The Association of Professional Landscapers COVID-19 Blog

The Prime Ministers briefing on the evening of March 23 saw the industry facing one of the biggest challenges it’s had in years.

We’ve been through recessions and bad winters, but this hit everything and everyone. It is national and affects every area of the supply chain. Of course, I am talking about COVID-19, but more about lockdown.

6am on the 24 March was my first call, this started a constant stream of calls throughout the day from members trying to understand what it meant and what to do.

The prime ministers briefing was less than conclusive. “What was essential works?” I mean all work is essential to the person who wishes to put food on their table. “Furlough?” what was that? “CBILS” was this the lifeline it promised to be?

All new words that seemed to imply that everything would be ok and at least shed a glimmer of hope on to what was seemingly, a hopeless situation.

As the days and weeks past, the full story started to unfold. Firstly the debate of work or not work. Initial day one guidelines implied that you couldn’t, but day by day the construction guidelines unfolded allowing more and more possibilities to work. But many members were struck with a moral dilemma, “Stay Safe, Stay at Home and Protect the NHS”. These words were enough to make many businesses take heed to this advice and immediately furlough their staff.

Ultimately, this is and was always a businesses decision. There is no right or wrong and whilst early emotions amongst members were sometimes high, there was after a very short period of time a collaboration amongst members that we have come to expect.

So where are we now?

As guidelines have become clearer and businesses have organised themselves better, many members are returning to work, albeit in a skeleton fashion.

The members that are working are following guidelines as set out by HSE and PHE, they have robust risk assessments in place to ensure their staff and clients remain safe at all times.

However, it is not quite business as usual. The supply chain remains largely closed and when it does eventually reopen there are fears of price rises and shortages, that will further hold up procedures.

Members have started to finally be able to access some of the schemes that were made available, Business rates grants and CJRS being the most common. CBILS, whilst promising a lot seems, to have not delivered, with many members unable to take advantage of this scheme. The HTA site has details of all the possibilities of support available to you and is lobbying government for more support with CBILS.

So what have I been doing with my time on behalf of APL?

Firstly you will know that the APL is a subgroup within the HTA. The HTA policy team immediately rose to the situation and have since the start been in constant contact with government and ministers, trying to get clarity on different elements of the various schemes and bills put forward. They have produced a daily record of events and support, which could become invaluable going forward if you need to have proof of the events as they unfolded. They are still working hard and the bulletins are emailed to the primary contact of member businesses each night, but all info can be found on If you do not receive these emails and would like to, email

I have been taking the relevant sections of those emails and sending them to you each week, so you have them again, just I case you had missed them.

I always say that you only really see the value of association membership when you need them. I felt if ever you needed an association, it was now. Not just to point you in the right direction, but to also build upon and retain the community the APL is envied for.

So I developed the virtual cluster meetings and backed them up with other webinars during the daytime to act as CPD, but also to act as a distraction to what is going on around us. I intend to keep these going for as long as you the members feel they are worthwhile.

I have to say a big thank you for all those people that have supported these and for the associate members that have given their time, providing advice and information. A big thank you goes to Citation for their two Landscaper focused webinars explaining furlough to us all... (Not sure we still understand)!

So what’s next?

We are still in uncertain times. The industry seems to be slowly moving back to normal, supply chains seem to be re-opening, yet we are still theoretically in lockdown.

I am still at work, but my usual visits to you all seem like they may be a few months away yet. So if possible, if you haven’t sent through your inspection requirements yet then please do so I can get you ticked off the list. I will be sending a reminder out this week. These should be emailed to me. At the moment Natalie is on furlough.

Also, I am still trying to ensure the awards can go ahead and we can hopefully start 2021 with a big celebration. I will be emailing a reminder this week.

The closing dates for entries is 15 May, but all we require at that stage is the initial application. A few before and after pics that can allow us to assess the entry is in the right category and of a suitable standard to be entered into the awards.

We then allow you to add to your entry all the way through till the end of September, so you can be sure you get those amazing summer pictures if needed. It is still our intention to visit all entries and we will hopefully do this in August and September. Payment for the awards has been deferred till the end of July, so no need to hit the cash flow at this difficult time. Enter now

You will have seen the virtual cluster meetings that have been set up on Zoom. It is my intention to keep these running two times a week, Monday and Wednesday evening. Plus whilst it is still of use “The Alan Sargent Surgery” which always throws up some excellent discussions.

I will also look to suppliers to provide some webinars of information and CPD that are of use to the whole membership; Landscapers, Designers and Gardeners.

I feel the advent of this so-called “New World” will bring us as many benefits as it will problems, but together we can make use of this time and the time going forward, to forge a better future.

In closing

Looking way in the future, sadly our BBC Gardeners' World Live “What Lies Beneath” has been postponed until 2021 and we have taken the decision not to build our “A Place To Meet Again” garden at RHS Hampton Court in September.

We are still booked in to attend the Landscape Show in September and of course Futurescape in November, providing they still go ahead.

In closing, I would say the APL Committee, chaired by David Sewell and vice-chair Holly Youde, are all there to support you through these times. Please don’t hesitate to contact them should you require any info or just a chat.

The APL has its own closed group forum on Facebook.

We also have the Cluster info group that shows dates for all the webinars and meetings.

So please join them to keep up to date with all dates and discussions.

As many of you start to return to work, please don’t forget that your association is still here to offer advice. My phone is always on and if you need some help or even just a chat, please don’t hesitate to call.

So thanks for reading and please whatever you are doing or deciding to do, #StaySafe. 


March 2020

March Madness...

Well, I have to say I am pleased to see the back of February and then not too pleased to see the start of March. As an industry just about anything that could be an issue to building beautiful gardens has presented itself. Floods, Cashflow, Corona... it's all there.

Going around the country visiting members and holding cluster meetings, I am always amazed at the resilience of this industry.  Even though there are trials and tribulations it would seem that the majority of businesses in membership are busy, order books are filling and the phone keeps ringing. Just imagine what it will be like when all the issues are past and we are simply back to Brexit!!

So well done to you all for that.

March started off well with a remembrance of the old days with regards to our annual Classiflora meet. What a fantastic event this was. Commonly known as a SuperCluster rather than a seminar, we had great talks from Action Coach Sean Purcell, Mark Gregory and Paul Willavoys. All followed by a nice bit of scran from the guys at Classiflora. Thanks so much for those that attended and thanks to all the speakers. I hope you found it worthwhile.

Networking is so important to you all. You will always come away with something and some little nugget of info, so please don't ever think its a waste of time.

The cluster meetings themselves have been great, with pricing exercises completed in Guildford and Berkshire. Hopefully, the next one will be in Kent and then spread over the rest of the country. These are great opportunities to benchmark yourself. We had an excellent meeting in Cornwall with London Stone and thanks also to Rachel Bailey and Landscape Plus for supporting the meeting in Linlithgow.

I have to say, we may be forced to take a break from the cluster meetings due to Coronavirus, so just keep an eye on the Cluster info Facebook page.

Yesterday I attended a fantastic product launch from Makita Tools. A great day and I learnt a lot about recent battery technology. Thanks for the invite. 

So what's coming up, well more inspections (if allowed) and of course in just a couple of days time it is the fantastic APL Awards. I know we are waiting to hear from the government if we are able to continue with these, but for now, they are going ahead. So Keep Calm and Corona On...

Hopefully, I will have a bit more news for you at the next APL Monthly update. If you have entered the awards Good Luck, If not... take a look at entering next year. Keep safe and hopefully catch up with you all soon.

February 2020

Well, that’s nearly the end of month 2 of 2020. What a month it has been. The weather has dominated much of the back end of January and when visiting members I realise what a challenge this is for you all. The APL can do many things but unfortunately cannot do a lot about the weather.

One thing we can do is help you share the load with colleagues at the cluster meetings. By the end of this month, we will have had 12 meetings with over 100 members in attendance. This is fantastic. I would personally like to thank all who have attended for your support and apologise for the odd booking error on the way. Yep, I am talking about the Kent group, where for the first time we ran out of room… A nice sort of problem to have, but not for those who had to leave early. I will ensure this never happens again.

We have another eight booked for March around the country. Details will be sent direct, but you can also see all meetings posted on the Association of Professional Landscapers Cluster Info Page on Facebook. Just search it and join and be kept up to date with all that’s going on in the social world of APL.

What else have we been up to...

The APL committee met this month, to see who they are, click here. It’s a strong and dynamic committee and they all work very hard to try and ensure the APL brings you what you need. But the APL is not a closed shop and the committee do not feel they have all the answers. If you have any suggestions of direction or services you would like to see the APL offer you as members, then please just email me and I can place on the agenda. 

Inspections are in full flow. I have to say the quality of work (when you can do it) is phenomenal. Some great design and super builds are being created by you all. Paperwork and process is still an important part of the inspection. So when it is yours, make sure you have a good site file, including CDM, method statement, induction sheets and plans as a minimum. Also, make sure these are all signed off by ALL members of the team on site.

So what happens in March?

