PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 2500 Hour Learning Bundle Horticulture (Landscaping)

Study a professional landscape and garden design correspondence course learning gardening, garden design and plantsmanship for career, professional development.

Course Code: PD25
Fee Code: 25
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 2500 hours
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What is a 'Learning Bundle'?

Our learning bundles are a great way to put together the modules that suit your specific goals and learning needs. It is also more cost effective than studying each module separately.

  • If you sit exams you will receive a Statement of Attainment for each module

  • If you choose not to sit exams, you will receive a Letter of Completion for each module

When you complete your bundle you can receive a Summary of Studies.

Become a Skilled Professional Horticulturist Specialised in Landscaping.

Keep your options wide - learn about both horticulture and landscaping for a unique and exciting career.

Get a job, start a business or seek new opportunities

These courses provide comprehensive training to a professional level for employment as a garden designer, landscape technician, contractor or manager.

This course develops a strong foundation for a career in planing and/or management of landscaping projects. If you have the time and resources to attempt a course of this size, you won't get a much better grounding in landscaping than this. This course is ideal for anyone already in the industry, looking to advance their career, or anyone wanting to enter and fast track a career in landscape (e.g. Garden Designer, Landscape Contractor, Landscape Consultant)


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.

Contributors to ACS Courses over the years have included:

  • John Mason -former parks director (Melton, Essendon and Heidelberg), Landscape Designer (Playgrounds and recreation Association of Victoria), Nurseryman, President Australian Institute of Horticulture (Victoria), Committee International Year of the Child (Australia), Author ove over 40 books, Editor Garden Guide Magazine, Editor Your Backyard Magazine.

  • Maggi Brown - Education officer, Henry Doubleday Research Association (UK), gold medal winner Chelsea Flower Show, Garden consultant.

  • Adriana Fraser - Horticultural Consultant, TAFE Lecturer, Project Manager - Parks and Gardens, Horticultural writer. 

  • Iain Harrison -Garden Manager Fibremakers, Garden Consultant, Lecturer Swinburn TAFE

  • Katie Freeth - Manager Commonwealth War Graves (France), Horticultural Consultant (France & UK), Board member Institute of Horticulture, and International Federation Parks & Recreation Administration

  • Tony Bundock -Horticulture Businessman, Consultant, Head of Horticulture Dept. TAFE

  • Jim Davis -Horticulture Businessman, Lecturer TAFE (NSW), Principal VCAH Burnley College

  • Dr Lyn Morgan -author and internationally renowned hydroponics consultant (New Zealand)

  • Dr Valeria Astorga -horticultural consultant, lecturer (Spain, Peru, Australia)

  • Alison Bundock -Editor (Kangaroo Press; Southern Cross University), Technical Writer (APM), Consultant

  • Rosemary Davies -Horticultural consultant, journalist, media personality (Victoria)


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 2500 Hour Learning Bundle Horticulture (Landscaping).
 BOTANY I - Plant Physiology And Taxonomy BSC104
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 12 of the following 23 modules.
 LANDSCAPING III (Gardening Styles) BHT235

Note that each module in the PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 2500 Hour Learning Bundle Horticulture (Landscaping) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.



There could hardly be anything more idyllic than to be in a tropical garden, relaxing, reading a book, or having a cool drink with friends. Some tropical gardens are wonderful to look at, with their bright foliage and flower colours and unique contrasts in shape and form. A garden can be a place where people can relax their tired spirit and recharge their energy, while other gardens purely provide an escape from drudgery of the modern world. A tropical garden can do all of this and more. A well-developed tropical garden must surely be the closest place to heaven.

A tropical garden might be defined simply as any garden in a tropical climate, but there is more than just one way of looking at a tropical garden.

Any garden which seeks to imitate a mood or feeling which is perceived to be tropical might be described as a tropical garden, even if it is located in a sub-tropical or temperate climate.

Most people tend to think of the tropics as being hot, with lush vegetation. Consequently, certain types of plants will bring a tropical flavour to a garden; for example, palms, orchids and plants with very large leaves. A tropical mood can be further enhanced by using garden furniture made from bamboo, rattan, or in a style reminiscent of a tropical country (e.g. Singapore, Mexico, Hawaii or the Caribbean). Other garden features such as large areas of terracotta paving, sparkling water features or large umbrellas will further add to the tropical feeling.

By introducing components and features which have generally been unique to tropical gardens, you can create a pseudo-tropical garden, even if it is not in the tropics. If your garden is in the tropics, your garden will have tropical features even if you try to create a style which is not normally considered tropical.

