Foundation Certificate in Garden Planning and Development Level 3

Course CodeVHT042
Fee CodeS4
Duration (approx)200 hours

Distance Education Course Principles of Garden Planning, Construction and Planting

Work in landscaping 

  • Learn about garden planning, construction and planting
  • Find a job, start a business, work in landscaping
  • 150,000 words of unique course notes developed by our staff
  • 200 hour self paced course
  • Support from an international team of highly qualified horticulturists and landscape professionals based both in the UK and Australia

Develop your ability to describe the principles of using landscaping and other specialist garden elements in the garden, landscape construction, garden design, survey techniques, specialist garden and urban planting.

Lesson Contents
There are 15 lessons in this course:

1.  History of Garden Design and Styles
Garden Styles
The Earliest Private Gardens
Ancient Mid-Eastern Gardens
English Garden History
The English Landscape Garden
Japanese Influences
Important English Landscapers
Monastery Gardens
Hispano-Arabic Gardens
Italian Gardens

2. Site Appraisals, Basic Surveying Techniques and Client Briefs
Influence of Trees on Buildings
Influence of Trees on Atmosphere
Species Suitability
Planning Considerations
Pre-Planning Survey - Appraising the Site and Collecting Data
Understanding Soils
Soil Texture
Nutrient Availability and pH
Landscape Plans and Survey Techniques
Site Plan/Base Plan
Topographic Plan
Concept Plan
The Final Plan
The Planting Plan
Surveying Techniques
Steps in the Design Procedure
Landscape Graphics

3. Principles and Elements of Garden Design and the Influence of Site Characteristics
Principles and Elements of Landscape Design
Creating Landscaping Effects
Colour and Garden Design
Influence of Site Characteristics
The Sun’s Path and Its Affect on Shade
Extending the Garden Potential
Fragrant Trees and Shrubs
Potager and Picking Gardens
Determining Shadow Length
Gardens with a Sense of Mystery
Focal Point Ideas
Gardens for Children
User Friendly Gardens

4. Hard Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Hard Surfacing
Flexible and Rigid Paving
Materials Used in Paving
Selecting Materials
Coloured Surfaces
Barriers and Walls
Creating Barriers
Plants to Grow on Trellis
Stone Walls
Garden Structures
Where to build in the Garden
The direction of the sun
Rockery Ideas
Water Gardens
Fountains, Waterfalls, Pot Ponds, etc
Using Water Features in the Landscape
Planning for Children's Play
Play Differs with Age
Child Safety
Designing the Garden for Children
Play Equipment for Different Ages
Recommended Play Surfaces
Environmental Sustainability

5. The Function of Drainage Systems in the Garden
Symptoms of Poor Drainage Systems
Typical Permeability Rates
Solving Drainage Problems
Hard Drainage Methods
Soft Drainage

6. Soft Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Plant Selection
Plant Varieties
Colourful Year Round Foliage
Plants that Tolerate Poor Drainage
Coastal Plantings
Selecting Woody Plants
Deciduous or Semi-deciduous Trees
Evergreen Trees
Flowering Shrubs
Selecting Flowering Shrubs
Establishing Woody Plants
Planting Procedure
Windbreaks, Hedges and Screens
Establishing Hedges and Screens
Pruning or Trimming an Established Hedge
Alpine Plants
Selecting Annual Plants
Types of Annual Plants
Selecting Annuals of Differing Heights
Selecting Herbaceous Perennial Plants
Maintenance Hints For Perennials
Scented Plants
Dry Gardens
Selecting Water Plants
Establishing Water Plants

7. Turf and its Contribution to Garden Design and Function
The Benefits of Turf
Selecting Turf
Turf Varieties
Lawn Mixes
Wild Flower Meadows
Turf Establishment
Soil Preparation
Sodding/Instant Turf
Golden Rules for Laying Instant Turf
Mowing Turf
Mowing Heights
Direction of Cut or Pattern of Cutting
Mower Safety
Other Turf Maintenance Techniques
Fertilising Turf
Weed Control
Preventing Dispersal
Non Chemical Control Methods
Herbicide Use in Turf
Turf Health Problems
Commonly Used Chemical Pesticides
Commonly Used Chemicals; fungicides
Spray Equipment
Domestic Lawn Care Program
Turf Water Needs
Understanding the Movement of Soil Water
Irrigating Turf

8. Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
How Landscape Plans are Presented
Setting Out the Site for Landscape Construction

