Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
“It definitely brings us closer. You see a different side of people.” This is Landscaping Solutions’ Operations Manager James Double’s verdict on our annual camping trips. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you find out what owner Ben West gets us doing.
Landscaping Solutions’ Ben, George, James, Frank, Jack, Tom and Hudson.
When our social events take place outside work, they usually involve something like golf, go-karting or football. “If I organise something,” says Ben, “we’ll end up doing activities that most of us haven’t done before - friction fire-lighting, bushcraft skills, swimming in rivers, hill-walking on Brecon Beacon.”
Ben’s been wild camping since he was ten, and the trips are now a feature of the firm. Contracts Manager Tom Underwood hadn’t ever camped when he joined the company just over seven years ago. “I wasn’t into it, but I really look forward to it now,” he says. “I’m already looking forward to the trip for this year.”
The trips certainly aren’t compulsory and we don’t have to venture far - a recent camp-out was in the Surrey Hills - but they do offer a chance for us to get to know each other better over a couple of days. “Most love it,” says Ben. “You don’t always get to mix with everybody in the firm, so you’re meeting other people you might have heard of and not worked with. It’s letting hair down in general.”
“It’s team building,” says Tom. “Two or three days in the wilderness with nothing but yourselves. It definitely contributes to well-being and happiness, and if you’re happy in work, then you do it better.”
A BALI award-winning garden, London, designed by Simon Thomas and built by Landscaping Solutions.
Teamwork is vital to a landscaping practice and is at the heart of Landscaping Solutions. It stands to reason that if three or four of us are working on a site for several weeks, the better we understand each other, the better we work together. “Teamwork is very important to the company. I’ve noticed that people coming from other firms say that they like the banter and the fun,” says Ben. “You’re spending most of your life doing this, so if it’s not fun, there’s not much point in having the job. The trips away help to create camaraderie, and it’s calming being out amongst the bird song and around the fire. As soon as you’ve got a fire going in the dusk, people talk about things that they rarely talk about otherwise.”
“We’re a close group,” says Tom. “I pass on what I’ve learned, and the guys teach me; I’m always ready to learn.”
And if you’re wondering how this plays into Landscaping Solutions’ work, then take a look at some of our BALI award-winning gardens.
Alongside teamwork goes the ethos of recognising the talent we’ve got. “The culture of Landscaping Solutions is to promote from within,” says Ben. “We take on young guys and the team supports them to give them the skills and take on responsibility. That’s the most successful way to get people into responsible roles,” he adds.
James joined around seven years ago, was promoted to foreman and now works alongside Ben in the office. Tom, who joined at around the same time, also became a foreman and is now Contracts Manager, overseeing all the teams, giving toolbox talks, ensuring everyone has the workwear, PPE and materials they need. For the guys who moved into the gaps left by their promotion, James and Tom are on hand to monitor and give support.
A BALI award winning garden, London, designed by Jilayne Rickards and built by Landscaping Solutions.
We think the results speak for themselves. The recent BALI awards gave us our 5th award over 7 years, two being Principal Award Winner. Of the latest winner in December 2018, designer Jilayne Rickards said, ““The finish was exquisite, because that’s how Landscaping Solutions work.”
So, when you commission Landscaping Solutions for your garden project, we’ll not just enjoy building it. You’ll also know you have a tight-knit team who will work together to give you the best result possible, maybe even a BALI award-winner.
For a discussion on how we can help with your next garden project, contact Ben on email@example.com or the number at the top of the page.
CDM - Construction Design Management - is something we’ve noticed makes a lot of garden designers nervous. Brought in in 2007 and revised in 2015, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations demand that every project has suitably qualified and experienced duty holders in place, to shoulder the designated responsibilities and, in the case of designers, this consists of “identifying, eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks”.
A finished project for a garden near Richmond.
The regs also demand that designers prepare and provide relevant information to those who need it and liaise with the principal contractor “to help in the planning, management, monitoring and coordination of the construction phase”.
