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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment


Study Garden Centre Management

  • An extensive course covering all areas of managing garden centres.
  • This course was developed to train garden centre management staff.
  • It was developed in conjunction with major retailers and our highly experienced tutors.


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Study Garden Centre Management

Garden Centres can be large or small, and the range of plants which they sell can be broad or narrow. A garden centre may also sell other products that are relevant to a garden, and complement the plants which they stock.

Designed originally in conjunction with a garden department manager of a major retail chain store, this course has been very successful in training both staff and managers of retail nurseries and garden centres across the world. It continues to be updated at least annually, and continues to be used by small nurseries through to major chain stores across the country.

"This course was one of the best!" - Rhonda, studying Garden Centre Management

“Here we have an incredibly informative course for anyone seeking to improve their ability to run or manage a garden centre. All aspects of indoor and outdoor plant care are discussed as well as stock selection and optimal plant display techniques. Graduates will also enhance their knowledge of typical garden centre products, marketing strategies, and how to get the most out of their staff.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor.

Duration: 100 hours of study
Start Date: Start at any time - to suit you.
The course is divided into 12 lessons as follows:
  1. Introduction: Plant classification, plant cultural requirements, soil and nutrition, watering requirements, drainage, temperature, light, humidity.
  2. Plant Health: How to diagnose a problem, pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, frost, sunburn, chemical damage, insufficient light, over-watering.
  3. Stock Maintenance: Quality standards, buying new stock, inspecting stock, extending stock life, disposing of below-standard stock, watering techniques, fertilising, pest and disease control.
  4. Display and Display Techniques: Display units, product location, sales area layout.
  5. Garden Product Knowledge I: Plant containers, tags, soil mixes, equipment, tools.
  6. Garden Product Knowledge II: Chemicals, fertilisers, baskets, terrariums, cut flowers.
  7. Indoor Plants: Major groups, common problems, plants for specific situations, customer attitudes.
  8. Container Stock: Trees and Shrubs. 
  9. Seedlings, Bulbs, Herbs and Perennials.
  10. A. Deciduous Trees, Fruit, Nuts, Berries. B. Seed.
  11. Marketing: Pricing strategy, advertising, promotions.
  12. Management: Staff control, staff productivity, work scheduling.

At the completion of this course you should be able to:

  • Classify and identify a range of different plants, according to their botanical characteristics.
  • Describe a range of plant health problems and their treatments.
  • Understand the importance of maintaining healthy stock and its relationship to maintaining a profitable business.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of garden products sold through garden centres.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of plants, including indoor plants, container-grown plants, deciduous plants, bulbs, herbs and perennials.Describe effective marketing techniques.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of management procedures.

Scope of this Course

Garden Centres buy plants from production/propagation nurseries and resell them at a profit. ‘Greenlife’ (the term used by the industry distinguish plants from other nursery products) sold by the retail sector include seedlings, bulbs, containerised and bare-rooted plants and trees. In addition garden centres sell associated products such as dry goods (pots, packaged potting mixes, fertilisers, sprays) and bulk landscaping materials.

In developed countries there has been an increasing emphasis on the supply of ‘lifestyle products and services’ in retail outlets, such as outdoor furniture, gift lines, display gardens, cafés and landscaping services.

For many garden centres, the greatest source of income remains a plant sales though; and with that in mind, this course focuses mostly on the plant supply side of the garden centre.

What to Stock?

It has often been said that the downfall of a nursery manager is being "too much of a plant collector and not enough of a businessperson".

Most people who work with plants love plants, and it is very easy to be tempted and grow the types of plants which you love most. This is often the nursery manager's 'Achilles heel'! It is essential to choose what you grow carefully. It is pointless growing lots of plants if there is no demand for them.

Some plant varieties require more space than others. Sprawling climbers or ground covers can take up a lot of room, while tall slender trees can take less. Slow growing plants don't have to be sold as soon as they are good enough for sale, but fast growing plants deteriorate fast so must be sold quickly, unless you have the resources to continually keep potting them up into larger containers.

Some of the main choices are:

  • Trees and shrubs – climbers, conifers, deciduous plants, groundcovers, fruit trees and vines, native trees and shrubs, exotic trees and shrubs
  • Bedding plants - annual flower and vegetable seedlings, potted colour
  • Foliage plants – indoor foliage and flowering plants, hanging baskets, palms and ferns
  • Herbs
  • Perennials and cottage garden plants
  • Bulbs and tubers
  • Water plants
  • Bonsai

You may choose to have a general nursery, growing or selling a wide range of plant types; to choose a theme, such as bonsai or cottage gardens; or to concentrate on a specific type or variety of plant, such as carnations, fuchsias, roses or geraniums.  

Reasons to Study This Course

This course is as useful for workers in garden centres as it is for those managing them. It provides students with a thorough insight into how to set up and display garden centre products and plants, through to maximising sales and staff productivity. Whilst it is primarily aimed at garden centre staff it is also relevant to nursery staff, especially retail nurseries, and also garden shops associated with commercial and tourist garden or park locations. The course will appeal to people working in, or planning to work in, the following areas:

  • Garden centre
  • Retail nursery
  • Garden shop
  • Parks & gardens
  • Ecotourism
  • Wholesale nursery



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Meet some of our academics

John Mason (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Nurseryman, Landscaper, Garden Writer, Parks Manager and Consultant. Over 45 years experience; working in Australia and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 100 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.
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

Modern MarketingThis book explores new approaches to marketing, how to adapt to a continually changing world both through online marketing, and more. Some aspects of marketing never change; but many of the well established approaches used in the past simply do not work any more. This book lays a foundation for thinking about marketing in a different way
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.
Starting a Nursery or Herb FarmIt's often amazing how much can be produced, and the profit that can be made from a few hundred square meters of land. To work efficiently and profitably, a nursery or herb farm must be both well organised and properly managed. As with any business, it is essential to be confident enough to make firm decisions as and when needed. This e-book is your ticket to a fragrant future.
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.