Maintenance Matters January 2018

We had another fantastic event last night at Capel Manor Regents Park in London discussing the topic of ‘Maintenance Matters’. There were about 30 people in attendance and another 35 joining us on Facebook across the UK, Ireland and the USA.

Here is a video of the full event if you would like to watch it (2hrs). If you are also interested in seeing  the slides of the evening you can find them here. The presentation is obscured in the video, so having the slides open same time will give you the visual references to what we are discussing.


It was a packed agenda to cover in two hours. I talked about why I am hosting these events, discussed my strong interest in raising the value of ‘gardening’ and ‘gardeners’, and how the Shoot platform supports communication between the client, the garden designer and the professional gardener or gardeners (if there is a team). Effective communication was a big theme of the evening and John mentioned he thought it was the most critical thing to get right.


After my introductions, John Wyer (Bowles & Wyer) and Helen Elks-Smith (Elks-Smith Garden Design) kicked-off by recapping the issues we have raised previously about the importance of the evolution of the garden after it has been designed and built. Helen’s strong view is the ‘garden’ is never really completed and that design input after handover is absolutely essential. John has a slightly different view – his analogy was ‘it is our responsibility to build the ship, but the clients responsibility to sail the ship’. His view is it ultimately the client’s responsibility to develop the garden on into the future. This will form the topic for our next event (date yet to be confirmed). There may also be an opportunity to strengthen the SGD accreditation process to include more of an emphasis on the ‘post build process’ of garden development.


Then Thomas Stone (Thomas Stone Horticultural Services) talked about how we might simplify for the home owner which gardening services to hire. There is a lot of work still do on this, as none of the current membership organisations offer accreditation levels which match to what should be recommended (e.g. large or small gardens and the skilled tasks to do in the garden). We attempted a solution by mapping out a process flow which starts with the garden size and then the tasks to do in the garden as way of helping the home owner to decide who to hire. There was some discussion from the audience that perhaps these services could be described in a way relating to elements of the home owner’s garden (e.g. I have a lawn, some shrubs, some perennials etc.). We don’t feel we have this topic cracked yet and encourage those who are interested to get involved to contact us for follow-up conversations.


The next topic had 3 sections. I  did an overview of the blog post by Karen McClure (Karen McClure Garden Design) wrote for us as Karen was unable to make the evening. Karen has included ‘proper maintenance’ as part of her 9 step design process.

Jeff Stephenson, Head of Horticulture & Aftercare at Bowles & Wyer  (Bowles & Wyer) then talked about what gardeners need from garden designers to be successful. Jeff talked about good design (e.g. no lawns under trees) and ergonomics (e.g. think about adding compost bins, easy access to walls and borders, the cutting heights of hedges for safety etc). Jeff also talked about the need for clear communication from the garden designer to the gardener – such as handover packages to include supplier contacts (e.g. if a plant dies and needs replacing who should he contact or if a pot breaks and needs replacing where was it originally sourced from), the project history and back story,  the client brief and design intent as well as planting plans, concept plans and 3d renderings. This turns seeing a garden in only ‘black and white’ for the gardener into seeing it in  vivid ‘colour’.

Sophie Guinness (Capel Manor Regents Park ) ended the evening’s talk explaining how good design education encourages you to learn about plants during a long life cycle e.g. over a year to see it’s full development cycle. You need to do your plant identifications and to see plants when they are dead as well as alive. She feels gardening is really an art as well as a science and that the creative element should be celebrated more. Finally, Sophie has pledged to ask professional gardeners into her classroom to speak to her design students as a way of developing better communication early on in the education stage.

We are also working on the next date and will circulate that as soon as we can! If you want to be included in the next event email Ben Sparks at

Please also join our LinkedIn Group on this topic (search for Maintenance Matters or click here). We will be discussing these topics there in between events.

Remembering ‘Maintenance’ at Each Stage

By Karen McClure Garden Design. At Karen McClure Garden Design we are working to improve our own focus on thorough garden aftercare for our business improvement, but also to help raise the value placed on garden aftercare and hiring trained professionals across the industry. In pursuit of that aim, we are developing a check-list for each stage of the design process.

Work load can get very hectic, and the focus can be too much on upfront design aspects and managing client expectations about money. The process outlined below helps us as an internal reminder to not forget the garden needs maintaining for it to develop and for successful longevity. We now reference this check-list at each stage of the process.

This is our initial draft of our own process and we would very much welcome any thoughts on improving or changing this from other designers and garden aftercare professionals. Please feel free to add a comment at the bottom of the blog post.

