Course CodeVHT021
Fee CodeDI
Duration (approx)2100 hours
QualificationProficiency Award 3

Learn to be a Landscape Professional

  • Designer
  • Contractor
  • Manager

This course is hands on and relevant to the needs of today's world; and for the right candidate, will lay an outstanding foundation for a professional career in landscaping.

Garden Design is both an art and a science. Being a good garden designer requires several things (as follows), and this course focuses strongly on just that.

  • An understanding of horticulture and how the component parts of nature fit and interact together.
  • Familiarity with a wide range of garden components (eg. Knowledge of thousands of different plants, different building materials features etc). The more components you know intimately; the more you can select from an use to compose a garden.
  • Knowledge of artistic and design principles and ways of using them to achieve a pre conceived goals
  • Knowledge of a wide range of garden styles, in different countries and throughout history.

Contrary to popular opinion, a garden designer does not need to be good at drawing (though some are); or an expert at computer graphics. Producing a plan is only important in it's capacity to instruct a landscape builder. Once the garden has been constructed; the important thing is the finished product -not the drawings it was built from. Some of the best garden designers produce rather messy drawings; and others who produce very attractive drawings, sometimes don't produce anywhere near as attractive gardens.



2100 hours (commonly 2 to 3 years full time study or equivalent at your own pace)


Course Structure:

This course is made of 21 modules -19 compulsory modules, plus two elective modules.
Module 1. Landscaping I
The ten lessons are as follows:
1. Basic Design Procedure A. - collecting pre-planning information, landscape elements, principles, etc.
2. History of Gardening ... garden styles and themes, famous designers, garden influences.
3. Draughting & Contracting - drawing techniques, specifications, details.
4. Basic Landscape Construction - timber, steps, retainer walls, pathways, play structures, etc.
5. Surfacings - concrete, asphalt, gravels, mulches, grasses, gradients, etc.
6. Furnishings & Features - chairs, statues, figurines, birdbaths, skateboards, safety, etc.
7. Park Design A - good/bad park design characteristics, recreational landscaping.
8. Home Garden design - good/bad garden design characteristics.
9. Design Procedure B - development of concept plans and detailed planting plans.
10. Park Design B - development of park design, fun & fitness trails.
Module 2. Horticulture I
There are twelve lessons in this course, as follows:
1. Plant Identification: Naming plants; distinguishing the taxonomic divisions of plants including family, genus, species and variety or hybrid; identifying the different parts of a flower; distinguishing the morphological characteristics of leaves.
2. Planting: Planting methods used for different types of plants including annuals, perennials, evergreen and deciduous plants; influence of environmental factors on planting techniques.
3. Soils: Classifying soils; sampling and testing soils; chemical and physical properties of soils; soil improvement techniques; composting; potting mixes.
4. Nutrition: Major and micro elements necessary for plant growth; nutrient deficiencies and toxicities; fertilisers.
5. Water Management: Irrigation systems - characteristics, advantages and disadvantages; drainage systems; waterwise gardening.
6. Pruning: Pruning techniques; importance of pruning to growth, flowering and fruiting; pruning tools.
7. Weeds: Identifying common weeds; characteristics of weeds; control techniques; herbicides.
8. Pests and Diseases: Identifying common insect and disease problems; control methods; Integrated Pest Management; pesticides; hygiene procedures; chemical safety.
9. Landscaping: Stages of landscaping; design procedures; collating pre-planning information; preparing plans; selecting plants for specified sites.
10. Propagation: Asexual and sexual propagation; taking cuttings; sowing seeds; aftercare of propagated plants.
11. Lawns: Turf grass varieties; laying a new lawn; cultural techniques including watering, fertilizing, topdressing, aerating, pest and disease control.
12. Arboriculture: Tree management techniques including pruning, removal and tree surgery; identifying tree problems.
Module 3. Landscaping II
There are twelve lessons in this subject as follows:
1. The Garden Environment
2. Landscape Materials
3. Using Bulbs and Annuals
4. Landscaping with Trees
5. Ground Cover Plants
6. Walls and Fences
7. Paths and Paving
8. Treatment of Slopes and Other Problem Areas
9. Garden Features
10. Designing for Low Maintenance
11. Development of a Landscape Plan
12. Management of Landscape Projects.
Module 4. Landscaping III (Landscape Styles)
 There are 10 lessons in this module as follows:
 1.Creating the Mood
2.Historic Gardens
3.Formal Gardens
4.Oriental Gardens
5.Middle Eastern and Spanish Style
6.Mediterranean Gardens
7.Coastal Gardens
8.Modern Gardens
9.Eclectic Gardens
10.Other Styles
Module 5. Plant Establishment and Selection
There are ten lessons as follows:
2.Woody plants
3.Windbreaks, hedges and screens
4.Alpine and water plants
5.Annual and herbaceous plants
8.Pest and disease control
9.Weed control
10.Risk assessment
Module 6. Landscape Construction
There are ten lessons as follows:
1.Tools and Machinery
2.Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site
3.Drainage in Landscape Construction
5.Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf
6.Construction of Garden Structures I
7.Construction of Garden Structures II
8.Irrigation Systems
9.Establishing Hedges and Other Plants
10.Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work
Module 7. Horticulture II
There are ten lessons in this course plus one Special Assignment (see later for details). The content of each of the ten lessons is outlined below:
1. The Groups of Plants ‑ setting a framework for the whole subject.
2. Use of Plants ‑ plant selection, soils.
3. Australian Native Plants
4. Exotic Ornamental Plants
5. Indoor & Tropical Plants
6. Bedding Plants
7. Vegetables
8. Fruits, Nuts & Berries
9. Herbs
10. Alternative Growing Techniques 
Module 8. Horticulture & Research I
The course contains seven lessons:
1. Determining Research Needs
2. Searching for Information
3. Research Methods
4. Using Statistics
5. Conducting Statistical Research
6. Research Reports
7. Reporting on a Research Project
Module 9. Water Gardening
There are eight lessons as follows:
1. Introduction: Scope & Nature of water features, water quality, plants & animals in water, etc.
2. Construction
3. Equipment: Pumps, Lights, Filters etc.
4. Ponds, watercourses, bog gardens, dams –Design & Aftercare.
5. Spas and Swimming Pools –Design & After care
6. Water Features –Indoor & Outdoor –Fountains, Waterfalls, Fish tanks, ponds etc
7. Water Plants
8. Aquatic Animals
Module 10. Playground Design
There are eight lessons in this unit as follows:
1. Overview of Parks & Playgrounds
2. Playground Philosophy
3. Preparing a Concept Plan
4. Materials
5. Park & Playground Structures and Materials
6. Local and Neighbourhood Parks
7. Community Participation In Park Development
8. Special Assignment.
Module 11. Planning Layout and Construction of Ornamental Gardens
There are ten lessons in this unit as follows:
1. Site Appraisal, Interpretation and Risk Assessment
2. Preparing Site Plans and Specifications
3. Influence of Site Characteristics
4. The Use of Hard Landscape Features
5. Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
6. Soil Handling and Storage
7. Land Drainage Systems
8. Ground Preparation Techniques
9. Construction of Paths and Patios
10. Construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences
Module 12. Cottage Garden Design
There are eight lessons as follows: 
1. Introduction To Cottage Gardens
2. History Of Cottage Gardens
3. Design Techniques and Drawing Plans
4. Plants For Cottage Gardens
5. Planting Design In Cottage Gardens
6. Landscape Features and Components
7. Cottage Gardens Today
8. Special Assignment - Design Of A Complete Garden.
Module 13. Permaculture Systems
The course is divided into eight lessons as follows:
1. Permaculture Principles
2. Natural Systems
3. Zone & Sector Planning
4. Permaculture Techniques
5. Animals in Permaculture
6. Plants in Permaculture
7. Appropriate Technologies
8. Preparing a Permaculture Plan
Module 14. Horticultural Management
There are ten lessons in this course as follows:
1. Horticultural Business Structures
2. Management Theories and Procedures
3. Horticulture & The Law
4. Supervision
5. Financial Management
6. Staff Management
7. Improving Plant Varieties
8. Productivity and Risk
9. Managing Physical Resources
10. Developing an Horticultural Business Plan
Module 15. Natural Garden Design
There are 8 lessons in this course as follows:
1. Introduction to Natural Gardens.
2. History of Natural Gardens
3. Developing Concept Plans
4. Plants for Natural Gardens
5. Planting Design in Natural Gardens
6. Natural Garden Features
7. Natural Gardens Today
8. Bringing It All Together.
Module 16. Project Management 
There are nine lessons as follows:
2.Project Identification
3.Project Planning
4.Project Implementation
5.Project Completion & Evaluation
6.Technical Project Management Skills
7.Leadership Skills
8.Improving Key Personnel Skills
9.Major Assignment
Module 17. Restoring Established Ornamental Gardens
There are 8 lessons in this module as follows:
1.Landscape History & Design Styles
2.Surveying the Site
3.Assessment of Plantings and Features
4.Selecting Components for Retention
5.Work Programming and Risk Management
7.Hard Landscape Feature Restoration
8.Planting Restoration and Maintenance
Module 18. Horticulture & Research II
There are 7 lessons in this module as follows:
1. Identifying research issues and determining research priorities.
2. Acquisition of technical information
3. Specialised research techniques
4. Research planning and designing
5. Statistics
6. Conducting research
7. Writing reports
Module 19. Workshop I
This course uses PBL (problem-based learning) study projects to develop a "real world" relevance in your overall learning experience
There are 3 lessons in this module as follows:
1. Workplace Tools, Equipment and Materials: Identifying and describing the operation of tools and equipment used in the workplace; routine maintenance of tools and equipment; identifying and comparing materials used in the workplace; using different materials to perform workplace tasks.
2. Workplace Skills: Determining key practical skills in the workplace; identifying and comparing commonly-performed workplace tasks; determining acceptable standards for workplace tasks; implementing techniques for improving workplace efficiency.
3. Workplace Safety: Identifying health and safety risks in the workplace; complying with industry OH&S standards; developing safety guidelines for handling dangerous items
Modules 20 and 21. Electives
 plus two relevant electives from horticulture or another area of study of value to people working in landscaping.
For example … Advanced Permaculture; Irrigation – gardens; Trees for Rehabilitation; Horticultural Marketing; Plant Ecology; Conifers; Roses; Perennials; Australian Natives I; Tropical Plants; Photoshop; Starting a Small Business.


