Plant displays

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This course is for people working, or intending to work, in amenity horticulture. It will help people to use basic design principles to plan indoor and outdoor plant displays for a variety of purposes. People credited with the unit standard used to assess this course are able to design, set up, maintain, and dismantle a plant display. For more details of this unit standard visit the following link.


Assessment Task 1

Produce a documented design for a plant display. Your documentation must include:

1. A report containing the following information as appropriate:
  • Type of plant display
  • The location and purpose of the plant display
  • Duration of display
  • A study of the location, its features, facilities, and constraints (e.g. type and size of building, light levels, availability of power supply or water)
  • The size, shape and features of your plant display, and any other features to be included (e.g. information boards, props, product placement).
  • Staging equipment needed (and its availability)
  • Other equipment needs and availability (e.g. waterproof membranes, trolleys, sack barrows, power sources)
  • Growing media and drainage needs
  • Irrigation needs (methods, frequency)
  • Transport needs
  • Any possible risks
2. A labeled sketch plan showing the layout of your display
3. A summary of the Principles and Elements of design used in the display.
4. A planting plan identifying the plants used in your display – both common and botanical names.
5. A materials request form including all costings – all requests for purchases must be authorised by your learning facilitator.

Assessment Task 2

Set up your plant display. Your evidence must include:

1. Notes and a photographic diary, containing:
  • Photographs of the site before work has begun
  • Photographs taken during staging (showing any construction or staging detail)
  • Photographs showing your completed display
  • Photographs and notes of your work to maintain the display
  • Photographs and notes of you dismantling the display
2. Brief notes on any unforeseen problems that occur in the setting up of the display.

Session 1 - Orientations

Old push mowers. Image by Kim Thomas

Welcome ! This week we'll take an overview look at the unit and the assessment tasks. We will also be going on a field trip to Dunedin's Hottest Attraction!We will be visiting an excellent example of a plant display at *Otago Museum's Discovery World Tropical Forest.The following is a blurb from their on line brochure "Featuring around 1,000 imported tropical butterflies, the Tropical Forest is also home to live tarantulas, turtles, finches and other hot-weather-happy inhabitants. A gardener’s paradise, the rainforest includes wide variety of lush tropical plants including orchids, bromeliads, bananas, coffee, cardamom, passionfruit and more!"

To do

  1. As a group we'll look at the unit and this course schedule and run through the assessment requirements and tasks.
  2. Break into groups of 2-3 and think of a plant display you have seen recently and then brainstorm some aspects of that display that you thought worked well and then look at aspects that did not work for you-(if any).
  3. We will then have a look at some video footage that hortykim shot at The Ellerslie Flower Show March 2009.All the videos will be added to the resources below so you can re visit them for inspiration.
  4. We will then have a look photos of plant displays that students at Otago Polytechnic have created in the past.And then we will discuss the pros and cons of working in a group and how will we go about the challenge of creating a plant display together.
  5. If we have time we will then brainstorm some possible themes for the plant display(s) that you are required to design,set up,maintain and then dismantle.I look forward to viewing your creation and adding your photo diary of your process to the resources on this wiki.
  6. OK-let's hit the museum!

Bonus activities for the gungho!

  1. Help your learning facilitator find useful resources web or print, whatever you think would be helpful resources to add to the existing list.You will have to read widely to find all the information for your assessment and don't forget to read the gardening pages in the ODT or whatever your local paper is. The New Zealand Gardener is also a great resource, for instance, check out issue June 2009 which has ten great eco chic design ideas.
  2. After the session, find an Internet connection and look at the video clips listed below. The videos take you through a bedding display change over which will take you through the special thought and physical work that goes into a public garden plant display. Free access to computers and the Internet is available at Otago Polytechnic Community Learning Centres, as well as any public library in Dunedin.

Session 2

  1. We will start with a brief discussion about our trip to the plant display at *Butterfly House at Otago Museum
  2. We will then look at hortykim's power point presentation on the elements of design.Remember that part of your assessment is to include a summary of the principles and elements of design used in the display.
  3. If you were not able to attend this session please go through this power point *Elements of Design so you are clear on this aspect of your assessment.
  4. Teams will then start to brainstorm the theme of their display and draw a plan.
  5. Teams will visit site where displays will be set up and measure their area and note site constraints.

Session 3

  1. We will start with a review of our last session and try to remember what are elements in a design?
  2. Today we will look another aspect of a plant display which includes design principles.If you were not able to attend this classroom session then please go through this power point presentation by hortykim *Principles of Design
  3. We then will have a brief discussion on "So what is the difference between design elements and design principles? The following explanation is from"What exactly does "Principles and Elements of Design" mean? Principles of design are the laws of designing anything! In other words, to have a good design, you should consider these principles for the best design possible. Elements of design on the other hand are things that are involved within making a design. The major difference between principles and elements is that principles are rules you have to follow and elements are things that will help you complete those rules for the best project outcome.
  4. Teams will then have a quick planning meeting to discuss what plants are appropriate for their display.Both teams will be using plants native to New Zealand for their display so the group will be visiting *Ribbonwood Nursery.Phil Dunn,owner of Ribbonwood Nursery has kindly agreed to let students borrow some plants for their display.Phil is hugely supportive of horticulture education at Otago Polytechnic with his contribution to our PEAC and work experience opportunities for our students.In fact he has has employed one of our many star graduates at his nursery.This is one of many good reasons why work experience opportunities should be embraced by students and employers.

Session 4

  1. Teams will start to gather resources together for their displays and store them at the Polygrow Nursery.
  2. Teams will mark out an area identical to the site allocated for their display and start to put the display together.
  3. Teams will present their learning facilitator with a list of materials that need to be purchased(Please consider a moderate budget).
  4. Teams will present their learning facilitator with a list of plants to be collected the day before the displays are put in place.Botanic names only please.


A central list of all resources used in the activities, and any others found to relate to the unit.

This course is used in the following programme