By Chris Myers
RHS Gold Medal Winning Designer, TV Presenter, Off Grid Dweller
As any garden designer or landscaper will tell you, what we do involves the use and understanding of a vast amount of skills.
Landscape creation often requires building work, joinery, groundworks and electrical installations, all of which come together to provide the platform we plantsmen initially set out to work upon.
The ability to work with such varying skills has put me in good stead for things that crop up, both in and out of my working world.
I have found myself drawing on an understanding of construction, joinery and electrics as I continue to renovate my off-grid home in the Yorkshire Dales.
These skills have also helped me adapt the work myself and my team carry out to suit a world outside of the domestic garden.
One example of this cropped up about five years ago.
The events team at Bolton Abbey, an estate in the Yorkshire Dales, were looking to enhance one of their woodland walks by somehow making it fun for families – whatever the weather.
The general idea was that children would enjoy it so much, they would take the adults for a walk, a break from the norm, with no more muttering of those immortal words -ARE WE THERE YET?!
The idea was great, but the estate needed to find someone to physically make it happen! Having worked with the them in the past, they sounded me out for my ideas.
There wasn’t much cash to invest and, as with many new projects, it had to prove its worth.
A bit of ‘outside the box’ thinking was required.
As an attempt to keep costs down, but make the walk, quirky we decided to look into making obstacles / playthings for children to do whilst on the walk using materials that were readily found on the estate.
As is so often the case these days, some internet browsing provided me with inspiration and, following a couple of trips out to adventure playgrounds, I had what I needed to come up with some plans for the activities.
An array of obstacles was agreed on and the materials were sourced; some of them from stock already stored on the estate, and other bits and pieces brought in through reclamation and outdoor activity companies
Then, using our many skills acquired through landscaping. we started to make things, and the Welly Walk was born!
One of the biggest challenges was creating the walk’s activities.
The footpath in question runs alongside the river Wharfe and is quite narrow and winding at times, and the gear we used to make the equipment was heavy and cumbersome – and we had to somehow get it into the wood!
But with some more ‘thinking outside the box’, we got the stuff there.
Some of it was carried across the river during low water, some taken by hand or in wheelbarrows and some of the really heavy bits were moved in a track barrow!
The first install took almost three weeks and, once complete, we could only hope that it would be a success.
Thankfully, it was, and we are now in year five.
The features are taken in each year before winter, which allows us to carry out any maintenance before they are reinstalled for the following summer.
Experience has allowed us to shave the install time down to one week and each year we try to add something new to the walk.
It is such a heart-warming feeling to see children running ahead of their parents, smiles beaming, and cries of ‘RACE YOU TO THE NEXT ONE!’
It’s great to see families out enjoying the natural environment, experiencing nature in a new way – and where better than in a woodland beside a river (and in Yorkshire, of course!).
Posted 28th Nov 12:11pm
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We’re delighted to have collected our first batch of honey, after installing an on-site apiary earlier this year.
After recognising the important role that bees play in the UK’s natural eco-system, we partnered with Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers Association to offer the insects a home at a new apiary, constructed in May.
The British bee population has declined at an alarming rate in recent years, by a third since 2007.
Contributions to the decline include recent wet summers, which have prevented bees from searching out pollen, and environmental changes, such as the increased use of pesticides in farming, alongside the depletion of natural habitats.
Bees are a vital part in the world’s food production, as studies have revealed that around a third of the world’s food is pollination dependent.
The new apiary has already provided a boost to the local bee population, and several jars of honey have now been collected.
Each bee can make half a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, meaning it takes approximately 180 bees to fill a full jar.
Our group managing director, Graham Richardson, said: “The installation of the on-site apiary has proven a hugely worthwhile exercise. It’s our duty to protect and nurture our eco-system, and this is a small way that we can do just that.”
Posted 28th Nov 11:57am
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We’ve grown and supplied more than 2.5 million trees during the last 12 months, placing us as one of the UK’s biggest net contributors to the nation’s tree population.
This week is National Tree Week (25 November – 3 December) which is organised by the UK Tree Council to mark the start of the winter tree planting season and aims to encourage communities to do something positive for their local treescape.
