Landscaping involves both the practical approach of a tradesman and the artistic flair of a designer. It's a highly creative and challenging field; for both amateur gardeners and professional landscapers.


Click here to see our Landscaping Courses


by John Mason, Principal, Australian Correspondence Schools.

The following extracts are from an article written by staff of the Australian Correspondence Schools. This material is subject to copyright, but may be printed for private use. For commercial or institutional use, permission must be aquired from the principal.

Some people love their garden. They are fanatics, and heaven help anyone who damages one of their plants. For others, the garden is a place to use; somewhere to get outside and enjoy life. There are even others who don't really care too much about the garden, but have one anyway, just because it's a good way to keep their property looking presentable.

Gardens come in all shapes, sizes and types; and the right one for you is determined by what you really want, the area you are working with (natural features) and how you plan to use the garden; if at all. The pity is, most people don't really plan their garden, and they often end up admiring other peoples places, and never being quite satisfied with their own property. There are exceptions of course; but more people would have what really suits them if they took the time to do a little planning.

The first step is to consider your priorities?
Look over the following list and rate each reason for having a garden in order of priority?
.... To spend time and take in the tranquillity and peace
.... Children to play in
.... Adult Recreation (swimming etc)
.... Entertainment area/s
.... To grow food (fruit, vegies, poultry etc)
.... To grow flowers/colour
.... To make the home (inside & out) cooler
.... Provide a buffer from the outside world (visual and sound)
.... Provide storage space
.... Increase property values
.... To house a collection of plants
.... Somewhere to work
.... To keep fit by gardening
.... To keep people or animals off your property
.... To minimize pest problems such as snakes, rodents, ants or cockroaches
.... Other (Explain) ...............................................

Once you know what your priorities are, you can then start to develop a garden which meets your requirements. The needs listed above CAN usually each be achieved to a greater or lesser extent; but to achieve some of these things will make it difficult to achieve others.

To plan a good garden requires the right frame of mind. If you approach the garden as a chore, that will reflect in the design. Gardens which impress are ones designed with a little flair, and perhaps the application of some lateral thinking. Don't be restricted to duplicating what everyone else has. Your garden is your chance to stamp your environment with your own personal character.

Be different! Interesting gardens need a little daring and imagination.

Often the garden has to be developed in stages because:
a/ The money isn't available to do it all at once.
b/ Other work must be done first (ie. A sewerage main is to be laid, a shed erected, or a building extended).

Undeveloped, or underdeveloped parts of the garden might be screened with fast growing plants or a temporary fence until they can be attended to. Areas designated for paving, garden beds or water gardens might be grassed to provide a reasonable appearance until the time is right to finish the development.

There are two types of costs involved in a garden; the first is building it, the second is maintaining it.

Often if a little more time, effort and money is spent on building the garden; then the cost of maintaining it can be greatly reduced. Gardens which are initially cheap to build often (not always), start by having things go wrong sooner; and that means ongoing repair and maintenance bills. This type of problem can however, be largely avoided by using good quality materials. These are often not necessarily more expensive ones.

Timber retaining walls are expensive. You can build walls with cheaper retaining walls with less expensive timber, but that timber may only last a fraction of the time; hence you are up for the cost of replacing the wall sooner.
Solution: If possible use suitable preservatives on the timber, or treat the embankments in other ways (eg. planting creepers and mulching).

Paving is an expensive way to surface an area.
Solution : use gravel or mulch, or reduce the amount of paved area (ie: more lawn or garden beds).

Extracts from a book by John Mason

The following extracts are from an article written by staff of the Australian Correspondence Schools. This material is subject to copyright, but may be printed for private use. For commercial or institutional use, permission must be aquired from the principal.

The "backyard" may be your child's most important playground, and a lot of what is learnt about life is learnt playing there.

Building cubbies, digging holes, damming streams, etc. are all very positive and worthwhile forms of play; but at the same time, they are activities which are best tempered with commonsense if permanent damage to the backyard is to be avoided. Never discourage children from playing with their environment, but do educate them to understand the implications of what they are doing.

There are four different things kids can find in the backyard:

1. Animals - Everything from microscopic protozoa, through snails and spiders to the more complex vertebrates such as birds, lizards, dogs and cats.
2. Plants - Again, from the simplest microscopic bacteria, to the mosses, fungi and ferns, shrubs and trees. Play can be centered around complete living plants (eg. growing a garden) or parts of plants (eg. arranging flowers or making a whistle from a piece of bamboo).
3. Earth - Stones, rocks, sand and soil, etc. are all commonly used in play.
4. Man made objects - Toys and playground equipment are the most obvious man made play objects, however such things as buildings, walls, pavements, fences, etc. have tremendous play potential, and don't cost any extra.
Too often, however, instead of exploiting the play potential of these things, we discourage or even ban play around them.
eg. * Brick walls can become rebound walls.
* Fences and walls can be used for murals, or a lean-to cubby.

