How do you plan a garden?
How do you renovate a garden?
How do you set out a garden to a scale drawing?
What do you need to do to construct a garden?
Aimed at landscapers, landscape designers, landscape architects at a professional level - this course develops an in depth understanding of the principles and procedures for all aspects of planning for development of a hard landscape; including: site assessment, plan drawing, plan interpretation, project specification and construction planning.
  • It assumes a foundation knowledge of landscape and horticultural management.
  • It is a valuable study program for even those who have worked in landscaping for some time, but who seek a deeper and broader knowledge of garden renovation.
  • This course has been developed by professionals in both Australia and the UK, with the aim of being relevant throughout the world

Learn to Plan Ornamental Gardens

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.

Course Structure

There are 10 lessons in this module as follows:

1.Site Appraisal, Interpretation and Risk Assessment

2.Preparing Site Plans and Specifications

3.Influence of Site Characteristics

4.The Use of Hard Landscape Features

5.Setting out a Site to Scale Plans and Drawings

6.Soil Handling and Storage

7.Land Drainage Systems

8.Ground Preparation Techniques

9.Construction of Paths and Patios

10.Construction of Steps, Ramps, Dwarf Walls and Fences


  • 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

Planning Gardens is both Art and Science

If you want a garden that is unique; you need to think about using plants in a different way. If you want one that is sustainable, you need to understand the living and non living components; the maintenance they need, and be practical about where and how you use them. If you want a garden that looks a picture, you need to be a bit of an artist as well.

Consider for instance; how vegetables might be used in an "ornamental garden".

If you like the idea of a dedicated vegetable plot, but don’t like the way it can be messy and look tired by the end of the season? The best approach to this problem is to provide the plot with some structure; a neatly hedged vegetable garden with well-arranged beds and paths, and a central focal point as such as a large pot or arbour, or even a sculpture, can solve this problem. The eye is drawn to lines; hedges and paths and timber raised beds all produce lines in the garden – this gives the garden structure and interest. It draws the eye away from the more ‘messy’ aspects of vegetable gardening such as floppy plants and dying foliage. 

Here are some ideas on how you can add structure and interest to your vegetable garden:

  • You can arrange beds and paths in a formal pattern – this adds structure to the garden.
    Create long vistas – use a long central path that is paved, grassed or mulched – place a focal point at the end, such as a pot or statue or sculpture, to draw the eye down the vista. This makes your garden seem bigger and adds of sense of grandness to the design.
  • Place a pond at the centre of the garden – it adds interest, creates humidity and cools the immediate area; it attracts insects, frogs and other wildlife to your garden – and thereby improves its environmental health.  The pond could be a formal square or rectangular shape for a formal approach or could be shaped less formally for a natural garden. 
  • Create beds at different heights – this adds interest and an ‘arty’ look. Try painting the outside faces of the beds in vibrant colours. Kids love this too. 
  • Use rounded edges – round or curved garden beds and curved paths – this is an informal approach and would be suitable within a natural or bush garden. 
  • Use low hedges to provide structure around your vegetable garden, or in place of timber beds. Choose the smaller varieties of box e.g. Japanese box (Buxus microphylla), which can be maintained easily at about 50cm high. Remember that if you use plants to edge your veggie beds, then they need to tolerate regular watering – Japanese box will do this, but plants such as lavender may less accommodating preferring drier conditions. You can use plants that need less water for the outer hedging – lavenders, rosemary, spindle bush (Euonymus japonicus var. microphyllus ‘Tom Thumb’) for example are most suited to this purpose. 
  • Use step-over or espaliered fruit trees as a border to the garden, under-plant with herbs or annuals.  

Using Garden Ornaments in the Vegetable Garden
There is no reason why we can’t use ornaments that we would ordinarily use in the ornamental garden, in the vegetable garden.  Here are some ideas:

  • Decorative tubs and pots  the range is vast, but choose designs that suit with the rest of the garden and also the architecture of your house – that way you create continuity (rhythm and  harmony in the garden when you move from one space to the next). It also shows that you see your vegetable garden as part of the overall design, rather than as an after-thought that needs to be hidden from view.  
  • Statues and sculptures and other art work – again you need to choose carefully so that you enhance the design; make sure you do not choose something that is too big for the space, you are looking to enhance not overwhelm the garden. On the other hand a small feature within a large space also looks wrong.
  • Bird bath and ponds – you may think that attracting birds to the garden will cause you nothing but grief! Birds can devastate your work – but protecting seedling and seeds is not that difficult, and also not all birds are interested in your plants. Honey-eater  birds for example are interested in your flowers – they help pollinate them too; small honey eaters are quite tenacious and even aggressive in protecting their space – they often drive away unwanted introduced species, which are more likely to be the seed stealing, seedling wrecking culprits in your garden, blackbirds are a good example!
  • Many birds eat insects and this helps you to control pests in the plot too. So the benefits you gain by attracting birds, far outweigh the negative aspects.  Ponds also attract frogs and other beneficial insects – however they also attract mosquitos (which frogs will eat too) flowing water helps to avoid a mosquito breeding ground though.)
  • Climbing frames are a must in the vegetable plot i.e. arches and trellis, etc for climbers like beans, chokos, cucumber. Your frames need not be ugly stakes supporting old chicken wire – these days you can buy cheap bamboo frames (that look really good for quite a few seasons) or splurge out and buy some colourful timber obelisks to add height and interest. Lattice is also very useful as climbing frames, as is the reinforcing mesh they use in concrete works, (both cheap to obtain) they can also be painted to add colour. 

Choosing Plants
Look at colours, textures and growth shape – e.g. silvery globe artichokes create drama in the garden, as do the large leaves and stems of rhubarb (especially in winter or very early spring when a garden can be a little drab in some cooler areas).

  • Coloured leaves - red lettuce, rainbow chard (silver-beet with stems in a variety of colours); blue-grey crucifers (cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli for example and also the black blue leaves of kale); the bright leaves of beetroot (some varieties produce lovely deep purplish burgundy leaves others red and black).  
  • Coloured flowers – some beans produce interesting flowers. Some produce colourful beans too e.g. purple and golden yellow varieties look great. 
  • Coloured fruits - tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant.
  • Textures – big leaves: Globe artichoke, pumpkin; fine and feathery leaves of asparagus. 
  • Tall vegies e.g. rhubarb and leeks.
  • Creeping and climbing vegies – Warrigal greens for example or beans, peas cucumbers etc for climbing varieties. 
  • Use topiary in your veggies garden to add interest and a focal point, plant in pots for easy access and maintenance. 
  • Grow plants that attract honeyeaters to your garden – salvias are a great example they come in all forms and sizes and are usually easy care. You could create a border of these adjacent to the vegie garden, to attract these gorgeous little hard-workers!