Pro Landscaper June 2024

Page 1


LET'S HEAR IT FROM Dave Gallagher, Helmrig

after dark


Oak View Landscapes celebrates 20 years

TO BE OR NOT TO B CORP Is the accreditation all it's cracked up to be?



w e 0344 800


Eljays44 Ltd, BizSpace, Courtwick Lane, Littlehampton, West Sussex, BN17 7TL

Tel: 01903 777 570


Head of content – Nina Mason Tel: 01903 959 393

Reporter – Bethany Vann Tel: 01903 777 578

Features writer – Ashleigh Brown Tel: 01903 959 394

Senior subeditor – Katrina Roy Tel: 01903 777 570

Senior Designer – Kara Thomas


Sales manager – Luke Chaplin Tel: 01903 777 582

Sales executive – Lewis Everle Tel: 01903 777 588

Sales executive – Ollie Finch Tel: 01903 777 579

Horticulture Careers – Ollie Finch Tel: 01903 777 579


Managing director – Jamie Wilkinson Tel: 01903 777 589

Divisional director – David Griffiths Tel: 01903 777 584


Subscription enquiries – Laura Harris Tel: 01903 777 575

Printed by Stephens and George Ltd

Published by ©Eljays44 Ltd – Connecting Horticulture. Pro Landscaper’s content is available for licensing overseas. Contact

Pro Landscaper is published 12 times per year by Eljays44 Ltd. The 2024 subscription price is £128. Subscription records are maintained at Eljays44 Ltd, BizSpace, Courtwick Lane, Littlehampton, West Sussex, BN17 7TL, UK. Articles and information contained in this publication are the copyright of Eljays44 Ltd and may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publishers. The publishers cannot accept responsibility for loss of, or damage to, uncommissioned photographs or manuscripts.

Whilst every effort has been made to maintain the integrity of our advertisers, we accept no responsibility for any problem, complaints, or subsequent litigation arising from readers’ responses to advertisements in the magazine. We also wish to emphasise that views expressed by editorial contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers. Reproduction of any part of this magazine is strictly forbidden.


It’s fair to say that show gardens have come under fire in recent years. Lasting just a week, is their impact worth the carbon footprint to construct these spaces? Walking around the show ground on press day, it’s difficult to say anything but ‘yes’ to this, and that’s not just because of the efforts that have been made by the RHS to reduce the environmental footprint of the show.

What really makes Chelsea worthwhile is how the RHS is bringing the next generation into the fold. Last year, it launched a children’s picnic for primary school pupils to enjoy, and for the first time in the show’s history, children were this year invited to judge the gardens too. Walking onto The Octavia Hill Garden, one shouted, “this is amazing” before running off with his clipboard. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, when this garden – designed by Ann-Marie Powell and built by The Landscaping Consultants, and our cover star last month –won the inaugural RHS Children’s Choice Award.

Then there’s the RHS No Adults Allowed Garden, a natural-looking playground designed by Harry Holding with the help of school children which may well have sown the seed for budding garden designers and landscapers in the future (and which made every adult walking passed it extremely jealous, including myself).

It’s not just school children, either. Throughout the the build, college students and apprentices were also invited to help with various gardens to gain their first Chelsea experience and perhaps add designing or building a garden at the show to their ambitions.

Some of these initiatives by the RHS might seem tokenistic, but they genuinely have the ability to inspire the next generation and encourage children to engage with nature. That certainly justifies the need for shows such as Chelsea in my eyes.

Pro Landscaper is proud to be an Accredited Supplier member of BALI

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

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 WELCOME 3
Professional Landscapers


A Family Future

In a milestone year, Oak View Landscapes is putting a succession plan into place and exploring new opportunities


What should you consider when looking to add a design service?

Holly Youde shares experiences from running her own successful design and build company


Let’s Hear It From...

Dave Gallagher

The managing director has grown Helmrig exponentially since taking on the role four years ago


Amongst the Trees

The multi-award-winning Treetop Garden by Adam Vetere Landscape & Garden Design and JJH Landscapes

43 Light After Dark

Peter Cowell Garden Design Ltd makes the most of the picturesque scenery at a property in Lancashire


Healing Haven

A disused space at a hospital has been transformed into a source of escapism for staff by Chiltern Garden Design

54 Take a Raincheck

Water saving methods can, and arguably should be, easily incorporated into a design, explains Matt Evans

63 B Corp

What is a B Corp, and should it be the goal of every company to achieve the trendy certification?

69 Wild Venture

Ground Control’s environmental recovery centres are showcasing how nature recovery can pay for itself

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 CONTENTS 4
CONTENTS June 2024


75 Hot Potato

Chris Churchman uses the humble spud to highlight the value of natural assets for ecosystem services


Influencing inaccurately?

Social media can inspire but could also be giving people the wrong impression of our industry, explains Lewis Normand


Five Minutes With: Adam Geldart

The owner of Gel Landscaping and Groundworks, winner of a Pro Landscaper Business Award earlier this year



RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

The top highlights and award-winning show gardens from this year’s world-leading event


Contemporary, Unique, Bespoke and Eco-friendly

Cube1994 is celebrating 30 years of offering its design and build expertise and is now looking ahead to the next generation


Sharpen Up

Decisions that designers make early on can really impact the carbon footprint of a project, so choose wisely, says Andrew Duff

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 CONTENTS 5
JUNE 2O24 A FAMILY FUTURE Oak View Landscapes celebrates 20 years LET'S HEAR IT FROM Dave Gallagher, Helmrig TO BE OR NOT TO B CORP Is the accreditation all it's cracked up to be? PETER COWELL GARDEN DESIGN LTD LIGHTafter dark
37 43 31 Cover image ©Tim
Photography/ Peter Cowell Garden Design


Extending its soft landscape collaboration at Wembley Park, Goddards returned to the site at North East Lands in May to break ground.

Phase one, awarded by John Sisk and Sons Limited, will see the delivery and planting of large trees, from 40-45cm to 65-70cm girth, as well as large multi-stems throughout the design.

The first of these, supplied by Baumschule Lorenz von Ehren, was a 60cm girth Catalpa weighing in at over 3500kg, delivered earlier in May, hoisted up to the podium and planted in the same day.

As well as the ground level landscape, Goddards will be constructing two podium

ROUNDUP Industry Updates



Anew report from the National Audit Office (NAO) highlights potential risks to biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation.

Developers can currently meet the 10% biodiversity uplift by enhancing biodiversity on-site, off-site, or buying biodiversity credits.

Prior to rollout, the government invested thousands into local authorities to aid in preparation for the legislation. However, Defra acknowledged mixed readiness among local authorities.

The NAO warns of risks to effective compliance and enforcement due to no additional government funding for monitoring on-site gains. Defra won’t be centrally monitoring local enforcement.

Defra is relying on on a private sector market for biodiversity units emerging, but does not know how rapidly it can scale up or satisfy demand.

If the private markets fall short, Defra will provide credits, though it currently lacks a legal mechanism to use the income for biodiversity enhancement.

The NAO recommends that the government establish a mechanism for spending income from the sales of statutory biodiversity credits, as well as that local authorities should have sufficient and timely funding certainty to allow for longer-term planning regarding their role in local agreement and enforcing the scheme.

gardens within the scheme. Across the planting plan of the project, the Surrey based company will also be supplying and planting herbaceous, grasses, shrubs and wildflower turf, as well as reinforced grass and aquatics.

Goddards previous collaboration with Sisk saw the completion of the company’s 2021 BALI National Landscape Award-winning podium landscape at Canada Gardens in the category ‘Roof Gardens/ Living Wall Installations Commercial Roof Garden or Podium Landscaping Under £500K’.

Works on the project have an expected competition date of April 2025.


Garden designer and one of Pro Landscaper’s 30 Under 30: The Next Generation winners, Harry Holding has launched a new horticulture venture.

LDN Horticulture is set to provide aftercare and garden maintenance services across London with its team of horticultural professionals. It aims to prioritise sustainability, working with ecologically sensitive practices such as organic methods for pest control and all-electric tools and vehicles.

“By taking an environmentally conscious approach, we not only create beautiful gardens but also contribute to the health of our planet,” says founder Harry Holding.

Partnered with sister company Harry Holding Studio, LDN will be able to offer an overlap of design and maintenance to ensure long lasting spaces that share sustainable values and ethos.

“It’s an exciting new chapter for us and we’re ever grateful to the fantastic people who make this company what it is. From our horticultural teams to management staff and our fantastic client base – we’ve been on an exciting journey and have so much ahead to look forward to,” says Holding.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 6
©Clive Nichols


The Horticultural Trades Association has warned the government to not "miss the opportunity" in its official response to Rishi Sunak’s Farm to Fork Summit. Commenting on the announcement of the Horticulture Resilience and Growth Offer, Fran Barnes, HTA's chief executive, says:

“While the focus of the Prime Minister’s Summit is Farm to Fork and the indications for funding are that it is edibles focused, the government should not miss the opportunity

to support the resilience and growth of environmental horticulture."

“Put simply, net zero and environmental improvements cannot be met without our sector. The health and wellbeing benefits of green spaces is widely recognised. It has, therefore, been incredibly disappointing that, despite a House of Lords inquiry recommendation, the government has no strategy for environmental horticulture.

“Environmental horticulture also delivers for the economy, and our sector’s substantial contributions speak volumes, with £28bn added to the British economy, supporting 674 thousand jobs and generating £6bn in tax revenues." She adds that with the right support, the sector’s GDP footprint could exceed £41bn by 2030, and there are “very few sectors which can match the economic numbers and environmental benefits of environmental horticulture.”


BCorp environmental consultancy, Tyler Grange, has been named amongst the Best Medium-sized Organisations in the UK in The Sunday Times Best Places to Work 2024 list.

The annual accolade analyses 50,000 organisations from across the world, measuring them against several areas relating to employee satisfaction.

It is shown that the companies which perform best in The Sunday Times list have lower staff turnover, lower sick absences and higher levels of productivity.

All of Tyler Grange’s 85-strong team – who work from seven offices across the UK – were surveyed, with particular notice taken on the consultancy’s culture and ongoing investment to attract, retain

and reward talent.

Also noted was the organisation’s four-day work week – with no loss of salary of benefits – as well as its in-house clinical psychologist.

Online exclusives


Debbie Carroll is celebrating 10 years since she first set up Step Change Design.


The RHS design and build competition winner.

Jon Berry, managing director of Tyler Grange, says: “We’ve always recognised that our culture provides our ultimate competitive advantage and that our people are our greatest asset. It’s why we’re so committed to providing the best and most enjoyable environment to work and grow and, as a result, we’re able to offer our clients the very highest service levels.”


Land Studio’s Kate Richards shares the importance of access to green spaces and the routes between them.


The RHS has introduced a new category to RHS Flower Show Tatton Park that reflects on the increasing number of career changers entering the industry.

Its RHS Career Changer of the Year competition has been launched for new designers, plantspeople and contractors aged 31 and over to help kick-start their new careers.

Lex Falleyn, RHS Tatton Park show manager says that when talking to potential show garden applicants, the RHS “noticed a trend in interested applicants who had previously worked in different industries”. Designers this year include a former front line police officer, higher level teaching assistant, and a marketing professional.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 7
©RHS/Tim Sandall
©Natalie Argent

Chelsea Flower Show


Discover the top award winners on this year’s show ground


Child Cancer Nurturing Garden

Thirteen Gold medals have been bestowed across the categories at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which took place from 21-25 May in London. On top of that, 11 gardens received Silver Gilt, four were awarded Silver, and three took away Bronze.

Two new awards were also launched this year: the RHS Environmental Innovation Award for the Show and Sanctuary Gardens that underwent the newly introduced Green Garden Audit, and the RHS Children’s Choice Award for which primary school pupils became judges.

Debut designer Ula Maria won the top accolade of Best in Show for The Muscular Dystrophy UK –Forest Bathing Garden, built by Crocus in what is the contractor’s final year at Chelsea.

The highly sought after Best Construction Award went to Yoreland Design in the Show Garden category, whilst Gadd Brothers Trees and Landscapes topped the Sanctuary Gardens.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 RHS CHELSEA 2024 8
RHSEnvironmentalInnovationAward GOLD MEDAL GOLD MEDAL
Designer Helen Olney Contractor Conquest Creative Spaces Burma Skincare Initiative Spirit of Partnership Garden Designer Giulio Giorgi Contractor Landesigns
©RHS/Sarah Cuttle 2024
©RHS/Sarah Cuttle


prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 RHS CHELSEA 2024 9
RHSChildren’sChoiceAward GOLD MEDAL
SILVER GILT MEDAL The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust Designer Ula Maria Contractor Crocus Muscular Dystrophy UK Forest Bathing Garden Designer Ann-Marie Powell Contractor The Landscaping Consultants ©RHS/Neil Hepworth ©RHS/Neil Hepworth


The Ecotherapy Garden



The Size of Wales



prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 RHS CHELSEA 2024 10
Dan Bristow
Mark Wallinger Tom Bannister
• BestAllAboutPlantsGarden
Wright Landscapes
©RHS/Neil Hepworth ©RHS/Tim Sandall


The Boodles National Gallery Garden

His Majesty King Charles III visited the show ground having recently been announced as the next patron of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)


Terrence Higgins Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden

Grassroots non-profit Grow to Know has teamed up with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to create the first RHS Community Chelsea Garden

The Planet Good Earth Fund has been launched to support the rollout of edible skatepark landscapes across the UK

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 RHS CHELSEA 2024 11
In other news...
Designer Matthew Childs Contractor Yoreland Design Ltd SILVER GILT MEDAL SILVER GILT MEDAL Designer Catherine MacDonald Contractor Gadd Brothers Trees and Landscapes
©RHS/Sarah Cuttle ©RHS/Sarah Cuttle ©RHS/Lee Charlton ©RHS/Neil Hepworth ©Neil Marshment

Contemporary, Un ique, Bespoke, and Eco-friendly


Cube 1994 has been helping to set the standard for design and build companies for the last 30 years, but now, managing director Sean Butler is planning for the next generation

Sean Butler has always had a passion for the outdoor environment. So, when he launched bespoke garden design and landscaping company Cube1994, the business grew quickly and internationally. From urban contemporary gardens to formal traditional gardens, Butler was eager to explore it all.

Over the last 30 years, Cube1994 has made a name for itself across Essex and London, working on a vast array of residential and commercial projects as well as collaborating with other designers to build award-winning gardens at the critically acclaimed RHS Chelsea Flower Show and at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.

Whilst Butler’s day-to-day is now more office based, he still likes to “oversee any very technically demanding projects” as his background in civil engineering provides the business with an increased understanding of more difficult projects,“which most landscapers, or even a lot of builders, don't even want to go near,” says Butler. Take, for instance, a garden that is sloping away from or sloping up from the house and then building a garden on that foundation.“And by that, I mean it slopes about seven to 10 metres out from the house, so it's really steep,” says Butler. His in-depth understanding of the construction of each project leads to Cube1994 being recommended by a lot of architects who know that the company is able to take on these more difficult builds.

Everybody cares within the business. They’ve all got each other's backs

But despite working with these challenging landscapes on a regular basis, it is the show gardens that present the most complex barriers. “We've built some really beautiful gardens over the last few years,” says Butler, his favourite being

Bodmin Jail: 60° East – A Garden Between Continents. “That was particularly difficult because of the sheer number of rocks that was involved in creating that garden.”

Having had to prefabricate the stonework in Russia before shipping it across to the UK in three artic lorries, Butler’s knowledge was well and truly put to the test as he was tasked with positioning the top-heavy rocks in extremely specific positions as directed by designers Ekaterina Zasukhina and Carly Kershaw. Winning a Silver-Gilt medal, all efforts paid off; however, the project Butler is most proud of from his show garden career thus far is the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Garden as it was awarded the People's Choice Award in 2015.


2 Bespoke Black Feature Frame Fence to Hold Original Indian Carved Door, Courtyard Garden. Design and Build by Cube 1994

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 13
RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 Rock Bank Garden '60 Degrees East' Build by Cube 1994

“That meant something to me because it was the public saying that this is the best garden in their minds,” says Butler. “Again, that particular garden was very technically challenging with all of the water features that we had to design.”

