Pro Landscaper April 2023

Page 81

What does it take to run a SUCCESSFUL FAMILY-OWNED BUSINESS?

LET'S HEAR IT FROM HG Landscapes' Jeremy Howgrave-Graham


The Parks Trust hopes to serve as a role model for the rest of the UK


What's in a uniform?



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Professional Landscapers

HWelcomeello, and welcome to Pro Landscaper’s April 2023 edition, accompanied by our increasingly prevalent Made in Britain supplement. As we head into spring and the days become ever lighter and warmer, it never ceases to amaze me just how quickly we find ourselves revitalised, rejuvenated, and readier than ever for a strong year ahead.

And yes, rather fittingly, as I sit here writing this, I realise I’m so incredibly British that I actually just engaged you in small talk about the weather without even being physically present. Our latest edition is as varied and all-encompassing as always, from making a success of a family-run business (p61) to the art of landscaping uniforms (p66). My personal highlight, alongside captivating chats with HG Landscapes’ Jeremy Howgrave-Graham (p27) and Majestic Trees’ Eliot Barden (p81), was a compendium of insights into the origins of the Parks Trust in Milton Keynes (p22). How the latter remains a UK anomaly is as confusing as it is surprising; could other cities, towns and villages follow suit?

As ever, we hope you find this edition of Pro Landscaper as compelling and inspiring as we do!

Pro Landscaper is proud to be an associate member of the APL

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 WELCOME 3
©HG Landscapes
prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 CONTENTS 4 Product DNA Toro Workman UTX Counting The Cost Of Our Winter Nick Coslett Educated Expectations Lewis Normand Relative Values What does it take to run a family-owned business? Dress for Success Uniforms – what to include and where to get them Why Artificial Grass? Namgrass A Better Work/ Life Balance? Oracle Solicitors Built To Last mmcité Adapting to Artificial Intelligence Alison Warner Roundup Our monthly roundup of industry news UK Landscape Barometer Has the cost-ofliving crisis hit the landscaping industry? Valuing Nature Jason Knights Pay Up Adam Stewart Transport Works for You; You Shouldn’t Work for Transport Christopher Martin Decisions, Decisions! Andrew Wilson Ask the Experts Holly Youde A Walk in the Park Parks Trust Let's Hear it From Jeremy Howgrave-Graham Touch of the Exotic Green & Wood Garden Design A Greener West End LDA Design An Urban Nature Reserve LUC Trust in Hallstone Hallstone A-Grade Aeration Otterbine The Art of Wildlife Gardening Noel Brock 55 57 58 61 66 70 72 73 74 06 08 11 12 15 19 20 22 27 33 39 45 51 52 53 39 CONTENTS April 2023

75 76 77 78 81

Taking Account

Kim Sones

Recognising the Turf Industry

George Davies Turf

Step in the Right Direction

Gareth Wilson Turf

Latest Products

Five Minutes With Eliot Barden



Adam Stewart, one of Pro Landscaper’s 30 Under 30: The Next Generation winners, emphasises the value of staff in a difficult climate.


Trades coach Alison Warner looks at how the increasingly popular artificial intelligence software ChatGPT might aid landscapers’ blogging needs.


Planting design is one of the most complex and challenging aspects of garden design, says Andrew Wilson.


Gareth Wilson sets out the key things to remember for constructing steps, from height consistency and backfall to hollow steps and timber sleepers.


Jason Knights investigates to what extent the UK might be falling behind in the race to attract green capital.


Landscape gardening financial specialist Kim Sones outlines the advantages of outsourcing accounts departments, from efficiency and privacy to cost-cutting and starting out on the right foot.


Lewis Normand applauds the government's ever-increasing focus on environmentally sound practices and materials, but warns the approach is not without its issues.


Noel Brock reflects on the landscape industry’s evolving approach to biodiversity over the past decade, and how engaging clients with wildlife-friendly projects ensures a long-term interest

©SarahCockerton Pho

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 CONTENTS 5
t o g r a hp y
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Aseed conservation programme led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is celebrating a milestone in its efforts to preserve “rare, threatened, and important” wild plants. As of 1 March, the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) has banked over 2.4 billion individual seeds, representing a total of 40,020 different species.

Described as ‘Noah’s Ark for plants’, the MSB is the world’s biggest wild seed storage facility, situated at Kew’s ‘living laboratory’ and wild botanic gardens, Wakehurst, in Sussex. Within the building are 98,567 seed collections sourced from 190 countries and territories, across all seven continents, nine


Industry Updates


The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) has joined forces with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Landscape Institute (LI) to tackle the “extreme environmental damage” caused by artificial grass and plants.

The ‘Say No to Plastic Grass & Plants’ campaign is calling on homeowners, gardeners and garden designers to return to traditional lawns or look for alternative natural solutions “to help cut down on pollution and ecological destruction, and create more habitats for wildlife”.

Citing Google Trends, the SGD stated that interest in artificial grass surged during the pandemic, with a 185% jump.

As reported in Pro Landscaper’s March 2023 issue, 29% of UK households are said to be weighing up the switch to a fake lawn, on top of an estimated 24 million (10%) that have already made the move.

The SGD “aims to debunk claims often made by manufacturers that these products are harmless, and to encourage the public to use natural solutions instead”.

As part of the campaign, the SGD has produced a downloadable leaflet outlining the detrimental effects the products have on the environment and offers suggestions for ‘green’ alternatives including low-mow or drought-tolerant lawns.

biogeographic regions, and 36 biodiversity hotspots. The MSB holds the Guinness World Records title for world’s ‘largest seed bank’.

Dr Elinor Breman, senior research leader at MSB, described it as an “invaluable tool for scientists tackling the global biodiversity crisis.

“The path towards banking 40,000 species has been both challenging and rewarding, and we are confident the coming years will prove just as fruitful,” he said.“Conserving seeds at MSB is about increasing the genetic diversity of the collections and unlocking their potential to solve some of the biggest challenges we face today.”


The Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales is collaborating with horticultural therapy and mental health counselling provider Life at No.27 to create therapy allotments and gardens in South Wales. Their Royal Highnesses visited the site where the first garden will be developed at Brynawel Rehabilitation Centre, near the town of Pontyclun. The project will form the second in a series of “community impact” pilots from The Royal Foundation, designed to leave a “lasting legacy” in the communities Their Royal Highnesses visit.

The allotments and garden are being developed over the coming months and will offer free and low-cost gardening therapy and mental health support for the centre’s service users and their families. In time, residents from the local and wider community experiencing mental health issues, low confidence or isolation will also have access to the garden through GP referrals.

Life at No.27 aims to create six gardens across South Wales. To support this, The Royal Foundation is working with Crowdfunder to attract funds at Brynawel and for future gardens.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 NEWS 6
©Visual Air ©RBG KEW


fabrik Limited is now a 100% employee-owned trust. Founding director Johnny Rath confirmed the sale this week after 20 years at the helm.

In a LinkedIn post, Rath stated, “fabrik is changing and evolving. Key to me from day one of setting up fabrik was the emphasis we placed on the people within the business. At the top of our core values is, and always has been, the principle that first and foremost, we respect and value the people who work for us. Those people are now the owners of fabrik.”

He added that as part of the sale, an ‘enduring values’ document has been drawn up to ensure “we capture everybody’s voice in what we want the business to represent going forward”. fabrik will also create a company charter, designed to enable all employees to help decide how the business should be governed.

“The charter will be a call to action, to bring our best and most courageous selves

to work,” Rath said. “It will set out our commitment to what we hold dear and what is special about how we work. It will describe our collaborative culture; the principles that guide us including our purpose and how we engage with our clients and the wider world.”

Rath, who will stay on as founding director and company secretary, will support a newly-created operating board, made up of existing employees, “to give us a solid and dynamic forward-looking management team”.


Carbon Footprint has accredited London Stone as a carbonneutral company. Back in 2021, the business, which claims it is the first UK hard landscaping supplier to achieve carbonneutral status, began working with Carbon Footprint to “identify areas for improvement, which were then rectified, and resulted in the company running as sustainably as possible”.

According to London Stone, Carbon Footprint’s audit also highlighted areas

where some carbon emissions are unavoidable, such as sea freight and haulage. “These emissions cannot be eradicated, so they are balanced out through investment in carbon offsetting projects, making all London Stone products and materials carbon neutral,” said the supplier.

Managing director Steven Walley Walley said, “Our customers also want to commit to tackling our climate crisis but often don’t know how or where to start. We will help with this. We will be releasing information on how we can help raise environmental standards for landscapers, designers and other suppliers across the industry and will publish a series of blogs that explain our carbonneutral journey.”



To celebrate International Women’s Day, Pro Landscaper compiled a list of its Top 10 Most Influential Women in the industry. pro-landscapers-top-10-most -influential-women


We caught up with Mollie Higginson, co-founder of the Young People in Horticulture Association, as she reflected on building a community, redefining the perception of horticulture and being a woman in the industry.


Johnstone Landscapes’ director sat down with Pro Landscaper to talk diversity, education and authentic changes. qa-with-tessa-johnstone

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 NEWS 7
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It was bound to take its toll eventually. Since 2021, the cost-of-living crisis has been a constant cloud hanging over the heads of UK consumers. And despite the news that Britain’s inflation rate could drop to below 2% by the end of the year – having reached a 41-year high of 11.1% last October – the landscaping industry is starting to feel the pinch.

A trend of “phasing work” has appeared, says one domestic landscaper, “so that people can save funds for unknowns such as fuel bills and mortgage rises.” They added that more clients are now paying by credit card than bank transfers. Another says they are hearing of lots of “value engineering as costs are so high” and that the “average job value has dropped”.

It’s not just the domestic sector either. One commercial landscaper says it’s “going to get worse over the year” as clients no longer have the money “to pay for landscaping services”.

On top of this, there’s the ULEZ expansion to consider for those working in and around the capital.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt might have announced the freeze in fuel duty will continue but plans to increase ULEZ in Greater London could cost landscaping companies £12.50 per day if their vans do not meet the zone requirements – and potentially the cost of a whole new fleet,

if they hope to avoid the daily charge. Unsurprisingly, then, only 11% of respondents feel more confident than this time last year. But the freeze in fuel duty and falling inflation may have sparked a glimmer of hope, as half (50%) are feeling more confident than this time last month.


prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 NEWS 8
SCAN HERE TO READ THE FULL REPORT 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Nov Dec Jan Feb MarApr May JunJul Aug SepOct
2021 2022 2023 2020


*These are year-on-year comparisons for January 2023 to January 2022


Whilst no nursery respondents reported feeling less confident than this time last month, all of them felt less confident than this time last year. The majority (67%) said that their turnover had decreased in January 2023, compared to the same month last year, a similar story for quotes.

“Difficult growing conditions continue,” says one nursery. “The first frost of the season was very damaging after a mild autumn. [There were] a lot of losses across the whole industry. Here’s hoping for a warm and wet spring.”

Unpredictable and extreme weather conditions are to blame, agrees another respondent, who said that whilst last autumn was “perfect”, the winter was “too wet to plant” – and all of this “on top of the economic uncertainty”.


Enquiries are no longer “seasonally predictable”, says one design and build company. Whilst enquiries “ground to a halt” last June, they “picked up massively at Christmas” – a “strange” switch in busy periods. There is now some concern that there will be an unexpected dip later in the year.

All design and build companies reported an increase in enquiries for January 2023, compared to the previous month. However, conversion rates increased for just 17%. None reported an increase in conversion rates compared to January 2022, but 33% reported a decrease. One company said they would normally have “quadruple” the lead times than they have currently. However, another design and build company said that after three months of projects being put on pause, they are now starting to get the “green light” and that new enquiries are coming in.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 NEWS 9 TURNOVER STAFFING PROJECTS Higher Equal Lower
29% OF RESPONDENTS FOR STAFFING NUMBERS DROPPED 50% FOR ENQUIRIES DECREASED OF DOMESTIC LANDSCAPERS INCREASE IN TURNOVER 75% OF COMMERCIAL LANDSCAPERS REPORT AN OF RESPONDENTS OVERALL CONVERSION 20% RATE INCREASED FOR 67% OF DESIGN AND BUILD COMPANIES REPORT NO CHANGE IN THEIR CONVERSION RATE HigherEqual Lower Higher Equal Lower 33% 39% 28% 27% 20% 53% 21% 50% 29% How have enquiries changed? 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% 10% 0% Compared to last month Compared to last year 0% Quotes Turnover Confidence 20% 40%60%80% 100%




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Is natural capital the vital currency slipping through our fingers, asks Jason Knights

According to the Green Technical Advisory Group, the UK is at risk of falling behind in the race to attract green capital.

As government counterparts in the EU and the US gear up in preparation for a ‘pro-green’ business push, the UK is yet to roll up its sleeves and even halted our very own green taxonomy in December.

If the UK diverges too far from the current strides being made in legislation, we risk making the concept of sustainable finance too complicated and costly for investors to engage with and even falling out of the race entirely.

Indeed, if the investment sector is to bridge the gap in financing biodiversity restoration between government and local authorities, the UK will need to push for legislative harmonisation and create further incentives for growth in the green finance sector. At least half of global GDP ($44tn) is moderately or highly dependent on nature, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF); while the decline of ecosystems costs the global economy an estimated $5tn each year. Clearly, there is a pressing need to accelerate a mindset shift in the UK financial sector from viewing biodiversity as a cost to an asset.

Currently, progress is slow in the absence of a definite green taxonomy or universal measurement of biodiversity net gain – the ask is both too complicated and costly to expect investors to channel money into green assets blindly. Instead, we must frame biodiversity recovery in an affable and accessible manner – the equitable allocation of land.

Biodiversity management has periodically fallen under the responsibility of local governments to handle. However, with ambiguous legislative

direction such as the criticised plans to ‘protect rare wildlife’, these institutions naturally struggle to attempt to deliver the full-scale nature recovery needed to repair the loss of a staggering 50% of the UK’s biodiversity since the industrial revolution.

The good news is, as guardians of nearly 90% of UK land, the private sector holds the expertise and resources necessary to deliver nature recovery efficiently and at scale. Recent research from Ground Control also shows 82% of business leaders say biodiversity is personally very important to them. Rightly so; ecosystems impact on food provisioning, carbon storage and water filtration, which can in turn disrupt the performance of investment portfolios and global supply chains. Investors can also bolster their green assets through improving the biodiversity of land they already possess.

Large swathes of the UK’s countryside and waterways are under the stewardship of the private sector. As owners of extensive areas of land, businesses such as property developers and railway companies hold significant power to help build back the UK’s natural capital.

