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Course Title: RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance (Theory)

RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance (Theory)

Horticulture Course
Price:£340 Qualification: RHS Certificate
RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance (Theory)

Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment & Maintenance. This RHS course is an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to forge a career as a garden designer. It has recently been updated to comply with the most up to date guidelines set by the RHS. Therefore students can be sure that they will be well prepared for the four unit exams held in February and June of each year.

You must pass all the exams to obtain the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance.

Students need to register as an external candidate at an RHS Approved Centre, or contact qualifications@rhs.org.uk for details

Please note that there are deadline dates for exam applications and that the test fee will need to be paid directly to the test centre, when reserving your seat.

Course Information

Course Duration:

The course takes approximately 140 hours to complete but this is given as a guide only. We encourage our learners to work at their own pace and so there are no assignment deadlines or end date, by which the course must be completed by. Apart from the RHS exam dates deadlines, you are in control. If you start and then something happens in your life that stops you from continuing, don’t worry. Just take a break and recommence your studies for the following year’s exams or even for the year after that.

Learning Materials:

You can be assured that all of the course work and resource materials (revision workbook, PowerPoint presentations etc.), have been written by experienced professionals who have prepared everything in line with up-to-date RHS guidelines, for learning providers.The syllabus is broken into the four units and because many people choose to spread their exams over the two examination months available, it means you can target your learning to those you want to take first. Please contact us if you just want to take one unit at a time.

Everyone gets online access to ADL’s learning platform and the learning materials, which can be downloaded in a pdf. format to study offline. You can also choose to have the course posted to you on a USB memory stick and/or opt for the correspondence add-on option, if you would like the learning materials in book form.


At ADL we pride ourselves on the quality of the unlimited admin and tutor support we provide to our students. Our support team are there to help you with anything they can, whilst our tutors are seasoned industry related professionals, suitably qualified in horticulture and very happy to share their wealth of experience.

Studying from Abroad:

If you are intending to study from abroad (other than Ireland), you will need to email qualifications@rhs.org.uk to request an exceptional supervision form before applying to take the exams. This means that you can complete the course from abroad and get an internationally recognised qualification from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Tuition Fee Includes:

Learning materials for all four units
RHS student membership for the first 12 months

Key Facts:

Ideal qualifications for entry into horticultural employment, improving practical skills or further study
Course covers a range of wide range of horticultural topics and up-to-date working practices
Appropriate for career change or to gain a better knowledge
Suitable for part-time study
Each unit is assessed by examination or set practical activities
Examinations take place in February and June
Practical courses provide hands-on experience of practical skills
No entry requirements
Qualification consists of mandatory units (for theoretical and practical-based qualifications) with some optional units to develop specialist practical skills

UNIT 1 – Garden Features, Plant Selection and Planning:

Outcome 1. Know How to Carry out and Record a Garden Survey

1.1 Describe how to identify potential hazards and risks on a site
1.2 Describe potential restrictions which may limit work on the site
1.3 State what existing garden features need to be identified
1.4 State why it is necessary to identify the existence of overhead and underground services
1.5 Describe how to carry out basic linear surveying techniques, including the use of tapes, offsets and triangulation

Outcome 2. Know How to Carry out a Site Appraisal and Record Essential Data

2.1 State what needs to be recorded when carrying out a site appraisal

Outcome 3. Understand Basic Garden Planning Principles and the Elements that Contribute to a Good Design

3.1 Describe the relevance of garden planning principles to the production of a garden design that ‘works’ – one that follows accepted ‘rules’ or ‘conventions’, and which is pleasing to the eye.
3.2 State the meaning of the following terms: symmetry; asymmetry; colour; focal point

Outcome 4. Understand the Characteristics of Accepted Garden Design Styles

4.1 Describe the difference between formality and informality in garden design
4.2 Describe the main characteristics of a knot garden, a landscape garden and a cottage garden

Outcome 5. Understand the Effective and Appropriate use of Hard Landscaping Materials