Step 1: Client Brief to include a focus on maintenance

• This is an ideal moment to assess the client’s attitude to garden maintenance and educate the client
• Questions should be added to the client questionnaire to assess this attitude further
• Close attention should be paid during the initial visit to the existing condition of the garden, the soil, the prevailing care regime of the plants
• Discussions should be had about how the client will ensure the correct maintenance of the garden after installation
• Elements could be included in the contract about the initial planting and subsequent maintenance

Step 2: Site Analysis, Landscape and Historical Context

• A further opportunity to assess the site, this time in more detail.
• Soil samples are taken to check soil type, moisture, pH and level of organic enrichment
• At the same time, careful observation of the condition of the existing plants, the maintenance of the soil, attention to weeding can be checked

Step 3: Developing a Concept

• At the heart of the concept is adherence to the client wishes with regard to ongoing maintenance
• The concept must be designed in accordance with these wishes
• Plants’ maintenance requirements can be checked on Shoot to assess their suitability for incorporation into the design concept

Step 4: Creating Collage, Moodboard and Masterplan

• At this stage, maintenance requirements must form the backdrop to how these are presented

Step 5: Present back to Client

• An important moment to summarise the projected maintenance requirements and anticipated maintenance schedule
• In agreeing the contractors, the importance of selecting an “expert” gardener should be emphasised
• Discuss how to select a suitable gardener (minimal skills, knowledge and qualifications expected, how they were trained, what experience they have acquired, rates of pay anticipated for the qualified gardeners, etc.)
• Ideally the designer has a recommended list of expert gardeners. The designer might suggest suitable gardening contractors at this stage
• Often clients may have their own gardener, and this is the moment to agree a subsequent meeting with them to ensure they can be briefed directly on the design’s upcoming requirements

Step 6: Zoning and Planting Strategy/Planting Plan

• Maintenance requirements must form the backdrop to how these are
• Plants’ maintenance requirements can be checked on Shoot to assess their suitability for incorporation into the concept

Step 7: Roll out to include Ordering Plants, Landscaping and Planting

• In constructing the order for the plant nursery and other suppliers (reference can be made to Shoot)
• It is useful to use a contract specification
• Example of items to include in specifications:
• Supply of Trees: shall comply with ‘Code of Practice for Plant Handling’ by the Committee on Plant Supply and Establishment (CPSE)
• Plant Labeling: All plants shall be clearly and durably labelled with exact genus, species and cultivar
• Plant failures: provisions established for replacement in the event of plant failure

Step 8:  End of Build Review

• A crucial moment to ensure the client appreciates the importance of maintenance
• The client needs to understand the importance of managing the gardener: ensuring the integrity of the design is correctly maintained
• Agree with the client how the garden will be maintained
• It is essential that the gardening contractor is briefed thoroughly by the designer, to ensure subsequent control over the design
• Agree follow-up visits at 3, 6, and 12 months
• Send a regular maintenance reminder, say, monthly. An ideal mechanism for this is provided by Shoot, who will mail the precise monthly maintenance applicable to the plants chosen in the design
• It may be helpful to brief and involve the gardener directly in this, to ensure their understanding of how their maintenance schedule will be managed going forwards. Some gardeners have initially not understood the value the Shoot care calendar can play in supporting their role. We explain that by providing a visual and interactive online tool to the end-client, they are more likely to understand the need for garden aftercare and the tasks to do each month. Shoot plays a supportive role to the importance in that activity.

Step 9: Follow-up Visits at 3, 6, and 12 Months

• Follow-up visits as agreed to see how the garden is developing

Note from Shoot: This blog post follows on from events we have held previously on the topic of aftercare. If you are interested in participating in our next event on 18th January 2018 please click here for details. We will also be live streaming this event over Facebook. Contact Ben Sparks at for more details.

Shoot added to Cotswold Gardening School curriculum

29th August 2017. The Cotswold Gardening School will be including Shoot for Professionals as part of the school’s standard curriculum for all students starting courses this year.

Nicola Gammon, CEO, Shoot with Caroline Tatham, Principal, The Cotswold Gardening School with last year’s graduating class.

This will include the students taking the Garden Design (one-year, ten-week, and one-year concise which is new this year) and the Planting Design courses.

Watch the video below to hear what the Principal Caroline Tatham says about Shoot and why she has decided to include Shoot as part of the courses her school runs.

The students will use the Shoot Professional package in the following ways:

  • to compile their plant portfolios. A close study of 50 plants for the 1-year garden design course and 25 plants for the ten-week planting course. This involves all the technical info and images but also importantly design uses.
  • research for planting plans – this applies to all courses.
  • source for mood boards – all courses.
  • source for sketchbook research – all courses.

