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RML veteran still going strong

Design and Garden Landscapes has been a member of the Registered Master Landscapers (RML) since it was called the New Zealand Landscape Guild nearly 30 years ago. As his business has developed, managing director Wayne Butson has seen the RML grow into an organisation that’s committed to advancing professional standards across the industry

Things were different for Wayne Butson in 1994. He had been a solo operator for three years and had just been accepted into the New Zealand Landscape Guild after being sponsored by a contact he made while working in a nursery in Pukerau.

“After completing my studies at Lincoln I worked for a couple of landscape construction firms and another nursery before going out on my own and joining the Guild,” says Wayne. “I’ve been a member ever since.”

Design and Garden Landscapes were born in 1991 but Wayne says his passion for the industry goes back further than that.

“I love plants, I always have. I love working with them, planting them, being around them and I really enjoy the design element of how things go together. I like to think I’m creative, and my skill is definitely in the softer elements of design, although I always enjoy watching our projects come together.”

With 12 staff on board boasting a diverse range of abilities, Wayne can afford to focus on his strengths and leave the rest up to his team.

Skills to develop stunning gardens

“We have a number of key people across the business with individual strengths in design, planting and construction. A lot of other companies might be strong in one area but weak in others, but we have people and experience for all aspects of garden design and construction.

“However, I pride myself on the strength of our design. We have excellent landscape architects that focus on putting some cool ideas together on paper, so the rest of the crew can build great gardens. We provide a whole service from start to finish and have everything designed and signed off by the client before a spade goes in the ground.”

Not only does Design and Garden Landscapes have skill on its side, but it’s also in the fortunate position of having highly

experienced staff who know their role inside and out.

Wayne says this is great for the business, and he does his best to create a positive work environment that encourages attrition.

“Some guys have been with us for more than 20 years, and that’s something we’re really proud of. We’re very family-oriented and we make sure we have fun as well. Having a good work culture is important, and you’ve got to pay people a fair wage so they feel appreciated for the work they do.”

Great culture, great landscapes

The quality of the staff and the culture Wayne has created is illustrated by Design and Garden’s presence at countless RML award ceremonies over the years, culminating in Landscape of the Year wins in 2010 and 2014.

“We really value the awards program,” adds Wayne. “Showing yourself off can be daunting at times but the awards provide such a great platform. Plus, it’s great for our staff to see that their peers love their work – they get such a kick out of it.”

However, Wayne says winning awards and being recognised by peers aren’t the only advantages of being an RML member.

“I’m passionate about landscaping. We need a united voice to represent the industry and RML provides that. I also think it’s great that new members can come on board, talk to people in the industry and not feel as though it’s a conflict of interest for them or their business.

“Even if people just discuss general knowledge such as construction details, or region-specific issues such as plant design and plant selection for specific sites, it’s all about enhancing our collective knowledge.” Wayne adds that members should really get involved with the organisation to maximise their return on investment.

“You really get out of it what you put into it. Getting to conferences and nominating yourself for awards has real benefits, as does being able to talk to like-minded people within our industry.”

Facing Challenges

With work booming, Design and Garden Landscapes is turning away jobs or asking clients to wait half a year before their job can start, which can be tricky.

“It’s hard telling people that we’re booked six months ahead but there’s not much we can do. We tend to focus all our resources on one job, then move onto the next, instead of taking on several at once.”

Part of the reason for the long wait is the under-supply of labour in landscaping, adds Wayne.

“The industry is so undersupplied, I don’t see a lot of new people coming through. Most firms take staff from other companies, and it’s what we do because there’s no new labour entering the workforce.“

Wayne says apprentices aren’t the answer for his company either, as his small team struggles to find the time to train people.

More left in the tank

Despite the challenges, Wayne is still in love with the industry and Design and Garden Landscapes is going from strength to strength.

With a highly-skilled workforce specialising in all areas of landscaping, a positive culture, a winning history and a healthy backlog of work, Wayne is committed to being a staple of the RML for many years to come.


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