This book is firstly designed to help people develop a better garden in the tropics or sub tropics, but it is also a valuable guide to developing the impression of a tropical environment for gardens in other climates.

There are many long term benefits to spending a little time on carefully designing a garden; a good garden design will be attractive, low in maintenance, as safe as possible, and can be used for a variety of different activities.

Developing a garden requires a different approach in warmer climates to that of cooler areas. Some things that need to be considered include:

  • More warm days, and milder nights, encourage plants to grow faster.

  • Soils may dry out faster.

  • When it rains, the intensity of rain can be greater - this may result in flooding, and drainage and erosion problems.

  • Cold temperatures may be required to stimulate some types of plants to flower or fruit. Such conditions are unlikely to occur in tropical areas except at high altitudes.

  • Humidity in gardens in the tropics will be higher in wet weather, or if areas are irrigated.

  • There are more total sunlight hours in tropical areas in comparison to cooler areas, and the light is generally of greater intensity, affecting both plant growth, and the susceptibility of humans to skin cancers.

  • The heat, humidity and UV radiation makes it more difficult to work, particularly during the hottest part of the day.

  • Weeds, pests and diseases tend to grow faster in tropical areas!

Considerations such as these mean that a garden in the tropics or subtropics needs to be designed and managed differently to a garden in a cooler climate.

Gardens come in all shapes, sizes and types. The right one for you is determined by what you really want, the area you are working with (natural features), how you plan to use the garden, and the resources (e.g. money, tools, labour) you have to develop and maintain the garden.

Most people don't really plan their garden, and they often end up admiring other people’s places, never being quite satisfied with their own property. There are exceptions of course, but more people would have what really suits them if they took the time to do a little planning.


  • What are your priorities?

  • Look over the following list and rate each reason for having a garden in order of priority?

  • To just be in, and take in the tranquillity and peace;

  • For children to play in (e.g. sand pit, cubby house);

  • Recreation for adults and older children (e.g. swimming, a basketball ring, somewhere to play cricket);

  • Entertainment area/s;

  • To grow food (fruit, herbs, vegies, poultry, etc.);

  • To grow flowers or colourful foliage;

  • To make the home (inside and out) cooler;

  • To provide a buffer from the outside world (visual and sound);

  • To provide storage space;

  • To increase property values;

  • To house a collection of plants;

  • Somewhere to work;

  • To provide service areas (a washing line, to place garbage and compost bins);

  • To keep fit by gardening;

  • To keep people or animals off your property (security);

  • To minimise pest problems such as snakes, rodents, ants or cockroaches;

  • Any other reasons you may have.

You might feel that all or most of the above reasons are important to some degree, but it is important to have some idea as to what your most important priorities are. It is also important to understand that designing your garden to fulfil your highest priorities might automatically, at the same time, fulfil some of your lesser priorities without even really trying to. For example, herbs grown to harvest for food, might also provide an attractive display of flowers and foliage, and at the same time deter certain pests. Or perhaps you might choose a fence design (and colour) that not only keeps people and animals out of your property (and your children and pets in), but provides an attractive back drop to garden beds, acts as a windbreak, and helps provide a buffer from the outside world, especially if climbing plants are grown over parts of the fence.


Gardens tend to reflect the personality of the people who create them. Informal people tend to create informal gardens, and formal people tend to create very ordered, neat gardens. This might give us some guide as to how to choose a landscaper to create a garden, or the most suitable approach to be considered when creating your own design.

To plan a good garden requires the right frame of mind. If you approach the garden as a chore, that will be reflected in the design. Gardens which impress are ones designed with a little flair, and perhaps the application of some lateral thinking. Don't be restricted to duplicating what everyone else has. Borrow ideas from other gardens that you really like, but ultimately, be sure your garden suits you. It is your chance to stamp your home environment with your own personal character.

Once you know what your priorities are, you can then start to develop a garden which meets your requirements. Meeting all of your desired needs may not always be possible. However, with careful consideration, most priorities can be fulfilled. Understanding the design concepts attached to your desired garden will influence the final design. Design concepts to consider include:

Stress Release
You might develop a garden to just ‘be in’ - for peace and tranquillity. This sort of feeling is created by curved lines, soft forms, weeping foliage and water amongst other things. The atmosphere needs to be natural, so man-made sights such as buildings, roads and power lines are best screened by large plants. Views over the sea, farm or bushland however enhance the tranquillity of a garden, and should be left unobscured.

Creating a Mood
You can design your garden to create any mood you desire. The garden can completely change the mood of a house too, making a house seem more or less formal, warmer or colder, even larger or smaller. A garden for example, might be welcoming, encouraging people to enter, or alternatively it may discourage visitors.