We have the opening for registration of WorldSkills UK 2020. This fantastic competition kicks off with a simple passive test. Once this is completed, if the score high enough you will then move on to the next stage, which will be a practical heat. We generally have over 60 entrants competing for eight places at the final in November 2020 at the NEC. I know I may be biased, but I truly believe this is one of the best experiences anyone could have, so have a go, you won’t regret it.

We have some great cluster meetings lined up from Bristol to Manchester and everywhere in between, including a super-cluster at Classiflora on March 5th... You won't want to miss out on that Italian Buffet!

Oh, and there is a little matter of APL AWARDS! Those who know me will know this is simply my favourite day in the year. To see all the members together celebrating each other’s work and generally having a great time (some more than others), makes feel very proud of the association we have / YOU have built. If you haven’t bought/blagged your ticket yet, then do so very soon as they are selling out fast.

The rest of my month is based around the inspections, so I will be up and down the country. If you would like to see me, pop me an email, I am sure I can squeeze you in.

Have a great March,

All the very best



January 2020

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you have all had a well-deserved break and are ready for the start of a very exciting year.

The APL enters its 25th year in 2020, but before we get into that, let’s have a brief look back at what was done in 2019.

It was a good year for the APL. Membership continued to grow and we have a strong committee driving things forward. We had a great year at the shows, you won more medals collectively than any other year. This included another fantastic APL Avenue at BBC Gardeners' World Live. The APL also delivered, with support from many of you, a fantastic collaborative garden at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The garden was designed by Cherry Carmen and was probably one of the most complex builds in the show. A huge thanks goes out to all involved and we aim to do the same again in 2020.

The APL delivered another fantastic WorldSkills UK competition. This year’s champion was Nick Bundy of Gadd brothers. This competition is so vastly underrated and all that get involved are truly inspired. In its delivery, the APL provided free extra curricula training to over 70 individuals, before getting to the final eight. The competition will launch again in March 2020, so take a look and get on board.

Cluster meetings that form the heart of what we do continued to grow. So many topics were discussed and debated. We hope there will be even more in 2020.

The APL apprenticeship continues to flourish and produce some of the best young entrants into the industry. We have exciting developments for this area in 2020 so watch this space.

So in all in 2019 the APL were present at three large industry flower shows, two trade shows, delivered a WorldSkills UK competition, delivered an apprenticeship, had a very successful awards ceremony, held over 90 cluster meetings around the UK, advertised on Facebook and Instagram, passed its Trustmark inspection, delivered a great business development programme and conducted over 200 inspections.

So what’s in store for 2020?

Well it's our 25th year, so we will be trying to organise plenty of initiatives to celebrate this milestone. Starting with the APL Awards on March 13th 2020. Entries as always and as you would expect were fantastic again. But I think the sheer creativeness and the introduction of new products and a willingness to push boundaries has made them the hardest to judge yet.

We aim to achieve 100 clusters in one year, a big ask, but doable. We are also looking to bring back the regional mini seminars of old rather than organising large seminars in Oxford, which from feedback are not is what required at this time. However, if a topic arrives that would benefit from the great facility we have, we will use it.

We are continuing with the apprenticeship and working with external partners to deliver more skills training in 2020, as well as the APL Business development programme. We will also be delivering another WorldSkills UK competition as organising now starts for Shanghai.

We are revamping the inspection process to make it easier and swifter for you to book in and will finalise and launch the first round of domestic guidelines.

We have listened to our designer membership and recruited Bo Cook MSGD to join the committee and will be launching the APL Professional Gardeners Category. A category that will close the loop in garden design, build and maintenance and truly recognise and accredit this talented and sometimes overlooked sector of the industry.

As part of the HTA, we will be at the forefront of making sure you are up to date with all legislation regarding biosecurity. The HTA has led the charge on this with Defra and will continue to make sure you are always in the best position to continue trading.

This is on top of the general day to day stuff that is required to ensure this great association continues to thrive and grow.

So from a personal perspective, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support over the past 12 months, it wouldn't work without you. I would also like to mention Natalie Ilsley who some of you may know and is my assistant and Amy Winder who supports much of the APL PR and produces this fantastic enews.  

So have a happy new year and if there are any non-members reading this, make your new year resolution to become part of one of the fastest-growing, progressive, inclusive and boundary-breaking organisations in the industry. (Shameless Plug)


December 2019

November went in a flash; what a month!

It’s always a busy month for the APL, what with committee meetings, inspections, Cluster meetings and just all the usual stuff.

But when you throw into the mix Futurescape and the WorldSkills UK Live Final, you have a month that should guarantee you some time off after it, haha...

Futurescape was amazing as ever. There is never a better event to get to see so many people in a single day. It was great to see many of you and I know myself and Natalie enjoyed catching up with you all. Of course, as now has become a tradition, the APL had its AMM (Annual Members Meeting) at Futurescape. It is at this meeting we confirm the committee for the following twelve months and this year we said goodbye to Rod Winrow, Garden House Design, as Chair and welcomed

David Sewell of The Gardenmakers as the new Chair of the APL. Rod did some amazing work on collaboration during his time as chair, especially with SGD and LI. Collaboration is vitally important in this industry and we can all be guilty of furrowing our own path. Not usually for our own gain, but simply we all get caught up in our own agendas. Rod ensured that we kept channels open and inclusive. David has a great platform to build off and I know he has some great ideas and great enthusiasm for the association and for this industry. I am really looking forward to working with him for the next two years. The new Vice-Chair elected was Holly Youde. Holly has great connections throughout the industry and is much admired for her business acumen and for putting up with Mark (Sorry Mark). Mark and Holly run Urban Landscape Design Ltd in Cheshire and have recently developed a Landscape Training Academy. The APL has been heavily involved in this project and is really looking forward to working with them. Dave and Holly will be an incredible force and together alongside myself are committed to developing and pushing our association on to greater heights. At our first meeting, we spent a couple of hours on strategy and the development of a Five Year Plan.

The Five Year plan

  1. Support membership
  2. Be the ‘go-to’ association for domestic landscaping.
  3. Developing community.
  4. Landscaping skills training
  5. Developing revenue streams
  6. Developing an environmental and sustainability strategy.
  7. Developing the quality standards (guidance)
  8. Encourage an environment of fun/positivity in what we do
  9. Continue to develop collaboration/unification           

Clearly, there may be some gaps and these broad titles need padding out further, but I am sure you will agree these are a great start and in many cases a continuation of what we already do...  A lot to do and a lot to look forward to.

Watch this space!!

So, straight off the heals from Futurescape came the final of WorldSkills UK Live. Eight competitors and 16.5hrs to build a garden from scratch to mm tolerances. It's been referred to at times as the Olympics of landscaping. I actually think that analogy is correct. Physical and mental strength is required to be crowned as the WorldSkills UK Champion 2019. I have to admit, this year’s final wasn’t without its hitches. We had stock go missing, some not turning up at all and some simply too much of. "The Tale of the Black Pebbles",  it's an in-joke and completely my fault… but as ever with a bit of hard work and out of the box thinking it all came good in the end. The winner was Nick Bundy who is a young employee of Gadd Brothers based in Suffolk. Nick showed his quality at heat stage when he delivered a near-perfect test piece. This attention to detail and work ethic continued through to the final. In second place was a fulltime student Jamie Franklin from Wiltshire based Lackham College. Third place was Mark Brown from Northern Ireland CAFRE College and fourth was Patrick Neild from Pershore College. These four will now combine as two teams, Nick and Patrick VS Jamie and Mark, to build two show gardens at BBC Gardeners World Live 2020 at the NEC. This year's gardens have been designed by Mark Gregory, who has also agreed to mentor these four young landscapers. The gardens will be marked as a traditional show garden and receive the appropriate award, but this marking will be overlaid with WorldSkills UK marking to give the winning team, the title... Young Landscapers of the Year 2020.

This year for the first time WorldSkills UK was aligned officially with Inclusive WorldSkills UK. Two colleges were represented from Wales and Hampshire. The competitors had two hours to design, prepare, plant and mulch a border. David Jones from Pembrokeshire College was the winner. Thanks to JA Jones for their support in this and to Nick Atkinson (Oldham College) and Lee Price (Myerscough College) for their support as Judges.

As with all these things, there is an enormous amount of people to thank. For WorldSkills UK I have to thank our sponsors, Marshalls, Makita, Landscape Plus, Dickies Workware, GroundsCare Products Ltd (Zip Level) and of course JA Jones Nurseries with the supply of their fantastic trees and shrubs. I would also like to thank judges Simon Abbot and Steve Smith and the tutors who accompanied their students. It could be said I work these guys a bit hard, but Alan, Richard, Steve, Chris and Mark, I/we seriously couldn’t deliver the competition without your support. So thank you.

After this, I decided to take a few days off and visit Budapest, lovely city, very cheap beer and unfortunately for me the carrier of a chest infection. This is why I never take time off. Anyway, all back to normal now and December has almost been and gone.