Businesses can also bolster their sustainability credentials through the implementation of rewilding projects. These present a great opportunity to fulfil the government’s Net Zero promises by 2050 by creating sustainable carbon sinks as well as benefiting the ecosystem in terms of habitat restoration and visible natural capital.

Other forms of biodiversity recovery can be evidenced through Ground Control’s resident project – the Wildfell Centre for Environmental Recovery. In addition to ecosystem preservation, Wildfell explores the regional role in conservation efforts as well as the function of 'biodiversity corridors' between private land and other natural spaces, through the conversion of 296 acres of former farmland.

In the process of safeguarding the natural environment on which all businesses one way or another depend, the private sector must embrace its role in building back biodiverse environments. It needs to demand a clear taxonomy on biodiversity, guiding investors to channel capital towards green ventures to ensure the UK remains competitive in this new space and the future of the economy is protected.


Jason Knights joined Ground Control as managing director in 2020 following 10 years in leadership roles at Wates. His last role was as managing director of SES Engineering Services, now a division of Wates Construction Group, following Wates’ acquisition of Shepard E Construction Services in November 2016. A specialist M&E services business, Jason grew SES and created its excellent reputation in the industry, transforming it from loss-making to profitability in four years.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 11
There is a pressing need to accelerate a mindset shift in the UK financial sector from viewing biodiversity as a cost to an asset


People should be paid what they’re worth. It’s important to be fair, but this is subjective. For example, not everyone will agree with the opinion that an apprentice who is digging out, pushing wheelbarrows and putting in a decent day’s work should be on more than £40 a day minimum wage. Our apprentice earns £80 a day which is what we’ve decided is fair for a hard day’s graft.

It comes down to treating staff according to their performance and allowing for fluidity. If suddenly productivity falls and they stop working hard, we have three options: we talk it through with them and explain that their salary will be dropped to reflect their output; we work with them to develop them back to the £80 a day; or we find that their attitude doesn’t align with the company, and they must go. I run my business following Ray Dalio’s model for baseline pay, which is if performance improves over a few months, this is reflected with a pay increase, bonus or reward. If performance drops, so then does the salary as they’re not providing the same value anymore.

This concept is like an elastic band. As it’s pulled, it incentivises the person and motivates them to surpass their current baseline to achieve a higher wage. Much like business owners in design and construction charging clients for the value being provided, staff should also be paid according to the

value they give. Employee costs should be worked into overheads, even with a markup, which means that if jobs are priced accordingly, it’s more than possible to pay staff fairly.

When looking at job opportunities, the salary offered is the first thing anyone looks out for; everything else is secondary. Workplace culture and environment will still determine whether someone stays or not, but it is necessary to first entice candidates by offering an above average wage and benefits package. If you pay peanuts, you’ll only ever employ those who won’t go above and beyond.

Unfortunately, it’s an employee’s market at the moment, which means that if they’re not happy, or don’t feel looked after, they’ll jump ship and if they’re good, another company will snap them up in seconds. Everyone’s looking for the right staff, but this is hard to come by in our industry; they’re either already working for someone else or working for themselves.

The topic of bonuses is a hard one. ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink is an incredible book about motivating staff. Research has been carried out and it has been found that high performance is not linked to monetary bonuses; money can instead have a detrimental effect. For example, a person who receives a bonus for completing a job to a high

standard may come to expect the same or more each time they deliver a high standard of work. When they are not rewarded, they will then feel underappreciated and job satisfaction and productivity will go down.

A monetary bonus should be the exception, not the norm, and high-quality work should be a given if you’re paying that employee what they're worth. It all goes hand in hand. Job bonuses are a bit like the donkey and carrot situation. Staff is one of the biggest challenges in any business and keeping them motivated and happy can be difficult at times. Following the model that Daniel Pink outlines in his book, we believe in sporadic gestures of kindness and appreciation like taking team days off for activities we all enjoy, paying for an employee to take their partner out for dinner, the theatre, etc. Gestures like this go a lot further than money does in the long-term, it’s a lot more meaningful and not quantifiable in the same way. It also would be given at random times so the employee doesn’t come to expect the same thing over and over.

Adam Stewart has been involved in the landscaping industry for more than six years, during which time he has set up his own company, Utopia Landscapes, based in West Sussex. Inspired by the challenge of running his own business, Adam's vision, passion, and drive, have enabled rapid growth and the business is APL and BALI accredited. Adam won Pro Landscaper's 30 Under 30: The Next Generation award in 2021.

Much like business owners in design and construction charging clients for the value being provided, staff should also be paid according to the value they give
OPINION prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 12
A cost-of-living crisis puts salaries at the forefront of people’s minds, and Adam Stewart says it’s important to pay staff for the value they provide


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TRANSPORT WORKS FOR YOU; you shouldn’t work for transport

Switching our mindset on what it means to move freely will help us to embrace 15-minute cities, explains Christopher

MoMA in New York has a black-and-white film of streets in Manhattan shot in 1911. If you watch it you’ll notice everyone wearing lovely hats, but also that the streets are just packed with people. There was the occasional streetcar or Model T, but no one really looks out for them because early traffic laws made cars super slow – in the 8-to-10 mph range. And that fact is important, because if you can outrun a car, you’re probably not going to buy one. This undoubtedly troubled big motor companies, and naturally their shareholders. To try to break this deadlock, car companies lobbied against laws restricting automobiles, and for laws restricting pedestrians. And this was how the crime of jaywalking was born.

A final victory for motor companies was a psychological one aimed at children. By the mid-1920s, the top funder of school safety education was the American Automobile Association. They took over safety patrols and helped kids cross the street; seemingly a nice thing to do, but in doing so they told children that “streets are for cars”. When these children grew up, it was central to their ideas that streets were for cars – and the job was done.

So, we are where we are today because we were made to think that we needed to buy something to move about freely; we were made to think something was good for us, when it wasn’t. And be sure we have seen this in other sectors throughout the history of big business. My GP isn’t recommending me Lucky Strike anymore, but it used to happen, and I imagine not simply because they were thought to be good for me by my GP.

Because of such lobbying pressure our streets and transport have fiercely resisted change, yet what we need from cities has changed greatly, as more and more people call cities home, with space becoming scarce and more expensive. This has sparked a realisation in planners and city dwellers that cities need to become healthier places to live throughout your life, and not just as places of business; as well as if, for example, 80% of public space in London is streets, then we need to use that space pretty intelligently, to yield a public good.

One way we have sought to make transport a servant to

We are where we are today because we were made to think that we needed to buy something to move about freely; we were made to think something was good for us, when it wasn’t
OPINION prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 15

quality of life of late is looking to remove traffic that is only offering negative consequences to areas. So, traffic that is moving through a place and not stopping yet offering road danger, pollution and social segregation. Low traffic or liveable neighbourhoods are some of the terms we’re using to describe these measures, and the 15-minute city concept (by no means a new concept) takes these ideas as part of a larger urban planning concept to provide more things to more people locally.

If we can provide more things to more people locally, it means that to visit the shops or do the school run I don’t have to drive. Don’t have to drive, because it’s close by. And if I don’t have to drive these journeys then there’s a couple of trips a day that I don’t have to drive, so there are fewer cars on the road on average, meaning streets and neighbourhoods are healthier and safer. I can save money by walking or cycling should I wish, and importantly we are able to set aside more space in cities to tackle some of the many challenges we face.

What these ideas aimed at making transport work for me (rather than me

work for transport, or rather for global company’s profits) don’t mean is that I expect to have a MoMA in every neighbourhood within a 15-minute walk, or that I cannot leave the neighbourhood should I wish to, or have to, drive. You would be forgiven for thinking that they do mean this, however, if you’ve been reading the charge sheet against 15-minute cities of late – mistakenly calling them “socialist”, or even “Stalinist” attempts to control the population by actively preventing citizens from straying more than 15 minutes from their homes. This is of course just like having the doctor tell me smoking is good for me; but yes, if travelling by car, the 15-minute city might make the journey to leave the neighbourhood longer, as the public realm shifts from car dominance to a more equal distribution of space. This is because we are creating more choice and freedom for all – not connecting freedom to owning a car.

In short, what we need from cities has changed since the early 1900s, and is changing everyday, as more people choose

to live in cities longer. In parallel, our understanding of the influence –good and bad –that investment in the public realm can have is also changing.

All this points to using the asset of the public realm for public good and not only private or individual gain.

Streets, public realm and neighbourhoods need to be convivial, safe, and human, if cities are to respond well to the changes we are asking of them; but they, we as urban planners, and especially politicians, also better believe that people have self-interest and when told they’re losing out, by whatever forces, the innate reaction is fight.

Responding to this self-interest, we need to make sure that the measures we propose to deliver a public good from the public realm are an absolute ball. Measures need to be rooted in place, responding to local issues and the local population, and they need to give people choice, and those choices better be compelling.

To get us there, the theory of Hedonistic Urbanism is making what is good for the planet, good for society, and good for cities, the most enjoyable, the most fun, and the most self-indulgent option so people queue up for it. This is how we need shape cities and conceive ideas of change.


Christopher is an influential urban designer and planner working all over the globe to help communities improve their public spaces; as well as supporting cities and governments to develop strategy, change policies, and make great places possible. He is co-founder and director of Urban Strategy at Urban Movement; a trustee of the UK charity for everyday walking – Living Streets; vice chair of the UK Urban Design Group; and is a member of the United Nations Planning and Climate Action Group. @ChrisCities

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 16 OPINION
What we need from cities has changed since the early 1900s, and is changing everyday, as more people choose to live in cities longer. In parallel, our understanding of the influence that investment in the public realm can have is also changing.
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DECISIONS, decisions!

Many students turn to garden design through a love of plants or perhaps through the confession that they might even be a ‘plantaholic’. Well, patience is a virtue on my course because, although we discuss plants a great deal, the main planting module sits two-thirds of the way through the course. There are many aspects of garden design to get into place before the planting can be introduced.

For many, the process of planting design is a shock to the system. Loving plants and being a ‘plantaholic’ is not the same as designing planting for a client. In my own garden I can watch my planting, add when I feel the need, re-position or change ideas when I feel the need. For a client, I generally have to deliver planting schemes that will basically deliver from day one.

The plant kingdom is vast and fascinating in itself – an ocean I can drown in if I don’t set some rules. More than anything, planting design is about firm decision making – knowing that I have selected the right plants and plant associations when secretly I know from experience that there are many other options that might work just as well.

Having enjoyed such a long career in planting design and planting design teaching, it is a blessing to benefit from the science-based ecological approach developed at the University of Sheffield, exploring sustainable planting communities and associations. Here is a true fusion of science and art or design, empirical observation of planting to create an evidencebased system to learn from and develop.

This approach can be seen against an alternative backdrop of planting design based simply on species that look good together, a colour theme or Mediterranean flavour perhaps.

A collection of every plant I can think of that I like or a range of plants for seasonal interest. This latter range of concepts has dominated the 20th century in the UK and often is governed by little more than personal taste.

I think we can safely dump most of the contents of the last paragraph in the dustbin of history and say that we need to know what our intended planting design is doing, what is its purpose, how does it fit the micro-climate of the intended location, how will it develop over time, what is its function and so on.

I encourage my students to set out an initial specification for their planting: how it will be experienced; how the plants will mesh together and prove sustainable; how drama and colour might be introduced; or how a guiding concept can define a design solution for either a specific location or an entire garden. The process automatically starts to define the planting, or associations, or communities of plants I’m looking for and also delivers a decisive way through the planting maze, combining science and art, time and change.

Planting design will remain a time-consuming endeavour because so many alternatives are possible but a clear focus from the outset will win through.

Andrew Wilson considers planting design as one of the most complex and challenging aspects of garden design
Andrew Wilson is a landscape and garden design consultant, director of the London College of Garden Design, and an author, writer and lecturer. ANDREW WILSON
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Loving plants and being a ‘plantaholic’ is not the same as designing planting for a client


How can I attract the right candidates to job vacancies?

Once you’ve decided to increase or diversify your team, to save you time throughout the recruitment process, it’s worth taking the time out to plan your strategy. Never underestimate the cost of employee turnover, the time taken interviewing, onboarding, training, loss of productivity if they leave, only to have to restart your search.

Focus on that ideal person, and where they might look for a vacancy. There are many ways to advertise for free; however, fee-based options can bring more success, so investigate the options available, especially if the position is skill specific. Share the opening with as many people as possible as they may pass on the details, and ask your existing team to spread the word. Set out the job in more detail on your website and ensure your opportunity considers equality, diversity and inclusion.

Think hard about your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – what the employee gets for what they give. In current times, candidates are looking for more than a salary, so to attract new talent, consider offering other benefits, such as: healthcare and wellbeing options; rewards; training; and explain where the opportunity may lead. Make sure this is all communicated clearly in the advert and use photos/videos of existing staff that emulate company values.

Timing is important – plan time for interviews that is a short time after the advert. Candidates don’t want to hang around waiting and if you take

The panel


Chair of the APL, Holly Youde, is a director at Urban Landscape Design in the North West and The Landscape Academy, a purpose-built training centre dedicated to landscaping in the UK.


too long to make a decision, they may have already accepted an offer elsewhere.

If you’re fortunate to have too many CVs to choose from, one thing I’ve always done is reject all those that have not attempted to provide a cover letter or introduction. Sounds harsh, but it will save you huge amount of time. Anyone who just throws their CV at you without even a sentence to introduce themselves is probably not that interested anyway. Make sure there are at least two interviewers and be prepared to be drilled by the interviewee. The role of the interviewer is to get to know the applicant and their abilities, but also to sell the prospect of working for the company.

You are likely to be asked about opportunities for progression, support, flexibility and details of benefits on offer, so prepare your answers. Create a structure for the interviews so they all follow a similar flow, then its easier to compare notes later.

Try to avoid settling for someone you are not sure about. It’s the same as with customers; if you get the feeling that someone is not quite the right fit, go with your gut and move on with your search.

Over recent times, employees have generally become less loyal, so looking at how you retain staff is also important. Deliver what you promise; diary regular reviews, additional benefits for time served employees, recognition programmes, progression plans, flexible working and social outings are all attractive prospects to keep your team from even considering looking at other opportunities.

Jake founded his domestic landscaping company, The Landscaping Consultants, aged just 24. He is now a BALI board director and the BALI South Thames chairman, and has delivered various awardwinning gardens and outdoor spaces.


Ken White, former chairman of the APL, leads the multi-award-winning Frosts Landscape Construction, which carries out large commercial and private estate projects across the UK.


Rosemary has won numerous awards for her work, creating high-quality gardens for both domestic and commercial clients. She is a fully registered member of the SGD and sits on the board of directors at BALI.


