The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) no longer needs HTA "babysitting" because its membership is growing nationwide and links with WorldSkillsUK and Trustmark are strengthening the brand, chairman Mark Gregory has said.
Speaking at the APL Awards held in Gibson Hall in the City of London (12 March), Gregory said: "The APL was previously like a child and needed a lot of support from the HTA - a lot of babysitting - but now it's standing up on its own two feet. We're delivering quality and innovation.
"Membership continues to grow at a great rate. We've got clients screaming at us to get on site - the sun's come out. I think it's a really good time for us going forward."
APL membership has grown by 12 per cent over the past year and a new website is under development. HTA regional account manager Phil Tremayne is moving to being a dedicated national account manager for the APL. All members must now be accredited by Trustmark and the association also has a presence at Gardening Scotland (30 May to 1 June) for the first time this year.
Gregory said it is not enough just "to do a good job anymore" - the APL needs to support that with marketing and good standards of administration. He advocated more continuing professional development for landscapers and said members welcome being audited by Trustmark, an organisation "with teeth".
He added: "We've had two or three difficult years. It's been bloody tough, we needed to use all our tact and business acumen just to get through them."
HTA chief executive Carol Paris said the awards demonstrate "landscape excellence", adding that membership is up and churn down at the APL. She pointed out that WorldSkills is a "tremendous opportunity."
The two young landscapers who won the Landscape Gardening competition at WorldSkillsUK 2013 - Dan Brennen and Dan Hanley - gave an accomplished speech at the awards, urging others to get involved.
Andy Hall, a representative from the Government body that runs WorldSkillsUK, also promoted the event, which pits students and apprentices with trade skills against each other in timed tasks.
Every two years teams from across the world compete in the Olympics-style WorldSkills event.
"Landscape gardening is something this country is excellent at - we do really well internationally and we punch above our weight," said Hall.
"We can do things that other countries cannot do - that's the secret of economic success," he added.
Business forecast Positive on prospects
Landscapers from across the country were positive about the market at the APL Awards.
Mark Chapelhow from Wildroof Landscapes in Penrith, Cumbria, won the young achiever award. He said: "Things are very good - we're very busy. It's been really wet but it hasn't been freezing so we have got a lot more done."
David Sewell of Warwickshire company The Gardenmakers said things are improving and most landscapers will now be dusting off their business plans.
APL vice-chairman Paul Baker of Holland Landscapes in Colchester, Essex, said: "It's been one of the best starts to a year. We've had lots of enquiries - and good-quality enquiries."