The dark blue water pools rippled every 10 minutes to represent how frequently a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK. “It meant that there was a lot of off-site testing and prefabricating to get things working properly before they were brought to Chelsea.”

Even when running multiple projects at one time, Butler is confident that the teams will be able to stand together as one.

“Everybody cares within the business,” says Butler. “They’ve all got each other's backs.”

Keen to keep the family-feel atmosphere that Butler has created; Cube offers regular team building exercises and celebrations whenever possible. “We've become known for being the first-choice company – not just for clients, but for employees too.”

Whilst one of the hardest challenges within the industry at the moment “continues to be the skill shortage,” Cube1994 chose to take matters into its own hands, becoming the first landscape company in the UK to create an in-house “Master Academy”, says Butler.

On joining the Cube team, candidates are automatically entered into the bespoke training programme which is individually tailored to meet the needs of all employees: apprentices, landscapers, managers, designers, and leaders.

Delivered by experts in their field, Cube trainers help to build and develop individual skills and talents whilst also ensuring that each member retains a superior level of craftsmanship in order to produce high quality gardens at the same standard every time.

“The academy has been going for more than five years now and is another thing which we are recognised for, because of the way we look after our staff,” says Butler.

Cube aims to foster and encourage a culture of continual learning through practical, hands-on training and mentoring

Taking a very personal kind of approach, the training depends on the individual.

“So, if an individual comes in with basic labouring knowledge, they might have a quicker and easier

route through the system,” says Butler. But this isn't to say that someone with no experience would not be accepted.

Developing and mastering soft and hard landscaping skills, use and maintenance of machinery, health and safety and raising awareness of eco-friendly practices which reduce the impact on our environment are all included within the programme. Cube aims to foster and encourage a culture of continual learning through practical, hands-on training and mentoring, as well as encouraging those who aspire to join the landscaping profession by offering apprenticeship experience through recognised awarding bodies.

Continuing their father's aspirations, and with plans to venture further into the commercial sector, Butler's sons Myles and Izaak have joined the business, having inherited their father's drive for business and love for complex landscaping design.

Both sons began a career in landscaping at a young age, working alongside Butler in between their studies and working hard over the last decade to hone their skills in preparation to take over the family business. Now, Izaak and Myles provide on the job training and give support to the teams, to ensure all projects are completed to the highest specifications.

Butler has spent the last 30 years building a reputation for Cube1994 as the go-to for complex schemes and as a company that really cares, and now his sons look set to continue that legacy.

3 Cube 1994 3D Garden Design Visuals

4 Chic Entertaining Garden Fullbridge Quay, Essex. Design and Build by Cube 1994

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 14


A family future

Marking a significant milestone this year, Oak View Landscapes’ managing director

Paul Downer is starting to put his succession plan into place and build on the company’s successes

It’s hard to imagine now but, 20 years ago, Paul Downer was reluctant to set up Oak View Landscapes. He’d been involved in two company startups before and so understood the hard work involved in building a business from scratch. With a wife and two young children to consider, he was leaning towards taking on an existing company instead, one he’d worked for previously in Berkshire. In doing so he could also retain his seat on the board of directors for the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI), which he’d held since 1999.

But Downer’s due diligence into the company’s finances, and losing all his regional contacts – where he’d lived since 1986 whilst training at Writtle College – made him decide to take a gamble instead and go it alone.

In May 2004, he set up a home office and rented a small yard, and from there he started to build Oak View Landscapes. Two decades later, Downer says he “has no regrets” - well, only that he didn’t set up the company a few years earlier. The predominantly commercial landscaping company has grown exponentially since it was first founded. Last year, its turnover reached £4.7m with double-digit net profit - a hefty amount more than the initial target of £1.5m (something Downer says he’s often reminded of by his wife, Sandra).

Part of its initial success is down to a “blessing in disguise” –a non-compete that prevented Downer from contacting any of his previous company’s clients for six months. “It was the best thing that could have happened because it made me go and source new business. Otherwise, the salesman in me would have straight away gone after the big clients without having the systems, the structure and the staff in place to hit the ground running. So, that six-month period was brilliant. I grew the business slowly, step by

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 15

step, and I’m really pleased about that compromise agreement when I reflect on it.”

There were also staff who had worked for Downer previously who, on hearing he’d set up a new company, approached him to express interest in joining him as the business grew. And after two years “out in the wilderness”, as soon as Oak View Landscapes was eligible at the two-year mark, BALI’s chief executive at the time and its chairman, the late John O’Conner, invited Downer to rejoin the board as a director in 2006, something which he continues to do to this day. His company has won numerous National Landscape Awards for its projects, but also as a business, and in 2020, it was revealed as the Supreme Winner at the Pro Landscaper Business Awards too.

Oak View Landscapes has become known as “market leading in its own way,” says Downer. “We’re by no means the biggest, but our awards history and what we’ve achieved tell us that we’ve certainly earned our place up there.” Receiving gold accreditation from Investors in People only adds to that reputation. “To get that recognition in the landscape sector, for a company of our size, is one of my proudest achievements.” Then there’s the remarkable staff retention – its first employee joined in November 2004 and is now a project manager, and there are plenty of others who have already hit the 10- or 15-year service mark.

Looking after and directly employing its staff has led to one of Oak View Landscapes’ highest selling points –reliability, says Downer’s 25-year-old son James, who has joined the business this year as operations manager.

He’s spent the last few years forging his own path in the construction industry, moving up north after studying at the University of Sheffield. And whilst it’s happening somewhat sooner than both expected, the plan has always been for James


prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 16
Oak View Landscapes formed with a home office and small rented space at Pattens Yard, West Bergholt in May 2004 Paul Downer re-appointed to BALI board of directors, and Oak View Landscapes awarded Best Newcomer and Mainly Hard Landscape Construction (over £50k) at the BALI National Landscape Awards 20042006
2007200820092010 Turnover hit £1m, with 15 employees. Oak View Landscapes won Best Growing Business at the Essex Business Awards Paul Downer appointed board governor of Writtle College, serving for 10 years until 2018. The company received another National Landscape Award for Mainly Soft Landscaping (under one hectare) Oak View Landscapes moved to larger premises at Scarlets Chase Offices, West Bergholt, and won a National Landscape Award, this time for Hard Landscaping Construction (under £300k) Two more National Landscape Awards are added to its collection: Hard Landscaping Construction (under £300k) and Hard Landscaping Construction (under £50k) over the years... That sixmonth period was brilliant.
grew the business slowly, step by step

to take over the family business, with Downer first sowing the seed three years ago when he turned 54 and the business was “at a crossroads”. “I was six years away from turning 60 and thinking, do I as the owner want to be the only person here trying to drive things forward? You put all your energy, along with your team, into thinking about what you should be doing, but it felt like it needed freshening up.”

Whilst their values are aligned, James is bringing with him his own experience of working for other companies, something which Downer did when he first founded Oak View Landscapes, learning from both the good and the bad elements. Now James is able to do the same, with plans to modernise and streamline the operations at Oak View Landscapes.

“Landscaping itself isn’t my core field; I’m more construction based, and so I’ve worked for a lot of clients. I wanted to make sure that I went off and learnt my specialism and could then bring that back. So, what were subcontractors in my field doing to make them stand out and be industry leaders?”

It’s not just the landscaping company anymore; there’s the nursery arm, the development arm, the commercial site – there's a lot going on and it’s exciting

explore to help make the day-to-day running of the business more efficient. “It’s been refreshing,” says Downer, who has always encouraged feedback, be it from staff –who are rewarded for innovative ideas – or from business coach Nick Ruddle, who he was been working with for the last 12 years.

reducing waste across its operations. But there’s also a “carrot” that Downer dangled to pique James’ interests in joining the family business – the launch of a development company, building around 10 houses a year, something which is James’ “forte”. “It’s a massive carrot, to be honest,” says James. “And a lot of it we could do ourselves, as our domestic teams already have the skills for the basic groundwork.”

One of the first discussions the two had when James joined earlier in the year was around how Oak View Landscapes could evolve and the different processes it could

achieved ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001 registrations

Restructuring the contracts department, hiring an administrator, becoming less paper based and taking over tasks such as training and business development are all in James’ eyeline, as well as setting up an app-based system for teams working on site and

There are also plans to develop a two-acre nursery to support its own projects and allow Oak View Landscapes to have faster availability of plants, growing them on and holding a certain amount of stock. It will

Company moved to purpose-built offices and operating centre at Pattens Yard, West Bergholt. An initial assessment achieved Silver Accreditation for Investors in People. Jakki Jenner and Matthew Selby promoted to directors. Paul Downer appointed BALI National Chairman

£2m turnover and 22 staff, and won two more National Landscape Awards: Employer of the Year and the Principal Award for Joint BALI Registered Contractor & Designer

Won Principal Award for Employer Excellence (under £2.5m) at the National Landscape Awards and Best Landscape Company (turnover over £1m) at the Pro Landscaper Business Awards

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 17 2017 2016 2011201220132015
The company Oak View purchased two-acre commercial site Pattens Yard, where it first started Started working with business coach Nick Ruddle of ActionCOACH Reached WARLEY – OAK VIEW LANDSCAPES' FIRST BALI PRINCIPAL AWARD

also continue to develop the commercial side through its sister company, Oak View Ltd, with a growing number of tenants on its existing 12-acre site, something which Downer – far from retiring – will be turning his attention to.

“It’s not just the landscaping company anymore; there’s the nursery arm, the development arm, the commercial site –there's a lot going on and it’s exciting. We now want to look at profitability, efficiency, sustainability, our impact on the environment and giving our staff even more career opportunities. Our sales might be a bit less this year, as it’s been a challenging market; but we’ll continue to reinvest and Reinvesting in a business is something which Downer says he was taught at a young age. “Never treat your business like a pocket

money account; invest and build in the business, look after the finances, and then the business will look after you. Invest in staff and equipment and build reserves, in terms of resources, assets and cash – that's always been important to me. It’s not about getting rich and having capital; to me, it’s about security for the company as a whole and all its stakeholders.

Never treat your business like a pocket money account; invest and build in the business, look after the finances, and then the business will look after you

“I want to be the employer of choice. There are plenty of companies out there who people can work for, but if you look after staff then they will stay with you on your

journey and they won’t want to work for anyone else. That’s really important, because without them, we can’t grow the business – we wouldn’t even have a business.” Fortunately, Downer practices what he preaches – his first ever employee continuing to work at Oak View being testament to that. And this approach has, indeed, ensured that the business has been successful. Two decades on from where it first started, Downer can rest assured that he has built a legacy, one which is set to stay in the family and continue to grow.

Celebrating its 20-year milestone. James Downer joins Oak View as operations manager and planning applications submitted to further develop commercial site and build nursery

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 18
2024 2019202020212023 Turnover grew to £3.5m, with 38 staff. Considerate Constructors’ Bronze Award for Company Size £250k to £3.5m Turnover won, as well as National Landscape Award for Joint BALI Registered Contractor & Designer. Achieved Gold accreditation for Investors in People Multiple awards won: National Landscape Award for Employer Excellence (over £2.5m), Pro Landscaper Business Award for Best Landscape Company (£2m-£10m turnover) and the Supreme Winner, and Considerate Constructors’ Silver Award for Company Size £3.5m to £10m Turnover Considerate Constructors’ Most Considerate runner up for Company Size £3.5m to £10m Turnover
£4.7m turnover achieved with 45
A further 8 acres of land purchased to expand site to 12 acres

FOR GROWTHGearing up

Stihl GB has unveiled Contra House, its new purpose-built head office and distribution centre in Surrey. The investment demonstrates a “long-term commitment to the UK market and a desire to maintain our market leader position for years to come,” says the brand.

The German-based family business launched its British subsidiary in 1978 and has since been growing its market share, becoming known for high-quality chainsaws and later a wider range of outdoor power equipment. So, it says that “having a long-term vision for the brand here is not a new concept”.

“Despite the UK being a relatively small country in an international brand, the UK market excels at being early adopters of new technology, whether that’s fuel injection, battery-powered tools or machine connectivity – meaning many new product launches are targeted specifically to the UK market

Stihl opened its new Contra House facility in Surrey recently, with big ambitions for the UK market

and our neighbours in Europe.”

At the official opening, Dr Nikolas Stihl – chairman of the supervisory board of the Stihl Group – said that Contra House “marks another milestone in Stihl’s almost 100-year history”. Since being set up 46 years ago, the UK subsidiary is now “one of the most important markets for our outdoor power equipment” and Stihl hopes “to grow our market position even further” with Contra House.

National sales manager Wayne Stone said Stihl needs to protect its petrol market whilst moving forward with battery, with dealer showroom displays set to move away from being 70% petrol to switching around to 70% battery products.

It sees battery power as a strong focus area moving forward. “The UK market has seen steady long-term growth, particularly due to the increasing demand for professional battery machines.

The UK market has seen steady long-term growth, particularly due to the increasing demand for professional battery machines

The already extensive breadth of our battery ranges will continue to grow in the coming years, offering landscapers even more choice

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 20

and more alternatives to petrol powered equipment,” says the brand.

It is striving for its global battery power product share to be at least 35% by 2027 and 80% by 2035, up from 20% at the moment. It is investing around €17m in a new unit at its headquarters in Waiblingen, Germany to bring part of its EC motor production in house.

Britain is amongst the top five battery power markets in the world for Stihl, and so it seems fitting that the company is gearing up for further growth, with a new 9,000m2 distribution centre where robotic picking and storage solutions are expected to streamline its operations to meet demand.

The unveiling of Contra House symbolises a significant step forward in our commitment to product innovation and providing exceptional service to our customers and dealer network

160 guests at the opening.

Green, managing director, Stihl GB

“The new distribution centre is essential for ensuring our dealer network receives all machines promptly, especially as the volumes and variety of battery tools increase to meet demand,” says the brand.

Last November, more than 100 staff moved into Contra House, which is named after Stihl’s first gearless one-man chainsaw invented by the company’s founder Andreas Stihl in 1959. The UK subsidiary had outgrown its previous facility, Stihl GB’s managing director Kay Green told more than

It made the decision in 2015 to build a larger base and has plans to add an “inspirational showroom” next year too.

Its new 11,5-000m2 facility will help to support Stihl GB’s 700-strong approved dealer network and the end users, with dealer training facilities and a studio, as well as a fully fitted technical workshop. There are also collaborative workspaces and an on-site restaurant. The facility has achieved BREEAM certification, featuring photovoltaic solar panels covering two-thirds of its roof area and 21 electric vehicle charging points.

"The unveiling of Contra House symbolises a significant step forward in our

commitment to product innovation and providing exceptional service to our customers and dealer network,” says Green. “We are thrilled to unveil the new facility, which not only embodies our rich heritage but also stands as a testament to our vision for the future.”

Stihl GB is making its ambitions for the UK market clear, not just in how it can better serve customers but also in how it can help them transition across to battery powered products. Contra House is just the start of a much wider plan, one that’s looking stronger than ever as a cornerstone of the brand’s future.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 21


What should you consider when looking to add a design service?

The owner of a successful design and build company, Holly Youde shares her experiences over the years to make this model work

Transitioning from a build-only model to a design-and-build service can increase project control, lead to higher customer satisfaction, and has the potential for greater profitability. However, it requires careful planning and consideration and is very much dependent on the type of projects you are aiming for.

Before diving in, it’s crucial to understand your current business structure and capabilities, conducting a thorough assessment of existing resources, including your team’s skills, client base, and financial position. Speak with existing clients, conduct surveys, and analyse competitors to gain some insight into potential market opportunities and help tailor your services to meet client expectations.

Once you have decided adding design services into your portfolio is the correct way forward there are various options to consider:

Recruiting an in-house designer

Bringing a designer onto your team is the most direct way to add design capabilities to your business. This option ensures close collaboration between the design and build teams, leading to cohesive and well-executed projects.

Communication is more streamlined, and design quality is more consistent as the designer knows the team’s capabilities inside out. The build can progress smoothly with the designer at hand to quickly and efficiently monitor and make changes as and when required. But there’s also additional salary and employment costs, as well as associated software and tech investment that need to be measured and monitored against potential design income. The design liability is also resting on the business, so you need to ensure compliance and closely monitor the designs. Having just one person with design capabilities can be risky too if they are absent, or leave; you lose the ability, so consider training up another member of the team to be able to cover.