Just 13% of the UK’s total land area is covered in trees, compared with an average elsewhere in the EU of about 35%. In England, the figure is just 10%.
It is estimated that we have grown and supplied a total of 110 million trees and hedging plants since our chairman John Richardson purchased the business in 1964, and we are continuing to supply plants and trees to high-profile projects up and down the country.
The variety of trees grown ranges from forest trees and woodland plantings, to smaller hawthorn and fringe hedging species.
Our group managing director, Graham Richardson, said: “National Tree Week provides an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the many benefits trees bring, including improved air quality, flash flood prevention and shelter for wildlife, and acknowledges the importance of protecting and nurturing British woodland.”
“The benefits of strong woodland coverage in the UK are clear, not least of all because wood is an essential material in construction, and we are proud to play such a significant role in boosting the nation’s tree population.”
Posted 27th Nov 4:06pm
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Johnsons of Whixley will be in attendance at the upcoming BALI National Landscape Awards.
The Awards will be held on Friday 1st December at Grosvenor House in London.
Organised by the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) and delivered in association with Horticulture Week, the BALI National Landscape Awards promise to be a phenomenal event.
The Awards are recognised as the biggest in the industry calendar, and celebrate the hard work, quality, commitment and successes of BALI members, including categories for soft and hard landscaping, design and maintenance.
Receiving a BALI National Landscape Award is one of the landscape industries’ highest accolades.
We’re looking forward to heading down to London for the event and spending the evening in the company of our colleagues, and Awards headline sponsor, Green-tech, with whom we are sharing a table.
Posted 23rd Nov 9:28am
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Johnsons of Whixley currently has vacancies for three positions:
Key Accounts Manager
This vacancy is for a driven and proven sales professional, who will assume the role as Key Accounts Manager and have responsibility for annual sales of £2m.
We are also seeking to appoint an Apprentice Administrator, who will be involved in a wide variety of tasks in a busy and modern office. The successful applicant will train as they work and, as they gain the relevant qualifications and experience, discover further fantastic opportunities within the business.
General Nursery Worker Apprentices
We are also looking to recruit General Nursery Worker Apprentices to work in a busy operational environment, and learn the nurserymen’s craft.
All three vacancies offer an opportunity to join a long-established North Yorkshire horticultural business that has experienced tremendous success during the last five decades, and enjoyed further growth in recent years.
The roles offer great job satisfaction and would be perfect for those who are environmentally-conscious and have a love for the great outdoors.
Johnsons of Whixley is located 11 miles equidistant between York and Harrogate, is easily accessible from the A1, and served by a railway station that is a two-minute walk from the head office site.
For further information, contact Johnsons of Whixley head office on 01423 330 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted 21st Nov 9:03am
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Johnsons of Whixley has completed a publicity hat-trick of items in the national media.
Our garden centre sales manager, Mark Reynard, featured on Channel 5’s national news bulletin in September, as part of the programme’s coverage of Brexit.
Mark commented on the important role that workers from across Europe play within our business, and shared an insight into what an exit from the
European Union might mean for Johnsons and the wider horticultural industry.
Earlier this month, we featured in The Sun’s Saturday magazine.
The article talked about the prominent role family-run garden centres continue to play in the era of online shopping.
We’re proud of our relationship with garden centres up and down the country, and it was great to see our work to support them recognised in this way.
Finally, Johnsons products were featured in the recent broadcast of the DIY SOS Children in Need special.
Alongside other volunteer organisations and individuals, we offered our goods and services free of charge to help re-build a community centre that assists teenagers preparing to leave foster care.
We supplied a variety of plant products and helped transform the space around the new building.
We’d like to thank Channel 5, The Sun and the BBC for their excellent coverage of our business in recent months, as well as our friends in the trade and local media, with whom we enjoy a great ongoing relationship.
Posted 17th Nov 3:55pm
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Johnsons of Whixley will be in attendance at the upcoming Landscape Institute Awards.
The Landscape Institute Awards will be held on Thursday 23rd November at The Brewery in Central London.
The event, which will be hosted by best-selling author Bill Bryson, recognises the outstanding work of Landscape Institute members, who promote excellence in practice, and raise the profile of the profession.
