11 Jan 30 years a landscaper and I’d only change one thing
Chris Baker looks back over his 30 year career in landscaping and shares his one and only industry gripe.
In 2018, Holland Landscapes celebrated 30 years of successfully helping to improve the gardens of Essex and Suffolk. I started the business way back in 1988, the same year that the first Red Nose Day raised £15 million for charity, GCSE’s replaced O’levels, Harry Potter Actor Rupert Grint was born and “Carry On” star Kenneth Williams passed away.
At that time I was working in a smoke-filled betting shop. I supplemented our family income with part time work helping friends and neighbours gardening and home maintenance. Much as I enjoyed the regular income from the day job, I really didn’t like being indoors. And so, I took a deep breath and followed my heart to start a small landscaping and home maintenance business. Little did I know that 30 years on my one-man-one-van enterprise would turn into something makes me feel proud every day.
You can read the full story of Holland Landscapes in our blog from last year – I’ll post the link at the bottom of this page
Good quality builds a sustainable business
My parents gave me a good grounding in working hard and to very high standards. They were brought up in an era when things needed to last. I grew up knowing how to make repairs and build new objects. There was never any compromise on using quality materials and shoddy workmanship just wasn’t tolerated. That attitude has stayed with me for life and I’ve drummed it into my own family and those who work with me. As my old headmaster used to say “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”
Having your work judged by your peers and competitors is tough, but when they recognise and award you for the standard of your landscaping projects that’s a great feeling.
Here I am with my son Paul receiving awards from the Association of Professional Landscapers
The quality ethos has held Holland Landscapes in good stead for 3 decades and innumerable changes in landscaping trends. Whether it was building Groundforce style decking in the 90’s or laying pristine porcelain pavers in recent months, quality workmanship has been the key to every single landscaping job that Holland Landscapes has ever done. We get the foundations right and we use the best materials we can find. When we are using new techniques we learn from the experts before tackling it ourselves. I suppose it’s fair to say that I built the business in the same way. Great staff, lots of training and strong relationships with trusted suppliers.
Why I still love landscaping
What’s not to love about working outdoors with great companions? In this day and age the newspapers are filled with advice on mental health and wellbeing. The most popular advice is to go outdoors and take some exercise. Well that’s been my working life for 3 decades and apart from the occasional black finger nail or twisted ankle I can honestly say I’ve felt healthy and well for the whole time. A bit different from my last job – which really didn’t suit my temperament.
Somehow I’ve never found anything to match the fabulous feeling I get when I reveal a finished project to a client. I love how using simple materials and just my hands – ok maybe a couple of machines too – I can revive an undervalued space and make it into something that someone will love.
It’s a great joy to me that Holland Landscapes has grown sustainably so that it now supports my Son, Paul as well as myself and the families of those who work for us. I am confident too that as I ease myself into retirement, Paul will continue to run the business successfully and maybe (if they’re interested) pass it on to his children.
If I could change one thing
The one fundamental change I’d like to see in the UK landscape industry is public perception. People in general tend to take their surroundings for granted. They don’t seem to realise how much work goes into creating their mud-free paths and relaxing lawns.
I guess maybe that Landscaping is seen as manual labour and somehow perceived as being unskilled. Yet understanding how to mix a mortar bed for a brickweave drive that needs to carry the weight of a vehicle and last for decades is far from being common knowledge. Neither is knowing how to stake a tree, how to correct the drainage problems in a garden, or where to place outdoor lights for the best effects. That’s without worrying about health and safety legislation, planning regulations and employment law. And how many jobs ask someone to be a carpenter, a plumber and a plantsman all in one day?
I love the variety of landscaping, every job is different and there’s always something to figure out. Most of all I love how my work makes my clients feel. However, I just wish that more people understood and valued the role of landscapers in shaping their world. After all, the landscape industry doesn’t just “do” private gardens. Shopping centres, high streets, parks, tourist attractions, cemeteries and so much more are created and maintained by landscapers like us.
The upshot of landscaping being valued more is that more people would seek it out as a career. They too would benefit from the health and happiness and enjoyment that I have experienced for the last 30 years. And if the powers that be could change attitudes in my lifetime – that’d be great too.