Collaborating with external designers

Building relationships with freelance designers or design firms offers flexibility and access to diverse design styles and expertise. This approach allows you to offer design services based on project demand without the long-term commitment of hiring full-time staff. You can draw on different expertise and match the most appropriate designer with the project style or scale to enable a broad range of design capability. However, there is the potential for communication challenges, lack of control on urgency and timelines and less flexibility to offer to clients. It’s essential to nurture relationships between external designers and your team.

Upskilling existing team members

Do you have anyone in the team who already has a keen interest in design? If so, offer training and development. This can be a cost-effective win-win, encouraging the professional development of your current team and empowering employees to take on design roles. You already have their loyalty, and they already know your business, so this can work out well.

This is probably not the best option if the design capability is needed immediately. Ensure that any team members transitioning into design roles receive comprehensive education and support and do not be tempted to cut corners; design courses take time and are worth the investment – the SGD has a list of recommended courses or speak to APL or BALI. Modern landscape design now often relies on specialist software and hardware; investing in the right tools and training is essential.

Be transparent with clients too about the capabilities and limitations of your offerings. Setting realistic timelines and managing expectations will build trust and is an art that needs to be honed! Whether you choose to hire an in-house designer, collaborate with external professionals, or upskill your existing team, the key is to have a plan and know the type of projects you are targeting, resulting in a thriving design and build business.

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.


Jake founded his domestic landscaping company, The Landscaping Consultants, aged just 24. He is now a BALI board director, host of the Landscape Performance Podcast, and has delivered various award-winning 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.


Based in Cornwall, Jilayne Rickards is a multi-award-winning garden designer who puts sustainability and biodiversity at the heart of her designs, including her show gardens at Chelsea, both of which have been relocated to the Eden Project.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 ADVICE 22

Show season is upon us and we have just come off the back of Chelsea which is about as high pressure as you get within the industry. With all the great benefits for us it can cause pressure points for individuals and businesses. What would you say to anyone entering into a very busy period?

For me, starting with the end goal is really important. What is it that you are trying to achieve through this period and when will it end? If there is a level of intensity required to deliver throughout a certain time period, how long will that period be? For instance, Chelsea is a three-week intense build, so how do we plan recovery and deload periods leading into that period for the team?

Before Chelsea, we made sure that our management team had sufficient rest time/days off to minimise burnout during the intense build period. I like to think of pressure as a privilege and communicate that regularly. What could be some of the tactics that people can use to manage their energy levels in busy times?

Really simply, rest and recovery are important. If you have had a busy week, take a proactive look at your recovery over the weekend. What have you got in your schedule that is going to help you feel recovered? Sleep, diet, exercise are all key parts of recovery. There are also things you can schedule in such as family time, walking, switching off that will aid your energy levels. It is all about having a holistic view on how you perform best.

UNDER pressure

Jake Catling asks performance coach Sam Grayson about how to manage more intense periods of work

Having had experience of delivering high profile projects when we get to the business end of a job, things can ramp up a bit in terms of pressure. What would you say to anyone who struggles in these moments under pressure?

Firstly, expect the pressure; no matter what job or industry you are in there will always be these points. You can look back through life and pinpoint the moments that have seemed pressurised –school exams, first job interview, first date, driving test, the list is endless. So, an acceptance that pressure will occur in life is useful in dealing with it. Secondly, taking a moment to ask yourself some questions to relieve stress and ease pressure. For example, what have I done to prepare for this moment? What will it look like when it goes to plan? What is in my control now? And lastly, I would say focus on the things that are in your control. If you are worried about how tricky part of the build may go today, how about focusing on turning up to site on time or even 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

allows me to thrive in these situations. How would you suggest that people leading an organisation deal with pressure?

Focus on the things that are in your control

The same principles apply, but one thing that I would suggest for leaders is to have a good network of support. This may be through other business leaders, senior leadership team, family, trusted friends or even employing the services of a second set of eyes in the form of a coach, consultant or mentor. This allows for the leader to bounce ideas, share concerns and ultimately release the pressure.

Thanks Sam, that's been amazing. I would also just like to add the importance of vulnerability with your team when you are under pressure, and admitting that you may not be perfect during a specific time period, and that things might come out a bit blunt or you are not as considered and measured as normal. If you set these parameters, then that will help navigate the 'pressure' moments in high profile situations.

We have focused a lot on working out on site but what about when the pressure hits business owners to get more work, get more from the team or manage performance of others? I know from experience how having a settled team in the office


Founded by award-winning landscaper Jake Catling and performance coach Sam Grayson, Hyphae Learning partners with businesses to help them to attract, train and retain talent, with learning resources and innovative tips.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 ADVICE 23
Landscape Performance Podcast
Check out the Landscape Performance Podcast, with Catling and Grayson as the hosts, on Spotify, Google & YouTube

Becoming a B CORP

Oracle Solicitors’ Kai Sammer helps to navigate the pathway to B Corporation Certification

Sustainable Landscaping: The Path to B Corporation Certification

Sustainability is not just a buzzword anymore. It’s become a necessity, and landscape professionals are at the forefront of leading environmental change. Whether you run a small landscaping business or a large-scale outfit, you have the power to make a difference beyond creating and managing beautiful outdoor spaces. One way to demonstrate your company’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility is by becoming a Certified B Corporation, or simply a B Corp.

B Corps are for-profit companies that have been certified after meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. They strive to balance profit with purpose, with close consideration of the impact their decisions have on workers, clients, suppliers, and the community, all with the environment in mind. Becoming a B Corp offers several benefits for landscape professionals:

opening doors to collaboration and learning opportunities.

• Attracting talent: Many employees, especially Millennials and Gen Z (and soon Gen Alpha), seek sustainable and mission-driven workplaces, which B Corp will help demonstrate.

The path to B Corp certification is not a tick box exercise but a continuous journey of improvement, assessment, and further improvement

Before starting the certification process, you should evaluate your business practices across various areas, including governance, employees, environment, and customers. Free tools such as the B Impact Assessment (BIA) will let you measure the company’s social and environmental performance and identify areas for improvement. The results of the assessment will allow you to implement changes to enhance the company's impact, which could involve adopting sustainable practices, providing improved employee benefits, or strengthening community engagement initiatives.

Be mindful that the path to B Corp certification is not a tick box exercise but a continuous journey of improvement, assessment, and further improvement.

requirements, it's time to complete the official BIA. This comprehensive online questionnaire evaluates your company's performance across various impact areas.

To finally become certified, your company must achieve a minimum score on the BIA. The required score varies depending on the company's size, sector, and geographic location. After completing the assessment and reaching the minimum score, you'll need to provide documentation to verify your responses. This can include financial statements, the employee handbook, or sustainability reports. As a final step, the business signs the “Declaration of Interdependence”, affirming the company’s commitment to the B Corp values. This symbolic act signifies your dedication to creating a more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable economy.

To find out more about becoming B Corp certified and for assistance in getting fully prepared, please reach out to Oracle Solicitors today.

To hear from those who have become B Corp certified, head to page 63.

• Differentiation: It sets you apart from competitors by showing your commitment to sustainability and ethical business practices.

• Credibility: The B Corp certification provides third-party validation of your environmental and social effort.

• Networking: The B Corp community connects you with like-minded businesses,

In order to achieve the B Corp certification status, you have to ensure that your business structure meets the legal requirements. This involves amending the company’s articles of association to include specific wording on social and environmental objectives. Once all the necessary changes are in place and you’ve ensured compliance with the legal

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, Naples, Frankfurt, and Tirana, please visit:

B Corp logo ©kyiv-top/ ADVICE prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 24

Strulch was developed at Leeds University by Dr Geoff Whiteley. It is made from wheat straw, is an earthy brown colour has a neutral pH and lasts on the surface for up to two years.

Strulch stops weeds germinating by blocking light, retains moisture in the soil and the added minerals and texture deters slugs and snails.

13.5kg bags of Strulch are available on pallets of 12, 25, 40 and 48 bags.

Delivered around the UK within 4 working days.

Trade discounts available 01943 863610

Traffic Across Grass and Gravel

Enables regular traffic across grass and gravel by reducing soil compaction and gravel movement.

Sustainable Drainage Solution

90% porosity allows rainwater to drain into the ground below, replenishing groundwater and reducing runoff.

Recycled Content

Made from 100% recycled polyethylene, promoting sustainable material use.


Certified up to 250 tonnes per square metre, ideal for driveways, parking areas and garden.

Accessible for All

Cell structure and size facilitate crossing gravel with walking aid or in a wheelchair.

Optimal solution for gravel and grass

ACO GroundGuard enables the regular trafficking of grass and gravel surfaces by pedestrians and vehicles. The honeycomb cells transfer weight to the sub-base beneath, protecting grass and stabilising gravel. The product’s open structure allows rainwater to pass through to the soil.

With ACO GroundGuard, landscapers deliver grass or gravel surfaces that are accessible, permeable AND look good even when trafficked.

Landscapers learn more about the advantages of stocking ACO GroundGuard. Learn more about ACO GroundGuard

GroundGuard tile Size: 585 x 385 x 38mm Coverage: 4.42 tiles per m² White parking bay inserts
ACO. we care for water Accessories available for installation BorderGuard edging system 180mm steel nails
After one of the wettest 18 months on record, Gareth Wilson shares how to ensure retaining walls can withstand excessive rainfall


am often asked to carry out expert reports on retaining walls, be they constructed from natural stone, bricks or timber sleepers. Drainage is often not accounted for in regard to their construction, though, which can quickly lead to their deterioration, especially with the downpours and excessively high-water table over the last 10 months.

Water build at the back of retaining walls is referred to as hydrostatic pressure; combine that with earth pressure/weight. It’s important to construct the wall correctly too. It is recommended that retaining walls over 900mm in height should be designed by a structural engineer, not only for safety but to cover yourself litigation-wise should there be an issue.

The area around the retaining wall is crucial for ensuring water flows away from the structure

Should the intention be that the retaining wall be faced with tiles, walling slips or simply rendered, a suitable tanking slurry should be applied to the back of the wall to prevent water ingress, which in freezing temperatures can cause damage to the facing material.

The selection of a perforated land drainage pipe surrounded by the appropriate permeable aggregate is vital for proper drainage. Typically, granular materials such as 20mm crushed stone will have adequate permeability and should be installed to promote water flow and prevent excessive pressure on the wall.

Walls constructed of sleepers should use UC4 treated timber and the backs and undersides should be either scorched with a blow torch, treated with bitumen paint, or Walther Strong has a sleeper protection tape similar to ones used on decking joists.

Installing weep holes at regular intervals such as every linear metre and 150mm above finished floor level along the wall helps alleviate hydrostatic pressure and prevents

water from building up behind the wall. I would also recommend that channel drains are installed in front of the wall to catch the water from the weepholes, as water migrating through mortar, concrete and earth often carries leachates that can stain paved surfaces and be very difficult to remove. Channel drains should always have a silt trap installed in these instances. Where possible, the area around the retaining wall is crucial for ensuring water flows away from the structure.

Consideration should be given to managing surface water runoff that may come into contact with the retaining wall. Properly designed and installed surface and sub-surface drainage can direct the water away from the wall and prevent excessive water infiltration.

Leaving college at 17, Gareth has worked in the landscape industry since 1989. Progressing onto high-end projects, he has picked up seven RHS gold medals. He is a member of multiple professional bodies. He provides technical and product advice to large companies, mentors and trains contractors and garden designers in landscape construction and on show gardens logistics across the UK. Gareth also provides mediation services, he is a member of the BS7533:102 committee and is an industry awards judge.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 27

REINFORCING BEST PRACTICES with ground reinforcement tiles

The performance of ground reinforcement tiles on the surface depends on supporting layers beneath. Angus Crichton, ACO House & Garden’s marketing manager, spoke to landscaping expert Rupert Keys from TASK Academy (left) about installation best practice

Angus: Why are ground reinforcement tiles valuable products for landscapers?

Rupert: The fundamental fact is that gravel in a grid doesn't move around on top of a hardcore system like loose gravel would, especially on a driveway with cars turning. In a parking area, grass within a grid doesn’t churn up. The grid keeps everything in place.

Angus: Starting from the bottom up, how do site conditions shape installation?

Choose a grid that is the right strength for what travels over it

Rupert: First, test the ground that you're going to be excavating out because you don't know how solid that ground is, and not just on the surface. This can have an impact on the depth of the sub-base required. A trial pit or a core sample will reveal if the sandy soil on the surface turns to clay 300mm down. Sending a soil sample to the lab for a California Bearing Ratio Test reveals the compaction properties of soil. You can then adapt the depth of sub-base in accordance with the soil conditions below, as well as allowing for the weight of traffic above. It’s always useful to

get a structural engineer involved. Plus, choose a grid that is the right strength for what travels over it.

Angus: What are your key rules for building a secure sub-base? Rupert:

• Rule 1: Free-draining layers. To stabilise the soil and ensure permeability to the surface water above, put down MOT Type 3. This open-graded sub-base material has reduced fines, which increases its permeability, yet compacts tightly for load bearing.

• Rule 2: Separate the layers. Sandwich the MOT Type 3 between two layers of geotextile membrane. The geotextile stops soil coming up into the sub-base and stone moving down into the soil. Without a membrane, you'll get insects and worms bringing up soil into MOT Type 3 and clogging up its permeable spaces, and stone travelling down, causing sinking.

• Rule 3: Lay and compact layers in stages. Sub-bases should be compacted in layers of no more than 75mm in depth at a time. You don't want to be compacting 200mm of sub-base all in one go because the compaction is not getting down to the bottom. It’s just going to sink when trafficked.

Angus: How do we lay the tiles onto the sub-base?

Rupert: Your finished MOT Type 3 might be undulating, so I have used a thin blinding of sharp sand (or more free-draining grano dust) over the top of the MOT just to take out any dips or hollows. Having compacted this laying course, the grids go down on top of that in a stretcher pattern, breaking up joints between rows like with brickwork. This is all after we've laid some edgings. These retain the gravel, hold everything in place and stop spread, particularly when a vehicle turns. You could use nice block paving, concrete curbs, or solid metal edging. If grids are installed on a slope, pin them into the ground.

Angus: And how would we finish off with gravel or grass?

Rupert: You would lay something between 10-14mm gravel. You don't want anything too big as you want that gravel to sit in the honeycomb effect of the grid system. For grass, add and level off soil into the grids and then sow. Make sure it’s good quality topsoil, without any compost, firmed down but not over-compacted, so the roots bind all that soil together. If it is dry, water the grass.

Angus: How can landscapers gain more knowledge of these and other products?

Rupert: The main reason I started TASK Academy is to give my years of experience to people walking through our door as students. 80% of a TASK course is practical. We're outside, hands-on; it's the best way to learn.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 ADVICE 28 No pre-drilling required Self-countersinking Corrosion resistant coating Free drive tool in every pack Watch our Stars in action! SCAN THE QR CODE TO WATCH THE UNMISSABLE WIN AN ENGLAND SHIRT! SCAN THE QR CODE FOR MORE INFORMATION




Dave Gallagher took over as managing director of Helmrig four years ago and is already racking up a series of successes


On the face of it, Dave Gallagher’s career has been incredibly varied. The ex-army officer has enjoyed stints at the Royal Mail Group, in the grounds maintenance sector and in the recycling industry, all of which has led to his current role as managing director of Helmrig, a landscaping company in the north west. But to Gallagher, they’re all linked by a common thread – people.

“I’ve always enjoyed leading teams of people who are doing something practical –something gritty and hands on. So, it might look like a very diverse career, but if you can lead people in the right way, if you genuinely care about them and show an interest in them, and you focus on developing them and running the business with the right values, then you’re on firm foundations whichever industry you work in.”

The success in the last four years since Gallagher took over the management of Helmrig speaks for itself. Over the course of just three years, sales jumped by a staggering 59%, and the team has grown to facilitate that. The in-house landscaping team alone has jumped from four to 15, bringing the total number of employees at

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 31

Helmrig to 25, along with the recent addition of a new health and safety manager – Steve Parker – and new office manager, Serena Ridyard. Then there’s the Pro Landscaper Business Award that Helmrig picked up earlier this year in the Landscape Company £1m - £5m Turnover category.

