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Landscaping I

Course CodeBHT109
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Design a Garden by Home Study

Student comments: [The course] gave me an insight into a subject that I have been interested in for a long time. Plus it has helped me in my current job with a local landscape/nursery company. [The structure] was done in a way which was very easy to understand and this helped when you hit a subject which ws hard to get a grip with.. All feedback from the tutors was very constructive and helpful. David Painter, Landscaping 1, UK.


Landscape Design is a multifaceted skill. It allows you to take a vision or "feeling" and transform it into a workable plan. It isn't just making a place look nice, nor mass planting, but is also about suiting the landscape to the climate, land and setting that you have to work with. An understanding of plants, soils, timbers, climate, and other landscape materials are pivotal to the success of a good landscape design.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Basic Design Procedure A
    • Scope of Landscaping
    • Dynamic Nature of Gardens
    • Plant Naming
    • Plant Identification and Selection
    • Botanical Families; a basis for identification
    • Principles of Landscaping
    • Design Elements
    • Design Effects
    • Climate, Microclimate and Aspect
    • Collecting pre-planning information
  2. History of Gardening
    • Formal Gardens
    • Informal Gardens
    • Natural Gardens
    • Cottage Gardens
    • Other garden styles and themes, oriental, mediterranean, etc
    • Potted History of Gardens: Roman, Chinese, Dark Ages, Le Notre, Brown, Jeckyll, etc
  3. Draughting and Contracting
    • Concept Plans
    • Scale Drawing
    • Presentation Plan
    • Computer Aided Design
    • Drawing techniques (Graphics)
    • Design Procedure
    • Specifications and Contracts
  4. Basic Landscape Construction
    • Drainage and Erosion
    • Gradients
    • Walling
    • Rockeries
    • Steps
    • Creating Mounds
    • Earth Shaping
    • Playstructures
    • Gravel and Paths
  5. Surfacings
    • Gradients
    • Surfacings
    • Gravel
    • Soft Surfacing
    • Grass
    • Concrete
    • Asphalt
    • Timber
    • Paving
    • Rubbers and Textiles
    • Substrates
    • Performance Considerations
  6. Furnishings and Features
    • Criteria for selecting Structural Components
    • Garden Furniture and Garden Rooms
    • Using Furniture in the Garden
    • Outdoor Tables and Chairs
    • Garden Art; types, selection, use
    • Lighting
    • Design considerations for Play Structures
    • Water Displays and Fountains
    • Skate Facilities
  7. Park Design A
    • Park Components
    • Ornaments
    • Walls, Fences and Windbreaks
    • Enclosed Gardens
    • Gates and Gateways
    • Windbreaks
    • Recreational Landscaping
    • Criteria for Public Outdoor Space Design
    • Why Parks are Under used
    • Types of Playgrounds
    • Making Community Participation Work
  8. Home Garden Design
    • Components of a Home Garden
    • Where Garden Meets House
    • Bringing the Outside In
    • Buildings in a Home Garden
    • Courtyards
  9. Design Procedure B
    • The Design Process
    • Design Elements
    • Components of a Recreational Landscape
    • Designing Narrow Gardens
    • Water Garden Design
    • Water Effects: sound, reflection, movement, light, cooling
    • Using Water Plants
    • Formal and Informal Pools
  10. Park Design B
    • Creating Trails
    • Planning a Trail
    • Types of Trails: Fitness, Nature, Sensory, Cryptic Puzzle, etc
    • Sporting Facilities
    • Outdoor Courts
    • Fun and Fitness Trails
    • Motor Vehicles in Parks
    • Plus A Special Assignment - comprehensive landscape

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Create visual effects through the use of different landscape design concepts.
  • Determine pre-planning information required to prepare a landscape design.
  • Determine an appropriate garden style for a landscape, to satisfy specifications for a design project.
  • Illustrate a landscape design through a plan, using legible graphic skills.
  • Determine different hard landscape features, including earthworks, surface treatments and furniture, to incorporate in a landscape.
  • Prepare planting designs for different landscapes.
  • Design different types of landscapes, including domestic gardens and public parks

