How We Got To Where We Are – Part 2

Tuesday, 03 January 2012

In February 2011 I wrote a blog post detailing how we got to where we are here at Vialii Garden Design. The post was getting a bit lengthy so I opted to round the post off and promised to follow up with Part 2. A mere 10 months later Part 2 is finally here. Apologies for the delay.

How we got to where we are: We are lucky to have a job where we can transform gardens

We are lucky to have a job where we can transform gardens

In a similar vein to the beginning of an episode of the compelling, if somewhat confusing, TV series ‘Lost’, we shall start by saying in a deep and gravelly voice “Previously on Vialii Garden Design”. Then we run through an abridge version of what went before.


A good friend’s mum sadly passed away last summer. She was a lovely woman who was taken too young and is sorely missed. It brought to mind however something that I’d neglected to elaborate on in the first part of this tale. It was the untimely passing of my own mum(1) that caused me to assess my life choices and ultimately spurred me on to quit my engineering job. My mum’s death caused me to think long and hard about what I wanted from my life and how I wanted to go about it. I asked myself if I was happy in what I was doing. The answer was no.

In retrospect I now question whether or not I was thinking 100% rationally though. It’s not a stretch to think that I was perhaps suffering from some level of depression which would naturally cause me to question my happiness at work. Whatever the reasons though, the decision I made was the decision I made and thankfully my chosen path has been more successful than I could ever have imagined, and in so many more ways than just financial.

Teetering steps into garden design

I had started offering garden designs to clients as freebies towards the end of 2006. I loved the planning of gardens, studying the practicalities of space and solving the client’s garden issues. I enjoyed sketching the proposals and then pulling together the final CAD drawings and deemed it as more of a hobby than a paying business.

In May 2007 I met my now wife, Jill. Obviously, we share many interests and passions (otherwise the wedding would have been a big mistake) but foremost amongst these is a love of gardens and gardening. Prior to us getting together Jill already enjoyed gardening. So much so, in fact, she had undertaken a Diploma in Garden Design.

Jill and I on our wedding day, in our garden of course!

Jill and I on our wedding day, in our garden of course!

We started considering the design of gardens together and it soon became apparent that we worked really well as a team and that there was potential in pursuing garden design more formally. We planned things carefully, created a dedicated website and launched Vialii Garden Design as a separate service from the garden maintenance business. More importantly, we agreed a pricing structure for the garden design work. As opposed to offering free designs with the hope that this would lead to the garden build we opted to offer designs for an agreed fee with the client having no obligation to use Vialii Garden Design for the build (although we obviously hoped they would). As it transpires, the process of getting to know clients and their gardens and, more importantly, having the clients get to know us has resulted in the majority of our gardens leading to builds too.

One of our garden designs

One of our garden designs

[[image:blog/blog-review2012-2.jpg=One of our garden designs]]

Why we work

Jill and I have found a delightful balance with our approaches to garden design. As I also build gardens, I tend to plan a garden with a practical mind (sometimes too practical). Jill, however, approaches a garden with a more conceptual, creative take on things. What tends to happen is that we meet somewhere in the middle putting together designs that are both well-planned but have a real style and character.  Jill encourages me to learn new skills and to have confidence in my own abilities.

Some four and a half years on now, we have formally separated the design and landscaping business from the maintenance business(2). We have designed and built some thirty gardens and have gotten to know some lovely families along the way. We still love the challenge and process of garden designing and still take immense satisfaction upon completion of a build. We’re constantly looking for ways to stretch ourselves, in both design and landscaping. We still get nervous when we present initial concepts to clients and are delighted that our proposals really hit the mark.

One of the many gardens we have designed and built

One of the many gardens we have designed and built

The future

In the immediate future, our lives are going to be turned upside down with the arrival of our first child (and Vialii’s latest apprentice!) sometime in January. It’s another challenge that we’re both relishing and cannot wait for the adventure to begin. If that wasn’t going to make us busy enough we hope to continue the steady growth of all facets of the business. We’re hoping to recruit new team members for both the maintenance and landscaping side of things, a new van needs to be purchased and we’re setting targets to continue to grow the businesses steadily. It’s all very exciting. I’ll try to keep you posted on how we get on.

Thanks for reading.

Michael & all at Vialii


(1)     Elizabeth Ann Maxwell Burt was 54 when she succumbed to the ravages of kidney cancer. I still miss her terribly…

(2)     On paper, garden maintenance and garden landscaping are fairly similar but in practise they are distinctly different business models which necessitated the separation of the businesses.

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