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Qualification - Certificate in Plantsmanship

Course CodeVHT033
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours



This course lays a foundation, sharpening your knowledge and skills for identifying plants; and then progresses to build the scope of plants you are able to identify.

At the end of this course you will be able to look at plants with greater focus, naturally seeing the characteristics that differentiate a plant from others, and placing it into a group (family or genus) which exhibits those characteristics. In doing so, you will find it easier to identify plants, and work out their classification, even if you do not know precisely what they are. This is achieved by undertaking two core modules focusing on plant physiology and taxonomy as well plant identification. Four specialised plant electives are then undertaken that further build your knowledge of select plant groups.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Qualification - Certificate in Plantsmanship.
 Botany I - Plant Physiology And Taxonomy BSC104
 Plant Identification and Knowledge (Horticulture II) BHT102
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 4 of the following 16 modules.
 Acacias VHT114
 Annuals -for Landscape Display Bedding or Cut Flowers BHT115
 Australian Natives I BHT113
 Azaleas And Rhododendrons VHT106
 Herb Culture BHT114
 Australian Natives II BHT225
 Growing Lavender BHT228
 Medicinal Herbs BHT227
 Orchid Culture BHT232
 Palms & Cycads BHT233
 Roses BHT231
 Tropical Plants BHT234
 Bonsai BHT320
 Interior Plants (Indoor Plants) BHT315
 Perennials BHT316
 Proteas BHT318

Note that each module in the Qualification - Certificate in Plantsmanship is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Tips for Growing a Garden Fast

We’re all on the fast track these days…we want fast cars, fast careers, and as any nurseryman would tell you…many of us want fast plants.  I suppose it’s just the way of the world, but there doesn’t seem to be time to wait for anything any more. Many people also move house frequently, so if they are to develop a garden, and enjoy what develops…they need it to quickly both establish, and to create something that fulfills their needs.

There are of course other reasons for choosing fast growing plants. If you can get a plant established quickly, you can provide protection both for yourself and for other plants. Whether you are after shade, a wind break, or a screen from the street or nosy neighbours, growing a fast plant is usually preferable to a slow growing one. You might also wish to establish a rainforest in your backyard and therefore need some fast growing trees to cast some light shade and protection, enabling you  to then plant more sensitive plants beneath.

How then do you get a fast plant
There are 2 things that make a plant fast growing:

  1. Choosing a fast growing variety
  2. Treating it well, by providing ideal conditions for its growth.

Choosing Fast Growing Varieties

When selecting fast growing plants be aware that some plants are fast in some climates, but may not be fast in others. For example, in the tropics mock orange (Murraya paniculata) is so fast that pruning is needed almost every month to keep a good hedge appearance; however when grown in Melbourne, this plant may only need pruning every 3 months (and only in the warmer seasons).

If you want a manageable final result, and still have fast growth, consider the likely height, width, and density of foliage of any plants you might be considering growing. Consider also their potential to become invasive, such as by self-seeding, suckering, or spreading by rhizomes (such as some bamboos).

For home owners who change home every 5 years or so, it is advisable to think not only about selecting plants that will reach a particular height in the 5 years they are there, but also about how tall it can POTENTIALLY grow. In 15 years it may be so big that it could cause root damage to infrastructure, pipes, etc. It is very possible that future home owners could hold you legally responsible for poor plant selection.

The life expectancy of the plant is also very important – some fast growers (such as many Acacias) may only have life spans of 7 – 15 years or so. They can be great plants for a quick result, but you will need to plan ahead for other slower growing or longer-lived plants to “take over” the space left as the short-lived plants die out.

Buying Large or Small Plants

The decision to buy a large plant specimen at a higher cost, as compared to the same plant, but smaller cheaper plant, is something that home owners commonly face. If the plant is known to be a slow grower and the plant desired as the centre piece of a garden design, then a higher priced purchase is the better option. If the plant is fast growing and is used as a space filler or boundary planting, then it may be better to buy a small plant.

