What is Horticulture?

Author: Annette Irish FAIH, RH08,(RET), HMAA

The Horticulture industry, or often referred to as the Landscape, Lifestyle, Ornamental or Amenity Horticulture Industry, is traditionally based around 7 key sectors that have common core horticultural skills and competencies but provide specialist skills based in specific vocational areas.  Recent inclusions in some countries are the two areas of environmental and sustainable horticulture.


The one important factor is that all sectors apply the science of horticulture – the art and science of the care and maintenance of plants.
Those who apply this science are referred to as ‘horticulturists’.

Therefore, many of the underpinning knowledge and skills of sectors of horticulture are common and include the study of plant classification, plant health and soil sciences.


  • Arboriculture
  • Production horticulture / Floriculture,
  • Interiorscaping
  • Landscape Design, Construction and Maintenance
  • Nursery – Retail and Production
  • Parks, Reserves and Gardens
  • Turf and Greens


Occupations are broad ranging and examples include parks maintenance worker, landscape construction worker, plant propagator, nursery general hand, greenkeeper, arborist, tree surgeon, designer, floriculturist, interiorscape and floral designers and nursery retailer. There are some common skills and underpinning knowledge that provides portability within the industry sectors.


  • Landscape Industry:
  • Cross Sector Specialists
  • Horticultural Consultant –
    • may specialise in soil technology, plant selection, plant health, landscape health, waterscapes
  • Environmental Horticulturist
  • Irrigators, Irrigation Installers, Auditors
  • Plant Protection Manager and Operator
  • Landscape Sector
  • Landscape Architect
  • Landscape Designer
  • Landscape Construction Contractor or Worker

Park, Reserves and Gardens Sector

  • Parks, Botanic Gardens, Sports Fields and Open Space Manager or Maintenance Worker
  • Natural Resource Managers, Community Group Leaders and Environmental
  • Horticulturist, Wetlands and/or Coastal Region Manager, Invasive and Noxious plant controller
  • Specialist Habitat Gardener – Zoological and Bird Park Garden worker,
  • Themed parks and gardens, Tourist Resort and Special Themed Leisure Facility
  • Gardeners and Maintenance Gardener
  • Ornamental Fruit and Vegetable Gardener
  • Therapeutic horticulturists
  • GreenSpaces designer and maintenance – green roofs, walls, built spaces
  • Specialist Plant Trainers of Topiary Gardens (translated from German and Danish))

Arboriculture Sector

  • Arborist, Arboriculturist
  • Tree Surgeon
  • Forensic arborist
  • Heritage and protected tree specialist

Turf, Sports Turf and Greens Sector

  • Golf Course Superintendent
  • Elite Sports Turf Curator and Maintenance Worker
  • Turf Maintenance Worker
  • Turf Producer
  • Groundsperson

