Garden Centre Management

Learn to manage a successful garden centre! Whilst this course is primarily aimed at garden centre staff, it is also relevant to nursery staff, especially retail nurseries, and garden shops.

Course Code: BHT255
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn how to manage a successful Garden Centre!

Garden centres can be large or small, and the range of plants which they sell can be broad or narrow. A garden centre may also sell other products that are relevant to a garden, and complement the plants which they stock.

Designed in conjunction with the state garden department manager of a major retail chain store, this course has been very successful in training both staff and managers of retail nurseries and garden centres worldwide.

This course provides students with a thorough insight into how to set up and display garden centre products and plants, through to maximising sales and staff productivity. Whilst it is primarily aimed at garden centre staff it is also relevant to nursery staff, especially retail nurseries, and also garden shops associated with commercial and tourist garden or park locations. The course will appeal to people working in, or planning to work in, the following areas: 

  • Garden centre
  • Retail nursery
  • Garden shop
  • Parks & gardens
  • Wholesale nursery

“Here we have an incredibly informative course for anyone seeking to improve their ability to run or manage a garden centre. All aspects of indoor and outdoor plant care are discussed as well as stock selection and optimal plant display techniques. Graduates will also enhance their knowledge of typical garden centre products, marketing strategies, and how to get the most out of their staff.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor.

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Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Plant Identification
    • Introduction
    • Horticulture – A Variable Science
    • Plant Names
    • Botanical Families of Genera
    • The Lower Plants
    • Soils And Nutrition
    • Naming The Soil
    • Improving Soils
    • Types Of Nurseries
    • Retail Nurseries and Garden Centres
  2. Plant Health
    • Nutrition And Fertilisers
    • Indicators Of Common Deficiency and Toxicity
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Understanding Chemical Pesticides (Always Read the Label Thoroughly)
    • What To Look For
    • Summary Of Chemicals
    • A Review of Chemicals
    • Pest And Diseases
    • Diseases
    • Plant Viruses - Their Detection and Diagnosis
    • Pests
  3. Stock Maintenance and Quality Control
    • Managing Plants in Retail Nurseries
    • Plant Breeders’ Rights and Trademarks
    • Holding Stock
    • Clearing Surplus Stock
    • Quarantine Issues When Selecting Stock
    • How To Conduct a Plant Inspection
    • Environmental Problems
    • Common Environmental Problems
    • Watering
    • Maintaining Appropriate Water Levels
    • Nursery Irrigation
    • Automatic Systems
    • Pruning
    • Exercise: Nursery Inspection Sheet
    • Nursery Inspection Sheet
  4. Display and Display Techniques
    • Introduction
    • Designing Facilities in The Nursery
    • Fixtures and Fittings
    • Layout
    • Signs
    • Plant Signs
    • Administrative Offices
    • Circulation and Parking
    • Employee Facilities
    • Public Areas
    • Play Areas
    • Landscaping
    • Equipment Storage
    • Chemical Storage
    • Drainage Network
    • Display
    • Spacing
    • Shop Layout
    • Fixtures And Fittings
    • Layout
    • Service Area
    • Signs
    • Merchandising
    • Principles To Follow When Buying
    • Selling
    • Stock Control
    • Stock For a Retail Florist
  5. Garden Product Knowledge I
    • Plant Containers
    • Problems With Containers
    • Soil Mixes
    • How To Maintain Plants in Pots
    • Types of Pots
    • Advising Customers Where to Place Pot Plants in a Home Garden
    • Plants For Pots
    • Plant Labels
    • Watering Equipment
    • Tools and Equipment
  6. Garden Product Knowledge II
    • Basket Plants
    • Miniature Gardens
    • Terrariums
    • Bonsai
    • Types Of Fertilisers
    • Choosing The Right Fertiliser
    • Applying Fertilisers
    • How Much to Apply?
    • Law
    • Chemical Labels
    • Pesticide Chemicals Outlined
    • Herbicides Outlined
    • Keeping Records
    • Oxidation
    • Chlorination
    • Fluoridation
    • Ultraviolet Light
    • Micro-Filtration
    • Slow Sand Filtration
    • Reed Beds
  7. Indoor Plants
    • Introduction
    • Indoor Plants
    • Reasons Indoor Plants Die
    • Over-Watering Indoor Plants
    • Potting Indoor Plants
    • Bonsai Styles
    • Cultural Requirements for Palms
    • Palm Genera Suited to Growing Indoors
    • Some of the Best Palm Species Suitable as Indoor Plants
    • Getting to Know Your Ferns
    • Ferns As Indoor Plants
    • Other Commonly Grown Foliage Plants
  8. Container Stock
    • Rhododendrons And Azaleas
    • Azaleas
    • Ferns
    • Roses
    • Herbs
    • Lavender
    • Planting
  9. Seedlings, Bulbs, Herbs and Perennials
    • Some Of the More Popular Annuals
    • Bulbs And Other Storage Organ Plants
    • Perennials
    • Popular Perennials
    • Artemisia Family: Asteraceae (Syn. Compositae)
    • Some Evergreen Perennials
    • Scented Garden Plants
    • Ornamental Grasses for Year-Round Effect
    • Cultivation Of Herbs
    • Poisonous Plants
  10. Deciduous Trees, Fruit, Nuts and Berries
    • Introduction
    • Nut Growing
    • Vines
    • Citrus
    • Berry Fruit
    • Hybrid Seed
    • Turf Seed Varieties and Mixes
  11. Marketing
    • Marketing Retail Nurseries
    • The Marketing Mix
    • Products And Services
    • Sales Technique
    • After Sales Service
    • Merchandising Suggestions for Successful Promotions
    • Merchandising Suggestions
    • Promotions And Customer Relations
    • Promotions And Advertising
    • Customer Relations
    • Legal Implications of Marketing
    • Deciding On the Type of Business
  12. Management
    • Introduction
    • Example Of a Business Plan
    • Work Scheduling
    • Recruitment And Motivating Employees
    • Training Staff
    • Styles Of Supervision
    • Giving Directives and Introducing Change
    • Employee Productivity