Its been a strange month compared to the level of activity of the last one. As with you all, just trying to get things finished off, but mainly trying to establish a consistent cluster programme for 2020. I have been around as many groups as I can to get a feel for requirements for next year. It is my intention to publish this over the Christmas period. Don’t forget you can follow all the dates on the Association of Professional Landscapers Cluster Info Facebook page. If you haven’t joined it yet, then please do so.

2020 is the APL’s 25th year, so we have some amazing initiatives being launched and I am sure at some stage there will be a party, but for now, I will leave you and wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I feel it been a great year for APL and I am sure we are about to embark on another one. My job is to manage the association and its job is to support you as members. I would like to think that in the main we manage that and from a personal level, I love every minute of it.

Be safe and happy over this festive period and see you all next year, especially at my own personal Christmas Day party on March 13th


November 2019

October where have you gone, literally now less than 8 weeks till Christmas, but before we get there are still a couple of major events to go.

October has seen the new apprentices on the APL scheme and I have to say what a great group of lads once again. The apprenticeship scheme is going from strength to strength as we introduce more and more in to the mix. Once these young lads complete their 18 months they will be amongst the best in the industry. We have also finished the judging of APL Awards and I have been to Wales and Hampshire to complete the final two training sessions for the Inclusive Horticultural WorldSkills UK final.

So what has November got in store for us all. As usual I will be trying to get around and see as many of you as I can as we try and get those inspections done before Christmas, but I will also be judging WorldSkills UK at the NEC and of course looking forward to seeing you at Futurescape on the 19 November. This year we will once again be having our annual review at the show and also announcing the finalists of the APL Awards. On top of this we will be announcing the new Chair and Vice Chair of the APL, so make sure you come along.

We have several Cluster meetings in the month. To find out details have a look on the APL Cluster Info Facebook page. Just search Association of Professional Landscapers Cluster Info and request to join, and myself, Gillian Goodson or Paul Baker will get you in.

So I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can this month and hope the weather stays kind for you all.

All the best


October 2019

Well September has been and gone and we are now in the last quarter of 2019.

September was a busy month as the I finished off the last of the site visits for the APL Awards, I have to say that this year the entries have gone up a bar once again. It is incredible work and is going to make the judging days in October especially difficult.

September also saw the first of the industry trade shows. APL had a stand as always at the Landscape Show and as per usual the sun shone. We had some great visitors on the stand and it was great to catch up with so many of you. A big thankyou to Mark Youde who supported me on the Landscapers Question time panel. Some good questions came from the audience and they were all satisfied with the responses.

We also have a had a good round of clusters in Reading, Guildford, Kent East and Essex. Reading being the most memorable as the pub forgot we were coming and we ended up ordering in Dominoes Pizza. It could only happen at an APL Cluster.

Once again we had two fantastic Joint Cluster meetings with the SGD. One in St Albans and the other in Lewes. A huge thanks to Manoj for organising the St Albans meet and like wise to Bo Cook for helping with the Lewes cluster and finding a venue that made it our first Indian night for APL. Tempted to go world wide next.

If you are interested in finding out more about clusters, we now have a APL cluster Facebook page. Just search Association of Professional Landscapers Cluster Info and request to join and myself or Paul Baker will get you in.

October is a busy month, mainly with inspections and organising WorldSkills UK finals, but we are of course judging the APL awards and preparing for the APL Annual review at Futurescape. The review this year will be once again in the Solerio Suite at 12.30. Come along and meet the new Chairman and Vice Chair and also see what the APL have instore for you in 2020.

We have a good few clusters coming up in October too so keep your eye out for them.

On the front page of this eNews is info on Brexit and Plant Passporting. This is very important and you should read it. The HTA have done a fantastic job collating all this info together.

So enjoy your month and hopefully see some of you soon.


September 2019

Well, well, well summers gone... and we are in to September.

I hope you have had good holidays and are fully rested up for what will be a busy last quarter of the year as we hurtle uncontrollably towards Christmas... yep, I went there!!

August has been a busy month for myself and the APL.

As well as the usual inspections, the APL have also commenced visits to 2020 APL Awards entries. Myself, Bob Sweet, Robin Templar Williams Jnr, Rupert Keys, Steve Smith and Richard Barnard have been busily touring the country taking a close, scrutinous look at the entries in a bid to hopefully secure the position of Supreme Winner for one member at the awards on March 13 2020.

I obviously cannot speak for my fellow judges, but I can genuinely say I have been staggered by the quality of entries this year. I know we say it every year, but the bar just seems to go up and up. The level of skill involved and the attention to detail on many of these projects is simply a true testament to the level APL businesses operate at and the care that is taken in delivering dream gardens for their clients. It would be very remiss of me not to also mention the originality and creativeness in the designs. I can't wait to have the final judging days in October, when we once again bring this years awards to a conclusion. Well done and good luck to all that entered!

APL clusters have kicked off again with meetings in August in Guildford, Milton Keynes, Suffolk, Reading, Bristol and Hampshire. As always some great discussions and inputs from suppliers, designers and landscape professionals. For me they are time consuming and I would be lying if I said that ahead of every meeting after a days work I am filled with joy at attending... but once you are there and witness the value these meetings bring to those that attend, I am happy to have been involved.

It is this collaborative attitude that I love about our industry and the APL. Myself and Mark Gregory wanted to build a community; a family. An association that would support each other with either words of encouragement or advice. The clusters and APL facebook forum are evidence that this is delivering on every level.

This collaborative nature of the APL is a true resource for members. It is a huge benefit for me to know I have a handful of people scattered around the country that can give advice and support. Obviously we have our committee who are always willing to help. There is a huge wealth of knowledge amongst these committee members including Karl Harrison who will soon be relaunching the Decking Network. Mark and Holy Youde with their soon to be launched Landscape Academy. Also The PGCA, founded by one of our founding members Alan Sargent. This is another great resource for APL and its members providing you with a  group of specialists and consultants that can offer advice and aid in many situations.

Also the most recent serial advice giver, “The Bik“. Originally Richard was a member as Arbour Design and Build. Richard was also an  APL committee member and in 2015 was appointed as ambassador for Trust-Mark, a government supported scheme in conjunction with the APL.  In this role he often found himself offering an informal landscape advice to fellow landscapers. Those who know Richard like I do know that he is a very enthusiastic character with a wide knowledge of the industry and I was thrilled when he decided to start his own landscape consultancy business. He is great resource for APL. These are all complimented by a great resource supplied by the HTA. Members benefit by a good range of help lines and a library packed with useful documents.

Anyway. Enough of this advertorial Segway... We all know the true value of being a member of this great community.

So what am I and the APL up to in September?

Well to be honest, much of the same. A lot of garden visits and inspections. But in September we also see the first of our Industry trade shows. The Landscape Show is on 17 and 18 September, you can find the APL on stand G27. Both myself and Natalie look forward to seeing you there. We also have two combined Cluster meetings with the SGD booked. September 9 is in Harpenden and September 26 is in Lewes. If you need any info on either of these then please contact me on  I will be releasing more dates over the next few days.

September 24 and 25 are the first two days of the hugely successful Business Development Programme. Still a couple of spaces left, so get in touch if you want more info.

Finally we enter the final throws of the build up to this years APL WorldSkills UK final. I am sure the contestants are looking forward to this, but in the meantime I think we should all say a huge well done to Sam Taylor and Shea McFerran for a great result in the WorldSkills Final in Kazan. Equal 4th was a huge result for these two. Absolutely fantastic.  Also well done to training manager Simon Abbot, who also makes up part of the judging team at our own final.

So I may or may not see you in September, but if I am not down to visit, remember myself and Natalie are her to support you, so get in touch if you need to.

All the best from the APL your collaborative and supportive association.


July 2019

So show season comes to an end for another year at APL. After a  hugely successful BBC Gardeners' World Live we went to RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival. This was an amazing experience, where the APL community really came together to create a very special (if not challenging) Place to Meet. Being able to represent a garden that had so many APL contributors has been a real honour. The garden achieved a Silver Medal, but to be honest this garden was not about the medal awarded, it was about the opportunities afforded to the membership and the apprentices. The committee and myself would like to thank all those involved once again.

Is it something we would do again? I think so. If the appetite is there, I think the whole experience was an amazing one. So watch this space.

BBC Gardeners' World Live will be happening again and applications for the APL Avenue are now open! Download the form here and email it back to The APL will also be looking at re-creating “What Lies Beneath” at the show. Originally done at Ascot with the support of Claudia de Yong and Simply Green, this time it will be bigger and hopefully a walk through. The garden which is set to be designed by Professor David Stevens will encompass many of its original features and be a truly educational piece for the visitors. More news about this will be available over the coming months, but needless to say we are all very excited. We will also be overseeing the Young Landscapers Award. The potential contestants for this are reaching their final stages of WorldSkills UK competition in November at the final. The top four will go through to compete for this amazing accolade.

That nice little segway brings me on to the WorldSkills UK final Heat.

14 students and apprentices competed for the final eight spaces at Myerscough College and J A Jones Nurseries last month. There were three days of intense competition and training supported by Makita, Marshalls, Landscape Plus, J A Jones and Grounds-Care Products (Zip Levels), where the final eight were selected. There is more about this in our e-news. Big thanks to my fellow judge Mark Youde who came along to support the training and judging and also see where hi newly formed Landscape Academy in Cheshire will be able to support the competition going forward.

