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Welcome to ARCH 082: Landscape Plants: Summer & Autumn 

This course is a continuation of ARCH 081  We will learn about ornamental plants originating from all over the world, including California natives.  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.



Students should be collecting plant samples on campus for individual field guides and study materials.  Note: Do not take plant samples from people’s yards, public areas, or nurseries without the expressed approval of the owner.  These items are not required, can be shared, and they will make student life easier throughout the course.

  • Secateurs (hand pruners): Felco or similar.  The most comfortable are Felco F 7 for right-handed, F 17 for left-handed folks.  More affordable pruners are commonly available, however avoid small-scale light scissor-like pruners or blades that crush stems rather than by-pass.  Both are intended for floriculture, not thick stems that students will encounter.

  • Field Tote: Something to store field samples as you collect them.

  • Flower Press: Pressing plant samples will not occur during field collection; this is for your lab work that you will do at home as you assemble your field guides.  The flower press should accommodate paper sizes of standard 8.5” x 11”.  In a pinch, students can use heavy (owned, not borrowed) books and press plant samples between the pages.  Flower presses also include:

    • Blotter paper to absorb plant moisture

    • Blank newspaper to keep blotter paper clean

    • Mounting paper for dried and pressed specimens

    • Mounting glue

  • Are you artistic or interested in giving sketching a try?  Landscape architects should rely on their drawing skills for how they present their ideas.  The following materials will be useful for those of you wishing to create are more customized field guide:

    • A sketching journal



This is a partial list, but I have found the following sources most helpful.  Note: Do not rely on Wikipedia for your information.  Wikipedia is too general for plants in California, can have errors, and is not geared toward designers.





This will be very open ended.  This is your opportunity to talk about what is on your mind.  Therefore, I welcome your requests or suggestions on topics, either related to specific plant species or related horticulture and design discussions.  I may prompt activities for you to do, either on your own or in teams.  There may be higher extra credit opportunities presented.

Online Discussions

We may engage in discussions within the Canvas platform.  If there is a due date, enter your comments earlier than the day it is due because the next requirement is for you to reply to at least two of your peers’ posts before the deadline.  Provide thoughtful and respectful feedback, pose questions, or even share new ideas or images.  This is your opportunity to engage further into landscape architecture.

Field Guide

As a landscape architect, your field guide will be a reference for years to come, particularly if you continue to add to your collection.  Plants within a well-presented field guide may be used to share with your future clients, so they can see what each plant will look like in the design you created.  Develop a field guide of 20 different species of trees, 20 different species of shrubs, and 20 different species of flowers (perennials, succulents, cacti, vines) covered in this course. Your list of plants will include lecture species, but you will be required to research additional plants for a total of 60 plants in your field guide.  Note: Plants that you choose should have winter and/or spring interest.  Do not choose plants that are temporary (annuals including vegetables), or plants that cannot be used in an ornamental landscape.  As a class, we will coordinate the plants of your choosing so they do not duplicate your peers’ lists.  This means that students will need to coordinate to ensure that their plants are unique to their individual field guide.  NOTE: Your field guide may become a part of an ongoing campus database of plants, therefore your field guides will not be returned.  Consider making a copy for yourself. For this reason, your field guide must be reproducible, preferably PDF formats.  We will discuss this in greater detail the first day of class.

Format for Field Guides

Provide one 8.5”x11” (standard letter size) sheet per plant.  Sheet orientation should be consistent (portrait or landscape, choose one). Include the following for each plant:

  • Plant botanical and common names (spelled correctly, using italics or underline for the botanical name and proper capitalization)

  • Plant origin

  • A short statement (approx. three sentences, be creative) describing the use and function of the plant:

    • Examples of vocabulary to include: Screen, barrier, back drop, border, shade, erosion control, ground cover, green stormwater infrastructure, etc.)

    • NOTE: This narrative must be your own words; do not copy from your sources, as that is plagiarism.  See Student Conduct Policy at the end of this syllabus.  Plagiarized information will receive no credit.

  • Plant characteristics: This should include detailed information describing plant type and form, then include description of flower, leaf, bark, and fruit where applicable. 

  • Outstanding feature: Why would someone want this plant in their landscape?  Examples are unique habit, texture, or form; showy flowering, usable fruiting, seasonal summer or fall interest, etc.

  • A compilation of photos/sketches/pressed samples.  Note: Photo sources (attributions) must be included with caption. If photos or sketches are your own, then state, “Photo by author,” or “Sketch by author.”  Include:

    • Overall image of plant

    • Unique feature(s): bark, leaf, flower, etc.

      • Sketch scaled plan view landscape architectural symbol.  Symbols may also be generated with computer graphics applications

  • Optional leaf sample (this may require a second page for some plant species, depending on size of specimen).  Leaf samples will need to be mounted, and sheets will need to be scanned as a reproducible file.

  • Get creative!  This field guide is also an expression of your design aesthetics, so presentation is important.  Consider format but also including sketches or photos by you.


There will be an early review of your field guide draft (sample sheet) to see if you are on the right track. Prior to submitting your field guide, we will be sharing your guides and presenting at least 3 the new plants you found via our Zoom meeting.  An electronic copy (PDF) or your final field guide will be due toward the end of the semester, and 10 points (out of a possible 100) will be deducted for every day that it is late (weekends included).  Again, keep a copy before submitting your field guide because they will not be returned.  We can use Microsoft OneDrive, available from your Canvas email account, to share the files.

Recommended Study Guide

While not a graded assignment, flash cards are highly recommended for studying purposes.  Typical flash card formats are the common name with plant sample and/or photo on one side, the botanical name, origin, and characteristics on another.  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, which some students found helpful.



  • Lecture Material

    • Plant terminology and subject knowledge

    • Unique characteristics of plants, such as fall leaf color, flower (if applicable), form, and use.

    • Plant susceptibilities to diseases, insects, cultural problems, etc. associated with each plant.

    • Quizzes.

    • Participation, where we have opportunities to discuss the plants we study.


  • Laboratory Material

    • Identify plants from photographs, fresh or pressed specimens.

    • Student must be able to recall the botanical name: genus, species epithet, cultivar, common name, size (height and spread), as examples.

    • Lab I.D. Exams.



Syllabus Disclaimer

The instructor may make changes to the syllabus during the semester. It is the student’s responsibility to stay informed of these changes. Students may contact the instructor during office hours and by email, time permitting.


Disability Statement

West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Students should notify DESP (Disability & Educational Support Program) located in the Learning Services building (408-741-2010) of any special needs.


Unlawful Discrimination/Sexual Harassment

If you have a complaint or someone has shared information with you as a student or employee that is unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment, contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources at West Valley-Mission Community College District, Human Resources Department, (408-741-2060). If the Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources is not available, contact the President of the college in which you attend or are employed. For West Valley College, contact the office of Dr. Philip Hartley at 408-741-2097.


Policy of Student Conduct
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