I thought I would put together some words as we at Oxford Lawns and Gardens like many throughout the world are experiencing both life, and in the UK a Spring different to the norm. Coronavirus! It has been discussed over and over and will make up part of the Worlds history going forward. So what impact has it had on our little business?
Well to set the back ground, 2019 was what we can now call a ‘funny old year’ for the Company both within the business and with the illnesses of close relatives. Having been part of this business now for some 20 years I have had challenges before and you never know what’s around the corner, and 2019 we were certainly met with some big challenges. However, with the help of the amazing loyal team here at Oxford Lawns and Gardens, some of our clients who supported us in many different ways, family and friends we made it through. And yes as cliché as it may sound, we learnt many lessons, and this Spring has helped to mend a wounded feeling that was felt throughout the team, and those closest to us.
Spring came early this year and towards the end of a very wet but mild winter we were set with a program of planting, development, maintaining, and getting several of our gardens ready for public openings later in Spring. Each year these opening dates give us a deadline to work to where the gardens have to be as perfect as is possible for a day or two. By March coronavirus had hit, was here to stay, and the country was forced into lockdown to stop the spread. The evening of the 24th March after the Prime Ministers lockdown announcement I had my heart in my mouth, and thought this is it, that after 27 years of Oxford Lawns and Gardens trading and weathering last years storm, there’s no more. Those with businesses will know that the business is you, and you are the business and how fragile a small business is. I also have a feeling of legacy to keep it going. I phoned my team individually (this was before Zoom became the thing to do) and we discussed our concerns. All were keen to crack on in some shape or form and of course thankfully it was Spring and the gardens and plants were growing exponentially by the week.
We put in place a new working practice guided by Public Health England. Our gardens are large and we are able to carry on working whist easily practicing social distancing. We implemented strict rules including no tool sharing, no vehicle sharing, and of course extra hand washing! We involved our clients in the process and have kept them informed at all times. In some gardens our work load has increased as clients have requested vegetables to be grown. This in itself has been a challenge where there is no existing vegetable garden, and we have plants growing in large pots, gro-bags etc.
The open days have been cancelled and this has made our work feel so different. Gone is the last minute rush and we have been able to give proper time and effort to projects which in the past may have had to be overlooked or rushed to get the aesthetics right. I know the team have been less stressed, but not less hard working. We have also had more input from our clients who are working from home or residing in their country properties, and we feel that this has been a good thing. Our clients have been able to see how we work, the input we put in to their gardens, those jobs which take time but if you don’t see you wouldn’t know, those which are time consuming and technical, therefore there has been more of an appreciation of the skills involved in the day to day maintenance of their gardens. They have also been able to see their gardens change, as they do so very quickly at this time of year and appreciate this amazing gardening season. There have been of course a few awkward questions from those who are not so knowledgeable but we have been able to provide the explanations face to face rather than by email. The beautiful weather we have experienced since March has given a feeling of summer days and there have been questions about why some plants are not in full bloom yet, but of course to the garden it is still spring and it will not be rushed, and thank goodness after the several hard frosts we encountered mid May. For some clients we are trying to instil the idea of patience, to enjoy what is there today, and be excited about what may be there tomorrow. They now have time to sit and enjoy the garden, watching it change day by day.
So I finish by wanting to thank the Oxford Lawns and Gardens clients for their understanding and appreciation. And of course to the amazing team, Mark, James, Lucy, Jenny, Becky, Neil and Paul. We have also been able to welcome back Katy who has been able to cover and help out when needed. Thank you, you are all what makes Oxford Lawns and Gardens the Company it is, a close knit, supportive, friendly and professional team.