I have recently completed the designs for the final and once ratified they will be released. This competition still never fails to surprise me. The level of talent that is out there and the opportunities you as an industry are able and willing to give is tremendous. Thank you.

So what’s coming up. Well we have cluster meetings starting again, and I am starting with fellow judges Bob Sweet, Robin Templar Williams Jnr, Rupert Keys, Steve Smith and Richard Barnard to visit the finalists in APL Awards entrants and finally we are preparing to see you all at the years two trade shows.

The APL will be at the Landscape Show 17 and 18 September  and Futurescape November 19 
We hope you will have the opportunity to visit and see what this industry can offer and support you with. Both events have amazing seminar programmes.

Finally we have the final Business Development Programme and hopefully a really interesting CPD event for members towards the end of the year.

So, see you all soon.

All the best


June 2019

Wow, Wow, Wow…. I couldn’t have been happier with the way BBC Gardeners' World Live went this year. APL avenue got huge praise from the crowds and from the BBC too. This was the second year in succession that Association of Professional Landscapers have had an audible mention on national TV. The Avenue itself managed to haul 1 Platinum, 1 Gold, 1 Silver merit and 2 Silvers which is an amazing accolade and testament to the skill of the contractors and designers involved. The APL (myself) supported the build of the John Lewis Home Solutions Garden. This was one of the most popular gardens in the show and also won a Gold medal.

We must not forget the Young Landscapers Award. Brian Hughes and Reece Mckay from CAFRE Northern Ireland competed against Matthew Wood and Sam Gordon from Myerscough College to build a front garden in five days from a design by Professor David Stevens. The morale and banter throughout the build was timeless, the end results were simply amazing. Both gardens were judged as show gardens and both won Gold medals. The winning team by the slimmest of margins were the boys from Myerscough.

The two teams come on the back of finishing in the top four of WorldSkills UK. We will discuss that in minute...

This was a great success on the back of what was the wettest, coldest June build ever.

A huge thanks to all involved, especially Marshalls, J A Jones and Makita for their continued support and of course River Street Events for supporting my mad cap ideas. Rachel Polleti Gadd, Bob Sweet and Lucy Tremlett... You’re amazing.

So we next move on to RHS Hampton Court. A garden designed by Cherry Carmen, built with Kebur and no less than 18 APL member contractors who have pitched in with their time and expertise to build “A Place To Meet”. I always wanted a community, a landscaping family that everyone could feel part of. No one was turned away, everyone got to partake in building this garden. The site has been the happiest site on the grounds and hopefully even happier when we receive our medal. Thanks to you all. Also a big thanks to Kebur Garden Products for the paving, Garden House Design for the Sail and Creepers Nurseries for the supply of the plants. It couldn’t have been achieved without you.

So back to WorldSkills UK. The final 14 have been selected to compete in the final heat at Myerscough 17th,18th and 19th of July. These will now be brought back down to eight and that eight will be put forward the final in November at the NEC.

We are all trying to get the youth involved in landscaping. This competition does just that. It puts these young people in the spotlight and provides training and a great experience. The APL are still thrilled to be involved.

I have to dash now. Two days to get this garden finished!

Catch up in July,


May 2019

It’s Show Time!

It’s a really busy time of year for contractors and so far the weather has set fairly well.

It's not just busy on the day to day contracting, but for some (not all) its manic with show garden construction.

What is the purpose of a show garden, why do contractors and designers get involved?

It’s a question that arises in many cluster meetings, is there a benefit?

Generally under investigation it would seem there is no real financial benefit to a landscaping company doing a show garden. It is very rare that you get any direct work from your efforts. So WHY do one?

Firstly, I would suggest you look at the market you are working in. If your market is driven from direct client contact and you are producing £15k - £25k landscaping projects marketed from referrals and your website, then probably a show garden is not going to bring in any extra revenue than your current strategies are achieving. But if you work with designers (or wish to) then a show garden is an excellent platform to project yourself in that arena.

Similarly, if you are a design and build company, a show garden is a way to promote your design work and would probably get you build work on the back of that.

As a designer, as show garden is an excellent advert for your business. Designers tend to get most of the media attention and PR at the shows and can be a way to really launch your business. Also you get to network with lots of landscapers and vice versa.

Once established as an award winning contracting business, you will be approached year on year to build at shows. You will even get recommended to designers to build for them. This can then be part of your overall business strategy and become quite lucrative. I mean how many projects do you have that have to start on a date and will definitely finish on a date? There are a handful of landscaping business in the UK that do this, and do it well.

Finally on the softer side, the show garden is a great for team morale. It’s a break from the norm. It is also an excellent way to push yourself as a business and benchmark yourself against some of the best.

We are just about to start BBC Gardeners' World Live at the NEC. This is an excellent entry level show. Not because its judged any less rigorously, but as a site goes for build its surrounded by tarmac, all the dig out is done for you and support is given with break-down. Generally an excellent experience. So if you fancy giving a garden a go, then try APL Avenue in 2020.

Our members have done amazingly well again in this years shows. Check the regular updates in APL and HTA news to see the awards and check out the garden designs here.

I am so proud to represent and organisation with so much talent.

Other areas of interest include APL Awards. There is still time to enter, plus our new MAINTENANCE section! Just follow this link and enter what is fast becoming the MOST talked about awards in the landscaping sector (Well by me anyway) Follow this link to get your entry in. 

Finally, don’t forget to do your Plant Healthy Self Assessment. This has now been made part of the inspection process, but has its own importance and relevance above that. Log on to start yours. You will find it very interesting and could also help prevent some of the biggest threats to our industry. 


April 2019

I hope you all had a great Easter. Going around the members this last month it is clear that diaries are getting full and the industry is buoyant. Which is great news. Great news of course if you have the staff to fulfil the demand. Staffing is still the number 1 issue for many contractors and something the whole industry is trying to address. But whilst long term many of the initiatives being put in to place will have a positive effect. They don’t really help the hear and now. This is where membership of an association can really help. I have in the past brokered many partnerships between landscapers and designers and landscapers with landscapers. Working as cooperative is common place in some areas of horticulture, not quite so common place in landscaping, but is something that could be thought about. Companies sharing the same area of locality pool resources and skill sets to enable them to provide a service constantly. It enables companies to scale up and down quickly. You may say this is just sub-contracting, essentially you are right, but have you ever thought of making the arrangement more formal? Its just a thought and I would be happy to assist.

So what else has been going on. For me now it’s the start of WSUK judging, inspections, clusters and of course the show season. The WSUK competition attracted a record number of entries this year. Mainly from colleges and their initial testing starts in the next few weeks. Successful competitors from these will go to the final heat in July, where the final 8 will be selected for the final. Once gain we have to thank our sponsors Makita, Marshalls, JA Jones, Landscape Plus and new kids on the block Dickies Workwear. Follow their progress on APL website and this blog. I am sure you will join me in wishing them luck, after all they are our future.

Inspections are a vital part of APL membership. But I really need your support. Booking in inspections for over 200 members is not an easy task. So can I ask you do your best to accommodate Natalie when she contacts you. We have changed these so that most can be done on site, so they stop you from having to take time out of your day. When I arrive, all I need is a site file and copies of your insurances. What should a site file contain?

  1. Plan of the job (even if just a simple sketch)
  2. Services Plan
  3. Quote for the job (Prices can be redacted)
  4. CDM Construction Phase Plan (Signed by all relevant parties)
  5. Method statement (This is sometimes contained in CDM depending on which template you use, or can be part of the quote depending on detail)
  6. RA and Coshh (If applicable)
  7. Site Induction form (Signed off)
  8. Tool Box talks (If required)
  9. Details of where local hospital A and E is located.

This is as a minimum.

So hopefully you can get booked in asap. I really look forward to seeing you.


The new dates will be coming out over the next couple of weeks, with a new venue in Hampshire being added to the list. This time of year I appreciate these become a challenge, but as long as there is a minimum of 7 people we will always go ahead.

Finally show gardens.

The APL with Nicholas Edwards Gardens have completed our first. The garden won gold at Harrogate Spring Show and also the Newby Cup for best planting in the show. So congratulations to Nick. Going forward we have ,  RHS Chelsea With Perennial, BBC Gardeners' World Live With John Lewis “Partners Garden and Hampton Court with Kebur and Cherry Carmen “A Place to meet”.

Perennial is starting next week. APL member Ross Conquest is taking the lead with support from APL members Sussex Garden design, Artisan Landscapes and Urban Landscape Design ltd. Mark Youde from Urban will also be mentoring APL Apprentices at the build, providing them with excellent experience in the show arena. Details of the garden can be found here.  I am sure you will join me in wishing them the best of luck.

Details of the other gardens will be posted in the next blogs. But also I would like to take the opportunity to wish all APL and HTA members who are involved in the shows over the coming months. There is an enormous amount of work that goes in to providing this experience to visitors and a myriad of reasons that contractors and designers put them selves through the stress. But I really hope you all do well and look forward to either reporting on or catching up on your successes over the coming months.

