Over the coming months, Claudia de Yong will be visiting members of the APL and going behind the scenes to ask - ‘Why did you become a Landscaper?’

This month I talk to Dan Ryan from Design It Landscapes who I met up with at The RHS Malvern Spring Festival back in May, where he had designed his first ever show garden..

What made you choose a career in landscaping, how and when did you start?

I have always had an interested in design which started when I won a garden design competition in junior school. Originally I wanted to pursue a career in graphic design until my grandparents suggested I studied garden design. I was often helping them in the garden and enjoyed being outdoors so in 2003 I joined Pershore College.

Tell me more about your business, staff levels, areas covered and size of projects.

I started Design It Landscapes in 2013 after having been self-employed as a subcontractor to various Landscaping companies for five years. We have three staff including an apprentice and cover Worcestershire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands Areas carrying out medium sized projects for various garden designers alongside our own design and build.

What if any are your expansion plans?

We are currently looking for new members of staff due to our workload and the size of the projects increasing and are also considering taking on an apprentice under the APL Apprenticeship Scheme.

How and what, if any, in recent years have you seen changes in the industry.

There seems to have been a shift towards people making the most of the space they have whether it being a large or small garden and also wanting that space as an extra room to the house making them want to invest more in their garden. Especially when it comes to outdoor living, Fire Pits, Pizza Ovens and Outdoor Kitchens are becoming more and more popular.

Do you have any exciting/unusual projects planned for the coming months- eg: show gardens?

We have been asked to build the APL stand at BBC Gardener’s World Live for the second year in a row and will also be helping Big Fish Landscapes with one of their gardens at the show this year.

What has been your most memorable event?

My most memorable event to date would have to be RHS Malvern Spring Festival this year where we were awarded a Silver Gilt Medal for our garden sponsored by Bovis Homes. We were over the moon with the result and the feedback we received from the public as well as other landscapers and garden designers and are looking forward to doing another show garden.

What and or who inspires you?

Over the last few years I have gained a lot of inspiration from working with other more experienced garden designers and sharing knowledge as well as them encouraging me to be more creative.

Do you have a speciality? Is there anything you would like to experiment with in the future- eg: materials?

After having worked with corten steel for the first time in our show garden, I would like to incorporate it in to some of upcoming projects for its colour and texture. I would also like to install some green walls and have had some interest in a current project.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into a career in landscaping?

My advice would be that they would need to be prepared to work hard and have the vision to see past a blank canvas to create a garden.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I anticipate being an established business with more teams of staff and having had the opportunity to design and build more show gardens.

How do you find being a member of an association like the APL has helped your business?

Being a member of the APL has enabled me to establish new contacts and also given me the business support and network I needed to begin expanding which was my main objective for becoming a member.

Dan with his Silver Gilt Medal ( photo courtesy of Bovis Homes)

Paul Baker, Holland Landscapes

To start the series, Paul Baker from Holland Landscapes, based in Colchester Essex, discusses how he joined his father’s landscaping business and what plans he has for the future.

1. What made you choose a career in landscaping?

My dad was running Holland Landscapes and I would help him on a Saturday morning and in school holidays. I never wanted to be a landscaper but I did enjoy being outside and helping out.

2. Some people find it tricky working with family. You have worked with your father for a number of years - what’s the secret?

We have a very open and honest relationship, if we don’t agree on something then we will say. While this can be a bit tense at times, we always come to a good resolution. This has always been the best way to work for us and we never fall out.

3. How has your father’s experience in the industry helped and influenced you?

My dad is a perfectionist. When I was younger he would always point out errors in my work or method of works. While this may have been frustrating at times it has made me the perfectionist I am today. Another big influence is my dad’s honesty and integrity. He wears his heart on his sleeve and always has our client’s best interests in mind, he would rather lose money than deliver a sub-standard project. This has transferred to me and has become the ethos of Holland Landscapes.

4. How have you seen the industry change?

When I started at 16 concrete paving and one of the only options available. Now, there is a massive variety and most of it from ethically sourced quarries. Technology has come a long way in landscaping as well. From garden lighting controlled by smartphones and new resin compounds.

5. What have you planned for the coming months?

I am looking for a new team leader, like everyone we really struggle to find good staff. Our team at the moment is amazing and my advice to any business owner is to really look after the good ones!

6. What has been your most memorable event?

This is an easy one, winning the Supreme Award at the APL awards 2011. This was such an amazing achievement!

7. What inspires you?

A few things. My dad has built an amazing company from nothing and I want to do my best to keep this going and improve on it even more. I would like to one day pass on the business to my son and keep the family name going. Also, there are a lot of amazing landscapers out there, many who I am friends with. The work they do is mind blowing. I am always learning from these guys.

8. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into a career in landscaping?

Yes, listen to all the advice you receive and process it. This information is extremely valuable. And don’t run before you can walk, the big projects may seem prestigious but get it wrong and you can put yourself in a bad position.

9. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Still running Holland Landscapes and Tapestry Design Studios. I am happy with two build teams, but maybe we will have a maintenance team as well. Maybe Tapestry will grow and employ more designers. Watch this space!

10. How do you find being a member of an association like the APL has helped your business and what’s it like to be a committee member?

We joined the APL in the late 90’s and we have seen our company turn into a very professional organisation. The combination of the business tools available, networking with like-minded people and the CPD events on offer has really pushed us to strive for perfection on and off site.
Being on the committee is extremely rewarding. We have made some massive changes to the APL and the way it works over the last 5-6 years and it is really heading in the right direction now.

11. How will you be celebrating 30 years of creating beautiful gardens at Holland Landscapes?

We are doing a series of blogs throughout the year looking back and forwards to the future and we might even take the whole team out for a celebratory meal!

Paul and Chris Baker – Holland Landscapes winning one of their many APL awards