Advanced Certificate in Garden Design

Study all elements of landscape design. Acquire an understanding of different styles of garden and how to compose them. Learn about plants, drawing, planning and estimating. Use knowledge to design parks, gardens, and other outdoor areas.

Course CodeVHT082
Fee CodeAC
Duration (approx)900 hours
QualificationAdvanced Certificate

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Learn to Design a Range of Garden Styles

The emphasis of this course is geared towards design and different garden styles.

It is ideal for people who are more design focused, or those who already have some understanding of horticulture and landscape construction and who are keen to try their hand creating new gardens or renovating old ones.

Of course, you can also get to choose some modules to suit your specific goals and learning needs.

Become a Professional Landscape Contractor or Garden Designer

Complement your core studies with skills in plant identification, garden renovation, landscape construction, project management, permaculture design or other areas of interest. 

The demand for skilled garden and landscape designers is booming right now! Give yourself a truly competitive edge with this unique landscaping course. It not only covers all that you need to know about landscaping; it also gives you essential and extensive training in horticulture fundamentals and workplace practices and requirements. Gain a truly solid landscaping qualification from one of the most respected schools in this field.

Start a business or find a landscaping job; working in the garden design or landscape architecture industries.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Advanced Certificate in Garden Design.
 Cottage Garden Design BHT110
 Landscaping I BHT109
 Plant Selection And Establishment BHT107
 Landscaping III (Landscaping Styles) BHT235
 Natural Garden Design BHT215
 Planning Layout And Construction Of Ornamental Gardens BHT242
 Water Gardening BHT307
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 28 modules.
 Australian Natives I BHT113
 Carpentry BSS100
 Horticultural Research I BHT118
 Horticulture I BHT101
 Horticulture II (Plant Knowledge) BHT102
 Landscape Construction BHT111
 Masonry (Brick, Stone and Concrete Work) BSS101
 Starting A Small Business VBS101
 Workshop I BGN103
 Conifers BHT230
 Deciduous Trees BHT244
 Horticultural Research II BHT241
 Horticultural Resource Management BHT203
 Irrigation (Gardens) BHT210
 Landscaping II BHT214
 Permaculture Systems BHT201
 Photoshop CS - Beginner To Medium Level VIT202
 Playground Design BHT216
 Project Management BBS201
 Restoring Established Ornamental Gardens BHT243
 Roses BHT231
 Trees For Rehabilitation (Landcare Reafforestation) BHT205
 Tropical Plants BHT234
 Advanced Permaculture BHT301
 Biophilic Landscaping BHT343
 Horticultural Marketing BHT304
 Perennials BHT316
 Plant Ecology BSC305

Note that each module in the Advanced Certificate in Garden Design is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

What is in each of these modules?

This course is made of 9 modules - 7 compulsory modules, plus two elective modules.

Details of Selected Modules:

Landscaping I
The ten lessons are as follows:

  1. Basic Design Procedure A. - collecting pre-planning information, landscape elements, principles, etc.

  2. History of Gardening ‑ garden styles and themes, famous designers, garden influences.

  3. Draughting & Contracting - drawing techniques, specifications, details.

  4. Basic Landscape Construction - timber, steps, retainer walls, pathways, play structures, etc.

  5. Surfacings - concrete, asphalt, gravels, mulches, grasses, gradients, etc.

  6. Furnishings & Features - chairs, statues, figurines, birdbaths, skateboards, safety, etc.

  7. Park Design A - good/bad park design characteristics, recreational landscaping.

  8. Home Garden design - good/bad garden design characteristics.

  9. Design Procedure B - development of concept plans and detailed planting plans.

  10. Park Design B - development of park design, fun & fitness trails.

Horticulture I

There are twelve lessons in this course, as follows:

  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.

 Landscaping II

There are twelve lessons in this subject as follows:

  1. The Garden Environment

  2. Landscape Materials

  3. Using Bulbs and Annuals

  4. Landscaping with Trees

  5. Ground Cover Plants

  6. Walls and Fences

  7. Paths and Paving

  8. Treatment of Slopes and Other Problem Areas

  9. Garden Features

  10. Designing for Low Maintenance

  11. Development of a Landscape Plan

  12. Management of Landscape Projects.

Landscaping III (Landscape Styles)

There are 10 lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Creating the Mood