Other areas of interest include APL Awards. Please get your entries in asap. Just follow this link and enter what is fast becoming the MOST talked about awards in the landscaping sector (Well by me anyway) Follow this link to get your entry in.

The committee are working hard on several initiatives to support members which will be revealed over the next few months, keep an eye out for these.

Next months blog will include my top 5 favourite hotels in the UK to visit whilst on the road.. Something I have been meaning to share with you all for a long time.

In closing please take a look at the APL’s fantastic cross industry event. “APL SKI ALP Winter Workshop.” Not long to go now.. deposits need to be in by 5 May for this fantastic CPD Ski trip. Intrigued? Well see more details here.

Finally, don’t forget to do your Plant Healthy Self Assessment. This has now been made part of the inspection process, but has its own importance and relevance above that. Log on to start yours. You will find it very interesting and could also help prevent some of the biggest threats to our industry.


March 2019

Oh well that’s Christmas done for another year... Christmas obviously being (for those who don’t know) what I refer to as MY Christmas day; The APL Awards. As ever it was a fantastic day and apart from the occasional technical hitch was probably one of the best ever. My congratulations to all the winners and I hope that all that attended had a superb day. We are now looking towards 2020. The APL awards entry is now open. It is easier than ever. Just go to and all the information you need is held there. It is also useful for you to know that we will except final pictures right up until the end of August, so no need to panic. The first shortlist is completed early July, with visits being arranged for those shortlisted companies in August and September. The final judging is completed in November, when finalists will be announced. So if you have a project you are proud of, or a section of, or a feature, then enter now and benchmark against the best.

So what else is coming up. Well it is show time!

The APL will be featuring at 4 shows through the year. Harrogate Urban Sprawl,  RHS Chelsea With Perennial, BBC Gardeners' World Live With John Lewis “Partners Garden and Hampton Court with Kebur and Cherry Carmen “A Place to meet”. We do these show gardens a) because we enjoy them, but most importantly b) because we use them to promote the APL to the public. Public awareness is very important to us. We want to use the opportunity to shout about all the great work you do, but to also help the public understand what exactly goes in to having their gardens landscaped. We will be talking about the APL Installation Codes of Practice and what they should expect. We feel this is vital.

I am getting prepared for a very busy time. We have WorldSkills UK heats coming up. There is still time for you to enter your apprentice or young person. If you want to register them then go to and register there. I cannot speak more highly about this competition. Young competitors get excellent experience and training and the chance to represent their country in Bejing 2021. What’s not to like?!

Inspections are getting done all through the year, but they rely on your cooperation in excepting appointments. My assistant Natalie will be / or has been in touch to organise my diary. If she has contacted you, please do respond asap. Inspections are an important part of your membership and we have a very short window.

Clusters are always popular and the list is getting bigger. I love nothing more than to meet members and feel I am doing my role as a supportive member of your industry. April see’s meetings in The Midlands, Kent West and East, Guildford, Suffolk, Essex, Milton Keynes, Redditch, The North West and East, Devon and SW London. Check the website for Aprils dates and if you can get a long to one, please do. You won’t regret it. Alternatively, if you want one in your area, please do contact and I will do my very best to accommodate.

It would be remiss of me not promote this fantastic cross industry event. “APL SKI ALP Winter Workshop.” We need to get your deposits in by 5 May for this fantastic CPD Ski trip. Intrigued? Well see more details here.

Finally, don’t forget to do your Plant Healthy Self Assessment. This has now been made part of the inspection process, but has its own importance and relevance above that. Log on to start yours. You will find it very interesting and could also help prevent some of the biggest threats to our industry.

Phil Tremayne

February 2019

January and February have hurtled past and we are now in to March. With time going by so fast the APL have managed to pack a lot in to the first two months of the year. Cluster meetings have got off to a great start. We have already had 12 meetings so far this year and have a further 10 booked for March. The topics have all centred around pricing. It is amazing to see the different ways businesses approach this and the variants in prices being worked out. The exercise continues through March and the intention is to build up a full list of prices and pricing techniques throughout the UK. If I haven’t been to you yet, don’t panic. I will be there soon. We aim to try and give every group at least five meetings per year. We are well on course for this.

We have also managed to get three practical sessions of the APL apprenticeship under our belts. We have had practical sessions from Jamie Butterworth, Mark Youlde (Urban Landscape Design) and most recently Matthew Spedding and Easi Grass. These practical sessions are what brings the APL apprenticeship to life. Industry involvement is key to its success and is what creates the massive point of difference to this apprenticeship and others. We have sessions still to follow on lighting, irrigation, carpentry and rendering.

The APL apprenticeship has been the cornerstone for many of the APL activities. None more so than WorldSkills UK #WSUKLive. The competition has now launched and entries can be submitted up until April 4. Click here for more information. This competition has a series of regional qualifiers, followed by a final heat and then the final in November. If you are a college student or apprentice, enter now into what is one of the best competitions in landscaping. You will not only get the chance to benchmark yourself and compete, but you will also have access to some of the best training and the opportunity to either represent the UK in Shanghai 2021 or compete in the Young Landscapers Award at BBC Gardeners' World Live 2020.

Our Young Landscapers for this years competition have been selected and it is truly a national competition with two from Northern Ireland, one from Warwickshire and the other from Preston. The design has been done by Professor David Stevens and judging will be completed by a team of qualified RHS judges including Steve Smith and Mark Gregory. We will keep you posted on their progress.

APL apprentices also will make up build teams for the Perennial garden at Chelsea, with ex WorldSkills UK finalist and silver medallist Ross Conquest of Conquest Creative Spaces, and at Hampton Court in the APL garden “A Place to Meet”. This design has been done by Cherry Carmen and mentorship will be provided by APL members Kebur Landscape Division.

Inspections are in full swing and the new marking structure is proving to be a challenge. So when you pass (which I am sure you will), you know you are truly hitting the mark in landscaping excellence. Natalie or one of the independent inspectors will be in touch to book your appointment, so please get back to her as soon as you can to get the slot booked in.

Finally the committee met again in February and we are looking to progress and develop in a lot of different areas. As a new feature a reduced version of the minutes will be available on this site in the next couple of days so we can show full transparency of what the APL is doing and where are efforts are being placed.

So what’s ahead in March?

Clusters are scheduled for:
Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Arundel, Kent, North London, Bristol, Exeter, Guildford, Reading, Suffolk and Milton Keynes. Individual emails are sent out giving dates and details of these meetings, so make sure you look out for them.

John Lewis are holding two recruitment days March 27 in Kent and March 28 in Brighton, so if you haven’t applied yet for those areas and are interested, do it as quick as you can.

March 7 is APL mini Seminar at Classiflora on Bio-security and APL Awards March 15…

If you want any info on any of the up and coming events or wish to book or simply more info on what is in this blog, then contact me on

Look out next month for my round up on behind the scenes activity of the awards, which hotels to stay in the UK and my top five cluster meals.

January 2019

New year, new beginnings. Every new year sparks a feeling of excitement, well it does for me. I always treat myself to a new pad, a fresh diary and look forward to the exciting year I have ahead. I know speaking to members it is exciting for many of you too. Even with the threat of a no deal Brexit, your order books seem to fairly full and confidence in the market seems reasonably high, which is good news to you all. Hopefully you wont be hindered too much by wet or snowy weather and this enthusiasm will continue.

The APL have a packed year ahead. We are supporting the Perennial Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show with Conquest Creative Spaces; we have another full competition at BBC Gardeners' World Live with APL avenue and once again we have our Young Landscapers Award. Finally, we are at RHS Hampton Court with Kebur Landscape Division with a garden designed for a second year by Cherry Carmen.

The APL WorldSkills UK competition kicks off again in the next few weeks and our APL Apprenticeship continues to deliver quality apprentices with support from the likes of Jamie Butterworth, Mark Youde (Urban Landscapes) and Paul Willavoys ( Landscape Plus) to name a few, truly making this an industry inclusive apprenticeship scheme.

Behind the scenes in conjunction with the HTA we are continuing with our work on the Ornamental Roundtable, have supported the Plant Healthy campaign and continue to develop and deliver best in class business courses. The next one is due to start in September.

The new year also brings the next round of inspections. When you get notification can you please respond and book in as soon as possible as we have a lot to get through. Finally, over the next few weeks John Lewis Home Solutions are looking to roll out over Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent. If you’re interested, either contact them here or contact me at

We have a good round of clusters for you to attend, with some great topics. Find the dates here. We will be holding over 90 meetings this year. April 2, we will be “Still Stoned” at our paving seminar and March 15 is my Christmas Day; the APL Awards day! I do hope you can join us, get your tickets at Its going to be a CRACKER!! (sorry)


November/December 2018

As we approach the end of the year it is always a good time to reflect. 2018 has been a challenging year. We may forget with such a hot summer what a terrible start to the year it was, and then came the summer with its heat that brought so much pleasure but at the same time its own issues. Indeed those of you particularly building on heavy clay are still seeing the consequences of these two diverse weather conditions.

