Green space masters


Espaso Verde do things a little differently. Even the name, which roughly translates from Spanish as green space, is unusual. As is the way they accelerated their growth by making the most of a bad situation


It’s normally a bad thing when the person running the construction side of a business injures himself so badly in a mountain bike accident that he’s forced off the tools for three years.


For some operations, it could even be fatal.

But Espaso Verde, named due to the founder’s connection with South America, isn’t some businesses.

The Hawke’s Bay operation, owned and run by couple Jason and Charlotte Pedersen, has a pretty special set of skillsets and attitudes – even if they had to adjust things on the fly.

“After his accident, Jason had to learn how to use a computer! It was a huge change in our business, because he’d previously been outside managing projects,” says Espaso Verde Director and Landscape Designer Charlotte Pedersen.


As the Director, Construction Manager and Principal Estimator working across construction details and costings, Jason’s injury forced him to work with a keyboard and mouse instead of a hammer and saw. And while that brought its frustrating moments, Charlotte says it was the moment their company was forced into a change that benefitted everyone.

“Jason being away from the tools made us look at our business differently, and once we took a step back and did so, we experienced a pretty noticeable change in the level of our growth.”


But that’s not to say that Espaso Verde wasn’t doing well before that accident. After taking over the business from a previous employer at the end of 2007, the husband-and-wife team built up from a staff of just three (including themselves) to one that includes 19 – four design, three maintenance, two admin and 10 construction, four of whom are apprentices.

Cultivating a positive environment


Charlotte puts their success down to people and culture.


“We’d rather hire the right person for the job. You can train skill, but you can’t train personality.”


“We’re very lucky that we’ve got some amazing staff,” adds Jason. “In this industry, you can’t get to the end of a project without everyone working together, and I feel that side of our work is a real positive for us.”

To maintain that sense of togetherness, and to help avoid their staff being poached by rival firms, Espaso Verde give employees a day off on their birthday, offer flexible work arrangements and stopped working on Saturdays.

“It’s hard to turn down jobs,” admits Charlotte, “but working five days instead of six hasn’t really impacted our profit, and staff are happier, so it’s a win for us.”

“Plus, it’s such physical work,” adds Jason. “Rest is important! We don’t want our landscapers coming in tired and sore on a Monday.”

Designer landscapes from start to finish


One of the areas that helps the company stand out from the rest is its design process. Charlotte has a twinkle in her eye as she explains it.

“We never start a project without coming up with a really clear plan first. We handle everything ourselves – from which plants are the correct fit for the environment to the right materials – and then we built it ourselves, so each job ends up working to the set budget.”


“We also offer a price guarantee,” says Jason. “So, what we quote you is the price you’ll end up paying. As we handle design, construction and maintenance, you get the design that you paid for, and I think that’s a big advantage.”


Currently, most of Espaso Verde’s energy goes into residential work, but the projects that stand out most to Charlotte and Jason are a little different from a homeowner’s garden.


They’ve designed and built landscapes for a special needs school, a paediatric ward and taken on a school rebuild. All three projects had their challenges, but the rewards were well worth the effort.

"Our goal was to get rid of plastic environments and create beautiful natural spaces for children to learn and grow in. For example, the school wanted bright, visual elements, so we designed several different mosaics.


“Our hospital design included some really nice timber and native plants, which you don’t always see in clinical environments. The school rebuild was very cool, because we got to adapt an existing concept and then create elements such as a skateboard park and water play area.”

A network to be proud of

Last year, Espaso Verde took home gold and silver in the Residential Project – Landscape Design category at the Landscapes of Distinction awards and will try their luck again this time around. The company has been a Registered Master Landscaper (RML) member for the past three years and Charlotte says it’s already felt the benefit.


“RML is creating high standards and expectations and forcing people to implement good systems and improve the quality of their work, which is in line with our values, so we think it’s an awesome organisation to be a part of,” she says. “It also provides good networking opportunities. We can go to the meetings and talk to other people in the industry, which helps all of us adapt and change and grow.”


Landscaping isn’t an industry for everyone – and it was nearly taken away from Jason – but it’s clear that the Pedersens love it.

As Charlotte says: “What we do changes people’s lives, and how can you not love changing lives?”