Each year, the Awards Ceremony celebrates projects that protect, conserve and enhance the natural and built environment; and that demonstrate the highest levels of innovation, skill, and commitment to values such as green infrastructure, health and well-being, and natural capital.
The highest accolade, the LI President’s Award, is given to the project that the serving president believes has made the most positive contribution to society.
All at Johnsons are looking forward to spending the night in the company of the night’s guests and nominees, and our colleagues at Green-tech Landscaping Suppliers, with whom we’ll be sharing a table.
Posted 15th Nov 4:25pm
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Congratulations to Corrina Mills who has joined the sales team as a Sales administrator from her previous role a Receptionist administrator. The role will include assisting the sales reps with quotes, telephone calls, logging complaints and much more, Well done Corrina.
Posted 15th Nov 11:08am
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Not sure what size tree you need this bare root and root ball season? Check out our tree size guide above.
Note: Girth is measured as circumference at 1m high. For example a 6-8cm Girth Tree is a hefty broom handle thickness.
Posted 15th Nov 10:58am
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There are lots of compelling reasons to plant a bare root or root ball hedge, see some of our reasons below.
Posted 7th Nov 12:05pm
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Our Garden Centre Sales division has supplied approximately 64 trolleys worth of stock to The Arium in Leeds, a new City Council led initiative to provide horticultural support to all areas of Leeds.
The Arium is the name for the newly-opened Leeds Parks Plant Nursery, which will grow more than three million plants a year for the city’s parks, roundabouts, flower beds, school grounds and other locations across the city.
The new nursery opened for business on Thorner Lane in the Scarcroft area of the city on Saturday 7 October and has enjoyed excellent footfall and levels of interest during its open weeks of trade.
The Arium is open to members of the general public and facilities on site include a café, shop and outdoor children’s play area.
The products we’ve supplied include a broad selection from across our range.
Our garden centre sales manager, Mark Reynard, said: “The Garden Centre Sales side of our business has enjoyed a relationship spanning more than 10 years with Leeds City Council, while commercially the two parties have worked together for more than 40 years.
“It’s pleasing to be able to further enhance an already strong relationship by helping the Council kick-start their new project at The Arium. We wish them every success during their first year of trade, and look forward to working closely with them in the future.”
The Arium’s senior supervisor, Lee Cawood, said: “As a council, we’ve enjoyed an excellent relationship with Johnsons of Whixley for generations.
They’ve been a key supplier to our amenity projects for a number of those years, and we’re delighted to be partnering with them for The Arium.
“The level of service and the overall quality of product that we’ve received from Johnsons has been first class, and we look forward to further strengthening our relationship with the business in the years ahead.”
Posted 1st Nov 11:16am
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Our Production Manager Ian Nelson has shared his thoughts on robotics in production nurseries.
“Will robots replace people in production nurseries? Eventually – Yes. When – not so sure.
This is an area where we have a lot of interest and we have considered the infrastructure that would be suitable to support robotics. It’s something of an on-going project here and I’ve spent time with scientists and researchers who know quite a bit about the potential.
Where sophisticated labour-saving mechanical engineering ends and robotics begins is a little foggy to me. Both disciplines progress quickly. So, just like with all technology, there is the big decision of when you ‘jump in’ and build new systems to take advantage of, but by the time you do that, things will have moved on further.
The commercial motivation to develop robotic tools for hardy ornamentals specifically isn’t there but our trade will piggy-back on developments in other trades such as factories, fruit and veg production.
What we do is not complicated. Most of the tasks are repetitive and you always seek greater product uniformity. A crop being 100% ‘average’ being one that is a mix of brilliant and ok. The human aspect does not lend itself to consistency.
Almost all of our jobs currently require physical input and people are limited to how much they can do and for how many hours they can do it for. The robot may not be quite so bothered about clocking-off time or taking a tea break.
Right now ‘touchy-feely’ skills are still needed to make the best crops but with advances in ‘imaging’ and subsequent understanding by robots of those messages then 90% of those are probably replaceable. The mechanical and information technologist will become more essential than the nursery-worker in making plants.
This scenario leaves me with a mix of excitement for the potential production efficiencies and a deep concern for those currently making a living in the business.”
Posted 1st Nov 11:13am
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Set in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, why not visit our nursery to discover what we have to offer?