Children’s Play
Young children (perhaps to the age of 5 years), need a wide range of sensory experiences, so the garden needs to have as many different types of surfaces and materials as possible (e.g. hard, soft, rough, smooth, flat, sloping etc.). For older children, play is a more social or interactive thing, so the garden needs to offer places for them to interact in different ways with friends, relatives and even pets. Gardens need to be secure (i.e. fenced) for very young children. They should have places where kids can be creative, digging in soil or sand, making cubbies or building other things. Swings and other playground equipment are useful but there is a lot more to play than playground equipment. Open areas of lawn are particularly important, as are hard surfaces which balls can be bounced on.

Recreation for Adults and Older Children
Swimming pools and spas need to be located in clean and safe areas. Dust, soil, leaves or lawn clippings are not welcome in the water, whether carried in on feet or the wind. Rough or slippery surfaces around the water are undesirable. Swimming pools can have holes built into the surrounds to take beach or market umbrellas, large trees or palms can be planted thoughtfully (not too close though - so that they drop leaves, twigs, etc. into the water) to provide shade, and if desirable, shade-cloth or some other structure can be erected to provide protection from the sun (and perhaps help keep rubbish out of the water).

Adults may decide they want areas for other hobbies or sports. Some people use the garden for a hobby such as model railways, model planes or restoring old cars. Others put golf holes in the lawn to practice their putting, or a basketball hoop beside the driveway. A bare piece of lawn or paving could be the practice area for Tai Chi, yoga, martial arts of other forms of relaxation.

Entertainment areas
This is usually a back veranda, patio or poolside area, with or without a barbeque, and outdoor furniture. These areas are generally located near to the house with good access to the kitchen. They can be completely open, partially enclosed, or even completely roofed over.

Food Crops and Animals (fruit, vegies, poultry etc.)
Vegetables can be easily grown in raised soil beds, in pots, hydroponics or in no-dig beds (i.e. layers of straw and compost). They can be small or large areas, but either way, they are best located where there is plenty of light, protection from winds, near a source of water (e.g. tap), can be readily accessed from the kitchen and also ideally the tool shed, and are protected from marauding children and animals.

Fruit trees can take up a little or a lot of space. If space is limited, you can grow fruit trees as espaliers on a wall or fence (i.e. trained like a climber), use dwarf varieties or grow them in large pots, to restrict their size.

Flowers or Colourful Foliage
Colourful gardens are bright, happy and lively places. They can provide a real uplift to your wellbeing when you feel down, and they can provide something you can cut and bring inside to brighten up the house. If you want flowers all year round, you need to choose the plants you grow carefully. Annual flowers, bulbs and perennials generally form the backbone of a flower garden, being chosen carefully to ensure the presence of some flowers every week of the year. Some shrubs and perennials flower for very long periods of time, in some climates. These can be a great way to keep colour in the garden. Some roses, for instance flower for months on end, but even these in ideal conditions will have periods without flowers and that is when to plan to have something else near to or amongst the roses in flower. Colourful foliage can likewise be very attractive, and can provide year found colour, whether they are in flower or not. You might decide to choose a particular colour theme, such as blue-grey foliage and white flowers, or you might decide to create a riot of colour.

Cool Places
Shade trees, pergolas and anything else adjacent to your house which provides shade will help reduce heat indoors. Hot brick walls can be kept cool by growing a creeper (but inspect it annually to ensure it isn't damaging the building). Lawn or shrubs around the outside walls will also keep the building cooler. In some areas, cooling winds are common at certain times of the day or season. Be sure not to block off such winds with plantings or garden structures (e.g. fences). Areas of water, particularly if it splashes (e.g. a large fountain or waterfall), can have a significant cooling effect on a hot day.

Buffers from the Outside World
Plantings or fences can be used to simply block unpleasant views. Noise is more difficult to block. Some types of fences can help, and building mounds can also reduce noise however noise, unlike line of sight, moves round corners. A row of bushes often does little to reduce noise. If you want an effective noise barrier, it may be expensive, and you may need an engineer to advise you on types of walling barriers or home soundproofing.

Storage Spaces
People store all sorts of things in their gardens, from old vehicles, boats and trailers to firewood, building materials, scrap metal and piles of soil. Some people only need small areas for storage, but others may need to use half or more of their property. Place storage areas carefully to ensure that they are secure (from the weather, children, pests and thieves), easily accessed and are not intrusive visually or physically (placed in an area where they will cause minimal interference with other activities). Safety is another important aspect. Firewood and other flammable materials should not be placed too near to buildings (especially in bushfire prone areas), or BBQs, or incinerators, or work areas where activities such as welding may be carried out.

