Certificate in Garden Design


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Train to be a Garden Designer and Landscape Professional

ACS student comment: "The main difference between my experience of studying at University and studying with ACS is that at University you're basically regurgitating text books. In contrast ACS assignments can be quite involved requiring hands-on application of principles, creative thinking and analysis." Dennis Ting, Australia - Certificate in Garden Design course.

Good garden designers need to be multi skilled professionals, who know the different features of hundreds of different plants and a wide hard landscape components; and have a flair for combining these components in both a practical and artistic way to create something unique and inspirational.

The most successful landscape designers are rarely those with the best qualifications; but they are frequently passionate people who have done a good course, and continued with a thirst to learn and explore new horizons in horticultural design throughout their entire career.


There are 30 lessons are outlined as follows:

1. Introduction to Landscaping

  • Scope and Nature
  • Principles of Landscape Design
  • Design Elements
  • Creating Landscape Effects
  • Using Space
  • Making a Small Garden Look Larger
  • Choosing Plants
  • Using Colour
  • Decorative Touches
  • Light and Colour
  • Pre Planning Information
  • Healthy Gardens 

2. Plant Identification

  • Plant Classification and Taxonomic Hierarchy
  • Binomial System
  • Botanical Classification
  • Phyla, Classes, Families
  • Genus, Species, Hybrids, Cultivars
  • Differentiating important Ornamental Plant Families: A basis for learning plant names
  • Plant Culture
  • Garden Renovation: Methodology and Tasks
  • Pruning
  • Weed Management
  • Dealing with Plant Problems  

3. History of Gardening

  • Formal, Informal and Natural Gardens
  • Garden Styles
  • Japanese Gardens
  • Naturalistic, Eclectic, Permaculture, Minimalist Gardens
  • Gardens through Time, Ancient Middle Eastern, Chinese, Roman, Spanish, Monastery, Elizabethan, etc
  • Recent Influences ; Le Notre, Rose, Brown, Kent, Jekyll, Burle Marx, etc
  • Some Modern Trends; Bush Gardens, Permaculture Gardens  

4. Drawing Plans

  • Elements of a drawn garden
  • Scale
  • What to Draw With
  • Lettering
  • Landscape Symbols
  • Design Procedure
  • Step by Step Drawing a Plan
  • Introducing Computer Aided Design      

5. Soils and Nutrition

  • Importance of Soil
  • Soil Composition, texture, horizons
  • Naming a Soil
  • Improving Soils
  • Landscape Supplies

6. Understanding the Environment

  • Ecological Concepts
  • The Ecosystem –abiotic and biotic components
  • Environmental influences on soil production
  • Types of Australian Flora; Indo Melanesian, Antarctic, Australian Sclerophyl
  • Review of Australian Plant Families      

7. Earthworks and Surveying

  • Moving existing earth
  • Settling Soil
  • Soil Degradation
  • Erosion
  • Soil Compaction
  • Chemical Residues
  • Basic Surveying
  • Triangulation
  • Slope
  • Leveling Terminology
  • Leveling Procedure
  • Earthworks Calculations
  • Using Triangles
  • Horizontal Measurements
  • Horizontal Angles  

8. Basic Landscape Construction

  • Specifications and Contracts
  • Contract Terminology
  • Drainage and Erosion
  • Walling
  • Rockeries
  • Steps
  • Types of Playgrounds
  • Making Stable Mounds      

9. Surfacing

  • Gradients
  • Surface Materials; gravel, mulch, lawn etc
  • Choosing the appropriate lawn
  • Pavers, stone and gravels
  • Types of Paving Materials
  • Methods for Laying Pavers
  • Concrete
  • Gravel
  • Asphalt
  • Coloured Surfaces
  • Artificial Sports Surfaces
  • Substrates
  • Performance Considerations

10. Garden Structures

  • Understanding and Designing Garden Rooms
  • Furnishing a Garden Room
  • Sculpture
  • Walls
  • Mirrors
  • Water
  • Fountains and Water Displays
  • Feature Pots; Container Plants
  • Layout Problems with Garden Structures
  • Motorised Vehicle Parks
  • Skate Facilities
  • Outdoor Furniture      

11. Park Design

  • User Friendly Gardens, seating, shelter, fragrant plants, etc
  • Recreational Landscaping
  • Park Design Criteria
  • Playgrounds
  • Making Community Participation Work      

12. Home Garden Design

  • The Entrance
  • Designing a front Garden
  • Scale in a Design
  • Techniques to maintain scale
  • Creating space in small gardens
  • Garden Features for small gardens
  • Outdoor Living Areas; patios, seating, garden structures, etc
  • Pool Areas
  • Barriers
  • Fences      

