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Welcome to ARCH 081: Landscape Plants: Summer & Autumn 

This course is recommended as the first of two courses for students of landscape architecture to learn about plants that are specified in ornamental landscapes.  The second course, ARCH 082, draws attention to winter and spring species.  Combined, both courses cover up to 500 species a plants that designers, gardeners, and enthusiasts might consider for their projects.


We will learn about ornamental plants originating from all over the world, including California natives. For non-native species, we focus our attention on plants native to the four other Mediterranean climates (South Africa, Australia/New Zealand, lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and Chile).  There are always exceptions, including species native to Asia, North/Central/South America, and Europe that are adaptable to California's climate, however, additional water may be necessary to support their growth.


I invite you to participate regardless of your past experience or studies in landscape design.  Past students have come from diverse backgrounds and interests, from home owners looking for garden inspiration and amateur gardeners to professional designers wishing to expand their plant palette.  This is a creative space, so if you enjoy being outdoors and discovering new things, you are in the right space.


The following syllabus is abridged for general reference.  Students will have full access upon enrollment at West Valley College.



  • Catalog Description: This course is a study of ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and ground covers that are of particular interest during the winter and spring seasons.  Emphasis is placed on growth habits, cultural requirements, maintenance, suitability for landscape use, and the ecology of plant communities.

  • Objectives:

    • Identify the ecology of plant communities

    • Compare and contrast the aesthetic effect of specific plant materials in the winter and spring landscape

    • Identify soil classification, fertility, and management for plant requirements

    • Identify the maintenance cycles and problems for each plant

    • Identify ornamental plant material from cut or pressed specimens, photographs, and videos of plants growing in the winter and spring landscapes

    • Cite the growth habits and cultural requirements for each plant presented

    • Identify plant material by botanical name, common name and size group from stem sample, photograph, and/or live specimen

  • Student Learning Outcomes:

    • Observe and evaluate microclimate influences upon plant material as indicated by bloom periods.

    • Understand how individual species are utilized in the California landscape.

Recommended Study Habits

Based on our professor's observations while teaching this course, including the expressed views of students who came before you, recalling scientific names and plant details during exams will likely be the most challenging aspect for passing.  Successful students performed the following studying habits:

  • Examine plants in person: (nurseries, on and off campus locations, parks, public gardens...essentially anywhere you can gain proper access.  Touch, sight, and quite often smell are great methods for memory recall.

  • Practice: Repeatedly write and say out loud scientific plant names.  Scientific names are written in Latin, so in a way you are learning a new language.  People who have learned a second, third, or more languages will tell you the best way to learn new words is through practice.  Talk to people in the horticulture sciences and use the scientific names for even greater practice.

  • Flashcards: Using flashcards is highly recommended for studying purposes.  Typical flashcard formats use online applications or written 3"x5" index cards (see below for two examples). .  Write the common name with plant a sample and/or photo on one side, the scientific name, origin, and characteristics on  the other.  Past students have observed that this was the most helpful tool for practicing and remembering each plant covered in this course.  You might be able to find an online application such as Quizlet or use the Leitner Method, which some students found helpful.

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