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Duration (approx) 1000 hours
Qualification Foundation Diploma

Learn more about hardy ornamentals.  A must for horticulturalists wanting to have an in depth knowledge of hardy ornamentals such as azaleas, deciduous trees, conifers and so on. A 1000 hour course leading to a foundation level diploma.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the FOUNDATION DIPLOMA IN HARDY ORNAMENTALS VHT249
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 1 of the following 2 modules.

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Become a specialist in hardy ornamentals

Having an in depth knowledge of hardy ornamentals is useful for people working in horticulture, garden centres, nurseries, stately homes, running ornamental gardens or people studying for their own personal interest. This foundation diploma in hardy ornamentals is jam packed with detailed information and knowledge of hardy ornamentals, such as ferns, roses, conifers and more.

This course requires the completion of ten 100 hour modules. There are nine core modules – Azaleas and Rhododendrons, Geraniums and Pelargoniums, Growing Camellias, Growing Iris, Conifers, Deciduous Trees, Ferns, Perennials and Roses. Then choose one elective module from Annuals and Cut Flowers.


How is the course assessed?

The course is assessed by the completion of assignments and exams.

There is an assignment at the end of each lesson,  that is submitted to your tutor for marking and feedback. For example, Azaleas and Rhododendrons has eight lessons, so there are eight assignments.

There is also an exam at the end of each module, so ten in total. Exams can be taken at a time and location to suit you.

Start Date

You can start the course at any time to suit you and work through the course at your own pace.

Working with Hardy Ornamentals

One thing that separates professional horticulturalists from home gardeners is the breadth of their plant knowledge.  This is not to say that amateurs are not knowledgeable because there are many genuine experts growing and learning about their plants in their back gardens and becoming world-class experts in a genus or part of a genus.  In fact many professionals are also part-time geeks in their own personal obsession. 

However, when you are earning your living from gardening you have to know about any plant that you may come across in either your employer’s garden or in the gardens of your clients.  This means that you need a broad education and you need a structured course to cover the diversity of plants that you are most likely to come across.  The great advantage of a well thought out study programme is that it makes you look at the plants properly.

I recently received an email from an old friend asking me to explain the flowers of the English sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus).  She was painting them and she did not like the fact that they are asymmetrical with five sepals and petals but eight stamens and two immature fruits.  I realised that I had never looked at the flowers of a sycamore, despite having pulled up literally 100s of seedlings this spring.  My friend was absolutely right about the number of parts in the flowers but was wrong to think that all flowers are symmetrical.  Without this prompting I would not have found the time to look at the flowers and one of the great benefits of taking distance learning courses is that they prompt you to look and learn.

Gardens in the UK contain more than 70,000 different plants.  Becoming familiar with them all is an impossible task.  The best “plantsman” I know could recognise about half of them to family and genus but certainly not species.  To be a plantsman is the goal of many professional gardeners.  By dividing the plant kingdom into manageable groups the task of learning about the plants we grow in our gardens becomes a very productive because plants in botanical groups have many things in common.  While you may not be able to identify every rhododendron and azalea you can learn how to cultivate them all successfully.

This foundation diploma is a wonderfully comprehensive course that will equip any professional gardener with the knowledge necessary to become a plantsman and along the way you will become well acquainted with some of the most beautiful products of evolution!

If you would like to become an expert in hardy ornamentals, then this could will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need.

Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact our horticultural tutors. They are more than happy to answer any questions about the course 



Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. Former Director, Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Pruning147 pages
RosesThere are few things as uplifting as being greeted by the sweet fragrance of roses from your own garden. If you have always wanted to grow roses, or perhaps improve an established rose garden, make sure you are armed with the right knowledge! Learn from the masters in horticulture. This wonderfully colourful ebook will teach you everything you need to know about the passion of growing roses.
Starting a Garden or Landscape BusinessExpert advice on how to get started in your own garden or landscape business! Packed with valuable business advice, horticultural and landscaping knowledge, and practical ideas - this book is a must have for garden lovers. It is great for anyone thinking about (or already involved in), a horticultural, landscaping or garden business. This updated re-print is only available as an ebook.
Rhododendrons and AzaleasGrow & Know Rhhododendrons and Azaleas by John Mason