Course CodeAHT103
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Designing your own garden can be one of the most creative things you ever do - a living sculpture that gives you years of enjoyment.

The secret to good garden design is a plan.

This course is designed to teach you how to design (or renovate) and maintain a home garden. Most importantly it aims to develop a solid understanding of the principles and procedures of garden design and development. Although consideration is given to construction, this course focuses on design; a well designed garden, designed by a knowledgeable gardener or designer will flow, have unity and fit well into the surrounding landscape. This course is relevant to both small and large landscapes, new gardens, or old gardens in need of improvement or refining.

The course is made up of ten lessons with an assignment for each. All assignments will require written answers to set questions (sometimes drawings - the principles of landscape drawing are covered in the course) plus a plant collection. .


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Basic Garden Design Procedure
    • Site analysis
    • Deciding what you want
    • Creating a Concept (Macro Design)
    • What is your style
    • Creating a garden room
    • Garden room components
    • Garden Effects
    • Principles of Landscape Design
    • Pre Planning Information
  2. Styles of Garden Design through History
    • Formal gardens
    • Informal gardens
    • Natural gardens
    • Naturalistic landscaping
    • The permaculture garden
    • Japanese Gardens
    • Hill and Pond Garden
    • Dry landscape
    • Tea garden
    • Stroll garden
    • Courtyard garden
    • Rock garden
    • Mexican style gardens
    • Garden history
  3. Drawing Plans
    • Starting step by step
    • What type of garden is needed
    • Creating transition where garden meets house
    • Practical concerns for where garden meets house
    • Design procedure
    • Graphic representation of the design
  4. Landscaping with Soils
    • Earthmoving -moving existing earth
    • Tools for earthmoving
    • Importing soil
    • Shaping the ground
    • Settling soil
    • Understanding the nature of soil you work with
  5. Basic Landscape Construction
    • Specifications and contracts
    • General construction
    • Building with concrete
    • Understanding cement, mortar, concrete
    • Options for concreting
    • Mixing concrete and mortar
    • Reinforcing
    • Rodding concrete
    • Expansion joints
    • Garden furniture and structures
  6. Managing Weeds and Pests when Landscaping
    • Weed control methods
    • Keeping weeds out of lawns
    • Weeds in pavement
    • Weeds in garden beds
    • Natural pest controls
    • Integrated pest management
  7. Planting and Pruning
    • Making garden beds
    • Raised beds
    • Sunken beds
    • No dig beds
    • Planting a cottage garden
    • How to use plants in a cottage garden
    • Planting damp spots
    • Creating bog gardens
    • Pruning guidelines
    • Root pruning
    • Pruning specific plants -roses, wisteria, lavender etc
  8. Lawns and Surfacings
    • Understanding gradients/slope
    • Gravel surfaces
    • Soft ground surfaces
    • Lawn surfaces
    • Paving
    • Paving options and tips
  9. Furnishings and Features
    • Factors for choosing features
    • Playground structures
    • Edging and garden borders
    • Fencing
    • Hedging
    • Garden art
    • Framing the view
    • Using pots
    • Sculpture
    • Water
  10. Outdoor Living Areas
    • What is Needed
    • Options
    • What to include (shelter, seating)
    • Garden structures
    • Pool areas
    • Gardens for children
    • Child safety
    • Designing for children
    • Play equipment
    • Garden pavilions
    • Floor options
    • Locating a pavillion
    • Construction types
    • Minimizing fire hazards around a house and garden

