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Pro Landscaper’s 10th anniversary: An interview with Jim & Lisa Wilkinson

Pro Landscaper is celebrating its 10th anniversary and owners Jim & Lisa Wilkinson discuss its biggest achievements so far, the standout moments, and what the magazine will be doing next

It’s Pro Landscaper’s 10th anniversary, how do you feel about that?

We feel incredibly proud of the magazine, and the fact that we have now been a part of the landscape and horticulture industry for ten years. Pro Landscaper has made a massive difference to the sector, and anyone who has worked on or been involved with the product should be very proud of what we have achieved.

What made you start Pro Landscaper magazine?

We believed that there was a big opportunity in the market to create a community that brought all the elements of landscaping together. At the time, there wasn’t a brand that did this, and we aimed to change that. We wanted to create a community that would enable people to share, inspire and be positive about the effect landscaping has on the UK, and also showcase some of the fantastic work going on in the sector.

What were your visions?

Fundamentally, we wanted to make a positive product that would promote and showcase all the good aspects of the industry, rather than chase bad or negative news.

We always had plans to put on events and awards that recognise the different elements of landscaping and garden design. At first, we had a strategy and a structure in place, but over time it had to change and adapt. We have had to be quite flexible with our visions, but ultimately the aim was focused on getting the magazine to the heart of the sector.

Did you gather an audience quite quickly given the opportunity in the market?

Yes, we did, although the first few months were naturally quite hard. The launch of Pro Landscaper was around the birth of social media, and we managed to get some really good reviews from some important people in the early days. We began to feel the momentum growing, and could tell that the magazine was being accepted as a positive force within the landscaping sector. People were talking about it and were interested to find out about what they could or should be doing next.

There was definitely some pressure involved. We are always our own harshest critics and are constantly looking to see what we can do better. Looking back at the first issue of Pro Landscaper, it pales in comparison to the product we deliver now. You can see throughout the years how it has evolved for the better with improvements and developments.

Do you have any ideas about how to make it better from now?

I do! There is a lot more we can do to add to Pro Landscaper. Currently, what I would like to focus on to improve revolves around the younger generation. I want to understand how we can bring a younger audience on board with the brand. It’s really important that we look at not only delivering for our traditional readers, but also at what we can do to get a younger audience involved too. And so, concentrating on what kind of content needs they might have is certainly important in helping us to move forward.

Late last year, we wanted to produce something that was going provide real value to the reader. So, we saw the start of the UK Landscape Barometer. This is a feature I believe is really going to flourish over time. The more data you have, the more comparisons you can make. This also means we can collect more historic data too, and ultimately, we have created a really valuable feature for the reader.

Overall, there’s a lot more that we can and will do. This is our first 10 years, not our last!

What are some of Pro Landscaper’s biggest accomplishments so far?

Our biggest accomplishment has been the creation of a community of people from all sectors of landscaping and garden design. If you look at any given issue of Pro Landscaper, you’ll find news about landscape architects, garden designers, landscapers, suppliers, grounds maintenance people and so on. We have created a community not just in print, but through digital platforms and our live events too.

We have also been able to raise the profile of the positive aspects of what happens in landscaping and garden design and the skills required to deliver that. Through the brand we have created debates and issues that have then been raised, taken further, and tackled.

Where do you think the magazine could be in the next 10 years?

There is so much more for us to do, whether we can achieve it all as quickly as we’d like is another question. The vision now is that the UK landscaping sector will be seen as a respected, professional, quality industry, and that Pro Landscaper makes this happen.

Why do you want landscaping to be recognised in this way?

However you look at it – landscaping and green space is vastly important. It is vital to our health, wellbeing, climate change, and wildlife. It is involved in everything we do and is everything we as humans need, and outside of the industry it just doesn’t get the respect or recognition it deserves.

Over the last five years we’ve been blessed with five grandchildren, and are now starting to think about their future. We have to create something that allows them to live and breathe whilst appreciating and respecting their surroundings.

What is the biggest thing you have personally learnt from running Pro Landscaper?

We too have learnt to appreciate the value of landscaping and garden design. When we looked in from outside the industry, though we have always enjoyed outside space and liked being involved in it, we didn’t really appreciate the value, quality, or the design element and the structure of the construction that goes into producing amazing outdoor spaces to enjoy. Having now been through the redesign and construction of two separate gardens of our own, we fully understand how important it is to get the job done properly and professionally – it makes all the difference.

This is really an industry that pulls you in. The more you find out about it, the more you like to be involved and find yourself appreciating every little detail.

What is a key highlight moment?

There are two key moments that really stand out. The revamp in June 2019 was a time where we felt Pro Landscaper came of age. We made the magazine bigger in size to allow more space for content and extra sections, and we also updated its design. The publication feels stronger somehow, and it has really discovered its voice. It was clear that people were enjoying reading Pro Landscaper, but after the revamp people felt more of a need to read it.

Our first-ever Business Awards back in 2018 was also a prominent moment. It’s slightly different as it’s the only awards that focuses on the quality of running a business in terms of training and development, financial stability, and corporate social responsibility. Once we got that off the ground and it ran successfully, it was really exciting. Many industry professionals have commented that they are glad to have received recognition for the work they produce, but to receive an award for the structure and running of their business is achievement on a whole new level.

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