Course Name: 

Ecological Plant Knowledge 2 – Ornamentals

Course Hours: 42             Credit Value: 3

Delivery Format: Online

Applicable Programs:

Diploma in Organic Land Care


Ecological Plant Knowledge 1 – Natives
or Landscape Plants - Natives

Co-requisites: none

Contribution to Program: Elective

Approval Date:  September 2021


Typically ornamental plants are grouped for aesthetic effect with little regard for plant compatibility or, for that matter, suitability for their growing environments in geographical areas far removed from their origin. Plants are a product of their native environment, having adapted to specific soil, water and climate conditions. These are complex relationships and to create thriving landscapes we need to have a good understanding of the growing conditions in the plants' native range. The plant identification component emphasizes ornamental landscape plants including annuals, perennials, shrubs, deciduous and evergreen trees which are commonly used in the ornamental landscape for the temperate and colder northern hemisphere. Topics include world biomes, plant nomenclature, factors in successful plant groupings, weed identification, plant maintenance including specialty pruning.  This course partially satisfies the Gaia College Diploma in Organic Land Care. Earn generous continuing education credits for landscape professionals to maintain industry certifications (ISA, CNLA, BCSLA, NALP, MGOI, IPM, NOFA, SOUL).


Course Learning Requirements

Knowledge and Skills

When you have earned credit for this course you will have demonstrated an ability to: 

1.Identify the plants on the study lists (including world biomes) using morphological characteristics.

1.1. Using scientific and common plant names, identification keys, and databases, identify common evergreen, deciduous, herbaceous, and annual plants.

1.2. Recognize defining characteristics of: size; shape; foliage; bark; flowering time; flower colour; fruit, for common evergreen, deciduous, herbaceous, and annual plants.

1.3. Recognize the ecology of different plant communities.

2.Select ornamental plants for different landscape applications (including containers) based on specific needs and ecological sustainability.

2.1. Discuss culture with respect to plants’ ecological origins, growing requirements for soil and fertility preferences, light, water, temperature, hardiness, wind, snow, seaside conditions and microclimates.

2.2. Identify the proper timing and technique to prune various woody plants to maintain optimum blooming of plants.
2.3. Explain soil-less media for container gardens.

3.Identify common weeds of the ornamental landscape for residential and public properties.

3.1. Define weeds vs. invasive plants

3.2. Using scientific and common plant names, identification keys, and databases, identify common herbaceous weeds based on characteristics of: size; shape; foliage; stem; flowering time; flower colour; and fruit, and their cultural preferences.

3.3. Recognize preferred cultural preferences of weeds and the ecosystem they originate from.

Learning Resources
Most material on plants can be found online and will be referenced in the lessons.

However, an optional text to add with a wealth of knowledge on plants around the world is in this text, which may serve as a good starting point when choosing plants to study for the learning activities:

Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Hardcover – Illustrated, Oct. 1 2019, by Christopher Brickell  

Other texts of note (these have more ecological references however; they are no longer in print but used copies can be found):

The Botanical Garden Volume I Trees and Shrubs by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix. Firefly Books Canada, 2002 – ISBN 1-55297-591-6.

The Botanical Garden Volume II Perennials and Annuals by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix. Firefly Books Canada, 2002 – ISBN 1-55297-592-4.

A classic (but contains only woody plants):

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses  – Aug. 1 2009 by Michael A. Dirr. ISBN 1-58874-868-5

Teaching/Learning Methods -
During this course you are likely to experience:

Learning Activities and Assessment - Samples of learning activities include:

Evaluation/Earning Credit

A passing grade in this course requires a total of 100% for all tests (multiple attempts are encouraged) and a minimum of 75% for the total written assignments and a minimum of 75% for the discussion participation.  A certificate of completion will be awarded when the minimum passing grade or higher, has been achieved. Below passing grade constitutes a failing grade (F).