I read the news today oh boy about a lucky boy who mowed the grass….no this isn’t the Beatles day in a life, this is ours……
Monday mornings in February are the best, aren’t they? Being the coldest month of the year, beset by sweeping gales and sleeting rain, you could be forgiven for thinking that you would need the judicious use of a cattle prod to get us landscapers out of bed before daybreak in such conditions.
But I actually like them! I like the drama of the winter morning, with the high ceiling of sky (when it’s cloudless) and when the trees show their power by bending in the face of an Imogen or Henry and ripples run through the long winter grass in animated microcosms of power. It is high drama indeed!
And so, to correct this misconception (spread about by the likes of Geldof and his Boomtown Rats in ‘I don’t like Mondays’), I have decided to document a typical February Monday for my landscaping blog. I am also, (and, if you are an avid reader, you will already be aware of this), looking at taking on an apprentice for my gardening maintenance work, and I feel that such an account as this in the landscaping blog will help any prospective student of the green arts appreciate the daily tribulations and battles I, and they, will be expected to overcome.
To me, the first few hours of the working week are spent contacting my clients to notify them of what I intend to carry out in their grounds in the days ahead. Whilst individual clients do have a rota planned two to three weeks in advance in February, this is an excellent opportunity to plan the work and make arrangements for any extra requirements that do arise. For example, we have had to make a few extra green waste trips this time of year after what the storms have brought down! It is also an excellent opportunity to inform less regular customers of changes and improvements we have made to our landscaping services: such as our Pesticide Licenses (PA1 and PA6), and our membership to the Chartered Institute of Horticulture.
So Monday mornings are, for me, a great opportunity for dialogue with my client base. It plans the week ahead, informs my customers of my intentions, and allows them to make any suggestions on what they would like for their grounds and gardens.
After that, I head out, to take in the great outdoors, and to dodge errant branches and falling leaves as I navigate my way through Worcestershire’s narrow country lanes to my clients. February is still a month when nature is in slumber, so it is time to cut back and prune last season’s growth in readiness for the burst of energy they will experience come spring. This month, that means our time has been taken up battling Wisteria to make sure that such an attractive flowering display won’t be endangered if it overgrows. Wisteria needs pruning twice a year, in August as well as February, but each prune is different: in August, we cut back that year’s growth, and in February, we make sure that the green buds we left exposed have a chance to grow.
February is also a time when we have been getting our gloves dirty in weeding borders and bedding, policing the often soaked ground to ensure that ‘no undesirables’ are left to threaten our clients’ property. We have also been finishing up on our pruning of the two apple orchards that I wrote about some time ago: so far, we have completed over 75 trees.
Come our lunch break, I will sit in the van and ponder the various tasks I have done, as well as think about those to come. We might discuss the news, or the football results (though I am partial to cricket myself), and we’ll banter about what to write in the Twitter feed – for Monday nights is #Worcestershirehour (of which we are a sponsor), and I like to have good content and suggestions to feed my follows. Be they visual treats like photographs of our work, or comments, or links to our latest blog entry, it is all futile ground for developing new business, and, like everything in our work, need cultivating to grow properly.
After lunch, we journey to our next location. Today that is the home of one of our private clients. It’s a large house that we tend to on a weekly basis, and it’s one where the clients are often away. Therefore, trust is essential in this job, and communication is absolutely paramount in making sure they are aware of what we have been doing. Firstly then, I start with a quick inspection of the property to check if anything is untoward (last year, for example, I discovered some Giant Hogweed that was starting to grow and took immediate steps to remove the noxious thing). Sometimes, I will take pictures on my phone to draw the client’s attention to if they are away. It all helps with the service.
Today it is a routine day. A few fallen branches and possibly a dislodged tile after the recent gales is all that I need to make a note of. Then it is on with the scheduled work in the grounds: we are restoring an overgrown Holly hedge under the withering stare of its avian guardian, a Mistle Thrush, who perhaps fears for the future of next year’s larder. As we trim the dormant plant, we are subjected to his repeated song from a high perch, and I am reminded of the Mistle Thrush’s traditional English name, the Stormcock, so called due to its habit of singing in windy weather. With storm Imogen just passing through, this is a fitting description.
After that, and with only two hours to spare, we race back to a business client of ours: SME Solicitors, where we maintain the grounds on a weekly basis. At this time of year, there is now enough daylight remaining to get the work done, and today we are starting on their large wisteria. But we have had to be flexible, for one of the team had been due to go to the Worcester Lawn Tennis Club, to start mowing the grass in preparation for the Easter season. As we don our wet weather gear, that will have to wait. No grass cuts well when it is wet, and the LTA expects the very finest trim.
As the working day winds down, the team disbands. I take away the green waste from the wisteria and we make our own ways home. Yet my day isn’t over yet. Reports need to be written. Client emails answered and requests about their gardens and landscapes need to be factored in and scheduled. And, come 8pm, I will sit before my computer, glass of wine in hand, and tweet about the day’s events, uploading my blog, and talking to fellow small business owners up and down the length of our fair county.
After that, I will sleep.