Put like that, it’s understandable that, as the regulations finally begin to filter into the landscaping industry, there are a few qualms. Funnily enough, it’s the domestic sector that’s feeling the burden most, rather than contractors working on the commercial side; when you’re working for the likes of Taylor Wimpey you’ll be a very big fish to be principal anything.
Working for home-owners is different. They, too, have their responsibilities, but aren’t expected to understand them. Former BALI chairman Richard Gardiner runs Nag Solutions, which helps landscape companies improve their compliance credentials, and sums up the situation this way. “The problems come in the domestic sector. There’s no pressure from the client, the home-owner, and you wouldn’t expect them to be up to speed. It’s more challenging than the commercial sector because most of the time the domestic contractor operates as principal contractor, and a lot of responsibility sits with the principal contractor. Contractors do tend to bury their heads a bit.”
Machinery should be placed in a safe position.
It’s the same with designers. “Again, they bury their heads,” he says. “The designer is the interface with the client. If they are aware of what they should be doing, then they should guide the client.”
At Landscaping Solutions, our heads are well and truly above ground. Some time ago, we took a good hard look at what is demanded and how far we fulfilled it, and we brought Richard in as the expert to check us over for any gaps in our approach. Consequently, we’ve embraced CDM with quite a bit of enthusiasm.
Why? Ben West, owner of Landscaping Solutions explains, “It’s going to increase professionalism and bring the landscaping industry in line with the rest of the construction industry, which is quite far ahead of us in this area. It’ll reduce accidents by making the consideration of risks and hazards part of the design process, so that, hopefully, they’re designed out of forthcoming schemes. And it’s going to make the finished garden a safer place for the homeowner and their visitors.”
A tidy site is a safer site.
What this means for you, as a designer, is that we know what’s needed and can help you with your responsibilities. “We recently did a job for a lady who wasn’t sure what CDM meant,” says Ben. “We provided her with documentation, the people she could speak to, links with various websites, and looked at her current documentation to see if it was rigorous enough.”
If you’re a home-owner reading this, then you can rest easy that we understand our duties and carry them out. It will also potentially reduce your costs by flagging up potentially massive additions to the bill brought about by, for example, the use of oversized, heavy paving that will need cutting on site in hard-to-access gardens where the only solution is to bring in a crane and then cut by hand.
When you’re not used to doing something, and there are plenty of other things taking up valuable time, then getting to grips with CDM is daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.
Landscapers should have all the appropriate work equipment and footwear for the job.
Paramount in CDM is the need to communicate. “Essentially, the designer should do a risk assessment for their design and talk to the contractor,” says Richard Gardiner. “The contractor might come up with a different way to solve a problem which is more satisfactory. All parties need to be in communication, putting the client, designer and contractor in tune with each other.”
If you’ve read our post on The Secret to a Bali Award-Winning Garden, then you’ll know that communication is one of our priorities. That project demanded hundreds of both emails and phone calls. If a problem occurs, we’ll let you know. If a schedule needs to be rejigged because of a delayed delivery, we’ll tell you. If we foresee a pitfall in the way things are scheduled, we’ll suggest a solution.
CDM doesn’t have to be feared. It’s raising standards across the industry and that has to be applauded. However, everyone can do with a bit of support, especially when something’s new and full of legal implications.
“CDM is a good thing,” says Ben. “With any of our projects, we’ll be happy to offer advice to designers who are a bit unsure, and it’s a chance for everyone in the industry - landscapers and designers - to show clients and designers that we take our responsibilities seriously and recognise our duty of care to fellow contractors and our clients.”
If you’d like to discuss how we can help with the CDM requirements of your next project, give us a ring on 0208 2412402 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Gardiner can be contacted at Nag Solutions.
It’s that time of year again, with the nights drawing in, December fast approaching and the anticipation mounting it can mean only one thing...no not Christmas, the BALI National Landscape Awards 2018.
Recognised throughout the industry as one of the biggest landscaping events of the year the 42nd BALI National Landscape Awards will pay tribute to BALI members who have demonstrated exceptionally high standards of professionalism and skill within the landscaping and design sector.