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Learning the Plants is a Critical Part of Good Gardening
A big part of this course is to broaden your plant identification skills and knowledge.
This is done (in part) by finding, observing, making notes (from observations, research, or both); and creating images of six different plants for each lesson.
You mat photograph or draw the plant, perhaps press the specimens and label them; or if these things are too difficult for some plants, you might copy an image from a book or web site.
You need to attempt to record both scientific and common names plus details of size and shape, conditions it will grow in, maintenance requirements, lifespan, appearance (and any way its appearance might change throughout the year) plus several recommendations as to suitable situations it could be used in by the landscaper.
Some students will find this easier to do than others; and for those who have difficulty; our tutors can help you. We have a great deal of resources online and in ebooks and magazines that we have written over the years (hundreds of publications covering plant identification); and can send additional information if and when needed. A big part of learning though, is learning to find the information and interpret it yourself, and learning will not be achieved if we spoon feed you every piece of information you need to complete the course.
With our steady assistance and support, you will expand your plant knowledge significantly through this course.
How to Get a Good Lawn.
There are many different types of lawns; some are easy to maintain, while others require a lot of work. If you want the perfect lawn you will need to spend a lot of money and time, both to set it up initially, and to keep it looking good with regular attention. If you want to save some money, and you are prepared to accept something which doesn't always look quite as good, you can plant hardier grasses and mow the weeds that appear, letting them become part of the lawn cover. A rough weedy lawn can be quite functional, particularly for a young family, and there's no reason to get too fussed about making it a showpiece if all you need is something green, clean and tidy.
  • It is nearly always easier to grow a top quality lawn in sandy soil. Choose varieties that suit sandy soils and also your climate.
  • Good drainage is essential for any lawn, particularly during the wet season. If the area is poorly drained, you will need underground drainage pipes and a good well drained topsoil to be sure of a quality lawn.
  • It is difficult to produce good lawns in shaded areas, so those shaded parts of the garden may be better paved or planted out as a garden bed, or alternatively reduce the shadiness of the area by perhaps removing some of the plants nearby that create the shade, or thin their foliage. Lawn breeders are slowly releasing a range of shade tolerant specimens that will be available over the future years.
  • Weeds will be a problem in any top quality lawn, particularly in rural areas or on new estates where weed seeds blow in from nearby paddocks.
  • Be careful about bringing in contaminated topsoil (containing weed seeds, pests or salt).This is more likely if you buy cheaper soils or from less reputable suppliers.
  • If you buy cheaper sod or instant turf, you are also likely to be buying grass which is contaminated with some weeds, even if you can't see them when you first establish your lawn. They will soon make an appearance.
  • Hardy, thick stemmed creeping grasses (e.g. Kikuyu or carpet grass) are often easier to grow and maintain as a lawn, but they rarely look as good as less hardy finer leaved grasses.
When you finish this course, you will be far more confident and capable of designing a home garden, small or large, choosing the most appropriate hard landscaping components and plants to use in the garden; then building the garden in a way that is structurally sound, and value for money.
People commonly spend tens of thousands of dollars on developing and maintaining gardens, over time; and don't always get the garden they would prefer to have, simply because they don't understand what is and is not possible.
Doing this course can make you far more aware of the possibilities. That can make it far more likely that you will get the garden you want, and at a better cost than might have otherwise been the case. 

Meet some of our academics

Adriana Fraser Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves. In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certificate in horticulture and a few years later, completed a Advanced Diploma in Horticulture amongst other qualifications. Adriana has worked across a broad spectrum of the horticulture industry and has developed a strong network of contacts in horticulture around Australia and beyond. She has written and contributed to many books and magazine articles. She has a passion for plant knowledge and sustainability and a natural understanding of how people learn about horticulture and has taught in various institutions and organistions as well as ACS. Adriana has been a tutor with ACS since the mid 90's and based on the feedback from past students has been an overwhelming success in helping people develop their skills and further careers in horticulture.
Bob James Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry. He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
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 & 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.
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.
Trees & Shrubs for Small GardensTurn even the smallest space into a great place. This e-book is an essential guide for any gardener who wants to make the most of a small garden, balcony, verandah or courtyard.
Water Gardeningby John Mason. Ideas and inspiration for landscaping and maintenance of ponds, fountains and other water features in the garden.



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