Plant Selection And Establishment

Course CodeBHT107
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Understand How to Make Smart Plant Choices

A well-selected plant is always more likely to survive establishment, be more easily maintained; and look better. The success of a garden is largely determined by three interconnected factors:

  • Suitability of plants to conditions they are expected to grow in.
  • Use of optimum plant establishment techniques.
  • The maintenance provided (quality and quantity)

Don’t make planting mistakes

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.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Scope & Nature of water features, water quality, plants & animals in water, etc.
  2. Construction
  3. Equipment: Pumps, Lights, Filters etc.
  4. Ponds, watercourses, bog gardens, dams
    • Design & Aftercare.
  5. Spas and Swimming Pools
    • Design & After care
  6. Water Features
    • Indoor & Outdoor
    • Fountains
    • Waterfalls
    • Fish tanks, ponds etc
  7. Water Plants
  8. Aquatic Animals

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.


  • Understand the nature and scope of water gardens.
  • Identify and describe generic construction materials and techniques suitable for water gardens and pools.
  • Select appropriate equipment for use with water features.
  • Specify the design and construction of a pond or watercourse.
  • Specify the design, construction and maintenance of a spa or swimming pool.
  • Specify the design & construction of a Water Feature other than a pond or water course.
  • Identity the water plants commonly used in water gardens.
  • Identify a variety of aquatic animals suitable for water gardens, and their requirements

How do You Choose Plants?

This is the million dollar question for all landscapers and horticulturists.

There are literally tens of thousands of different plants in cultivation; and it is virtually impossible to know all of the plants you can choose from. Even the best horticultural expert in the world, simply doesn't haqve sufficient time in one lifespan, to learn all of the possibilities.

The more plants you become familiar with though; the more choices you have; and the more capable you should be in choosing and using plants in a garden.
Some landscapers never build an extensive knowledge of plants; and still succeed; but their designs are a little like the photographer who only ever photographs black and white photos inside a studio. What they can offer a client is limited; and as good as they might be at their craft, their full potential might never be realized.
There are many different types of plants to become familiar with; from perennials, bulbs and annuals; to trees , shrubs and ground covers. The task of learning thousands of plant names may seem daunting; and it does take years to achieve; but the task does become easier as the years pass. There is a system to learning about not only the identification, but also the culture of different types of plants.

Consider Herbs and Perennials

Perennials can be used in just about any garden situation, but are most commonly used in flowering borders, rock gardens, cottage gardens, feature beds, or various types of containers.

The aim is to have the plants flowering in a sequence – as one plant emerges, another finishes and is either cut back or dies down. Plants with interesting foliage colours or textures are used as fillers and as contrasts.

In general, plants look better growing in groups, clumps or ribbons. Plant in groups of at least three plants, for each flower type - preferably more for larger beds.  Aim for a crowded effect, as this will give a better display and will keep down the weeds.

In most displays there will be a progression in height, from low growing plants at the edge of beds, to progressively larger ones at the back. The largest ones are placed in the centre of stand-alone beds or at the back of beds that butt up to larger features, such as shrubberies, walls or hedges. Individual (dot) plants might be located amongst otherwise pure stands of shorter flowers to create contrast.

For most beds, a three-tiered arrangement is effective:

    It may take a season or two to work out the best display but if you’re not happy with the effect, most perennials can be easily moved in the cooler weather.

    Try Herbs
    Try herbs are perennial plants (though there are exceptions), growing strongly throughout the warmer months and dying back to their root systems in spring. A garden bed made up of permanently green trees and shrubs often has a strip at the front (edging a lawn or path), planted with perennial plants. These plants grow strongly in spring, and flower in spring and summer, creating a sense of abundance and colour. Ideal herbs for a perennial border include apple mint, lemon balm, bergamot, fennel, angelica, sage, tansy, yarrow, chives, Russian garlic, hyssop and many others.

    Almost any geometric form can be used to shape a formal bed, but as a rule it should be symmetrically arranged on two sides of a central line. That central line should normally extend from a doorway, gate or another point of entry into the herb garden. The central axis forms a line along which the eye is drawn, and as such, some feature should normally be located at the end (perhaps also in the centre of that axis (e.g. a fountain, sundial, arbour, topiary, statue). Formal herb gardens should consist of well- defined lines (either walls or continually cut edges will work). Hedges such as clipped rosemary are ideally suited to edge beds in a formal garden. 

      Herbs in Rock Gardens
      Many herbs suit rock gardens well, growing in confined spaces and being tolerant of fluctuating water conditions in the soil. Be aware of the varying vigour of different types of herbs though. The danger in a rock garden is that one type of herb (such as yarrow) might take over and compete to the detriment of others in the bed.

      Herbs in the Cottage Garden
      The cottage garden concept involves planting perennials and herbs together perhaps along with fruit trees, and maybe some old-world shrubs to create a potpourri effect. The best cottage gardens have a relaxed, informal appearance but in reality, they are carefully designed to achieve:

      How Do You Decide What Plant to Buy at a Nursery?
      Plants that are healthier and not pot bound are more likely to grow faster and overcome the effects of disease or insect attack. Plants left in the same pot for too long will become overcrowded and soon show symptoms of dying roots, leaves and overall poor vigour.
      Larger plants often take more effort to get established, but if you are prepared to put the effort in, will give a more immediate effect. If you don’t put the effort in, they are more likely to die.
      Plants with a good uniform shape i.e. straight stem, uniform branches and a good coverage of leaves, will get off to a good start as soon as they’re planted out.
      Watch out plants with lots of soft, lush new growth – these aren’t necessarily the healthiest or best plants to buy. Unless you can give the plant ideal conditions (moist, fertile soil in a sheltered position), that lush growth is likely to wilt and die back once the plant is put in the ground. The plant will most likely recover but it may take several weeks for new shoots to grow.
      A plant covered with flowers is appealing, but isn’t necessarily in good health. Even very sick plants can flower well. Instead, look for sturdy well-formed plants with healthy green leaves. If you really want a plant that will give you flowers quickly, choose one with lots of buds rather than fully opened flowers.
      Get the right species for the right position. To do this you must know your plants well. Until you can identify and describe at least 1,000 different plants, you are still in the early stages of developing plant selection skills; but a course like this is a good step in the right direction.


      Who Will Benefit From This Course?

      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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