RBGE Certificate in Practical Horticulture

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Certificate in Practical Horticulture (CPH) is a unique course that focuses on the essential skills needed by budding horticulturalists today.

Building on over 100 years of professional horticulture training at the garden, this compact course has been designed to give students a solid grounding in horticultural techniques. The importance and quality of this course has been recognised by the endorsement of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and the support of The Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust.

As a CPH student you will learn key practical skills, taught by experienced and enthusiastic horticuluralists. The essential theory behind the practice is explained and most of the time is spent learning practical skills and getting 'your hands dirty'.

As well as being delivered at RBGE, the course is being taught in partner organisations in the UK (e.g. The Eden Project, Cornwall and Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire) and abroad (e.g. Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanic Garden, Istanbul and the Oman Botanic Garden, Muscat). This is possible through the use of concise and flexible course materials that are easily translated and can be tailored to the needs of different organisations. To ensure that quality and standards are maintained worldwide, RBGE administers the assessment, qualification and verification guidelines.

Course outline

The RBGE Certificate in Practical Horticulture course consists of eight full-day taught units plus a revision and an assessment day.

CPH01 Looking at Plants

This unit gives students an introduction to plants, including the key structures that are important in horticulture, using and writing botanical plant names and recognising the main plant health problems.

CPH02 Soil Care

Healthy soil is vital so this unit covers basic soil analysis (e.g. texture and pH) and primary and secondary cultivation of the soil as well as selection of tools and their maintenance.

CPH03 Feeding and Watering

Watering is an undervalued skill yet is vital. In this unit students learn how to assess the watering needs of plants and apply water and fertiliser to plants.

CPH04 Seed Propagation

Seed propagation is a fundamental to any horticulture course, students will sow seeds in pots and trays and direct into a seedbed they have prepared outside.

CPH05 Vegetative Propagation

Students learn how to take tip and stem cuttings of a range of different plants and divide herbaceous perennials.

CPH06 Growing Media and Potting

This unit gives students the skills for mixing growing media, pricking-out and potting-on, ensuring that the work is of high quality and consistent.

CPH07 Planting

Planting correctly is essential for ensuring long term plant health. Students learn how to plant and stake a large tree and mass plant smaller sizes of plants following a specific layout.

CPH08 Pruning and Training

Students will prune and train a range of plants, with the focus on the correct use of secateurs and pruning saws and how to sharpen and maintain them.

Additional units can be developed for specific groups depending on the specialised horticultural requirements of the institution or the local climate.

Who is it for?

The RBGE Certificate in Practical Horticulture (CPH) is for anyone who wants to gain the ley fundamental practical skills of a horticulturalist. It will be of interest to:

  • Students and individuals who want to develop their horticultural skills. The RBGE CPH is the core practical element in the first year of our HND/BSc programme and the format could be incorporated into programmes at other institutions.
  • Keen amateurs and professionals in allied disciplines such as landscape gardening, garden design and ecological research.
  • Horticultural organisations and departments that wish to deliver training and continuing professional development to their staff. The RBGE CPH can be delivered as a bespoke two week block, tailored to your organisation's needs. It has already been successfully delivered in Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia.


To reflect the hands-on nature of the course, assessment is largely practical. There is also a written element in the form of a student notebook or worksheets.

  • Practical exam (80%) The main assessment is a full-day practical exam at the end of ths course which covers elements of all eight units studied. It may also include oral questions and plant identification tests. Students must have attended all eight units to be eligible for the exam.
  • Course notes (20%) Students are required to keep notes from the practical classes. These will be assessed either as a notebook or formalised worksheets, depending on the centre at which the course is being offered.

How to apply for courses at RBGE

You download the Applicant's Handbook for the course you wish to apply for from the 'Downloads' box on the right. This contains further information and an application form as well as the application deadline dates and costs. 

Further information on CPH courses for institutions and organisations

To find out how we can provide the CPH course to your institution, please contact the Education Department.

Education Department
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
20A Inverleith Row

Telephone: 0131 248 2937
Email: education@rbge.org.uk

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As well as running at RBGE the course also runs at other centres which include:

  • Glasgow Botanic Garden
  • Waterperry Gardens
  • Eden Project
  • Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanic Garden in Istanbul, Turkey

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)