What some of our students have said about studying with ACS:

M. Tanzi     I am glad I did the course and wish to do another one.

B. Clarke     I think ACS provides a wonderful service.

M. Khaovong    Studying with ACS was a wonderful experience. I have learnt a lot and will take a new course soon.

D. Kenyon   I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found ACS to be wonderful in all aspects.

Working in Landscaping

Graduates from this course may work in either landscape design, landscape management, construction/contracting or project development; or perhaps a related situation consulting, teaching or writing about landscapes. 

This is a huge industry, with a great diversity of opportunities.

Garden Design is just one unique aspect of a profession that blends science with art.

Landscape designing a garden involves:

  1. Meeting with clients to determine their needs and desires.
  2. Surveying a site, and creating a base plan (drawing)
  3. Determining potentials and limitations (What is and is not feasible)
  4. Systematically working through a logical design process, to develop, step by step, a concept that is physically achievable, as well as being functional and aesthetically appropriate.

The amount of work available in garden design has increased in recent decades, particularly in more affluent parts of the developed world. In situations where both husband and wife work, and money is relatively available, all home services including garden design have become growth industries.

Some landscapers both design and build the landscape. Some may even design, build and continue to manage the landscape after construction.

Others may be garden designers work full time doing nothing but garden design; or project managers who after building each garden, move on to a new project.

Some combine garden design with another job, such as garden consultancy, garden writing or growingt plants in a nursery (which are used on their projects).

Garden centres sometimes offer a garden design service to entice people to buy plants from them. They may employ, or do a deal with a designer; or the owner or staff may even go and learn design themselves.

Most landscape designers are self employed. Some other employment opportunities for landscape designers include being employed by places such as:
    Horticultural businesses (eg. garden centres; landscape contractors).
    Planning or design firms (eg. Architects, engineers, Town planners)
    Developers or construction companies
    Parks Authorities
    Sporting Facilities
    Theme Parks

Consultants may charge anything from low to extremely high rates for their design work. A garden design for a 500 to 1000 sq. metre property (home) may cost as much as a person’s weekly wage; or much more if designed by a well known and prestigious designer. The ability to command high fees will depend upon reputation and that will only develop over time, and if you are able to develop a unique and popular flair to your work.

Designers who are able to obtain employment (part time or full time) with others should be able to earn a professional level salary.

Advancement in this industry is most dependent upon reputation. If your work becomes famous, you will also, and your ability to charge more will increase. In some places, a good way of advancing your career as a designer is to create display gardens in a major garden show. Designers who win medals at Chelsea Flower Show (London) or MIFGIS (Melbourne) for instance, will find it easier to get work; and often be able to command higher fees.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How can I learn the Practical Side of Landscaping?

Answer: The question of practicals is a complex one....There are literally hundreds of different things we do throughout a course such as this.

