Garden Design & Landscaping Study Courses
Blackford Centre for Garden Design
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it usually take to complete the course?
Students can take up to 18 months to complete the course. But you can do it as quickly or slowly as you want. That's one advantage of distance learning.
Do I need to finish the course within a certain time?
You can take as long as you want. Unlike other organisations, we don't set any time limits.
What do the courses cost?
To see the fees, click here. You can also enrol on that page.
Does the cost for the course include everything I need? Or are there any extra fees?
There are no other costs or fees.
Can I spread the cost of the courses over a period of time?
Yes. You can pay over five months. This costs about 20% more. To see the cost of paying by instalments, please click here.
How could I get my money back if I don't like the course?
Just return the course in good condition within 60 days of receiving it, and we'll send you a full refund.
And if, after seeking work at the end of the course, you don't earn at least the cost of the course inside three months, we'll also refund your fees.
Can I start the course at any time?
Yes. You can start whenever you want. There are no fixed starting dates.
Is the course all from home, or do I have to go to a test centre?
It's all from home.
I live in the USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada... etc. etc. Is the course suitable for me?
Yes. We have students in 28 countries. And we have two editions of the course. One is for North America and those who want to pay in US dollars. The other edition is for the UK and Europe, and people who want to pay in sterling. But we welcome payment in any currency.
How can I contact my tutor or the Blackford Centre?
There are two types of people you can contact - your tutor and a course advisor.
The tutor marks your work, and helps you with any problems. You can fax, email or post assignments to your tutor, whenever you want.
We don't give out the tutor's phone number, because a few people would spend all day talking to their tutors, who would never get any work done.
But sometimes students get stuck, or have an urgent query. If so, you can phone a course advisor at the Blackford Centre at any time during work hours. If you leave a message out of work hours we'll ring you back the next day. You can contact course advisors as often as you want, and about anything to do with garden design.
What level is the course?
Is the course accredited?
Our course has been accredited at Level 4 by NCFE an awarding body recognised by the qualification regulators for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The regulators are the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (Ofqual) in England, the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) in Wales and the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) in Northern Ireland.
The course has been accredited under NCFE’s IIQ licence.
NCFE has been established since 1848. Over 340,000 learners from 2,000 colleges, schools and training organisations choose NCFE as the Awarding Organisation to help them move their careers forward.
To read more about NCFE please go to www.ncfe.org.uk
We are registered with NCFE under our corporate trading name of 'Home Study Courses Limited'.
Will the course give me credits towards a degree or some other study?
No. But it will help you set up and run your own business. And we encourage all students to continue their studies after completing the course.
We are an Approved Learning Provider for ELCAS. Our Learner Provider Reference number is: 2558. To get to the ELCAS website, click here. To find us, search for our Learner Provider ID, which is 2558.
We are registered with ELCAS under our corporate trading name of 'Home Study Courses Limited'.
Are the tutors practising garden designers?
Yes, all tutors are practising garden designers. Some other organisations use college lecturers, which means you don't get the information from the real 'coal face'.
I've never drawn in my life. Does this matter?
No it doesn't matter. We assume that you don''t know how to draw, and start from scratch. We show you the easy way to draw, and include trade secrets, such as how to draw hedging quickly and easily. you'll be amazed!
Will you teach me to draw by hand or using the computer?
Both! We start by showing you how to draw by hand. Plus, we include an easy-to-use software package. After that, you can make your own choice of which to use. Some prefer hand drawing, while others swear by the computer. We're happy about either!
Can garden design be taught, just like accountancy or the law?
Yes. Only it's a lot more fun!
Will the Diploma enable me to practise professionally?
Yes. The course is designed specifically to help you set up and run your own practice. Some courses, even at university, seem to omit this all-important aspect. We give you enough technical knowledge to practise, and we also provide detailed guidance on marketing, operation and finance to run your own business.
Will the qualification get me a job in a landscape or garden design firm?
No! And here's why. There's a lot of competition for jobs in these firms. Everyone wants to work for them. And the easiest way to earn a living is to work for yourself. So on this course we focus on how you can work from home as a garden designer. As your own boss, you'll be in control of your life, and have a wonderful time. Later on, through networking, you might find that you're on the inside track for a job with a big landscape design firm. But by then you won't want to work for anyone else!
Will you show me how to find work?
Yes, the course includes practical guidance of getting work. You can also discuss this with your tutor or a course advisor.
Is there a final exam?