But generally as an industry things are going pretty well. Consumer confidence still seems to be high, even with the B word. The weather as the year draws to a close is favourable and long term this sees no dramatic change and the excellence and professionalism of you as members continues to grow. Many new ideas and products have entered the market place this year and many of you are pushing boundaries never before imagined, both in design and construction.

The APL had a strategy at the start of 2018, part of which was to be the go to association for landscaping in the UK. Do you know, I think we are well on the way. I get calls from members all the time for support, advice, information and sometimes just to have a moan. Some of these members are members of other associations, but yet they choose APL for their advice. I am really proud of this and feel we are doing as much as we can to develop the community that we wished for. In 2018 we managed a business development, apprenticeships, WorldSkills competitions, an exclusive partnership with John Lewis Home Solutions and more clusters than weeks in the year. A good year. On top of that, you as members have designed and built fantastic gardens both in the home and show arena winning more medals across the board than any other association.

So congratulations to you all and on behalf of the committee and APL team I wish you all a very happy Christmas and successful 2019.


October 2018

Well, I literally have no idea where that month has gone. October as with all months this year has seemed to just fly by.

My month as usual has been filled with many miles of travel interspersed with visits to you our members for inspections and finishing off the last of the awards entries. I have to say the calibre has been really high on both counts. Those of you who have had your APL Safe site inspection will know that we have raised the bar slightly, but also tried to make it has simple as we can for you to comply.  By meeting you on site we are trying to ensure that you do not need to take too much time out of your busy working days and we can also take the opportunity to look at some of the great work you are doing. During this inspection we will need to see your Insurances, but these can be uploaded to the HTA website ahead of time or emailed direct to myself or Natalie. This saves you having to bring this sort of paperwork to site. But I thought it would be useful for me to explain exactly what else we are looking for.

Your site file needs to include the following :-

  • A plan/ drawing of the project.
  • A method statement or written process of how the job will be built. This is very often in your quotes.
  • A copy of the quote for the job. Your prices can be redacted.
  • A Construction Phase Plan to comply with CDM 2015. If you are still unsure what this is, then please contact me and I will send you the details. This is a legislative requirement from HSE. It is not necessary for soft landscaping.
  • Diagrams of any cables and pipes discovered and if you are installing more plans of where they will be. These will form part of your Health and Safety File.
  • Any Risk assessments that you may require for the job (If over 5 employees)
  • Data Sheets of any substances  being used under COSHH.
  • A Site Induction Form to prove that an induction has been done and make sure this is signed off by all staff on the project including sub contractors.
  • Evidence of sub contractor checks made. (Insurance and certificates)
  • Any Certs that could be required. We would need to see PA1 and PA6 certs if spraying on site. Chainsaw Certs if using a chainsaw

On site we would like to see

  • First aid Kit
  • Spillage Kit or suitable alternative and process
  • PPE in good condition and being used
  • Arrangements for dust reduction and welfare.
  • Then we are looking at how the site is run.
  • In all the inspection takes around an hour, (depending on how much you like to chat)

If you need any info please just ask ahead of your inspection and we will help you out. Remember these inspections are an important part of your membership and compliance to APL Code of Conduct that you have agreed to comply with as part of your membership.

So on to what we are doing in November.

It is of course the World Skills Uk Final, earlier this month I have been ordering materials from our sponsors Makita, Marshalls, EcoDek, Landscapeplus and I had a wonderful afternoon selecting the shrubs and trees for the garden at J A Jones Cash and Carry in Southport. I know we say it a lot, but a massive thank you to you all. The competition couldn’t run without your support. So the 6 finalists will meet on the 13th November and have just 16hrs to build a garden that includes decking, paving, block paving, fencing, turfing, planting and lighting. It’s a daunting undertaking and I am sure you will all join me in wishing the guys every success. Competitors this year come from Wiltshire College, Pershore College, Green mount NI (Cafre), Myerscough and an apprentice from our own Vice Chair at the Garden Makers.

We also have the new intake of APL Apprentices at Myerscough, I am really looking forward to meeting these young men as they start on a journey that hopefully will bring them a long and fulfilling career in this great industry.

We will also be judging the APL Awards. Myself, Rupert Keys, Robin Templar Williams Jnr, Bob Sweet and Steve Smith will all be passing the final scrutinising eye over your projects. So good luck to all who have entered. My best wishes go out to Mr Richard Barnard who sadly wont be able to join us this year, but Richard has been looking at the projects and has sent through his helpful comments for the judges.

After this we will be at Futurescape. I am sure many of you will be attending, so we look forward to seeing you there. Remember as well this is the location for the APL  Annual Review Meeting (ARM). It will at 11am upstairs in one of the suites. Try and come along and meet the committee and find out what we are trying to achieve in 2019.

Many of you will be aware of the excellent partnership we have formed with John Lewis Home Solutions. Remember, if you are interested in finding out more about this scheme, just pop me an email and I will send the info through.

Cluster meetings for November are scheduled to be Harrogate, Guildford/ Reading, Kent,  Bury St Edmunds, Redditch and Durham. So try and get a long to one if you can.

So another busy month ahead as we race towards December. I hope to catch up with many of you soon.

All the best


September 2018

September seems to have come and gone at a fantastic pace. I have spent most of time in the month looking at some of the fantastic awards entries we have had this year. Myself and the other five judges have been covering the country looking at some of the exquisite detail and effort that has been put in to these gardens. They truly are a credit to the entrants and a testament to the industry. I will be finishing the last of my visits in Aberdeen later next month, ready for the two days of judging in November, so make sure you keep an eye out for the shortlisted gardens for 2019 ceremony which will once again be in March at our,now established venue at the Brewery... Simply the best day of the year!!

I am also continuing to concentrate on inspections. I will reiterate as I did last month the importance of these with regards to your membership, so please make every effort to book a date in your diaries. The APL try and make this as easy as possible now, with most of these being site based.

September was always looking a busy month, especially with the start of trade show season. We were happy to attend Futurescape Scotland at the start of the month. This one day show is growing in stature and attendance and I very much hope this will continue to be supported in years to come. We had some excellent enquiries and conversations, I chaired 'The Beauty’s in the Build' debate and ended the day with a fantastic combined APL/SGD meeting. From there I hot footed it to an airport and three spent days in Lloret De Mar, but you really didn’t need to know that!!

It was then prep time for the 2nd show of the month at the Landscape Show. This show again is growing and over the two days we had over 50 enquiries for membership from both contractors and designers and as always it was great to catch up with all our existing members at the show. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mark Youde, Ross Conquest, Dave Booton and our Chairman Rod Winrow for being on the panel of the inaugural “Contractors Question Time”. This CPD session was well attended and a great debate was had over the 45 minutes. To be honest it could have gone on for a lot longer. Questions asked were regarding representation of the industry on TV, how can we recruit and retain to name a few.

From there we moved to final preps for the last APL Seminar of the year. “Its Time To Plant” was an excellent day exploring soft landscaping form design, through to supply and then to application. With a particular leaning towards mature. Finishing off with a lively discussion on Bio Security.. Finally in amongst that we must not forget that Tim O Hare made soil sexy!!! So I would like to personally thank Kate Gould, Tim O Hare, Mark Gregory, Nick Coslett, Richard Mac Kenna, Steve Mcurdy, Paul Willavoys and Jamie Butterworth for providing us with an excellent day. I would also like to thank Platipus Anchor systems for their sponsorship.

Now we look at the rest of the year where I will be at The South West Growers Show and FutureScape, so make sure you come along and say hello and catch up with all the amazing initiatives we are progressing with through the rest of this year and in to 2019. I am still pushing on with the APL meetings around the country. These informal meetings usually held in pubs (no bad thing) are an amazing resource of information for you all. They are your meetings and whilst I do try and set some topics, you have the opportunity to discuss whatever you want. So if you have never managed to attend one or would like one in your area, please get in touch and we will see what we can organise.

In amongst all that the APL committee met at Hort House and started to put together the strategy for APL 2019. This was an initial meeting on this subject and everything will be firmed up in our November meet, but first indications are that we will be pushing on with our Standards work, our Business Development Courses and better social media presence aimed at the consumer. I will be producing a full manifesto in the December E-News so look out for that.

So in closing the APL and myself are very busy as always, but we are here to work for you as members, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any issues or initiatives you would like us to explore.

So bye for now, look out for the messages about my travels on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and I hope to catch up with some of you really soon.


August 2018

Well, we have all survived the heatwave and holidays are now over and everything is returning back to normal. At the APL we are now entering a very busy time as we concentrate on the inspections. The inspections are an important part of the APL membership, as not only do they give you an opportunity to bench mark your business, but they also allow you to offer your potential clients the confirmation that you have received an independent inspection of your business and its practices. The new inspection forms provide you with a percentage score and a write up of the business. We have a lot of inspections to get through and would ask that you try and help us when we are looking to put you in the diary by confirming dates as soon as possible. Natalie in the office will be in touch soon to get your visit booked in, if she hasn’t already.

