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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Study the Selection and Maintenance of Garden Plants

In order to choose appropriate plants for gardens and other landscapes it is important to have a sound knowledge of how plants are affected by the environment such as soil types, nutrients, wind, extremes of weather, altitude and latitude, weed competition, pest and diseases, and so forth.

Study this course to develop a firm basis for the selection, establishment and maintenance of a wide range of commonly used garden plants including woody trees and shrubs, hedges and screening plants, alpines, water plants, turf varieties, and herbaceous plants.

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Select the Right Plant for the Right Garden

Choosing the right plants for the right purpose is often the difference between a good garden designer and a not so good one. In order to do this effectively gardeners and landscapers have to have knowledge of how different elements of the environment impact upon plant growth, and particular types of plants.

Often the reason a plant fails to thrive in a given location is because of many factors combined. It is more difficult to try and modify the environment for plants than to choose the best plant for the site in the first place. 

Learn to make better planting decisions

Study this comprehensive course to find out how to make the best plant choice from those available. Learn about all the different groups of plants and the key factors which influence their growth and how they can be used in the landscape. Find out how plants from turf grasses to trees are established, through planting techniques and site preparation, and maintained.  Feel confident in making planting decisions.

Study the selection and maintenance of garden plants

  • Learn to choose the best plant for the garden design you are creating
  • Understand why certain plants are appropriate and others are not
  • Explore the criteria that make a big different to garden design

The 10 lessons are:

1. Introduction
What to plant where, Plant selection, Plant varieties, Colourful year round foliage, Establishment (timing, soil preparation, plant size, planting technique), Maintenance programs, etc

2. Woody plants
Selecting woody plants, trees, shrubs, deciduous/semi deciduous/evergreen; flowering shrubs, Establishing woody plants, Planting procedure, Dealing with shade, etc

3. Windbreaks, hedges and screens
Plant selection, establishing windbreaks & screens, Trimming a hedge, etc

4. Alpine and water plants
Selecting & establishing alpines, Selecting water plants, Establishment & maintenance of water plants

5. Annual and herbaceous plants
Selecting annuals, Types of annuals (by height, flower, edge plants, dot plants, groundwork plants), types of bedding schemes, Planting seed or seedlings, Container culture, Selection & Establishment of herbaceous plants (Bulbs & Perennials), Maximizing flowering effect, etc

6. Turf
Varieties, Lawn mixes, What to grow where, Wildflower Meadows, Turf establishment, Soil Preparation, Seeding, Sodding, Stolonizing, Sprigging, Plugging, Mowing, Fertilising, etc

7. Maintenance
Fertilizing, Managing pH, Replacing plants, Pruning, Irrigation, Humidity, Mulch, Developing a maintenance Program,

8. Pest and disease control
Problem prevention, Non chemical control, Chemical control,

9. Weed control
Non chemical control, Chemical control, Safety, Alternative strategies.

10. Risk assessment
Identifying risk, Duty of care, Workplace safety, Protective clothing, Safety with tools, Significance of illness, etc

Duration:   100 hours


  • 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.
  • Develop knowledge in the selection, establishment and maintenance of turf and lawns.
  • Develop knowledge in the maintenance and cultural requirements of herbaceous, woody, and other plants.
  • Develop knowledge in the control of pests and diseases in horticultural situations.
  • Develop knowledge in the management of weeds in horticultural situations.
  • Develop skills in risk assessment.


Good Plant Selection Saves Money and Time 
If you choose an inappropriate plant for a position; you are creating a whole range of potential problems. 
  • It may take a lot longer to grow to full size
  • It might never look as good as it could because it's growth might not be lush, it's flowering might not be prolific, and it might harbor ugly pests and diseases
  • The likelihood of survival is diminished and the need for maintenance is increased; and this means added costs.
Plants that like wet soils look good when grown in the wet; but can look ugly when grown in the dry. Plants that like full sun may exhibit stronger foliage colour in full sun, but insipid, dull and unattractive growth when growing in shade.
This course will build your knowledge and understanding of what you should be planting where. Learn to choose your plants well and you will have a valuable skill for life!
Plants for Wet Soils
Many gardens have a wet spot where some plants simply won’t grow. One option is to improve the drainage; another is to choose plants that thrive in wet soil.
It’s important to know why the soil is wet
There’s always a reason for an area to be wet, and the types of plants you grow there should be chosen according to that reason.
It may be:
  • a low spot that collects drainage from the rest of your property
  • low ground that may occasionally flood
  • an underground spring
  • a septic outlet
  • a drain outlet
  • a broken drain pipe or water pipe
If the ground is wet because of a drain outlet or broken pipe, some plants can cause additional damage as their roots grow vigorously and widen the cracks. For this reason, avoid planting willows, poplars, figs and bamboos near buildings, underground pipes or paving.