Interiorscape Sector

  • Interior Plantscape Installer or Maintenance Worker
  • Interior Plantscape Designer
  • Nursery – Retail and Production sector
  • Production Nursery Manager or Horticulturist
  • Hydroponics and Aeroponics Technician
  • Plant Wholesaler, Broker
  • Plant and Nursery Retailer
  • Plant Propagator
    Floriculture / Production Horticulture Sector
  • Floriculturist, Cut Flower, Foliage and Bulb Producer or Worker
  • Small acreage crop production
  • Hydroponic/ Aeroponic farmers
  • Sustainable Horticulturist
  • Permaculture Practitioners
  • Horticultural Irrigation Sector:
  • Irrigation system design, installation, audits and maintenance
Industry Sector Descriptions – Arboriculture sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
Specialist practices of tree surgery, pruning, tree health, planting and transplanting Practised in all international horticultural zones. Many arborists operate as private contractors while others are employed or contracted by government agencies. The sector uses specialist machinery with a high inherent danger factor requiring specialist training and has a high safety management factorMaintenance and management of trees in private and public gardens, parks and streetscapes; Removal and/or transplanting of large trees; Protection and rehabilitation of trees under structural or physical threat; Provision of advice on tree planting and maintenance; Evaluation and assessment of tree health and monetary value.Parks owners, Town Councils, Domestic house owners, Property developers and managers,
Industry Sector Descriptions – Floriculture sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
Generally there is a wide diversity in commodity areas and enterprises across the Floriculture sector. In Singapore this commodity area is in the specialist area of orchid growing for cut flower market and export Irrigation specialists also work with this sectorGrowing and harvesting of commercial flower; Flower seed; Foliage; Essential oil crops; Management and maintenance of field and controlled growing environments; Postharvest treatments and production of plant products.Cut Flower and dried flower market domestic, commercial and export; Essential Oil Users – Perfumeries, pharmaceuticals, food additives,
Industry Sector Descriptions – Interiorscape sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
The design, establishment and maintenance of an interiorscape. Mix of design, plant care, maintenance of gardens in interior or built environment protected areas.Species selection, implementation and maintenance issues Theme and seasonality of display; Combination of floral display and longer lasting foliage display; Level of Air-conditioning, climatic control systems, ventilation; Watering and/or irrigation systems; light source– natural, artificial, UV/strobe/coloured lighting; Proximity and numbers of passers-by; Length of time of display; Pest and disease control management ; Site access – setup, maintenance, out of trading hours, restricted security accessCommercial, domestic, conferences, hotels, displays, indoor water features
Industry Sector Descriptions – Landscape Design, Construction and Maintenance sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
Diverse mix of construction, engineering and horticultural skills application applied in the built environment. Range of operations with 2 key focus: hardscape construction, and softscape development with plant use and landscape development. Irrigation specialists also work with this sectorDesign of gardens and commercial landscapes; Installation and maintenance of gardens; Construction and installation of amenity and recreational landscape features and structures; Provision of technical advice and forward estimates on landscape development proposals. Public Open Space design and constructionLandscape work is associated with commercial construction, hotel and resort construction, engineering projects along transport corridors, new housing developments, and improvements to residential, commercial and industrial properties
Industry Sector Descriptions – Nursery sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
Production of plants Wholesale and retail sale of plants Sale of allied products – landscape materials, cut flowers, dried flowers, Dry goods- irrigation products, chemicals, fertilisers, plant treatments, pots, statuary, water features, sands, soils, potting mixes, giftware, Irrigation specialists also work with this sectorPropagation, production and maintenance of plants for sales and/or hire; Wholesaling and retailing of plants and associated products; Horticultural consultation, plant health assessments, plant community assessments; Provision of advice on plant selection, care and health and garden design; Marketing and promotion of plant products and services.There is a wide diversity of enterprises across the Nursery Sectors in size, provision of species groups, target markets and clients. The major distinction of nurseries is generally between their wholesale/production and retail activities and often home centres and tourist attractions.
Industry Sector Descriptions – Parks, Reserves and Gardens sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
The Parks and Gardens sector covers the management, development and maintenance of Parks and gardens. Contract administration and management. Turf, trees, garden bed maintenance, Irrigation specialists also work with this sectorPublic Open Space design and construction Management and maintenance of public and private open spaces parks, Gardening for all markets Design and implementation of special plant displays; Provision of advice on plant selection and use in commercial and industrial situations; Playground equipment installation and maintenancePark Users, Parks Managers Domestic garden owners; Themed: Zoological gardens, botanical, bird parks, fun parks, cemeteries, and Institutional lands; historic, cultural and special use areas Natural bushland and community recreation areas; reserves and gardens, wetland and coastal zones Conservation areas and community gardens
Industry Sector Descriptions – Turf, Sports Turf and Greens sector
OperationsSkills ApplicationTarget Market
The turf sector covers the propagation, production and use of turf In the community. Mowing contractors. Turf is sold as sods, seed, plugs, sprigs, rolls, flats. Turf Irrigation specialists also work with this sectorEstablishment maintenance of commercial and recreational turf; Design and preparation of sports turf playing surfaces; Domestic mowing and turf maintenance operations; Commercial growing and supply of turf; Management of recreational and sports turf facilities; Provision of technical advice on turf irrigation, pest, disease control, turf management practices.Golf Courses, bowling greens, wicket and pitch preparation Elite and recreational sports turf clubs, Schools and other Institutions, Parks, gardens Domestic gardens Industrial sites, racing clubs, institutional and recreational playing fields,


A number of industry sectors provide strong allied support at construction, implementation, retail and wholesale levels. Some of these sectors employ qualified horticulturists to support their market and supply chain:

  • Plant and Machinery Hire companies;
  • Landscape Material Supplies;
  • Specialist construction industries;
  • Technical consulting for electrical, lighting, green roof construction and implementation;
  • Horticultural machinery & equipment;
  • Dry goods suppliers, pesticides, fertilisers, growth media supplements, compost;
  • Hardware;
  • Giftware;
  • Garden Furniture, Garden art and statuary;
  • Pots, baskets and trays;
  • Playground equipment; and
  • Irrigation equipment suppliers.

Copyright © Annette Irish 2018 All rights reserved. Except as provided in the Commonwealth of Australia, Copyright Act 1968, this work may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Annette Irish , 83 Whiteside Rd Whiteside QLD, Australia 4503. AIH Australian Council are permitted to use these materials for institute use only. Reference to and acknowledgement of the author must accompany all instances of use.
Use of these materials for any other purposes, including copying or resale, without express permission of the copyright owner, may infringe copyright.