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The Hampton Court Flower Show circus is now in full swing and garden lovers will flock there in their droves to be inspired by the show gardens and plants.

Some say Hampton Court is fast becoming the garden show of the year, replacing Chelsea which has become more of an expressionists' playground.

Visitors have certainly got the right weather to enjoy the colour and pageantry.

For the last two years there's been a small section called Low Cost High Impact gardens. The small plots of ground which are supposed to resemble an average garden (or I suppose part of one?) are landscaped to show home-owners what can be achieved in small spaces.

However I'm concerned about the title and the choice of words used to described the concept. Isn't there a danger we will see all of our good work undone?

Think back the Ground Force days where every client became convinced that they could have a new garden installed for £500 over just a two day period?

Low Cost implies cheap, whilst High Impact implies that clients will be getting much more than they are actually paying for.

There is a very real danger that potential customers will come away with the notion that they can engage a designer and/or landscaper cheaply to design and construct a garden that gives them more than market value.

We have come so far in educating clients about the cost of landscaping but this concept will surely set us back.

A better name would have been Right Cost Right Impact gardens.

Let us create the right atmosphere which helps our practitioners profit rightfully for their creations, not return them to fighting to make the client understand that quality costs money.

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  • The low cost high impact gardens are set within strict price ranges - i.e. £5K, £10K, £15K. So the budgets are clearly achievable. The RHS are incredibly strict on this so as not to mislead the public.

    These budgets are clearly shown as categories that the public can see.

    The gardens are actually showing that landscaping isn’t necessarily as expensive as people might think. In other words whether you are an APL member or not these gardens will display to the public that it is worth pursuing the use of a professional landscaper.

    And that does EVERY landscaper a favour. Surely there is nothing a landscaper wants more than a client with realistic expectations and a decent budget?

    Here’s the £15K project http://www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Hampton-Court-Palace-Flower-...

    Now I don’t know about anybody else but I don’t think this is far from the mark. I would certainly have a go at building it for that sort of money. What do other landscapers think? Do you think this is raising unrealistic expectations?

    To be honest I’m tempted to think that your point is simply another attempt to slander the APL.

    Once again with a few taps on a keyboard you seek to undermine and destroy months of hard work and planning for something that can benefit the industry as a whole. Very sad.

    ‘We have come so far in educating clients about the cost of landscaping but this concept will surely set us back.’

    Er, no we haven’t. The fact is that we haven’t come a long way at all. The fact is that everything has gone backwards in the last few years. Talk to any landscaper and they will tell you that clients now expect more for less.

    That’s the reality for those of us who are actually running landscaping businesses and indeed for most small business owners here in the UK.

  • I was very impressed with these gardens this year. - I think that they are doing a lot to show that you don't have to have the 100's of thousands of pounds that the Chelsea Show gardens cost to have a "designed" garden that will add value to your home, and mean that you can be out in it all year.
    the best for me was the Room with the view, which was raised up away from the "house", showing how you'd use soil excavated from an extension. - on a budget of £15,000, the planting was also fab.

    3314655859?profile=original

  • PRO

    Hi Claire

    I saw the Low Cost High Impact Gardens last year and I liked them.

    I do think, from a PR angle, that the title is wrong. I'd have liked to have seen the word 'value' in there somewhere so that the a potential client is given the impression from the outset that they are getting great value for their money.

    Claire Brown said:

    I was very impressed with these gardens this year. - I think that they are doing a lot to show that you don't have to have the 100's of thousands of pounds that the Chelsea Show gardens cost to have a "designed" garden that will add value to your home, and mean that you can be out in it all year.
    the best for me was the Room with the view, which was raised up away from the "house", showing how you'd use soil excavated from an extension. - on a budget of £15,000, the planting was also fab.

    3314655859?profile=original

  • PRO

    Hi Dave

    I'm sure the quality of design and build of the Low Cost gardens is of a high standard.

    The point being made is one of the overall marketing opportunity. I feel Low Cost might be perceived as low value - if others see it differently then more than happy to listen.

    I do think this debate is an important one to have and I'm sure we all have something to learn and gain. If Non-association members are to profit from your association's efforts, as you say, then at the very least it's surely worth listening to non-association members' views? It's disingenuous to only consider positive elements of something.

    From my experience - whether we perceive it as such, or not - many clients wouldn't see spending £15k on a garden as a low cost (although they'd part with the money more easily if buying a kitchen, for example). 

