Course CodeBHT107
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


Develop a firm basis for the selection, establishment and maintenance of a range of commonly used garden plants.

Learn about: Woody plants, Windbreaks, Hedges and Screens, Alpine and water plants, Annual and herbaceous plants, Turf, Maintenance Pest and disease concerns, Weed control and Risk assessment. 

The success of a garden is largely determined by three interconnected factors:

  •  The suitability of selected plants to the conditions in which they are expected to grow.
  • The use of optimum plant establishment techniques.
  • The garden maintenance regime.

A well-selected plant is more likely to survive establishment and be easily maintained.


This course involves far more than just reading and answering questions. Here are just some examples of other things which you might be doing:

  • Visiting different gardens, nurseries and/or parks. These could include home gardens, parks, commercial or any other type of site. The choice is yours. If for some reason (eg. Disability or isolation) you are unable to physically visit gardens or other places, you may undertake a "virtual visit" using the internet; and liaise via email.
  • Survey or interview industry people.
  • Analyse and devise maintenance plants for different areas.
  • Research the cause of an incident.
  • Prepare a weed collection of either pressings, photographs or illustrations.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: What to plant where, Plant selection, Plant varieties, Which plant, Colourful year round foliage, Establishment (timing, soil preparation, pot plant size, planting technique), Maintenance programs, Plants that tolerate poor drainage, Coastal plantings.
  2. Woody plants Selecting woody plants, Trees, Deciduous and Semi deciduous trees, Evergreen trees, Flowering shrubs, Selecting flowering shrubs, Establishing woody plants, Planting procedure, Planting deciduous and bare rooted plants, Shade.
  3. Windbreaks, hedges and screens Purpose of windbreaks, hedges and screens, Selecting plants for screening, Establishing screens, hedges and windbreaks, Pruning an established hedge, Hedge trimmers.
  4. Alpine and water plants Selecting alpine plants, Establishing alpines, Rock gardens, Raised beds, Sinks and troughs, Selecting water plants, establishment and maintenance of water plants.
  5. Annual and herbaceous plants Advantages of annuals, Types of annuals (edging plants, groundwork plants, dot plants), Low, medium and tall annuals, Scented annuals, Colourful foliage, Bedding schemes (pure, mixed, single variety, single genus, standard garden, standard park), Annuals from seed or seedlings, Annuals in containers, Selecting & establishing herbaceous plants, Popular herbaceous plants, Supporting herbaceous plants, Maximising flower displays.
  6. Turf Selecting turf, Turf varieties, Lawn mixes, What to grow where, Wildflower meadows, Turf establishment, Soil preparation, Seeding, Sodding, Instant turf, Stolonizing, Sprigging, Plugging, Mowing turf, Mo0wers, Mowing guidelines, Mowing heights, Fertilizing turf.
  7. Maintenance Fertilizing, pH, Replacing plants, Pruning, Pruning deciduous trees & shrubs, Irrigation systems, Irrigating turf, Irrigating garden beds and container plants, Designing an irrigation system, Sprinklers, Flow rates, Micro irrigation, Avoiding watering, Humidity, Mulch, Developing a maintenance program.
  8. Pest and disease control Preventing pest and disease problems, Non chemical control, Chemical controls, Environmental problems, Insect pests, Viruses, Fungal diseases, Bacterial diseases.
  9. Weed control Chemical and non chemical control, Safety with weedicides, Alternative weed control strategies.
  10. Risk assessment Identifying risks, Preventative maintenance, Duty of care, Workplace safety, Illness, Protective clothing, Safety equipment, Safe5ty with tools and equipment, Safety with electricity, Tool maintenance.

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.


  • Develop knowledge of the range of applications for and selection and establishment of horticultural plants.
  • Develop knowledge in the establishment and maintenance of a range of woody plants, with different modes of growth, for different situations
  • Develop knowledge in selection, establishment, and maintenance of species suitable for hedges windbreaks and screens.
  • Describe the cultivation of alpine and water plants.
  • Describe the selection, cultivation, and maintenance of herbaceous plants.
  • Explain the selection, establishment and maintenance of turf and lawns.
  • Explain the maintenance and cultural requirements of herbaceous, woody, and other plants.
  • Consider the different pest and disease control implications resulting from the choice of different plant varieties.
  • Determine pest and disease control requirements for a new garden.
  • Explain the control of weeds in a garden.
  • Explain the implications upon weed management that result from selection of particular plants for use in a garden.
  • Manage establishment and maintenance of plants in a way that minimizes safety risks to people working in or visiting a garden.

What Plant Should Go Where?

There are many reasons why plants do not grow well in a particular garden or in a particular place.  Most of these are caused by a combination of local climate and soil conditions.  Some common problems include
  • Dry Conditions -on slopes or in sandy, exposed soils.
  • Alkaline soils - these are soils with a pH greater than 7 (note though that most plants will grow slightly outside of their preferred range, so it is not always necessary to change pH if it is within a reasonable range. For example most acid loving plants will still grow at pH 6 even though they may optimally prefer pH5.
  • Waterlogged soils - where drainage is poor, generally due to the site being in a low lying area, or because of poorly structured soils, such as heavy clays.
  • Salinity - in some parts of the world, this is a problem not just in agricultural areas, but increasingly in urban fringe areas. The overuse of fertilisers combined with drip irrigation can cause localised salinity problems around the base of plants (for example). If you are in prolonged drought or extended dry conditions - take care to use organic fertilisers rather than fast release ones and if possible deep water the soil occasionally to flush down salts.
  • Strong winds, poor soils and salty conditions associated with coastal areas.
  • Windy areas. Wind not only blows plants over, but it also dries them out, Wind increases evapouration of water from both foliage and soil.
  • Heat. Plant growth slows at high temperatures; humidity can increase (increasing the risk of fungal disease), foliage and soil can dry out much faster. There are many negative affects if the temperature gets too high.
  • High humidity (some plants suffer from fungal disease in humid conditions e.g. roses). 