Increase Property Values
A well-kept garden can both increase the saleability and the value of a property. Excessive spending on a garden however might not be recovered when the property sells. If your main concern is property values, then keep the garden design simple, easy to look after, and neat and attractive.

Plant Collections
For a plant enthusiast, the garden is a place to assemble and grow their prized collection of plants. For some people it may be orchids or ferns, and for others it might be gingers or cacti. The type of plants collected will determine the way the garden is developed, and what types of protective structures (e.g. greenhouses and shade-houses) may be required.

Somewhere to Work
As with recreation and storage, some people require a work space within the garden. Ease of access to the area, access to tools and storage space, protection from the weather, creating a pleasant or private environment, and the work space's affect and influence on the rest of the property are all important considerations when planning for a useable work area.

Service Areas
For most people somewhere to hang your washing outside to dry and air is important, areas to place garbage bins and compost bins may also be required. Good access from the house is required for such areas. They should ideally be placed so that they are hidden as much as possible from other parts of your property (not visually intrusive). A separate service area or areas can be created simply using fencing, or screening plants. Paving such areas is also common to provide easily cleaned, all weather access. Place washing lines so that that they have lots of sun and air-movement.

Some people enjoy gardening, it's their hobby, and it's what keeps them fit. Gardening is a favourite past-time for retired people and those in sedentary jobs - they benefit from the exercise, and many also just enjoy creating gardens and growing plants. Vegetable and flower gardens can be built and these need regular weeding and replanting; plants which need routine pruning can be planted (e.g. roses and fruit trees), and lots of pot plants and hanging baskets can be included in the garden. Large areas for mowing also provide a good opportunity for fitness, as long as a push mower is used. Be sure to provide sufficient opportunities for enjoyable labour, but not so much that it becomes onerous.

This can be done with either fences, hedges, rows of prickly plants or even ponds or lakes. Some properties use a combination of these things.

Minimise Pest Problems
There is less likelihood of pest and disease problems if the property is kept clean and neat. Avoid leaving food scraps, empty drink or food containers, etc. lying around outside.
Keep rubbish bins sealed. Locate compost heaps away from the house or outdoor living areas. Wood-shavings (not sawdust) can help discourage snakes, which can find the shavings rough to crawl over. Sweet things (e.g. sugar cane mulch, sap sucking insects such as scale or aphis) attract ants, so avoid or control these things. Many pests are encouraged by certain plants and encouraged by others.

Examples: cockroaches are less likely if you have self-cleaning palms (which drop old fronds). Ants are more likely if you have Citrus, Hibiscus, Acalypha, Dodonaea. Rodents and ants are discouraged by planting mints, particularly pennyroyal and peppermint.


In the past, many tropical gardens have reflected the influence of a colonial heritage; new concepts and styles have developed in recent decades to produce a great diversity of options.

The design of a tropical garden can reflect any combination of influences. The most important thing is that the design is carefully thought out and the implications of design decisions are carefully considered before being implemented. In other words: be sure that you understand what the final results of what you do might be.

A theme running throughout the garden helps to create atmosphere and cohesion, giving the "feel" that you desire. The desired use of the garden will also affect what type of garden should be used. For instance, a formal garden may not be suitable for someone who needs lots of space for children's play and pets.

Some types of gardens to consider include:

Formal gardens are orderly, with symmetry in their design, and a highly manicured appearance. The pathways and garden beds are frequently arranged on either side of a central pathway in regular shapes. Each side of the path is a mirror image of the other side. Formality in a garden is not a black and white thing though. There are an unlimited range of compromises between the very formal and totally informal garden.

Informal gardens are not symmetrical, they can be more natural in appearance and a slightly untidy appearance often does not look out of order. They tend to be lower in maintenance than other types of gardens however informal should not mean "no care".

This sort of garden attempts to "recreate" nature. It is a very informal style of garden. It is not necessary to try and create a garden reminiscent of natural vegetation in your area, although you may wish to do that (e.g. a bush garden consisting of local plants). You might, for example, create a garden that mirrors a scene from a rainforest, in an area that might have previously been woodland. You might incorporate rocks and fallen logs in your garden to give a more natural appearance. Plants might be left to grow, die, self-seed, etc., relatively untouched by you.

This usually involves the heavy use of palms, ferns and colourful flowers and coloured foliage. The resort garden has a true tropical feel to it. It can be high or low maintenance depending on the attention paid to soil type, the plants used and watering requirements.