Gallagher is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief, having taken over the business from his father-in-law, Phil Harrington, who founded Helmrig more than 40 years ago. He still uses Harrington as a “sounding board” while Harrington prepares Sunday lunch for the family which includes Gallagher’s three children, the oldest of which is aged six and the youngest is just 18 months old.

We look after people, and that’s right across the supply chain

But Gallagher’s own experience puts him on a firm footing for building on the strong foundations that Harrington has created over the last four decades. He spent six years in the army as a royal engineer officer, having undertaken a civil engineering degree. After a few tours abroad, including two in Iraq, he left to join the civilian workforce. He took on an operational role at Royal Mail at a crucial period for the group, as it was transitioning from being a government department to a private FTSE 100 company. Gallagher helped to “change, reconfigure and set up new operations, working with people to modernise Royal Mail to capitalise on more parcels and fewer letters.”

After six years, Gallagher moved on to study a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Lancaster University, then joined grounds maintenance provider Envirocare – which is based on the same site in Leyland as Helmrig – for one year in an interim capacity to help

with a particular stage of its growth. When that came to an end, he spent three years with Recycling Lives, which offers waste management services but also has a social enterprise, helping ex-offenders find work when their sentence comes to an end.

"It’s a clever support network of hardworking people who get to know the individuals personally, figure out what they need to make a success of life, and then try to set them up with a commercial opportunity.”

Gallagher was then looking for a new opportunity himself as his father-in-law was considering taking a “step back” from the day-to-day operations. The “family handover” was a “weighted responsibility”, he says. “It did come with a bit of pressure; but once you get in and get running, then that pressure dissipates.”

He was eager to maintain the values that Harrington had instilled in Helmrig whilst moving forward with the business.“The commercial environment changes pretty quickly. Some of Phil’s clients who were really key people for the business even three or four

years ago have retired or been sold or changed their offering.”

Take Kensington Developments, says Gallagher.“They were a fast-moving, highquality housebuilder on the Irish Sea coast and really resonated with the way Phil had run his company and its commitment to quality. We had become their preferred landscaper over a number of years, so they were a key client. But not long after I’d taken over, Kensington Developments moved away from housebuilding.”

It could have been disastrous, but Gallagher didn’t see it that way and was unperturbed.

“The sites that they were partway through had been handed onto new clients and it gave us an opportunity to build relationships with new clients, which in several cases have gone from strength to strength.” Rowland Homes, for instance, has since become one of Helmrig’s biggest clients.“I was able to go in and build a relationship afresh, using the same values and commitment to quality.”

Company values are something which Gallagher refers to frequently, and these come back to – unsurprisingly – people.

“Fundamentally, we’re a construction subcontractor, and that can be a fairly cutthroat industry; payment terms are not always what you may like, and there is a higher level of insolvencies within construction, particularly in specialist trade subcontractors. So, you’ve got to stand up and do the right thing in that sense.

“We look after people, and that’s right across the supply chain. We ensure they get paid on

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 32

time without fail. We don’t mess people about and we operate with integrity. If you look after people in that way, you build effective, longer-term relationships that underpin longer-term success.”

Gallagher also wants Helmrig to be more than a “transactional contractor”, leveraging the experience of his core team – Sam Whittle, Gary Andrews and Kriss Kowaluk – as well as his own.“We’re there to do the job right, but we’re also there to solve problems and advise our clients. It’s more than just a transactional relationship; it’s what we achieve, and that’s something that Phil used to do very well.”

Andrews was a lecturer at Myerscough College, whilst Whittle has been in the industry for more than 40 years. Kowaluk started as a landscaper for the company five years ago, quickly progressing to supervisor, then senior supervisor, and he’s now contract manager for 19 new-build housing developments, juggling a team of 15 and nine vans. His “attitude and hunger for learning” has helped to progress the business and “underpins the business’ success” as he has been able to take on the day-to-day running of the teams and make improvements in this area, says Gallagher.

you have a team that fundamentally shares the same values and is pulling in the same direction, then you can solve any problem.”

Helmrig is active in a variety of sectors –education, commercial, infrastructure, retirement homes, to name a few – but the majority (around 80%) of its work is for housebuilders.

We’re there to do the job right, but we’re also there to solve problems and advise our clients. It’s more than just a transactional relationship; it’s what we achieve

“Great teams are always founded upon diversity, and that’s diversity of skills, diversity of experience, diversity of outlook and diversity of background. If you have that diversity and

It’s a sector that has faced its fair share of hardships over the last few years, but it’s proven prosperous for Helmrig.“On the landscaping side, if you’re building a housing estate of 150 houses, for instance, and each one of those has a garden, then the volume of work is huge. We’re well experienced at dealing with the challenges and the pressures that housebuilders face. It is our core business, and whilst there are certainly other

Landscaping is just one of its three divisions, making up more than half of Helmrig’s sales, on top of tree care and knotweed eradication. This can vary, though. A large knotweed project one year could account for a larger proportion of sales.“It’s project based; they either have the sort of problems that the knotweed eradication or the trees division can solve, or they don't. But underpinning that is a steady stream of work, which gives the business great resilience and robustness because we’re active right across the whole scope of a construction project.

“So, if a typical housebuilding project lasts for five years, we might be active in an advisory capacity at the start, then perhaps there’s vegetation clearance or a knotweed problem that needs resolving, and as they start to build,

1 Dave Gallagher, managing director of Helmrig

2 Tree clearance and climbing team

3 Pro Landscaper Business Awards 2024

4 Public space landscaping, Richmond Point

5 Herb garden feature for Redrow, Lancashire complementary sectors that we’re active in, I don’t fundamentally see that changing.”

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 33

there might be smaller scale tree work. Then we’ll get into the landscaping, completing the site ready for handover.”

In the “boom and bust” industry of construction, being involved throughout the project pipeline puts Helmrig in a stronger position, reckons Gallagher.“In the last couple of years, a few project startups have been running at a slower level, which in housebuilding is down to affordability and interest and mortgage rates – people’s ability to purchase a new property. So, a lot of our clients have paused or slowed down their investments in new sites. That has affected the trees and the knotweed business to a degree. But on the other hand, landscaping has remained buoyant because a housebuilder needs the cash flow from selling the houses, and they can’t do that until the landscaping is complete.”

And whilst housebuilders might have struggled over recent years, there are opportunities on the horizon that could benefit Helmrig. Earlier this year, the government told councils in England to prioritise brownfield developments and to be more flexible with this land if being ‘bureaucratic’ was halting housebuilding – something which could lead to more business for Helmrig’s knotweed eradication division.

The way we solve the housing crisis is building affordable houses for key workers, and we’re doing an awful lot of that for a number of providers

years, ahead of it coming into effect this February, and there is a “huge amount” of investment in the north too – not just in the more prosperous cities but also in more deprived areas where affordable housing is needed.

Invasive weeds can be more prevalent on post-industrial brownfield sites, explains Gallagher. Japanese knotweed, for example, was imported by the Victorians and used for its root structure to do things such as stabilise railway embankments.“So, it’s typically on brownfield sites where remediation is needed and where that commercial opportunity is,” especially since landowners are legally obliged to take all necessary steps to prevent Japanese knotweed spreading, according to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Helmrig has also already seen the impact of biodiversity net gain over the last couple of

“That’s the end of the market where we’re really contributing to the housing crisis. It’s great building £600k executive houses for people who can afford them, and it’s obviously fantastic for business – they tend to come with a great spec; but the way we solve the housing crisis is building affordable houses for key workers, and we’re doing an awful lot of that for a number of providers whose ultimate clients are residential providers.”

Being able to take advantage of growth areas in the market has its challenges, though. “If an organisation of 5,000 people grows it sales by 5%, then it can logically say it needs 250 more people. But if you work in a business of this size and increase sales by 20%, do I need 1.2 more people? At what point do I bring in the next person? You have to find the right people to buy into what you’re trying to do.”

The skills gap is one thing, but there’s also an “aspiration gap. It’s not easy to find the right people at entry level – those at the younger end of their careers who have the aspiration to do the sort of work that we do. If I had a pound for every time someone offered to manage my social media or redo the website, I’d be a very wealthy man; but finding someone to prepare a garden and put turf down to a good standard

is not always easy – we've got to be the best employer and sell our message a bit stronger.” Helmrig could be more “extrovert” and shout a bit louder – one of the goals of entering the Pro Landscaper Business Awards this year. But coming out as a category winner, it certainly has a lot to be proud of.“I didn’t have huge expectations three years ago; we didn’t want to put ourselves under pressure, in that sense. We were undergoing a transition in the family to continue to deliver the same level of success. But it’s been much more than that, through focusing on doing things in the right way. There’s no magic to what’s been done over the last few years, and there’s no reason why we can’t continue to do it.”

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 BUSINESS 34
6 Planting display for Redrow Lancashire 7 Lawns and native planting at Riverside Place 8 Award for Landscape Company Turnover £1-5M 01462 486777 PG9R LD40662VER E6311S E3221WWNC ERU010-01A PREMIUM QUALITY OUTDOOR LIGHTING
for Gardens is home to the market leading Elipta product range. The Elipta brand is synonymous with quality and is the first choice for many award-winning garden designers and landscapers. Elipta - the professionals’ choice.




An escarpment proved challenging for the team transforming a relatively large garden at a modern, detached family home. At five metres tall, it ran diagonally through the garden, falling within the property’s curtilage. The clients were unable to use a major part of the garden as it was seen as dangerous and inaccessible. The upside is that the elevated aspect of this garden allowed for stunning views across the valley and into the canopy of neighbouring trees.

Garden and landscape designer Adam Vetere's initial site visit showed the garden to be an underwhelming space with an old picket


Project value


Build time 8 weeks

Size of project 165m2 (excluding escarpment) Awards SGD Awards 2024

The People’s Choice Award winner and Small Residential Landscapes & Gardens, APL Awards 2023

Designer of the Year (Gold award) and Supreme Winner (JJH Landscapes), Pro Landscaper Project Awards 2022

Supreme Winner

fence, a large shed and an old vegetable plot which sat within the level area, overlooking the steep escarpment, largely laid to lawn and with planting virtually non-existent.

Designing a garden which would provide the clients with the space they wanted for dining, entertaining and relaxing outside as a family, Vetere wanted to make it appear as thought it was floating in the surrounding tree canopy.

Since the surrounding trees were some five or six metres below the level of the usable garden, extending out over the escarpment, the design also had to fully consider the surroundings – the woods to the

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 37

west and south, the lack of privacy from the neighbours' properties to the east, the underlying conditions of the site’s potentially made-up ground and the challenge of the escarpment.

If budget were no issue, the site could have been multi-terraced, according to Vetere, but the cost and engineering of such a proposal was far too expensive so instead, he proposed a sunken, cantilevered floating deck extending over the edge of the escarpment to be a core design feature.

The inspiration for this was sparked by the client’s love of the Rocky Mountains. The garden design and its geometry were based on the silhouette of the peaks of the Rockies, taken vertically and transposed horizontally within the space.

The cantilevered deck was an absolute success, says Vetere. It covers 17m2 and the area which extends over the escarpment adds a further 6.5m2 to the clients’ usable space, in turn allowing for additional seating and dining.

In addition, Vetere added a seating area which was screened from neighbours by a new pergola and multi-stemmed trees, thus achieving full privacy.

The angled design allowed for the easy segregation of the garden into three distinct zones: the gravel garden which provides an informal area to relax in, the deck and dining terrace for formal entertaining, and the children's play area.

An integrated water feature was also designed to be enjoyed from either the dining terrace or from the seating areas over the escarpment acting on a practical level to offset road noise within the residential development.

Subtle lighting and uplighting of specimen trees and planting were installed so that the garden might be enjoyed by the clients, their family, and friends well into the evening.

Planting areas were increased to improve the site ecology and diversity as well as introducing 50m2 of drought tolerant and insect friendly planting. Adding interest and colour for most of the year, the modern and contemporary scheme was laid out in a naturalistic format for the gravel garden, deck, and dining terrace.

Over 65% of the space became dedicated to soft landscaping within the garden. The clients have positively commented on how the garden is “full of bees and butterflies all day long, so we really feel that the project has had a positive impact on the environment around us, too.”

The planting in the shady area of the garden is cool and verdant and was designed for the dry shade.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 38

The clients’ existing paving and hard landscaping was crushed on site and used for sub-bases and part of the planting medium for improved drainage, and all topsoil was recycled on site.

The existing shed was reused and given a new lease of life, and retaining walls were constructed from mild steel, sourced from Ireland, to eliminate the need for any concrete footings.

While the cantilevered deck did require a significant amount of concrete for its foundations, it has been designed to last for decades and it is expected that the composite decking boards and timber supports will last for a minimum of 25 years, though the steel structure beneath should last significantly longer than this.

All paving was selected for its high quality, durability, and high anti-slip rating. It was also selected for its natural appearance, which mimics natural stone in terms of texture and variation, and the supplier London Stone is committed to the sustainable and ethical sourcing of its products. It is a carbon neutral company and is constantly working to reduce emissions and waste, says Vetere.

Rainwater is then harvested to the side of the house and an irrigation system was installed to assist the clients with the efficient use of mains water during any drought periods; but being a drought tolerant planting scheme, it should require very little additional watering long term.

1 View from the lawn

2 The floating deck

3 View from the dining terrace

4 The dining terrace

©Eleanor Walpole Photography

5 The Rock Garden and floating deck

©Eleanor Walpole Photography

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 39

The main challenge with this project for Vetere was that a major part of the garden was inaccessible because of the escarpment; therefore, the clients wanted a creative solution to use more of this area, thus extending the garden size in the process.

The flat area of the garden was also an issue, as the ground had been artificially raised by the original house builder to create a basic, usable space. It meant that any structure installed would need to find virgin ground to ensure it was safe.

A further challenge was that the escarpment was classified as an area of identified biodiversity interest by the local planning department, so Vetere had to ensure that any landscaping in this area did not interfere with the biodiversity of the site. Together with the construction expertise of JJH Landscapes, Vetere found creative ways to complete the hard landscaping required in the project away from these areas of high biodiversity, ensuring its

future sustainability, whilst equally respecting the legal planning requirements of the project.

The construction of the deck was extremely difficult for the team, as there could be no supports for it within the escarpment area because of the slope and the planning restriction. As such, a cantilevered design was developed, with the footings and structural support being placed in the level area of the garden, allowing the deck to float over the edge of the escarpment by a further two metres.

The clients were absolutely thrilled with their garden and its sunken, cantilevered deck. It met a tough brief on what is a very unusual and challenging site, becoming a well-loved and usable treetop oasis.

6 View across the dining terrace to play area

7 The Rock Garden ©Eleanor Walpole Photography

Adam Vetere MAPL MSGD is a multi-award-winning garden and landscape designer, member of the APL and registered member of the SGD, who has been honed from a unique background in horticulture, graphic design training, practical landscaping, and business design. He is enthused by a continued passion for plants and sustainable design. ABOUT


Paving London Stone

Decking Millboard

Water feature Landscapeplus

Lighting Hudson Lighting

Pergola London Stone

Plants Viridis

Premium Plants

Rocks and boulders Rock Farm Quarry, Somerset

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 40

All your landscape materials available from one company and on one delivery:

Urban Tree Planting and Tree Irrigation

Soils, Growing Media and Barks

Rural Tree Planting

Wildflower Seed and Conservation

Ecology, Ponds and Bioengineering

Ground, Wind, Weed and Erosion Control

Grounds Maintenance

is proud to work with landscape contractors, designers and architects to create beautiful, sustainable and biodiverse landscape projects, supplying the industry with everything from soil to stakes and tree shelters to topsoil.
Over 10,000 products with a robust supply chain
Nationwide, flexible and next day delivery options
A comprehensive programme of CPD seminars and training seminars
Renowned for our professional advice and excellent customer care Order today by calling 01423 332100 or order online at @greentechltd @greentechuk green-tech-ltd Helping to transform landscapes for 30 years

LIGHT after dark



At a newly built, bespoke property on the outer edges of Lancaster, Lancashire, the owners had clear views across the countryside with a train track running in the distance. The picturesque scenery left them desperate for a garden with an elegant touch whilst remaining plant focused, with different zones and pathways to create a journey around the space. The house had also been designed with many rooms overlooking the garden, so the lighting aspect of the project was key. The client was expecting to spend a lot of time in the garden, especially throughout the evening, and having spent a large part of their life in Texas, the clients wanted

to make sure they had a garden that they wanted to venture out into and one that was appropriate for entertaining.