The Proficiency Award 3 in Landscaping is an excellent course, and it can be done anywhere - you do not need to attend practicals or workshops in any particular place at any particular time....BUT ....there is a lot of work that goes well beyond just theory; and the way in which that is tackled can be extremely diverse, and different for every student.

Here are just a few examples:

1. There are a lot of tasks that involve vesting gardens or sites to be landscaped; and observing, conducting surveys , photographing or otherwise recording what is observed, undertaking an analysis etc.
-Some of these tasks may involve using improvised survey equipment (if you do not have more sophisticated equipment, ewe can show you how to improvise).
-Some may involve doing an analysis of soil
-Some might involve planting something or growing something.

2. Some tasks involve networking with industry -making contact with and interacting with people who work in landscaping or associated support industries

3. Some tasks involve pbl projects (a system that has been tried and proven not only by ourselves but by many highly reputable international universities (see ) For instance.....this has been shown to work just as well in providing practical learning, in medical degrees in the USA, as running actual laboratory classes.

4. Research projects -You need to visit, observe, interpret things in places like landscape material supply yards, soil supply companies, machinery & tool suppliers, etc.

5. Plant Collections -This is a tried and proven way of learning plant knowledge....we have adapted it for distance ed. and used it for 30 from graduates and employers has been overwhelmingly positive. It works!

I find that the question of "practical" learning is always one that people feel cannot be achieved through correspondence; and I understand that apprehension; but we have been grappling with that problem and contriving solutions for 30 years. Over those 30 years, we have been given more and more tools (eg. video, internet, fax) that make our job easier. Over the same period, funding for practicals in government colleges has become tighter and tighter; and today, with huge funding pressures, much of the hands on instruction that used to be part of face to face courses, is not as practical as what you get from our correspondence courses.

Question: Do I need to Travel much to do practicals?


The answer really varies greatly from one student to the next. It can depend very much upon what you choose to do, where you live and what is going on in your locality at the time you come to do an assignment.

If a student has difficulty doing something, they can liaise with a tutor and always find an achievable solution.... sometimes for instance, if you need to visit a garden and you are living in the north of Sweden, trying to do the assignment in the middle of winter -the tutor might direct you to do a "virtual visit" on the internet. If you cannot visit an ideal site to conduct a physical survey, we may need to explore and find a site closer to home that achieves the purpose, but is more achievable for you.

When issues arise that are a problem, our approach to finding solutions is very much on a case by case basis. This approach has worked for 30 plus years, and our students do learn well because we charge a level of fees, and have an infrastructure that allows us to take time to do this if necessary.

For the majority of students though, the assignments and set tasks are written in a way that gives them sufficient flexibility that our intervention is not needed.

You need to understand that every student is doing a different mix of assignments -We may have 50 people doing this course, but it's rare for more than 2 or 3 to be living within several hundred miles of each other.... as a consequence, the assignments are presented in a way that gives the student a framework....and beyond that they are making choices themselves about where they travel to.

Meet some of our academics

Diana Cole Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects since the 1980's. She has worked full time in horticulture since 2001, as a nursery manager, landscape and garden consultant, and a horticultural teacher (both with ACS and in the classroom with a local college where she lives in England).
Gavin Cole Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Rosemary Davies Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences. Initially she worked with the Department of Agriculture in Victoria providing advice to the public. Over the years she has taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing

Check out our eBooks

Landscaping with Australian PlantsDiscover more about Landscaping with Australian Plants with this ebook, add a different design element in your garden by using beautiful and highly practical Australian Native plants. Attract wildlife, save water by using plants that are suitable for your area. Perfect for passionate gardeners, students and gardening professionals.
The Environment of PlayFull of inspiring colour images of playgrounds around the world, this book is ideal for designers, park managers, schools and parents! First published in the USA in 1982. Used in the past as a university text (in landscaping and education degrees). Completely revised in 2012. Full of inspiring colour images of playgrounds around the world, this book is ideal for designers, park managers, schools and parents! Play is the most important and effective method of learning for adults as well as children. It can be active or passive, planned or spontaneous. If you want to learn about the relationship between PLAY and the ENVIRONMENT, this is the ebook for you.
Tropical LandscapingTropical Landscaping is a style that may be used more in tropical places, but can still be created in cooler climates. This book provides practical advice and inspiration over 8 chapters: “Garden Design”, “Components of a Tropical Garden”, “Building the Garden”, “Outdoor Living Areas”, “Pools, Ponds and Water Features”, “Lawns”. “Plants (to use), and “Caring for Plants”. 103 pages 69 colour photos
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook will guide you through everything that you need to know about designing your own shaded garden.



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