This is a traditional style, which may use wide paths (frequently gravel), large verandas attached to houses, large expanses of lawn, large trees for shade, and intricate ornamentation (e.g. lacework on the veranda, decorative fountains, picket fencing or gates, etc. This can be well suited for a person looking to enhance the property value of an older traditional home.

This style of garden involves using the space for self-sufficiency, with concentration on productive land use rather than aesthetics. Even more than this, permaculture aims to develop a landscape that will be self-sustaining and productive for generations.
A permaculture garden can be as small as a balcony or many hectares in size. It may look like an untended jungle, but if designed properly, it will not be over-run by weeds, and it will maintain a diverse variety of crop plants, even if neglected.

Use pot plants and furnishings to create a garden atmosphere in a restricted space.

Herb gardens can be large or small, involving one corner of your garden or the whole garden. Some people grow a herb garden in containers, and when they move house, they take it with them. A small area of culinary herbs close to the back door is often appropriate, because it is easy to get herbs from when cooking in the kitchen.
Some people devote a large section of their garden to herbs, creating a network of paths between garden beds filled with an endless array of different types of herb plants. Formal herb gardens can look spectacular, but more often than not, people choose to grow their herbs in an informal setting.

Whole gardens can be devoted to roses, sometimes with a low hedge (e.g. Buxus sempervirens, lavender or Lonicera nitida) bordering the bed. Alternatively, roses may be planted with other shrubs in a garden bed or as a feature within another style of garden. Roses, with a little creativity, can blend into most situations - formal, informal, in perennial borders as feature plants and so on.

While cottage gardens are typically thought of as being more suited to cooler areas, many traditional "cottage garden" plants are grown successfully in tropical and subtropical areas so they can quite successfully be incorporated into a cottage garden tropical theme.

The bones of a cottage garden are its paths. The way you arrange the paths will have a great impact on what you do with everything else. Always remember that a path should lead somewhere, it may provide access from the front door to the garage, or perhaps from a patio area to a lawn on the far side of the garden. Paths can also lead to garden features, perhaps to a seat, a sundial or a gazebo. The best cottage gardens usually have wide garden beds, so avoid putting paths so close together that the beds between them become very narrow (keep beds 2 metres or more wide if possible). Once you have determined the positioning of paths, consider locating special features (e.g. a gazebo, sundial, statue or weeping rose) at critical points such as the end of a long path or the junction of two crossing paths. This then creates a focal point to attract your attention as you look down the length of a path.

Colour is a major factor in any garden. Whether you acknowledge it or not, colour has a psychological effect on us all. Certain colours are known to relax us and others stimulate our senses. You can use this characteristic to give your garden life, vitality and action, or calmness, serenity and contemplation. In warm districts, mass plantings of flowers in the blue, green and white colour range will give an effect of soothing and relaxing coolness.

White flowers with silver and dark green background appear cool and harmonious;
Orange, red or yellow flowers with dark green background appear warm, stimulating and tropical;
Warm colours brings the garden closer;
Cool colours make the garden appear larger and more spaceous.


Planning is the first step towards a successful garden. This is much easier if you are developing a new garden from scratch, because you don't have the problem of choosing what parts of the old garden will remain and what will be scrapped. If renovating an existing garden, don't be afraid to be ruthless. Don't hesitate to change the shape of paths and garden beds or rip up lawn areas completely. You will paint the best picture, and the one that best suits you, on a clean canvas.

A garden will constantly change, and a good design should foresee and account for changes which are likely to occur. Plants grow, flower and die, the garden continually changes through the cycles of the seasons; a well-planned garden will take into consideration these changes and use them to create a dynamic garden that always has something of interest in it.

There are basic principles which should be considered as you design a garden. These are those things which influence the way in which the components (e.g. plants, structures or paths) are arranged. Gaining an understanding of the following "principles" will go a long way towards helping you create a truly stunning garden.

This is a feeling of "oneness", as though all parts of the garden belong together. A repetitive pattern (e.g. an avenue of palms) can be used to create unity. A lawn, path, mass planting of one species, or water flowing through a garden can be used to tie other components of the garden into one cohesive unit.

This refers to an equilibrium either symmetrical (duplication on either side of an imaginary line) or asymmetrical (dissimilar placement of different objects or masses on either side of the same sort of imaginary line, but in a way that an equilibrium exist). For example a garden might look unbalanced if a line of tall trees was grown along one side of a property, and nothing grown on the other side.

This refers to proper sizing or scaling of components in relation to each other, for example, a 30m tall eucalyptus would look out of place in a small courtyard garden, while a bonsai plant would look out of place sitting by itself in the middle of a large expanse of lawn.

