Garden People Ltd, formerly J.Heath Ltd, began in 1994 servicing private and public gardens across the Lothians and Fife.
John Heath started gardening commercially in 1972 after working at the National Trust garden 'The Suntrap' outside Edinburgh.
Since then, the business grew to be one of the largest garden companies, and also one of the most respectful in the area. An interview by the Scotsman Newspaper, printed several years ago follows(some references are out-dated)....

Handed down a generation, Garden People Ltd. is still run and organised by J. Heath maintaining your garden, with the help of many Horticulturists, Arborists, and Landscapers across the Lothians.

The Decorous Gardener

THE WEED, says the dictionary quite poetically, is a "wild herb springing where it is not wanted." John Heath, the gardener, says much the same except he knows a city garden where wild herbs spring very much wanted which means, I suppose, they are not weeds at all.
"It's a lovely garden. The weeds run up the driveway into the back garden. The lady that has it likes it that way. She gets the bees in, she gets nature in. The whole place is a kind of jungle, it's the kind of garden you don't usually find unless it's full of old bicycles and other rubbish. There are loads of natural wallflowers, they just seed themselves and grow, the same way they grow on the castle walls: the roses have all gone to sucker. It is a completely unpretentious garden, a natural garden and it suits her personality very well."

Mr Heath is trusted to prune the apple and cherry trees because he won’t spoil anything else in the garden. Other men looking for casual work sometimes knock at the door and offer to tidy the place up for 50p an hour. "I think that's awfully bad manners."

Decorum is a word that drops into the conversation. Mr Heath, tree surgeon and gardener, is in business, but he doesn't like touting for work; that is a little infra dig.

A garden may not only reveal an aspect of your personality, or way of life, it is also part of your home, your private territory. "I think people are a little afraid of letting strangers into their private domain, they don't know what you are going to do to the place, it might be something they won't like, and they don't know what kind of person you are. Gardeners have a bit of a bad name, you could be any Joe Bloggs with a spade. I often wonder what people expect before I turn up."

John Heath comes from the West of Ireland with his accent intact and a good turn of phrase… “That rhododendron might benefit from having the fear of God put into it.”

He went into gardening — “it runs in the family a bit” – straight from school and came to Scotland as an undergardener in Ayrshire. He took several courses and worked at the National Trust garden at The Suntrap outside Edinburgh, then set up his own business with the help of his wife, £20, a few tools and a “fair amount of knowledge.”

In three months he was able to take Sundays off. Now ten years and four children later he is employing men, his work covers Edinburgh, East Lothian and is growing towards Glasgow.

So far work his come his way quite easily, mostly by word of mouth. Gardening is a national hobby, it can be seen also as a social virtue: a well kept border, like cleanliness, could be on the way to Godliness. Some people take to it naturally, there are in Heath terminology a lot of good “do-it-yourselfers” – but others have gardens thrust upon them. “They buy a nice home and are stuck with a piece of ground attached to it and feel they should do something with it.”

Which is nice for the professionals. Even nicer, it seems that in a recession people turn to their garden if not for comfort then at least as a way of spending money with immediate return.

“I usually do pretty well when builders are doing badly. You won’t get much from a builder for £500 or £1,000 but for that you would get a very good job from a gardener. You get people spending £200 on a smaller improvement or up to £2,000 for a full redevelopment.

Some people have the garden done up to sell a house – it doesn’t add to the value of the house, but you might sell it quicker. Most people spend money on the garden so they can enjoy it and the sums they are spending suggest to me they are dipping into their savings.”

People may ask for a tidy-up, or a transformation. “Basically they call on me from laziness and lack of knowledge. By laziness I mean that for a variety of reasons they haven’t the time or incentive to do the work themselves and by lack of knowledge that they have a vague idea of the garden they would like but don’t know how to achieve it.

“A garden should be comfortable. I like to get away from straight lines and squares (unless, of course, the customer insists). Sitting in a square garden is rather like wearing a starched shirt. I like mellow curves, variety of colour and foliage, planting so there is something to look at all year round. People like a garden to be a picture they can see from the kitchen window but you shouldn’t be able to see it all at once or there’s no incentive to go into it.

“I sometimes fee sentimental about gardens which I know will be looked after. There are some you know won’t be touched after you’ve gone, as if you’d hung wallpaper that would stay there till it needed done again. That’s ignorance. People living in inner cities are separated from nature, you can get carrots all year round, you’re cut off from the meaning of the seasons, the natural sequence of jobs in the garden.

“One man spent £500 on having his garden designed – I went back six months later and the lawn I had laid was a foot high, the plants I had put down had disappeared, the whole thing had disintegrated. I thought “what a waste of time. I should have charged him more”.

“But that’s unusual. Most people want to look after the garden if they put money into it(some people quibble at the price till we start work and then they wonder why we don’t charge more). There is one garden I like to call back on. My brief there was to bring the birds in with trees but without spoiling a beautiful view of the Forth. I worked the plan out in Plasticene – flat gardens I mark out with sticks, I’m not very good at drawing it on paper but I can see what I want in my head.”

And what is his own garden like? “A blooming mess. It is. I don’t have the time to work on my own. We grow good vegetables but we have to leave them to come up. I give a lot of plants to my neighbour though, and he has a beautiful garden.”

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