It’s been a while since I put together an update about the business, so here goes, I hope it is of interest.
Since moving to the Island from London, almost 10 years ago, my business has grown and we have enjoyed success. This year has been busy with our many and valued regular customers, including helping in Yarmouth with a family wedding held in their garden. David and Warren were tasked with the responsibility of beautifying with masses of flowers such as Cosmos and Sweetpeas, growing mainly from seed in our greenhouse over six months. We also welcomed a number of new customers to our organic maintenance rounds, and hope to grow this side of our business over the coming months.
Our work with the NHS at St Mary’s Hospital has continued, helping to improve and care for their gardens which are used by patients, families and staff; in particular the Chemotherapy garden, and the gardens used for the mental health departments. Judith has been helping with guidance for the hospital volunteers. This year also saw us being awarded a contract to care for the East Cowes Medical Centre grounds.
Warren has enjoyed his busiest year to date with many designs and planting plans beautifully drawn up. Many have now been realised and implemented by our gardening and landscaping teams, and we especially look forward to watching these gardens grow.
We have enjoyed a number of soft and hard landscaping projects including two wildflower meadows, a town garden in Ryde, a driveway in Brook, mature tree plantings, automated irrigation systems, lighting and many makeovers. In the summer of 2014 we had a call from Alan Titchmarsh and before long we were employed to help him with his Island garden. Warren rose to the challenge, providing designs and planting plans, and this year Alex and his team got stuck into a six month build implementing the plans. We now continue to help look after these beautiful spaces. Alan and his family requested that we keep quiet about this project so that they can enjoy some privacy from their busy public life. So, you can imagine that we were rather chuffed to recently receive this testimonial:
Letting someone loose in my garden is not something I would ever undertake lightly, but CAR Gardens have worked with me and for me in an exemplary fashion. They are sensitive to an owner’s requirements, innovative when asked to suggest designs and fastidious in the standard of their workmanship. They are also reliable and easy to get on with; in short, I cannot recommend them too highly. Few can equal their quality of workmanship and their helpful attitude. Our happy relationship will, I hope, continue for some time.
Alan Titchmarsh MBE.
Of course, it’s always nice to be recognised for hard work, and we were proud to hear in November 2014 that our allotment won best in Ryde, and in September 2015 our Chemotherapy garden at St Mary’s won a Wight in Bloom award.
Further exciting news, and to be announced in the press soon, has seen us awarded the contract to build a new garden for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice in Newport. This is a 2015 Chelsea Flower Show Garden designed by Matthew Wilson and the Clifton Nurseries team. It’s now up to us to relocate and make fit for the hospice. The contract is being over seen by a charity called ‘Greenfingers’. We will be cracking on with this in January, and anticipate to complete in the spring. We also look forward to other projects, including installing two beautiful driveways designed by Warren and also a fish pond.
With these hard yet successful working years under our belt, I have been able to slowly and steadily grow the business. Andy and Jake joined us in the spring this year, successfully passing their trial periods and are now full time permanent members of the team, and are highly valued. In January 2016 we welcome Sam back, after a number of years away studying product design to degree level- clever chap!
I have always been determined to pay the team a real living wage, give generous annual pay rises, paid breaks and of course holidays; and I endeavour to improve on this. This year I will be paying into pensions for eligible staff. The Isle of Wight low wages combined with an industry that is notoriously underpaid and undervalued is something I am keen for my business to continue to rise above. I am also investing in training the team, enriching their careers and to strengthen the business in the process. Sam and Andy are currently training as First Aiders and Warren is soon to enjoy a David Austin Rose pruning course.
Some of you will remember our old transit van. Almost 13 years ago, my brother gifted me a sum of money to get started in business to cover the cost of that second hand vehicle. I became quite attached to it, but with such a busy life it became old and worn, and it limped into the scrap yard earlier this year. I am now in a position to invest in more new vehicles, which will help keep us reliable and punctual, whilst importantly reducing our carbon emissions, with cleaner and more efficient engines. I have also invested in some new machines and tools, including a petrol lawn scarifier, and next year we will pursue more battery tools which claim to be quieter and more environmentally friendly.
2016 looks set to be an interesting year for us, and we look forward to it with excitement. Keep an eye on our website and social media to keep up to date, and do get in contact if we can be of help for your garden. Wishing one and all a very happy and healthy new year.
Craig Antony Ratcliff