2019 marks our 40th year in business. Let us take you back to where it all began.
After negotiating the raucous demands of selling goods in London’s Covent Garden Flower Market, Geoff Idle escaped to the country, largely unscathed.
At the age of 27, and with a new born baby on the way, the frenetic pace of market life gave way for a new job at the local garden centre near to his family home in Bexley, Kent.
After a few years learning the ropes (and more than a few plant names), and encouraged by his new employer, it wasn’t long before Geoff bought himself a little Honda Acty van and took the plunge to go it alone.
This was back in 1978. The vision: to grow a business specialising in the supply and maintenance of interior and exterior plant displays.
A year later, G.I. Landscapes was born. “Yes, it’s not the most imaginative name but it was borne out of necessity more than anything else,” says Geoff. “A neighbour of mine, John Clayton, who set up Leonard Lifts, had to put something down on a joint quote we were working on to win a grounds maintenance contract for a few hospitals in East London. So, I stuck with the name purely for convenience.”
Cold calling and word of mouth was the name of the game during that early period. And aided by his Dad, Fred Idle who worked a few days’ a week – and a switch from the Honda to a Mazda pick-up truck – Geoff won many jobs in the centre of London. Hairdressers, car showrooms, West End restaurants, and the offices of airline firms (not least Iran Air) all wanted on-trend interior plant displays. And G.I. Landscapes delivered.
The business continued to grow during the 1980s. The grounds maintenance and landscaping side of the company became established, and Geoff took on his first full-time staff in Michael Garland.
The period also saw the company’s foray into the estate agency market, winning a new contract to supply plants and a maintenance service for Jacksons Estate Agency, a burgeoning property firm that was about to engulf the South East.
By the late 1980s, Geoff and his family had moved out of Bexley to Wilmington, on the outskirts of Dartford. The site maintenance work grew thanks to an ongoing relationship with Crest Homes. Peter Stokes (senior) joined the ranks part-time.
And now, a team of three women (including Geoff’s wife Diane), and two small vans were patrolling London and the South East, responsible for looking after the plants in some 50 Jacksons high street stores.
The 1990s saw another shift in the evolution of the business. Changing fashions (coupled with a general panic about corporate health and safety) saw a scaling back of interior plants. Now, the focus had switched.
The G.I. team, which now included Geoff’s eldest son, 16 year-old Adam, spent more time designing, developing and maintaining show homes for new housing developments.
Helping private customers redevelop their gardens and look after them also became a major offering.
By the end of the decade, with Adam taking on more responsibility, the business continued to expand. Contracts with the likes of Sheraton Skyline Hotel at Heathrow and Crayford Motors saw a brief return to interiors, while the landscaping and maintenance service soared.
Fast forward to 2008, and Adam took over the reins of the business in earnest. It marked another significant shift for the company as he looked to further establish a bigger grounds maintenance service, while continuing to deliver amazing gardens for a wealth of customers.
In October 2010, G.I. Landscapes became a limited company.
Today, the business looks after more than 50 estates across Kent, Surrey, Essex and Greater London. Now, with 16 staff, eight vans, four maintenance teams, two landscaping teams, a project manager and contracts manager, the company continues to grow.
And the story continues.
Check out our timeline below…