Now the garden show season is over we move in to the trade show season. The APL will be at FutureScape ScotlandLandscape Show, The South West Growers Show and FutureScape, so make sure you come along and say hello and catch up with all the amazing initiatives we are progressing with through the rest of this year and in to 2019. I am still pushing on with the APL meetings around the country. These informal meetings usually held in pubs (no bad thing) are an amazing resource of information for you all. They are your meetings and whilst I do try and set some topics, you have the opportunity to discuss whatever you want. So if you have never managed to attend one or would like one in your area, please get in touch and we will see what we can organise.

September 28th we will be holding our very first members workshop day at Kebur Landscapes in Farnborough. This session will cover porcelain and all aspects of porcelain laying. There will be live demonstrations of cutting, laying and grouting by industry experts and the chance to have a go. I think this will be an excellent afternoon, spaces are limited but there are still a few left, so contact me directly if you wish to attend or get more info. We will also be taking a look at the final draft of the APL domestic standard for porcelain laying and hopefully proving its suitability.

Finally, in the next week or so, you will be getting an email from APL to invite you on to the committee. If any of you wish to commit a bit of your time to the development of the APL then please get in touch and nominate yourself. The committee will be sworn in at the APL Annual Meeting in November at Futurescape.

So bye for now, look out for the messages about my travels on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and I hope to catch up with some of you really soon.


July 2018

July  2018

Hampton Court came and went and was as usual a great event in the landscaping calendar. Although this year it was a very hot one. Congratulations to all the members who built at the show which included The Landform Garden Bar built by Landform Consultants, Breckland Beauty built by Bespoke Outdoor Spaces and Nicholas Edwards Gardens along with The family Garden.  Also Bowood Landscapes built another two gardens “A garden at the end of the Earth” and the” Dibond Garden”. Landscape Associates built “The Charleston and South Carolina Garden” and last but by no means least Ross Conquest (Conquest Creative Spaces) supported Burnham Landscapes with “A Very Modern Problem”. A good medal haul from members with two Golds, four Silver Gilts and a Silver completed a very, very successful show season for APL and its members.

The Place to Meet garden, built by Kebur Landscapes and designed by Cherry Carmen, was also extremely popular. There isn’t a lot I don’t now know about “Egyptian Limestone” supplied by Kebur and plant of the garden was the  stunning Francoa sonchifolia supplied by Creepers Nurseries, as were all the plants. Shou Sugi Ban was the most difficult word to say when describing the cladding on the bespoke water features built by Decorum London which complimented perfectly the aptly coloured “Cornish Pebble” composite deck supplied to us by ECODEK. Finally if I ever tire of managing the APL I am sure there is a career for me in opening and shutting the louvered roof on a Renson Canopy loaned to us by Garden House Design. I mustn’t grumble, without it I would have cooked. But thanks to all the members who supplied items and resource to this garden. Also a big thanks to Hilary Oakley who came up for the day and helped talk about it. I always ask myself if it is worth it, but to be with the members during the build and breakdown and then to talk to the public and promote the APL and its members, I’m sure it is, especially when you get to spend a little time with the amazing Jo Whiley.

The APL didn't have a stand at Tatton this year, but I did venture there for one day to help Nicholas Edwards Gardens and to interview Warnes Mcgarr during their build. You can hear the interview here where they discuss their garden and how they got in to landscaping. Excuse the background noise, but we’re just keeping it real!

Again we had a good spattering of members building there with Foxcroft Landscapes building two gardens and bagging a silver and a gold and best back to back and category peoples choice and best construction award. So well done to them. But also well done to Niocholas Edwards Gardens and their Silver Gilt and finally the biggest garden in the show “The Poisonous Garden” designed and built by Warnes Mcgarr. This one wasn’t judged as it was a feature, but it looked stunning.

So show season over and its back to normal now, so what else have the APL been up to.

Inspections at this time of year take up most of my time, and Natalie will be in touch very soon to book yours in (If she hasn’t already done so). We are looking to do all of them on site from now on, so we limit the down time incurred from office visits. As you should be aware, insurances can now be uploaded to our system, so no need to bring them with you. Also the same applies for your Waste Carriers License, Health and Safety Policy and Terms and Conditions. This has been set up to help you, but if you are a technophobe and still want to bring a large folder out with you, that’s fine. Essentially at these inspections I want to see what your site file contains and our guidance sheet lets you know what we hope to see. The inspections are a Key part of the membership so your support in getting dates booked in are most appreciated.

We have had some excellent APL meetings in July including Exeter, North London, Suffolk, Guildford and Bedfordshire. If you have never attended one of these, I strongly suggest you try. The topics are loosely set by me, but they are your meetings and you can discuss whatever you want. They are informal and informative and all done over a pint and something to eat. What could be better. August we will be in Preston, Reading, Bristol, Redditch, Guildford and Hampshire. So get along to one if you can.

Also check out the HTA website for up to date info on the Xylella situation and very prominent now the Water Situation. The team at the HTA are watching this very closely and will give any updates on temporary usage bans as soon as they have them.

So another busy month ahead! Planning is in progress for APL Seminar on Sept 25th “Its Time To Plant”, our new Young Gardeners Competition at the Landscape Show and of course the final Heat of this years WorldSkills UK competition to be held at Myerscough and J A Jones Nurseries.

I look forward to seeing some of you over the next few weeks, but in the meantime don’t forget the factor 50!!

All the best,


June 2018

Wow, what an impressive display of talent at BBC Gardeners' World Live this year. The APL once again took the show by storm with five extremely impressive APL Avenue Gardens built by Keyscape, Conquest Creative Spaces, A to Z Landscaping, Living Landscapes (Peter Cowell) and Timotay. These APL gardens take centre stage at the show and are always packed with visitors and enquiries. River Street Events have already pledged to repeat the gardens for next year and we will be once again announcing the start of this competition very soon. Big Fish Landscapes built two enormous gardens at the show for Wyevale and Tesco.  The APL in conjunction with Marshalls, J A Jones, River Street, Ecodek and Landscapes Skills Academy also launched the Young Landscapers of the Year Award. Two gardens designed by Diarmuid Gavin were built by two teams of two.

The whole show had great coverage from the BBC in a 1 hour show, with extensive interviews of members and the young landscapers, with our brand announced on live tv. Myself and the committee have worked long and hard to cultivate this relationship with the show and are thrilled with the response we get. To find out more at what happened at the show and see the medals awarded the visit the APL website where there is a full report.

From there we are straight in to RHS Hampton Court, which is where I am actually writing this. This year the APL once again has a garden named “A Place to Meet”. The garden has been designed by Cherry Carmen and built by APL members, Kebur Landscape Division, based in Farnborough. Its very much a work in progress at the minute, but keep your eyes out on Twitter to see the final results. Or even better come and meet us. A big thanks to all the other sponsors which include Creepers Nursery, Ecodek, Garden House Design, Exterior Solutions and Landscapeplus. I will be there throughout the show.

As stated in the last blog, we have had a flurry of APL Awards entries and the process is now closed. The initial short listing day is set for July 11 and if successful you will be notified and the all important site visit will be booked. Site visits on all entries will commence in August and myself and the other five judges will be contacting you in July to book these in.

Finally our first collaborative industry best practice / standards day was held on June 21. Marshalls, London Stone, Global Stone, CED, Talasay Group and Kebur were all represented. Bradstone had agreed to take part, but unfortunate circumstances meant they were unable to attend. It was a very full and interesting day as these key companies joined myself and four committee members got to grips with the size of this project. Some great progress was made and a first draft will be made available by the end of July. Hopefully a seal of approval will be given on our very first set of consumer/ contractor independent standards for paving. The next stage is artificial grass and then straight on to decking. This is a really exciting time for me as I see something I have been working towards for the last few years finally coming to fruition.

June as usual sees a reduction in the amount of cluster meetings, but we still managed to sneak in a brand new one in Redditch and another new one in Bristol, finishing off with another new one in Exeter. As the APL continues to spread it’s wings, I remind you that these meetings are excellent networking and educational opportunities, so if you get the chance and you haven’t been to one try and make one. Or you can join the APL members online Facebook forum, just search APL members forum closed members group and apply to join. Both the clusters and the forum satisfy point two.

Finally a reminder that the APL business development programme is nearly full for the 2nd intake. The course will run over five days and starts in October. We envisage these last few places to sell out soon, so if you are interested contact Natalie to book your space.

I have also been around the country judging the heats for WorldSkills UK. This annual competition invites some of the countries young and brightest talents in the industry to build landscaping test pieces under time pressure and to mm tolerances.  I have seen some excellent results and we look forward to letting you know who the successful finalists will be later in the year.

Finally, and a big part of my role, is members inspections. I must take this opportunity to remind you that inspections are a requirement of membership, so when you get an email from Natalie to book me in, please respond asap so it can be completed. You will find them very useful as a business benchmarking tool and can also be used in your marketing.

So as always we are all working hard for you at APL, but also check out the HTA page on Xylella. This has been recently updated an contains so valuable information for you to use to ensure that we can hopefully keep this decimating plant disease away from our shores. This is massively important for our whole industry, so make use of this excellent bit of bed time reading.