This component is usually the prime objective of any landscape so that different parts of the landscape fit together. It can result from the use of plants with similar sizes, textures of foliage, flower colours, etc., for example, palms and ferns harmonise well together.

Contrast is in opposite to harmony and should not be overdone, otherwise chaos may result. Occasional contrasts to the harmony of a design will create an eye catching feature in a garden adding life and interest to an area which would otherwise be dead.
However too much contrast will only lessen the attractiveness of the features, for example: using a small hedge of Duranta 'Sheena's Gold' in front of a taller hedge of red toned Acalypha always looks striking.

Rhythm is a conscious repetition of equal or similar components in the garden. It is usually created by repetition and transition (slow change from one thing to another). For example a continuous bordering plant such as Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) around all garden beds and pathways.


  • Close mowing tends to make an area seem larger.

  • A smooth boundary will make an area seem larger.

  • Shadows or openings at one side of an area will make it seem wider.

  • Looking downhill makes a distance seem longer.

  • Looking uphill makes a distance seem shorter.

  • Too much repetition and harmony is monotonous.

  • Too much contrast is chaotic.

  • Spaces which are too small can be oppressive.

  • Large spaces are empty and hollow unless there are a large number of people in those spaces.

  • Long spaces can be overdone becoming psychologically exhausting.

  • To achieve a harmony in space in enclosed areas the ratio of building height to space width should be no more than 1:4.

  • Introduced landforms, and reshaping of land, should blend in with existing topography.

  • Coarse textures (e.g. large foliage) decrease the apparent size of spaces.

  • Fine textures will make small spaces look bigger.

  • Flowing curved lines are passive, soft and pleasant.

  • Geometric lines and shapes are solid, strong and formal.

  • Sharp, straight irregular lines create an active, vigorous feeling in a garden.

  • A garden can be made to appear larger by ‘borrowing’ trees and other features from adjoining gardens, so that they appear to be part of your garden.

Garden Edges
Garden edging is used as borders to paths, driveways, lawns and garden beds. A well-constructed edge will reduce maintenance by confining the spread of grass from lawns. It will stop gravel spilling over from paths or driveways and stop mulch being lost from garden beds.
Beyond all this, it provides defining boundaries of different parts of a garden. By varying the shape and colour of an edge you can create a great variety of different effects. But don’t overdo this as too much variation will create a chaotic appearance. The style and colour of the edging material can give the garden and the house and buildings a strong harmonious overall appearance, when colours are similar and styles of materials match with the house, buildings and garden.

Using Edges to Best Effect
Curved edges create a more relaxed effect (edges should be curved in a more informal garden).
Straight edging creates a more formal effect.
Bright coloured edges create obvious and strong lines which tell people in a very definite way, "This is the boundary of something!"
Softer coloured edges (e.g. creams or yellows), while still providing a physical border to weeds or gravel, make a less strong statement about the edge being a "boundary of something.”
Lawns with very distinct edges (e.g. concrete edging) have a tidier look than those with subtle edging (e.g. a dug edge). However they will also look ‘harder’.
Subtle edging is more appropriate to very informal garden styles such as cottage gardens or bush gardens.
The shape and edge of a lawn should be appropriate for the type of mower being used. Large ride on mowers cannot easily negotiate tight corners or sharp angles on the lawn edge. Self-propelled mowers or wide cut mowers may be more difficult to manoeuvre along edges with sharp changes in direction.
Most mowers will best negotiate edges which are either straight edged or shaped as long flowing curves.

Types of Edging

Timber: timber will eventually rot. It is relatively inexpensive but does not define borders as clearly as bricks or concrete.
Brick: cracks between bricks will grow weeds. There is some ongoing maintenance.
Concrete: very durable and maintenance free. Portable, self propelled edging machines can be purchased or in some cities and towns an operator can be hired top operate the machine.


Once you have determined the type of garden you want, and what the primary uses of that garden will be, you can begin the design. A step-by-step approach, working the plan out on paper, is the best starting point.

1. Measure up and Draw the Area

You need a basic plan of the site as it now exists showing boundaries, fences, buildings (with the position of doors and windows), and any permanent features such as concrete paths, sheds or washing lines. You should also determine where services enter and cross the property and where drainage lines and pipes are located. All items included on the base plan must be drawn to scale and measured for placement. For instance, if a separate shed or tree is included on the design, then it must be measured not only for size, but also for distance from the property lines and located appropriately on the plan. Include all plants and features that you intend to keep in the landscape, but there is no need to keep details of those things that will be removed or changed. Items that need to be kept clear or accessible, such as power lines and water taps, should be included, as well as features that may need to be hidden, such as meter boxes.