Chelsea’s most decorated designer boasts a collection of RHS medals and is a member of the LI, SGD and the Institute of Horticulture. Sarah strives to create as sustainable gardens as possible.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 OPINION 20
Holly Youde shares her experience in what has helped to grow her team with the best people
Think hard about that ideal person, and where they might find out about the vacancy
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After celebrating its 30 th anniversary last year, independent charity The Parks Trust is looking ahead to another 30 years of growth. Assistant operations manager Luke Nixon sits down with Pro Landscaper to reflect on increasing ambitions, self-sufficiency and putting the ‘key’ in Milton Keynes

Upon first hearing how Milton Keynes’ The Parks Trust (The Trust) operates, it takes mere seconds to begin questioning why every other UK city, town and village does not utilise a similar model.

Established as an independent charity in 1992, The Trust cares for some 6,000 acres of green space in Milton Keynes, from parks and woodlands to lakes and river valleys. It even looks after approximately 80 miles of landscaped areas along the city’s grid roads.

“Originally, the whole landscape was going to be handed to the local authority,

as would be the case anywhere else,” explains Luke Nixon, assistant operations manager for The Trust.

“However, because of its sheer size, it was quite an overwhelming green space for a local council to manage, and any investment would have had to be taken out of the taxpayers’ money.”

Instead, a unique charity was born, and Milton Keynes Development Corporation handed The Trust a 999-year lease on an initial 4,500 acres along with a £20 million endowment. Even more vital, however, was a gifted portfolio of commercial properties, which have since been converted into offices,

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shops and rental properties, constantly generating fresh investment for Milton Keynes’ surrounding landscape without any cost to the taxpayer.

“It is a very original concept, and it was very controversial at the time,” says Nixon, who has worked for The Trust since 2009. “There was a lot of scepticism, but it’s really proved itself throughout the past 30 years. We’ve got bigger and stronger and we have a multitude of teams now, from landscaping and maintenance to property management, outdoor learning and events.

He adds, “Unlike with a local council, our budget is focused on a single area. We know exactly how much revenue is coming in, so we can budget accordingly.”

According to The Trust, Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s vision was to create a new city where the parkland and landscapes “would be protected by a charity forever”. “Doing so ensured that, as the city grew, its green spaces would never be compromised or have to fight for funding,” the charity says.

Bearing fruit

Having spent 14 years working for The Trust, Nixon is a proud participant and spectator of the charity’s progress. “As Milton Keynes grows, so does The Trust,” he says. “We take on new green spaces and endowments from developers to cover costs in perpetuity.”

What began with offices and rental properties has now extended into industrial and storage spaces, retail and leisure, and even moorings.

“We have over 80 staff and 200 volunteers,” he continues. “Back in 2009, we had less than half of that number.”

The increase in staff is – at least in part – down to the charity taking the ground maintenance in-house. “Rather than relying heavily on contractors, we realised that training up our own people is a really great move for our longer-term goal,” explains Nixon. “We can ensure they are up to date on all the relevant courses and conferences and build their experiences accordingly."

The transitional period was not short, but the charity has now brought everything from soft landscaping to hard landscaping in-house. “That’s how we get that highquality consistency across the board,” Nixon says. “Our contractors still play a very important role, of course!”

Last year, The Trust was awarded its sixth consecutive Green Flag award for the entire network of linear parks it manages throughout the city, which the charity says is “unprecedented and unheard of” anywhere

2 2022 Walking Festival

3 Tree work

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Unlike with a local council, our budget is focused on a single area. We know exactly how much revenue is coming in, so we can budget accordingly
1 Great Linford Manor Park

else in the UK. In the same year, it also scooped a Green Heritage Site accreditation award for the first time for the historic Great Linford Manor Park.

Far from simply pleasant greenery, The Trust has grown to host over 500 outdoor events each year, as well as hosting public education schemes across wildlife, biodiversity and the environment.

“It was always planned that as the planted areas became established, rigorous management would be needed to create a healthy and sustainable environment. Many of the techniques we use to achieve this are traditional and would have been familiar to those who lived in this area centuries before the arrival of Milton Keynes.”

Nixon chimes in,“Wherever you go in Milton Keynes, you’ll see land that the Trust is responsible for. As a new city, it was heavily stocked with fastgrowing species such as poplar and willow. Our job now is to allow the longer-term, 60-year-old trees to have a bit more light and develop further.”

Central to Nixon’s excitement is Milton Keynes’ 2050 ambition; the city hopes to be double the size of its original plan. “There are lands on the outskirts being developed all the time,” he says.

“I have to go and check that the land is fit for purpose before we take it on.” The charity, at last count, manages some 46 green spaces. So why, armed with all the information and success outlined thus far, do other cities not utilise a similar model?

A complex web

What makes The Trust project all the more interesting is how closely integrated it is with its city.“The development of Milton Keynes demonstrates that a new city can be built in a relatively short time,” the Trust says.“However, a mature and well-structured landscape takes significantly longer to develop and requires regular and continuing management.

“In the early years of the new city, to create a green and attractive landscape quickly, trees and shrubs were planted at high densities with large numbers of fast-growing plants used in the planting mixes.

“Houses came second,” he explains.“Landscape was the priority, which is fantastic, but I’m not sure they realised how big the trees would get! They’re extremely tightly packed within residential spaces. We’ve been thinning even since 1992. We want to establish biodiversity corridors all the way through the city.”

So, after 14 years on the job, is Nixon ready for a fresh challenge? “Absolutely not!” he laughs.“I’ve been in Milton Keynes most of my life, and I’d love to stay with the Trust until I retire. To see the landscape transform has been an incredible experience.”

“Newcastle has looked at the possibility,” says Nixon. “Our financial model is successful and sustainable so could be replicated however, finding the initial funds to set up today could be challenging.

“I hope we can be a good role model for it to be done elsewhere. The key is that all income goes straight back into the Park. It paid dividends during Covid, for instance, when we were busier than ever. Some local people had no idea what was on their doorstep, but now they are regular park users!”

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4 Campb ell Park Formal Garden 5 Great Linford Manor Park
I hope we can be a good role model for it to be done elsewhere. The key is that all income goes straight back into the Park
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Pro Landscaper sits down with Jeremy Howgrave-Graham, founder and director of HG Landscapes, as he talks dedication, recognition and exceeding expectations

As a recipient of BALI awards for five consecutive years, it may surprise you to hear that there was a juncture where HG Landscapes may never have been conceived. Founder and director Jeremy Howgrave-Graham, having studied English at university, contemplated a career in teaching before starting his own landscaping business.

“Landscaping wasn’t a natural path when I came out of school,” HowgraveGraham explains. “English is one of the few degrees that doesn’t lock you into any specific career path, and thank goodness it didn’t!”

Growing up, Howgrave-Graham spent a great deal of time helping his parents with their garden out near The New Forest, which inspired him to study landscaping and horticulture at college. He worked on farms during university holidays, eventually travelling to America, where he garnered a host of experiences working on several ranches and construction sites.

It wasn’t until his return to the UK, however, that Howgrave-Graham began to lead himself down a literal garden path.

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After a year in Southampton working on landscape maintenance, he spent five years at Cameron Gardens in London – long enough to make up his mind.

“I was lucky to grow up in some beautiful countryside with a lovely garden,” Howgrave-Graham says. “So, when I moved to London, I was able to bring some of those inspirations and ideas with me.

“No matter what I did or where I went, I always found myself drawn back into gardening,” he continues. “I’m a creative, outdoor sort of person, so I think it was always there. I always enjoyed working with my hands, doing something tangible and that, combined with my love for the gardens I grew up with, led me to realise that that’s where I wanted to be day-to-day.” That, coupled with a desire to build his own business, led to the formation of HG Landscapes in 2010.

An upward trajectory

“It started off with just me and a wheelbarrow full of tools,” smiles Howgrave-Graham. “It didn’t help that I launched right after the Global Financial Crisis! At the time, getting any work was unbelievably hard. I had a few contacts, but nothing substantial. Starting out couldn’t really have been any harder.”

He continues, “Some people get a big job to really kickstart them, or they get handed a list of contacts from a friend in the industry. I had absolutely nothing, so it was very, very difficult to carve out something. I’d get a small job, then nothing for a week, then another small contract. I had to subcontract a lot of the time to other people who were bigger and more established – hiring construction companies to do the landscaping, that sort of thing. Whatever I needed to do to keep the work coming in!”

As challenging as those beginnings were, Howgrave-Graham believes that passion, determination and a “strong mental attitude” is what makes HG what it is today. “You have to do the absolute best you can possibly do, and when you do that, it really puts you on an upward trajectory.”

Eventually, the work snowballed and HG took on its first full-time assistant in 2012. Fast forward to 2023, and the business has four

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No matter what I did or where I went, I’d always found myself drawn back into gardening

construction and two garden maintenance teams, plus five central office employees. “It’s been an amazing journey that has been hugely rewarding,” Howgrave-Graham says.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have such a dedicated team of 20 people around me who have all adopted the HG way of doing things,” he continues. “We work very hard to provide a service and a product that is the best it can be. We’ve been really lucky to work with several amazing garden designers over the years. We continue to work with them on a regular basis, which I think is a great reflection on what we do. Their continued support is hugely appreciated. We also have a growing design department and we do a lot of our own design and build projects now which is very rewarding and enjoyable. We also have a well-established garden maintenance department, meaning we can give continued aftercare advice and support.

Rolling up the sleeves

In stark contrast to its beginnings in 2010, HG Landscapes is now “the busiest it’s ever been”. “Thirteen years ago, there was hardly any work around, and people wanted to pay next to nothing,” explains HowgraveGraham. “The garden was very low down on the list of priorities, too; the attitude was something akin to ‘I suppose we might as well do something with the garden, it’s such a mess’. The trends have changed so much since then, particularly since Covid.”

Howgrave-Graham says that, while the last few years have been “very challenging”, there has been a “significant shift” in the way that people perceive the value of their garden.

“Everything has been thrown at us in the last few years, and for almost everyone in the industry, it has been really hard to navigate,” he explains. “Of course, a lot of it was related to Covid-19, but there were other elements as well. We have all endured supplier shortages, increased lead times, huge price fluctuations, fuel shortages, fuel cost increases and financial insecurity in the UK.

All of this coupled with a huge increase in demand has made it really very

challenging. The increase in demand seemed to be partly related to people staying at home more through Covid.

“People were spending more time at home and wanting to maximise the potential with their gardens. Gardens provided a great place for people during Covid and lockdown and I think they really help with people's well-being generally. I think there has been a shift in the way people view gardens and the natural environment and gardens are becoming more and more important to people, which is really great and perhaps one positive that can be taken from the last few years.”

Back in 2021, HGL picked up three accolades at the BALI National Landscape Awards, being recognised for its Castlenau, Surrey Garden and St Margarets projects. It is this kind of recognition that brings Howgrave-Graham the most joy. “The BALI Awards are such a great moment of recognition for the HG team within the industry,” he says.

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1 Kensington Town Garden – Design by N&S Garden Design 2 Twickenham Garden – Design by Josh Ward 3 St Margarets Garden – Design by Claire Mee
I’m incredibly grateful to have such a dedicated team of around 20 people around me who have all adopted the HG way of doing things

“When you’re working on a garden, no one ever sees it except the client, besides what we share on social media. We’ve won a BALI award every year since 2018, which we are all really proud of. Asked what advice he would give to someone following a similar career path, Howgrave-Graham says it can be as simple as rolling up your sleeves. “I would suggest to anyone looking to get into gardening and landscaping to wholeheartedly go for it,” he says. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – it’s very hard work!

"However, landscaping is the most rewarding work imaginable, and it’s one of only a few things that continues to give such pleasure and gratification as it grows and matures. If you’re honest and hardworking and strive for great results, I think those are the key ingredients. People can see honesty; when you’re not trying to create things or overinflate things unnecessarily. Think about what you want to achieve, and how

you can best deliver that to a really good standard. If you do that all the time, you’re going to make people happy, and you’re going to be successful.

"Gardens are often expensive. There’s so much involved; it takes a lot of man hours, and materials cost more than ever. It’s a huge project to embark on, so if you take that really seriously and exceed

expectations, people are going to say ‘wow’ and really respond to your work.” So, what does 2023 look like for HG Landscapes?

“We want to simply continue doing top-notch work,” says Howgrave-Graham. “We have some really exciting projects booked in that we can't wait to share on social media as soon as possible.”

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If you’re honest and hardworking and strive for great results, I think those are the key ingredients
4 Castlenau – design by Claire Mee 5 Surrey Garden – planting design by HG Landscapes
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Owners of a newly renovated property in Bramhall were looking for a low maintenance garden to provide beautiful surroundings. With large format sliding doors to the rear garden, Johanna Pilgrim from Green & Wood wanted to provide a continuation of the beautiful interior space with an expansive view.


Project value

£60k approx.

Build time 6 weeks

Size of project

400m2 approx.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 PORTFOLIO 33

The interior layout was therefore mirrored by placing the lounge and dining areas in the same footprint, creating ample space for entertaining family and friends. The clients enjoy preparing and cooking food outside, so an additional patio with large format steppingstones through planting provided a separate space to BBQ as well as a smaller seating area for more casual eating and drinking.

As the clients have two children and a young dalmatian dog, they needed a good-sized lawn space and a play/sport area for their active children. To maintain the clean aesthetic of the main garden, Green & Wood screened off the rear third of the garden to house the trampoline, netball hoops and football goals as well as a shed for storage.

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The existing boundary treatments were looking a little tired, so slatted screen style fencing was factored in around the perimeter to update this and create a foil for the planting.

Whilst the clients don’t have much time for gardening, they were attracted to architectural planting and exotic-looking plants. The challenge with the planting plan was to deliver the look that the client wanted whilst keeping maintenance as low as possible. So, Johanna worked closely together with the client to establish what level of time investment they could manage and chose some key specimen plants that would give them the ‘wow’ factor.

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1 Large format stepping stones through grass 2 Secondary patio for casual dining 3 View from interior space 4 Lounge/fire pit area 5 The owner's photogenic dog, Ronnie, stealing the limelight

Grasses including Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass), Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass) and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ were used, as well as ferns such as Polystichum polyblepharum (Japanese lace fern), Asplenium scolopendrium (hart’s tongue fern) and Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree fern).

Perennials Kniphofia uvaria (red hot poker) and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ add colour, as does Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’. From the banana family, Ensete ventricosum and Musa basjoo were incorporated into the planting. Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo) and Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan palm) add structure, with the scheme being completed with Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lily) and Fatsia japonica (paper plant).

