Add To Existing Landscape Design Knowledge

Basic landscape design is concerned with how to do things like how hard landscape features are made and selecting plants to suit the location. When you have mastered that it is logical to want to expand on that knowledge and learn more about different groups of plants and how to use them, how to overcome problem areas and greater detail of hard landscape construction options.

Discover how to blend hard and soft landscape features

Take this course to discover a variety of methods for expanding on elementary landscape design knowledge and has a greater focus on plants. Learn about a range of hard landscape materials and their impact on design, as well as a broad array of plants from annuals through to trees and where to use them. Find out how plants can be selected for different conditions and the impact of microclimates on design.     

Expand your garden design abilities

Landscaping is an area of work which gets more complex the more you know. There are always lots of options for creating designs from choosing which materials to use, which plants to best suit the client's needs and the prevailing conditions, how to include garden features, and how to put it all together into a coherent design.

This course can either fine-tune the important landscaping skills you acquired upon completion of Landscaping 1 (or a similar course taken elsewhere), or it can be taken as a stand-alone unit. It is equally suited to those already working or looking to work in the industry, or enthusiastic gardeners with good basic landscaping knowledge.

Learn more about the soft and hard landscape materials that make up a garden.

Find out how to design and build such things as walls, rockeries, steps, ponds, and paving; and you develop skills to create specific effects in a garden.

  • Choose the right plants and materials, to compliment each other, and the site characteristics
  • Self paced studies; 100 hour course.



There are twelve lessons in this subject as follows:

  1. The Garden Environment
  2. Landscape Materials
  3. Using Bulbs and Annuals
  4. Landscaping with Trees
  5. Ground Cover Plants
  6. Walls and Fences
  7. Paths and Paving
  8. Treatment of Slopes and Other Problem Areas
  9. Garden Features
  10. Designing for Low Maintenance
  11. Development of a Landscape Plan
  12. Management of Landscape Projects


On completion of this course you should be able to:

  • Determine the resources required for a landscape development, including materials and equipment.
  • Determine appropriate plants for different locations within a landscape.
  • Determine the appropriate design and construction for landscape features, including walls, fences, pavers and buildings.
  • Determine treatments for problem areas in a landscape, including slopes and hostile environments.
  • Analyse maintenance requirements for a landscape.
  • Develop a landscape development plan, in accordance with a client brief, and in liaison with the client.
  • Plan the management of a landscape projects.


  • Determine landscape materials readily available in the learners locality, including: soils, gravels, mulches and timbers.
  • Differentiate between landscape applications for twenty different types of timber.
  • Compare a range of materials in terms of function and aesthetics, including five types of mulches and five types of gravels.
  • Determine applications for five different specific items of machinery in landscape construction including a chainsaw, an earth moving machine, a rotary hoe and a tractor.
  • List minimum equipment required to construct two different landscapes in accordance with project specifications.
  • Determine criteria for selecting plants to be planted in 3 specified locations.
  • Explain the impact of trees in two specific landscapes, on both the environment and aesthetics of those landscapes.
  • Determine twenty different herbaceous plants, to grow in three different specified locations within the same garden.
  • Prepare a design for an annual flower display bed of 50 sq. metres.
  • List five ground covers suited to plant in four different situations, including full shade , half shade, full sun and hanging baskets.
  • Prepare a planting design for a 100 sq. metre area of garden, using only ground covers and trees.
  • List ten trees suited to each of the following cultural situations, in your locality: waterlogged soil; sandy soil; heavy soil; saline soil; fire prone sites and near drainage pipes.
  • Explain local government regulations which are relevant to landscape design and construction.
  • Develop design criteria for different garden structures, in specified situations, including: a pergola, swimming pool, steps and a garden seat.
  • Compare the design and construction of six different types of barriers, including walls and fences.
  • Design a fence for a landscape designed by you, including: construction detail drawing(s), materials specifications and a cost estimate.
  • Compare ten specific surfacing materials, in landscapes visited by you, including paving products, stone and gravel.
  • Design a set of steps, including construction detail drawing(s), materials specifications and a cost estimate.
  • Design a set of retaining walls, including construction, drawings, materials needed and a cost estimate.
  • Compare different types of garden buildings observed by you, including sheds, gazebos, car ports and garages, in terms of cost, durability, aesthetics and maintenance required.
  • Determine different methods to treat a specified erosion problem.
  • Determine landscape preparations required for different soil types including clay, sand, shale, rocky soil and loam.
  • Describe four interim stabilisation techniques, including hydromulching and jutemaster.
  • List different plant species which will adapt well to problem situations.
  • Determine different plants suitable for each of a range of different soil types, including: clays, sands, acidic soil and alkaline soil.
  • Develop landscape plans, including illustrations and written instructions, for three difficult sites.
  • Determine landscape features that contribute towards the reduction of maintenance requirement on a landscaped site.
  • Compare the weekly maintenance requirement of a specific low maintenance garden, with that of a specific high maintenance garden.
  • Compile pre-planning information for a an existing landscape, which owners require to be redeveloped in order to reduce the maintenance requirement.
  • Prepare a detailed landscape design to achieve low maintenance.
  • Develop a ten week maintenance program, for a specific landscaped area visited by you.
  • Compare copies of two landscape briefs for projects advertised in the tenders column of a newspaper.
  • Develop a "client" brief, through an interview with a potential landscape client.
  • Survey a landscape site to confirm details in a client brief.
  • Develop three alternative concept plans for a landscape, in accordance with a client brief.
  • Determine the preferred option, from three concept plans presented to a client at a tape recorded meeting.
  • Prepare a detailed landscape design, conforming to decisions made during a discussion of alternative concept plans.
  • Prepare a quotation, based on a specified landscape plan.
  • Analyse the design of a landscape in comparison with the "Brief".
  • Prepare a work schedule according to both specifications and plans.
  • Monitor the progress of landscape work on a project, by keeping a logbook or work diary.
  • Assess standard of work carried out on a completed landscape project, against landscape plans for that project.
  • Select appropriate equipment, including tools and machinery, for a specified project.
  • List occupational health and safety regulations when dealing with machinery and equipment, which is relevant to a specified project.
  • Schedule the supply of materials and equipment for a project, in the logbook.
  • Develop contingency plans for a landscape development which addresses different possible irregularities including bad weather, security problems, weekend watering.
  • Explain how to finalise a specified project prior to handing over.
  • Explain the importance of monitoring a contract, through a specified project.
  • Develop guidelines for supervision of construction for a specified landscape project.