9. Earthworks, Soil Storage and Drainage Systems
Slope Stability
Soil Types and Foundations
Try to Maintain Vegetation Cover Where Possible
Developing a Grading Plan
Required Grading Drawings
Grading Operations
Earth Moving Machinery
Use Experienced Operators
Cost of Earthworks
Earthworks Calculations
Volumes of Irregular Solids
Land Drainage Systems
Drainage Design
Springs and Under-ground Water Courses
What a Landscaper Should Know about Drainage
Sub Surface Drainage
Distance between Drain Pipes
Depth of Drains
Types of Drains
Laying the Drain

10. Landscape Construction Procedures and Materials
Load Bearing Capacity
Concrete Reinforcement
Paving Essentials
Paving a Slope
Setting out Circular Paving
Curved Paving
Concrete Surfaces
Laying Pebbles
Building a Timber Deck
Decking Materials
Decking Around Pools
Changing Levels , step by step
Retaining Walls
Construction Materials
Types of Retaining Walls
Dry Stone Walls
Clay Block Walls
Recycled Rubber Walls
How to Render a Wall
Fencing Materials
Supporting the Fence
Tips for Building a Timber Fence

11. Constructing Rock Gardens and Water Features
How to Build Artificial Rocks
Construction of a Water Garden
How to Make a Water Garden using a Liner
How to make a Water Garden using a Preformed Unit
Pond Filtration Systems
Work Safety
Safe Work Management Plans
Risk Assessment of a Landscape Construction Site
Risk to the Project
Risk to the Workers
The Adequacy of Existing Controls
Risk Control Methods
Example of a Risk Assessment Procedure
Example Risk Assessment of Protected Crop Production
Safety Techniques
Manual Lifting
How to Lift
Using Machines to do the Heavy Work

12. Amenity Bedding Schemes
Flower Bed Layout for Annuals
Other Types of Bedding Schemes
Shapes for Beds
Achieving the Best Results
Colour Themes
Get Your Timing Right and Getting the Most out of Your Flower Bed
Using Perennials
Herbaceous Perennials
Making Garden Beds - The Variables
Basic Planting Procedure
Time of Planting
Popular Annuals
Supporting Herbaceous Plants
Shade Tolerant Perennials
Bulbs which Grow in Shade
Plant with Fragrant Flowers
Fragrant Foliage
Night Scented Plants
Some Evergreen Perennials
Ornamental Grasses
Ornamental Grasses for Year Round Effect
Some Ornamental Grass-like Plants

13. Specialist Garden Areas and Urban Garden Options
Specialist Garden Areas
Garden Ornaments
Plants for the Eclectic Garden
Art Gardens
Plants for Topiary
Miniature and Table Top Gardens
Trough Gardens
Urban Gardens; other options
Acclimatising Indoor Plants
How to Care for the Acclimatising Plant
Acclimatising Period
How to Help Indoor Plants Survive
Watering Pot Plants over Short Periods
Re-potting Tips
Inner City Gardens
Types of Inner City Gardens
Community Gardens
Living Walls
Making a Small Courtyard Look Bigger
Natural Garden Planting Design
Planting Design Elements for the ‘Natural Garden’
Some Plants suited to Wild Gardens
Wildlife in Gardens
How Plants Benefit Birds
Using Ferns in Shaded Areas
Sensory Gardens
Low Maintenance Amenity Gardens
Container Plants
Planning the Cropping Program
Getting the Best Out of the Vegetable Plot
Sowing Vegetable Seeds
Sowing and Transplanting Guide
Broad Bean
Brussels Sprouts
Corn(Sweet Corn)
Pak Choi
Pumpkins, Marrows and Squash
Silver Beet

14. Specialist Pruning Techniques
The Basic Rules of Pruning
Pruning and Rejuvinating
Controlling the Plants Shape and Size
Pruning Overgrown Shrubs
Removing Dead or Diseased Wood
Controlling the Type of Growth
Rejuvenation Limitations
Pruning overgrown climbers and wall shrubs
Pruning Roses
Rejuvenating Old and Overgrown Hedges
Specialist Pruning Techniques

15. Adapting Gardens for Water Sustainability
Conserving Water in the Garden
Reducing run-off
Collecting and Storing Water
Water Quality
Recycling Water
Saving water in the garden
Minimising Plant Water Requirements
Irrigation - water saving techniques
Mulch Materials
The Green Roof
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.