A Play space is made up of surfaces, play structures (equipment etc), plants, earth shapes, fences, walls, seats, steps and perhaps other landscape features.

The components of a play space might include:
A. CONTOURING Mounds, slopes, embankments, steps, cliffs
B. SURFACINGS Grass, earth, sand, gravel, mulch, rubber
C. ENCLOSURE Fences, walls, cubbies, other buildings
D. WATER Ponds, fountans, streams, drinking fountains
E. LANDSCAPE FEATURES Statuary, bridges, pergolas, arbors
F. FURNISHINGS Seats, tables, rubbish bins, bbqs, lighting
G. PLANTS Hedges, mazes, topiary, trees, windbreaks
H. PLAY STRUCTURES Slides, swings, see-saws, climbing frames
I. OTHER PLAY FACILITIES Games courts, rebound wall, bike trail, skate area, animal enclosure, etc.

When catering for kids you have the job of selecting and combining these components to achieve an appropriate environment which will enhance play in the area being designed.

If you want your backyard to be good for the kids to play in, you need to consider the following: #What are the children's ages?
Toddlers enjoy exploring and learning about their physical surroundings.
It is important to include variety in textures, smells and surfacings. Older children interact more with each other, so the backyard needs to be designed to allow them to play with each other rather than with things.
#How much will the yard be used?
Things which can only be used by one child may create conflict. Crowding makes accidents more likely, so design safety becomes more critical. Leave room around playground equipment, and make sandpits big enough for all the kids. Heavily used play areas need stronger construction and more frequent maintenance.
#How much time will be spent in the yard?
A child's attention span is short. Some play activities are only suited to playgrounds which are to be used only occasionally or for short periods of time. Don't expect a child to use the same swing all day every day, but they might use a sand pit more often.

Plants have too often been underused or misused in playgrounds.
Above all, avoid using poisonous plants in areas where small children play. It has been said that more than one third of commonly grown plants have some toxic properties. Children below the age of 5 or 6 frequently place parts of plants in their mouth.
On the positive side, plants can be many things to a child's play:
-They can become play structures (providing mazes, cubbies, climbing etc).
-They can modify the environment (providing shelter from sun, wind, rain).
-They can define spaces (providing enclosure, protection, separating different parts of the playspace).

Trees should be selected according to both strength of timber (ie. ability to withstand use by children), and disease resistance (eg. A birch which is highly susceptible to internal rots can become unsafe for climbing). Prickly or poisonous plants are also unsuitable.

There are three ways we can provide play environments:

1. Man-created, man conceived environments
The majority of play environments are ones which are consciously designed and built by man. These playgrounds can be designed to appear as though they are natural, although usually they are distinctly artificial environments. (NB: This is not to say that an artificial environment is a poor playground.)

2. Conserved Environments
Here nothing new is created. An environment is recognized as having play value and on this basis it is retained as a play facility. This environment might be natural or artificial (or perhaps a combination of both.

3. Encouraging the development of natural environments
It is often argued that enormous losses have been suffered in terms of play environments through man's so-called development of natural areas. "The creek where I played as a child has been concreted in. The adjoining tract of bush has been cleared for housing and the swamp drained."




ARTICLES by Staff of the Australian Correspondence Schools If you are interested in any of the following articles, we can E mail a complementary copy to you. These articles are subject to copyright, and are not to be reproduced for anything other than private use without permission. These are articles which have been written by staff of the school, and published in national magazines. Attention Publishers: These articles may be purchased for publication at a very reasonable price. The school may even allow articles to be reproduced in magazines or newsletters (in full or part) at no charge, provided acknowledgment of the school, including contact details, is made. E mail us on [email protected] and tell us which article you want.  

RELEVANT ARTICLES INCLUDE: 1. Gardening on Balconies 2. Creating a Colourful Garden 3. Courtyard Gardens 4. Hanging Baskets & Pots 5. Trellis 6. Water Gardens 7. RockeriesRecommended Reading:(available through Australian Newsagencies)BACKYARD LANDSCAPING IDEAS;101 BACKYARD LANDSCAPING IDEAS;LANDSCAPING YOUR BACKYARD;LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN;COTTAGE GARDEN LANDSCAPES;(Australian Garden Guide Special Magazines)All full colour, glossy, 82 page publicationsWritten by staff of the Australian Correspondence Schools

Trade or Mail Order inquiries: Email: [email protected]



An easy and systematic guide to designing a garden, suitable for both students and home gardeners.
*Consider what do you really want in a garden?
*Choosing the right components and style
*Understanding and using design principles such as contrast, balance, proportion and unity.
*The design procedure, step by step.
Presented by John Mason