Project value


Build time 6 months

Size of project 490m2

When Peter Cowell Garden Design Ltd took on this project, the work was slow. The team stepped in at the last moment for the build and worked through lockdown when material costs and availability changed on a daily basis.

The client requested a garden that "oozed class" with evergreen features, a bold structure with a reduced pallet of colour with only white and blue perennials and grasses. Some of the statement plants within the garden

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 43
prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 44

were the bold evergreen hedging – Prunus lusitanica and Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'.

The multistem Betual jacquemontii was used for its structure and the Cornus kousa tree for its flowers. But it was the choice of wildflower meadow with mature fruit trees that created an environment the client could feel lost within.

Cowell created a design that ticks all the boxes itself, including everything from a wild orchard, a journey around the garden, fire pit area, water feature and outdoor social spaces. The lighting gave that significant wow factor, highlighting each social space with contrasting brightness, giving the space depth and discovery.

From a lighting point of view, Cowell was keen to work solely with an LED 12v system from a safety and cost point of view. The lighting used was predominantly Nitelux fittings with some Hudson and LightingforGardens fitting for specific lighting effects. There were several zones to highlight and many viewpoints from the house to take into consideration when designing the lighting to create as big an impact as possible.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 45


Timber Manchester Deck

Lighting Nitelux Lighting


Hudson Lighting


Ladybrook Nursery Bannister Hall


Honda FG201 Tiller Honda

DeWalt FlexVolt

Advantage 20V Angle Grinder DeWalt

Combined with the struggles of lockdown, this project presented a series of challenges for Cowell as the property had originally been just flat land with poor soil conditions and poor drainage. On top of that, the site had a curtilage with restricted planning rights which Cowell had to navigate in the design process, combined with the overall budget for the project as the client had false expectations of landscaping costs.

Then there were the main challenges caused by the previous contractor. Unable to carry out the project to a high enough standard and with legal action required, Cowell took over the build side of the project along with the design, then managing the client’s extra cautiousness regarding the project due to the prior bad experience.

But thankfully, the client and Cowell were overjoyed with the finished result. What started as a blank canvas soon became an elegant extension of the house that wows visitors and matches the picturesque views.

Photographs ©Tim Emmerton Photography


An award-winning garden design studio based in Lancashire, Peter Cowell Garden Design Ltd is passionate about creating exceptional gardens that add value to client's property and increase the quality of outdoor living.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 46



The Otter Nursery and Twickenham Plant Centre specialises in providing a wide range of top-quality plants such as trees, hedging, shrubs, roses, herbaceous plants, and climbers. Approximately 80% of our plants are carefully nurtured on-site without artificial heat, ensuring their health and vigor. We excel in offering a diverse selection of hedging plants, available in various sizes up to 4 meters tall.

The Otter Nursery and Twickenham Plant Centre specialises in providing a wide range of top-quality plants such as trees, hedging, shrubs, roses, herbaceous plants, and climbers. Approximately 80% of our plants are carefully nurtured on-site without artificial heat, ensuring their health and vigor. We excel in offering a diverse selection of hedging plants, available in various sizes up to 4 meters tall.

The Otter Nursery and Twickenham Plant Centre specialises in providing a wide range of top-quality plants such as trees, hedging, shrubs, roses, herbaceous plants, and climbers. Approximately 80% of our plants are carefully nurtured on-site without artificial heat, ensuring their health and vigor. We excel in offering a diverse selection of hedging plants, available in various sizes up to 4 meters tall.

Our landscape supplies include BS-standard topsoil, TGA-standard turf, premium composts, screened topsoils, barks, aggregates, and railway sleepers. These high-quality products are used by our own award-winning landscaping company, Kingston Landscape Group LTD, to guarantee the provision of exceptional plants and landscaping materials.

Our landscape supplies include BS-standard topsoil, TGA-standard turf, premium composts, screened topsoils, barks, aggregates, and railway sleepers. These high-quality products are used by our own award-winning landscaping company, Kingston Landscape Group LTD, to guarantee the provision of exceptional plants and landscaping materials.

Our landscape supplies include BS-standard topsoil, TGA-standard turf, premium composts, screened topsoils, barks, aggregates, and railway sleepers. These high-quality products are used by our own award-winning landscaping company, Kingston Landscape Group LTD, to guarantee the provision of exceptional plants and landscaping materials.

We offer Trade pricing and can deliver straight to site.

We offer Trade pricing and can deliver straight to site.

We offer Trade pricing and can deliver straight to site.



HAVEN Healing



Chiltern Garden

Design was invited to help transform an unloved, weedy, and unused space at the heart of Amersham Hospital. What is essentially a podium landscape above a roof on an upper floor within the hospital, the dermatology department courtyard has limited access and tall enclosing walls on all four sides of the space. Used as a source of escapism for staff, the space needed to be overhauled in order to revitalise these essential workers.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 49
Project value Pro bono Build time 4 weeks Size of project 150m2

The existing design included hardscape consisting of paving and brick areas, with a metal three-quarter dome for climbers in the south corner and just enough space for a couple of seats and a bistro table. Although this structure would have been lovely with scented climbers over it, it had been placed in the shadiest part of the garden and therefore any attempt at previous planting had been unsuccessful.

In the west corner sat a couple of arched trellis panels covered in ivy, forming a dense backdrop that blocked a small selection of windows, and a partially rotting pergola ran along the northwest stretch.

The posts and horizontals were sound, but the rafters were not worth retaining; instead, the design began to include additional planting to trail the vertical stretch and soften the structure.

The soil, thick with clay, meant that the only retained vegetation were a number of mature Choisya ternata shrubs, a cornus, and a buddleja, and in the centre of the space lay a stone water feature in need of repair and with a pebble surround.

Chiltern Garden Design was therefore presented with a brief to retain existing hardscapes and focus on the planting. The team was asked to design a lush

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 50

courtyard space that aims to create an immersive natural experience. Chiltern Garden Design’s planting design features tree ferns as the key species to add a touch of drama and height, with foliage providing much of the interest in the planting beds, softening the hardscape but with a low maintenance scheme kept in mind and a focus on adding colour, texture, and scent.

The planting was chosen to invite nature into the space to create a sense of escapism for the staff who are invited to take a moment to step out of work mode into somewhere completely different –a world where large leaves mix with textural forms and bright pops of colour, bringing more joy and pleasure to their everyday.

Chiltern Garden Design began by teaming up with volunteers from the Amersham Hospital Gardens project, Chiltern Rangers, and was supported by

Together with the volunteers, the hard landscaping aspects of the space, as well as the existing furniture, were retained, cleaned, and repainted, presenting Chiltern Garden Design with a clean slate for the soft landscaping.

The existing corner dome had been cleaned as well and was envisaged as a place to envelop yourself in soft and scented greenery. It was covered with climbers suitable for the shady aspect. Planting beds around the seating were designed with a focus on texture and foliage.

Height and drama were added by the tree ferns, including a multi-stem tree fern, underplanted with other ferns and foliage interest plants to create a sense of lush escapism. Plenty of evergreen structural planting was also included to ensure the garden is attractive in all season – some with interesting winter flowers and scent.

The existing trellises and structures were made effective, used to grow climbers to add height, colour, and scent, in contrast with the bright perennials packed into the sunnier corner of the courtyard, including the likes of Achillea millefolium, Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii, geranium, geum, and crocosmia.

1 Multistem tree ferns set tone for a lush retreat

2 Refurbished dome makes secluded seating area

3 Lush textural underplanting

4 Dramatic foliage

5 Darmera peltata, Dryopteris, Loropetalum chinensis

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 51
Lindengate Charity, Work Aid and Buckinghamshire NHS Hospital Trust.

Challenges encountered throughout the project included the limited depth of soil to plant into. Standard trees were therefore not possible, meaning that Chiltern Garden Design invested in tree ferns which do not have much rootball and instead needed staking to ensure they are supported in their establishment period. As the garden is located within a hospital, one of the key issues was also access – the tree ferns having to be transported throughout the grounds on hospital gurneys.

The shady but sheltered courtyard challenged Chiltern Garden Design to introduce a different range of plants. Many were only available from specialist nurseries, which the designer had sourced on behalf of the project, and unfortunately, the central water feature was left out of action due to lack of budget to address this. However, Chiltern Garden Design is hopeful that there may be opportunity to re-establish this feature in full working order in the near future. Now a new beautiful space to sit and relax within, the garden offers a comfortable and welcoming area for nurses working within the dermatology department to relax and watch the wildlife.

6 Shaded in the day; planting is focused on texture Photographs ©Nigel Proctor Photography


Chiltern Garden Design is the brainchild of Sam Proctor MSGD. Proctor has been creating beautiful gardens for over a decade that suit the needs and lifestyle of her clients, never imposing a one-size fits all solution, but finding a style and scheme to fit the complex needs of busy people.




Common Nurseries

Creepers Palmstead

Secateurs and snips Niwaki

Hand tools Kent and Stowe

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PORTFOLIO 52
TTC_LE_198x128_Ad-ART.pdf 1 08/03/2021 10:55

Take a raincheck

It’s a key theme at this year’s Chelsea – Matt Evans explores why water usage is on everyone’s minds and how we can reduce it in gardens

Wow, it’s official – at the point of putting pen to paper, according to the Met Office we’re breaking the back of the wettest spring since records began in 1836. Last summer was the wettest of the last 10 on record. What’s your point, I hear you cry? Well, the reality is that on a global scale, water is in short supply and in some regions, particularly in the south of Europe, annual rainfall is lessening at an alarming rate. With this in mind, we all have a duty to use water responsibly and make the most of the wetter months.

Whilst stats suggest rainfall may be on the up here in the UK, the increase has been accompanied by a seasonal increase in extreme temperatures, meaning that at the time of year when rainfall is at its lowest, we’re experiencing extreme heat and sustained periods of drought. All of this has a huge effect on our landscape and the gardens we all spend so much time planning and installing.

We spend so much time discussing and planning how to remove and divert water from a site with drainage, but often overlook the benefit in recycling it

At a time where the use of water and how it’s recycled (particularly waste water) has never been more in the public psyche, as members of the landscape industry we need to unite and join forces to shine a light on responsible consumption, storage and use of water - one of the most critical elements in the success of any garden space.

Policy wise, at a national level SuDS have become a statutory consideration as part of reducing flood risk; but on a more basic level, working to manage, harvest and retain water across a site doesn’t have to be hugely complex. We spend so much time discussing and planning how to remove and divert water from a site with drainage, but often overlook the benefit in recycling it and using it to help the garden flourish in the long term.

In most small domestic gardens, we have space to harvest rainwater via a gutter or downpipe into some sort of trough or water feature. This can then be used to manually

water pots and planting, not only serving a purpose but providing a focal point for a small space. Traditionally Islamic and Italian gardens would always have had some sort of allocation of space for harvesting of water, a place to gather, cool off and socialise. Functionality and form – something we all strive for in good design.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 54

Attenuation tanks or below ground storage should always be considered and, as previously mentioned, they’re often now mandatory on developments over a certain size. The key consideration in using them is how they sit within the space. Planning will stipulate that they must be five metres from the property so as not to undermine footings or foundations and the wider structure. Within the garden, if they’re located under a lawn, think about settlement and how deep the soil is above them as it will dry out quicker in hot weather than the surrounding subsoil leaving you with a visible outline of a tank above a lawn –which, ironically, you’ll end up having to water to manage.

There are certain rules about using harvested rainwater for irrigation and do bear in mind that water levels in your tank will likely be at their lowest during the point in the year that you need to use them the most. An attenuation tank linked to irrigation really should have a mains connection and operate on a ball float so as to maintain the correct water level for watering requirements.

From a design perspective, there are a number of conscious decisions we can make when planning a space to indirectly work in a sympathetic way with regard to water usage, consumption and potential pollution.

This trend was highlighted by a number of designers at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The WaterAid Garden by Tom Massey and Je Ahn used reclaimed materials to lower the carbon footprint of the build. The construction was centred around a rainwater harvesting pavilion which collects every drop of rain it can for irrigation, filtering it, storing it and slowing the flow – a basic principle of drainage management in the most stunning of architectural spaces.

Flood Re: The Flood Resistant Garden by Naomi Shade and Dr Ed Barsley was designed to recover quickly after intense periods of rain. A clever use of dense planting slows the flow of water across the site.

An integral swale channels rainwater into a feature pond where it slowly soaks away – why bury your soak away in the ground? Conversely, large tanks were used to double as ponds, whereby water can be removed ahead of heavy rain via smart technology or stored for later use during periods of drought.

Finally, The Water Saving Garden by Sam Proctor was designed around water saving measures featuring interconnected planters fed with rainwater. Hailing from the Chilterns, Proctor designed the garden to highlight the desperate need to save water and look after the Chiltern chalk streams.

On a day-to-day scale, though, there are other ways to use water responsibly that we can all adopt:

• Right plant, right place – if you’re working with particularly free draining soil, make sure you plant something that won’t need intensive watering just to stay alive. Test your soil before you finalise a client’s planting scheme and look at what’s already flourishing in the garden and growing naturally as this is a good indicator as to the conditions within the site that you’ll have to work with.

• Mulch, mulch, mulch – it's well known that improving the quality of your soil can lessen the need to water. Adopt a no dig style policy in the garden, and instead concentrate on the health of your soil. It will have a minimal impact, but as part of the bigger picture it shouldn’t be overlooked.

If we all do our bit, from the rainwater run off on our garden shed, to a more open-minded approach to SuDS during the planning and design process, we might just make a difference.


Matt Evans is the managing director and design lead at The Garden Room Living and Landscape Studio, based in Poole, Dorset. The Garden Room is a young, creative design studio founded by partners in life and design, Matt and his wife Elle Evans. Located just a stone’s throw from the shores of Poole Harbour and the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, they operate across Dorset, London and the south of England offering garden design, project management and planting as well as specialist aftercare.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 TRENDS 55
Both images
Garden design by James Aldridge Landscape + Garden Design Large Lily planter in white Email Trade enquiries 01759 373839 Nursery LTD T: 01903 251 312 E: WHOLESALE NURSERY | TREES | SHRUBS | HERBACEOUS | HEDGING LIVING WALL PLANTS | CONTRACT GROW | CONTAINERS & PLANTERS Established in 2011, our aim is to supply high quality plants to landscape professionals, garden designers and private clients. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service combined with high quality products to ensure your planting schemes excel.
Where design


vary drastically between projects, planters are one product that are evolving in customisability

Customisable CREATIONS

Planters are the ideal choice for balconies, patios, rooftops, or any area where space may be limited or where flexibility is desired. And for these projects, according to suppliers, modular planters seem to be the go-to choice.

A hybrid product that is more customisable than custom fabricated planters or fixed self-build planter kits, modular planters are the versatile gardening solution that offers numerous benefits.

Consisting of individual units or modules that can be combined and arranged in various configurations to suit different spaces and plant needs, they also have more variety in panel sizes and are pre-made, ready for dispatch, and made to be configured onsite to suit the project requirements.

"They're perfect for landscapers and designers who don’t want to wait weeks for something to be fabricated but do want to be able to easily adjust the shape or configuration onsite,” says Lennie Groenendijk, general manager at Straightcurve, which specialises in steel solutions.

Planter designs are highly customisable, offering a wide range of options to suit individual tastes and preferences. “Modular planters enable gardeners to create unique and functional planters that seamlessly integrate into their indoor or outdoor environments,” says director at contemporary planter manufacturer Urbis Design

There are numerous ways to personalise a planter to fit any space or aesthetic

Limited, Louise Keys. From the size and shape to the material and finish, there are numerous ways to personalise a planter to fit any space or aesthetic.

But be sure to consider the size and shape. Keys recommends thinking about the space available and the types of plants your client will want to grow. “A larger planter can accommodate more plants and provide a more dramatic visual impact, while a smaller planter might be better suited for a more intimate setting or a specific plant variety.”

