by John Mason
There are a number of specialised areas within gardening and landscaping that offer expanding business possibilities. Johns latest title tells how to get started in such a business. This practical and easy to read book covers such things as equipment, profiles of different services you could provide, such as lawn mowing, pruning, tree lopping, hand weeding, pest control, rubbish control, and landscaping. His advice includes commonsense evaluations of pitfalls to avoid, safety issues, license requirements, and time commitments. 160 pages (softback), 13.5cm x 21cm, Published by Kangaroo Press.
1. Getting Started
2. What Services Could You Offer
3. Plant Care
4. Garden Maintenance Services
5. Gardening and andscaping Tools
7. Starting a Landscape Construction Service
8. Managing Finances and Costing
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Starting a Small Business
EXTRACT FROM PART OF THE BOOK
There are two main types of landscaping services which you might consider. One is to design, the other to build or construct. Some landscapers do both, others might even specialise in just one aspect or style of design or of construction.
Some of the options for specialisation are:
*Small or Courtyard Gardens
*Budget Price Gardens
Some Designers or contractors distinguish their service by concentrating on a particular type of feature, or a particular type of plant. Options might be:
*Timber structures like gazebos or pergolas
If you can develop a particularly unique skill or feature to offer clients, you may be able to create a very strong niche market. Statuary and Trompe L'Oeil (ie. Trick of the eye murals), are just two such features. I have known landscapers to be in high demand, because when they do a job, the client can get a "work of art" such as this, as part of the package.
A Garden Design Service can be offered in the following ways....
a/ A Consultation Only
Visit, give verbal advice, & no more
b/ A concept plan
A plan drawn to scale, but lacking detail -only providing a broad concept
c/ Garden Design
A plan drawn to detail, showing planting details, specifying other features & components but not specifying the construction detail of hard landscaping (eg. The plan may indicate the location of a wall and say it is to be built with stone, but it won't specify foundations, drainage etc to be incorporated into the wall)
d/ Full Landscape Plans and Specifications
These contain full and fine detail, including construction details of structures (eg. A plan of how to build a wall showing the drainage, foundations etc)
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HARD & SOFT LANDSCAPING
Hard Landscaping refers to things such as walls, paths, pergolas, rock work, concrete pond construction, etc. Soft Landscaping involves the lawns and plants.
STARTING A GARDEN DESIGN SERVICE
Designing a garden takes artistic flair combined with good knowledge of available materials and a practical, systematic approach. These skills are something that need to be learnt properly if you are to succeed in applying them in a business.
Often people develop a wonderful home garden for themselves, and are subsequently encouraged by friends to "go into landscaping". If this describes you, then you probably have potential to become a successful landscaper; but you will still need at least some basic training. Running a garden design business, making money out of it, and keeping customers satisfied, is different to developing a couple of home gardens that satisfy yourself and your friends.
HINTS WHEN YOU START
*Only take on small jobs at first (eg. courtyards or parts of larger gardens).
*Take photos of jobs you do, to show clients in the future.
*Collect books and magazines with photos of gardens which you can discuss with clients.
(Only show them things that you are confident about designing &/or building)
*As you do designs, make copies for yourself, and put together a folio of plans that you can show potential clients.
HOW TO DESIGN A GARDEN -AN INTRODUCTION
Planning is the first step towards a successful garden. This is much easier if you are developing a new garden from scratch, because you don't have the problem of choosing what parts of the old garden will be scrapped. If renovating an existing garden, don't be afraid to be ruthless. Don't hesitate to change the shape of paths and garden beds or rip up lawn areas completely. You will however paint the best picture on a clean canvas.
Most types of garden are all best planned the same way; systematically, step by step, by drawing ideas on paper then taking time to reflect and review those ideas, before starting any construction. Different garden design experts suggest different steps to follow, and all are valid as long as you take time to consider what you are doing before spending time and money on any garden construction.
A typical planning process might be:
1. MEASURE UP AND DRAW THE AREA
You need a basic plan of the site as it now exists showing boundaries, fences, buildings (with the position of doors and windows), and any permanent features such as concrete paths, sheds or washing lines. You also need to know the locations of any water or gas mains and meters, sewers, drainage pipes, underground cables, etc. Make at least three or four copies of the plan if you can.