There are many examples where home gardeners have opted to purchase larger and more expensive plant specimens of fast growing plants only to have cheaper versions of the same plant exceed the larger ones in growth rate within as little as 1 year.

In many commercial landscape jobs, it is usually a decision to have the design LOOK grown when the plants are installed that directs the designer/landscaper to plant only large specimens. If the final effect after planting is not to achieve an instant GROWN look, then installing smaller plants would be better (and cheaper).

It is paramount when planting either a mature plant specimen (expensive) or a small pot specimen (inexpensive) that the soil is correctly prepared and the site is suitable for the plant species.
It does not matter how expensive the plant is – if the soil is not prepared then the plant will suffer or even die.

Treating Plants to Maximise Growth Rates
The best way to ensure that any of your plants will grow at their fastest is to provide the right conditions. This will vary from plant to plant. Some plants do best in well drained, light soils, while others prefer moist, heavier soils. Some prefer full sun, others partial or even full shade. Some need regular additions of fertiliser or compost for best results, others need additional watering during dry periods. The important thing is to understand the needs of your plants and provide them as best you can.  Ask your local nurseryperson for advice on what the plants require, or refer to good quality gardening books.

“They said it was fast growing but it isn’t?”
There are many reasons why a reputedly fast growing plant doesn’t grow as fast as expected.
Firstly make sure it is actually is suited to your garden’s soil and climatic conditions.
Secondly, most home gardeners commonly don’t water or fertilise plants sufficiently to obtain the desired growth. Thirdly, the purchased plant may have had root damage or coiling thereby preventing the plant spreading its roots out into surrounding soils. Fourthly, the plant may actually be a unique specimen, that genetically differs from the typical plant species or cultivar.

“Buy herbs, almost all are fast”
Unfortunately, this comment is also not always correct. There are many herbs that are fast, but there are also many that are notoriously slow (e.g. bay tree (Laurus nobilis)).

“All natives are fast”
There is a belief in some countries that all natives are fast growing – this is not correct. There are always different soils and climates to consider; and even in a small country, weather conditions (and a plant's performance) can vary dramatically between a north facing slope and a south slope.  Some natives are definitely fast, however many are not. Careful selection of the right native for the right climate will achieve faster growth.

“For a quick splash of colour use annuals and perennials”
There are many annuals that are very fast to flower once planted (e.g. Allysum, lobelia, marigolds, salvias, Tagetes, etc) but there is also a very large range of annuals that take time to mature before they flower (e.g. Foxgloves). As many perennials tend to have a growing and flowering phase, home gardeners need to be aware that they tend also to have a dormant phase where growth either stops or slows down considerably.

Caution with Fast Growing Plants
Some fast growing plants can get out of hand, becoming serious weeds. Lantana, for example, grows very fast in the tropics, and hence needs pruning frequently. Some gardeners deposit their clippings on nearby bush verges resulting in what could be regarded as ‘environmental negligence’. Not only will the seed be spread by birds, or germinate where it falls, the plants will often reshoot from these clippings.

A note of caution should be raised about growing some plants too quickly. They may produce lush, soft growth that can be more prone to attack from pests and diseases, or may not be “hardened off “ when harsh conditions arrive, such as when you are away and not able to water them, or water restrictions are applied. Some fast growing trees grow so fast that not enough time is given to deposit lignin into the cells (this product gives strength to trucks and cells). In strong winds, such limbs can break and trunks snap easily.


Suggested Fast Growing Plants
Some plants will grow quickly in most places; others only grow fast in certain climates.

Fast Trees in most places…. Albizia lophantha, most Acacias, Paulownia tomentosa, Virgilia oroboides, Chamaecytisus proliferus (Tree Lucerne), Melaleuca armillaris, M. ericifolia, M. linariifolia, Hymenosporum flavum, Dodonaea viscosa, Myoporum insulare, Allocasuarina spp., Grevillea robusta, Lophostemon confertus.