  2. Historic Gardens

  3. Formal Gardens

  4. Oriental Gardens

  5. Middle Eastern and Spanish Style

  6. Mediterranean Gardens

  7. Coastal Gardens

  8. Modern Gardens

  9. Eclectic Gardens

  10. Other Styles


Plant Establishment and Selection

There are ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction

  2. Woody plants

  3. Windbreaks, hedges and screens

  4. Alpine and water plants

  5. Annual and herbaceous plants

  6. Turf

  7. Maintenance

  8. Pest and disease control

  9. Weed control

  10. Risk assessment

Landscape Construction

There are ten lessons as follows:

  1. Tools and Machinery

  2. Landscape Plans and Setting out a Construction Site

  3. Drainage in Landscape Construction

  4. Earthworks

  5. Surfaces, Paths, Paving and Turf

  6. Construction of Garden Structures I

  7. Construction of Garden Structures II

  8. Irrigation Systems

  9. Establishing Hedges and Other Plants

  10. Workplace Safety and Management of Landscape Construction Work

Horticulture II

There are ten lessons in this course plus one Special Assignment (see later for details). The content of each of the ten lessons is outlined below:

  1. The Groups of Plants ‑ setting a framework for the whole subject.

  2. Use of Plants ‑ plant selection, soils.

  3. Australian Native Plants

  4. Exotic Ornamental Plants

  5. Indoor & Tropical Plants

  6. Bedding Plants

  7. Vegetables

  8. Fruits, Nuts & Berries

  9. Herbs

  10. Alternative Growing Techniques ‑ hydroponics, container growing, terrariums. Determine appropriate applications for a range of alternative growing methods.

 Horticulture & Research I

The course contains seven lessons:

1. Determining Research Needs

2. Searching for Information

3. Research Methods

4. Using Statistics

5. Conducting Statistical Research

6. Research Reports

7. Reporting on a Research Project


Water Gardening

There are eight lessons as follows:

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 & After-care.

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

Playground Design

There are eight lessons in this unit as follows:

1. Overview of Parks & Playgrounds

2. Playground Philosophy

3. Preparing a Concept Plan

4. Materials

5. Park & Playground Structures and Materials

6. Local and Neighbourhood Parks

7. Community Participation In Park Development

8. Special Assignment.

Planning Layout and Construction of Ornamental Gardens

There are ten lessons in this unit as follows:

1. Site Appraisal, Interpretation and Risk Assessment

2. Preparing Site Plans and Specifications

3. Influence of Site Characteristics

4. The Use of Hard Landscape Features

5. Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings

6. Soil Handling and Storage

7. Land Drainage Systems

8. Ground Preparation Techniques

9. Construction of Paths and Patios

10. Construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences

Cottage Garden Design

There are eight lessons as follows:

1. Introduction To Cottage Gardens

2. History Of Cottage Gardens

3. Design Techniques and Drawing Plans

4. Plants For Cottage Gardens

5. Planting Design In Cottage Gardens

6. Landscape Features and Components

7. Cottage Gardens Today

8. Special Assignment - Design Of A Complete Garden.

Permaculture Systems

The course is divided into eight lessons as follows:

1. Permaculture Principles

2. Natural Systems

3. Zone & Sector Planning

4. Permaculture Techniques

5. Animals in Permaculture

6. Plants in Permaculture

7. Appropriate Technologies

8. Preparing a Permaculture Plan

Horticultural Management

There are ten lessons in this course as follows:

1. Horticultural Business Structures

2. Management Theories and Procedures

3. Horticulture & The Law

4. Supervision

5. Financial Management

6. Staff Management

7. Improving Plant Varieties

8. Productivity and Risk

9. Managing Physical Resources

10. Developing an Horticultural Business Plan

Natural Garden Design

There are 8 lessons in this course as follows:

1. Introduction to Natural Gardens.

2. History of Natural Gardens

3. Developing Concept Plans

4. Plants for Natural Gardens

5. Planting Design in Natural Gardens

6. Natural Garden Features

7. Natural Gardens Today

8. Bringing It All Together.

Project Management

There are nine lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction
    Understanding what project management is, and what its applications might be.

  2. Project Identification
    Identification and defining projects which need management.

  3. Project Planning
    Developing a strategy and framework for the plan.

  4. Project Implementation
    Managers duties during implementation, developing a Preparation Control Chart,
    Regulating implementation.

  5. Project Completion & Evaluation
    Dangers in this stage, Steps in Project completion, Declaring a project sustainable,
    Developing an evaluation method.

