Learn to develop, manage and maintain ornamental gardens. A substantial training for working in gardens that exist mainly for decorative and amenity reasons.

Course Code: VHT002
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 700 hours
Qualification Certificate
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Learn to Work in Decorative and Amenity Gardens

  • Parks
  • Home Gardens
  • Commercial Gardens
  • Streetscapes

Learn from a team of leading horticultural experts from both Australia and the UK. This is a unique opportunity, with lots of support services including unlimited opportunity to network with professional horticulturists who have decades of industry experience; and with fellow students from around the world.

This course works by focusing on learning not only how to do things in horticulture, but also understanding the science of plant identification and growth (something that is sadly under emphasised in many other courses these days). At the end of the day, we find that graduates are far more successful in their careers when armed with a solid grounding in the scientific foundations of horticulture

The Certificate in Horticulture (Ornamental Horticulture) is a vocationally oriented course comprising core studies (general horticulture) and stream studies specific to ornamental horticulture.

The objective of the course is to:

  • develop general and broad based skills in horticultural practices and plant identification.
  • provide more specific knowledge in areas of ornamental horticulture including garden maintenance, turf care, arboriculture, landscaping and nursery work.

Certificate in Horticulture involves the areas of work:

  • CORE STUDIES - this involves 300-350 hours, divided into 15 lessons, approx. half of the course.
  • ELECTIVE STUDIES - this involves a further 300-350 hrs of study going into greater depth in the areas of garden maintenance, nursery practices and landscaping.


1.  Introduction to Plants

Nomenclature and taxonomy, the plant kingdom, genus, species, hybrids.

2.  Parts of the Plant

How plants grow, plant structure, parts of the flower and leaf, modification of stems and roots.

3.  Plant Culture - Planting

How to plant and protect newly planted specimens, terms like: annuals, biennials, perennials, deciduous, evergreen and herbaceous plants.

4.  Plant Culture - Pruning

Purpose for pruning, rules for pruning, how to prune.

5.  Plant Culture - Irrigation and Machinery

Different irrigation systems, components of an irrigation system, designing an irrigation system,  selection, use and maintenance of machinery and tools.

6.  Soils & Media

Soil classifications, testing soil, potting mixes, the U.C. System, ingredients of potting mixes.

7.  Soils & Nutrition

Fertilisers - deficiencies and toxicities, N:P:K ratios, salting, fertiliser programming, compost.

8.  Propagation - Seeds & Cuttings

How to propagate plants by seed and cuttings, propagating mixes, cold frame construction, after care for young plants. 

9.  Propagation - Other Techniques

Other methods to increase plant numbers - budding, grafting, layering, division and tissue culture.

10. Identification and Use of Plants

How are plants used in the landscape, how to choose and purchase plants, selecting plants suitable for the climate and site.

11. Identification and Use of Plants

Problems with plants and choosing plants for problem sites.

12. Identification and Use of Plants

Indoor and tropical plants, flowers, herbs, bulbs, ferns.

13. Pests

Identifying and controlling pests, chemical and natural methods for control, chemical safety precautions.

14. Diseases

Identifying and controlling diseases, plant pathology, fungi, viruses, non-pathogenic problems, interactions with the host and the environment.

15. Weeds

Identifying and controlling weeds, chemical terminology.



This part of the course involves four main areas of study, as follows:

  • Landscaping
  • Plant knowledge
  • Plant Care 
  • Nursery Practices

Scope of stream studies:

  • Landscape design (including pre-planning and drawing plans).
  • Principles and styles of landscape designs.
  • Analysis of garden designs.
  • Graphic skills, materials and techniques.
  • Estimating costs for landscape jobs.
  • Surfacing materials and their effects.
  • Quality and cost of different landscape materials.
  • Plant knowledge, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions.
  • Plant selection for difficult sites and conditions (including treating degraded sites and interior plantscaping).
  • Tropical and indoor plants.
  • Environmental factors important for indoor plant culture.
  • Bulbs, perennials and annuals.
  • Planting design for flower beds (annuals and bulbs) suitable for the locality of the student.
  • Herb culture and garden design.
  • Miscellaneous growing techniques including; bonsai, terrariums, pot culture, baskets and hydroponics.
  • Describe the importance of trees to humans.
  • Procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree.
  • Tree problems and their treatment.
  • Compartmentalisation, and its effect on the spread of disease in trees.
  • Preparing a detailed maintenance program for a garden.
  • Seed selection, storage, preparation and spreading (sowing).
  • Preparation, planting and establishment of a lawn.
  • Establishing turf on a steep slope.
  • Turf maintenance techniques.
  • Analysis of nursery production systems.
  • Preparing a flow chart for the production of a particular plant, from propagation to marketing.
  • Preparing a maintenance program for green life in a garden centre.
  • Preparing guidelines for the disposal of surplus or below standard stock in a nursery.
  • Write an advertisement for a nursery or garden maintenance business.
  • Basic management procedures for a single person nursery or garden maintenance business.
  • Basic communication skills.
  • Health and safety requirements for a nursery or garden maintenance workplace.