Choosing the Right Plants 

Some plants thrive in moist soil but only tolerate really wet soil for short periods. They are best suited to areas that only become very wet after heavy rain. They include Maples, Buddleia, Catalpa, Fatsia, Birch, Dogwoods, Lilac, Liquidambar, English Oak, Blueberry, Mulberry, Magnolia grandiflora and Holly.

In permanently wet soil, choose plants are naturally adapted to growing in swamps and beside creeks. If you have a large garden, trees with deep, spreading roots that soak up the water are ideal. These include Melaleucas (especially M. quinquenervia and M. stypheloides), Casuarinas (especially the Swamp She-oak, Allocasuarina glauca and the River Oak, Casuarina cunninghamiana), Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), Poplars, Willows, Bottlebrush (especially Callistemon salignus and C. viminalis), Water Gum (Tristaniopsis laurina) and Metasequoia.

Smaller plants for wet spots include ferns, reeds and sedges.
Other good plants to use may include:
  • Arum lilies (Zantedeschia ‘Marshmallow’, ‘White Gnome’, ‘White Mischief’, ‘Green Goddess’) -Lush green soft foliage with pure white, ‘pink’ or green tones flowers 
  • Canna lilies (Canna) -Clump forming erect growing foliage plant with brightly colour flowers.
  • Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ Large heart shaped dark green-black leaves.
  • Crinum campanulatum  -Prefers periodic dry spells, Crinum produce large white or pink blooms from spring to summer.
  • Daylilies (Hemerocallis)  -Tussock foliage with brightly coloured day-long blossoms.
  • Himilayan Weeping Bamboo (Drepanostachum falcatum)  -Graceful weeping habit, shade loving and moisture requiring non-invasive bamboo.
  • Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria’  -Scarlet red flowers on tall dark red foliage.
  • Louisiana iris (Iris sp.)  -Varied coloured forms
  • Papyrus (Cyperus alternifolius)  -Water loving sedges that have attractive ‘tops’ that radiate outwards in a disc pattern.
  • Pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.)  -Trumpet-like leaves that are carnivorous. Needs very damp situations.
  • Spider lily (Hymenocallis)  -Soft green foliage with clear white blooms from spring to summer.

How This Course Could Benefit You

This course is likely to be of value to people who have an interest in garden design and landscaping. It will also appeal to anyone with a general interest in growing plants. People who take this course are most likely those working in or aspiring to work in:

  • Garden Design
  • Landscaping
  • Gardening
  • Horticulture
  • Parks & Gardens
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Garden Maintenance

The course will also be of value to people wishing to start a garden design or general gardening business. 





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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.
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

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.
Garden Design Part 1The Garden Design ebook part 1 is an essential handbook for students and landscape professionals. A foundation guide to garden design, this book provides stunning full illustrations to demonstrate tips and examples on garden design, functional uses and aesthetics. Some topics that are covered in this ebook include 1/ Introduction to Garden Design, 2/ Appropriateness of garden design, 3/ Creating an impact, 4/ Designing to a budget, 5/ Choosing plants, 6/ Using the garden, 7/ Where the garden meets the house, 8/ Making the winter garden more comfortable, 9/ Gardens for children, 10/The secure home and garden, 11/ Lighting a garden, 12/ Dealing with shade, 13/ Garden Art, 14/ Pots and planters, 15/ Colour in the garden, 16/ Applications for colour and 17/ Garden furniture.
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design Series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. The Garden Design Part 2 ebook is ideal for students and landscaping professionals. Brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a site or client. Topics covered in this ebook include 18/ (Continuing on from Garden Design 1) Surfacing ideas, 19/ Garden arches, pergolas & pavilions, 20/ Dealing with confined spaces, 21/ Water gardens, 22/ Using plants in the garden, 23/ Formal gardens, 24/ Natural gardens, 25/ Rainforest gardens, 26/ Coastal gardens, 27/ Cottage gardens, 28/ Late Victorian/Edwardian gardens, 29/ Oriental gardens, 30/ Mediterranean gardens, 31/ Mexican style, 32/ Minimalist landscape design and 33/ Eclectic gardens.
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.