Taking these into account, there are several trends that suppliers have noticed

with professional landscapers and designers. Groenendijk at Straightcurve says she has seen a move away from one-off custom planters and a move towards these planter systems. “These systems allow professionals to reliably build high quality planters whilst modifying them onsite to suit the project specifications.”

According to John Wilkes, director at Europlanters Ltd – which is known for its GRP range – whilst most of these modular designs are totally bespoke to fit a design intent depicted by planning constraints, the most important consideration to bear in mind when choosing a planter for a project, is

usually access to the space, “especially to terraces and balconies. Once the crane has gone then quite often the only way to get planters to higher levels is via the goods lift, so make sure each section will fit in the lift or hoist.”

But no matter how big, small, or hard to get to the project it may be, with options ranging from box kits with all the parts needed to build a preset size and shape, to guides which explain how to sketch out, measure up, order, and build a custom planter box, suppliers have got it covered.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 57

Choosing the right paving for a project can be challenging due to the wide variety of options available; however, finding the perfect option without compromising is entirely possible.

Whilst natural stone has been a favourite for many years, the growing popularity of porcelain paving has swiftly claimed the top spot according to Vinnie Woollven, marketing manager at Nustone, which offers a variety of porcelain options.

Made from high density, durable materials such as a mixture of sand and clay, which are then processed at a very high temperature before being compressed and compacted to create a solid paving slab, porcelain offers a vast range of modern conveniences, such as its straightforward maintenance.

“Porcelain isn't a porous material, meaning if something gets spilt, say red wine during a garden party, you don't have to worry about it soaking into the stone like it would with say natural sandstone,” says Liam Bull, marketing manager for Azpects, which produces cleaning and care products for paving, amongst other materials.

The slabs can be easily cleaned, removing dirt or grime, and tough stains are unlikely to seep into the slab, meaning that porcelain will save the client a considerable amount of time and money in the long run.

Natural stone must be re-sealed every one to two years and often requires a specialist cleaning product.

The stain resistance is particularly advantageous with lighter-coloured paving, which typically requires extensive upkeep to maintain its appearance. In contrast,


Is porcelain paving now leading the way?

light-coloured porcelain benefits from easy maintenance, keeping the slabs looking fresh all year round.

Similarly, porcelain also tends to be resistant to fading. Ashton Lewis, head of client relations at porcelain product supplier Raaft, says “unlike some materials that can bleed from the sun, porcelain paving has the ability to retain its colour for years.”

Porcelain also features a consistent, printed surface offering a vast range of beautiful designs and colours, with options that even emulate the look of natural stone, wooden decking, and intricately crafted decorative patterns. “These printed finishes allow much greater control and consistency in tone and colour than natural stone, ensuring your project turns out just as you'd imagined,” says Woollven.

larger commercial projects, “porcelain is very tough and resilient, which is ideal for areas of high traffic and footfall,” says Lewis.

This isn't to say that porcelain comes without flaws as it is generally more expensive than natural stone; but as demand is changing, the benefits could outweigh the cost.

It is denser, less susceptible to staining, resistant to moisture build-up within the slabs, and requires very little maintenance to look its

best all year round

One other benefit is its durability. Whether in a regular domestic setting or in

“Overall, porcelain is more robust than natural stone. It is denser, less susceptible to staining, resistant to moisture build-up within the slabs, and requires very little maintenance to look its best all year round,” says Woollven.

Allowing for the creation of a functional space where style and practicality meet to offer the best of both worlds, porcelain paving has become one of the more popular choices for garden paving today, according to these suppliers – and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 PRODUCTS 58


RYNO® proudly presents TerraSmart® Bespoke Planter Systems, designed to breathe life into your projects and revolutionise outdoor living spaces. With over 30 years of experience in creating innovative outdoor solutions, RYNO® introduces three new planter systems, each tailored to meet unique design requirements and maximise returns for owners, investors, and occupiers.

Discover Our New Planter Systems:

TerraSmart® Contour Bespoke Planter System

Perfect for curves, waves, and radial designs. Available in virtually any size with popular heights from 300 to 1100mm. Features include continuous curved edges, integrated lighting, seating, and various finishes. Fixable to concrete or the RYNO® Base Substructure.

TerraSmart® Ledge Bespoke Planter System

Ideal for straight lines and angular corners. Customisable panels available in sizes from 300 to 1100mm. Includes options for integrated lighting, seating, and a range of finishes. Compatible with concrete or RYNO® Base Substructure.

TerraSmart® Ascent Bespoke Planter System

Unique for its backward slanting face, suitable for straights, corners, and curves. Panels available in sizes from 300 to 1100mm with options for integrated lighting, seating, and diverse finishes. Fixable to concrete or the RYNO® Base Substructure.

Enhance your outdoor space

With RYNO’s TerraSmart® Planter Systems, where innovation meets aesthetic appeal. See our latest installation in our Studio at 2 Sutton Lane, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 5PU and discover how RYNO® can transform your projects.

Find out more at


Revamping gardens with high quality and versatile cladding


ENVIROBUILD Pioneer Composite Cladding

Transform outdoor spaces effortlessly with EnviroBuild's Pioneer Composite Cladding, designed for ease of installation and adaptable for both vertical and horizontal placement. Engineered from 90% recycled materials and manufactured using 100% wind energy, this durable cladding resists rot and splintering, ensuring long-term protection. Equipped with a user-friendly discreet fastening system, it prioritises functionality and safety and is backed by a reassuring 15-year limited residential warranty. The range of modern grey, natural brown, and contemporary black hues provides options to suit any home, promising hassle-free enjoyment of outdoor spaces for years to come.


Premier Claddings

Timber cladding is a popular classic, providing a uniquely natural, protective, decorative façade for garden buildings, including glamping pods, lodges, and outdoor offices. Strong, lightweight, and durable, timber cladding is highly versatile, with charred timber options offering a greater choice of building design than ever. Produced in the UK by Premier Forest Products, our Premier Claddings range is sourced from responsibly managed forests and includes carbonconscious homegrown larch and cedar, plus on-trend ShouSugi-Ban® charred cladding. The Premier Claddings collection offers a broad choice of species, profiles, charred finishes, and treatments to suit your individual style, budget and project needs.


Rockform Cladding

At the start of the year, we introduced a free-form style cladding that exudes Mediterranean charm. Given the trend toward warmer, earthy tones, our Rockform cladding and interlocking panels are the perfect fit. They beautifully complement antique-styled limestones and are ideally finished with limestone coping. This infuses any space with a Mediterranean warmth. We‘ve dedicated years to sourcing these materials from quarries across Europe, while monitoring trends to anticipate their emergence in the UK. Our commitment to innovation drives us to not just follow trends, but to set them.


Valencia Cladding

The visible face and sides of our organic cladding are natural and rugged with each piece hand selected and sawn on the back so that it can be bonded to vertical surfaces such as blockwork or concrete retaining walls, providing a stunning natural rock surface style. This natural cladding stone greatly reduces installation time, requires medium skill levels to install and is highly prized by prime residential developers, traditional builders and landscapers.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 60 PRODUCTS
TOP QUALITY FENCING AND LANDSCAPING TIMBER GET READY FOR SPRING! STOCK UP ON FENCING & LANDSCAPING TIMBER f o r e s t p r o d u c t s Your specialist timber supplier with thousands of products in stock ready for fast, reliable delivery, nationwide. FENCE PANELS & FENCING TIMBER FOR POSTS, RAILS & GRAVEL BOARDS DECORATIVE FENCING PREMIUM QUALITY CLADDING DECKING & ACCESSORIES OAK & SOFTWOOD SLEEPERSHANDCRAFTED GARDEN FURNITURE Contact us for more information: T: 01633 254 422 Premier Forest Products Ltd


YHB Contracts, based in Orpington, embarked on the journey of installing a swimming pool for its client in Tonbridge. After thorough evaluation, its team selected EVi Pools as the preferred supplier, attracted by its reputation for uncomplicated installation packages and aesthetically pleasing designs.

The client opted for the EVi X pool, measuring 10.3m x 3.5m; YHB ensured it met the client's specific requirements, including a swimming turbine for training purposes and a Family Pack safety cover for pet and wildlife safety.

Preparation and training

Upon making initial enquiries with EVi Pools, YHB received access to digital training resources including the installation guide ‘EVi Explained’ and technical drawings with SketchUp files. YHB then completed its trade account application by filling out an online test to ensure it was fully prepared for the installation process.

Technical visit and finalisation

EVi Pools conducted a PreInstallation Consultation technical visit at the property, where YHB Contracts, the client and EVi Pools discussed the proposed location and design of the pool area and finalised the installation plan.

YHB Contracts and their client collaborated with EVi Pools to design the perfect pool for their new garden space

Together, they ensured a clear understanding of the process and addressed any concerns or questions. This meeting also provided an excellent opportunity for the groundworks team to familiarise themselves with the installation process.

Delivery and installation

After the pool shell arrived (pre-fitted with lights and fittings), it was lifted onto the

concrete base using a crane. Following this, the EVi Pools representative connected the pool to the Pool Pod unit, performing plumbing and pressure testing to verify the system's integrity.

Completion and finishing touches

Within five days of delivery, YHB completed the installation of the shell allowing them to complete the installation of the automatic safety cover and lay the pool surround. Completing the surround of the pool with meticulous attention to detail. The final outcome

exceeded the client's expectations. Delighted with their new outdoor space, the client looked forward to hosting friends and family throughout the summer.

Post-installation support

EVi Pools offered the client aftercare services to maintain the pool and ongoing support. Including usage and maintenance manuals and ongoing servicing of the pool ranging from seasonal maintenance through to weekly cleans.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 62

In a world where businesses are being encouraged to better their input on the planet, society, and economy, there seems to be an endless list of certifications, schemes, and initiatives, all claiming to provide the answers and creating “straightforward” how-to guides. So, trying to figure out which scheme is the most reliable can sometimes be complicated.

One of the many options that seems to be branching out into the landscaping industry is B Corp.

Aiming to create a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all, the B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency.

It is run by the non-profit organisation B Lab, which is hoping to transform the global economy to benefit both people and planet.

The movement of around 8,580 businesses worldwide is ever-growing and with a desire to shift the global economic system from concentrating wealth and power to ensuring equity as well as evolving from extraction to regeneration, and from prioritising individualism to embracing interdependence – this particular certification seems to be ticking all the boxes, but what does it really involve?

“In order to obtain certification, the company must satisfy a number of criteria, which entails conducting a thorough evaluation of its effects on all stakeholders and undergoing verification of this assessment by B Lab,” says Simon Burvill, founder and chief executive of Gaze Burvill. “Becoming a B Corp is assessed in five key impact areas across a business, including governance, workers, community, environment, and customers with a minimum of 80 points required to become a B Corp.”



a certification that keeps popping up across the industry, but is becoming a B Corp all it’s cracked up to be or is it just another way for companies to greenwash their services?

If striving to basically do business better means going on the B Corp journey, then it’s a no brainer!
Rachael Austin, director of Austin Design Works

Specialising in crafting luxury high-quality outdoor furniture and


kitchens from its base in Hampshire, Gaze Burvill scored 91 points with the certification. “Joining a global movement of like-minded businesses pushing for change, the B-Corp certification is a huge milestone. It confirms our commitment to sustainability since our founding in 1993, gives us much to work

towards in the future, and inspires us to use our business as a force for good,” says Burvill.

“It's one of the more important options and it's one of the more unique certifications as it is not only all encompassing, but is also evidence based,” says strategic project director at green service provider Ground Control, Chloe Muirhead.

“And because of that, when going through the accreditation process, you really have to do a lot of reflecting on your

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 63

business, your policies, and practices.”

The pathway to becoming a Certified B Corporation will vary depending on a few factors such as revenue and company size, but generally by demonstrating a high social and environmental performance by achieving a “B Impact Assessment” score of 80 or above will result in a pass.

“The B Impact Assessment is independently governed by a standards advisory council, but its content is informed by and references many other social and environmental reporting and performance standards and certifications,” according to the certification's website.

The impact assessment is updated every three years in order to improve the clarity, consistency, and insight of the assessment and its scoring to ensure that it stays up to date with best practices and innovations.

With its setup and assessment process designed to be inclusive of every industry, is B Corp truly the best option for the landscaping sectors or is it directed more so towards office-based businesses, for example?

“If you look at the companies that are B Corp in the UK, a lot of them focus on things like consultancy and marketing – and this may be because when you’re within that type of industry, your footprint is very low, whereas in industries such as manufacturing or maintenance, you’re covering a larger area for a start and there tends to be a lot more involved in the day to day of operations,” says Muirhead.

It confirms our commitment to sustainability since our founding in 1993, gives us much to work towards in the future, and inspires us to use our business as a force for good
Simon Burvill, founder and chief executive, Gaze Burvill

When first applying for B Corp, Ground Control found it difficult to pull apart the criteria set out by the certification. Since Ground Control is a grounds maintenance company which is boarding on evolving into an environmental services company, traveling across the country to provide a series of services, the notion of working in a location not owned by the company was very uncommon compared to companies which had previously applied for B Corp.

“But that's one of the reasons why we wanted to push to do it, because not a lot of companies like us were doing it. When we first looked through the application we were thrown off and thought, this isn’t for us, but then we went back to it with the mindset of actually, this really should be for us,” says Muirhead.

With sustainability being one of the core themes behind the certification, it makes sense for the landscaping industry to strive to achieve it; but if it’s not necessarily set up to accommodate the industry, should there be a push for change or simply a search for an alternative?

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 64
Simon Burvill
Gaze Burvill

“At Tyler Grange, we believe that the B Corp journey will continuously help us identify what areas of sustainability we need to work on, as well as what we’re already excelling at,” says co-founder and managing director Jonathan Berry.

“And it keeps us accountable, making sure we’re consistently doing everything we can to make the world a better place for everyone and everything inhabiting it.”

different perspective Austin was eager to join a support network who “are committed to continual improvement and celebrating the wins along the way; this both validates what you do and holds you accountable too.”

That's one of the reasons why we wanted to push to do it, because not a lot of companies like us were doing it
Chloe Muirhead, strategic project director, Ground Control

Founded in June 2010, the arboriculture, ecology, landscape, and green infrastructure consultancy has its own set of strong values: encouragement, honesty, care, opportunities, and enjoyment.

B Corp had allowed Tyler Grange to take a step back from itself and review how well it had been performing as a business. And with its own set of criteria already in place and a team set up and ready to take a look its progress from an environmental perspective, “completing the application made us look at our workers, our customers, our suppliers, our community, our governance, and do an honest review,” says Berry.

“But I guess what's come out of that since achieving the B Corp certification is that we've we started to influence our consumers and clients about the importance of B Corp. We've built some really good loyalty with our clients and collaborators around the certification and have definitely attracted other businesses with shared values.”

“You become a member of a community of like-minded businesses more than 1,900 in the UK and growing,” says Rachael Austin, director of Austin Design Works, a garden design studio offering a combined design and architectural service.

Approaching the certification from a

Her hope in the longer term is that she will be able to use the network to form collaborations and new ventures. Austin believes that all businesses should be better and can do better relatively simply.

“Perhaps upgrade your policies to make sure you invest in diversity and inclusivity, change your energy suppliers to 100% renewable, upgrade your building fabric, change your business bank, and truly interrogate your supply chain.

Austin Design Works

socially and environmentally responsible,” says Burvill.

“Give back to your community and invest in employee training, pay the living wage. If striving to basically do business better means going on the B Corp journey, then it’s a no brainer!”

So, with over 8,000 companies worldwide already signed up, a vigorous application process which allows businesses to reevaluate its practices, and seemingly attractive to colleagues, clients, and competitors alike –is B Corp all it’s cracked up to be?

“Regulations like B Corp help by providing a framework for companies to become more

“B Corp certification requires companies to meet strict social and environmental performance standards, accountability, and transparency and this helps promote a culture of ethical business practices and gives consumers more confidence in the products and services they purchase.

“B Corp can encourage companies to prioritise sustainability and social

Tyler Grange

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 65

responsibility as a core part of their business strategy, which can positively impact the environment and society as a whole.”

As an industry striving to enhance the environment and make a lasting impact through projects, enhancing beautiful, sustainable places and landscapes across the UK, Berry would agree that above all “we need to drive positive social mobility by enabling our clients to create developments that improve society whilst protecting and enhancing the environment in which they are created.” And the B Corp standards offer a framework to deliver those objectives.

