Advanced Certificate in Applied Management (Retail Nursery)

Horticultural Correspondence School Distance Education Courses for plant propagation, garden centre management and plant nursery production; learning practical garden and horticulture skills either online, by correspondence study.

Course CodeVBS001
Fee CodeAC
Duration (approx)900 hours
QualificationAdvanced Certificate

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Study, Learn, and Work in A Garden Centre or Retail Nursery

  • Suitable for both newcomers and people already working in the industry
  • Start your Own Business
  • Seek employment in the Nursery Industry
  • Improve your skills and advance your career

Retail plant nurseries may be stand alone businesses, selling nothing but plants; but more often than not they are part of a larger enterprise, for example:

  • A business that propagates and grows on a specialist type of plant; and sells those plants in bulk (wholesale) to the trade, as well as individually  at a retail price to the general public.
  • A garden centre that buys in plants from production nurseries, along with associated garden products from allied traders (eg. pots, soil, fertilisers etc); and retails those to the general public.
  • A department or section within a larger business such as a hardware store, landscape materials supplier or florist.

Retail nurseries can be small or large. They may start as a part time stand at a weekend market, or selling plants off the road where you live (if planning laws allow). At the other end of the scale, they can be multi million dollar businesses, with all sorts of other sideline businesses attached, from a coffee shop and pet supply to a home wares showroom or swimming pool shop.


This course is comprised of:

*Core studies - Four units (400 hours) of compulsory subjects for all students.

*Stream studies – Three stream units for the development of knowledge in a chosen industry sector.

*Project Elective Modules – a workplace project of 200 hrs relevant to your field of study. The project specifically aims to provide the student with the opportunity to apply and integrate skills and knowledge developed through various areas of formal study. Contact the school for more information.



Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Advanced Certificate in Applied Management (Retail Nursery).
 Business Operations VBS006
 Management VBS105
 Marketing Foundations VBS109
 Office Practices VBS102
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
 Horticulture I BHT101
 Nursery Sales Assistant VHT103
 Garden Centre Management BHT255
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 4 modules.
 Industry Project I BIP000
 Industry Project II BIP001
 Research Project I BGN102
 Workshop I BGN103

Note that each module in the Advanced Certificate in Applied Management (Retail Nursery) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.


Click on each module for more details

Office Practices
Develops basic office skills covering use of equipment, communication systems (telephone, fax, etc) and office procedures such as filing, security, workplace organisations, etc. 

Business Operations

Develops knowledge of basic business operations and procedures (eg. types of businesses, financial management, business analysis, staffing, productivity, etc) and the skills to develop a 12 month business plan.
Develops knowledge of management structures, terminology, supervision, recruitment and workplace health and safety.
Marketing Foundations.
Develops a broad understanding of marketing and specific skills in writing advertisements, undertaking market research, developing an appropriate marketing plan and selling.



There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Plant Identification: Naming plants; distinguishing the taxonomic divisions of plants including family, genus, species and variety or hybrid; identifying the different parts of a flower; distinguishing the morphological characteristics of leaves.

  2. Planting: Planting methods used for different types of plants including annuals, perennials, evergreen and deciduous plants; influence of environmental factors on planting techniques.

  3. Soils: Classifying soils; sampling and testing soils; chemical and physical properties of soils; soil improvement techniques; composting; potting mixes.

  4. Nutrition: Major and micro elements necessary for plant growth; nutrient deficiencies and toxicities; fertilisers.

  5. Water Management: Irrigation systems – characteristics, advantages and disadvantages; drainage systems; water wise gardening.

  6. Pruning: Pruning techniques; importance of pruning to growth, flowering and fruiting; pruning tools.

  7. Weeds: Identifying common weeds; characteristics of weeds; control techniques; herbicides.

  8. Pests and Diseases: Identifying common insect and disease problems; control methods; Integrated Pest Management; pesticides; hygiene procedures; chemical safety.

  9. Landscaping: Stages of landscaping; design procedures; collating pre-planning information; preparing plans; selecting plants for specified sites.

  10. Propagation: Asexual and sexual propagation; taking cuttings; sowing seeds; aftercare of propagated plants.

  11. Lawns: Turf grass varieties; laying a new lawn; cultural techniques including watering, fertilizing, topdressing, aerating, pest and disease control.

  12. Arboriculture: Tree management techniques including pruning, removal and tree surgery; identifying tree problems.

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Plant classification, plant cultural requirements, soil and nutrition, watering requirements, drainage, temperature, light, humidity.