This is known as the base plan and will be an important tool throughout the planning process. It must be very accurate, both in detail of the size and placement of plants and buildings and in the features of the property, such as north facing, etc. The base plan is a time consuming project, but it is time well spent in creating a successful design. An accurate base plan will tell you exactly how much space you have to work with.
2. Research the Property

It is important to check with your local council before making any decisions about your landscape design. They may have restrictions on things such as what trees can be removed, the construction of decks and features, and drainage requirements. Other information you may want to research is general weather conditions for the area (e.g. how much rain and when does it usually fall, prevailing winds, likelihood of frosts, etc.), soil type and characteristics (such as the pH which is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of the soil), drainage patterns, and location of underground services. These will play a role in the placement of plants and other features.

3. Features of the property

Overlay a sheet of tracing or thin paper over the base plan and use it to identify the physical and natural factors of the property. Include things such as an indication (e.g. arrows) of prevailing winds, desirable and undesirable views, surrounding roads, houses and overhanging trees which affect the property. Note things such as where you would like wind and sun blocked, views and areas that you want to hide and views that you want to keep. This will influence where you place areas of use and plants in your landscape.

This is the start of the creative phase of the landscape design and should be treated as such. Scale is not important, rather taking advantage of what is naturally occurring in your neighbourhood and remedying those things that are unsightly or annoying is the purpose of this exercise.
4. Concept Plan

This is a series of "bubbles" or circles, drawn on a sheet of paper overlaying the base plan and the features plan, creating a third layer. The purpose of the concept plan is to identify what each area of the property will be used for. The needs you identified should be incorporated here, as well as the physical aspects of the property noted in steps 2 and 3 of the design process.

The concept plan is an important step as it identifies boundaries. It does not need to be to exact scale, but should be proportional. Draw on your sketch plans what the purpose of each area is and what the intended style of that area is to be (e.g. "outdoor living area/cottage garden style" or "aesthetic area/formal rose garden style").
You should draw several concept plans before you decide on the final use of the property. Remember, it is easier and far cheaper to make changes on paper, so take your time on this phase. Be creative and try using a number of different approaches before settling on your final concept plan.
5. Draw in the Physical Details for each Area

Using a fourth sheet of overlay, this is where you begin your final design detail. Decide on the size and shape of garden beds, paths and paved areas, then determine where you might locate any gazebos, pergolas, ponds, statues or other garden features. Also include any existing features that are to be retained. This sHould be drawn to scale and meet all the requirements set down on the concept plan.

6. The Final Plan

This can be drawn directly on a copy of the original base plan and must be drawn to scale. The final plan will include the size and shape of all garden beds and areas on the property. It should specify exactly what will be included in the garden and where. The plants and materials to be used should be included here, either directly on the plan or listed on a separate sheet as a key to the actual plan. The final plan will act not only as a guide for setting out the landscape, but also as a shopping list for materials and plants needed, so it must be very specific.

The final plan then becomes your working paper. But don't let the amount of work overwhelm you. A garden can be a long term project over many years, with the plan being a constant guide. A well planned garden will eventually accommodate everything on your list of needs and wants, and can be changed, but basically should remain the same. But, as a garden is an evolutionary process, it should still be aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Good plant selection is critical to the success of any planting design. There are two main areas of plant selection. These are firstly, choosing the right plant species or cultivar for your requirements, and secondly, ensuring that once you have decided which plants you want to grow, that you choose healthy, good quality specimens of those plants.


When you decide to use a plant in a garden, you should consider the following:

Pre-planning Considerations

This includes the site characteristics, such as slope and soil type, as well as the location of services and buildings, local by-laws and the owner’s preferences (e.g. theme, colours).


What particular task or tasks do you want the plant to fulfil - shade, appearance, windbreak, hedge, screen, feature?

Climate Considerations
Which plants are best suited to the particular climatic conditions in your area; bear in mind factors such as rainfall, temperature (maximum and minimums in particular), humidity and bushfires. Also consider microclimates that might exist or be created as the garden is constructed. Some isolated areas within tropical zones (such as mountain tops) may be subject to frost and snow.

Growth Characteristics

How big does the plant grow and how quickly, both in height and width; what shape does it form (upright, weeping, round, etc.); does it have invasive roots that are likely to lift footpaths or buildings or block drains; is it deciduous so that it provides shade in summer and allows light through in winter. Is the plant a potential weed, becoming invasive through such means as suckering, self-layering, self-seeding, etc., is the plant fragrant, or perhaps have an offensive odour?