Fast Trees in Sub Tropics …Schizolobium parahybum, Bauhinia blakeana, Erythrina x hybrida, Hibiscus tileaceus, Schefflera actinophylla, Lophostemon confertus, Callistemon sp., Backhousia citriodora, Inga edulis, Melicope elleryana, Alphitonia excelsa, Schefflera actinophylla

Fast Trees in Temperate Areas …Salix spp.(need plenty of room, have invasive roots), Prostanthera lasianthos, Schinus molle, Hakea laurina, Ceratopetalum gummiferum, Melaleuca  stypheloides, Corymbia calophylla, Angophora floribunda

Fast Growing Shrubs in Subtropical areas
Acalypha wilkesiana, Syzygium (most cultivars), Cestrum nocturnum, Calliandra pulcherrima, Grevillea ‘Honey Gem’, Murraya paniculata, Duranta erecta (syn D. Repens), Alternanthera dentata, Cuphea hyssopifolia, Orthosiphon aristatus, Eranthemum pulchellum, Tecoma capensis, Lantana cultivars, Melaleuca armillaris.

Fast Growing Shrubs in Temperate Climates
Hardenbergia violacea (shrubby forms), Hydrangea macrophylla, Leptospermum (most species & cultivars), Alyogyne huegelii, Baeckea linifolia, Callistemon (most species & cultivars), Beaufortia spp., Crowea spp., Hakea salicifolia,  Agonis juniperina, Westringia fruticosa, Buddleia (most species & cultivars), Indigofera australis, Lonicera nitida, L. sempervirens, Rosmarinus officinalis, Lavandula angustfolia (larger cultivars), Roses (shrub types), Artemisia absinthium, A. vulgaris, Teucrium fruticans (Germander), Prostanthera ovalifolia, Myoporum floribundum..

Other herbaceous plants in the tropics and subtropics
Canna lilies, Gingers (Zingiber spp. and Hedychium spp.), Heliconia spp, Costus spp., Zephranthes candida, Dichorisandra thyrsiflora, Lomandra longifolia, Agapathus spp.,
Liriope ‘Evergreen Giant’, Ophiopogon japonicus, Begonia spp., Cymbopogon citratus (lemon Grass).

Other herbaceous plants in the temperate climates (mainly small to medium shrubs)
Salvia leucantha, Salvia sclarea, Osteospermum ecklonis, Phlomis fruticosus, Erigeron karvinskianus, Angelica archangelica (Angelica), Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm), Monarda didyma (Bee Balm), Agapanthus, Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Mentha (Mints) larger types, Tropaeolum majus (Nasturtium), Achillea millefolium (Milfoil, Yarrow), Argyranthemum cultivars, Canna cultivars.

Climbers known to be fast (in warm climates)
Clerodendron splendens, Clytostoma callistegioides, Cobaea scandens, Jasminum polyanthum
Lonicera japonica, Solanum jasminoides, Passiflora edulis, P. mollissima, Ipomoea horsfalliae
Thunbergia grandiflora, T. mysorensis, Pyrostegia venusta, Cissus antarctica, Pandorea jasminoides, Mandevilla laxa, Solanum jasminoides, Antigonon leptosus.

Climbers known to be fast in cooler districts
Actinidia chinensis (Kiwi fruit), Clematis aristata, C. glycinoides, Hardenbergia violacea (climbing forms), Jasminum polyanthum, J. officinale, Kennedya nigricans, K, rubicunda
Parthenocissus tricuspidata, Pandorea pandorana, P. jasminoides, Passiflora edulis, Solanum jasminoides, Wisteria floribunda, W. sinensis, Pelargonium peltatum, Roses (climbing types),
Lathyrus odorata.