“While B Corp is not the only way for businesses in the industry to operate sustainably and ethically, it can be a valuable tool for those looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded market,” says Burvill.

You become a member of a community of likeminded businesses more than 1,900 in the UK and growing

Austin Design Works

Rachael Austin, director of Austin Design Works

Preparation is key – take your team, your clients, and suppliers with you on the journey. Communicate the intentions and ideas and prepare in advance. “It is quite a daunting process, and it does mean that you'll have to scrutinise every aspect of your business, and so, for a lot of businesses, that can be an additional result in additional costs, or additional recruitment,” says Berry.

“I think the best advice that can be given is that you need to be passionate about making a change for the best. For the better, for the people and for the planet; that's the key driver to this.” At Tyler Grange, Berry has set up his very own “B Keepers” who deal with the data and policies to ensure that when the B Corp renewal comes around, Tyler Grange is ready to prove its progress as a business.

“We are living in a crisis of nature, and I believe that most people in the landscape industry at least believe in the great outdoors and working in nature, then as an industry we need to do a whole lot better to ensure it survives and thrives, and

I can only recommend it as a way forward for landscape industries,” says Austin.

“We must move away from greenwashing and dive deep into the hard issues that face us. I am not easy doing business for the benefit of all, but it is good.”

Measuring a company’s entire social and environmental impact is not a straightforward task, and there appears to be room for improvement within the certification to ensure that every industry is well represented, but this may only be the case when there is enough demand from each sector.

Berry adds:

“B Corp certification recognises that a business meets the very highest standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency, in terms of employee wellbeing and charitable giving, to supply chain practices and financial governance. Crucially, B Corp businesses must be committed to improving their standards whilst encouraging others to do the same.”

We believe that the B Corp journey will continuously help us identify what areas of sustainability we need to work on, as well as what we’re already excelling at
Jonathan Berry, co-founder and managing director, Tyler Grange

Hearing from ground maintenance, designers, suppliers, as well as green infrastructure consultants, it has already had a significant impact on contrasting sectors from the landscaping industry and with this in mind, it will be interesting to see as more companies come forward to take on the challenge of B Corp. Is it worth it? Only time will tell. But a certification designed to encourage businesses to reconsider their environmental impact, whether it be B Corp or a completely different scheme, can surely only do more good than harm for a planet in desperate need of some TLC.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 66
©Simon Maxwell ©Mark Welsh

At Boom & Bonheur (former Lappen nurseries) you can choose from a large variety of high-quality specimen plants. Just as unique as our trees are the places they are planted and the way they get there. We provide customized unique specimens for your projects. Happy to advise you for the best results! Boom & Bonheur – because trees give life and bring happiness

& Bonheur BV
IRRIGATION DESIGN INSTALLATION MAINTENANCE WATER FEATURES Drama or relaxation... A carefully designed & installed water feature will provide focus within a landscape. 01963 824166 @waterscapesltd We also install & maintain irrigation systems 01477 571 797 Four Oaks Cash And Carry Longshoot Road, Lower Withington, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 9DX Four Oaks Cash and Carry  Italian Plants  Mediterranean Plants  Perennial Plants  Nursery Stock  Spring / Summer Finished Products  Winter Finished Products  Fruit & Veg  Garden Accessories  Compost & Feeds We offer a wide range of stocked designs, plus a trusted bespoke manufacturing service for projects large and small THE PLANTER SPECIALIST NEW FOR 2024 GRP planters with faux-corten finish

venture WILD

Nature recovery can be financially viable, as Ground Control’s environmental recovery centres will hopefully prove

The Wildfell Centre for Environmental Recovery is not the easiest place to find. There are no large signs announcing its existence and, even on spotting the narrow lane down which it’s situated, the turning is still easy to miss (I did –twice). But despite being somewhat hidden in a small village near Braintree, Essex, Ground Control’s flagship nature recovery project has the potential to be significant.

Director Chris Bawtree is hoping it will inspire and educate other landowners as to “how nature recovery can pay for itself” and to offer “more reassurance” as to how it can resonate throughout a business.

Ground Control’s Evergreen Fund – into which the company invests 5% of its profits each year – ploughed an initial £2m into purchasing the 296-acre site back in 2021 and has since been transforming the

ex-arable farmland into one that will sequester thousands of tonnes of carbon and enhance biodiversity, whilst also making a profit that will be reinvested back into the Evergreen Fund and support the purchase of further sites.

It’s somewhat reliant on the biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation that came into effect in February this year, which made it mandatory for new developments to enhance the site’s existing biodiversity for a minimum of 10% and a commitment to maintain the site for at least 30 years. Where it’s not possible to do this on the site itself, developers can procure biodiversity units for offsite net gain opportunities, such as those at Wildfell. Bawtree says they are looking to generate 320 BNG units on the site, something he says will be a “gamechanger” and which will prove it’s a “viable revenue generator”.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 69 FEATURE

The Evergreen Fund has already acquired a second, smaller site in West Wickham, Cambridgeshire last year – the 100-acre Devana Centre – and has plans to purchase more across the UK and Ireland. Outside of the Fund, Ground Control is also looking to lease sites for nature recovery and is in the process of confirming its first 35-year lease of a site in Leicestershire.

"From an Evergreen fund perspective, we're really keen to develop more projects,

Tree planting volunteers

so by generating sustainable revenues through natural capital, we want to reinvest that in the fund, and that will hopefully allow us to acquire more land and increase on our two projects,” says Bawtree.

“We're rather beholden to the BNG market currently, which is right at the outset; as soon as those incomes start to come through, then we'll hopefully be able to purchase our next site, and also really importantly continue to share knowledge with Ground Control and our consultancy team for what they’re trying to do in terms of long-term leases to deliver BNG.”

We're rather beholden to the BNG market currently, which is right at the outset; as soon as those incomes start to come through, then we'll hopefully be able to purchase our next site
Chris Bawtree, director, Ground Control

There is a legislative gap as to what

happens after the 30-year maintenance period, though, and so there’s a question as to how the land that Ground Control is leasing could be used once the lease comes to an end. But it gives farmers a predictable income whilst offering more opportunities for Ground Control to carry out further nature recovery, says sales and marketing director Brian Smith. More and more, Ground Control is exploring how to get to net zero and helping others to do the same. Wildfell could help “to unlock the paralysis” around this and “create a bit of momentum” for other landowners.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 70

A landscape can be changed relatively quickly, but the gains are made over decades, so we need to start now, he says.

The Wildfell site was purchased three years ago after Ground Control set itself ambitious tree planting targets but was struggling to find third-party land to achieve them. A year of planning and engaging with stakeholders then followed, with baseline studies taking place in order to measure the impact of the site, before tree planting started last season. There are client-dedicated areas for volunteers to carry out work on the site, and an orchard is being grown that a community group will be set up to manage and take home the crop from the fruit trees at the end of the year.

The land had previously been used for agricultural purposes, with an established woodland in the middle, and the hope has been to improve the quality of the existing woodland as well as to create new habitats and plant more trees. So far, 100,000 trees have been planted in the woodland and 20,000 in

the scrubland, with plans to plant 3.5km of new hedges. As arable farmland, the site was a net producer of carbon; but by year 50, the expectation is that the woodland alone could sequester 18,000t of CO2.

“All the trees are in the ground, so the scheme has been implemented. The real challenge starts now, in terms of establishment, management and ongoing maintenance,” says Bawtree.“With our second site, we’re going to reduce the time down from purchase of the land to the scheme going in the ground to about 18 months, so we’re moving forward more quickly using our learnings.”

hoped; we did the financial modelling to show that a site that’s purely dedicated to delivering biodiversity through BNG would be viable. But Ground Control is prepared to take a risk early on to do the right thing. It will come good in time as those revenues come through, and then we can go and purchase another site.”

More and more, Ground Control is exploring how to get to net zero and helping others to do the same

Going ahead with Devana arguably involved a bigger leap of faith. “The reason we took that step is we could see the BNG market coming through. It hasn’t happened quite as quickly as we’d

It helped that the second site became available, after struggling to find a site near to Wildfell, and that the owners of the land bought into what Ground Control and its Evergreen Fund are trying to achieve, says director Philip Trehern. “They bought into the story and could see the benefit in what we were looking to do.” Their ambitions stretch beyond internal goals, after all.

The government’s 25-Year Environment Plan aims to create or restore 500,000ha of wildlife-rich habitat outside of the protected

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 71

site network, and Smith says it’s aiming to make up one percent of that. “That in itself would have a huge impact on nature recovery in the UK.” And now that Ground Control is a signatory of Ireland’s National Biodiversity Action Plan, it’s figuring out how it can expand this impact into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well.

Ground Control is now bordering on being an “environmental services company,” says Smith, having grown its offering beyond that of a typical grounds maintenance company. And it’s eager to prove that its latest commercial venture works, with Ground Control actively encouraging people to visit Wildfell and ask questions about how it will be beneficial, both financially

Ground Control is very much about getting things done and taking a risk early on to do the right thing
Chris Bawtree, director, Ground Control

and for nature. "Are profit and environmental gain mutually exclusive? No. What we're trying to say is that they can be quite complementary, and the more scale you have in terms of environmental gain, the bigger the environmental profit, if it's done properly,” says Smith. The impact if the centres prove successful is arguably worth the risk that the company is taking by purchasing these initial two sites. They could contribute towards the government’s nature recovery targets and bringing back biodiversity, whilst also showing other landowners that they can do the same and with a commercial benefit. If I were them, I’d have a huge sign outside each site shouting about their existence.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 FEATURE 72
Tree planting Electric vehicle charging at new barn

The original all-weather sweep-in jointing compound. Faster than traditional methods.

The ease of the EASYJoint with contemporary colours of grout. For natural & porcelain paving.

Swatches are representative and colours may vary AZPECTS.CO.UK
Joint EASYJointSelect


A designer’s decisions carry a lot of weight when it comes to a project’s carbon footprint, explains Andrew Duff

Good design doesn’t have to cost the Earth’ – perhaps today that should read ‘good design mustn’t cost the Earth’?

Pondering this raises a couple of questions in my mind. We are very quick to point the finger at the construction industry and the materials we use in terms of the potential damage to the environment. Should we take a step back for a moment and consider the way we design? We’re a bit behind in the UK and other countries are leading the way in a more appropriate way of designing; indeed some countries have been doing so for many hundreds of years.

The choices we make with pencil at the earliest stages of the design process potentially have a major impact on the outcome

Let’s take Japan as an example; its outlook on nature is different to ours and it comes from a fundamental respect of nature. Nature in Japan is powerful. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons or tornados can wreak havoc in seconds, and I believe it’s this understanding of the power of nature that has influenced the way Japanese designers think at their drawing boards.

Can we change our way of thinking to align with sustainable building practices? It reminds me of a quote from John Brookes: “A line is not just a line; it’s a conversation.” What a wonderful place that is to start. The line we draw with our pencil or with a computer mouse is so much more than a line, isn’t it? It’s the difference between gravel and lawn, or machine-cut paving and a reflective pool. The choices we make with pencil at the earliest stages of the design process potentially have a major impact on the outcome.

I never know what’s easier: to design a garden to a budget or design without. I often discuss with a client the idea of designing their ‘ideal’ garden, and coming back to this idea that the line is not just a line, it’s a conversation – we can adapt the outcome of the design to meet the budget whilst considering its legacy in terms of sustainability.

I wonder how the great designers of our past considered the line on their paper. Take the legendary Capability Brown. As he reached for his wooden set square and

pencil, did he consider the immense impact of his tree plantations and open pastures? Brown had an amazing ability to foresee the future of his designs and to communicate to his clients. Just imagine suggesting a great oak woodland and then planting whips with the understanding that the overall aesthetic won’t be reached for several hundred years. Brown was savvy and wanted his line translated into mass and void more instantly; he planted nursery woodlands with birch and ash growing quickly to protect the young oak saplings until they were large enough to have visual impact of their own – a very different take on the instant gardens that our clients often pursue.

So maybe, just maybe, those initial lines on the page at the beginning of our design process are just as important as the choices we make further down the road. I like the idea that there is an enormous flexibility to this line and good design shouldn’t cost the Earth.


An internationally recognised garden designer, Andrew Duff MSGD has been designing gardens for over 30 years. In addition to running his practice, he is managing director of the world renowned Inchbald School of Design and is Chair of the Society of Garden Designers.

prolandscapermagazine .com OPINION
Pro Landscaper | June 2024 74


What can spuds tell us about our approach to ecosystem services?

Chris Churchman explains

Whatever happened to SpudULike? For those of Generation Z and Alpha, SpudULike was a fast-food outlet popular in the 80s and 90s – a forerunner to Subway. I’m not writing about favourite fast-food joints, though, but instead ‘ecosystem services’, an overused but largely misunderstood phrase. The humble potato is my metaphorical measure of them.

You can find various definitions of ‘ecosystem services’ but, in essence, they’re all the processes and outputs that nature provides humankind with Most definitions break these down into four areas:

Provisioning services: The food we eat, our fuel, building products, medicinal resources – i.e. the outputs that we directly consume.

Regulating services: Flood control, water purification, fire control, filtration, pollution mitigation, carbon capture, carbon retention, disease control, pollinator resources, urban cooling, energy demand reduction – i.e. things providing direct benefits.

Supporting services: Shelter, habitat, upholding genetic diversity – i.e. more conceptual benefits.

Cultural services: Our identity, who we are and how we use our landscapes, economic prosperity, socio behavioural trends.

An ecosystem, by definition, is a dynamic community of living and non-living components. The concept of ecosystem services and their benefits has been around for millennia. Plato allegedly documented the relationship between deforestation and water supply, and many more primitive civilisations still live by the creed of being at ‘one with nature’. It was probably the industrial revolution and urbanisation that broke the bond between civilisation and the landscape. Over the last 50 years, and more specifically the last two decades, the value of nature and our place within it has gained far greater recognition.

The economic value offered by natural assets cannot be in doubt, although the value itself can be difficult to define. Recent studies are suggesting a third of all global climate mitigation will come from natural assets. In the UK, the value of nature is formally acknowledged. Defra’s An Introductory Guide to Valuing Ecosystem Services (2007), and the Office for National Statistics’ Natural Capital Accounts Methodology Guide both evidence this. The UK’s stock, in 2019, was said to be worth £1.2tn – can this really be ignored?

The economic value offered by natural assets cannot be in doubt

because of a lack of verifiability. We only act when there is a statistic to prove a cause and effect.

Going back to the humble potato, it’s the UK’s number one vegetable, with each Brit consuming 103kg of spuds per year. When it comes to ecosystem services, not all potatoes are likely to be created equal; the King Edward has different characteristics from a Désirée, for instance. I don’t know which is better at capturing carbon, absorbing nitrates or delivering 10g of protein per chip, but we ought to know. If I told you that a dense timber of Curupay was more carbon rich than the more open cell structure of birch, you are likely to accept this. And no one would question that an oak tree supports more ecology that a Sitka spruce. So, the concept of relative value exists. There are also tools out there already which measure these things, such as i-Tree Eco, so why not use them?

We must get to a point where we know the answers to these questions; if the King Edward is a better cropper, better nutritionally and a better carbon sink by, say, 5%, then at a national level it does count which one we are eating.

Yet, there are still very few of us who understand anything more than the most basic concept; that working with rather than against ecosystems is inherently good. I've witnessed a reluctance to engage with the process

We live in a world facing existential threats like climate change, but technology now helps us to understand our options and the impact of our choices. So, ecosystem services are vital to our economy, society, and planet, and we can no longer afford to ignore it.

Churchman is the founder of cquester, a not-forprofit venture seeking to raise awareness of the value of nature in addressing climate change.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 75

Why not add elegance with water?

Corten Steel Cube: four eye-catching sides

Why not consider using the OASE Corten Steel Cube as an impressive point of focus within any garden or outdoor project? The Cube embodies elegance and enthrals as water flows over each side. Low voltage LEDs illuminate this modern feature, allowing the Cube to be enjoyed both day and night and from any angle.

Why choose OASE? The quality of OASE’s water features is reflected in the brand itself. Made in Germany, these are highly technical and engineered products. OASE produces all components: pumps, lights, filters and features. This ensures an ecosystem of products that is designed to work cohesively. Take surety in knowing that every component is OASE branded and built to work together.