The landscaping by McMillan Landscapes took around six weeks to install. The project was still hindered by some delays, coming off the back of the pandemic but the team rallied to get materials to site in time and on budget.


Landscaping McMillan Landscapes

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Established in 2005 by Johanna Pilgrim, Green & Wood Garden Design delivers beautiful, thoughtful, and engaging outdoor spaces to our varied clientele. From small city gardens to large country properties, it works by first getting to know its clients and their spaces to deliver truly bespoke outdoor solutions.

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6 Corten steel water table focal point 7 Ensete ventricosum (Abyssinian banana) Photographs ©Kat Weatherill

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WEST END A greener



Alfred Place was a commonplace back street off Tottenham Court Road, a major West End thoroughfare – more of a service road, car park and taxi run than anything else. With narrow pavements and nowhere to sit, it was a place to quickly pass through. The street itself is lined with offices and the back entrances of large stores from along Tottenham Court Road. Access to green spaces and nature was lacking, as were places to sit and play. Just a mere two hours of contact with nature per week significantly reduces the risk of individual poor health. So, the brief from Camden Council was to reimagine, enliven and make Alfred Place greener so that it could become a great community space and provide a richer visitor experience, as well as strengthening Camden’s response to climate breakdown and nature loss. The mantra was ‘cleaner, greener, safer’.


Project value

Part of Camden Council’s £35m

West End Project Build time

Eight months

Size of project

2,800m2 (0.28ha)

For Alfred Place, this meant turning grey to green by reclaiming road space, whilst also maintaining essential access for services and emergency vehicles.

Renamed Alfred Place Gardens, the street has become a welcoming linear park – Camden Council’s first in the area for 25 years. Improving air quality and access to play, supporting greater biodiversity and reducing flood risk were key drivers behind the project. An attractive, climate-resilient planting palette offers year-round colour and new habitats, with lounging lawns framed by gentle slopes and grasses.

Alfred Place is part of Camden’s West End Project, a £35m investment into improving the borough’s central London public realm. The project includes rethinking eight streets and spaces

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in the Tottenham Court Road area to make them more attractive, prioritising pedestrians and cyclists. It is the biggest council-led public realm and transport scheme the borough has seen.

Prioritising people

The project team working on Alfred Place Gardens wanted to set the highest design benchmark, making it one of the best permanent road-to-park conversions in any city, not just London, and demonstrating what’s possible in a constrained space. Alfred Place Gardens is now a street redefined as a memorable and valued place that can improve the quality of everyday living.

It’s a small space that’s making a big difference, and since opening to the public in March last year, shoppers and workers have benefitted. This is a highly accessible environment with generous pavements removed of clutter and a good balance between hard and soft landscape. Alfred Place Gardens still functions as a street with service access maintained, but this is a softer, slower-paced environment. Pedestrians and cyclists are prioritised, making this a safe, useful active travel connection. The gardens offer a variety of experiences, with the planting providing continuity. A series of outdoor rooms provide woodland and play

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glades, lounging lawns, exercise and a flexible community events space. Mature London plane trees continue to frame the space. They are now strengthened with distinctive woodland-inspired understorey planting and joined by a line of Amelanchier and birch providing dappled shade. There’s lots for pollinators, with flowering cherry and herbaceous perennials. Planting has been selected to withstand hot, dry summers.

Incidental features such as stepping stones dotted through the planting, sculptural walls and climbing features provide a playable landscape. Elegant, curved timber seating with back and arm rests provide a comfortable lunchtime spot in an area underserved with outdoor seating. Pop-up power to the south of the park can be used for community events or a coffee kart.

The connection to the nearby Building Centre has been improved, drawing more people to the area. The gardens' first visitors relaxed into the space quickly, taking immediate ownership and stretching out on

the seating to read in the sunshine. New play spaces encourage families to spend time here. Alfred Place Gardens was a host site for the launch of ‘Breathe’, the well-received 2022 Bloomsbury Festival.

Planting over parking

The Mayor wants over half of London to be green by 2050; this will involve reclaiming streets to create more doorstep green space.

Alfred Place Gardens provides substantial planting where there was none and significant biodiversity net gain on a street once largely reserved for parking, with more than 2,000 new plants and 5,000 bulbs. Planting is designed to be low maintenance and to align with Camden’s Biodiversity Action Plan. Non-toxic, biodegradable moisture retention gels in the soil act as miniature reservoirs.

All of the street’s established trees are retained, cooling the space. New bike stands and Santander docking stations support active travel and footpath options allow fast direct or leisurely slow walking options.

The park is designed to tolerate deluges. All new paths are permeable, with resin comprising 30% recycled content. Surface water percolates through paving to borders during heavy rainfall. Combined with the new flowerbeds, this delivers a substantial water catchment area where there was none. Materials designed or manufactured in the UK were used where possible and selected for longevity and sustainability.

The site constraints required upskilling to respond. Challenges included shallow tree roots and finding ways of designing modular seating for manufacture off-site but for easy install on-site. Complex utility constraints were resolved through detailed discussions and positive engagement, helping to keep costs down.

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1-5 A slower, softer, greener city. West End back street, Alfred Place, has been transformed into a lovely linear park Photographs ©Neil Speakman –Maple Studio/LDA Design

As well as transforming Alfred Place, part of the West End Project initiative has been restoring local treasure Whitfield Gardens. Princes Circus –a jewel of a new civic space carved out by reassigning traffic and removing sections of Bloomsbury Street and Shaftesbury Avenue –will be unveiled later this year.

Alfred Place Gardens is a radical shift in how people can expect streets to function. It is an example of a slower, greener, healthier car-free city that feels more satisfying and rewarding. It has been shaped through engagement with the people that matter most: local residents, workers, business owners and interest groups.


LDA Design is a 100% employee-owned creative consultancy made up of landscape architects, urban designers and planners. It holds true to its mission: to create great places and shape the world around us for the better. Its origins lie in landscape architecture, and this strengthens all the services it offers.


Client Camden Council

Lead designer and landscape architect LDA Design

Civil, M&E and structural engineers Arcadis

Construction project management and cost consultancy Norman Rourke Pryme

Lighting design Michael Grubb Studio

Contractor idverde

Overarching West End Project strategy DSDHA

Natural stone and seating furniture Marshalls

Play equipment Russell Play

Planting Crowders Nurseries

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6 Alfred Place Gardens better connects to Store Street 7 More views of the Gardens' connections in use Photographs ©Neil Speakman – Maple Studio/LDA Design
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Tim Horner


We’ve launched down under! So we met up with born-and-bred Aussie Tim Horner from Waratah Gardens, West Sussex, for a chat about fire, cricket, landscaping and life. Given that Sydney gets twice the rainfall of London, and Australia’s disastrous swings from flood to fire, we were reassured to get his stamp of approval. To paraphrase, if you’re a tradie or landscaper, check out Tim’s video on

you’re a tradie or a landscaper, check out Grillo, mate. Their kitchens are great!”
Watch “



Project value


Build time

2 years

Size of project 17ha Awards

Landscape Institute Awards

2022 for Excellence in Place Regeneration and Public Health & Wellbeing

Two centuries ago, a historic area in Glasgow was being used for clay extraction for the Forth & Clyde Canal in Glasgow. Fast forward to now and the area – known as The Claypits – has been transformed into an awardwinning biodiverse, inner-city nature reserve.

LUC was appointed in 2014 to lead a design ‘charette’, a four-day consultation process with the community ahead of the project for the Glasgow Canal Regeneration Partnership, a collaboration between Scottish Canals and Glasgow City Council.

The objective was to work collaboratively with members of the local community from Woodside, Hamiltonhill and Firhill, as well as interested stakeholder groups, to establish a shared vision, a cohesive development framework for the wider area, and a preliminary Green Infrastructure masterplan for the Claypits site.


Through this consultation, the main aim was to explore the site’s potential in terms of what multifunctional green infrastructure could offer in terms of contributing to wider sustainable development, and to explore better connectivity and environmental improvement in the wider area.

This charrette was supplemented by another strategic study undertaken by LUC on behalf of Scottish Canals in 2016 – the North Glasgow Canal Access and Environmental Improvement Strategy. This study sought to understand where access and environmental improvements would offer the most benefit in terms of connectivity and socioeconomics. It reinforced the case for Claypits as a strategically important project, offering a new destination on the canal, as well as the contribution it could make to sustainable regeneration in the wider North Glasgow area. LUC was retained by

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Scottish Canals in 2017 to design and oversee the construction of preliminary access improvements. Using the Charrette Preliminary Masterplan as a basis for development, LUC was recommissioned in 2017 to develop the design for the remaining Claypits Green Infrastructure masterplan, obtain the necessary consents, and oversee construction of the works from 2019 to completion in 2021.

Collaborative design

From the charette, the vision and design principles for the Claypits as a distinct project were borne. These included to improve connectivity between communities and their respective facilities – such as health centres –whilst overcoming the barrier and constraints

presented by the canal, topography and associated post-industrial land.

The project also needed to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities by facilitating access to meaningful greenspace and encouraging activity and exercise; to create a distinctive, attractive and multi-functional new greenspace where people can connect with nature; to protect and enhance biodiversity; to enhance appreciation of industrial heritage and ecology; and to facilitate future sustainable development by integrating SuDS and service infrastructure.

Based on these strategic design principles LUC sensitively developed a Green Infrastructure Masterplan and associated detail for the Claypits site. Importantly, the

design proposals sought to protect the unique ‘wild’ character of the site, subtly reveal key views and landmarks in the immediate context and promote a varied and sequential spatial experience through a mosaic of habitats punctuated by activity nodes and destination points.

To address the vision and design principles, the proposals included a 1.5km new pedestrian and cycle path infrastructure, several bridges and boardwalk structures, and public realm enhancements at key gateway locations. LUC also incorporated extensive tree planting; significant SuDS infrastructure integrated with Glasgow’s Smart Canal scheme; sporadic play, viewpoints, interpretation and wayfinding to encourage activity and exploration; street

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furniture; residential moorings on the canal and associated service infrastructure; repair to canal wall infrastructure; and artwork.

The emerging design proposals, underpinned by the strength of community support and a robust design philosophy, helped Scottish Canals secure around £7.5m from various third party sources to deliver the project.

Connecting place and people

Fundamentally, a multi-functional community greenspace has been created in an area formally designated as ‘vacant and derelict land’. It is now partly designated as a Local Nature Reserve.

Material generated during site clearance earthworks has been used to cap

contaminated areas which has facilitated safe public use. Other materials uncovered during the works have been recycled and reused within the design. Take the timber from felled trees, which has been used to create steps and seating, or has been left in deadwood piles to encourage biodiversity. Large blocks of discarded stone have also been repurposed as seating walls throughout, and an old pair of canal lock gates has been reused to form a meeting point and stage in the centre of the site. Various self-established habitats have been retained, protected and enhanced including significant areas of woodland,

wetland and grassland. More than 8,000 trees have been planted as part of the works. These habitats are now positively managed by a volunteer community management group.

Low carbon ‘active travel’ has been promoted via improved pedestrian and cycling connectivity, in an area where car ownership is relatively low and public transport provision is poor. This is demonstrated by the delivery of 1.5km paths, cycle lanes, bridges and boardwalks all of which have been designed in accordance with SUSTRANS design guidance. Extensive cycle parking has been incorporated across the site especially at key gateway points.

Although designated as a Scheduled Monument, the historic canal infrastructure was in a poor condition, and has been repaired and repurposed for residential and leisure purposes. For example, the Firhill Basin now accommodates water sports and accessible fishing platforms whereas the silted-up old timber basin has been planted with reeds to create a rich wetland habitat.

An overgrown former canal spur now accommodates the main outfall point for the SuDS. Canal walls have been repaired or rebuilt and service infrastructure implemented to provide residential




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1 Glasgow skyline from the Claypits 2 Garscube Link entrance Activity play node Living on water infrastructure 5 Panmure Gate entrance and boardwalk Ellesmere Canal spur bridge

moorings for canal house boats. Significant strategic SuDS infrastructure has been incorporated within the site to facilitate the construction of more than 700 new homes in the adjacent Hamiltonhill area as part of the Glasgow Smart Canal scheme. The SuDS infrastructure takes the form of naturalistic swales and basins which are integrated within the Local Nature Reserve.

A number of complex site issues were better understood via the procurement of various technical surveys or studies, such as ecological and tree surveys, geotechnical and contaminated land surveys, hydrographic surveys, structural surveys of the canal infrastructure, and a Heritage Impact Assessment.

The design was informed by various best practice guidance and/ or policies. Most notably, the ‘Traffic-free Routes and Greenways Design Guide’ (SUSTRANS), ‘Cycle by Design’ by Transport Scotland, the ‘SuDS Manual’ by CIRIA, and ‘Green infrastructure: design and placemaking’ from the Scottish Government.

Working with various partners on the project team, as well as the local community, LUC was able to deliver a wild and biodiverse escape for inner-city residents that will serve as a natural oasis for years to come.


8 Secondary path infrastructure Photographs ©LUC


Client Scottish Canals

Principal designer, landscape architect, project manager LUC

Principal contractor Mackenzie Construction Ltd

Project engineer Narro Associates

Mechanical & electrical engineer DSSR

Quantity surveyor Thomas & Adamson


Bridge designers Mayflower Engineering Ltd

Allen Gordon LLP

LB Foundations Fairfield Control Systems

Newgate Construction

SuDS designer AECOM

Specialist metalwork fabricators Coatbridge Engineering DAB Fabrications

Specialist timberwork Scott MacDonald

Pontoon design Gael Force Engineering

LUC is a planning, impact assessment, landscape design, ecology and geospatial consultancy with expertise across a broad cross-section of environmental disciplines.

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Firhill basin accessible platforms

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Quality can be hard to come by – at least, that’s what Hallstone has discovered. Research commissioned by the turf and topsoil supplier found that nearly half (47%) of the soils available on the market are not the standard they claim to be on their packaging. That’s why Hallstone is launching a campaign to raise awareness. And that’s not all. The Yorkshire based supplier, which is part of the Rolawn group, is launching a new business strategy –accompanied by a new look – geared towards supporting stockists and trade customers.

“Through our research, we identified a need to provide consistent, high-quality products at a competitive price for the to reflect this. Instead, it will drive customers directly to stockists, selling only to trade.

“When stockists – builders' merchants or specialist landscape suppliers –invest, we want to help them build their businesses, with customers returning to purchase more products from them.

We've seen in the last two years that these products support that business strategy.

trade customers – a drastic change from its previously pastel palette. Its relaunch is more than updated packaging and a new website, though.