No, there is no final exam. The course is based on continuous assessment, through the assignments you send to your tutor.
Also, continuous assessment lets you check all the time that you're on course to succeed.
So you should look on the assignments as an exciting challenge. No, it's true! You'll enjoy them. We promise you!
What happens if I fail an assignment?
You do the work again! 80% of students complete the course without ever failing an assignment. But you might misunderstand the question, or produce an insufficiently detailed answer. So the tutor will explain the problem and ask you to send in the assignment again. When you do this, your work will be much better.
Can I submit hand-written assignments?
Yes. That's no problem.
Can I submit assignments by E-mail?
Yes. That's no problem.
Can I join the course without prior experience?
Yes. That's no problem. We make no assumptions about people's prior knowledge.
Can I tackle the topics in any order I choose?
Yes, you can. So, if you want to tackle a particular topic, you can go straight to that module. This is useful if you have a job or a client that requires you to know about a particular subject. You might note that some other organisations supply only one or two modules at a time.
I haven't studied for years. The thought of returning to study makes me nervous.
Don't worry. We sympathize. But this course is nothing like your memories of being stuck inside a stuffy classroom on a summer's day with an old-style teacher droning on.
For a start, this is a subject that interests you (or you wouldn't have got this far).
And getting this deep into the website shows that you can absorb information and concentrate for long periods of time.
You'll see that we write clearly and simply. And that's how we've written the course materials. It's true that some organisations write long and boring pages that make your eyes glaze over. We promise you that our course is nothing like that.
You'll find this course is informative and enjoyable. In fact, many students are almost upset at finishing the course!
Do I get the whole course or individual modules at a time?
We send you the whole course when you enrol. This means you can study any topic you want to. You can also see what topics are coming up. Getting everything in one package makes it easier for you to get an overview of the course. As we mentioned above, some other organisations supply only one or two modules at a time.
How does this course compare with others?
We think this is the best course in the world. Bar none. But please examine other courses before making a decision. Consider these points:
1. Is the course comprehensive?
2. Will your studies be supported by a tutor? Research shows that people succeed much better on courses that include a personal tutor.
3. Is it interactive? That is, do the course materials regularly make you stop and think, and do exercises? Too many courses consist of page after page of boring lecture notes.
4. Does it teach you about setting up your own business? College courses are often weak on this point.
5. Is it accredited?
6. Can you get a refund if you don't like the course?
So, how can I find out about other courses?
1. See if any courses are available at your local college or nearby university.
2. Scour the internet. But beware: lots of dot com entrepreneurs think they can teach garden design.
3. See if you can contact a careers advisor. Careers advisors know nothing about garden design, as they would be the first to admit. And the careers books they consult will probably suggest getting a three-year degree in landscape design. Which may (or may not) be a good thing, but it isn't an option for most of our students (many of whom already have a degree!).
Can a newcomer break into garden design and earn money?
Yes. People are increasingly interested in their home and garden, and are making increasing use of garden designers. In addition, fashions keep changing, so there's always something new in the garden, and that's an opportunity for you to earn a living.
Are there any restrictions on me setting up as a garden designer?
None whatsoever. And to keep you straight, we provide detailed advice on forming a company, keeping records and paying tax.
What's the difference between landscape design and garden design?
A landscape designer tends to work on big projects, such as municipal parks or corporate work.
By contrast, a garden designer works on a smaller scale, and on domestic gardens.
What's a landscape architect?
A landscape architect has done a lengthy university degree, and is competent to design open spaces, especially municipal ones. By law, in some countries you may not call yourself a landscape architect, but you wouldn't want to anyway. Being a garden designer is much more fun.
How can I be sure that you're legitimate, and that you won't disappear with my money?
Here are some answers we hope will reassure you.
We've been in operation since 1995; so we're very established.
We publish our physical address at the bottom of each page - and you are welcome to visit us.
We're audited by NCFE twice a year (you can phone them to verify they do that).
You can read the Reviews of our students on the web site.
You can ask us for the contact details of former students who will talk to you about their experiences.
We publish an Ethical statement here.
We're registered at Companies House: registration number 352 4886
Our VAT number is 729 1528 23
- Our Licence number granted by the Office of Fair Trading under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 is 606843.
Our bank is NatWest, 7 High Street, Wells, Somerset (we have money in the bank and no loans or overdraft).
We're registered with the UK government's Register of Learning Providers (www.ukrlp.co.uk); Number 10009490.
And finally, we love what we do; and we wouldn't do anything to jeopardise it.
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