What is Commercial Gardening
Fundamentally by providing our garden services to other businesses we are a commercial gardening company, but this statement although concise does over simplify the sector we are in, it is in fact much more diverse than this with a variety of clients with differing requirements and a variety of gardens and grounds differing in size and demands with no two gardens being the same.
At WWP we need to remain flexible and have the ability to cover a wide range of gardening requirements and conditions so we can offer our commercial clients a complete range of services to suit all their needs.
Types of Client
There are two main types of client for a commercial garden contractor, one is a direct client for whom we carry out work directly and the other is a client who manages properties and estates on behalf of others.
An example of a direct client would be a business with their own premises, possibly an office block or warehouse, and we carry out the gardening directly for these clients and to their properties.
The majority of our contracts however come from managing agents, block managers, housing associations, these are property management companies who manage residential or commercial developments on behalf of their clients. This is where a crossover of commercial and domestic gardening can take place, for example, we may be maintaining a small garden for a house converted into flats, in affect a domestic garden, but the contract is still business to business and therefore a commercial venture.
The Difference Between Commercial and Your Own Gardening
There are huge differences in how we approach and carry out our gardening tasks compared to how you would look after your garden at home, I myself tend my garden at home differently to how I would maintain the gardens and grounds of a housing estate. Commercially we use larger more powerful equipment such as stand on lawn mowers, sit on lawn mowers, petrol driven hedge trimmers, petrol driven strimmers, but even though we need to use this power for the bulk of the work we still carry a pair of secateurs that are used extensively, we still turn over soil by hand with a hoe to help protect delicate roots, gardening will always require at some point attention to detail and more of a delicate touch.
In fact your own garden probably has more in common with the grounds of a stately home or even an RHS garden than a commercial garden whereby these gardens are tended full time by people committed to just that particular garden or even just a small part of that particular garden, whereas our gardeners need to spread their time and efforts across many sites and estates. An example of the type of planting you may find in an RHS garden would be a well planted herbaceous border which is certainly a thing of beauty, consisting of perennial plants that go to ground in winter ready to return the following spring, annual plants are also added either bought in from a nursery or grown from seed in a greenhouse, there will also be permanent structure in the border using evergreen shrubs. A well planned and well planted herbaceous border will constantly change and give layers of changing colour throughout the season. Is a border of this nature realistic for most commercial gardens or is it only possible at home or in a specialised garden. The honest answer in the majority of cases is no it is not realistic, reason being is the amount of attention a border requires along with the amount of re-planting does mean that most commercial gardening budgets do not allow for such expenses.
Generally there are time and budget restraints on a commercial gardening contract with the customers understandably needing to show value for money, therefore the services we provide must be economical and efficient, I may tend my own garden at a leisurely pace as that time is my own, but on site we need to get the job done to the highest standards while working as efficiently as possible to bring the job in on budget. Our set up allows us to do this, although we cannot just kit out identical vehicles with identical tools and equipment as all sites range in size and requirements, it is up to us to group together as many alike sites as possible and plan and schedule to work them all in the best ways possible.
The types of planting on, say a housing estate, would be very different to our own gardens, in our own gardens we can layer varieties of perennials, annuals and shrubs to flower at different times throughout the season bringing blooms for a long period, in our own gardens we may not mind bare areas of beds during the winter where plants have gone to ground and in our own gardens we can decide use plants for a short period for maximum impact. In our example a housing estate would require more of a year-round structure, usually attained with the use of evergreen shrubs, as most shrubs last for many years they offer good value for money as they do not need constantly changing.
However, this does not mean that the only planting on a housing estate would need to be very simple and just green, far from it, sure we find certain utility plants used extensively, but when maintained well and with the addition of a variety of shrubs making up the majority of the bed and border areas we can still add in perennials and even annuals and bedding plants to bring that extra interest and colour.
I would say one of the main differences between commercial gardening and tending you own garden is the frequency of visits, during the summer I will tend my own garden at home very regularly but for short periods of time, normally as a matter of leisure where I may be spending a summers evening in the garden and in passing will just pull a couple of weeds or pinch off a few dead heads. When contracted on a development the contract maybe for a visit once every two weeks, but this will be a visit with enough trained personnel in a vehicle full of all the necessary equipment, tools and materials and will carry out the necessary amount of hours on site to maintain the gardens and grounds to our usual high standards.
The Scale of Commercial Gardening
Does this mean that all our gardening contracts are for large estates? not at all, in fact we cover a variety of sizes of sites and have set up our business to handle this, for example our largest vehicles carry the larger equipment and more numbers of staff to the bigger estates whereas we also use small vehicles that service smaller gardens that do not need such large equipment, coupled with parking and access issues on some developments sometimes a small vehicle can be the only option. The idea is to utilise enough of a variation of vehicles and equipment to successfully handle all situations and requirements.
However this isn’t just gardening on an industrial scale using only big powerful equipment, because all the little jobs still need doing, and still need doing by hand, we may use petrol driving hedge cutters to trim a shrub into size and shape but it still requires getting in there by hand with the secateurs to prune out dead material or take back growth to a bud further down the stem. The machinery makes the bulk work possible but every site demands an amount of labour intensive more detailed gardening, usually involving getting into the shrubs with hand tools, or crawling along the ground pulling weeds by hand from around more delicate plants. This smaller more detailed work is closer to tending a domestic garden and this is where there is a crossover between the two types of gardening and this again proves that however diverse or different gardens and their individual requirements may be there are always standard tried and tested ways of gardening and there are always tasks where there are no shortcuts.
So, commercial gardening encompasses the whole range of what a garden needs but the right equipment is required with the right operatives to get the work done to the required standard in enough time to keep the service as good a value to our clients as possible.
Gardening is Hard Work
Garden maintenance and grounds maintenance on this scale is hard work, I’m sure you have maintained your own garden for a few hours at a time and fully understand. Every week our vehicles are loaded by hand and bring away tons of cuttings and garden debris collected from sites, all of which we take away for recycling where the green waste is eventually turned into useable compost.
The amount of legwork in just one day is surprising and we have used pedometers that show on an average day in the summer while carrying out general gardening and grass cutting each of our gardeners walk around 5-8 miles, considering many of these miles are pushing a lawn mower or using equipment this is literally not just a walk in the park.
Weather always plays a part and there are many days when the weather is just not our friend but come rain or shine there are always tasks that can be carried out, and they are tasks that need doing. This is why we try to be as flexible as possible in our approach to site visits, for example if the weather is too wet to allow grass cutting we will carry out other tasks or even move on to another site returning the following day to mow the lawns when the weather is drier, this ensures we provide our clients with a complete gardening service. This is in contrast to my own garden whereby if it is raining at the weekend then the gardening will have to wait, not an option commercially though.
It may be hard work but there is pride and satisfaction in our gardening and when we stand back and look over the grounds we have just maintained and improved, it is with the same pride I feel with my own garden. We love to receive good comments and praise from the people who live or work around our gardens and it makes it all worthwhile when we know people are enjoying their local environment, their local environment that we have maintained for them.