Unit 1 - Garden Survey Techniques and the Principles of Garden Design:

Lesson 1 - History of Garden Design and Styles
Lesson 2 - Site Appraisals, Basic Surveying Techniques and Client Briefs
Lesson 3 - Principles and Elements of Garden Design and the Influence of Site Characteristics

Unit 2 - The Selection and Use of Landscaping Elements in the Garden:

Lesson 4 - Hard Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Lesson 5 - The Function of Drainage Systems in the Garden
Lesson 6 - Soft Landscaping Features and their Contribution to Garden Design and Function
Lesson 7 - Turf and its Contribution to Garden Design and Function

Unit 3 - Setting out and Construction of Landscaping Elements in the Garden; Risk Assessments

Lesson 8 - Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings
Lesson 9 - Earthworks, Soil Storage and Drainage Systems
Lesson 10 - Landscape Construction Procedures and Materials
Lesson 11 - Constructing Rock Gardens and Water Features

Unit 4 - Specialist Elements in the Establishment of Garden and Urban Plantings:

Lesson 12 - Amenity Bedding Schemes
Lesson 13 - Specialist Garden Areas and Urban Garden Options
Lesson 14 - Specialist Pruning Techniques
Lesson 15 - Adapting Gardens for Water Sustainability


How Do You Provide Drainage in a Garden?
(....an extract fro the course notes, written by the school's faculty staff)
You can either use a hard or soft drainage method; or both!
Hard Drainage Options

1. Brick, stone, cement walling.

2. Surface drains   half pipes ('U' shaped) can be set in concrete or even simply on a sand base at the side of a path or along the contour of a slope to remove excess water.  This type of drain is needed when the surface water is not readily absorbed (e.g. in heavy clays on a slope). These are also known as spoon drains.

3. Sub surface drains/pipe drains   these differ in that they are buried under the soil.  Dig a trench and lay either ceramic or PVC agricultural pipes on the bottom.  The joins between each pipe should be covered with a piece of plastic (on top only).  The trench is then filled virtually to the top with a coarse stone (e.g. 1 2 inch diameter or 5cm grade).  The original soil is laid in a thin layer on the very top. Sub-surface drains drain should have a fall of at least 1 inch every 20 30 feet to ensure water moves away.  Remember there needs to be a storm water pit or something to collect the water at the end of any type of drain.

4. French Drains/ Interceptor – these are small open drains used to collect and channel surface water away from garden slopes and paved areas and are useful on steep slopes. Open ditches are created and filled with a graded (5-50mm) permeable backfill e.g. gravel, stones, chippings slag or clinker.  Particles smaller then 5mm should be avoided as these can cause blockage of flow. French drains become even more effective with the use of slotted drainage pipe in the centre of the drain (i.e. with backfill surrounding the drainage pipes. Pipes are often encased in a horticultural cloth sock to prevent them from silting up. Or the drain itself can be lined with a permeable membrane to lessen problems with fine particles clogging it up.  Short drains (less than10 metres long) are diverted to a soak-away pit on larger properties with longer drainage runs water needs to be diverted into a dam or watercourse.

5. Mole Drains – in clay soils, a tube or underground channel can be created by using a machine for pulling a plug through the soil, below the surface when the clay is moist. This underground channel will sometimes remain an effective sub surface drainage channel for 5 years or more. The channel which is created usually needs to have a slope of 1:100 to 1:300 to be effective.

6. Soak-away Pits - a drainage pit is a large hole filled with sand or rubble. Water collects in the pit and gradually seeps away into the lower layers of the soil. The hole is best to be long and deep, not square or circular if possible, and at least 1 2 cu. metres in volume. French/interceptor drains run into a soak-away.


Dispersing rather then Concentrating Run-off
It should be noted that some countries or situations, do not encourage the use of solid spoon drains as a first option in drainage because it tends to concentrate rather then disperse water. Drainage should be directed to spread and dissipate rather then be captured in a concentrated area.

  • When directing drainage always spread and dissipate - do not concentrate the source.
  • Capture rainfall into planting beds or small holding areas such as constructed creek beds, which can act as small scale infiltration device and can be more cost effective than traditional storm-water designs.

Soft Drainage Options

1. Sand slitting – this technique involves making narrow cuts in the soil and filling them with sand. These sandy areas drain excess water quickly. 

2. Grassed Waterways – these are areas of lawn or depressed channels in a field or paddock which excess water can collect in, and move along. These have an advantage over a spoon drain in that water can not only move along the waterway, but also be absorbed into the ground beneath. The one disadvantage is that excessive flow in such channels may kill or dislodge the grass (particularly of the slope is too great).

Examples include:

  • Shallow, grassy swales;
  • Steeper swales, lined with ground-cover, grasses, or shrubs and trees that tolerate wet conditions.
  • Constructed creek beds with stones of a size to resist excessive current force. A permit may be required.
  • For intense rainfall areas where you need to slow down water which may not be immediately absorbed, incorporate bio-swales, sumps, and impound basins into design of the site. These areas will also provide habitat for birds and animals.
  • Avoid the use of hard surfaced culverts which divert water as these can cause problems to neighbours or further down-stream.


See the schools bookstore - www.acsebook.com  for ebooks (available in pounds Stirling).

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