, but in the first instance you will need one or two sheets of A1 or A2 graph paper, metric or imperial, depending on the measurements you will be working in. You will not draw on your graph paper, but it will be the first sheet of paper to be stuck down on your board and will serve as your backing sheet.

Tracing paper

It is useful to have this in a number of sizes, although if you buy large sizes you can always cut them down. They can be bought in rolls, pads, or in single sheets and in various weights, ie 60gsm, 90gsm and 120gsm. You will use a lot of tracing paper while you are working up a design, so it is advisable to use the lightest (60gsm) until your design is finalised (the lighter the weight, the cheaper the paper). You can then do your final drawing on a slightly heavier weight. Until you know which size you are most likely to use (A1 is unlikely to be used unless you are doing a design for a large garden) buy the paper in sheets of A2 (half the size of A1). You can buy a pad of A4 for small sketches.

Pencils and pens

It is useful to have a selection of pencils with leads varying in degrees of hardness and softness. The cost of the pencil will be proportionate to its usefulness. Cheap pencils have gritty and crumbly leads that lead to smudging. HB is the most useful general drawing pencil. An alternative to the ordinary pencil is the 'clutch' pencil which does not require sharpening.

It is entirely up to you whether or not you complete your drawings in ink. Technical drawing pens are required for use on tracing paper, but must not be used on ordinary paper as the nibs will be spoilt. The pens are expensive to buy and require practice to achieve even lines. The nibs come in a variety of sizes that correspond to the thickness of line - 0.35mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm are the most useful. An alternative to the technical pen are the disposal drawing pens now available.

We strongly advise that you begin your drawings using pencil, and only purchase pens if and when you feel suitably confident.

Scale rule

A scale rule (or scale) is a narrow strip of plastic the length of a normal ruler and either flat or triangular in shape. It has varying numbers of divisions along each edge on both sides. The divisions are in proportion to actual distances and dimensions and are used for making plans drawn to scale. The scales you will most often use are 1:20, 1:50, 1:100, 1:200, but you will probably find that most scale rules go up to at least 1:1250. If you wish to work in imperial scale the equivalent is half an inch to one sixteenth of an inch.

Masking tape

This is required for taping your paper to your board, for overlays, and many other uses.


When designing someone else's garden it is particularly useful to take photographs to act as a reminder when you are drawing up your design. It is also useful to have photographs of gardens or features that you particularly like for future reference.

Sundry items

You will also need coloured felt tip pens, notebook, folder, trowel and plastic bags, and a simple soil test kit for taking soil samples.

Please note

The above list may seem long and intimidating, but if you take it with you to a good artists'/graphic supply shop you should be able to obtain everything you need. Those items you are unfamiliar with are less complicated in reality than they are in description.

Aim of the course:
  • To enable you to design a garden of any size in a professional manner, in both layout and planting.
  • How will you achieve this?
  • By developing your ability to analyse the site, including surrounding views and orientation.
  • By understanding what is wanted from the garden and how best to achieve it.
  • By surveying the garden and drawing it up to scale. Using a grid to balance proportions, linking the garden with the house and determining the best possible use of the space.
  • By manipulation of space, creating direction and movement using vertical and horizontal elements.
  • By choosing appropriate hard landscaping materials and integrating your proposals with the existing framework.
  • By enhancing the design with planting. Considering structural, accent and decorative plants, including climbers, wall shrubs, roses, grasses and ferns.
  • By using bulbs and annuals for seasonal interest.
  • By using graphics and visuals to communicate your ideas.

Additional information

Payment options: Course fee: £438 + postage Add postage: UK including Northern Ireland £15, rest of Europe £25, rest of the world £40.

Garden Design

£ 438 VAT inc.