Ground covers/Mat forming
Evolvulus pilosis, Viola betonicifolia, Dichondra repens, Viola hederacea, Pratia pedunculata, Mentha pulegium (Pennyroyal)


Learning Facilities

ACS follows the old fashioned idea that “the student comes first”. Our staff are told to treat every student as an individual and respond promptly to their enquiries; and the facilities we have developed and continue to develop, are all focused on that goal. Facilities include:

  • Offices in two time zones (UK and Australia) –which means an international team of academics are responding to students 5 days a week and 16 hours a day.
  • An online student room with unique resources that are only available to students studying our courses, including online library.
  • Bookshop offering quality downloadable e books
  • A data base of 20 million words of unique information written by our staff over 3 decades that can be drawn upon if needed by academics for use in supporting our students.
  • Systems that ensure assignments are tracked, marked and returned to students, fast -commonly within a round 1 week & rarely more than 2 weeks (note: many other colleges take longer).
  • The school is active in social networking and encourages students to connect with us and each other.
  • No automated handling of student phone enquiries. When you call you get a real person; or leave a message and a real person will call you back within a day, but more commonly within an hour or two.
  • No additional charges for extra tutor support over the phone or email.
  • Free careers advice for graduates –It is our policy to provide support and advice to our students even after they graduate. If a graduate needs help with getting a CV together, or advice on setting up a business or looking for work; they only need ask.
  • The quality of academic staff is higher than many other colleges.


 How our Courses Differ

  • Courses are continually improved –we invite feedback from all graduates and change courses immediately the need is detected.
  • Courses are relevant to the whole world –we try hard to teach make the learning transferable to any region or country because the world is increasingly a global economy
  • Courses written by our staff, teach different skills to standard courses; giving a unique mix of skills and knowledge to provide a career advantage. Do you want an accredited certificate and the same skills as 100 other job applicants; or one of our courses with skills that no other applicants have?
  • Certificates and diplomas are longer. They teach you more, and our qualifications have built a reputation amongst academics and industry as being a very high standard for this reason.
  • We are focused on helping you learn in a way that improves your capacity to understand your discipline, apply knowledge, and continue learning and developing your capabilities beyond your course.

These things cannot be always said of other colleges.


Career Opportunities

Study alone can never guarantee career success; but a good education is an important starting point.

Success in a career depends upon many things. A course like this is an excellent starting point because it provides a foundation for continued learning, and the means of understanding and dealing with issues you encounter in the workplace.

When you have completed an ACS course, you will have not only learnt about the subject, but you will have been prompted to start networking with experts in the discipline and shown how to approach problems that confront you in this field.

This and every other industry in today’s world is developing in unforeseen ways; and while that is unsettling for anyone who wants to be guaranteed a particular job at the end of a particular course; for others, this rapidly changing career environment is offering new and exciting opportunities almost every month.

If you want to do the best that you can in this industry, you need to recognise that the opportunities that confront you at the end of a course, are probably different to anything that has even been thought of when you commence a course.




Visit our School bookshop at

  • Downloadable ebooks that can be read on ipads, PC’s, Laptops, or readers like a Kindle.
  • Titles are written by our principal and staff.
  • Anyone can purchase books –ACS students are offered a student discount

Meet some of our academics

Marie BeermanMarie has over 7 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants". Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Ldscp.
Rosemary Davies Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.

Check out our eBooks

Growing & Knowing Flowering BulbsWith 187 pages the Growing and Knowing Flowering Bulbs ebook is a great foundation on growing bulbs and includes a colour glossary of flowering bulbs. This ebook is a great read for students, professional horticulturalists and gardeners.
Growing and Using Perennial PlantsWhen designed and grown well, a perennial garden produces a blaze of colour for many months – starting in spring, flourishing through summer, and beyond into autumn.
Trees and ShrubsA great little encyclopaedia that is valuable for students, tradespeople, or the home gardener needing a quick reference when selecting garden plants. It covers the care and culture of 140 commonly grown genera of trees and shrub, plus many hundreds of species and cultivars. 169 colour photos 94 pages
Climbing PlantsDiscover which climbers to use to hide unsightly walls; how to grow green, flowering boundaries for privacy; and which climbers are the best for growing on the roofs of pergolas, arches and arbours. Chapters cover how plants climb, how to use them, and landscaping. The bulk of the book, however, is given over to an encyclopaedia covering 54 genera and hundreds of species, followed by two separate and more in-depth chapters: one on Bougainvillea and the other Clematis.