Garden lift for Landscape Centre

Training and marketing drive credited for doubling of company orders for domestic garden work.

A contractor based in Northern Ireland has seen a surprising rise in work for domestic private gardens, a market that has flatlined for three years.

The Landscape Centre reported that the last quarter saw an encouraging upturn in demand for design and build of gardens ranging from £3,000 to £300,000.

The contractor employs 200 staff and earns the bulk of its £8m turnover tackling grounds upkeep for local authority parks.

However, recent orders for domestic gardens doubled and could nudge turnover for that side of the business nearer its peak of a few years ago of £1.5m.

Managing director Steven Thompson said: "The last quarter has seen an upturn. It is early days but maybe this is the first green shoots - a sign of things starting to pick up."

He credited a recent push on City & Guilds horticulture training for his staff and investing in marketing and PR such as helping out in community gardens.

The Landscape Centre won five prizes at the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland annual awards in late October.

They included the private garden up to £30,000 category, best commercial scheme over £50,000 for landscape around offices and local authority maintenance for work for school grounds.

Thompson said public sector grounds upkeep was holding up: "But clients are more demanding for their pound. You used to get money available for special projects but now it is only for core services.

"Contractors have to focus on customer services and quality because every phone call is so important."

Key Stat

Annual turnover of the Landscape Centre from grounds upkeep and design-and-build work - £8m.

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