Well...I can now confirm that dreams do come true! My uneven and mismatched paving slabs and slightly neglected lawn have miraculously disappeared and been replaced by an Indian sandstone patio, aggregates and beds edged with thick wooden sleepers. Are there really fairies at the bottom of the garden? Did they sprinkle their fairy dust and deliver this transformation?
Well, no! The transformation was brought about through blood, sweat and tears – literally! Just a little blood I hasten to add, with the classic scenario of a thumb getting in the way of a hammer. The work was carried out by a local family business – Garden Gecko – @GardenGecko comprising son Stephen, dad Dave and cousin Gary.
The sweat came courtesy of a couple of days of Scottish summer – you know the ones when the temperature rises above the 20c mark and the sun beats down? These turned out to be the digging/lifting slabs and turf days, so were prime examples of “men at work” in the true sense of the word. Sustained mainly by cups of tea, bottles of water and some rust-coloured carbonated liquid allegedly made from girders, I was amazed at the progress they made, not to mention their levels of fitness. I guess they don’t need to visit the gym.
And the tears? Not really – but just a lump in my throat and an amazing sense of gratitude to the guys for their hard work – and relief from me that my sketchy plan actually translated into a physical space which is balanced, tranquil and colourful.
Crucially it is low maintenance which was an important consideration, reflecting my age and stage. But there is also the anticipation of watching new plants grow and thrive and I am keen to learn how to look after the garden properly.
Garden Gecko’s key skills revolve around woodworking and landscaping, but Dave also happens to be an RHS qualified gardener, and was the former head gardener at Mille Fleur, the BBC show garden on Guernsey. So he was delighted to help me choose suitable plants and shrubs and to plant them for me. Somehow Stephen managed to engage me in conversation while his dad also assembled my new garden seating to complete the project.
I had been lucky enough to order my furniture just before the current shortage kicked in and that will become an outdoor workspace for me and my laptop. Zoom calls may be slightly tricky, but I’m willing to give it a go!
"Language is like soil. However rich, it is subject to erosion, and its fertility is constantly threatened by uses that exhaust its vitality. It needs constant re-invigoration if it is not to become arid and sterile."
Elizabeth Drew, author, critic (1887-1965)
In my earlier blog I had mentioned shortages of materials etc and that situation has worsened considerably and does not look like improving any time soon. This put added pressure on Stephen, as the local builders’ merchants were unable to deliver. However, he had the foresight to hire a drop-side van and collect my slabs and aggregates. Availability of timber altered on a daily basis, and again resulted in additional trips to get supplies.
For a small growing business, these challenges stretch their leadership and operations but Stephen and his team completed my work in around half the expected time. Obviously the weather played a part in this, but I think it had more to do with their strict adherence to 9 to 5 working hours, not to mention the ability to hose down stones with one hand and hold a cup of tea in the other! This work ethic will stand them in good stead as they look to develop their business.
The gardening/landscaping market is certainly not shrinking, but the price of materials is rising, and customers are looking for quality work. Firms of all sizes will need to be agile and ensure they can offer excellent customer service.
Garden Gecko are unusual in that son Stephen is the boss, but this offers opportunities for mentoring up – a concept I’ve covered in a previous blog. Personal growth – one of the key tenets of leadership – is high on his agenda and he demonstrated drive and ambition.
So, all that remains is for the Scottish weather to enter a period of stability – not too hot, certainly not wet and not too windy. Dave carefully planned the planting in the bed opposite my conservatory window, ensuring a vista of colourful flowers and foliage. On days which are not garden-friendly this also doubles as my indoor office, so gives me a focal point when my mind starts wandering.
Thanks guys! And good luck in the future.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Lead well, stay safe