5.1 Describe a range of horizontal elements: paths, steps, patios and decking. Compare the benefits and limitations of a range of materials for each of the above, including concrete, paving and wood
5.2 Describe a range of vertical elements: wall, fences, screens, pergolas, furniture, statuary. For each of the above, compare TWO examples of natural and man-made materials used in their manufacture
5.3 Describe rock gardens and water features. State TWO examples of manufactured and TWO of natural materials for EACH element

Outcome 6. Understand the Effective use of Soft Landscaping Elements

6.1 Name appropriate grass species for a lawn
6.2 Name FIVE evergreen and FIVE deciduous trees
6.3 Name FIVE evergreen and FIVE deciduous plant species
6.4 Name TEN deciduous and TEN evergreen shrubs
6.5 Name TEN herbaceous perennials
6.6 Name TEN Alpine or Rock garden plants
6.7 Name FIVE plants grown as biennials
6.8 Name TEN hardy plants
6.9 Name TEN half-hardy plants
6.10 Name TEN patio or basket plants
6.11 Name FIVE bulbs, corms or tuberous plants used for winter or spring interest, and FIVE for summer or autumn interest

Outcome 7. Understand how to Incorporate Key Elements into a Cohesive Design

7.1 Describe how elements of hard landscaping should be selected and used to ensure that a design is cohesive.
7.2 Describe how elements of soft landscaping should be selected and used to ensure that a design is cohesive.
7.3 Describe how other materials and items (e.g. garden furniture) should be selected and used to ensure that a design is cohesive

Outcome 8. Understand the Importance of Safe, Healthy, Environmentally-Sensitive and Sustainable Development of Garden Sites

8.1 Describe TWO hazards associated with EACH of the following: access; slope; location of features; water; electricity; materials; plants.
8.2 State how the risks related to the hazards identified in 8.1 can be minimised by careful planning during the planning and design stage.
8.3 Describe how the environmental sustainability of landscaping materials may affect choices made during the planning and design stage.
8.4 State how sustainable practices in the maintenance of a garden can be integrated successfully during the planning and design stage.
8.5 State how sustainable practices can be undertaken during the construction stage

UNIT 2 – Garden Features, Plant Selection and Planning:

Outcome 1. Understand the choice of plants for seasonal display and their establishment and maintenance

1.1 Describe: bedding, hardy, half hardy, tropical, edging, groundwork (infill) and dot plants
1.2 Explain the importance of F1 hybrid plants and the term ‘hybrid vigour’.
1.3 Name TEN plants suitable for growing in an annual border.
1.4 Name TEN plants suitable for summer bedding displays.
1.5 Name FIVE plants suitable for spring bedding displays, including TWO bulbs (corms or tubers).
1.6 Name TEN plants suitable for summer display in containers or hanging baskets.
1.7 Name FIVE plants suitable for winter display in containers or hanging baskets.
1.8 Describe the soil or growing media preparation, sowing or planting out of plants for seasonal display for the situations listed in 1.3 – 1.7.
1.9 Describe the routine maintenance of seasonal bedding, including control of weeds and common pests and diseases (aphids, slugs and snails, vine weevil, grey mould, powdery mildew) for situations listed in 1.3 – 1.7

Outcome 2. Understand the Choice of Herbaceous Perennial Plants and ‘bulbs’ for Display, and how to grow them

2.1 Name TEN herbaceous perennial plants suitable for growing in an herbaceous border.
2.2 Name FIVE herbaceous perennials suitable for growing in shade and FIVE suitable for use as ground cover.
2.3 Name TEN bulbs or corms or tubers, of which FOUR should be suitable for growing in the border, FOUR for containers and FOUR for naturalizing.
2.4 Describe the soil preparation, planting, routine maintenance and control of weeds, pests and diseases (aphids, slugs and snails, vine weevil, grey mould, powdery mildew ,stem or bulb eelworm) required for growing herbaceous perennials and bulbs, corms or tubers

Outcome 3. Understand the choice of Woody Plants for Display and their Establishment and Maintenance