“We’ve identified that there’s an opportunity in the market to sell these products much more dynamically to the trade sector, because it’s worked very well; therefore, we’re going to make it talk to the trade sector much more effectively, and that’s what it has been designed to do.”

We make Hallstone products to a standard that is very specific – it's a higher quality and we offer these products at competitive rates, easily accessible through a nationwide network of stockists. The issue is that it costs a little more money than some other soils that are

trade across the whole of the UK,” explains sales director Jonathan Hill. Hallstone’s new website will therefore relaunch as non-transactional, with its domain name switching from to

"Merchants are already selling Hallstone products, so we know the products work, we know that they are horticulturally correct –they're designed and made for landscape schemes. So, they work well for designers – who will have products planted into quality soil to ensure plants will not suffer any loss due to issues with soil quality –and landscapers, who can be confident in these products being manufactured for the best horticultural outcomes.”

Hallstone’s colour scheme will also become a bold yellow and black to appeal more to

Underpinning its new strategy is the research Hallstone carried out analysing other topsoils on the market. “We commissioned research to find out how many of the soils that landscapers are buying in the marketplace from various sources are actually what they say they are on the tin – and 47% of them failed to meet the British Standard and were deemed not suitable for use as a topsoil in a landscape scheme. That’s higher than we thought it would be. So, when you’re buying soil, you have to take on the question of trust that the product is suitable.

available, and we understand that we’re all in the situation where every penny counts; however, people are spending money on landscaping schemes, landscapers are installing gardens every day – why take a risk on any soil that you buy not performing well? We jump through hoops to source our raw materials correctly, in a way which means we’re confident in the quality of the product that we’re producing.”

Hallstone is looking to collaborate with the industry to raise the profile of the issue of soil quality in the market and will also be promoting its new branding at this year’s FutureScape, where it will have its own stand alongside Rolawn.

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Hallstone is boosting its trade appeal with a new look and an eye-opening campaign
We’re confident in the quality of the product that we’re producing


The name Otterbine and great water quality go hand in hand. For products that provide the perfect blend of style and functionality with stunning visual displays and superior oxygen transfer rates, there’s no need to look further than Reesink Hydro-Scapes

Adding dissolved oxygen to water is important in keeping ponds and lakes as healthy as possible as it supports the aerobic and oxidative processes of the water. The oxygen attaches to phosphorus and converts it into an insoluble form, making it unavailable to plants as a nutrient.

According to The American Society of Civil Engineers, ‘Oxygen Transfer Rate’ (OTR) is the gold standard for the measure of how much oxygen an aeration system transfers and for addressing all the reasons why aeration is needed. It’s a scientific measure of an aerator’s capability to supply oxygen to water – a measure that proves just how capable Otterbine aerators truly are.

Any manufacturer serious about helping customers achieve a balanced ecosystem will provide oxygen transfer tests performed by an independent third party, and Otterbine’s are tested by the University of Minnesota and

Gerry Shell Environmental Labs. The results are available online at

Offering a variety of aeration systems including aerating fountains, industrial aerators and subsurface diffused air systems, Otterbine can provide a range of aeration methods and systems suitable for any body of water of almost any depth. These surface spray aerators throw water droplets into the air, trapping oxygen molecules before falling back to the surface and releasing that ‘dissolved oxygen’ into the water.

water as they rise to the surface. With these aerators, the OTR increases with depth – in 14ft of depth a diffused aerator can transfer up 2.72lbs of oxygen per horsepower hour, with Otterbine’s Sunburst aerator and 1hp High Volume aerator having an even higher OTR.

On top of superior OTR, Otterbine aerators also stand apart in their energy efficiency, delivering some of the lowest operating costs in the industry. Systems are on average 20% more efficient than competitors. For example, where on industry average it takes 18 amps to run a 5hp 230V single phase aerating fountain, Otterbine uses only 13.4 amps. Over a product’s lifespan, this can add up to a small fortune of savings. With Otterbine’s comprehensive warranties ranging from three to five years on its range of products


Meanwhile, diffused aerators use a different method of transferring oxygen, driving air down a tube where it’s released via a diffuser at the bottom of the basin. The air bubble can then be slowly ‘absorbed’ by the

Diffused aeration can be seen, or rather unseen, with Otterbine’s subsurface diffused aerator system: AirFlo 3. Performing completely below the water, it can be virtually invisible with no surface spray. Additionally having no electrical components in the water makes this system perfect for recreational bodies of water and needs little-to-no maintenance with its corrosion-resistant materials.

including the AirFlo 3, the Giant Fountain, Fractional Series, Air Flo 3 and Fountain Glo Lights, you can rest assured that not only will your water body stay in good shape, but your fountain or aerator will be looked after too.

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Otterbine’s aerating fountains are engineered to provide much more than dynamic displays


It is now more than a decade since the landscape industry has fully embraced the idea of wild and native plants and flowers. It is time to accept that a garden consists of animals as well as plants, and they need to be nurtured just the same.

Just a few years ago ‘ecological gardening methods’ were considered fringe, and certainly not appropriate in the commercial maintenance field. However, in recent years there’s been a shift in public awareness and also the aspirations of commercial garden owners to take a more wildlife-friendly approach and achieve a more wildlife-friendly effect. (There is also the looming need to comply with biodiversity net gain.)

This trend accelerated massively during the pandemic, so we saw an opportunity to actively engage clients with the wildlife in their gardens. Now, we show them pictures and videos of what creatures

my teams and I find, and persuade them that the garden is made up as much of animals as it is of plants, and that if you look closely and with patience the animal inhabitants of the garden are in many cases more interesting and beautiful than the plants. I should point out here that the patience is all on our side, not the clients. Snappy presentation is all! This is working very well in my company, where I and my staff can recognise and film the creatures and their lives.

We now plan to go beyond that and to offer training to commercial garden maintenance staff, who generally, up to now, have had no interest in garden wildlife whatsoever, except as pests to be eliminated. Of course, many invertebrate species in gardens are pests, in that they eat the plants we want to feature. But it is not necessary to kill all of them.

If you carry out soft landscaping and planting in the garden of a school or park,

and you find that certain areas are being crushed or vandalised by careless playing children, would you poison them? Of course not – just to talk about it is ridiculous! You think again and change the design, or the plant species. So why, if your plants are being damaged by the children of a butterfly, or by a plant bug, or a beetle, is it necessary to eliminate that animal, and carelessly kill any other non-damaging species that happen to be near it?

It is always possible to find a resistant plant species which does the same job, and it is never necessary to kill the last individual of a pest species; just reduce the numbers to

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Noel Brock shares how he engages clients with biodiversity to ensure a long-term interest
It is time to accept that a garden consists of animals as well as plants, and they need to be nurtured just the same

a manageable level, and the natural predators will do that for you.

We’ve had great success in teaching children, who are always thrilled by wildlife encounters, however small – adults too, especially in their own garden, their own piece of earth, and especially if they have children, they soon get involved. There is a real hunger among people for this sort of knowledge.

But it is vital to keep permanently in mind, front and centre, that the people, not the plants and animals, are paying for this stuff, and they must be entertained. For example, a wildflower meadow cannot just stop flowering in September, and nobody wants to wait until May for it to start again. We include naturalised but non-native plants to fix that.

Moreover, spiky, unfriendly plants like nettles and brambles are essential foodplants for a host of garden animals, but they must be confined to areas away from lawns and paths, and preferably out of sight, for obvious reasons. Less unfriendly, ugly but important food plants such as docks and bedstraws can be included with care. And of course, grasses.

We collect seeds from wild plants all over Britain and sow these seeds and grow them in our nursery. We decided early on that we would concentrate only on perennial wildflowers because the work involved is too great to be paid for by annual plants like poppies, cornflowers, etc.

We also use perennial archaeophytes (ancient introductions) or more recently introduced plants. As long as they are doing well in the wild, and are on the official British wildflower list, that’s good enough for us. Any plant that is doing well in the wild can shrug off pests.

Clonal plants like dotted loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata) and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), roots of which can be chopped up and grown from pieces of the original plant, are of course easier, and we use a lot of those as well. But the scabious and knapweeds, even though they are hard work, are iconic plants, and insect pollinators and people all love them, so we grow large numbers of these, even though growing a good chunky 3L plant takes three years of care.

But the point is, a wildflower meadow in a garden will only attract butterflies, etc. if there are breeding, roosting and sheltering places for them in the surrounding

landscape. An ornamental pond will only attract dragonflies if there are weedy, well vegetated pools nearby.

It is becoming less and less possible to rely on nearby wild places to provide this wildlife to visit our garden. Those wild places – Auden’s “untidy spots” – are not there anymore. It is now up to us to provide these habitats, within gardens.

And, above all, the people want us to!

For many years, Frognal Gardens has been building, planting, and maintaining gardens, both private and commercial, in and around Hampstead, central London. During this time, Brock has also pursued his interest in wildlife all over the world, and within the London area. There is an obvious connection between wildlife and horticulture, but it is only recently that he has been able to bring those worlds fully together.

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Toro raises the standards with this new straightforward, no-nonsense, 4-wheel drive utility vehicle

Key aspects and user benefits

Flexible control

The Workman UTX is Toro’s first 4x4 built from the ground up specifically for demanding day-in, day-out work. Push-button four-wheeldrive and selectable front and rear differentials give you control whether you are on fine turf or muddy terrain. Both two- and four-seat configurations are available, and customers can choose between gas or diesel power.

Perfect power

Toro’s Workman UTX uses a proprietary ground speed governing system, whereby the ground speed and RPM are not directly connected, allowing the speed to be limited without gutting the power. This allows for the perfect amount of power to be applied to the job, no matter the desired ground speed. And can mean lower RPMs and with it lower fuel consumption and sound, or higher RPMs for more power to haul a heavy load.

Productive in all conditions

With standard commercialgrade components and a rock-solid, high-strength steel frame with oversized shocks, bearings, and bushings, the Workman UTX is up for any challenge on all types of terrain

and in any weather. Even mud and snow won’t slow down its productivity. And with a corrosion resistant spray-in bed and climate-controlled cab means operating in all weathers won’t damage the machine or be uncomfortable for the operator.

Superior tow capacity

This utility vehicle has the highest payload in its class. With a ton (2,000lbs/907kg) of towing capacity, two standard two-inch (5cm) receivers on the front and rear of the vehicle, and 25% more cargo capacity than its competitors, it is more than capable of providing all the towing support needed for landscaping and grounds maintenance work.

Road ready

The UTX’s work doesn’t need to be restricted to certain sites and location. Like a full-sized vehicle, it’s road-ready with standard turn signals, brake lights, hazards, LED headlights and a horn, meaning transportation between venues is easy and doesn’t need to involve a trailer.

Precision control

Ground speed and RPM are not directly connected, meaning the operator can control and limit the speed of

the machine without gutting the power. This can allow lower RPMs, and with it lower fuel consumption and sound, or higher RPMs for more power to haul a heavy load. It’s a system that enables the perfect amount of power to be applied to the job no matter the desired ground speed.


Reesink Turfcare

1-3 Station Road, St Neots, PE19 1QF

Tel 01480 226 800

Email info




Twitter @ReesinkTurfcare



• Engine .998L, inline 4-cylinder, gasoline, 40hp (29.8kW), liquid-cooled and .993L, inline 3-cylinder, diesel, 24hp (17.9kW), liquid-cooled

• Fuel capacity

8.5 gallons (32.2L)

• Steering Power steering standard. Rack and pinion with tilt steering wheel

• Forward ground speed 45mph (72.4km/h).

Adjustable down to 5mph (8km/h)

• Towing capacity

2,000lbs (907kg)

2ins (5cm) receiver standard both front and rear

• Warranty Two-year or 1,500 hour limited warranty

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 55



Location: Warwickshire

Isola Garden Design Ltd is a BALI Award-winning landscape design company based in Warwickshire, serving the south Birmingham and north Cotswold area. It is looking for a knowledgeable and experienced gardener who is passionate about horticulture. You will be required to deliver domestic aftercare maintenance services to a high standard, which meets its customers’ high expectations and helps develop the gardens created by the Isola design and landscape team to look their best. You must take pride in your work and strive to consistently improve your knowledge and skills.



Location: Kent

Provender Nurseries is recruiting a cash & carry sales assistant to provide friendly, excellent customer service, maintain customer relationships, actively encourage the sale of goods already in stock and increase the average transaction value. They will drive additional linked sales opportunities across the Provender product rage and services. Applicants should be passionate and knowledgeable about plants and related products, demonstrate good attention to detail, and be experienced with tills and EPOS. A sales background is beneficial but not essential.



Location: Kent, London

Gardens by Anna Butterfield is looking for an experienced gardener with great team management and admin skills to join a developing garden design and garden care business. You will lead a small team of part-time gardeners and offer support to them as required. The main duties will be delivering high quality, organic garden care and planting of new gardens/borders. It would be advantageous if you have worked with a garden designer before – setting out plants, planting and mulching; however, this is not essential.



Location: Hampshire, London, Surrey, Sussex

Due to the ongoing success of Yoreland Design Ltd over the last four years, it is looking to expand its landscaping team, seeking passionate individuals, with varying levels of experience, from junior to more experienced landscapers. You will have the chance to work on significant projects in varying locations-mainly in the southeast of England, sculpting gardens (often over several acres) with the opportunity to expand your skills and learn from the best. The successful candidates will hold a full driving licence and have at least two years landscaping experience, and be eager to join and grow with a professional team and company.

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COUNTING THE COST of our winter

As I write this, our supermarkets are limiting the sale of salad crops grown in Spain and North Africa where they have had rare snowfall impacting availability. So, weather affects us all. I have been using this dry February to work on my garden and look at others. I have been counting the cost of this winter and the cold snaps that were the coldest since 2010.

Back then we saw significant plant failures in staple landscape shrubs, and I expect to see this repeated this spring. It will be this month before all the damage will be apparent and can be fully assessed. However, I have seen plant failures in: Hebe (both large leaved and small leaved types), Phormium varieties, Pittosporum – especially ‘Tom Thumb’, Euphorbia (especially varieties ‘Silver Swan’ and ‘Tasmanian Tiger’) and there may well be damage on Escallonias, Cistus, Laurus nobilis and cordyline especially the coloured

varieties e.g. ‘Torbay Dazzler’. Predicting the damage and losses of perennials is uncertain but: Penstemon, Teucrium (a popular box alternative), Salvia, Crocosmia, Heuchera and those not originating from a continental climate (e.g. Mediterranean) may be at risk.