This course will show you how to use different types of plants to create different and appropriate affects in any landscape you work on.

It is important to choose appropriate plant cultivars alongside appropriate hard landscaping materials, to suit each microclimate you are working with in a landscape.

Example -Alpine Plants

Although alpine plants originate from cold regions, many can be grown in milder climates if they are provided with the right conditions.  The planting techniques will depend upon the type of plant (see other lessons in this course for guidelines on planting herbaceous, woody and other plants).  

Many alpine plants require constant moisture and good drainage, which can pose difficulties in some gardens.  This can be overcome by raising garden beds or adding water-holding additives such as peat or coconut fibre to the soil.  Acidic conditions are also required for many alpine plants.  Fertilisers and soil additives such as peat can be used to make soil conditions more acidic.  

Alpine plants can be used in rock gardens.  Rock gardens should look as natural as possible – they should imitate rocky outcrops of mountainous regions. Plants that are described as “rockery” plants are often groundcovers, but even though this may be the case in nature, there is little point covering attractive rocks with plants.  Only include large sprawling plants if you are trying to hide rocks that have been installed for soil retention.  Think about how different plants will combine with the different types of rocks.  Arrange your plants so that larger plants don’t block the view of small ones.  This doesn’t mean you have to place them in neat rows.  For example, you can position rocks to create ’viewing windows’ so that smaller plants can still be seen.  

Soil pockets in the rock garden are used to mimic the natural deposits of organic material that is deposited in niches of natural rock formation.  The medium placed in these pockets must be both moisture retentive and very free draining to allow alpines to establish successfully.

It is not usual to fertilise alpine plants in the first year.  Thereafter, a light annual dressing of balanced fertiliser in early spring should suffice.  Gravel or chippings mulch will help to keep the plant necks dry, avoiding rot.

In raised beds present a uniform growing medium, in which drainage can be controlled independently of native soil.  The medium can be adapted easily to suit the plants being grown and establishment is therefore usually more straightforward.

Sinks and troughs are very suitable for alpines, because they match the scale of the small size of many alpine plants. The sink or trough must have a good-sized drainage hole and this should be covered with large crocks; to create a drainage layer, the bottom surface of the sink or trough should be covered with a layer of gravel (or crocks).  It is important that the drainage hole is not blocked – porous matting or upturned turves can be used as a barrier.  

A suitable medium for troughs and sinks might comprise of 3 parts sterile loam to 2 parts leaf mould to 2 parts sharp grit.  This is a guide only and will be modified to suit chosen plants.

Small rocks and surface gravel will help to provide the same drainage and mulching functions as in the rock garden.  Sinks and troughs are best kept in full sunshine; shaded spots encourage excessive growth of moss.

The alpine house is used by the specialist grower to replicate alpine conditions.  Many alpine species cannot tolerate the damp warm winters of temperate climates, even though they can survive extended periods of very low temperatures, in their natural environment.  Additionally, in temperate climates, plants rarely get the summer baking that high altitude plants often experience.  The alpine house, although never truly reproducing the natural conditions of alpine plants, does go a long way to providing a more favourable growing environment than temperate outdoors.

The most important aspect of establishment in the alpine house is watering.  In spring and summer, the period of active growth the plants must not be allowed to dry out.  They must, however, have excellent drainage as well.  Plunging the pots into gravel or chippings on the bench aids temperature control as well as preventing the plants from drying out.  Be aware that towards the end of the summer, plants will appear to be wilting because of impending dormancy, not lack of water.  Always check the growing medium for dampness before adding water.  Once into dormancy only a tiny amount of water is necessary to maintain growth.

Alpine plants are also used in alpine meadows - essentially collections of alpine plants without rocks.  Alpine meadows are planted with plants in drifts or dotted throughout, much like a low-growing cottage garden.  


How This Course Could Help You

This course is best suited to people with some existing knowledge of landscape design. However, people with basic construction skills and plant knowledge may also take it.

It could serve as a platform for further study or be taken in conjunction with other modules to enhance your learning experience. The course is of most value to people working in or wishing to work in:

Landscape construction
Garden design
Garden maintenance
Garden restoration or conservation

It could also add to the skillset of people wanting to start a garden design business, or be of value to people wishing to renovate a home garden.