3.1 Name TEN trees suitable for growing in a domestic garden.
3.2 Name TEN shrubs suitable for growing in a domestic garden.
3.3 Name FIVE trees grown for winter interest and FIVE grown for autumn display.
3.4 Name FIVE shrubs grown for winter interest and FIVE grown for autumn display.
3.5 Name FIVE lime-hating trees or shrubs.
3.6 Name FIVE bush roses suitable for growing in a rose bed, including cluster-flowered (floribunda) and large-flowered (hybrid tea) examples.
3.7 Name FIVE climbers and FIVE wall shrubs suitable for a variety of garden situations including shaded and north-facing.
3.8 Describe the soil preparation and planting for trees and woody shrubs.
3.9 Describe the routine maintenance for trees and woody shrubs, to include pruning andthe control of weeds and common pests and diseases (aphids, powdery mildew, black spot
of roses, canker, coral spot, honey fungus)

Outcome 4. Understand the Choice of Alpine and Rock Garden Plants and how to Grow Them

4.1 Name FIVE alpine or rock garden plants for spring display and FIVE for summer display.
4.2 Describe soil characteristics, soil preparation and routine maintenance for the display of alpine or rock garden plants in open soil.
4.3 Describe choice of container, the characteristics and preparation of the growing medium, and the routine maintenance required for an alpine or rock garden display in containers

Outcome 5. Understand the Planting and Maintenance of a Garden Pool

5.1 Name TWO AQUATIC plants from each of the following groups: floating, deepwater,
marginal and bog plants.
5.2 Describe the planting and establishment of aquatic plants in a garden pool.
5.3 Describe the annual maintenance of a garden pool, including possible controls for
algae including blanket weed

Outcome 6. Understand the Establishment and Maintenance of Lawns

6.1 State appropriate grass mixtures for the establishment of a high quality ornamental lawn and for a hard-wearing utility lawn.
6.2 State the benefits and limitations of establishing lawns from seed.
6.3 Describe the procedure for establishing a lawn from seed.
6.4 State the benefits and limitations of establishing a lawn from turf.
6.5 Describe the procedure for establishing a lawn from turf.
6.6 Describe the annual maintenance programme for quality ornamental and for hardwearing utility lawns.
6.7 Describe the range of equipment used for mowing, feeding, scarifying and aerating lawns.
6.8 Describe the symptoms of a range of common lawn pests and diseases, including red thread, Fusarium patch, fairy rings, leatherjackets and moles; state an appropriate control measure for EACH

UNIT 3 – Understanding the Production of Outdoor Vegetables and Fruit:

Outcome 1. Importance of site selection for Outdoor Food Production in a Garden or Allotment

1.1 State the factors to be considered when selecting a site: including soil depth, texture and structure, drainage, pH, aspect, slope, susceptibility to frost and wind, area of land available and availability of water.
1.2 Describe the reasons for providing shelter for an outdoor food production area, including the effects of wind reduction, frost potential and influences upon pollination.
1.3 State the benefits and limitations of living and nonliving windbreaks.
1.4 Name FOUR plant species suitable for a living windbreak.
1.5 Name FOUR types of non-living permeable windbreak.

Outcome 2. Cultural operations used to produce outdoor food crops in a garden or allotment

2.1 Describe a range of soil cultivationtechniques suitable for the vegetable garden: including digging rotary cultivation, consolidation and tilth production.
2.2 Describe how the timing of soil cultivations will be influenced by soil texture, structure, weather and climate.
2.3 Describe what is meant by the bed system for growing vegetables. Compare this with open ground production.
2.4 Describe what is meant by a raised bed, giving a specification for a typical raised bed and paths.
2.5 Explain the no-dig system of managing raised beds.
2.6 State the methods used to advance and extend the productive season of outdoor food crops, including the use of polythene, mulches, fleece, ‘enviromesh’, low tunnels, cloches and cold frames.
2.7 Describe propagation methods used in the production of vegetable crops, including direct sowing and raising plants in seed beds, blocks and modules.