There are two main ways to overcome such problem areas in the garden:

  1. Modify local conditions to better suit the plants you wish to grow e.g. irrigate in hot, dry areas, grow or build a windbreak in windy areas, improve drainage, or lower soil pH in alkaline soils.  However such remedies can often be very difficult to achieve and can be time consuming, or expensive - so the following option is most probably the best (when at all possible).
  2. Grow plants which suit, or will cope with the conditions present in the garden. If you choose your plants carefully you are more likely to create a garden that is very rewarding in terms of its appearance, and its hardiness.

Replanting an Old Garden

When you are faced with the task of restoring an old garden, it may be a significant challenge to discover and recreate plantings as close to the original design as possible; original planting design of any garden will commonly change over time.
First, you must as far as possible determine what was previously planted, and how it was arranged. Look for any old records, such as plant lists or plans. For some gardens, these may be relatively easy to find. If the design was created by a designer of merit, the materials may be archived in a private collection or library. If the company that created the garden is still in existence, records may be available through that company. Sometimes photographs can be found in private or public records. If people who used the property along time ago are still alive, they may remember details.
If no documentary evidence is found, there are still other things that can be investigated - look for evidence of original or past plantings on the site. Some old trees or shrubs may still exist from the original plantings. Many tree species can survive for hundreds of years, and even a dead or almost dead tree can sometimes be identified as part of the original design.
Look for plants that have invaded parts of the garden (or park) or nearby properties that match the time of the original garden (e.g. if ivy has become invasive in a neighbouring property, it may have been part of the original planting of the garden and may have spread to the neighbour’s property.
Identify indicators of types of planting in the original garden; for example: the remains of a pergola (even just foundations), may be an indicator of a climber in that location; mounded rows of earth may indicate a former area for row crops (e.g. vegetables), and a raised bed containing better quality soil than the natural earth may indicate an area of more intensive cultivation: perhaps annuals or perennials. In some gardens aerial surveys have located planting holes left after trees were removed (some up to 400 years old!).
Research local records: period nursery catalogues can indicate the varieties of plants commonly used at the time of the garden’s establishment. Photographs, plans or even articles in publications of the period can indicate likely planting combinations and styles.
Critical aspects of garden planting restoration are to:
  • Determine what existing plants and features to retain.
  • What new plants to introduce.
To make these decisions, you need to conduct a plant survey and consider:
  • What plants are growing on the site.
  • Which of the current plants were in the original design and whether any were not intended to be in the garden i.e. planted later or self-sown from neighbouring properties.
  • What did the original planting design intend and is that intent still valid and viable.
Current Plantings
Existing plantings may or may not need replacing. You should consider:
  • Are plants healthy?
  • Are they safe? (Trees may be original, but may be dropping branches, causing damage to structures or have some other negative attributes).
  • Are they in character?
  • Are they creating other problems (e.g. harbouring pests or disease, costly to maintain, invasive, etc.
Other Considerations
  • If possible a photo should be taken of each plant.
  • Maps of the property should be used to locate and record plant features (in some cases GPS grid reference may be recorded using digital technology).
  • Each plant should be identified by experts this enables them to identify which plants, trees or heritage vegetables need to be propagated for a renewal program. This may also uncover rare species that which may have been bred by plant collectors or gathered by plant hunters on expeditions – some of these species may be hundreds of years old.
  • Working kitchen gardens should also be part of the survey to provide information on rare and threatened heritage varieties of vegetables and fruits which may be found in the garden – it may be also possible to collect seeds or cuttings for propagation purposes if plants are still in existence and require renewal.
  • It may take a year to audit and map a site – this is to ensure that all species are included i.e. bulbs, herbaceous perennials that may be dormant at the initial time of audit.


  • Expand the number of plants you can choose from when selecting cultivars for landscaping
  • Better understand what the plant might grow into
  • Better understand the risks associated with planting a poor selection in an inappropriate location.
  • Become a better designer, consultant, nurseryman or horticulturist
  • Improve your career and business opportunities
  • Save money and time -no traveling to classes
  • Determine when, where and how long your study sessions are, for yourself
  • Improve your career and business opportunities
  • Make valuable connections with people and organisations in the horticultural and landscaping industries.

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.
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.
Yvonne SharpeRHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

Check out our eBooks

Proteas and their RelativesEasy to read, illustrated with lots of stunning colour photos of Proteas, Leucadendrons, Leucospermums and related plants. Download an exerpt for free, and buy online to download and read immediately.
Climbing Plants“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” ― Frank Lloyd Wright This e-book is a wonderful guide to climbing plants. Complete with full colour photographs, it is ideal for the home gardening enthusiast, landscape designer, or architect.
Trees and Shrubs for Warm PlacesA stunning book with around 300 colour photos! A comprehensive reference to thousands of tropical plant varieties (mostly different information to the Tropical Plants book) . An classic reference for nurserymen, landscapers, interior plantscapers, horticulturists and any tropical plant enthusiasts. 209 pages
What to Plant WhereA great guide for choosing the right plant for a particular position in the garden. Thirteen chapters cover: plant selection, establishment, problems, and plants for wet areas. Shade, hedges and screens, dry gardens, coastal areas, small gardens, trees and shrubs, lawns and garden art.



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