13. Costing and Specifications

  • Buying Plants; what to look for
  • Cost of Garden Maintenance
  • Expensive Areas in Gardens; lawns, containers, annuals, vegetables
  • Less Expensive to Maintain areas; shrubberies, paving, natural bush areas
  • Costing Jobs
  • The Market for Landscape Contractors; government sector, developers, commercial sector, private sector      

14. Trail Design and Sporting Facilities

  • Paths
  • Advantages and disadvantages of gravel and bark paths
  • Planting in Paving
  • Trails
  • Designing a Trail
  • Trail Types; environmental, fun and fitness, sensory, cryptic
  • Design of Sporting Facilities; slope, gradient, dimensions
  • Sports Courts      

15. Tools and Machinery

  • Choosing the right tools
  • Manual Tools and Equipment
  • Spades and Shovels
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Rollers
  • Sprayers
  • Tool Maintenance
  • Manual Handling
  • Power Tools
  • Safety and Maintenance with Power Tools
  • Chain Saws
  • Mulchers
  • Rotary Hoes
  • Tractors and tractor mounted equipment
  • Buying equipment      

16. Plant Establishment Techniques

  • Timing
  • Soil preparation
  • Plant and pot size
  • Planting technique
  • Establishing Trees
  • Physical Plant Protection; staking, frost protection, protecting from animals, etc      

17. Ponds and Pools

  • Types of Ponds; formal, informal
  • Position, water quality, depth etc.
  • Water effects
  • Finishing Touches
  • Planning a Water Garden
  • Alternative Types of construction
  • Aesthetic Affects
  • Plants for Water Gardens; oxygenating plants, deep water plants, edge plants etc.      

18. Rock work and Masonry

  • Building rock walls
  • Dry Stone Walls
  • Wet Walls
  • Retaining Walls
  • Concrete; mixing, reinforcing, rodding, etc
  • Rockeries
  • Making Artificial Rocks
  • Coloured Pebbles and Graves 

19. Lawn Construction Techniques

  • Common Turf varieties
  • Selecting Turf for lawns; what to grow where
  • Wild Flower Meadows
  • Turf Establishment
  • Soil Preparation, seeding, sodding, stolonising, plugging, etc
  • Mowing and Fertilising Turf

20. Irrigation Design and Installation

  • Planning an irrigation system
  • Micro irrigation
  • Sprinkler irrigation
  • Using a watering system
  • Automated Systems
  • Maintenance of Irrigation Systems

21. Bush Garden Design

  • Scope and Nature
  • Birds in a Garden; attracting, feeding, etc

22. Cottage Garden Design

  • Scope and Nature
  • Components
  • Paths and Fences in a Cottage Garden 

23. Playground Design

  • Planning for Play
  • Playing at Home
  • Play Equipment; sand pit, cubbies, swings etc

24. Garden Bed Design

  • Making Garden Beds; size, shape, edges, topography, soil, surfacing, irrigation,
  • Raised Beds
  • Sunken Beds
  • No Dig Beds
  • Plant Application; trees, shrubs, ground cover
  • Aesthetic Criteria in Garden Bed Design , line, form, texture, colour, balance, repetition, etc
  • Procedure for Planting Design

25. Management

  • Scope and nature of Office Work
  • Office equipment; selection and use
  • Information Technology
  • Business Letters
  • The Law and Business
  • Work Scheduling

26. Land Rehabilitation

  • Soil Degradation
  • Earth Works Different types of equipment (Cat, Rotary Hoe, Dozer, etc)    Importing or Improving Soil
  • Plant Establishing Techniques (pocket planting, slope serration, wattling, etc)
  • Planting Arid Sites

27. Drainage

  • Scope and Nature of Drainage
  • Sub Surface or Surface Drainage
  • Types of Sub Surface Drains
  • Water Outlet

28. Maintenance

  • Maintenance Decisions
  • Making Compromises between costs and garden style
  • Construction decisions
  • Design for minimising pests
  • Using Timber in a Garden
  • Choosing a Timber
  • Managing Termites
  • Wood Preservatives
  • Keeping a Garden Clean
  • Garden Maintenance Equipment
  • Designing for Low Maintenance
  • Review of Garden Pests and Diseases

29. Dealing with Clients

  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Awareness
  • Reactive Patterns
  • Understanding Communication Processes
  • Introduction to Marketing
  • Making Contact with potential clients, communicating, then convincing
  • Writing an advertisement or promotion
  • Effective Selling
  • Cost and Clients
  • Garden Investments

30. Major Garden Design Project


To be awarded the Certificate In Garden Design students need to pass the assignments at the end of each lesson, and pass two exams - to be taken after lesson 15 and at the end of the course. Exams are arranged at a time and location to suit you. A fee is payable for each exam.

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Fee Information (SCT2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $3,082.96  1 x $2,802.69

Note: Australian prices include GST. 
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