Every business is different; and every country is different, both in what it is viable to do and what it might be legal to do (eg. Controls over spraying chemicals can vary from place to place)

The following lists only list the minimum or basic requirements for each activity. As finances permit, more comprehensive or specialised equipment and tools might be obtained.

Note: For all activities appropriate safety equipment in good condition should be used. This might include safety glasses, boots and gloves, protective clothing such as spray suits or chainsaw pants, full facemasks and/or respirators for use with spray equipment, and safety harnesses if climbing trees.


1) Equipment

  • A reliable lawn mower (preferably 2 or 3 mowers).
  • At least one mower must have a grass catcher.
  • For larger lawns a ride-on mower may be required.
  • Lawn edging tools.
  • A car with trailer, station wagon or utility car.
  • A leaf rake.
  • An air blower or a yard broom.

2) Contract

  • Normally a handshake contract (nothing legal).
  • Payment is normally made at the end of each day.
  • Payment may be based on a fixed quote, or on an hourly rate.

3) Comments

  • There are correct and incorrect ways to mow grass.
  • A knowledgeable person will not only do a better job, but will do a quicker job.
  • Anyone, though, with a little common sense and willingness to work can do this work.

For example: acreage, sports fields, parks, public gardens, and similar.

1) Equipment
Slashers, gang mowers, etc are required to save time mowing.
Quality of cut grass will be dependent on equipment used, and the condition of the area to be mowed (e.g. even or uneven, clean or lots of debris).
General hand tools for machinery maintenance and one-off jobs.

2) Contract
Often done under contract - sometimes a handshake deal.
Payment usually at the conclusion of the job.
For large estates, councils or government authorities it may be on monthly accounts.
Fixed rate for the property is the most usually method for regular customers, hourly rates for new customers. 

3) Comments
Provided equipment is good, little technical knowledge is required to carry out these jobs.
Care may be needed near established plants, structures, water features and steep slopes.
Insurance costs can be fairly high.

1) Equipment
Several good pairs of secateurs and a good pruning saw.
Short-handled loppers and high pruners/telescopic pruners (for small high branches).
A free standing step ladder.
A car or van capable of carrying a ladder (a roof rack may be needed).

2) Contract
As for lawn mowing.

3) Comments
Most pruning work is during the winter months.
Many gardeners spend winter pruning and the rest of the year doing other jobs such as landscaping or lawn repair, etc.
Pruning work is mainly on roses and fruit trees. It takes some skill to prune these plants, though it is possible to get a basic ability with a few days practice and a little study. It can take years however to become an expert at pruning.

This is not the same as tree surgery! Tree lopping involves removing trees or parts of trees which grow where your client does not want them to grow.  Tree surgery involves operating on the tree to try to improve the tree's health or wellbeing.

1) Equipment
An extension ladder.
Good secateurs.
A step ladder.
A variety of ropes (preferably jute rather than nylon).
Two chainsaws (light and heavy weight) plus spare parts.
Two bowsaws (small and large) plus spare blades.
A variety of other items can be useful and may be considered including a shredder, climbing harness, winches, etc.

2) Contracts
As for lawn mowing.

3) Comments
This can be dangerous for both the gardener and for the client's property if you don't do things properly. You can fall, branches can fall on you, branches can fall on buildings, washing lines, power lines and fences.
Ropes can be used to lower branches slowly and avoid damage.  If you cut in the right place you can determine how and where a branch will fall.
There are a lot of people who offer this service but do not have the appropriate skill or knowledge to do a proper job.
Accidents do occur. They might not always damage property or person, but they can damage your reputation.
Adequate public liability insurance is vital in this field.

1) Equipment
All of that which is needed for tree lopping - plus a winch, harness and extra ropes.
Wood chisels and trenching tool for trimming bark damage and cleaning out decay from cavities.
Power drill and bits, and suitable hand tools (e.g. hammer, spanners, pliers) for cabling and bolting work.

2) Contract
Normally charges are higher than for lopping.
Normally give a written quote for job, rather than working at an hourly rate.

3) Comments
Tree surgery techniques are highly skilled procedures requiring knowledge and resources beyond someone commencing a new business.
You are advised to study and read, and have suitable work experience with an established tree surgeon before offering these services.
Insurance requirements should be investigated and liabilities established clearly prior to starting a job.

1) Equipment
Very little is needed for hand weeding, perhaps some gardening gloves, a good hoe and maybe a small hand trowel or fork.
For larger areas and difficult weeds a larger digging fork may be required.

2) Contract
As for lawn mowing.

