My journey into landscaping and the creation of Touchstone Garden Services
It would seem fitting that my first blog should introduce both myself and Touchstone Garden Services. I hope to explain a little bit about who I am and the motivation behind Touchstone. I apologise if I tend to waffle on a bit but I am a landscaper and not a writer after all! Here is a somewhat brief history of my journey into landscaping.
My name is Samuel Graydon and I’m a landscape gardener with over 20 years of experience in both landscaping and construction. I was born in Winchester, grew up in Fair oak and attended Fair Oak Infants, Junior and Senior schools. After leaving school in 1992 I began working with my brother building conservatories and completing other small construction projects. A few years passed and I realised that my interests lay more in the gardening and landscaping side of things so I looked for an apprenticeship and in 1995 began working for a landscaping company in Southampton.
My new boss was an excellent mentor and very quickly I learned many skills that serve me well to this day. Within months I was manageing my own garden maintenance round which involved looking after both commercial and domestic clients. I was also working hard on large scale landscaping projects for construction companies. After 3 happy years learning my trade I eventually had the desire to move on and expand my knowledge and skills. I needed to move out of the comfort zone I was in and grow.
I began working on a large landscape construction project at The Old Rectory in Oxfordshire and was employed as the Head Gardener in charge of the initial works and long term care of the site. I found this to be a huge responsibility at the age of 23 and although I made more than one mistake I rose to the challenge. Whilst there I also completed my RHS Diploma in Horticulture on a day release to Hampden Hall Agricultural college (which has sadly been demolished to create new housing!). My skills and knowledge grew alongside the The Old Rectory itself. It was a special time for me and a very unique experience, probably one that will not be repeated. After 7 years at The Old Rectory, and with the garden well and truly established, I decided it was time to move on.
I returned to Hampshire and began working for a variety of local landscaping companies as a sub contractor to learn all I could and develop new skills. It was an interesting few years and whilst I learnt a lot, the experiences I had ultimately left me disappointed and unsatisfied. The majority of companies I worked for (you will no doubt have heard of many of them!) had no real love of their work and treated their staff terribly. It was all about the bottom line with money being the primary motivator. This attitude filtered down through the ranks and I often found myself working alongside under paid and poorly motivated staff with very little training and no real interest in learning new skills. It was just a job for them. An alarming amount of the workers were on short term summer contracts and had no real prospects. This is a huge problem in landscaping and one I will blog about in more detail some other time.
However, things weren’t all bad and eventually I found a company where I felt I could make a difference. A combination of my extensive experience, high levels of motivation and focused attitude didn’t go unnoticed and within months I was made manager of the company. I was in my element and my enthusiasm knew no bounds. Immediately I began retraining the staff who had previously received very little input, introduced new organisational methods (I love to organise) and passed on new practical techniques to both the grounds maintenance and landscaping sides of the business. It was soon noticed by many of our long term clients that standard of work was far better.
So I asked myself, if the standard of work has improved, why are we losing contracts?
It soon became clear that all my efforts were being wasted. The office was failing badly by not presenting a professional image. The phone wasn’t being answered, enquiries weren’t being followed up fast enough or in some cases not at all. A lack of professionalism permeated the office and this was the first point of contact for new customers. I called a meeting and explained my concerns. Suffice to say my thoughts weren’t appreciated and whilst I stayed on as manager for many more months things were never the same. More importantly nothing was being done to improve the situation. I knew that no matter how hard I worked there was a limit to how much difference I could make. The reason I am sharing this with you is not to bad mouth my past employer but because this was a pivotal moment for me. It became obvious that rather than push for change I should go my own way and take responsibility for my own future.
And so I created Touchstone Garden Services. Touchstone is a culmination of all my life experiences so far, both professional and personal. It reflects me as a person and it embodies qualities that I hold dear on a personal level. I believe that the little details make all the difference. From first contact with us to the completion of the work you require I want your experience to be an excellent one. My staff feel the same way and I ensure this by investing in them and paying them fairly. The results achieved from a poorly motivated staff are something I want no part of. Nothing other than a professional and expert service is acceptable. It is not for a love of money that I have created Touchstone Garden Services, it is for the love of seeing something done correctly and professionally. Touchstone is an entity that I am continually improving and refining and that brings me enormous satisfaction.
I will end this blog now. Thank you for reading.
Owner, Touchstone Garden Services.