Starting a gardening business: How garden enterprises are blooming
Posted: Wed 21st Nov 2012
Home-based garden enterprises are blooming and they're filling an array of colourful niches. If you're green-fingered and would like to nurture your talent and turn it into an income, how do you get started? You could take a leaf Sophie Davies's book, as the author of Design Grow Sell considers the possibilities.
I have spent the last six months researching and conducting interviews to write a book on a subject close to my heart - that of setting up and running your own gardening business, writes Sophie (left). What surprised me most was the sheer range of business opportunities available for green-fingered homemakers looking for a job with flexible hours and for keen gardeners who want to turn their hobby professional.
In the course of my research, I spoke to:
gardeners offering basic gardening round or upper-end manicure services
garden and interior landscape designers
specialist nursery owners and growers
proud owners of gardens open to the public
gardening coaches and the founder of a gardening school
people who had set up horticulture-based social enterprises and other organisations.
I also interviewed garden builders, speakers and writers, came across garden historians, those who give garden tours and others who go off plant hunting even! Many mixed their disciplines. They (like me) might design gardens but also write. They might have a nursery and also give talks. They might do garden maintenance and coach. What united all them was an absolute passion for plants and a love of the outdoors.
A flowering of small enterprises
Many had developed niches, such as:
designers specialising in front gardens (Posh Gardens), coastal gardens (Juliet Sargeant), those designing planting schemes for balconies and roof terraces (The Balcony Gardener)
gardeners offering an upscale roving head gardener service (Garden Rescue) or specialist pruning, even selling the gardening tools to do so (Niwaki)
nurserymen and women whose plant palette was tailored to plants for woodland and shade (Long Acre Plants), neatly-clipped and potted topiary (Langley Boxwood Nursery), or contemporary perennials and grasses (Marchants Hardy Plants).
As a general trend, green, organic gardening businesses seem to be really popular right now, whether in the form of a gardening service without use of pesticides, designing gardens with less hard landscaping features and making use of water-saving devices or teaching people how to grow their own fruit and veg.
Planting the seeds of your gardening business
Before you embark on a new chosen career path, it's worth finding out exactly what that involves by speaking to people at gardening talks and flower shows, getting some work experience and seeing how it's done. Before enrolling on a garden design course ten years ago, for example, I spent some time working first at a plant nursery and then for an upper-end garden design practice, first in their shop and then in the office and out onsite. This way I got to see what they day to day running of a plant nursery involves, the project monitoring a team of garden builders on a muddy construction site, ordering plants and client liaison. More importantly, what hard work it is to spend the day outside, digging in the freezing cold and the rain! If you decide that a career in horticulture is for you, there are a number of websites you can go to for information and that may be able to help. These include the RHS and Society of Garden Designers websites, as well as www.growcareers.info. Organisations such as the National Trust, National Trust for Scotland, RHS, Professional Gardeners' Guild and Women's Farm and Garden Association offer training opportunities. Sophie Davies is an experienced journalist who studied garden design at the English Gardening School. She has written for 25 Beautiful Gardens, Homes & Gardens and The English Garden and had her own design practice until moving out of London. Today, when not writing, she spends her free time gardening at her home in West Sussex.
Buy Design Grow Sell for Â£12.99
Published in association with Country Living magazine, Design Grow Sell by Sophie Davies is a complete guide to starting and running a successful gardening business from your home. The book looks at the diverse opportunities that exist in gardening, from running a nursery to building a garden maintenance business, alongside inspirational profiles of 20 small gardening businesses. [product id="56592"] Photo credit: Matt McGee