Many industries have suffered greatly at the hands of COVID-19. Large chunks of hospitality, travel, entertainment, retail, and many others, have been barely able to function for over a year.
But, as often happens, where one industry suffers, another does well in its place. One of the unexpected beneficiaries of lockdown had been the garden design and landscaping industry.
Business is blooming
When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, we tried not to panic. Coming at the peak of our busiest time of the year, lockdown looked like being the beginning of a financial disaster.
We acted quickly to create a ‘design by post’-style service to work remotely without visiting clients. We designed half a dozen gardens using this system, but as April turned into May, we noticed the drop-off in enquiries we’d feared had not happened. If anything, they were up.
And as we entered the summer, we realized this was due to a combination of factors. With large sections of the workforce working from home, coupled with their inability to spend money on holidays, in restaurants or on new cars, people were looking at their homes and deciding to invest in improving them instead.
This has led to a boom in enquiries for garden designers, architects, interior designers, builders, and landscapers – one that shows no signs of slowing down a year later.
This surge in demand has been measured for the first time by Pro Landscaper magazine. Their UK Landscape Barometer, published today, canvassed a wide range of UK landscaping, design, and supply companies. It asked them to compare a range of measures between Feb 2020 and Feb 2021.
Graphic © Pro Landscaper Magazine
Their findings mirror our own experience – overall, 78% of respondents had seen a rise in enquiries. Garden Design enquiries nationally, year on year, were up a staggering 143%. There was a reported 205% rise in the number of projects underway.
The picture was similar for domestic landscapers, with 73% nationwide reporting an increase in enquiries and 55% taking on additional staff.
This boom in demand has not come without difficulties. Many companies are bemoaning a lack of capacity and a shortage of qualified staff to take on the extra workload. Some of our trusted landscapers are now booking installations well into 2022.
There are also Brexit-related issues around increased costs, delays and availability of plants and materials. One nursery was reporting increased tariffs on plant imports of £400 per trolley. Anticipating supply issues from mainland Europe, many designers have taken to specifying native UK plant species only – leading to shortages of British shrubs and trees, as reported by BALI earlier this year.
We’ve found tree supplies to be a particular issue – pleached trees are like gold dust at the moment, with supply levels down and prices rising fast.
And with garden centres one of the few sectors open during the winter lockdown, their plant supplies have been snapped up unseasonally early.
What does this mean for our clients?
To cope with demand, we’ve taken on two extra staff members this year as well as additional freelance help. Having our staff working from home through January–March made project work more difficult, but we’re now all back in the office and at full capacity. We usually run a waiting list during the spring-summer peak. Despite the additional resources this year, our waiting list is the longest it’s ever been.
We could start cutting corners, using templates and turning designs around in a week – but that’s not how we do things. We’ve taken the view that the quality of our designs is the most critical aspect of our service. We’re not going to compromise on that. When you are investing tens of thousands of pounds on a complex project, we want to get it right and for you to be delighted with the results.
We’re working long hours trying to keep everyone happy. We ask for your patience, both on the design side and with plant supplies.
If you’d like to join our waiting list, please message us on the form below.