- Helen Elks-Smith, Garden Designer, MSGD MBALI
- Gary Edwards, The Gardeners Guild
- Gareth Manning, Vice President Chartered Institute of Horticulture
- Sophie Guinness, Lecturer in Planting and Garden Design, Capel Manor College
- Caroline Tatham, Principal The Cotswold Gardening School
We discussed a variety of topics. One thing there was general agreement on was the importance of garden care and the need to raise the profile and value placed on proper after care.
Discussions were varied and it was evident that there is a complicated, wide-ranging set of issues to tackle .
We discussed at length the relationship between the ‘garden designer’, ‘garden after care professional’ and the ‘client’. Some designers are frustrated that unqualified ‘gardeners’ are often decimating their client gardens leaving them unphotographable, and many aftercare professionals are unhappy that some ‘designers’ leave them with gardens which cannot be developed properly because the designer has planted it poorly to start with.
We debated whether garden designers should own aftercare too, and there wasn’t clear decision one way or another. In some cases where the client will pay for that service then the garden designer may ‘own’ it. A suggestion was made to encourage garden designers to hold regular ‘client reviews’ every 6 months as part of the garden designer ‘best practice’ process.
Action point: It was mentioned that garden designers could help gardeners by adding more winter interest to their client gardens. Seasonality is a big issue for many professional gardeners and having more winter interest to manage would help ensure they are employed 12 months of the year.
Regulation and qualifications
The issue of skills and qualifications came up quite a bit on both sides. It is estimated that there are 10,000 practicing ‘garden designers’ in the UK but only 200 who are registered with the SGD. A similar issue relates to the ‘gardener’ community with a similar number practicing but only 500 registered with the Gardeners Guild.
Action point: Is there a better way to regulate qualified and unqualified practitioners and how could we do that?
A big issue to tackle is educating the end-client to:
- expect to pay for proper aftercare
- understand the difference in ‘gardening’ skill sets and how to hire the right person
- pay a living wage which is at a minimum £20/hour but will vary across the country
Action point: Gareth Manning of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture will table a proposal that the Institute’s next annual meeting in October help to create marketing materials that garden designers and gardening professionals could hand out to clients explaining how to make a hiring decision, what to look for and what to expect to pay for different skill sets.
Responsibility of the media
We all agreed that the general media doesn’t help raise the value of gardening. Many television programs show the ‘instant garden’ for ‘very little money’ and imply that gardening is really ‘easy to do’.
Action point: We would like to engage the media to help raise the value the public places on gardening and we will consider drafting a cross-industry ‘open letter’ to producers of programs which undervalue gardening.
By raising the value placed on gardening we also hope to attract more young people into the industry as it will be seen as a job like an electrician for which you can make a good living.
Professional education and mentoring
There was an agreement that many newly qualified do not succeed because they do not know how to run a business and aren’t trained to handle project management. Could these be included as part of the education process?
Action point: Gareth Manning mentioned the Chartered Institute of Horticulture does offer some mentoring. Please contact them to find out more.
Getting together more frequently
It was also agreed that having meet-ups like the one we had yesterday is really helpful in itself. Could the SGD cluster groups also invite local professional gardeners to meet with them too? Could the industry bodies such as the SGD, Gardeners Guild, CIH, BALI all link to each others’ websites? Could shows such as the Landscape Show and FutureScape offer more networking?
- Nicola will set-up a LinkedIn Group for people interested this topic
- Shoot will hold more events like yesterdays but organise for them to be held in the early evening so more people can attend