As BALI members and winners of this years Domestic Garden Construction Between £100k - £250k category the Landscaping Solutions team will of course be in attendance.
This will be our fifth BALI award to date and, as always, it stands as a great testament to the hard work, craftsmanship and enthusiasm of all our staff. Two of those five award have been of ‘Principal’ status which is awarded to the best garden in its respective category. We are hoping that this year will be three out of five. Fingers crossed.
Situated in the London Borough of Barnet our award winning garden was designed by Jilayne Rickards Garden Design. Jilayne’s commitment and attention to details is of the highest order and we look forward to bringing more of her contemporary garden designs to life in coming years.
As part of the initial brief for this particular design the client had requested a usable family space with a unifying architectural theme and colour scheme. In addition they wanted year round interest in the planting, to hear the sound of running water and to have interesting textures, shapes and heights be incorporated in to the planting.
Modern hard landscaping features, privacy screens, overhead patio shades, a built-in barbecue and fireplace and a bespoke water feature are just some of the many features we installed to meet the clients needs.
In the early stages of the design process the client had also expressed the importance of ensuring the finished garden had a ‘unique’ and personal feel, requesting personalised elements be included in the scheme.
With this in mind a number of bespoke Cor-Ten features were commissioned and installed through the rear garden. A bespoke mounting method had to be devised to allow for their installation.
From these bespoke installations, through to restricted site access and unfavourable ground conditions it is fair to say the project was not without its challenges. Luckily we don’t shy away from challenges at Landscaping Solutions and so with good communication, meticulous planning and hard work we were able to transform the garden in to a clean and clear functional space that satisfied all of the clients requirements.
With the hard work done, We are certainly looking forward to celebrating with fellow BALI members at the awards ceremony in December and as always, it is an honour to have our achievements recognised by the industry's number one trade association and our peers.
The competition in each category is fierce so we would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the other category winners on a job well done.
Traditionally, most people see gardening as dominated by the older generation. The digital age however, has seen a new younger generation of gardeners emerge. These gardeners are learning from an entirely untraditional source; the internet and social media.
Social media and the internet are key players when it comes to kick starting trends, with sites like Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter and YouTube offering us inspiration at our finger tips. As a result, a huge network of young horticulturists are using these social media platforms to share the latest gardening tips and tricks or simply to find inspiration.
According to a survey commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society, 89 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds said they had either a garden or an allotment and grew their own plants and vegetables.
Growing your own food and watching what you eat is a popular trend at the moment, most notably amongst young professionals. Organic food is on the rise and people are more aware than ever that growing your own fruit and vegetables can dramatically reduce our food’s carbon footprint.
In short, attitudes are changing rapidly with many under 35’s now heavily engaged in a range of gardening activities. The last few years have also seen a sharp increase in the number of 16 to 18 year olds wanting to enroll on horticultural courses at college.
The stereotype that gardening can only be enjoyed by the older generation is quickly disappearing and one such person helping to dispel that stereotype is 19 year old YouTuber Huw Richards.
Huw’s YouTube channel HuwsNursery currently has over 20 million views with upwards of 80 thousand subscribers, making it the most successful gardening vlog in the UK.
As a result of his YouTube successes Huw has also appeared on numerous TV gardening programmes and secured a number of sponsorship deals with prominent landscape and gardening related companies.
Another young British YouTuber, 22 year old Jack Shilley features similar content on his Youtube channel. One of his most successful videos entitled “planting raspberries in containers” has racked up more than 95,000 views.
When you look at statistics like this it’s clear the younger generation are getting into gardening in a big way and thankfully there are a growing number of initiatives designed to encourage and nurture this surge of interest.
BALI are a prime example of this, their hugely successful GoLandscape initiative (of which Landscaping Solutions company director Ben West is an ambassador) aims to bring more young people in to the landscaping industry by promoting and developing real life careers.
In addition The Royal Horticultural Society also run several groups and award schemes all aimed at the younger generation.
Increasingly a number of schools and colleges across the UK are also creating gardening spaces and clubs within their grounds, in an effort to embrace the enthusiasm of this new generation of gardeners.