Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden

06/07/2022 - 15:18

JEAMIE HENDRICKX wants to create an oasis of greenery in every garden so that people can relax at home in these hectic and busy times.

Why did you become a landscape architect?

Studying landscape architecture was a logical choice for me because I want to make people happy with their own little green spot, where they can relax and unwind from this busy society. Where they can also dream away and enjoy or relive a memory of their favourite holiday destination. I love to let people discover what is possible with the right colour combinations of plants, and this in combination with many wonderful fragrances.

I want to bring out that ultimate feeling in all gardens. After all, each garden has its own story, with its own identity or history.

During my studies at the Erasmus School in Jette, I was already working with passion, it was as if I ended up in a sweet shop of materials, plants, ... I already made my own selections that I still carry with me in my vision. The training flew by.

Do you work alone?

My company is now ten years old, a good reason to celebrate. I employ one man, because like everywhere it is difficult to find good staff. I suspect that people often underestimate the job of a good landscaper. He needs to have a diverse skillset in order to be able to do all the required jobs. Techniques and methods change very quickly, so we need to update our knowledge every year.

What is a disadvantage for some is that it is not a 9-to-5 job and that we peak when the weather is nice, when everyone is enjoying a nice BBQ. And during rough winters we literally fall into hibernation. But the collegiality is the best, and it is wonderful working outside in nature. And I don't think you can find a more varied job. So, you don't get stuck in a rut. After all, we are the people who can make the difference in our changing climate. And the feeling you get when a garden is finished is really addictive.

I have noticed that the respect for landscapers and landscape architects has grown in recent years. Their work is no longer limited to planting lawns or simply maintaining a garden. People now also see their garden as a real living space, just like a kitchen or living room. And I think the corona crisis has also given us an extra push. Why travel when you can enjoy your own garden all year round?

When we were working during the lockdown, our customers also saw that our job is more than just mowing the lawn.

From the start I tell people with a lot of emphasis that planting the garden is but the beginning. Maintenance of the garden is as important. I also take this into account when designing a garden.

How do you stay on top of innovations?

Having three heads (laughter). It is innovating every year. Competitors become more and more collegial and collaborative. We also learn from each other. It is better to carry out a project together and divide the work than to get into trouble. After all, everyone has their own specialities. Teamwork makes the dream work.

What do you find important in your work?

I like to tell a story that suits the clients. And you can only do that when you get to know the clients better and listen to who they are. Every customer has their own story, just like the garden. And if you can combine those stories, a magic of inestimable value often emerges.

Recently, I was allowed to build a new swimming pond, but there was an old tree there that had survived three generations. The tree was old and sick but nevertheless it was a sensitive issue. Then you have to speak as a human being and not as a garden architect. Finally, we planted a new tree for future generations.

And let a garden be a garden. The imperfection is often the perfection of that garden. I think my job is to inspire people and make them think out of the box. Copy-paste is not in my vocabulary.

As a landscaper, I see it as my job to advise people and help them find their way through their sometimes endless wish list. I always filter this list down to its essence. “All you need is less”, is what I always say, and a garden evolves with the client. Then we can let our creativity loose to write a new chapter.

What is your favourite plant?

The list is perhaps too long to mention here, but I have an enormous love for roses and perennials, and grasses in combinations with southern plants such as Agapanthus, Magnolia grandiflora, Quercus ilex. I love plants that can tolerate the 'changing climate'. We no longer live in 1990 with boxwood and hydrangeas. I always try to make a good selection of plants that can withstand various extremes, such as prolonged drought. You will often find large groups of the same plants in my designs because this often reinforces the simplicity and peace within a garden and allows each plant its moment to show off in the garden.

What is the cost price of a city garden?

The cost price of a city garden depends on the customer's wishes, of course. We can lay out a nice city garden from 25.000€. But I do not like to put a price tag on it. Everything depends on the materials, the plants and so much more... Many things are not visible, such as soil preparation or the use of TerraCottem. But I always compare it to building a house. You should never save on your foundation because the disaster afterwards is often difficult to repair. Sometimes I get the comment that the preparatory work does cost a lot of money, but then it's up to us, as professionals, to explain it correctly and then it usually works out well.

For example, about TerraCottem I often get the comment that it is not a cheap product, but then I show them what they can save in the long run. I tell them about how it works and let TerraCottem swell in a glass of water. I explain in detail why I use it. Customers are grateful because the results are fantastic.

With Terracottem, I save up to 50 per cent on watering. We often arrive at a new site where the grass is completely withered, not able to recover from a heat wave. I then explain to the client that TerraCottem forms a natural buffer, that it retains water and nutrients, so that the plants or grass can make use of this in the event of a prolonged drought and restore more quickly.

All the sprinkler systems and soil drilling give me the creeps. Look what happens to the foundations of the houses on the French border, they sag and cracks appear. And this is because we are draining the soil layers. Water is the new gold. Use it wisely and carefully. With TerraCottem you can keep watering to a minimum and you don't need to drill the soil. Let the plant look for its water and adjust your planting accordingly. That is my message. Plants are just like children. If you spoil them too much, they won't even bother to grow into strong plants.

