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.