How long is the plant likely to grow? Some trees may live for hundreds of years (e.g. eucalypts, figs), others only for 5 or 20 years (e.g. Acacias). Slow growing trees may take considerable time to provide protective shade for understorey plants. Quick growing trees may provide quick protection for other plants, but leave them exposed when they later die. In many cases short-lived protection may be an advantage, allowing less hardy plants to become well established before their protective cover dies out.


Do the plants have thorns or prickles that may cause injuries; can it cause an allergic reaction; are parts of it poisonous; is it likely to drop branches; is it likely to burn easily?
Such considerations are particularly important if the garden is likely to be exposed to children - the owners own, their visiting grandchildren etc.


Does the plant require pruning, staking or regular feeding? Does it drop leaves or fruit that may need to be swept or raked, or even removed from the tree for safety reasons (e.g. the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis).


Is it prone to attack from pests and diseases, is it readily affected by pollutants, can it withstand harsh conditions, such as salty, coastal breezes, cyclonic winds, or hot, dry, summer winds?

Availability and Cost

Are the plants you are considering for your design, readily available? What do they cost? Are substitutes available? 



When choosing a course the most important things to consider are:

  • Choose a course of study that best suits you and your future aspirations.

  • Choose a course of study that will be broad enough for you to enable you to move across industry sectors should you want or need to.

  • Choose a course of study that can be tailored to your needs and ambitions.

  • Choose a course of study with a school that will encourage and support you and also give you practical along with theoretical skills.

ACS prides itself on all these things – our learning system ensures that students not only gather information but they absorb, retain and recall it (even years later). Problem Based Learning and Experiential Learning beats Competency based Training hands-down in producing quality graduates. Our courses are based on developing problem solving skills.

We have a team of horticulturists and landscapers to support you; and they are accessible on phone, email or chat operating out of both the UK and Australia. If needed, that gives you tutor access 16 hours a day - double what you get at most colleges.

Will Studying Help me to be a Professional in Horticulture?

Many people study just to get a qualification, they rush their studies and just manage to scrape through their exams. In the workplace these people are found wanting as they just have not taken the time to gather the theoretical and practical ability to be true professionals. Advancing in a career or becoming a professional horticulturist isn’t just about horticultural skills and knowledge though - the industry needs graduates with:

  • Sound demonstrable knowledge and skills across horticulture industry sectors but also pertinent to the job; A qualification is just one part of that, many people have qualifications but it is how you are able to apply and demonstrate your knowledge that will count most to your potential employer.

  • Good communication skills: verbal, written and IT skills are the very basis of a professional in any industry and horticulture is no exception. You need to be able to communicate effectively at all levels – with workers, your peers, your employers and importantly your clients.

  • Problem solving skills: this is so lacking in many graduates from competency based courses as their range of skills is limited to what is on the ‘list’ of competencies for that course, rather than expanded through the development of problem solving skills like ACS courses. In the work place, and as a professional, you will need to problem solve all the time – you need to be able to think on your feet, come up with quick solutions and make sure that those solutions are carried through and actually work.

  • Efficiency: Being efficient doesn’t necessarily mean doing things quickly – efficiency is more linked to being a good organiser, a good planner, performing tasks in the correct, logical order and applying skills with adeptness and expertise.

  • Professional attitude: be well presented and a team player, most employers are looking for people who can work with others effectively and work as a team. They prefer people with a demonstrable passion for the industry and those that network in within industry; volunteering to get experience, memberships to clubs, societies, associations; reading literature all help you gain a good profile and make you stand out from others applying for the same positions.


What Can You do to Improve Your Career Prospects?
When you study do it for the right reasons; open yourself up to learning, rushing through a course won’t give you a sound basis of knowledge and skills you need to succeed. When you study know that this is the first step – these days you need to continue learning throughout your entire career to advance.

  • Technology also changes rapidly so being open to learning also keeps you abreast of new industry developments. Read, attend conferences, check the news in your industry, read industry papers, network and so on.

  • Learn from a variety of sources: reading and learning from a variety of perspectives expands your knowledge, building a mix of skills that will make you stand out from the crowd.

  • Make sure your C.V. is well written and presented and set out to current preferences –get help if you need it (tutors at this school will help our students with their C.V.'s if you ask - no cost. Resume writing services can also be used, but they charge).

  • Recognise your weaknesses, and work on improving them - not just academically.

Work Opportunities

  • Garden designer

  • Landscape contractor

  • Landscape or Gardens Manager

  • Land care and rehabilitation

  • Allied trades supplying products or services to the landscape industry

  • Teacher, trainer, educator, garden writer

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason is a member of Parks and Leisure Australia since 1974 and a fellow since 1998

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

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

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

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. I

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

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