What You Will Do

  • Explain the complete range of principles, elements and concepts used in landscape design.
  • Visit and analyse a broad range of landscape styles, themes and components.
  • Perform methods utilised to develop concepts and to create affects.
  • Identify, record and utilise pre-planning information for the purpose of design development, and to use
    • a checklist as a guide for surveying a site for a proposed design.
  • Perform site survey and client interview with the site owner/manager.
  • Explain the significance of effective client liaison, in a specific landscape job.
  • Identify historical influences on landscaping in your locality.
  • Explain the influence on modern garden design, of work by three garden designers who have been prominent in world garden history.
  • Develop and compare the appropriateness of three design options for one specific landscape project.
  • Draw an extensive range of different landscape symbols on paper, covering soft and hard landscape features.
  • Transpose two different landscape drawings, reducing the scale by a specified amount.
  • Draw a plan for a landscape, using legible graphic techniques.
  • Determine site preparations required for a specified landscape site, including: clearing/cleaning
    • earthworks.
  • Explain the legal requirements for cleaning up after a job in your locality.
  • Determine suitable timbers for construction of four different types of garden structures.
  • Compare the suitability of different materials for surfacing paths, including:
    • Asphalt
    • Concrete
    • Local gravels
    • Local mulches
    • Timber
    • Ceramics.
  • Collect, catalogue and determine appropriate use for different items of garden furniture.
  • Design a paved area for a garden surveyed, including: scale drawings and construction instructions.
  • Prepare a plant collection of at least eighty different plants incorporating:
    • Pressed plant specimens,
    • Scientific and common names
    • Cultural details
    • How to use each of these plants in different landscape situations uses.
  • Evaluate established landscapes based in:
    • Costs
    • Maintenance
    • Function
    • Aesthetics
  • Develop detailed planting designs, including plant lists, for three landscape plans, to satisfy given job specifications.
  • Analyse and compare the landscape designs of numerous selected homes and public parks.
  • Develop and prepare concept plans for landscape areas such as:
    • Outdoor living area
    • Kitchen garden
    • Courtyard
    • Childrens playground
    • Entry to home
    • Neighbourhood park
  • Draft a series of four conceptual plans, showing stages in the design of a home garden surveyed.
  • Prepare a professional standard landscape design for a client in the learner's locality, including:
    • A landscape plan drawn on tracing paper.
    • Materials specifications, including types and quantities.
    • Budget details.




All good garden designers use the following trick: “Divide the garden into rooms and it will make the garden feel larger and more interesting”.


You too can divide your garden into a series of outdoor rooms without spending too much money. You don’t need a large garden to make this work – even the smallest gardens usually have a front yard, a side passage and a backyard which can be treated as outdoor rooms.


The divisions between the rooms or sections of the garden may be separated by hedges, dense shrubberies, broad flower beds or trellises or by walls of stone, timber or other materials.


The floor of the garden may be covered with gravel, lawn, paving, creepers, low shrubs or even water.


The roof is most often the sky; but it could also be the interlocking canopy of large trees or the framework of some other structure such as an arched walk or pergola.


Even though the rooms may have completely different characters or themes, they can be linked together with a hedge to make the overall effect more harmonious. It is best to keep to one type of hedge species (eg. lillypilly, Murraya or Buxus) for this to work well.


Courtyard Gardens

Small spaces can be a puzzling challenge for gardeners, used to larger properties. They needn't be. Some of the most stunning gardens I've ever seen are areas no more than a few metres wide, which with good design and a little imagination, have been turned into the envy of all who visit.

What Is A Courtyard Garden?

A court or courtyard garden is a garden space that is enclosed by walls or buildings on three or four sides, or a confined yard that is generally surrounded by houses, and with an opening off a street. Courtyards can be as small as a few square metres, such as the space between a house and garage, or between a house and a side fence. They can also be quite large, such as those found surrounded by large city buildings, or surrounded by classrooms and walkways in a school. Courtyard gardens are common in inner city areas, where homes are generally packed close together, and with limited garden space, such as terrace houses.

  • Choose plants more carefully for courtyards, because roots & branches can be more damaging in confined spaces
  • Plant more plants in containers, to control the plant's size and potential to damage
  • Use only large containers for planting -these require less attention, particularly watering
  • Use deciduous trees, or trees with less dense foliage -too much high foliage can make a courtyard darker & wetter (algae and moss will grow more, paths can become slippery, lower plants can become straggly and suffer from low light.

by John Mason Dip.Hort.Sc.FIOH Principal ACS Distance Education

For more information on courses and books offered world wide through John’s school, see,, or