Outcome 3. The principles of vegetable crop production

3.1 Describe the individual production of vegetable crops. This outcome looks at the production of specific crops: from these you will need to select and concentrate on: Runner beans, Winter cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Carrots, Courgettes, Onions, Leeks, Beetroot, Potatoes and Salad Crops to include lettuce and radish
3.2 Describe how quality and yield may be determined by the following: base and top dressings, thinning, weed control, crop support, irrigation and pest and disease control.
3.5 State the benefits and limitations of crop rotation.
3.6 Describe a four-bed system of crop rotation.
3.7 Explain how successional cropping can be achieved for a NAMED crop by using sowing and planting dates, choice of cultivars and environmental protection.
3.8 Explain how intercropping can be used to maximise production.
3.9 Describe the effect of plant spacing on a named crop.
3.10 Describe what is meant by ‘cut and come again’ vegetables.

Outcome 4. The Production of top and soft fruit for a garden or allotment

4.1 Distinguish between top and soft fruit.
4.2 List the types of top fruit (including apples, pears, plums and cherries) and factors for their selection, to include dessert and culinary cultivars; harvesting season; and storage capability.
4.3 List the major types of soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, blueberries and grapes) and factors to be considered when choosing suitable cultivars, to include the fruit type; choice of early, mid and late season cultivars; flavour; and freezing capability.
4.4 Describe the production of top fruit (apples and plums) and state the factors to be considered when choosing plants, including fruit type; plant quality; rootstock choice; size of tree; training style; pollination compatibility; and cultural requirements.
4.5 Describe the production of soft fruit, including raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries.
4.6 State the advantages of purchasing certified stock.
4.7 Describe how quality and yield can be determined by the following: planting; base and top dressings; mulching; weed control; irrigation; training systems; appropriate pruning; and pest and disease control.
4.8 Describe the importance of formative and maintenance pruning for tree shape and yield.
4.9 Explain the importance of cross pollination and fertilisation in top fruit, including flowering periods, compatibility, diploid and triploid cultivars.
4.10 State four methods of ensuring effective pollination in fruit production.
4.11 Describe the harvesting and storage of the fruit crops named in 4.4 and 4.5.
4.12 State ONE common pest and ONE common disease of the fruits named in 4.4 and 4.5,describing symptoms and control measures.

Unit 4 – Understanding Protected Environments & their Use in Plant Cultivation:

Outcome 1. A Range of types of Protected Structure, and their use in Growing Plants

1.1 Describe a range of protected structures, to include greenhouses, cold frames, polythene tunnels, cloches and conservatories.
1.2 Describe horticultural uses for each of the structures listed in 1.1, including plant propagation, crop production, and decorative display.

Outcome 2. The Environment provided by a range of Protected Structures

2.1 Describe the environmental differences between the protected environment and outdoors, including temperature; humidity; light; concentration of atmospheric gases; air movement; and irrigation requirements.
2.2 State the benefits and limitations of using protected structures for growing plants, (for example tomato, Solanum esculentum ( now lycopersicum) compared with growing the same plants outdoors.
2.3 Describe the effect of the environmental factors listed in 2.1 on plants in a protected environment

Outcome 3. Structural and Cladding Materials used for a range of Protected Structures

3.1 List and describe the characteristics of a range of materials used for framework construction, including steel, aluminium, wood, and plastics. State the benefits and limitations of EACH.
3.2 Describe the properties of different cladding materials which can be used for structures, including glass; polyethylene film; polycarbonate; acrylic sheets; shade netting; and
horticultural fleece. State the benefits and limitations of EACH.

Outcome 4. The Control of the Environment in Protected Structures

4.1 Describe the factors that affect light levels in protected structures, including shape of structure; site factors; orientation; type and condition of cladding materials.
4.2 Describe how the temperature can be maintained in structures, including heating by gas, oil or electricity; heat distribution using circulating water and air; cooling by forced or natural ventilation; evaporation; and shading.
4.3 Describe methods of changing the relative humidity (RH) in a protected environment, including the effects of ‘damping down’, ventilation and temperature changes.
4.4 Describe manual and automated methods of irrigation, including the use of watering cans, hose pipes, capillary systems and ‘drip’ systems.
4.5 Describe how light levels can be manipulated, by the use of supplementary lighting and shading, including blinds and shading paints.
4.6 Describe the importance of cultural and biological controls to limit the damage caused by plant pests and diseases.

