Andy Sturgeon: do not undervalue maintenance

Workshop delegates hear case for higher client garden service charges to raise awareness of skills and boost revenue.

Palmstead event speakers included Andy Sturgeon (L) and Gill Chamberlain (Centre) - image: Palmstead Nurseries
Palmstead event speakers included Andy Sturgeon (L) and Gill Chamberlain (Centre) - image: Palmstead Nurseries

Landscape and garden designers are underselling their services and the skills needed for garden maintenance, one of the UK's leading designers has warned.

Award-winning garden designer Andy Sturgeon was addressing a 250-strong audience at Palmstead Nurseries' annual Design for Maintenance workshop in Ashford last week.

He urged them to charge more for providing long-term maintenance guides or risk being undervalued by their clients.

"Clients will not read a free guide but if you charge an additional fee for it they will value it and take it seriously," he said.

Sturgeon encouraged delegates to produce professionally presented maintenance plans for clients and to highlight the level of skill needed to carry out the work.

"We need to encourage clients to spend more on a higher level of gardener so their gardens can be maintained in the way they should be. Without it the gardens we create are not going to survive, which reflects badly on us."

Garden consultancy head Gill Chamberlain echoed Sturgeon's call saying designers were "missing a trick" by not recognising an obvious business opportunity.

"Designers should build long-term maintenance in as a chargeable part of the project so you or someone else can continue to be paid throughout the year," she explained.

She said designers had a responsibility to persuade clients to invest in well-qualified gardeners to carry it out.

Unlike Sturgeon, Chamberlain felt providing maintenance guides was not a universal solution because the work required skills most clients did not have.

During an animated question-and-answer session, a number of delegates pointed out that a national skills shortage meant it was increasingly difficult to find well-qualified gardeners.

Sturgeon said few colleges offered courses in the profession because it was poorly paid and therefore did not attract enough interest.

One delegate said a return to traditional apprenticeships with "proper" wages would improve the situation. But a show of hands revealed that no more than 10 delegates were currently investing in schemes at their firms.

Closing the session, chair of the event and Palmstead marketing manager Nick Coslett, urged the audience to help themselves by investing in apprentices to boost the supply of fresh blood in the industry.

Key Stats

Garden maintenance spending by British households - HSBC survey

£7.7bn - Annual spend

3% - Percentage with a regular maintenance plan.


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