Why Choose This Course

  • Unique course materials (developed by our staff) and more current than some colleges (many reviewed annually); as a result, ACS graduates can be more up to date.
  • We work hard to help you understand and remember it, develop an ability to apply it in the real world, and build networks with others who work in this field (It’s more than just serving up a collection of information –if all you want is information, buy a book; but if you want an education, that takes learning to a whole new level).
  • Start whenever you want, study at your own pace, study anywhere
  • Don’t waste time and money traveling classes
  • We provide more choices–courses are written to allow you more options to focus on parts of the subject that are of more interest to you; a huge range of elective subjects are offered that don’t exist elsewhere.
  • Tutors are accessible (more than elsewhere) – academics work in both the UK and Australia, 5 days a week, 16 hours a day. Answering emails and phone calls from students are top priority.
  • We treat students as individuals –don’t get lost in a crowd. Our tutors communicate with you one to one.
  • Extra help at no extra cost if needed. When you find something you cannot do, we help you through it or will provide another option.
  • Support after you finish a course –We can advise about getting work, starting  business, writing a CV, etc. We can promote students and their businesses through our extensive profile on the internet. Graduates who ask will be helped.
  • Support from a team of a dozen professional horticulturists, living in different parts of the UK, and in both temperate and tropical climate zones of Australia.

About ACS

ACS was started in 1979 by John Mason, who at the time was a gardening author, horticultural consultant and lecturer in horticulture at several colleges across Melbourne (in Australia).  Over the summer that year John discovered that there were thousands of applicants going to be turned away from horticulture courses at Burnley Horticultural College (now Melbourne University). There were simply too few courses being offered for the number of people wanting to study horticulture in Australia. This situation prompted a move to establish a correspondence course at Burnley; but after months of unsuccessful lobbying for support from government; John wrote a course, and with help from a colleague at Council of Adult Education, marketed it.

Standards were originally set in line with what were seen to be the standards of Australia's top horticultural college; and over the years, those standards have never been reduced. This makes our courses longer and more demanding than some other colleges; but it has also led to us building a credibility that stands tall in the horticulture industry across the world. 

In the early 1990's John started visiting the UK and becoming involved with the horticulture industry there. Around the mid 1990's ACS began offering RHS courses, and in 2003, John was formally recognised for his contribution to British Horticulture by being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture. ACS, as a school, established an office and staff in the UK in 2001, and has expanded considerably since then. Today it is formally affiliated with five other colleges in the UK (including Warwickshire College); all of who license and deliver ACS courses. 

A team of leading horticulturists work for the school's horticulture department, including 12 faculty members in both the UK and Australia


How You Study

  • As soon as you enroll, we send an email to explain it all.
  • We direct you to a short orientation video (downloadable over the internet) to watch, where our principal introduces you to how the course works, and how you can access all sorts of support services
  • You are either given a code to access your course online, or sent out a CD or course materials through the mail (or by courier).
  • Work through lessons one by one, each lesson typically having four parts:
    • An aim -which tells you what you should be achieving in the lesson
    • Reading -notes written and regularly revised by our academic staff
    • Set Task(s) -These are practicals, research or other experiential learning tasks that strengthen and add to what you have been reading
    • Assignment -By answering questions, submitting them to a tutor, then getting feedback from the tutor, you confirm that you are on the right track, but more than that, you are guided to consider what you have been studying in different ways, broadening your perspective and reinforcing what you are learning about
    • Other - Your work in a course rarely stops at just the above four parts. Different courses and different students will need further learning experiences. Your set task or assignment may lead to other things, interacting with tutors or people in industry, reviewing additional reference materials or something else. We treat every student as an individual and supplement their learning needs as the occasion requires.
  • We provide access to and encourage you to use a range of supplementary services including an online student room, including online library; student bookshop, newsletters, social media etc.
  • We provide a "student manual", that is a quick solution to most problems that might occur


  • ACS has a highly respected international profile: by employers and academics alike. People are more aware of us than many other distance education schools –just do a search for “horticulture distance education courses” and see what comes up on the internet; or search for ACS Distance education on Facebook or Linked in, and see how many connections we have compared to other colleges.
  • Recognised by International Accreditation and Recognition Council
  • ACS has been educating people around the world since 1979
  • Over 100,000 have now studied ACS courses, across more than 150 countries
  • Formal affiliations with colleges in five countries
  • A faculty of over 40 internationally renowned academics –books written by our staff used by universities and colleges around the world.

Extra Books or Reference Materials

  • The course provides you with everything that you need to complete it successfully.
  • Assignments may ask you to look for extra information (eg. by contacting nurseries, visiting gardens or searching the internet), but our school's resources and tutors are always available as a back up. If you hit a "roadblock", we can quickly send you additional information or provide expert advice over the phone or email; to keep you moving in your studies.
  • Some students choose to buy additional references, to take their learning beyond what is essential for the course. If a student wants to buy books, we operate an online bookshop offering ebooks written by staff at the school. Student discounts are available if you are studying with us. The range of e books available is being expanded rapidly, with at least one new ebook being written and published by our staff every month. See