  2. Plant Health: How to diagnose a problem, pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, frost, sunburn, chemical damage, insufficient light, over watering.

  3. Stock Maintenance: Quality standards, buying new stock, inspecting stock, extending stock life, disposing of below-standard stock, watering techniques, fertilising, pest and disease control.

  4. Display and Display Techniques: Display units, product location, sales area layout.

  5. Garden Product Knowledge I: Plant containers, tags, soil mixes, equipment, tools.

  6. Garden Product Knowledge II: Chemicals, fertilisers, baskets, terrariums, cut flowers.

  7. Indoor Plants: Major groups, common problems, plants for specific situations, customer attitudes.

  8. Container Stock: Trees and Shrubs.

  9. Seedlings, Bulbs, Herbs and Perennials.

  10.  A: Deciduous Trees, Fruit, Nuts, Berries. B. Seed.

  11. Marketing: Pricing strategy, advertising, promotions.

  12. Management: Staff control, staff productivity, work scheduling.

There are 5 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Plant Identification: Understanding plant classification and pronunciation of plant names.

  2. Sales Skills: Determining different types of customers; developing the communication skills to sell, including how to open and close a sale.

  3. Caring for Plants: Planting techniques, understanding soils, plant nutrition and pest management.
        Selecting the Right Plant for the Right Place: How to create different moods using plants.

  4. Advising Customers in a Nursery: Developing good communication skills, knowing your product, plant placement.

Note: Fees do not include exam fees


The purpose of this part of the course is to take the horticultural and management learning from the Core and Stream Units and apply that learning in real world situations through research, work experience or other such activity. This both strengthens what you have learned and expands your awareness and builds a greater relevance into the whole course.


Plants will always sell better at some times of the year than others. Some types of plants are only able to be sold at certain times.
Nursery managers need to try as much as possible to plan for stock to be ready when it is needed; but that only happens in a perfect world. Weather conditions can speed up or slow down growth; and plants that do not sell one year may need to be held over for months, or even until the next year, before they can be sold. One obvious solution is to pot up unsold plants and grow them onto a larger size; but there is a cost involved in doing that; even if the potential exists to sell a plant for more money later on.

Sometimes plants get to the point of being ready for sale before the market is ready to buy them. In these instances, the nurseryman is faced with the serious problem of keeping the plants alive and in peak condition without them getting bigger or unmanageable.
There are a variety of things which can be done including:

  • Slow the growth rate by reducing fertiliser and water applications.

  • Store in a dormant state.

  • Pot up and sell as a larger plant.

  • Prune back and allow regrowth to occur.

  • Suckering or creeping plants may be divided to multiply plants.

  • Value-adding and by developing a different product - turn it into a bonsai, topiary, basket, or tub specimen.


Some plants, in particular bulbs, deciduous plants and many herbaceous perennials go through a period of dormancy (commonly over winter), when growth slows considerably, or stops. During this time, these plants are easy to move, and for that reason they are often sold as balled plants or bare rooted (without any soil).

Bare rooted plants and "bulbs" are much easier and cheaper to transport and store in a dormant state, hence the costs involved in marketing are reduced.

It is essential to understand the requirements of dormant or semi-dormant plants. When plant growth slows, their ability to resist pest and disease problems can also be lessened. These plants will only remain dormant as long as environmental conditions are appropriate, and placing them in a warmer situation might stimulate growth, and make the plants susceptible to damage through drying out - or physical damage when moved. They need to be sold, potted or planted out before dormancy breaks and growth begins.

Some dormant plants (eg. deciduous trees and shrubs) should be stored with their roots covered by something moist (but not waterlogged). They can be heeled into a bed of soil (ie. covered by soil), or covered by moist organic material such as moss or wood shavings. They can be bunched together and do not need to be stood up, but be careful that plants rubbing against each other do not cause too many wounds. Some varieties of herbaceous perennials, bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers can sometimes be stored dry on shelves in a dark, cool place over winter; while others must be kept moist, perhaps in containers covered with moist moss or shavings.

Nurseries which grow plants such as these which go through a period of dormancy may need to build special storage facilities to hold plants after digging, for several months as orders are received and processed.


Completing this course will give you knowledge, understanding and skills that are a valuable grounding for managing any type of retail nursery.
You may use this as a starting point for a new career or to start your own retail nursery; or you may already work in the nursery industry -in which case this course will improve your capacity to do better, across many of the day to day tasks you confront at work.

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Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild
Rosemary Davies

Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Adriana Fraser

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer , teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li