Whether it’s Margaret Yorke (Longman) ‘57 climbing 52 (26x2) steps every day for 2.6 weeks to fundraise for the Hospice, or Jane Bingham (Tickle) ‘85 saying ‘yes’ straightaway to the challenge of her first ever request for a remote garden design, what strikes us most about Queen’s alumni right now is their can-do attitude. Coming up with solutions rather than problems is a recognised feature of leadership skills, which we always have and will continue to develop in Queen’s girls.
Here Jane Bingham blogs about how, like our current girls, she has had to adapt her way of working during lockdown.
After working in retail for many years and latterly for the well-known wedding venue company Country House Wedding Venues Ltd., I decided that I wanted to pursue garden design as a career. I completed a professional training course at Reaseheath College and set up my own business, The Cheshire Garden Landscape Design, in March 2015.
Since then I have created designs for 40 gardens across Cheshire, North Wales, Shropshire, Wirral and West Midlands. In addition, I have exhibited three award-winning designs at Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Shows which have received national press coverage, including being featured on Gardener’s World.
Earlier this year I was gratified to be recognized for my work by my peers, with a highly commended award at the Pro Landscaper Business Awards, and a bronze medal in the Designer of the Year category at the Association of Professional Landscaper Awards 2020.
At the beginning of the year, as I was excitedly anticipating 2020 and the prospect of designing more beautiful gardens, Coronavirus COVID-19 resulted in a country-wide lockdown. The big question was ‘how could I complete designs already started, and design new gardens without visiting the clients on site?’
I had ordered plants to be delivered to gardens in Chester and Hale with a view to positioning and planting them in collaboration with the clients. The deliveries were already in motion, and there was no option to cancel or postpone them. I decided that the best solution was to instruct the clients on how to position and plant the plants themselves. I did this by producing detailed planting plans and information and presenting them via Zoom video conferencing. As a consequence, the clients successfully carried out the positioning and planting themselves, periodically sending me photos of the plants to check they were following the instructions correctly. They now send me photos every week to show me how the plants are developing, and it is great to see all the hard work paying off.
I received my first lockdown enquiry two weeks ago from a client based in Newcastle upon Tyne. The client asked if I could design remotely. I said “yes” and then worked out how to do it afterwards. We used Zoom for the consultation where she walked around her garden talking about different features – I almost felt like I was there with her! Again, I needed to provide detailed instructions on the information I would need about the site, including measurements and level data, so that I can produce a design. Of course, I had to include a caveat to state that all the measurements would need to be checked before any build work is carried out.
I am currently working on two large projects in Wilmslow and Alderley Edge which have required liaison with planning officers, structural engineers, and ecological environmental specialists. My business networking efforts have resulted in a wide pool of experts upon whom I can call to provide support on more complex projects such as these.
I studied A-level Art, Geography and French at The Queen’s School in Chester for two years in the Sixth Form after my family moved to Chester from Worcestershire. I am still actively involved in alumni activities as the Class Representative for my cohort year and attend reunion events when I can. I am in touch with many girls from my year and we often enjoy talking about the fun we had at school.