With today’s more transient workforce, it’s less common to be dishing out long-service awards on a regular basis, but in the past two months staff at GP Plantscape have had cause to celebrate not just one but two 20-year tenures.
Last week, Drew Walker, installations and nursery supervisor, reached the two-decade milestone, hot on the heels of, Lex Kennedy, interior landscaping manager.
In the midst of planting 27 troughs with artificial foliage for a Newcastle bar, Drew chats to me about his career in commercial horticulture.
At the tender age of 16, he started his working life at Gilchrist Plants in the exterior department, cutting grass moving over to the interior department to work twelve-hour night shifts, four years later.
It wasn’t the easiest shift he tells me: “I was maintaining Cameron Toll Shopping Centre, Waverley Shopping Centre and then , Enoch’s came on as well, on constant night shifts.
“We would be out at 5 at night and not back until the same time the next morning.
“We were doing high level balconies, they aren’t there now, using a big electric cradle, swinging about on this thing held by ropes – I couldn’t do it now.”
In 2001, a few years after Rentokil took over Gilchrist Plants, Drew left to re-join the Gilchrist’s now at GP Plantscape. Initially he took up the post of interior service supervisor, taking up the installation supervisors post shortly after and remaining ‘put’ ever since.
So, what is it about installations that keeps the fifty-one-year-old enthralled?
“It’s the variety, every day is different.
“One day you could be out pressure washing slabs, the next day you could be planting up plants, spraying weedkiller or out and about installing and seeing the sites round the country – it’s not often you are doing the same thing two days in a row,” he says.
The son of a fruit grower, Drew feels at home in the nursery and working with plants. His father grew acres of strawberries, gooseberries, and raspberries in the fields around the house, with the greenhouse full of chrysanthemums and tomatoes. Today, the nursery man continues to grow his own salad vegetables in his spare time away from work and technical installations.
Drew recalls some of the more challenging jobs he has worked on, not the least of which was installing artificial hedges, several stories high, at the Glasshouse Hotel in Edinburgh.
He tells me: “They were big, heavy troughs that had to go on the balcony areas and the only access was using the lift.”
As I leave Drew to get back to planting the artificial ferns and grasses in containers for next weeks Newcastle project, it’s little wonder the Glasshouse job springs to mind. The finished planters are to be installed on a balcony bar, but for this project it’s delivery to the door only, where the installations team will be greeted by a crane onsite to hoist the troughs to their final resting place.
Jimmy Gilchrist, managing director, said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to both Drew and Lex for their dedication to GP Plantscape. Their combined knowledge and expertise is phenomenal and they have been integral in GP Plantscape’s success over the last 20 years.”
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