2. DECIDE ON THE BROAD PURPOSE OF EACH GARDEN AREA
Most gardens have three or more obvious sections (eg. The front yard, a courtyard beside the house and the backyard). You may decide to create more areas by building fences, planting a garden bed or placing a shed to divide a larger area into two smaller areas. Each area of the garden should have a purpose and may have a different style. You shouldn't try to create two different styles in the same area. The purpose of an area might be aesthetic (eg. To make the house look better), or practical (eg. A work area, an outdoor entertainment area or a productive garden with vegetables, herbs and fruit).
Draw on your sketch plans what the purpose of each area is and what the intended style of that area is to be (eg. "Outdoor living area/cottage garden style" or "Aesthetic area/formal rose garden style").
3. DRAW IN THE PHYSICAL DETAILS FOR EACH AREA
Decide on the shape of garden beds, paths and paved areas, then determine where you might locate any gazebos, pergolas, ponds, statues, for example, or other garden features.
4. DECIDE ON THE PLANTS FOR EACH AREA
Start with the larger plants such as trees and tall shrubs.
Next decide on any climbers to cover walls or fences.
Choose the smaller growing plants last, and be sure to choose plants which will grow well alongside the larger plants and climbers already selected.
PRINCIPLES TO FOLLOW
A garden will constantly change, and a good garden designer should forsee and account for changes which are likely to occur. Plants grow, flower and die. The garden continually changes through the cycle of the season. An accomplished gardener will not only be aware of, but will use these changes to create a dynamic garden that always has something of interest in it.
There are basic principles which should be considered as you design a garden. These are those things which influence the way in which the components (eg. plants, structures or paths) are arranged. If you can grasp an understanding of the following "principles" that will go a long way towards helping you create a truly stunning garden:
A repetitive pattern (eg. an avenue of standard roses) can be used to
create unity. A lawn, path, mass planting of one species, or water flowing through a garden can be used to tie other components of the garden into one cohesive unit.
This refers to an equilibrium either symmetrical (duplication on either side of an imaginary line) or asymmetrical (dissimilar placement of different objects or masses on either side of the same sort of imaginary line, but in a way that an equilibrium exist).
This refers to proper sizing or scaling of components in relation to each
other, for example, a 30m tall Eucalypt would look out of place in a small courtyard cottage garden.
This component is usually the prime objective of any landscape so that different parts of the landscape fit together.
Contrast is in opposition to harmony and should not be overdone otherwise chaos may result. Occasional contrasts to the harmony of a design will create an eye catching feature in a garden - adding life and interest to an area which would otherwise be dead.
Rhythm is a conscious repetition of equal or similar components in the garden. It is usually created by repetition and transition.
FORMAL OR INFORMAL
Formal gardens are orderly, often with symmetry in their design and a highly manicured appearance. The pathways and garden beds are frequently arranged on either side of a central pathway in regular shapes. Each side of the path is a mirror image of the other side.
Informal gardens are not symmetrical, they can be more natural in appearance and an untidy appearance often does not look out of order.
Formality in a garden is not a black and white thing though. There are an unlimited range of compromises between the very formal and totally informal garden.
Curves or Straight lines
Straight edges to garden beds or pathways will create a more formal affect while curved edges create a more informal and relaxed feeling.
DEVELOP A GARDEN IN STAGES
Often the garden has to be developed in stages because of the amount of money or preparatory work required. When preparing a plan take this into consideration, perhaps only preparing detailed plans for the areas that are to be developed fairly quickly, and simply designating on a larger plan of the area broad ideas for future development.
]If large areas will be undeveloped for substantial lengths of time, then consider screening with fast growing plants or a temporary fence until that area can be attended to. Areas designated for paving, garden beds or water gardens might be mulched to provide a reasonable appearance until work commences. The mulch can be used in other parts of the garden to enrich the soil, when the development occurs. Pot plants filled with colourful annuals, perennial or groundcovers can make the outdoor area attractive even while it is still under construction. The plants can be used in the garden beds later.
IF MONEY IS A PROBLEM: CUT COSTS BUT NOT QUALITY
There are two types of costs involved in a garden; the first is building it, the second is maintaining it.
Often if a little more time, effort and money is spent on building the garden, then the cost of maintaining it can be greatly reduced. Gardens which are initially cheap to build tend to require ongoing repair and maintenance of the hard materials used. This type of problem can however, be largely avoided by using good quality materials, which are often not necessarily more expensive ones. Creating a garden with limited money is not difficult, but it may require some compromises. Here are a few suggestions you could discuss with your clients.