Outcome 5. Types of Container and Growing Media Used for Production and Display in Protected Structures

5.1 Compare the properties and characteristics of materials used in the manufacture of plant containers, including terracotta, plastic, polystyrene, peat, paper, natural and reconstituted stone, and recycled materials.
5.2 Describe the factors that should be considered when choosing containers for the display of plants in greenhouses and interior displays, including management considerations and visual appeal.

Outcome 6. Horticultural uses of the Protected Environment

6.1 Describe the use of protected environments for the overwintering, production and display of plants.
6.2 Describe the production of a range of plants which can be grown in a protected environment in a garden situation under the following headings: propagation and establishment, maintenance, control of pests, diseases and disorders.

Outcome 7. Care of Plants in an Interior Situation

7.1 Describe the environmental factors that must be taken into account when displaying plants inside domestic buildings.
7.2 Describe the choice of suitable containers and growing media for houseplants.
7.3 Describe the management of one fern (Adiantum raddianum), one foliage (Ficus benjamina) and three seasonal flowering plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, and Saintpaulia ionantha) under the following headings: potting, feeding, watering, deadheading, re-potting, pest and disease identification and control.


RHS Links and Book List

Important Links:

For RHS Website please click here
For RHS Examination dates for 2018 please click here
For RHS Examination fees please click here
For RHS approved UK Examination Centers please click here
For RHS Level 2 Qualification Specification September 2017 please click here
For RHS level 2 Statement of Purpose click here

Optional Recommended books:

For the RHS Level 2 Certificate Courses as a whole:

Principles of Horticulture 6th Edition by CR Adams, KM Bamford and MP Early
New RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques, Mitchell Beazley ISBN 978184533408
RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 9781405314541
RHS Botany for Gardeners: the Art and Science of Gardening Explained and Explored, Mitchell Beazley, ISBN 9781845338336.

Other Useful Books:

The Green Garden Expert by Dr D G Hessayon, Expert Books, ISBN 978090350563
RHS Plant Finder ( use the current edition only), £15.99 Dorling Kindersley
Plant Names Simplified: Their Pronunciation Derivation and Meaning, AT Johnson and HA Smith, old Pond Publishing, ISBN 1905523823
RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 plant names explained and explored, Lorraine Harrison and the RHS. Mitchell Beazley ISBN 184533731X

Additional Additional Books for the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance:

The Essential Garden Design Workbook, Rosemary Alexander 2nd edition, paperback Timber Press 0-881-92975-1
John Brookes’ Garden Design Book, John Brookes 2nd edition Dorling Kindersley 0-75130-981-8
RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design, Chris Young (ed) Dorling Kindersley 1-40932-574-1
The Garden DIY Expert, Dr D. G. Hessayon Expert Books 0-903-50537-1
How to Garden: Garden Design, Alan Titchmarsh BBC Books 1-846-07397-9
The Garden Planner, Robin Williams Frances Lincoln 0-71121-218-X
Joe’s Small Garden Handbook, Joe Swift Quadrille Publishing Ltd 1-849-49367-7

For professional designers:

An Introduction to Landscape Design and Construction
James Blake, Gower 0-566-07775-2
Plant User Handbook: a guide to effective specifying, James Hitchmough and Ken Fieldhouse (eds) Blackwell Publishing 0-632-05843-9

Customer Comment

“I am delighted to report that I passed the exam and received a “Pass with Commendation.” I appreciate very much the detail that you went into, in the the correction of my assignments and I found your advice and extra subject information invaluable in advancing my interest and knowledge in horticulture”. Go raibh mile maith agat! (a thousand thanks!) Colin, RHS Certificate II , Ireland.

Price: £340
Qualification: RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment & Mantainence
Estimated Course Duration: 140 hours
Available Learning Methods: Online, USB (+£5) and Correspondence (+£55)
Enrolment Dates: Our courses are self-paced and you can start at anytime

Enrol today to begin your journey to a recognised qualification from the RHS

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As soon as payment has been confirmed you will be able to access your course materials online within 24 hours. Any further correspondence will arrive at your address between 3-4 days.

For any Questions or to Enrol please call 01227 789 649

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