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.


  • Classify and identify a range of different plants, according to their botanical characteristics.
  • Describe a range of plant health problems and their treatments.
  • Understand the importance of maintaining healthy stock and its relationship to maintaining a profitable business.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of garden products sold through garden centres.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of plants, including indoor plants, container-grown plants, deciduous plants, bulbs, herbs and perennials.
  • Describe effective marketing techniques.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of management procedures.

What You Will Do

  • Undertake simple and relevant practical tasks.
  • Submit written assignments at the completion of each lesson.
  • Learn to identify and advise customers about 72 different plant cultivars.
  • Research and analyse the operation of garden centres and nurseries.
  • Lots more


What is a Promotion?

A promotion is an activity which produces a change in your customers' behaviour, resulting in extra sales.

How Does It Work?

Firstly, every brand has a price or value understood by customers. A promotion offers extra value or a lower price to the customer.

Secondly, a promotion demands urgency from your customer because of its short availability time ("whilst stocks last").

An attractive product display with a message is often an effective way of increasing sales, but it is NOT a promotion. It should really be called a "display feature: because it does not have the vital ingredient of Added Value.

There are several different levels of promotional strategies: 

  1. Full Promotion: all sections at full margin plus a planned and sustained program of promotions. 
  2. Lightweight Promotions: all sections at full margin plus occasional loss leader promotions. 
  3. Partial Discount plus "Highlights": certain sections at cut price plus occasional loss leader promotion. 
  4. Partial Discount: certain sections at low price, other items at full price.

Your strategy will depend on:

  • Location: are your customers local, or do you need to attract them from a wider area? 
  • Competitors: what can you offer compared with them? 
  • Your shop: in particular, its layout and capacity for extra promotional sales. 
  • Limitation: If normal marketing and advertising have failed to establish the true value of a product, a promotion will not be successful because there is no comparative standard. Within a store, promotions can only work well if the basic merchandising job has been done properly. They are not substitutes for product range, siting and space allocation with well controlled displays.

The Basic Rules of Promotions

  • Your reason for promoting is to sell more products to your customers as quickly as possible. Specials should be regularly changed. To do this, the offer should appeal to their immediate or secondary needs. 
  • The choice of promotion depends on what you want to achieve ie. if you want more people in your garden centre, special locally advertised offers or personality backed promotions could be very useful. 
  • Your promotion should be unique to attract maximum attention.
  • The promotion should be simple to understand and operate. 
  • The promotion must represent value for money and be credible and honest. 
  • The promotion should be consistent with your own image.


How To Decide on a Promotion

 Consider the following:

  1. Who are the main users of the product or brand? 
  2. How, when and why do they use the product? 
  3. How frequently is it purchased? 
  4. What are its main competitors? 
  5. How does the customer see the brand versus the competition?

Use the facts to decide how to run the promotion:

  1. Determine, in order of priority, the key problem. 
  2. Identify the money available. 
  3. List and cost all the possible alternative options that are open (e.g. more advertising, customer promotions, pricing strategy). 
  4. Having estimated the cost, ask yourself what will the benefit be to you.
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Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

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We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
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If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

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Course Contributors

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

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

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 lifestyle. She has decades of practical experience growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs, and making her own preserves. She is well connected with horticulture professionals across Australia, and amongst other things, for a period, looked after Australia's national collection of Thymus. Advanced Diploma in Horticulture, Advanced Certificate in Horticulture.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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.

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

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