And after all, a garden is not a painting. A disease or fungus may suddenly appear and something will die. Mother Nature is still the boss. And it is better to cooperate with it than to go against it.

Creating a garden comes at a cost, but so does maintaining it, that's what I always tell people.

How did you get to know TerraCottem?

Via Tjeu Vandezande of Disaghor Dockx in Mechelen, Belgium. He once gave me a sample. I was looking for an all-in product because I want as little products as possible in my stock. He gave me a very good explanation and literally said: "It is not the cheapest product, but not much is needed for a good result". I tried it out and after a year my projects were already well under way. The city garden that I won a prize with was already mature after two years. The jury did not understand how it was possible to achieve this result in such a short time.

I have been using it for four years in all my projects. There is always a tub of TerraCottem in my van. Even in small plantings I mix TerraCottem into the soil. I am below 5% failure rate. If something goes wrong, it's usually because the clients haven't watered for weeks.

I mainly use the TerraCottem universal but I recently saw on your website that there are other soil conditioners in your range. I am definitely going to give the TerraCottem arbor a try. I find the tubs very handy. They can be stacked easily and there is less spillage.

Some colleagues do not prescribe soil conditioners to save money. I tell my clients if you can't afford foundations don't build a house. This also applies to a garden.

Tips to combat climate change?

Ensure biodiversity and shade in the garden, plant the right tree or many perennials. In large gardens, you can work with a perennial flower meadow that requires little work but is also a lot of fun for the insects. I always say: respect nature and the seasons and choose plants that can cope with climate change. And let a garden be a garden. It doesn't have to be an immaculate picture 24 hours a day. Let it live.

We need to green Europe and this will be a big challenge. We have to inform the customers correctly and every garden counts, from small to large. And we should not forget the public spaces in Belgium either, because there is still a lot of potential there. We should make our voice heard more loudly. That is my opinion, because there is still too much paving and the love of concrete should stop in public spaces. Create open spaces where the squares are full of proper trees and the large planters are flourishing... And perhaps we should look a little more to neighbouring countries and take off our blinkers. After all, you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

For the past year, I have been on the board of VTA Flemish Landscaper, an organisation that holds a competition for landscapers every year. It is the ultimate opportunity to show what they can do - from city gardens to park gardens, to young talent - enough categories to enter. And the great thing about the competition is that you also get to meet many other colleagues and help build a platform for our sector to spread knowledge as widely as possible.

Your dream garden?

My dream garden consists of organic shapes that take you away and let you discover places where you can relax or enjoy a good meal with friends. In my dream garden, cosiness and simplicity are the order of the day. And every season you have to discover something new. Don't forget the sweet scents of Tuscan jasmine or roses. They make you dream of southern places. I love that. But the ideal dream garden is different for everyone, of course. Which is good, because otherwise it would just be boring. And in every garden, big or small, there should definitely be a tree. Because during heat waves, everyone likes a bit of shade. And trees not only protect us from the heat, they also protect the plants in your garden. So, plant a tree!

Your most challenging project?

The project where I won the Audience Award at the Flemish Landscaper. A project where I was given carte blanche but the theme was Provence, because the clients had lost their heart to the south of France. The difficulty lay in the fact that all the materials had to go through the house, and with one tricky detail: the inner garden is on an underground car park, so we had a planting depth of barely 60 cm. The existing soil had to be recovered to keep the cost down. So, tackling the soil structure and water buffering was a must. Therefore, I mixed TerraCottem with an intensive roof garden substrate to get this in balance and to give the plantings a perfect start with the necessary nutrients.

Despite the busy environment and a multitude of neighbours, the owners enjoy a year-round holiday feeling with the necessary privacy.

You are very active online. On which platforms exactly?

The busiest platform is Instagram. There you can follow the ins and outs of my work. And I regularly post useful tips for my followers. My motto is 'What you see is what you get'. There are also the fun videos where I sometimes let loose on Joe Fm's (Belgian radio) Kwartier Plezier, which are occasionally shared by Sven and Anke, which bring in some nice customers.

Instagram is also a bit like my e-book of subcontractors, suppliers and so on. This is how I expand my network. It is an interesting platform for making contacts and sharing your own projects and receiving reactions. There are so many of us, and I also like to look at photos of projects of my competitor colleagues because you can always learn from each other.

If you see something online regularly then you remember it better, it's the same with your products.

My Instagram is the main platform, but I also have Facebook and an extensive website where people can view my projects.

How do you see the future?

Very positive. We are going to be able to do even more for the new climate standards and we are going to be able to help people make holidays in their own gardens fun and exciting. Because let's face it, with all those expensive prices, it's nice not to have to flee abroad or to brave those long queues and enjoy your own garden instead with possibly a plunge in your pool. If I had to choose between a 14-day holiday abroad or a 365-day holiday at home, my choice is easily made.

More information about Jeamie?

Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden
Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden
Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden
Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden
Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden
Project in the spotlight: an oasis of greenery in every garden

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