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RHS: Features & Planning (5)Taught by Hilary Thomas

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‘You can trust the RHS to teach you everything you possibly need to know’ ~ Jamie Butterworth

  • Conducting and recording a survey

  • Designing a garden

  • Landscaping options

  • Plant suitability to design


In this module candidates will be introduced to several popular features that can be used to enhance a garden. Candidates will learn the fundamentals required to conduct an accurate survey, as well as studying design principles and planning requirements. They will then be shown how to combine these techniques with plants suited to the environment they are working in to create the perfect garden they envision.

The Curriculum

  • 1. Garden Surveys and Site Appraisals

    This lesson will begin by instructing you on how to accurately measure a garden in order to create a clear survey plan, this includes the equipment required to complete your survey. You will also be guided through the process of surveying a house, with informative advice on how best to factor into your surveys: micro-climates; drainage; wind direction; and conservation areas.

  • 2. Principles of Garden Planning

    Here you will be guided through the various fundamental styles that can be applied to your garden plan - from symmetry to asymmetry, and from modern to minimalist. You will also discuss the effects of scale and proportion, and how best to use rhythm and repetition to your advantage.

  • 3. Visual Qualities of Plants

    This lesson tackles plant form (for instance fan, columnar, dome) and the varied visual impact it can have. You will also study flower form and its contribution to overall shape, before moving on to examine coarse texture of plants and how to effectively use colour to provoke an emotional response to a garden.

  • 4. Range of Hard Landscaping Materials

    In this lesson you will begin with an in-depth study of horizontal design elements (such as patios, paths, drives) and the advantages and disadvantages of the various materials that can be used for them. You will also conduct a similar examination of vertical elements (walls, fences, screens). Additionally you will be taught about the potential aesthetic benefit of steps, including the need for landings and safety features.

  • 5. Adding Interest

    Here you will explore several different features that can add interest to a garden. This ranges from sculpture to water features, and from rock gardens to electric features. You will also look in depth at the reasons for using pergolas and the effects they can create, as well as considering garden furniture and how important it is to consider purpose before choosing a material or aesthetic.

  • 6. Factors for Consideration for Larger Vegetation

    In this lesson you will consider the role that trees, shrubs and hedges play in a garden. You will learn about the factors that affect the suitability of vegetation for a specific area - for instance how certain trees suit large parks but not domestic gardens, or how hedges can be used to create either a formal or an informal look.

  • 7. Herbaceous Perennials, Alpines, and Rock Garden Plants

    This lesson begins by covering herbaceous borders in their traditional forms. From there you will be encouraged to consider more diverse concepts, namely: island beds, mixed borders, naturalistic plantings, and container planting. You will also learn how the height of plants should affect where you plant them.

  • 8. Range of Annuals, Biennials and Bulbs

    In this final lesson you will learn some key definitions (e.g. half-hardy annuals and biennials). You will also be advised on the best ways to design and compose hanging baskets, before considering the benefits of bulbs and being given several examples of bulbs that are suited to different times of year.

Meet your expert tutor

Hilary Thomas was Head of the School of Garden Design at the highly regarded Capel Manor College where she taught both Horticulture and Garden and Planting Design for over 20 years. Her students won ...read more

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