I started my horticulture life as a garden odd-jobber back in May 1984, initially running my little enterprise from the back of a mini car. I had never intended to be a gardener but it was the case of needs-must after having a motorcycle accident forced me to leave my job on our local golf course
As a consequence of my accident I was unable to walk - something quite essential if you are to be a greenkeeper. I spent eighteen months recuperating until unfortunately I was hit by a car whilst helping at another accident.
A brief but wonderful time was spent working as gardener and gamekeeper on a farm ended when the farm had to be sold.
However, I needed to earn money and to do this I started a little gardening round, charging £20.00 per day.
I was hungry for experience and quickly built a gardening round, with many regular customers. My biggest problem was keeping up with demand, that's when I employed my first casual helper.
Whilst I was gaining real on-the-job experience and learning well, I felt going that going to college would help me, so I paid for myself to attend to horticulture college on a three year day release course.
Three years later, I took a two year greenkeeping qualification to enhance the lawn maintenance side of my business.
My business grew, employing sixteen personnel at its peak. We carried out a wide variety of grounds, garden and landscape construction contracts.
Whilst I never aspired to design or build a Chelsea show garden (although I did win an APL award for best garden under £10,000) I did build hundreds of small £1,000 - £20,000 projects which made real differences to the lives the clients who bought. I'm very proud of that.
I sold my business - in 2004 and moved to France where together with my wife and two children, I've renovated an old farm and separate outbuildings.
When our savings started to run dry I looked at ways to earn some money. Initially I started a blog, called Landscape Juice, and wrote about the landscape and horticulture industry.
I wrote about my own experiences too - both failures and success - which resulted in quickly gaining a following.
I had been looking to add value to the Landscape Juice blog for some time and briefly flirted with a forum but the Ning platform offered much more in the terms of tools. It was then that the Landscape Juice Network was conceived.
My intention is to help the small to medium sized business navigate the challenges - including loneliness - of running a business.
My previous company became successful through sheer hard work, drive and enthusiasm but in the early days, I did not know who to turn to in order to help me understand pricing, costs, profit and loss etc. The Landscape Juice Network provides this support, and much more, to its members via peer mentoring and sharing of knowledge.
It is partly through lack of knowledge that lead to most small gardening and landscaping companies folding up. The Landscape Juice Network gives small businesses an opportunity to gain confidence in the marketplace and build a strong business, knowing that they are just one click away from help and support.
I hope you find the site useful.