Planning Layout And Construction Of Ornamental Gardens

Learn to plan, design and construct ornamental gardens with this distance learning course. Horticulture and Landscape Design Course.

Course Code: BHT242
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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This is a great course for landscape consultants, garden designers, horticultural advisors, project managers, or anyone else who works with landscapes and needs to improve their ability to survey, evaluate and plan development work on a site. 

Every site has a unique set of micro climatic and soil conditions. Other factors such as the site’s exposure to traffic, pests and disease, will also be unique. All of these things are relatively uncontrollable; although the way the landscape is designed will impact on these characteristics as well.


  • Planting large plants can modify existing microclimates by buffering temperature fluctuations, changing light intensities etc.
  • Changing contours can alter soil temperatures, soil moisture, exposure to light, as well as drainage patterns, etc.
  • Treatments of surfaces can change drainage characteristics, soil conditions,
  • Buildings, drainage pipes, services (electricity, gas etc)can be affected by the nature and type of landscape treatment
  • Some styles of landscape are going to cause greater changes to a landscape than others.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Site Appraisal, Interpretation and Risk Assessment
    • Scope and Nature of Site Survey
    • Prior Site Use
    • Tree Data
    • Tree Impact and Suitability
    • Building Construction Data, etc
    • Child Proofing a Garden
    • Managing Slippery Surfaces
    • Risk Assessment of a Landscape Construction Site
    • Keeping a Work Site Safe
  2. Preparing Site Plans and Specifications
    • Base Plan
    • Topographic Plan
    • Design Drawing
    • Different Types of Lines
    • How Much Detail in a Plan
    • Completed Designs
  3. Influence of Site Characteristics
    • Introduction
    • High Impact Site Changes
    • Creating User Friendly Gardens
    • Providing Shade
    • Understanding the Sun's Path and changing effects
    • Determining Shadow length
    • Making a Garden Warmer
    • Paths•Garden Features
    • Entries, Exits, Gateways
    • Fragrant Plants
    • Focal Points
    • Types of Gardens
    • Dry Gardens
    • Extending a Garden's Potential
  4. The Use of Hard Landscape Features
    • Hard Surfacing
    • Laying Pavers
    • Concrete Use
    • Pebble Gardens
    • Fences
    • Inexpensive Fencing
    • Rockeries
    • Stone Walls
    • Planning for Children's Play Provision
  5. Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
    • Plans
    • Survey Techniques
  6. Soil Handling and Storage
    • Excavation
    • Changing Levels
    • Slope Stability
    • Soil Types
    • Foundations
    • Maintaining Vegetation for Soil Stability
    • Developing a Grading Plan Grading and Filling Operations
    • Earthmoving Equipment and Operators
    • Cost of Earthworks
  7. Land Drainage Systems
    • How Much Drainage is Needed
    • Solving Drainage Problems
    • Creating a Drain Pit
    • Draining Turf
    • Springs and Underground Water
    • Sub Surface Draining
    • Rainwater Harvesting and Storage
    • Bore Water
    • Grey Water
    • Diverting Storm Water
    • Water Quality
  8. Ground Preparation Techniques
    • Working Soil
    • Cultivation Equipment
    • Making Garden Beds
    • Raised Beds
    • Sunken Gardens
    • No Dig Beds
    • Earthmoving
    • Buying Soils
    • Changing Ground Shape
  9. Construction of Paths and Patios
    • Paths
    • Soft and Hard Paths
    • Load Bearing Capacity
    • Paving
    • The Effect of Paving Design
    • Paving on a Slope
    • Paving Maintenance
    • Verandahs
    • Timber Decks
    • Decking Materials
    • Hand rails and Balustrades
    • Steps
    • Decking Round Pools
    • Paints and Stains
    • Heavy Work: Lifting with machines or without
  10. Construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences
    • Changing levels
    • Steps
    • Ramps
    • Railings
    • Retaining Walls
    • Types of Retaining Walls
    • Building a Brick Wall
    • Dry Stone Walls
    • Rendering Walls
    • Wet Walls
    • Fencing and Fencing Materials

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.


  • Explain how to conduct a site appraisal and interpret the results.
  • Conduct risk assessments associated with planning layout and construction of ornamental gardens
  • Produce and interpret site plans and specifications using basic survey measurements.
  • Explain how site characteristics may influence choice of garden design style.
  • Evaluate and explain the contribution made by hard landscape features to design and function
  • Describe the practical procedures for setting out a site to scale plans and drawings.
  • Describe and explain the reasons for correct soil moving and storage during construction works.
  • Explain the factors which determine the design and specification of land drainage systems and describe procedures for setting out and installing land drainage.
  • Explain requirements for a range of ground preparation techniques for different landscape features.
  • Specify a range of materials and outline procedures for construction of paths and patios.
  • Specify a range of materials and outline procedures for construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences

Tips for Garden Design
1. Think of a garden as a series of rooms

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.

2.  Create a Good Fist Impression
The front of your property is, in some respects, the most important area of your garden. It’s the first thing visitors see, and no matter how well presented the rest of the house and garden is, a drab or untidy garden entrance is not going to make a good first impression.
An appealing and functional entrance area is also important for your own sense of satisfaction; after all, it’s something that you look at and use every day. Not only does it make you feel better about your house and garden, it provides valuable security and privacy.

Is your Front Garden up to Scratch?
Look at the following features in your front garden. These are the things that make a public statement about you and your lifestyle. How well do they shape up?
Front gate
Front fence
Front door
Garage door/carport
Porch or front verandah
Lawns, garden beds and pot plants

What makes a Functional Garden Entrance?

As with any other part of the garden, the success of the garden entrance depends on good planning.  Consider the following:

  • Do you want the front garden to be seen fully from the street, house or surrounding area, or do you want it hidden? How much privacy do you want?
  • Do you want to encourage or discourage visitors into the property? This will affect the height and position of fences and the accessibility of the paths.
  • How many cars do you need to park inside the property? This affects the length and design of the driveway, an often neglected entry point.
  • How important is security? Do you need to lock animals in or out?
  • What areas of the garden do you want to be seen; what do you want kept out of sight? (such as compost area, storage and clothes line)

What makes an Appealing Front Garden?
Neatness and tidiness are the two most important elements of a good front garden. No matter how much effort and money is spent on the house and garden design, the effect is immediately destroyed by
overgrown lawns, messy edges, weedy garden beds, and tools and toys scattered around the drive and front lawn. If lawn mowing and garden maintenance aren’t your thing, maybe you should think about paving all or part of the front area.

Don’t overlook details such as peeling or faded paintwork, rusting metal (on letterboxes and fences) or rotting timber. They detract from the overall presentation but can be easily fixed.

Always use landscape materials that are in keeping with the overall house and garden style, and don’t use too many different types of materials.

One or two focal points such as an arch, birdbath or pots placed near the front entrance will create interest in your front garden, but don’t overdo it. Think about whether you want these on public display, to be viewed from the street (and whether this will be a security problem), or whether they are for your own private enjoyment.



Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
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.

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Course Contributors

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

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.

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.

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