Back in 2011, on the nursery, we saw a significant retreat in use of cordylines and Phormium after that cold winter and this took several years to thaw or forget about and get designers back using these plants.

I suspect the same will happen over the next couple of years. We do get lulled into a false sense of security with mild winters and get the urge to expand the range of plants we use.

The damage I’ve witnessed in the south and east of UK has affected plants listed H4 hardiness by the RHS, which can withstand between -5°C and -10°C. I know it has been colder in central and northern UK. The ‘bomb proof’ old staple landscape shrubs such as cotoneaster are rated H6 and are hardy to colder than -15°C. It would be a pity if we lose some of the diversity of our landscape plantings which designers and developers are striving to achieve. Continued attention to good soil preparation and mulching is required. Yes, every site will have

a microclimate and designers will need to pay closer attention to assessing these before plant selection. Availability of plants this spring may be affected with price rises if supply is limited. Or if nurseries couldn’t put susceptible plants under cover in tunnels and glass fast enough back in early December they may be showing some recoverable winter damage. Landscapers may have to accept plants with some winter scorch which can be pruned out to encourage new fresh growth. Should landscapers be liable and left counting the cost for winter losses where the designer has specified a half hardy plant? Surely the losses are outside the control or influence of the contractor.

I mulched my garden a bit late – after the cold rather than in the autumn – so I will see what emerges in the coming weeks. However, for me, a gap in the border is an opportunity to go shopping for plants!

Nick is now retired but has worked in landscape offices, parks management and horticultural nurseries. For the past 20 years, he has also run soft landscape workshops at Coblands and Palmstead. He has been involved in BALI at a regional and national level, and is a trustee of the BALI Chalk Fund, as well as an awards judge.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 57
Despite climate change, designers still need to consider how plants can survive cold spells, says Nick Coslett
We do get lulled into a false sense of security with mild winters and get the urge to expand the range of plants we use

EDUCATED expectations

Change needs planning, says Lewis

Anyone who quotes for supply to local authorities and government bodies will have noticed that, in recent years, they have become much more focused on specifying that environmentally sound practices and materials are integral to supply – from peat-free compost specification to advantages given to local suppliers with lower carbon footprint in delivery. Plastic use and recycling are equally often part of the discussion.

I applaud these changes and the approach councils and other bodies purchasing plants are adopting and I am, naturally, very keen to support them. There is an issue with this, however: in changing the expectation on what a supplier can offer, they too need to change expectation on price, availability, timescales and more. Nobody seems to have told specifiers for local authorities that availability in peat-free compost is currently far below that of peat-based compost production. Where plants could be contract grown to order, often little or no time is provided for the growing of plants to meet specification.

A council, who I won’t name, recently sent out a tender pack for woody plant supply that must be in peat-free compost and is needed for early May. I write this in early March and can be assured that with the best will in the world, there is nobody who can produce woody plants in such a short window and the plant selection,

which ranged from relatively commonplace shrubs to the highly obscure, is definitely not all available in peat-free compost. A couple of plants requested would be a struggle to find anywhere in Europe at all, never mind in a compost that suits the brief.

We need to be more joined up with our thinking for plant supply. With recent legislation into peat use in England and Wales being extended from retail bags to commercial use in the near future, peat-free supply will relatively soon become commonplace. That said, we will likely meet several huge bumps in the road before we get there. Firstly, there is a significant lack of availability, and it will take some time for the production to sufficiently replace current usage of mix, peat-based media.

Then we have the issue with what our peat-free composts are composed of. Quality and stability of mix must remain, but developing blends now may be years behind research and development.

As well as the value of mix and stability of end product, we should also question the ingredients. Coir is commonly used in peat-free composts as a main bulking agent and although it is a biproduct of the coconut industry, I am yet to find coconuts growing

well in UK gardens and, as such, this is mostly brought in from Sri Lanka and India. Good peat-free compost worth investing in should be using biproduct to produce their mixes, but the best mixes use primarily locally produced biproduct, like wood fibre and bark from the timber industry. Again, currently there is insufficient locally produced biproduct to meet demands. Finally, as material is eaten up by the industry, we need to ensure that consistency and quality are maintained, and new standards should be set to ensure a minimum standard.

In order for peat-free supply of slower growing plants, especially woody plants, to be widely available, we need time. In order for local authorities to get a range of plant material in their tenders, specification and tender applications need to be produced no less than six months before they are required and ideally a year in advance of installation. Then, and only then, we will start to see designed public spaces realised with the plants specified being installed and not substituted and expectations met.

Lewis has worked in a wide variety of roles within horticulture over a 20-year career. He has lectured on garden design and horticulture, and designed gardens in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.

Since 2011, Lewis has focused on nursery sales, now working as sales manager at Bernhard’s Nurseries, and has helped to launch a number of new plants into the UK plant market. He is a specialist supplier to show gardens, supplying more than 100 gardens at major shows.

OPINION prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 58
Where plants could be contract grown to order, often little or no time is provided for the growing of plants to meet specification
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VALUES Relative S

ome people think the idea of working with family members is as stressful as a family gathering at Christmas. But, according to the latest government statistics, nearly two thirds of UK businesses are family owned. It is a big commitment to make. To paraphrase Rob Lachenauer, a partner and CEO at BanyanGlobal Family Business Advisors: “You can quit your job, but you can’t quit your family.”

For some people with an entrepreneurial spirit, though, being able to share the responsibility of the company with a family member can be a great relief and brings an element of trust you may not experience with a non-related business partner.

What exactly does it take to run a successful family-owned company ? And what are the disadvantages? We find out from some of the UK’s most outstanding family-run landscaping firms

“Because it’s family, you’ve always got each other’s back,” explains Harvey Keates, sales and marketing director of Core Landscape Products. “You know that if there is any disagreement, there’s a reason for it. My brother has as much of a vested interest in the business as me.”

Keates started working full time for his father, Anthony, when he left school. Not one for being stuck in a classroom and told what to do, the idea of working for himself very much appealed. And despite being a fully qualified lawyer, older brother Manni also joined the family firm and is now managing director. The brothers have taken the reigns while their father has decided to take a backseat to concentrate on technical aspects for the company, though he will still be consulted on any big decisions the brothers need to make.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 FEATURE 61

“Manni and I are working with the same goal in mind because we know that it’s important not just for us but also to make our dad proud.”

Communication is the key to ensuring a successful family company, says Darren Skidmore, contracts director of Skidmores of Hertford. Along with sister Sue, head of finance, and older brother Garry, the company director, they are the third generation of Skidmores to operate the business.

Darren, Sue and Garry will meet to collectively work out the big decisions. “For example, if we need to purchase some new kit we’ll get together and discuss how we are going to implement it. And if we have issues, we’ll sit down and talk about them. Luckily, we don’t have many of those. Between the three of us, it works.”

Tony Benger says one of the advantages of working with family is that you don’t have to hold back. “You can be really honest and open with each other.”

Tony has always been involved in a family business in some way. As a young boy he helped on his parent’s farm. Meanwhile, his mother Mary, a horticulturist, set to work on creating a garden – the now much-awarded Burrow Farm Gardens – and she gave Tony and his siblings each a section to plant and grow what they wanted.

After contemplating becoming a farmer, Tony set up Tony Benger Landscaping in 1985 and it is well and truly a family affair. Mary was the

first of the clan enticed into helping Tony, undertaking the garden designs while still looking after her own ever-growing garden business. And now two of Tony's daughters, one of their husbands, a sister, a nephew, and his wife are all part of the South West England-based firm. Of course, the vast majority of the 130 employees are not related, although “it feels like an extended family,” says Tony.

In January this year, to ensure the longevity of the business, there was a management buyout.

Tony, his daughter Olivia, nephew Mark, general manager Oliver Hemson and head of finance Gabi Pangonyte each bought a 20% share.

“It’s still a family business, which helps with marketing,” says Tony. “But just because Oli isn’t family doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get an equal share of the decision making.”

Having people from outside the family inform or make business decisions is very important agrees Paul Lynch, managing director of Elmtree Garden Contractors. “If you don’t have external people within your senior leadership team then you’re closing your eyes and ears to opportunities. We’ve had some fantastic people come into the company and a combination of our values and their experience goes a long way.”

Lynch’s dad Keith founded the company in 1969. He was a firefighter at the time, so it was a side job which grew into a fully-fledged business. During the school holidays Keith would bring Paul along on jobs, teaching him how to do payroll as well as working on manual labour. Lynch then studied at Pershore College before joining the business full time.

Undoubtably, he gained valuable experience from his father, but Lynch says a lot has changed since he took over the running of the business. “Things are done quite differently these days.

One of the things I did was get Investors in People accreditation. I saw a consultant for a year or two and put various systems in place, started doing appraisals, etc. Dad would have said, ‘That’s all wishy washy’, or something along those lines.”

One thing both father and son did agree on, though, was the

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 FEATURE 62
If you don’t have external people within your senior leadership team then you’re closing your eyes and ears to opportunities
Paul Lynch, managing director of Elmtree Garden Contractors
Manni and I are working with the same goal in mind because we know that it’s important not just for us but also to make our dad proud
Harvey Keates, sales and marketing director of Core Landscape Products

importance of having structure and defined roles. “In the early days, we did have some arguments because I wanted to do things a little differently. But ultimately, once you’re past that, you have to structure your roles so that you know who is responsible for what.”

In the Essex-based family firm Cube 1994, there are very clearly defined roles. For husband-and-wife company directors Sean and Jane Butler and their two sons, Myles and Izaac, having a structure and specific roles is helping with founder Sean’s succession plan as he looks to retire in the near future.

To ensure the business will be left in good hands, Izaac and Miles have had to learn the business from the ground up. “This is important to us,” says Jane Butler.

“We have always maintained that if you want the respect of the team, they have to be confident that you will go out and do the same job as them. You’re not just the boss' son telling the team what to do. It doesn’t fit in with our ethos.”

Myles and Izaak are now on the management team but are still learning the

ins and outs of how to run the business. As well as being landscape coordinator for the family firm, Myles is taking a management course, which is helping him broaden his practical management skills while managing his own landscaping team. Izaak is also hands-on, running his own landscaping team to sharpen his skills while acting as landscape manager.

Jane never intended to go into business with her husband. However, fortuitously for Sean in 2011, she moved to a part-time education consultant role after a long career in Leadership and Management in Education. Initially, Jane assisted with accounts and invoicing before Sean asked her to help put the company on a more professional standing.

“The company had grown from Sean working out of the kitchen to quite a large company over time, so we used the Investors in People to help structure the company in a more methodical way (and got Gold at our first attempt)."

Jane has now taken on more of a consultant role for the business, handling compliance, procedures and accounts. As the business continues to grow and the teams expand, Sean isn't ready to pack away his gardening gear and retire just yet but, with the help of his family he is now able to enjoy a four-day work week.

Claire Belderbos, sales and marketing director of Belderbos Landscapes, joined her husband Ed’s business in a similar way to Jane. Feeling uninspired by her career in the city and wanting to spend more time with her family, Claire decided she could make the work-life balance better for them


Listen to other people, especially those who are not in the family. You might just learn something.

Give everyone a defined role. It’s important that employees feel secure by knowing who is responsible for what.

Start succession plans early – to keep a settled workforce and your client’s minds at ease.

1 2 3 4

Don’t talk about work when you’re not working. This is possibly the most difficult thing to do, so just be mindful that not everyone wants to discuss contracts, concrete or tree planting every evening over dinner.

For help and advice on running a family business visit these websites:

• uk/2018/11/16/runninga-family-business/ •

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 FEATURE 63
Sometimes as a family you can talk to each other more openly but that’s not always conducive. It’s a real positive having Anastasia in our meetings as it helps keep the conversations to be conducted in a professional manner
Jane Butler, company director, Cube 1994

all. "It was a big change; I remember my first day vivdly. Ed was not in the office –which was really just a shed at the time –and I had nothing to do so I just started sorting things out and cleaning out the cupboards.”

After that, Claire began to do all the jobs that needed to be done which no one else had had time to do. She overhauled the website, created an employee handbook, and drafted contracts for everyone. Surprisingly, perhaps, this was not met with delight by all the staff. “The staff were not used to the formality as that wasn’t the relationship they were used to.”

While Claire’s corporate experience was very helpful to the business, her business style had to be adapted. “I had joined a small company and the culture is very different. It’s more personal.”

After years listening to Ed talk about the business, Claire felt like she knew a lot about it and the people involved before she joined. “Right from the start I had a vested interest from a financial and a compassionate point of view. I saw how hard Ed was working and I wanted to relieve that pressure. When I joined it was not only about making the business more successful but also more sustainable in the long term.”

Working with your spouse presents a whole different set of challenges to those of working with

a sibling or parent. While Claire and Ed have been working together for more than 10 years successfully, others are not so sure. “If I had a pound for every person who said to me ‘I couldn’t possibly work with my wife or my husband,’ I would be a multi-millionaire,” says Claire.

However, Tessa Johnstone of Johnstone Landscapes understands and sympathises with the sentiment behind that statement.

“My husband Andrew and I are not brilliant at working with each other every day –he loves meetings and I hate meetings!”

Citing the difficulty to switch off and taking work home with them, she is pleased to see the dynamic is shifting now as Andrew is working less hours than he did a few

years ago. “This ensures that we don’t discuss bark mulch quantities at 11pm as much as we used to.”

Johnstone and her husband have four children between them, none of whom have expressed an interest in joining the business – but that does not mean the end is in sight for the company.

“I don’t see the ‘Johnstone' name as being the family, it is the landscaping part of the business name that is the family – anyone who works together to make the exciting stuff happen. Andrew built the business definitely wanting to offer a stable option for local employment and there is room to grab what role you want. I will always support someone who says they want to do more.”

Family firms may have their own unique challenges but fundamentally they face the same problems as most business enterprises. As Tony Benger says, “All you’ve got to do is do a good job and it’ll be judged by the end user. If you’ve done a good job, then you’ll get repeat business.”

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 FEATURE 64
Right from the start I had a vested interest from a financial and a compassionate point of view. I saw how hard Ed was working and I wanted to relieve that pressure
Claire Belderbos, sales and marketing director of Belderbos Landscapes
All you’ve got to do is do a good job and it’ll be judged by the end user. If you’ve done a good job, then you’ll get repeat business
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Source & supply


The country of origin for staff uniforms is, for around half (46%) of participants, a deciding factor. One said that they wanted to support local businesses by sourcing uniforms from British companies, and another said that they prefer to buy from UK suppliers where possible. “Ethical trading is a priority,” added another.