3) Comments
Requires minimal skill, but does involve a lot of bending and as such is not recommended if you have a bad back.
You need to be able to tell the difference between a weed and a desired garden plant.

1) Equipment
Good sprayer - if you plan on a lot of this work, you should have several types of sprayers e.g.  a 15 litre unit for small or medium jobs, perhaps a larger motorised unit for larger jobs.
Measuring jars/jugs and containers for mixing chemicals.
Rubber gloves.
If using very poisonous chemicals, you require protective clothing (including head gear -hood, full face mask and respirator).

2) Contract
Terms should be stated clearly on a standard contract particularly with respect to safety and danger aspects.
Normally a fixed price contract.

3) Comments
Insurance and liabilities should be established before commencing a job.
It is possible to do very well from spraying alone, and danger is very minimal if safety precautions are followed.  Some chemicals are extremely dangerous though and should be avoided wherever possible.
Chemical Application Licences are usually required - contact your local Department of Agriculture for information.
Medium to high skill levels (e.g. pest and product knowledge) are required.
General plant knowledge is important for correct diagnosing and recommendations.

1) Equipment
As for pest control.

2) Contract
As for pest control.

3) Comments
Weed killers are generally safer to people than insecticides.
Improper spraying can kill other 'wanted' plants. This may lead to action against the person who did the spraying.
See comments for pest control (these may apply).

1) Equipment
Solid, quality rake (rakes can break easily!)
Aerator fork, spade and shovel.
Utility vehicle, truck or car and trailer.
Other equipment may be needed at times (can be hired as required), but is not essential (i.e. level lawn rake, rotary hoe, mechanised renovation equipment).

2) Contract
Normally fixed quote.
Payment either on completion or 30 day account.

3) Comments
This type of business has been very successful in many countries.
Many gardeners and landscapers do a certain amount of lawn renovation each year as part of their overall business.

Normally involves weeding, lawn mowing, pruning, watering, fertilizing, pruning and any other routine maintenance work.

1) Equipment
Often equipment is supplied by the property owner.
Some jobs require the gardener to supply equipment (maybe only a lawn mower), other require all necessary equipment be supplied.
Usually private homes are more likely to supply equipment.

2) Contract
Usually a routine weekly or fortnightly job, payment is made at the end of each work session.
Public maintenance jobs, for government, factories, shopping centres, etc usually work on a term contract.
Payment often made on a monthly account.

3) Comments
Public maintenance contracts can provide good bread and butter money, but they will rarely make you rich. Don't over-commit yourself to contracts.
Remember you have to wait for payment on these jobs, and sometimes the bureaucrats can keep you waiting for 3 4 months. Make sure you have enough in the bank to keep you going while you wait.


ACS was founded by John Mason in 1979 as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School.

Right from these very early times, we've always believed that the best education only comes when the student is learning from the experience of a whole range of industry experts (rather than just a single teacher).

Every ACS course is a work in progress, continually evolving, with new information being added and old information being updated by our team of internationally renowned professional horticulturists.

Over the decades more than 100 horticulture experts from across the world have contributed to these courses, bringing their individual knowledge and experiences from as wide afield as England and Spain to Australia and America.

While may colleges and universities focus on providing courses that relate only to the country where they are based, ACS has always strived to make it's courses relevant to all parts of the world; any climate, economic or cultural situation. This has been achieved by involving a large number of professionals in the course development.

When it comes to tutoring, marking papers and mentoring students, the team approach is just as strong as with our writing. ACS students have the ability to obtain advice and support from staff across the world, with horticulture tutors located in the UK, Australia (both the north and south) and New Zealand.

The ACS team approach and global focus to both course content and student support, ensures our graduates have a unique and "real world" skills set. This unique approach is highly regarded by our colleagues in horticulture.


What Does the Horticulture and Garden Industry Need?

Skilled knowledgeable workers: the industry is in need of people with knowledge to back up their skills. So many people working in horticulture tend to develop skills in a very narrow area.

Take gardeners – although there seems to be a lot of gardeners at work there are few that are truly knowledgeable. The industry needs gardeners that not only mow lawns and do a bit of pruning – it needs people that fully understand the care and maintenance of a large range of plants in many different microclimates and soils. They need to know how to choose the right plant for the right situation and to recognise and address problems that occur in the garden. They need to recognise a range of plants and know their common but also their botanical names.

This industry needs professional gardeners and you could be one of those too!

You also need to be able to transfer your skills and knowledge across industry sectors so that your ambitions or work advancement potential is far greater. Studying a Certificate in Horticulture - especially this one, as it is based on developing problem solving skills along with gathering and retaining knowledge, rather than just ticking you off against a limited set of competencies - will give you a very sound education and is a great starting point, as a professional, in this industry.


UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Accredited ACS Global Partner

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

Member of Study Gold Coast

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

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