Higher National Certificate Live Online

Gain advanced entry to the second year of a degree with a fully-recognised Higher National Certificate or learn the practical skills to become a horticulture professional.

Deadline for enrolment:

Start Date


€4,295 (Easy-pay plan available)


Approximately 9 months

Work Placement

Graduates of this course are eligible for a one month work placement with a garden design company. All placements are made in the Dublin and Cork areas.

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Study Option
Live Online
Course Location
Course Level
Level 4 on the RQF (comparable to level 6 on the NFQ)
Entry Requirements
18 years old or over
Note: If English is not your first language, we recommend you have at least level 5.5 IELTS or equivalent. Or, have completed your last two years of schooling through English.
15 practical assignments
The Garden Design Academy of Ireland has partnered with global educational experts Pearson Education to offer BTEC courses to our students. These courses are a recognised route to university, leading to the final year of a degree course or progression on to other professional qualifications.

Completing this course will lead to the second year of a degree, or enable you to start your own successful business within the horticulture industry. You will not only create, plan and manage your own horticulture project but also perform experiments to investigate the principles of plant and soil science, understand how marketing and financial administration systems achieve business objectives, critically analyse design briefs, as well as gain an all-round education in horticulture and the role it plays in society.

Designed around 15 practical assignments, you will incrementally develop the advanced techniques and deep understanding of the industry that you need to succeed as a horticulture professional.

As a Live Online student, you will attend tutor-led classes online taught by industry professionals. You will also have full access to the Online Learning Centre, which contains course material created by industry experts including instructional videos, written content and assignments.

Our tutors provide all the support, knowledge and in-depth feedback you need to progress through your course and are always contactable through the Online Learning Centre.

This course can be completed in approximately 9-18 months*.

*Completion time is based on the approximate time it has taken past students to complete the course. Students have up to 36 months to complete the course.

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Class Schedule

View the schedule for the evening classes and the weekend classes in Live Online.


The list below provides an overview of the topics covered in this course.

    • Principles of Botany

    Examine the role of plants and their relationship with human society. Develop an understanding of the organisms that make up the plant kingdom (and its subgroupings). Build skills in research and experimentation to examine how plants obtain energy, grow and adapt to their environments. You will learn about:

    • Plant anatomy and physiology
    • Life cycle of plants
    • Importance of plants in a range of different industries
    • Interrelationships between plants and their environment
    • Evolutionary and ecological relationships between plants
    • Plant Identification and Classification

    Examine the common identification systems used in horticulture to recognise and record the characteristics of different plant groups. Develop essential skills needed to identify plant species and to classify plants in terms of type, family and form. Build confidence in the use of common language used for classification and in the use of identification keys. Be introduced to the importance of classification standards and legislation in terms of plant breeding and classification around the world. You will learn about:

    • Characteristics of main plant groups
    • A wide variety of plant types and species and the skills needed to identify them
    • Taxonomy and the use of identification keys to identify and record plant species
    • Latin Nomenclature - the common language used to identify and classify plants
    • Basics of plant legislation in terms of international plant breeding and classification
    • Business and the Business Environment

    Develop knowledge and understanding of land-based business and business practices. Examine different types of organisations operating in the land-based sector and explore interrelationships between various stakeholders. Build analytical skills to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different organisations and to explore the impact of macro factors (e.g. economy, politics, environment etc) on an organisation's objectives. You will learn about:

    • Differences between for profit, non-profit and non-governmental organisations in terms of land-based business
    • Size and scope of different organisations in terms of objectives, market share, growth and sustainability
    • Marketing, financing, human resource management, interrelationships and operations within and between organisations
    • Impact of macro environments (e.g. digital technology, politics, economics, international markets) on land-based business operations
    • Decision making in business using SWOT and PESTLE analysis
    • Plant and Soil Science

    Develop essential knowledge of the scientific principles needed to optimise plant production in horticulture. Assess the type and characteristics of different soils and consider what is needed for optimal structure and nutrition in plant development. Examine the processes necessary to encourage the healthy growth and reproduction of different plants. Examine issues such as water management, pesticides and disease treatment. You will learn about:

    • Soil types and conditions
    • Adjustments to improve the physical and chemical composition of soils
    • Plant form and function (e.g. water regulation, photosynthesis, nutrient transport and storage)
    • Water, temperature, nutrients and light for optimising plant growth
    • Pesticide and disease control
    • Marketing Essentials

    Examine the role of marketing in land-based organisations. Consider how different marketing strategies are used in real world examples. Explore the way marketing can impact on the horticulture industry and your own professional practice. Understand the skills used in marketing to develop a loyal customer base, which can be applied to your own career development in land-based business. You will learn about:

    • The importance of marketing and its relationship with other areas in business
    • Types of marketing strategies
    • Purpose of the 7P’s marketing mix in meeting business objectives
    • Creating and evaluating a marketing plan
    • Plant and Crop Nutrition

    Build a foundational understanding of the nutritional needs of plants and examine how knowledge can be applied to maximise the volume and quality of crops. Understand how plants absorb nutrients and the factors that can limit uptake. Develop an awareness of the variety of fertiliser regimens and how they apply in different crop situations. You will learn about:

    • Importance of plant nutrition and its impact on plant growth and the yield and quality of crops
    • Factors affecting the uptake of nutrients and how plants absorb them
    • Comparing varieties of fertiliser, in terms of their effectiveness and costs
    • Methods for determining nutrient requirements and availability
    • Applying knowledge of plant nutrition and fertiliser regimes to a range of crops
    • Surveying and Measuring

    Develop fundamental skills in surveying and measuring that are necessary for a range of land based businesses. Evaluate the tools and technologies used for a variety of surveying and measuring tasks. Understand the importance of accurate measurement and drawing. Apply knowledge to create a set of design plans for a given site.

    You will learn about:

    • The role of surveying including different types of surveys
    • Measuring material properties
    • Measuring environmental properties such as light and shade, heat and humidity
    • Surveying and measuring equipment
    • Undertaking a site survey
    • Recording measurements and creating accurate plans
    • Managing a Successful Project

    Apply the skills and knowledge you have developed to plan and manage a horticulture business project. Undertake primary and secondary research on a set theme and topic about the land-based business sector. Plan and manage the project from start to finish. Produce and present project outcomes. Review project outcomes to examine the skills and processes you have learned throughout the course. You will learn about:

    • Ideas generation and project development based on a set theme and topic
    • Independent research, decision making and problem solving for a project analysing the land-based business environment
    • Fundamentals of project management
    • SMART goals
    • Data collection based on experiments, interviews, legal/historical documents or market research
    • Analysis of research findings
    • Development and presentation of project outcomes
    • Critical reflection skills


All our tutors are garden design professionals working in the industry.

The Garden Design Academy of Ireland

Our philosophy at the Garden Design Academy of Ireland is to make high-quality education accessible to all by empowering people to do what they love. Through the power of online and blended learning, our students are able to harness their creativity and practically apply it to succeed in their chosen careers.

Pursue your ambition - because the future is today!

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