But for 54%, there are more important aspects to consider, such as cost and quality. Others admitted they had not considered where the uniforms could be sourced from and that many suppliers they know outsource the production to other countries. Yes No

54% 46%



• Magnum Enterprises

• MyWorkwear

• Make It Yours

• White House Print & Design Ltd

• Sarah’s Embroidery

• Big Red Branding

What’s in a uniform?

For some, it’s an essential part of a company’s branding and a key tool for helping to build a reputation. For others, it’s simply essential and, as long as it keeps staff safe and enables them to carry out their work, the look and style of it is not quite so important. Eager to discover where our readers sit on this scale, we carried out a survey, half of the respondents for which were domestic landscapers, 11% were commercial landscapers, 7% were in grounds maintenance or aftercare, and a third (32%) were either all three or in a different sector of the landscaping industry.



• Engelbert Strauss

• Arco

• Beacon

• Karrimor

• One Stop Scouting Ltd

• Workwear Express

• Vibrant Colour

• True Colours Clothing

• Clothes2order

• WBS Signs

• Mark Stitches

• Double G Clothing

• Prs Printers

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 66

For appearances’ sake

Whilst an overwhelming majority (93%) ensure their company’s branding is on their uniforms, fewer companies (82%) supply uniforms in the company colours. One respondent said they switch the colour each year, others said they opt for all black uniforms, and another said the colours vary depending on the department. When it comes to the style of the uniforms, the majority (79%) say it is important. “Appearance matters greatly; we believe it is a more professional look and engenders a greater feeling of being part of a team,” says one participant.



Quality is key?




Low quality –lower prices as easily ruined

Medium quality

High quality –higher price, but replaced infrequently

Lower quality uniforms are far from fashionable, it would seem – none of the companies in our survey supply these, choosing either medium or high-quality uniforms for their staff instead. One company which supplies the latter says it does so because items “wear better and for longer” and that there “tends to be a greater range of options – for example, for females or colours – when you spend more.” Another admitted that they used to buy higher quality uniforms “but with the nature of our work and the attitudes of staff, it still gets wrecked relatively quickly” so they now supply items considered medium quality. Depending on the details, it could be controversial to ask for an agreement on employees' appearance. But for half of respondents, it’s part of the onboarding. Most simply seem to ask that staff agree to be “smart”, “presentable”, “professional” and in “company uniform”.

Not important – safety is the only concern

Somewhat important –price is more of a concern

Important –appearance matters for my business



• Hoodies

• Polo shirts

• Gilets

• Hats – beanies and baseball caps


• T-shirts

• Coats/jackets

• Hi-vis

• Jumpers

• Boots

• Waterproofs

• Wellington boots

• Fleeces

• Shorts

• Trousers

• Dungarees

• Base layers

• Rucksacks

• Snoods

Yes No Yes No
93% 7% 18% 82%
54% 46% 0%
7% 7% 7% 79% 46% 54%
FEATURE prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 67


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority (96%) of our respondents let the employee wash their own uniforms, though one said they wash and re-waterproof any waterproofs, if required, and another said “a free service is available for heavily soiled items.”

It’s not quite as clear cut when it comes to replacing missing items, though. More than a third (39%) say it is the employee’s responsibility, with one respondent saying it “depends how often they go missing”. One company mentioned that they have taken action to avoid loss of items by ensuring items have a name tag inside.


Answers varied from every six months to up to four years.

• As required

• Every six months

• Every six to nine months

• Every 18 months

• Every year

• Every two years

• Every three years

• Every three to four years



Is it a man’ world?

Should landscaping companies be offering women-specific workwear? And are there even enough options out there to do so? Members of the Women in Gardening Networking Group on Facebook argue that there is an issue in finding workwear more suitable for the female shape, and when they do, it’s typically more expensive – or pink.

There are “nowhere near enough options”, says Bryony White, head gardener at Achamore Gardens. “And most women gardeners don't want or need pink, purple, pastels and floral patterns – we just want to look as smart and comfortable as the male members of the team.”

Take steel-toe capped boots, which group member Helen Glassup says are difficult to find in smaller sizes, so she has to wear insoles and extra socks in order for her boots to fit. Then there’s trousers, which are often “too tight around the hips and too long in the legs,” says Dawn Marjoram, who adds that polo shirts are “never long enough”. There’s a limited choice in larger sizes too.“As a larger active female, it is a struggle to find comfortable, good-fitting outdoor clothing in general, not just workwear,”

says Mary Corser. It’s not just uniforms, either – strimmer harnesses and “some mower blade clutches seemed to be designed only for those with big hands and long fingers,” says Clare Hill.

“In my experience (and research), this seems to be quite a British problem,” says Phillippa McCabe.“Many European and American manufacturers offer better women's wear, but UK suppliers don't bother stocking it, even if they do carry the men's version. We are all talking about uniforms and day-to-day workwear, but the same problems exist in specialist PPE such as gloves and chainsaw gear.”

White says that when she became head gardener, she made it a priority to source – and persuade the company to pay for – “decent, hard-wearing and smart uniforms. I'm proud to say that Achamore Gardens and the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust staff now have a uniform that fits and looks great, whatever the person's size or sex.”

The group suggests talking to female staff about their requirements and amending uniform accordingly – they may be happy with the standard uniform, but “women would be pleased to be offered workwear that's comfortable and well fitted for them,” says gardener Sue Davis.

FEATURE prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 68
4% 96%
61% 39%

Namgrass’ Andy White explains why oftenvilified artificial grass still has a place in the industry

There’s been so much bad press in recent months claiming that artificial grass is ‘bad for the environment’, ‘not good for birds or wildlife’ and so on; but in reality, there are many positive reasons for choosing artificial grass over the other ‘real grass’ options.

Let’s be serious – garden architects would never suggest mud as a lawn design feature, but in areas of high wear and tear, that’s exactly what the homeowner will end up with. So, they are generally offered more sensible solutions: paving, decking, decorative gravel, tarmac, etc – and just like artificial grass, each alternative has its associated carbon footprint. So, let’s look at the facts:


• Artificial grass lasts up to 20 years; it’s not a single-use plastic product like the bottles and packaging which blight the environment.

• It eliminates the need for damaging pesticides and fertilisers – the real villains of the piece when it comes to flora and fauna.

• It requires very little maintenance, thereby negating the need for mowers, and reducing fuel use in mowing and maintenance vehicles. Low maintenance is also key if the homeowner is elderly, disabled or simply very busy and can be enjoyed without

the pressure of having to manage new growth.

• Did you know that methane is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and that the methane created by grass clippings in landfill is 21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide?

• With the ever-growing problems created by global warming and the inevitable water restrictions it brings, artificial grass requires no water as its surface is fully porous and allows rainwater to drain away naturally into the watercourse. Conversely, after a week with no water, a natural grassed garden, with dimensions of 20ft x 30ft, would need 372 gallons of precious tap water to rehydrate.

• Artificial surfaces are a safe, clean place for children to play. Outdoor space and regular activity are vital for healthy, growing children, so access 365 days a year is always possible, whatever the weather.

• It’s pet-friendly and more hygienic than natural grass, as faecal matter can be picked up and the area

hosed to remove any chance of contamination.

• Although not widely recycled in the UK yet, old and unused artificial grass blades are recyclable and often used to make composite decking and other hard-wearing outdoor furniture and architectural products.

So, before jumping on the ‘artificial grass is the enemy’ bandwagon, I urge you to weigh up the many pros as well as the cons and make an informed decision about a recreation space, and the client’s and their family’s ability to fully enjoy it. It might just be what they’re looking for and may provide a solution to some of the practical restrictions that are incurred when choosing natural grass.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 70
Artificial grass lasts up to 20 years; it’s not a single-use plastic product like the bottles and packaging which blight the environment



Without the need for seed, weed or feed.


Designed using the latest technology, our exceptional designers combine clever innovation and an eye for nature to develop an extensive range of grasses.


As manufacturers of our own artificial grass, we ensure that our products are crafted to meet the highest industry standards, offering the perfect long-term solution for any garden.


There’s a whopping 10-year product and UV warranty with your Namgrass.

So, you can enjoy your new lawn with ultimate piece of mind.

| I

WORK/LIFE A better balance?

Flexible working has been a growing trend, especially since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, we explore some of the new developments set to emerge following proposed changes by the government.


The right to request flexible working was extended to all employees in 2014, giving employees the right, after an initial 26 weeks, to ask for a change in their hours, pattern, or place of work. Employers are required to consider these requests in a reasonable manner but can only reject them if there are specific reasons for doing so. Flexible working has been proven to improve work-life balance and increase employee satisfaction, as well as potentially reducing absenteeism and staff turnover.

In the pipeline

The government recently published the results from its consultation “Making Flexible Working the Default”, where 1,600 individuals (both employees and employers) responded to a number of topics on flexible working. As a result, the government is planning to make the following legislative changes to flexible working.

• Making the right to request flexible working a day one right, rather than having to

wait six months. Many of the consultation respondents felt that this would help to remove the perception that flexible working is something that has to be “earned” rather than the norm.

• Employers will be required to consult with employees about their request, as a means of exploring the available options. This would bring it in line with the ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working and will be fairer on employees, as the employer no longer has the unilateral ability to dismiss requests out of hand.

• The employer will be required to assess how the flexible working will work in practice, rather than the employee needing to set out how the effects of their request might be dealt with by the employer.

• Employers will need to allow two statutory requests in any 12-month period (currently only one request is allowed) and must respond within two months (currently three months).

It is important to remember that employees have a “right to request”, and not a “right to have”, and employers can still decline a request under one of eight businessrelated reasons, including:

• extra costs that will damage the business

• work cannot be reorganised among other staff

• people cannot be recruited to do the work

• flexible working will affect quality and performance

• business will not be able to meet customer demand

• lack of work to do during the proposed working times

• business is planning changes to the workforce.

While generally seen as a welcome move to help create more inclusive workplaces, objections to the proposed changes included that it could cause early friction between the parties, should a request be denied or if contract negotiations have to be reopened very soon after someone has started work.

In light of the proposed changes, it is important that employers and employees carefully consider flexible working requests, as getting things wrong may lead to potential claims.


Oracle Solicitors is an award-winning law firm with a deep understanding of the landscape industry and expertise in employment, commercial, litigation, property and contract law. Oracle Solicitors, founded in 2002 has since grown to include offices in London, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester, Frankfurt, and Addis Ababa – please visit:

Flexible working has been proven to improve work-life balance and increase employee satisfaction, as well as potentially reducing absenteeism and staff turnover
Kai Sammer and Jason McKenzie of Oracle Solicitors set out the potential changes around flexible working day requests this year
OPINION Pro Landscaper | April 2023 72 prolandscapermagazine .com

to last BUILT

Using sustainable materials has been a focus for mmcité since it was founded in the Czech Republic almost 30 years ago. Since, the street furniture manufacturer has branched out, not just across Europe but globally. Its international reach puts it in a prime position to share how the UK compares to its counterparts and the global trends shaping the market.

Sustainability is “increasingly” becoming a consideration, says Jana Tyrer, managing director of mmcité usa, who first set up the UK branch six years ago. But whilst the UK is quickly making progress – particularly when compared to the US where “money dictates more than

BREEAM.“We were asked on more projects, more often and more thoroughly to comply with project certification for sustainable approaches.”

Fortunately, mmcité “ticks all the boxes”, says Tyrer.

“The choices we are making are sustainable, efficient and economical. That’s why people choose mmcité. For us, sustainability doesn't mean calculating the carbon footprint of every single bench; in our industry, it may lead to an incomplete understanding of the bench's overall impact on the environment. We believe in choosing materials that make the street furniture last longer. It needs to be aesthetically pleasing, good quality, withstand vandalism, extreme weather, pollution – and on top of that it needs to be wrapped in materials that can be recycled at the end of the cycle.

followed by powder coated steel, says Tyrer, with the UK leaning towards stainless steel for its quality and rust resistance.”

It is conservative when it comes to trialling new materials, though.“We use a material called Resysta, which is shredded rice husks with minerals and oils –


“Uniqueness is something architects and users like to see, but having custom public spaces can be lengthy and costly, so scalability is the answer – having an offthe-shelf product that can be manipulated into various shapes. We have a few benches where the architect is given the legs, seats, backrests, and arms rests as pieces of a puzzle which they can put together as they wish to cater for their landscape.”

a very beautiful, sustainable, recycled and recyclable material. It took off in Scandinavian countries, and even in America, much faster than in the UK or some southern parts of Europe. The UK takes a bit more time to trust new materials.”

It’s another way for mmcité to meet its focus on being sustainable, efficient and economical. And whilst the UK might be more conservative, it’s a key market for mmcité. Tyrer says there is a strong demand for street furniture with more public spaces being revitalised, such as those receiving Levelling Up funding and the investment in

sustainability” – it’s the Middle East which is the frontrunner.

Tyrer has been with mmcité for 14 years and was previously based in the UAE, where the company had to comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, similar to the UK’s

“For instance, choosing aluminium over steel for street furniture makes more sense because it can tick all these boxes: it can create beautiful shapes and timeless, elegant details; it will last for 30-40 years, treated or untreated; and at the end of its lifecycle, you can reuse it. That’s the goal at mmcité.”

Aluminium is leading the street furniture industry globally,

The UK also rejects “hostile design”, such as putting anti-homeless studs on benches. “In the US, most projects require these studs; but in the UK, it’s the opposite. There are better ways; for example, we have a bench with an integrated side table which prevents sleeping and is a welcoming element.”

One trend which seems to be popular across the globe is

public transport such as HS2. Sustainable and scalable street furniture might be the answer.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | April 2023 73
mmcité’s Jana Tyrer offers insight into where the UK sits in the street furniture market and mmcité’s approach to longevity
We believe in choosing materials that make the street furniture last longer


Idon’t know about you, but I love learning new things; in fact, I would say that I need to be learning new things in order to stay ‘in flow’. This is our state of mind when we love what we do and are totally engaged and motivated.

Since starting my business 13 years ago, I have heavily invested in myself by working with some of the best mentors in the entrepreneur space, to ensure that I stay relevant and at the forefront of the market, and in turn help my clients.

A few weeks ago, a certain webinar caught my attention which was all about artificial intelligence – in particular a new piece of software named ChatGPT. You may have already heard of it. I hadn’t at the time, but since launching to the public in February, it has rocketed in popularity across the globe.

For those yet to come across it, ChatGPT is an AI software trained to follow an instruction via a prompt you can input, and it will quickly provide you with a detailed response. When working with a simple, clear prompt, it can be nearly impossible to distinguish the text it outputs with something a human would write. This enables you to create copy almost instantaneously, and I have been using it to write email sequences, blogs and articles – not this one though!