Nicola Gammon, CEO Shoot, is delighted that Shoot will be included as a standard part of the Cotswold Gardening School curriculum.

“We are often told by recent graduates they only wished they knew about Shoot at the start of their studies… as Shoot is not only a tool to help new designers to become more profitable, but it is also a great educational aid. I am thrilled the The Cotswold Gardening School will be including Shoot as part of the curriculum going forward and hope other horticultural and design colleges also decide to include Shoot as part of their courses too.”

If you are a student and wish to sign-up directly for a student membership of Shoot please contact us or  read more here. Or if you are a horticultural or design college and you are interested to offer a similar programme for your students please contact us at and entitle your email ‘Shoot’s Student Programme’.

Maintenance Matters event

The Shoot team were joining yesterday at Capel Manor College, Regents Park by an outstanding cross-industry panel including:

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?

Client education

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?

Action points:

  1. Nicola will set-up a LinkedIn Group for people interested this topic
  2. Shoot will hold more events like yesterdays but organise for  them to be held in the early evening so more people can attend

Here are the slides of the event.

We are continuing the conversation we started at this event in a new LinkedIn Group  called ‘Maintenance Matters’. Please join too.


Sponsoring the APLD in Boston 2017

Shoot CEO Nicola Gammon visited Boston for the annual APLD conference held in Boston in July. Shoot became a bronze sponsor of the APLD for the event.

We are thrilled that during the conference 45 APLD members signed up to beta trial Shoot across various US states.

We are also really pleased to have filmed a new testimonial video with APLD Landscape Designer Rick Laughlin while in Boston.

Rick Laughlin, APLD Landscape Designer from Salt Lake City talks about Shoot from Shoot Gardening on Vimeo.

Read more about our USA beta programme here.



California Calling

I’m Nicola Gammon, the founder of Shoot, and I am just completing a very successful trip out to California, USA to explore launching an American version of Shoot for garden professionals.

I had the great pleasure to meet with a range of Landscape Architects and Garden Designers in Northern California to understand their work processes, plant research and presentation needs, as well as their client communication processes. We also discussed development ideas and explored how Shoot can best be amended to add most value to garden professionals and their clients in California.

Two garden designers, Jenna Bayer and Debby Ruskin, were particularly helpful to me. I particularly want to thank them for their support and helping set up meetings during my trip.

Jenna Bayer

Jenna Bayer, of Jenna Bayer Garden Design Inc.

Jenna Bayer, of Jenna Bayer Garden Design Inc. (based in Mountainview, California and Hillsboro, Oregon), was instrumental in helping me make the trip worthwhile. Jenna has known about Shoot having lived in the UK when we first launched and was delighted to know that we are planning a US version of Shoot.

Jenna also runs a successful garden school called the Garden Bootcamp and can see how graduates could use an online system to keep all their new gardening knowledge and learning organised and accessible. So in short, Jenna believes there is a need for a website such as Shoot in the USA to support both professional and novice gardeners.

After my meeting with Jenna yesterday in Mill Valley, the whole Shoot team are thrilled she has now gone on to join Shoot as our first professional member in the USA starting with a 20 garden professional subscription account.

So a very big thank you to Jenna from the entire Shoot team for her membership, support with developing a US version of Shoot and also for helping make other connections for me with a larger group of designers based in Palo Alto, California.

Debby Ruskin

One of the Palo Alto based garden designers Jenna connected me to is Debby Ruskin, of Ruskin Gardens Co.  Debby kindly hosted me on Tuesday to meet a group of 9 garden designers all based in the Palo Alto area.

Robin Salsburg, Tina Roushall, John Black, Kaitlin Hammersley, Mary Dateo, Kristen Rudger, Connie Lefkowits, Debby Ruskin and Janet Bell

It was an absolutely fantastic opportunity for me to meet with a large group of interested garden designers all in one meeting. So a very big thank you to Debby too for helping to organise the garden designer group and for hosting my presentation and follow-on discussion. It proved to be a very useful and productive first session. I hope many of the attendees will become part of our ‘Beta’ development group giving us feedback on Shoot as it develops for an American audience.

NEW update! Since our trip we have now added for California based members:

  • Standard U.S. measurements
  • USDA zones
  • Sunset zones
  • WUCOLS zones for water consumption

StartUp Woman Event

Nicola Gammon, founder and CEO of Shoot, attended the StartUp Woman event today sponsored by Santander and hosted by the amazing June Sarpong M.B.E. (below left)


Other panelists included Baroness Shriti Vadera (above right), Kelly Hoppen MBE (below right), Melissa Odabash (below left), Kanya King MBE and Jaqueline Gold CBE (above right).