    The secret, imho, is to match the client's expectation with the value element.

     

    Kind regards

     

    Phil
    Dave Sewell said:

    The low cost high impact gardens are set within strict price ranges - i.e. £5K, £10K, £15K. So the budgets are clearly achievable. The RHS are incredibly strict on this so as not to mislead the public.

    These budgets are clearly shown as categories that the public can see.

    The gardens are actually showing that landscaping isn’t necessarily as expensive as people might think. In other words whether you are an APL member or not these gardens will display to the public that it is worth pursuing the use of a professional landscaper.

    And that does EVERY landscaper a favour. Surely there is nothing a landscaper wants more than a client with realistic expectations and a decent budget?

    Here’s the £15K project http://www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Hampton-Court-Palace-Flower-...

    Now I don’t know about anybody else but I don’t think this is far from the mark. I would certainly have a go at building it for that sort of money. What do other landscapers think? Do you think this is raising unrealistic expectations?

    To be honest I’m tempted to think that your point is simply another attempt to slander the APL.

    Once again with a few taps on a keyboard you seek to undermine and destroy months of hard work and planning for something that can benefit the industry as a whole. Very sad.

    ‘We have come so far in educating clients about the cost of landscaping but this concept will surely set us back.’

    Er, no we haven’t. The fact is that we haven’t come a long way at all. The fact is that everything has gone backwards in the last few years. Talk to any landscaper and they will tell you that clients now expect more for less.

    That’s the reality for those of us who are actually running landscaping businesses and indeed for most small business owners here in the UK.

  • I'm not sure what your point is Phil. It's the RHS's initiative and theirs to do what they want with. There is no debate to be had. It’s like the RHS saying it’s important that they debate how you run LJN and you would snort with derision at that thought!

    What’s important is that the RHS are doing something concrete and tangible to highlight the value that landscapers can add to the home owners. They are taking action and that is the single most important thing here. Action that will have a trickle-down benefit for everybody.

    To say it’s disingenuous to only look at the positive elements is extraordinary. It’s disingenuous and corrosive to only look at the negative elements of an initiative and that’s what your original article did.

    Yes, you could come up with 'more effective' marketing ploys and different wording and Lord knows what else but actually doing something is far more powerful that messing around words.

    Action trumps talking every time and the RHS should be applauded from the tree tops for being brave enough to do it and to pump a very significant sum of money into it (who do you think is paying for those gardens?) and the APL (and Mark Gregory more specifically) should be congratulated for seeing the opportunity for what it was. A chance to show the public what landscapers can do within a specific budget. And then they had to actually make it happen which took a lot of time and effort. And a lot of that was given freely.

    I can’t think of any other initiative in recent years that is as good as this and that can have such a positive effect for our industry and yet all you can do is bleat about the wording of it.....and then have the temerity to suggest it’s disingenuous in some way to give it a positive spin. How is that doing my industry a favour?

    Your final point is absolutely correct it is important to match expectations with the value element. And that’s what the gardens do. The garden I highlighted cost £15K and yes that’s high for some but there are also gardens in lower categories. I think starting at £5K. The public can see what they could get from a certain budget and hopefully be inspired to get their wallets out. This initiative challenges potential clients to set aside realistic budgets. Some will say ‘blimey you don’t get a lot for 15 grand’ and others will think ‘hey if I got that end result I’d consider spending 15 grand’. But for once they will have started to process with some realistic expectation levels.

    Now I cannot for the life of me see how that harks back to the GroundFarce days.

    These gardens will be all over the press and gardening magazines. They are doing us landscapers a huge favour – they will be examples that we can show to potential clients to help us justify the costs involved.

    The general landscaping community should be embracing this and giving a nod of thanks to the APL and RHS for getting it off the ground. The APL are constantly criticised for not educating the general public and then when they do....they get criticised. I shake my head in despair.

    Doesn’t matter what they’d called it – the fact is that from yesterday till Saturday tens of thousands of people will walk past those gardens and see what a professional landscaper can do within a specific budget. That is GOLD to all of us.

  • PRO

    It is worth considering the VAT element in all this too.

    Assuming a landscaper is VAT registered, to provide a garden at a cost to the client of £15,000 then the real underlying value of the garden - the labour & materials - is actually £12,500. £2,500 is being wasted on VAT.

    A landscaper who is not VAT registered will actually be £2,500 better off building the exact same garden for £15,000.