Room for customisation. This 60cm Cube can be mounted on a stand, for a “floating” effect. Alternatively, place the Cube in the centre of a space, on a buried OASE reservoir with no need for open water.

Easy installation, quality products and post-sale support are just three reasons to choose OASE. Explore our water feature range to be inspired, and make sure to visit your local distributor to see first-hand the beauty of the Cube.

Discover more at


BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN (BNG) Gearing up the suppl y chain

Jonathan Bourne explores the far-reaching impact of the Environment Act of 2021

The Environment Act of 2021 set down the statutory framework for the legislation which came into law in November 2023 and April 2024 requiring all planning applications submitted to local planning authorities to be accompanied by proof that as a result of the development there would be a net gain in habitat biodiversity of at least 10%. It allowed for some local authorities to increase that percentage if they wished.

Habitat value is measured using the Statutory Biodiversity Metric, which is a calculator tool for biodiversity. It works by assigning a unit value to habitats present within the development red line boundary, according to their importance for biodiversity. It then calculates how many biodiversity units will be generated post-development, accounting for both losses of habitat to the development footprint and habitats created and/or enhanced through the landscaping strategy.

If there is no possibility of achieving this gain on site, then offsite gains can be registered but the further away from the development the more expensive it becomes. Failing that, biodiversity credits can be purchased from registered organisations creating biodiversity gain, such as landowners and farmers engaging in local rewilding and regenerative farming projects. However, there is a considerable financial incentive for developers to achieve the gain on their own development site.

Apart from providing another lucrative source of income for environmental consultants, and another headache for overworked and understaffed planning departments, BNG will also provide a stimulus to the demand for substrates in the creation and retro fitting of roof gardens, living walls and all manner of green

The industry and the supply chain should be preparing themselves for this extra demand to ensure that it maintains the high standards that have been achieved to date

developments within the urban landscape. We have already seen a huge increase in demand for these types of specialist substrates and this will only increase as we see green spaces move further up the agenda. In order to keep pace with this continued increase in demand, we will have to prioritise the reuse and repurposing of inert soils and break the habit of “mucking away” and replacing top and subsoils.

There is a provision for monitoring on an annual basis for the first five years, and then on a five-yearly basis for the next 25 years. It is therefore imperative for the longevity of the scheme that the correct materials are supplied from the outset to enable long term healthy plant growth, and that products are correctly specified.

The industry and the supply chain should be preparing themselves for this extra demand to ensure that it maintains the high standards that have been achieved to date. This means securing reliable supply relationships with composters, quarries, and other suppliers of aggregate and recycled materials. This increased requirement for specialised landscaping substrate needs to be given more weight when drafting local plans to ensure long term local availability. Relationships between suppliers and planners needs to improve so that developers are aware of local resources and know who to approach for alternative and reliable soils and substrates.

All in all, the legislation is a good thing. The government emphasises the need for this requirement to be considered and built into the development at the earliest possible stage. If it only ends up as an afterthought after the plans have been drawn up and approved by the client, then it is unlikely to succeed.

to 10 years and overseen its growth and evolution to become one of the country’s leading hard and soft landscaping material suppliers.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 77
Jonathan Bourne has led the Bourne Amenity arm of the Bourne Group for close JONATHAN BOURNE


Ispend a lot of my time planning how to re-introduce wildlife into urban spaces, and how to reconcile the needs of people, plants, and animals. So, I have recently had a close look at Marloth Park in South Africa, Knepp Castle in Sussex and Paradise Fields in Wembley. These three sites all strive towards a similar ideal of Eden.

In Marloth Park, a residential suburb is being developed beside the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park and comprises a few square kilometres of the same woodland that covers the National Park.

The core of the area is a wildlife reserve which cannot be built on. It’s surrounded on three sides by similar woodland divided into about 4,500 plots for sale, each of which can have one house built on it. The remainder of the plot cannot be altered, though, and neither the plot nor the house can be fenced. So far, about 2,600 of the plots are built on, and I saw several new houses being built.

Despite this, the effect of driving or walking around the network of dirt roads is of a wilderness with sometimes a house glimpsed through the dense bush. The wildlife abounds in this environment. Birds sing, dung beetles roll their precious dungballs across the

Noel Brock compares South Africa’s Marloth Park to nature-led sites in the southeast of England

roads, tortoises plod across, and cars stick to the 18mph speed limit and stop to let creatures pass.

Kudu, impala, duiker and warthogs are everywhere, especially on the roads early in the morning. Even wildebeest, zebras and giraffes frequently stand in the way of traffic, and all these animals are finding enough privacy between the houses to breed successfully, as I saw many babies of all these species. I watched a couple of blue wildebeest being born, watched by a family (of humans) at breakfast on their patio. A bushbaby visited my balcony at night!

There are bylaws governing what you can build, and tourists who misbehave are ejected. The development began for family holiday homes, but now there are about 70 licensed guest houses and an estimated 200 or so unofficial Airbnbs.

Residents are happy to comply with the no fences rule,

which means having no actual garden – since anything planted would be eaten by the wildlife –and non-native plants are strictly forbidden. Mostly, local rules are followed by consent. Such a place will attract people who value wildness, and another bylaw which people have to accept is no pet cats or dogs. The conflict between roaming cats and dogs and the abundant wildlife is obvious, and everyone complies. I see this as the chief difference between here and the London sites. There are several wild ponds among the houses, and one I explored had crocodiles in it. The unfenced house plots nearby are okay with this, and a sign by the pool says they hope to soon have hippos in it as well.

There are no elephants or lions in Marloth Park – biodiversity has limits, even here! But the huge suite of species sharing this space with a high density of people, including large numbers of young children, without incident is remarkable. How does this compare with rewilding efforts in British cities, where we have an opposite

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 OPINION 78
South Africa

problem – to reintroduce wildlife among humans? They have numerous cats and dogs, and they want fences around their properties. Access for wildlife is mostly uninvited. Red foxes cheerfully climb fences, raid bins, chew up watering systems and lighting cables, poo everywhere, and generally make nuisances of themselves, and every street contains at least one unkempt garden where they can raise a family. However, almost nobody wants to use lethal control, even though it is legal.

The experimental beaver reintroduction at Paradise Fields in Wembley is on an eighthectare wetland site which is part of a larger country park. The project is expensive because it is surrounded by about two kilometres of very stout fences, entered by expensive double gates.

The UK

biodiversity (more plants) carbon emissions (less concrete) and expense (less work).

Retrofitting the kind of wilding seen at Marloth Park is impossible, but I think lessons could be learned from the experience

Another rare mammal that has been re-introduced to the site is the harvest mouse. There are hundreds of these, which are more like tiny monkeys than mice, with their prehensile tails. Their nests are woven from grass leaves, so the nest suspended between grass stems is as hard to find as the 50p sized animal itself.

Retrofitting the kind of wilding seen at Marloth Park is impossible, but I think lessons could be learned from the experience, especially with regards to the control of pet dogs and cats.

This is not to protect the surrounding people from the beavers, but to protect the beavers from the traffic. The public are allowed access to Paradise Fields and there are signs saying that dogs should be on leads; but if dog owners defy this, enforcement will not be practical, so the beavers will have to get used to it.

The most famous rewilding scheme in England is at Knepp Castle in Sussex. This 550ha site was a working farm until 20 years ago. The owners of Knepp decided to just let nature take over, but with a helping hand in the way of longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, three species of wild deer and Exmoor ponies, the whole site just two decades on already has the character of a gentle wilderness, and now has a thriving colony of white storks, breeding in the UK for the first time in 350 years.

The site is open to public access, and people and their dogs are allowed to stroll around unescorted. Dog owners are asked to keep dogs on leads, but the owners of Knepp also have no means of enforcing this.

Knepp is full of examples of environmentally sound landscape work, such as a SuDS and wildflower friendly entrance road, with just enough concrete for the tyres, and everywhere else for nature – so simple, yet effective for

Knepp finances its project with sales of top-grade organic meat from the necessary culling of their big animals, just as South African game farmers help pay for conservation projects in South Africa with sales of meat, hides, horns, etc. from a range of big game animals. Tourists shocked by the sight of zebra skins for sale in Johannesburg airport should remember that herds of wild zebras still thrive in South Africa, thanks to this practical unsentimental attitude to wildlife. The future of ‘rewilding’ in all its diverse and often inaccurately labelled forms needs to allow for large-scale recreational activities alongside serious wildlife conservation. These two are not mutually exclusive if different types of land use and land user are prepared to respect each other’s needs, with high conservation areas having restricted access at certain times, and dog owners being prepared to leash their dogs except in designated places. The rapidly expanding love of, and need for, wild and semi-wild spaces near to residential and workplace developments will make the art and science of achieving this balance a critically important and expanding service industry, and landscape and wildlife professionals need to work together to use biodiversity net gain and other emerging statutory tools and funds to turn this ideal world into reality.

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.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 OPINION 79


Tel: 01483 203388

Tel 0345 230 9697 • For all your golf, sportsturf and landscape irrigation needs. Buy online at • 01788 823811 FOR ALL YOUR IRRIGATION NEEDS Design and Advice • Irrigation Parts Catalogue 24/7 Online Parts Ordering | | 01323 573 265 | | 01323 573 265 | | 01323 573 265 Creating Inspiring Streetscenes
Street Furniture offer a diverse range of street furniture which will complement any location.
built environment compaction can inhibit or prevent natural root growth of trees. CIS SUDs compliant resin bound tree grilles are a great way of enhancing the sustainability of your project for future
As a result of the
generations. Find out more at
website below.

INACCURATELY? In f luencing

Are gimmicks killing or empowering horticulture and garden design, wonders Lewis Normand

In recent months, I have found myself questioning if horticulture and garden design have become too gimmicky. The event of social media – itself only 20 years old – has encouraged soundbite, gimmick-laden engagement from the profession with the outside world. This approach to interaction with potential clients and the general public has made some people quite famous; but I regularly find the content provided is of low quality. Equally, I acknowledge that I have enjoyed a lot of the content I have seen and even made over the years, with some amazing and innovative posts regularly appearing from both amateurs and professionals across the world. There definitely is a mixed bag out there, but it is worrying when poor quality work is very well received and promoted.

I have found myself questioning if horticulture and garden design have become too gimmicky

Nuggets of erroneous and unhelpful information now, all too often, replace well-informed and valuable teachings. I understand why some professionals are dumbing down to make their work more accessible; I just worry that it isn’t the right thing to do, and it devalues their work, homogenising it with the dross that appears from other sources. I also recognise that some keen but perhaps unknowledgeable amateurs are promoting themselves as experts, which is particularly unhelpful. I recognise and believe that compact and easily digestible information needn’t be dumbed down at all and there are some excellent examples and competent practitioners providing this on a daily basis.

I have tried not to focus on gimmicky content myself, trying to talk only about what I know and believe in and to be true to

myself. I recognise that I have, at times, been gimmicky in some of my content and the nature of social media encourages this. In the pursuit of likes and favourable comments, too many of our industry around the world, not just in the UK, have gone far beyond the reach of their skills and knowledge and well into what might best be described as cartoonish buffoonery.

I am very conscious that horticulture and garden design both have highly technical language and concepts which may need simplifying to avoid intimidating an audience of keen but underconfident gardeners. It may well be that I am simply jaded at watching endless attention hungry and all too often under-qualified social media ‘stars’ introducing ideas on subjects they are clearly ill-equipped to explain –presenting ‘facts’ that are incorrect, or promoting work of a very low standard that does nothing to support the impression of the industry with outsiders looking in.

Professional horticulturists were once likened by then Prime Minister David

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 81 OPINION

Cameron to ‘litter pickers’; while this was obviously utterly ridiculous and ill-informed, we do ourselves no favours when endorsing and promoting low quality work to the general public. It is not imperative that we are all qualified in the subject that we work in, but in building knowledge we should be looking to those qualified and capable professionals for guidance. Entrants to the profession should be seeking out these veteran professionals for guidance. If you follow Gareth Wilson on social media, you will see how often he is called in to assess very low-quality work undertaken in the landscape industry, by people masquerading as professionals. Registration with professional bodies is, in my opinion, a good indicator of quality.

It is a fine line between being able to make good, highly viewable content that engages a broad audience, but is not too intimidating and being either overwhelming or so gimmicky that it is an embarrassment to the industry. While that fine line must be trodden and accessible content is vital for

the positive engagement of industry to external audience, I see a wealth of posts across multiple platforms that are frankly embarrassing. These posts showcasing work of the lowest quality, making inane and often untrue claims should really be called out rather than encouraged. Drawing skills and design layouts made by some (a few thankfully rather than many) people calling themselves ‘designers’ that my 11-year-old daughter could easily improve on and plant selections not suitable for site, soil or purpose do nothing but harm to the industry and the professionals who work in it. Being an arbiter of quality and style is perhaps an overstep, but we can all recognise poor work when we see it and should not promote it.

These posts showcasing work of the lowest quality, making inane and often untrue claims should really be called out rather than encouraged

determine what can or can’t be uploaded. I do believe, however, that we should all recognise the best posts and also those which cause harm through poor quality, or factually inaccurate content and the impression this creates on the industry as a whole. We’re on a journey, navigating a discipline that is new and ever changing, but we must also make sure that we don’t elevate poor content over quality. Showcase good work, share good work and even call out content that is simply wrong. In doing so, we help the industry reputation, we value professionalism, we redress issues with inequity in pay and we bring value to the end consumers.

We can’t police the content of social media and indeed nobody has the right to

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.

prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 82

Five minutes with ADAM GELDART

Fresh from winning the Pro Landscaper Business Award for New Company (Under two years old), Gel Landscaping and Groundworks' owner, Adam Geldart shares his journey so far

How did you first come into the landscaping industry?

I’ve been in landscaping from a young age, starting by weeding and doing odd jobs for money growing up. I then went on to work in drainage and hard landscaping at 18. But it was after working in drainage that I was exposed to the illness Cryptosporidium and that was my wakeup call to take charge of my life and my working conditions.

Can you tell us a bit about your company?

Focusing on the hard landscaping I had experience doing, I set up on my own with £50 and a van, and that’s how Gel Landscaping began. Covering Bristol, Bath, and surrounding areas, we are a hard landscaping company that specialises in full garden design and porcelain patio installation. Primarily working on domestic projects, we're a company that can make sure the job's done correctly, and since March 2022, we have grown quickly; we're now 10 employees strong and constantly branching out wherever we can.

What have been the biggest challenges since opening?

because you don't want to feel like you're stitching anyone up and that's where I feel a lot of people fail in our industry, by not learning how to correctly price and learn how much profit is in the job.

But the biggest challenge, I have to say, is you set a plan up to three weeks in advance and then you then have to change it due to staffing – managing people is definitely the hardest.

What are your ambitions moving forward? Because of the struggles with staffing and the ongoing skills shortage, we’re looking to develop an in-house training programme or school for us to teach people the trade. We already collaborate with the apprenticeship company Greenlight and are currently working with an apprentice; but within the next five years, we’d like to bring everything back into Gel Landscaping.

We’re looking to develop an in-house training programme or school for us to teach people the trade

Bristol is a big area and we've got Bath so close too; there are quite a lot of opportunities, and I think that if we start to teach people in the right way, then in 10 or 15 years’ time, we’ll have an endless supply of decent landscapers. Even if they're not still in the trade, they would know how to do it.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting a landscaping company? Starting a business can either make you or break you, but don't give up – keep on going and learn as you go. Don't be arrogant and

I’ve come a long way since we opened and learnt a lot along the way. Pricing was one of the main factors that I found especially challenging – learning how to price a job correctly was definitely a learning curve

think you know everything because you don't. Instead, try and learn from everyone, even if they are just starting out too, or they're ending their careers; they will teach you something, because people all think differently.


Gel Landscaping and Groundworks

Tel 07425 150883


prolandscapermagazine .com Pro Landscaper | June 2024 LAST WORD 83

Amani, your perfect outdoor living space to unwind in pure comfort

Pure comfort, architectural design and intelligent engineering: Amani is a customised blend of luxury and serenity that offers you an immersive space to unwind, to enjoy outdoor living to the fullest.

Discover Amani at

Endless customisation possibilities

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.