I find it quite amazing, as you can pretty much ask it to write in almost any style; you can even specify the length and the tone, such as ‘relaxed and friendly’. This has saved me so much time, as although I quite enjoy writing, it does require quite a bit of time and thought. Be wary too – it relies on a knowledge base that cuts off at 2021, and infrequently provides incorrect information.

So, if you are the type of business owner who knows they should be writing frequent blogs, for example, but never gets round to doing it, this tool simply is a no-brainer – it saves so much time. You just give it your instruction – e.g. "write a blog on the top five trends for gardens in 2023" – and away it goes. You can check it out by visiting Have fun!

To find out how Evolve and Grow can help you grow your business, take our free BUILD system scorecard, available on our website:

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Alison Warner is founder of Evolve and Grow, a business coaching firm that specialises in the trades and construction industry. She is also the author of bestselling book ‘How to go from Tradesperson to Managing Director in the Construction and Trade Industries’. ALISON WARNER Alison Warner shares how AI is helping her business, and how it could help you too
I need to be learning new things in order to stay ‘in flow’


When you Google the word ‘recession’, the news reports would lead you to believe that it is all doom and gloom. However, if you look around, people are still spending money.

A good example of this was in Center Parcs during the February half-term break; it was packed full of families like mine taking a mini break. While I do not think it is time to panic, as business owners, I believe we should be prepared for a storm at all times. The only thing you can guarantee in business is that storms will hit and if your landscape gardening, design or horticultural business is prepared, you can use that time to come out the other side stronger and ready to grow.

A storm can come in many different forms, from a global pandemic or recession to time away from your business due to ill health. The two most important elements that must be in place to support your business through a storm are having access to financial information so you can make informed decisions and having systems in place so your business can continue without you.

As a business owner in the landscaping industry, it is imperative that you have access to your business’ financial information all of the time, not just during a storm. The accuracy of the financial information a business owner receives is dependant on the quality of the bookkeeping, so you must ensure a professional is taking care of the ‘books’ otherwise you could be making decisions based on inaccurate financial information.

To ensure you have accurate and timely financial information at your fingertips, you can engage the services of an outsourced accounts department. It is similar to having your business’ very own accounts function but without needing to employ people internally to run it. You will benefit from having experts in each area, such as bookkeeping, payroll, management accounts, budgeting, and cash flow. This is likely to be a cost-

effective solution compared with employing internally when you take into consideration the associated costs such as employers’ NI and pension, annual leave and sickness, training, and managing and covering time off. Also, you may find the outsourced accounts department can assist with implementing systems to create efficiency, ensuring pricing is optimised and advising on variable costs that could be cut.

You might feel that there are certain tasks that should be done internally because you do not feel comfortable with the thought of giving a person outside of your business access to your bank account; for example, paying supplier invoices and staff wages. You will be pleased to hear that due to technological advances, bank access is not necessary these days to make payments.

I recommend that you start as you mean to go on. Engaging an outsourced accounts department while your business is relatively young means you will start out on the right foot. You will be able to outsource the services relevant to your business at that point and increase the level of service as your business grows.

The decision to outsource your accounts department function can be the first step toward making life just that little bit easier, safe in the knowledge that your finances are in good hands, leaving you to focus on what matters.

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Kim Sones, owner of Sones Accountancy Services Ltd, specialises in providing an outsourced account department function to businesses in the landscape gardening industry. She is passionate about helping landscapers to ‘know their numbers’, so they can use their knowledge to make good decisions for their business. Kim photograph ©Sarah Cockerton Kim Sones explains the benefits of outsourcing your accounts department
It is imperative that you have access to your business’ financial information all of the time, not just during a storm


The last two years have been extremely challenging for turf growers, who have experienced some of the toughest hurdles. Despite this, turf farms are doing a tremendous job and I have been blown away by the consistent quality of turf being produced and unfaltering professionalism and service from the turf farms we work with.

As the largest independent supplier of turf in the UK, we supply 1.4 million rolls of turf to 35,000 gardens a year and understand first-hand the challenges growers have and the

experienced any disruption to supply, or reduction in the quality of product they have received during this time is nothing short of amazing.

What does the future look like?

climate conditions and sharing data and information about sustainable solutions is of paramount importance.

understanding how they deal with the hot weather and bringing this insight and knowledge back to the UK.

tremendous efforts they have gone to in order to reduce the impact on the end user.

As a supplier, we have been able to continually meet customers’ ever-increasing demands over the last few years, and the fact that they have not

We can no longer rely on the traditional patterns of grass growth that have for so long been consistent. The changing weather has led to cold and dry springs and hot and dry summers, which have in turn impacted the usual peaks in grass growth.

We know that demands on the industry will get tougher and understanding the impact of these shifting

Turf production is only half the story, we need to look at all options within our business to make sure we are limiting our carbon footprint and the impact on the environment. This starts with monitoring Turf Miles and focusing on efficiencies across our business to ensure we have the least impact on the environment.

On a recent family holiday to Tasmania, I took time out to research some of the turf farms over there, looking at their grass species and general farming practices with an aim of

As climate change becomes a more permanent issue, it's clear times have and will be changing, and it’s crucial we work together to help and support as many people in the supply chain whilst looking after our customers and continue supporting our turf farms. With offices conveniently based in St Albans and Olney we are easily accessible to much of the South East. Anyone looking to join in this mission is welcome to visit anytime to collaborate and share best practice.


George Davies, owner and founder of George Davies Turf, started his ‘side venture’ in 2001 and has since reached new heights to become the largest independent supplier of turf in the UK, spending more than two decades perfecting his knowledge to become an expert voice on all things relating to turf, soil, crops and landscape materials.

The image above shows the average summer temperature for each decade from the 1890s to the 2020s. Note that the 2020s data only includes the complete years 2020-2021. The redder colours represent warmer temperatures, and the blues are cooler temperatures. As can be seen, the latest decades have been the warmest on record, and this trend is set to continue as our world warms due to continued high levels of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. carbon dioxide and methane). As the temperatures shown here are the average summer temperature over a 10-year period, the maximum daily temperatures will be much higher (e.g. 40+ degrees on the 19 July 2022).

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©Dr Tim Farewell, MapleSky Ltd 2022; includes HadUK-Grid data (Met Office, 2022)

in the directionright STEP

Having had the luxury of a few days off recently, I decided to look through my list of recurring issues on my expert witness travels. From virtually day one, the subject of steps raised its head many times, so much so that one expert survey in every three has an issue with steps construction.

Without a doubt, I find the most common issues with steps is the differing heights of the step risers. Step risers should be of equal height so as to prevent a trip hazard – it’s that simple. A person’s ‘gait’ becomes accustomed to an equal riser height, so if a smaller or larger riser is thrown into the mix on a flight of steps a trip or a fall could easily happen. Let’s be honest here: steps are not a good place to fall.

At this stage, I think it’s worth noting that the minimum riser height should be no less than 75mm and no greater than 220mm in accordance with regulations and, obviously, each step should be the same height. Of course, there is a tolerance which is set at no greater than 10mm.

The heights of the risers not only vary greatly on some of my expert witness surveys, but some by far exceed the 220mm recommended maximum height by quite a distance. In this instance a step riser was 336mm (see Figure 1). Now, as a tall person myself, even I struggled to navigate these steps safely.

The next most common issue with steps is backfall on the treads and pooling water against the riser, or even against the house. Not only will pooling water cause a possible slip hazard, especially in winter with freezing temperatures, but can cause damp inside the house, encourage organic growth and, in time, cause the breakdown of the pavement

with water ingress and freeze/ thaw action. Step treads should have a minimum fall of 1-80. Hollow steps are next in line as common issues, such as in Figures 2 and 3. Not only are hollow steps structurally weak, but they are an accident waiting to happen. They quickly come loose owing to little or no bonding mortar to hold them in position, as most of the slab isn’t in contact with a bedding layer.

Last, but certainly not least, and possibly in my top five biggest pet hates in landscaping are paving slabs laid over timber sleepers. Pretty much straight away the slabs will become loose as the sleepers contract and expand at a much greater rate than a paving slab – and that causes immediate issues. Steps’ construction with best practices will be in the BS 7533:102 document.

Leaving college at 17, Gareth has worked in the landscape industry since 1989. Progressing onto high-end projects over the years, he has picked up 30 RHS medals, including Gold at Chelsea. Gareth is a member of multiple professional bodies. He provides technical and product advice to companies, mentors and trains landscapers across the UK, and provides arbitration and mediation services. Gareth is an online and on-site mentor in landscape construction for contractors, garden designers and show gardens.

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Gareth Wilson sets out the key things to remember for constructing steps Figure 3: Another hollow step Figure 1: 336mm riser Figure 2: hollow step
Not only are hollow steps structurally weak, but they are an accident waiting to happen

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Pictorial Meadows’ products are designed not just for improved environmental resilience, but to be especially attractive and valuable for pollinators and people. They have an exceptionally high floral content, as well as an extended and very varied flowering period. Their natural attributes attract pollinators, helping them to spread and survive.

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Purchasing technically superior turf is an investment in customer satisfaction. With a high quality product, you can consistently deliver the right outcome, quickly creating attractive, useable lawns for your customers. Advanced technologies enable Rolawn to harvest younger and thinner turf, which

Maintaining the wildflower turf requires a different approach to any other type of gardening. Fertilisers and pesticides can stay in the shed – you won’t be needing those. Neither will you need your lawn mower. Wildflower turf can be left to grow unchecked between March and August. At the end of summer, it is cut back to a height of 10-15cm and all vegetation is removed. Mow once or twice in autumn to remove excess growth and leave over winter and your wildflower turf will naturally start growing when the soils warm up in spring.

are able to root more quickly and vigorously than older, thicker cut product.

Rolawn Medallion turf’s shelf life is then extended using our unique, patented ProFresh system. Our turf is the only one in the world treated with this unique, patented process. This system extends the 'as harvested' freshness, ensuring it arrives with you in a healthy, ready-to-lay condition. The turf looks outstanding, and with correct maintenance will provide many years of satisfaction.

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Five minutes with ELIOT BARDEN

Majestic Trees’ Eliot Barden speaks to Pro Landscaper hot on the heels of being crowned AIPH Young International Grower of the Year for 2023

Did you always plan to get into horticulture?

I’ve always wanted to be in horticulture from as young as I can remember. Throughout my school life, at evenings and weekends I was always in the garden growing things, experimenting with plants and flowers, and that eventually developed into a passion for trees.

My biggest inspiration for trees probably arose from spending time at my neighbour’s when I was growing up. He had quite a substantial plot of land and, after he retired, he planted an arboretum. I would see young trees develop and even at the age of eight,

I was fascinated by this, although I’m not sure if I was a help or hindrance at that point! I helped out more and more as I got older, up until the age of 18. When I visit the collection now and see trees which are 20m tall that I planted 15 years ago, it is a spectacular feeling.

How did you join the industry?

As I finished my A-levels, I found that some teachers at my school were deeply against me going into horticulture. They thought I should go to university. I think it was quite a common theme in my generation – the implication was often that you couldn’t make anything of your life unless you went to university. Shockingly, a couple even refused to help with personal statements. Luckily, I followed my passion, my parents’ advice and along with support from my fantastic head of sixth form I never deviated from making a career in horticulture. While I was doing work experience in gardens and at nurseries, I sought advice from

various people and the consensus was that the best place to expand my knowledge would be at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I never really believed for one moment that I’d be accepted as an apprentice there, but I worked hard towards it, submitted my application, and it all turned out well.

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I was an apprentice for two years achieving merit before bridging onto the three-year Kew Diploma graduating with honours.

As part of these courses, I had placements in the Arboretum, Hardy Display, and Great Glasshouses sections. I was sponsored to travel to New Zealand and Chile with a great colleague Andy Conner, which is where my passion for trees really grew. Southern hemisphere trees are simply incredible. Tony Kirkham (MBE VMH) was a huge inspiration to me at Kew, and there is no one I respect more in horticulture. He really encouraged me down the tree route, which is how I decided to apply to work at Majestic Trees.

root system, and where the tree’s establishment is second to none. I joined Majestic from Kew, working on the nursery.

Managing director Steve McCurdy saw a natural route for me to develop the Aftercare unit, which is a vital service to help customers ensure their trees reach independence in the landscape. Its great to see trees establishing; sometimes when you have spent a long time caring for and growing the trees on the nursery, when you see them go it can be a bit emotional. With Aftercare, you see them growing in people’s gardens, and witness how happy it makes our customers and that is a really lovely part of the job.

What else attracted you to Majestic, and what does your day-to-day role look like?

My placement in the Arboretum Nursery at Kew demonstrated a variety of different container growing systems for trees. The only tree container which proved itself to me was the Air-Pot, which we use at Majestic. You never want to work towards something you do not believe in, and it is evident when you prepare trees for dispatch that the Air-Pot system is the best method to develop a fibrous

That said, aftercare still only takes up about 25% of my time. A real passion of mine is to get young people involved in the industry – we set up an apprenticeship at Majestic Trees, where I decided the course content linking it to their RHS course which they study at college one day per week. This has now developed more into training and recruitment. The past six months has seen my biggest challenge; learning the purchasing for Majestic which involves a lot of travelling.

You’ve picked up two accolades in consecutive years – first as Best Young Grower 2022 at the HTA’s Ornamental Grower of the Year Awards, and now the AIPH Young International Grower of the Year 2023. How did they come about?

I had no idea I had been entered into the UK award. A couple of weeks before the event, Steve said we should go up to the HTA

Horticulture Conference in Birmingham. It turns out the team had all written kind pieces about me for the award. The winner of the UK award is nominated for the international, and in turn, you are put forward for a Jungle Talks Group Pro Manager Master course, a two-week intensive course of visiting horticultural companies around Holland and Germany. I was interviewed for the course, thankfully accepted, and then had a number of further interviews with the AIPH where they were keen to understand my outlook, my career direction and what I think the future is for horticulture. From this, they narrowed the numbers down for the international award to 3 finalists. I learned lots on the course across all aspects of horticulture, met some lifelong friends and it really developed me as a person. The course was brilliant, and to win the award in Germany was a real honour, and a wonderful evening all around.

What would be your advice for someone following a similar career path?

Don’t specialise too soon. Horticulture is such a massive, diverse industry. You need to see a lot of it before you decide which route to follow. Apprenticeships are brilliant because you see so many different things, so never discount them. Horticulture is so broad and varied and with an apprenticeship position, you get to see all the internal facets of the institution you belong to.

Majestic Trees

Tel 01582 843881


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A real passion of mine is to get young people involved in the industry
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