Baroness Shriti Vadera, who is also the Chairwoman of Santander, started off talking about the benefit of diversity and the positive impact women in business have on the bottom line of the companies they work in.

The panel of inspirational founders each told their start-up stories. Common themes across all female entrepreneurs was confidence, hard work, believing in your own inner voice and … brazen ‘blagging it’ to make the connections needed to take their business to the next level.

In reponse to some of the audience questions about confidence, Jaqueline Gold suggested you write an email to yourself reminding yourself of all the positive things you have achieved. My own advice is pretend you are confident even if you are not feeling confident. No one else knows! Put your shoulders back, face forward and move with purpose. Everyone else will think you are confident and you’ll start to actually feel it.

Finally, Joy Jibrilu Director General Tourism from The Bahamas gave one lucky lady who is about to fundraise on Crowdcube a free trip to The International Women’s Empowerment Summit, October 20th to 21st 2016 in the Bahamas! As a previously successful female founder who raised £500,000 on Crowdcube I was pretty gutted that we weren’t included the draw. Maybe there is still a way to get to Bahamas event…

Landscape Show 2016

The Shoot team were delighted to be part of Landscape Show 2016.

Shoot show stand

Shoot had a stand (E1) this year for the first time. Tania, Karl and Nicola gave many, many demos to interested garden design professionals.


Most garden designers particularly liked the ‘multi-plant add’ feature which creates visual plant mood boards and the monthly, co-branded care emails which are sent to clients.

Shoot seminar talk

Nicola Gammon, Founder & CEO of Shoot, also hosted a panel talk ‘How to develop and grow client relationships’. Nicola was joined by Gillie Leaf Garden Design, Joan Mulvenna Garden Design Manchester; and Marc Piechocki I-Echo Landscape Design.


We were thrilled that it was was a full house for the talk and that we got many tweets saying how much the visitors are looking forward to using Shoot.


The seminar panel discussed how to use Shoot across the entire business development life cycle. From generating new leads and referrals at the start of the process, to saving time during the planting planning and garden handover process, to retaining valuable clients with collaboration and branding, to finally how to successfully close a client relationship to reduce follow-on questions.

See our slideshow here:

The panel also really likes how the entire Shoot experience is personalised for their business and their clients.  Plant lists are always comprehensive and personalised as we add any missing plants for you. You can also add your own photos, notes, correspondence, care notes and branding.

Book a demo to learn more with Tania here. Contact us at if you have any questions about how Shoot can help you to grow your garden design business.

New Team Member

We’re delighted to announce that Karl Schweppe has joined the Shoot team as Operations Director.

Karl Schweppe photo

Karl has been working with us as a product consultant for the last nine months and, having fallen in love with Shoot and its users, has joined the team with the ambition of taking Shoot to the next level. He comes with more than fifteen years’ experience researching, building and launching successful digital products.

As part of our ambition to improve Shoot, Karl is creating a product panel where users can help suggest, define, test and build better features. If you’d like to be involved and help shape the future features of Shoot, email Karl at


Shoot Investor Event

We had a great afternoon yesterday at The Geffrye Museum where we held our first Investor Event. The sun was shining and the event was enjoyed by all. Nicola, Martin, Karl and Stuart gave detail on our first year’s goals, performance and plans for the future.


Investor event - group 2
Some of the comments from those who attended were:
“A useful and informative update from the Shoot team on progress to date and strategy going forward.  The afternoon provided a great opportunity to meet with the new hires in the team and hear about Shoot’s plans for the future.  I only wish more crowdfunded businesses would take the time to engage fully with their investors and key clients.” Sara Halbard
Sara halbard
We also had some very supportive members join us too such as garden designer Gillie Leaf who said:
“I was so pleased to attend the Investor Event yesterday so that I could meet the team and chat to other like minded people who love Shoot! I was especially encouraged to hear about all the good things that are planned for the next 18 months.”- Gillie Leaf Garden Design
Investor event - group 6

We also had some investors who are also members join us such as Mark Somers. He commented

“It was great to meet Nicola and the team in person, to hear the real progress over the last year and see the structured proposal for the next 15 months or so. It was also a pleasure to meet and talk to co-investors both at an investor and gardener level. A great session overall and a pleasure to be involved. ” – Mark Somers

Investor event - group 7

We also took advantage of the fantastic garden setting at the Geffrye Museum and fine weather to film some testimonial videos. We filmed 6 testimonial videos with members and investors.
 Kat video
Karen Qin and Emma Raw from MassChallenge UK also joined us on the day to film a Diamond Award winner’s video with Nicola in the gardens. We’ll be sharing all the videos with our visitors soon too. Watch this space for more updates!


Nicola MassChallenge video July 2016 cropped