  6. Technical Project Management Skills
    Preparing a proposal, budget control/management, steps in drawing up a
    post project appraisal.

  7. Leadership Skills
    Styles of leadership, leadership principles and methods.

  8. Improving Key Personnel Skills
    Listening skills, Negotiation skills, Conflict management.

  9. Major Assignment
    Developing full documentation for a project.

Restoring Established Ornamental Gardens

There are 8 lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Landscape History & Design Styles

  2. Surveying the Site

  3. Assessment of Plantings and Features

  4. Selecting Components for Retention

  5. Work Programming and Risk Management

  6. Drainage

  7. Hard Landscape Feature Restoration

  8. Planting Restoration and Maintenance

Horticulture & Research II

There are 7 lessons in this module as follows:
1. Identifying research issues and determining research priorities.
2. Acquisition of technical information
3. Specialised research techniques
4. Research planning and designing
5. Statistics
6. Conducting research
7. Writing reports

Workshop I

This course uses PBL (problem-based learning) study projects to develop a "real world" relevance in your overall learning experience

There are 3 lessons in this module as follows:

1. Workplace Tools, Equipment and Materials: Identifying and describing the operation of tools and equipment used in the workplace; routine maintenance of tools and equipment; identifying and comparing materials used in the workplace; using different materials to perform workplace tasks.

2. Workplace Skills: Determining key practical skills in the workplace; identifying and comparing commonly-performed workplace tasks; determining acceptable standards for workplace tasks; implementing techniques for improving workplace efficiency.

3. Workplace Safety: Identifying health and safety risks in the workplace; complying with industry OH&S standards; developing safety guidelines for handling dangerous items


This question of practicals is a complex one....there are lots of different things we do throughout a course such as this.

Can You Really Learn Practical Tasks by Distance Education?

Answer - Yes

We have found that the question of "practical" learning is one that some people feel it cannot be achieved through correspondence. We understand that apprehension. We have been grappling with that problem and contriving solutions for 30 years. Over those 30 years, we have been given more and more tools (e.g. video, internet, fax) that make our job easier. Over the same period, funding for practicals in government colleges has become tighter and tighter; and today, with huge funding pressures, much of the hands on instruction that used to be part of face to face courses, is not as practical as what you get from our correspondence courses.

This is an excellent landscaping course, and it can be done anywhere -you do not need to attend practicals or workshops in any particular place at any particular time....BUT ....there is a lot of work that goes well beyond just theory; and the way in which that is tackled can be extremely diverse, and different for every student.


You will develop the skills and knowledge required to work as a professional landscaper.

This course is different to many others. It is an "experiential based" learning program; designed to get you involved with the horticulture industry as you study. The industry is changing faster than ever; and will continue to change; and for ongoing success you need to become "connected" and remain "connected", so that you see and adapt to recent changes, and ongoing changes as your career moves forward.

Given that new research indicates that landscapers are among the highest paid tradespeople in Australia (with the average hourly rate being $91 per hour in 2016, for some areas of Australia), it seems logical to take a look at return on investment when it comes to choosing education in this area.

Many landscapers have no formal education, but those wishing to make sure they have the right mix of knowledge and practical skill should choose a course that is well respected in industry (for example, does the course provide a solid foundation of basics like plant identification knowledge?). The next consideration is how much will it cost? Opting for a government-recognised course will more often than not mean you will be paying a high price, and that price does not necessarily mean you’ll get the right education. Paying a higher price for education means it will take a lot longer to see a return on your education investment, despite the high average hourly rate. Because ACS Distance Education doesn’t have the high overheads brought on by the high cost of maintaining accreditation, we can pass that saving on to our students with affordable but high quality education.

ACS Distance Education has been delivering horticultural education since the 70’s, and is remains prominent and well regarded in industry circles. All horticulture tutors hold at least a degree, and five years industry experience, but many also additionally bring decades of experience to ACS horticulture students. Tutors take an active interest in students’ plans for their businesses, and can offer practical advice on how to get started in industry.

Let us help you toward a successful future in landscaping!

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Martin Powdrill

25 years working in Telecommunications, IT, Organisational Development, and Energy Conservation & Efficiency, prior to setting up his own Permaculture consulting business. Martin has a Bsc (Hons) Applied Science (Resources Option), MSc Computer Studies, P
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.
Jacinda Cole

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer. He was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up his own landscaping firm. He spent three year
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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