What qualifications does a gardener need?

By Alex N

We're often asked "which gardening or horticulture qualification should I choose?".

We currently offer over 30 online gardening courses, but there are thousands of horticulture and gardening courses to choose from.

From understanding the science of plants and plant growth to learning how to design a garden there are hundreds of courses available for professional gardeners and people wanting to start their gardening career.

But which qualifications really help gardeners in their career - from growing their horticultural knowledge to growing confidence and inspiring garden and planting designs?

Where to find gardening courses?

You can often find a gardening course in your local area - including local colleges or even nearby gardens.

Check who the course is taught by - you're looking for an expert in the subject, and ask for their qualifications and gardening experience.

Make sure the dates and durations of the classes suit you - you might need flexibility around your job or family commitments.

Compare the costs to other alternative courses, and check what's included in the course.

Online gardening courses can offer more flexibility (you can take the course at a time and place that suits you), and your choice of course isn't limited by your location. (And you can choose the world's best tutors to teach you too).

Which gardening qualifications to choose?

Which gardening qualification you want or need depends on your gardening career, and what you want to learn and your experience.

Think about what you’ll do with your gardening qualification:

- Include your gardening or horticulture qualification on your CV

- Use your qualification when you’re advertising your business

- Inspire you with different garden and plant ideas

- Make you feel more confident in choosing plants, maintaining gardens or creating a garden design

- Allow you to design your own garden

- Demonstrate that you've spent a certain amount of time learning new skills

- Certify you to use certain machinery or garden chemicals

Once you know what you want to do with your gardening qualification this will guide you to the right gardening or horticulture qualifications for you.

If you're just starting out in your gardening career or are developing your own gardening business you might want to work through the RHS qualifications.

If you’ve got years of gardening experience, you might be looking for something to develop your gardening skills in a specific direction for example garden design for small gardens or learning how to use trees in garden design.

Or you might have been asked by a client to design a garden in a certain style (many of our students come to us for Piet Oudolf Gardens courses because they have been asked for a Piet Oudolf style garden design).

At Learning with Experts we believe in lifelong learning – so you’ll find a gardening course to match your needs whatever level of gardener you are, and no matter how many years of horticulture experience you have.

How much do gardening courses cost?

The cost of gardening courses can vary depending on the course, number of lessons and teacher.

Our courses vary from £25 for a single lesson short course (Piet Oudolf Vlinderhof Garden) to a 48 lesson series of courses with personalised Expert feedback (Garden Design Diploma).

Each of our courses has 2 levels – Peer or Expert. Peer includes the expert’s video lessons and course notes and access to the interactive class (where you can discuss the subject with other students). The Expert option has the addition of personal feedback from your Expert.

When you've found a course you're interested in check what's included and whether there are any additional costs to consider - for example equipment, books, site trips or exams.

How long do gardening courses take?

You can choose a very quick short gardening course, whereas some can take months or years to complete. It depends on the topic, lesson timing and practical activity (and sometimes the seasons too).

Our courses are flexible – some students speed through the whole course and assignments in a few days, whereas others like to spend time practicing what they’re learning as they go. Some of our Garden Design Diploma students have taken over a year to go through the course, completing each course when they've reached a key point in their garden project, or revisiting courses when they need to.

What should a gardening courses include?

We recommend you look for a good mix of activities when you choose a course:

- Interactive learning – discussing the course with your fellow students is a great way to really think about what you’re learning. If you’re lucky enough to be a class with students from around the world you’ll learn about plants and techniques in their regions too. And you never know who you might meet!

- Video or in-person lessons – always check who’s teaching and their background and experience. We love video lessons as it gives students the chance to watch the lessons multiple times or refresh their knowledge at a later date.

- Course notes – many students make their own notes as part of the learning process, but particularly in horticultural studies it’s helpful to have written class notes supplied – with plant names and images.

- Assessments – not every course has to end in an exam, but we believe that doing practical projects along with lessons helps you to put your new knowledge into practice. All Learning with Experts’ lessons have an optional assignment, and sharing pictures of your work or your challenges helps to generate discussion around a topic.

What gardening qualifications do gardener’s clients look for?

If you’re planning to do a course for your gardening business then the best thing to do is to ask your clients.

The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) is probably the best known horticultural institution in the UK, and offers excellent courses including RHS Level 2: Principles of Horticulture.

But if your client is interested in a particular style or element of gardening, then if you’ve studied with a particular tutor and received personal feedback on your work, then this might be exactly what they’re looking for.

We find a lot of experienced gardeners come to us to learn direct from specific experts including Piet Oudolf, Tom Stuart-Smith or Annie Guilfoyle.

What’s the difference between a horticulture course or a gardening course?

Horticulture and gardening both refer to the cultivation of plants. Generally horticulture courses are aimed at professional gardeners, but read the course details carefully as a gardening course can be aimed at experts too.

Gardening qualification certificates

If you need (or want) a gardening qualification certificate, then make sure the course you choose includes one.

Some garden machinery and equipment will require you to have an up-to-date qualification to use it.

You can also choose gardening courses which include Continued Professional Development (CPD) hours so you can demonstrate your gardening experience, and that you're continuing to learn new horticulture skills.

Learning with Experts Gardening courses

Have a browse through all our online gardening courses, and if you’ve got any questions then please do get in touch.

Recommended course

RHS Level 2 Certificate: Principles of Plant Growth and Development

Learn everything you need to know to pass the Certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development.

View courseAll Gardening courses

Alex N

I'm passionate about online learning, and lucky enough to work for Learning with Experts. Most recent course: The Pie Shop with River Cottage's Tom Morrell. Next course: Container Gardening with Chris Beardshaw.

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