    One could look at this in two different ways. A non-VAT registered landscaper can provide an extra £2,500 of value (in other words more or bigger plants or additional features such as a garden shed) to the client than the VAT registered contractor can.

    A non-VAT registered contractor could, in theory, create five gardens in a year at £15,000 if they absorb all of the material costs into their VAT allowance. Or assuming material costs of 25% then a non-VAT registered contractor could construct six gardens each year if they asked the client to pay for the materials directly (there may be some variations on trade/versus consumer prices).

    It pains me to say it but a consumer looking for a garden at £7-15,000 is much more likely (assuming that they are buying like-for-like in terms of build quality) to get better value by working with a non-VAT registered artisan.

    One also needs to consider the design element and where the costs for this are attributed. Some outfits will provide a full design and build service and absorb the design costs as a loss leader (possibly doing the drawing in the evening to avoid losing valuable daytime hours) whilst some may employ a freelance designer and somewhere these costs will have to either be absorbed into the budget or costed as an extra.

    The more I analyse this the more questions it throws up.

  • PRO

    p.s. Helen Gazeley commented on Landscape Juice:

    "Perhaps a breakdown of how they reached the cost would be helpful, though, so people could see which bits cost the most."

    Phil Voice said:

    It is worth considering the VAT element in all this too.

    Assuming a landscaper is VAT registered then to provide a garden at a cost to the client of £15,000 then the real underlying value of the garden - the labour & materials - is actually £12,500. £2,500 is being wasted on VAT.

    A landscaper who is not vat registered will actually be £2,500 better off building the exact same garden for £15,000.

    One could look at this in two different ways. A non-VAT registered landscaper can provide an extra £2,500 of value (in other words more or bigger plants or additional features such as a garden shed) to the client than the VAT registered contractor can.

    A non-VAT registered contractor could, in theory, create five gardens in a year at £15,000 if they absorb all of the material costs into their VAT allowance. Or assuming material costs of 25% then a non-VAT registered contractor could construct six gardens each year if they asked the client to pay for the materials directly (there may be some variations on trade/versus consumer prices).

    It pains me to say it but a consumer looking for a garden at £7-15,000 is much more likely (assuming that they are buying like-for-like in terms of build quality) to get better value by working with a non-VAT registered artisan.

    One also needs to consider the design element and where the costs for this are attributed. Some outfits will provide a full design and build service and absorb the design costs as a loss leader (possibly doing the drawing in the evening to avoid losing valuable daytime hours) whilst some may employ a freelance designer and somewhere these costs will have to either be absorbed into the budget or costed as an extra.

    The more I analyse this the more questions it throws up.

  • A landscaper who is not vat registered will actually be £2,500 better off building the exact same garden for £15,000.

    The landscaper will pay VAT on his materials whether he is VAT registered or not and that will be passed onto the client.

  • PRO

    Point taken Dave but I think you got my point;-0)

    The point I was making (and I do think you understand this) is that out the £15k garden build cost, 20% is being lost to HMRC and is therefore lost in terms of value within the garden.

    Do you agree that it would be a good idea to break down into its separate components where costs are attributed in the garden build?

    Dave Sewell said:

    The landscaper will pay VAT on his materials whether he is VAT registered or not and that will be passed onto the client.

    Sadly your carefully worked out figures are instantly flawed. Seems a shame - you obviously spent a bit of time on them!

  • Well your point seems to be to want to critise the minute detail of the initiative rather than embrace it as a great way of raising awareness of our industry. Which is,of course, your perogative. But you should always expect to be challenged on your reasons for doing that.

    Of course you need to take VAT into account and other expenses as well and of course everybody operates differently so you could argue that you can never accuratly cost ANY garden accuratly because we all charge differently and some have higher profit margins than others. And that goes for the real world of landscaping too.

    It probably would be useful to show the cost breakdown in some form however many landscapers might argue that as being potentially very counter productive so you need to be careful. What is certain is that the initiative is 2 years old and still in it's infancy. It's working so far and will be refined and evolved if we are lucky enough for it to continue.

    As I said previously, it's very easy to sit in another country and just critise other peoples hard work and dedication when you only have half a story or a pre-defined agenda.

    So if you want to nit pick and critisize the detail then go ahead. It doesn't help anybody - certainly not landscapers or the landscaping industry. While you are pedantically arguing the fine detail the APL and RHS are working hard for the industry and doing something positive.

    That was the point I was making and I do think you understand that as well don't you?

This reply was deleted.

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