So see you soon, either at a show or at your inspection. Remember if it is easier you can now upload your insurances etc. Another initiative to hopefully help your time.

All the best,


May 2018

So what’s been happening in May at the APL.

As always we look at the strategy and myself and Rod Winrow (Chairman) and David Sewell (Vice Chair) met again to ensure we are still on the right track.

As a reminder to you all the four points were:

  1. To be the go-to organisation for domestic landscaping in the UK, both for consumers and contractors.
  2. To build a landscaping community to help businesses develop within the sector.
  3. To continue and further develop our training initiatives for both young and established landscaping businesses.
  4. To develop and maintain income streams whose revenues can be used to support the above

So if we look at point one, its show time and APL members and the APL brand have been very much in the limelight, both in person and in the media including social media. APL members have had an impressive haul of medals both at RHS Malvern and at RHS Chelsea, all of these have been covered within our own organisation and by our own roving reporter Claudia de Yong who is writing articles on some of our medal winning members as we speak. The APL see the show season as one of the best opportunities in the year to be able promote its members and also promote the skill and professionalism of you all to thousands of potential clients. Our biggest opportunity of the year is fast approaching when we build at BBC Gardeners' World Live alongside the five APL competition winners of our APL Avenue. Gardeners' Wworld Live has over 100k visitors during the four day show and myself and PR and Digital Exec. Amy Winder has produced an eight page flyer to hand out so the brand is pushed out as much as possible. I look forward to telling you how it went in the next edition.

APL Awards entries have been flooding in and I have to say the standard gets better and better. The initial short listing day is fast approaching so keep those images coming if you have entered to ensure your project gets through to the next round. Site visits on all entries will commence in August and myself and the other five judges will be contacting you in July to book these in.

Finally a date has been set for our first collaborative industry best practice / standards day. June 21st will see many of the top stone suppliers in the UK come to HTA HQ and provide input and hopefully a seal of approval on our very first set of consumer/ contractor independent standards for paving. This is a really exciting time for me as I see something I have been working towards for the last few years finally coming to fruition.

May has also seen another five cluster meetings spreading from Reading and as far north as Edinburgh. Over 60 companies have been involved in our cluster business development courses but along with that many other industry topics have been discussed. These meetings are a valuable resource for members, so try and get along to one if you can. Or you can join the APL members online Facebook forum, just search APL members forum closed members group and apply to join. Both the clusters and the forum satisfy point two.

The APL business development programme is nearly full for the 2nd intake. The course will run over five days and starts in October. We envisage these last few places to sell out soon, so if you are interested contact Natalie to book your space. I have also been around the country judging the heats for WorldSkills UK. This annual competition invites some of the countries young and brightest talents in the industry to build landscaping test pieces under time pressure and to mm tolerances.  Have seen some excellent results and we look forward to letting you know who the successful finalists will be later in the year. Finally and a big part of my role is members inspections. I must take this opportunity to remind you that inspections are a requirement of membership, so when you get an email from Natalie to book me in, please respond asap so it can be completed. You will find them very useful as a business benchmarking tool and can also be used in your marketing. 

So as always we are all working hard for you at APL, but also check out the HTA page on Xylella. This has been recently updated an contains so valuable information for you to use to ensure that we can hopefully keep this decimating plant disease away from our shores. This is massively important for our whole industry, so make use of this excellent bit of bed time reading.

See you all soon.


April 2018

In March this year the APL chairman, Ken White, stepped down and was replaced by Rod Winrow from Garden House Design. With the start of Rods tenure it is a good time to reflect on the Association, it’s achievements and the direction we are taking in the future.

APL objectives are formed by the APL Committee under the direction of the Chairman along with the APL general manager Phil Tremayne. The committee meets every 8 weeks. There are also several ‘sub committees’ dedicated to working on individual strategies. This allows committee members to focus their particular talents and to move initiatives forwards in between full committee meetings.

Under Kens Chairmanship the committee developed  4 key objectives.

  1. To be the Go-To organisation for domestic landscaping in the UK, both for consumers and contractors.
  2. To build a landscaping community to help businesses develop within the sector.
  3. To continue and further develop our training initiatives for both young and established landscaping businesses.
  4. To develop and maintain income streams whose revenues can be used to support the above

From these 4 objectives a single page plan was developed that would enable the Association to develop individual strategies over the next 3 years. Everything the association does or gets involved with has to move one or more of the above objectives forwards. It’s that simple.

So let’s flesh out these objectives.

To be the Go To organisation for domestic landscaping

Seems like a big ask. So why, given the other organisations within the industry, does the APL feel it’s particularly appropriate to set this objective? And indeed what is the APL actually doing to achieve this?

Quickly going back into the history books, the APL was formed by well-respected industry figures who were disenchanted with their existing association and its focus on much larger and mostly commercial businesses. They approached the HTA and the APL was born. This was an amazing alliance – the fantastic resource that the HTA has to offer and its positioning in the industry gives APL members access to thousands of industry specialists and businesses with tremendous reach and influence.

In short the APL was established for domestic landscape contractors by domestic landscape contractors and it has remained thus so for almost a quarter of a century. There is no other association that focuses with such laser clarity on this sector of the industry.

And what exactly does this look like in real life? Everything the APL does points towards this first objective. Our advertising is consumer facing, our show presence is all about educating consumers about why they need to be using professional garden designers and contractors. The recent APL garden ‘What Lies beneath’ at Ascot is a perfect example. The garden not only inspirational in design and construction terms but also set up to physically display exactly what lies underneath the paving and artificial grass and educating the consumer about how important this is. BBC Gardeners World Live will once again have the hugely popular and unique ‘APL Avenue’ demonstrating aspirational gardens built by nobody else but APL members.  As always, any enquiries at shows are directed to APL members.

The APL accreditation process gives the consumer confidence in the contractor they are choosing. It also gives accredited members default entry onto the government backed Trustmark scheme which is a hugely powerful marketing tool. Member support is constantly being revised and increased. Currently the members toolbox, a library of literature and templates that enable members to be professional and compliant, is being overhauled and updated. For the first time in history a set of landscaping standards is being developed to assist members in their quoting and to use as a selling tool when talking to clients. These standards will be a cornerstone in our inspection and complaints procedures, training initiatives, our bespoke apprenticeship scheme and WorldSkills UK competitions.

To build a landscaping community to help businesses develop within the sector.

It was Mark Gregory who first championed the APL  community, with Ken White further developing the initiative. Now, each year, Phil Tremayne organises over 70 meetings which are held in 14 separate regions with more being planned. The meetings provide networking opportunities and peer to peer support and for many members are worth the membership fee alone. Many meetings are attended by SGD members and other designers and part of our strategy is to further develop these relationships.

To continue and further develop our training initiatives for both young and established landscaping businesses.

The cluster meetings often enable the APL to identify other areas where members are looking for support. One such initiative is Our Business Development Programme. A 4 day course developed by Ken White to enable delegates to create a business plan under expert guidance which is then critiqued by industry leaders. It has been a resounding success with the next course scheduled for Oct, Nov and Dec 2018. 

4 years ago the APL responded to the chronic shortage of trained young landscapers by developing its own laser-focussed apprenticeship scheme. The scheme is unique. Aside from the regular on site assessment and coursework there is a series of 8 week-long block releases over 20 months where the apprentices totally immerse themselves in practical learning with unprecedented industry involvement at every stage. The scheme has so far delivered 32 qualified apprentices into our industry. There are places available for the 2019/189 intake, but they go fast! Aside from our apprentices the APL also supports the ‘Go Landscape’ initiative and will continue to do so when asked. We are also the Worlds Skills UK Landscaping organising partner. This intensive competition is  where some of  the best young landscapers can pitch their talents against each other. Its not for the faint hearted but the APL are committed to this again in 2018. Finally our newest initiative is to launch the Young Landscapers of the Year award at BBC Gardeners Worlds Live. Two teams of young apprentices will construct two gardens designed by Diarmuid Gavin which will be judged to show standard, but then receive an extra level of WSUK judging to truly drill down on the best construction.

The APL is currently working on a series of one day seminars for start-ups and smaller businesses. Delivered in the popular ‘TED’ Talk style, these seminars will be punchy, informative and essential for any small business. We will also soon be announcing our 2nd seminar for the year “Getting Mature”. This is the final of the set of four, which will this time be plant focused.

To develop and maintain income streams whose revenues can be used to support the above.

It’s important to reiterate that the APL and indeed the HTA are not for profit organisations. We are not driven by the need to make money. Aside from our members annual fees we also have some fantastic and supportive sponsors for our headline events and our courses and seminars are designed to generate a small surplus. Everything is reinvested back into the Association to help us continue to deliver our service to you.

These are genuinely exciting times for the APL, with Rod Winrow as the new Chairman and a committee that is bubbling with talent and enthusiasm,  assisted as ever  by APL General Manager Phil Tremayne.

The APL remains  committed to supporting it’s members through a wide and ever increasing range of initiatives and is always open to any suggestions of further support.

For further information contact the APL at either  or