On the eve of the much awaited ALCI (Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland) awards ceremony we thought it would be fitting to have an informal chat with one of our legendary landscape managers and designers, Pat McCormack.
Pat is by no means an easy person to spontaneously head off for a cup of coffee with, only because If you're lucky you might catch him for a few seconds in the hall way of the SAP head office to get a brief update on the exciting projects he's working on. Other than that, he is usually out on one of his various sites morning, noon, and even night to make sure every plant, stone and molecule of soil is meticulously in place.
(Pictured above: Pat McCormack having a well deserved rest in his show-stopping garden installation at Bloom 2016).
His passion for landscaping has been proven each year at the ALCI awards, particularly last year when he scooped an amazing five awards for his work on both private and commercial landscapes. Referred to as a 'big friendly giant' by his colleagues and so obviously much respected and loved by his clients, Pat is in a league of his own when it comes to designing and taking care of people's gardens. He does so with such care and devotion, treating each individual garden as if it were his own. This interview was met with a sigh and a 'do we have to' moment: Pat is certainly not one for the limelight, but after much persistence he eventually caved in to give us an insight into his life in the landscaping world.
What inspired you to become involved in horticulture?
Pat: "I suppose I have always been interested in horticulture from a very early age, my father always grew lots of veg and I used to love helping him. I also spent a lot of time at my friend’s family’s nursery and from the age of ten had learned how to propagate and pot plants. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up working for their nursery every Saturday and during my school holidays, and stayed there until I completed my Diploma in Horticulture."
What does a typical working day for Pat McCormack involve?
Pat: "I try to get into the office early and plan my day’s work for my Landscape crews who have an early start at 7.30am. Then I usually go out to the client’s site and review all aspects of the project with the foreman such as the planning, organisation and materials required to complete the work. My day also consists of calling to various locations to oversee some new and ongoing projects and dealing with any enquiries that may arise.
When I return to the office, I complete tasks such as ordering materials, drawing plans, pricing, and organising meetings with potential clients. At the end of the day I always make sure to be on hand when the landscape crews return so I can be kept up-to-date on their daily progress. "
What are you drawing your inspiration from at the moment?
Pat: "This can be a tricky question as every job or project I undertake is different. I am always on the look out for new ideas. I suppose inspiration can be found all around us; there are beautiful spaces everywhere, it’s just about imagining how they can be transformed into a space that best suits your needs. Some of our new products at SAP such as the Living Walls or Gabion Planters have certainly given me some inspiration for that extra touch of style."
How does the design-build process work?
Pat: "Usually it starts with an initial call out to analyse the site and to discuss the client’s requirements. This would include items such as what they want from their garden, elements they like and more importantly don’t like, do they have children, or pets, are they keen gardeners, and what level of maintenance are they happy with, or if they require our maintenance services. I will also discuss the style of gardens they like and what their budget is. This is vital when a design and the proposed materials are being taken into account. Once those details are established, I begin sketching their garden and compiling a price plan based on what the client requires and what I think will fit both aesthetically and practically into the space.
I always make sure to arrange a follow-up meeting to review the project design & estimate and make revisions as needed, if any tweaks or changes are required they are done at this stage. If the client is happy with our proposal we then agree a start date for the commencement of the project and estimate when it will be finished.
On the first day, I always call to the site to introduce the installation crew to the clients. The plan is then communicated to the foreman and the client before the work begins. I remain in contact with the foreman daily to discuss the developments of the build. I also go through our own snag list for every project for completion by the foreman before presenting the final garden with our clients."
Watch Pat and his dedicated SAP Landscapes' team at work on our installation at Bloom 2016...
Has design and build become increasingly popular lately and why?
Pat: "Design and build has become very popular; people now know the importance of getting their garden right from the very start. Good design transforms and creates various landscape elements into a unified theme that evokes positive emotions. Gardens can be designed to ensure less maintenance effort and customers want gardens that are instantly mature and stylish. With the popularity of home improvement and gardening TV programmes, people have become more educated and savvy as to what is good design and what is not. We have become more and more proud of our homes. Gardens have become an extension of our home and are something to be enjoyed and treasured."
When you design a garden, do you stay involved in all of the construction stages that follow?
Pat: "The answer to that question is, certainly. I often remain involved with all aspects of the build and inspect all materials before they’re delivered to the site. I quite enjoy hand picking and tagging the materials for individual projects. It is one of my great pleasures to see the journey of a garden from start to finish."
Are their maintenance services available to keep my garden looking its best?
Pat: "Yes we have an extensive maintenance service available to help get your new garden established and well maintained. The establishment of a new garden in its first and second years is hugely important and I think this aspect is often overlooked."
Where does SAP provide their landscape services?
Pat: "We provide landscape services countrywide, but mostly within 200km of our base in Maynooth. When we go beyond this sometimes it is hard to remain competitive."
You won 5/6 awards that SAP Landscapes received at the ALCI Awards 2015, what’s your secret?
Pat: "I do my utmost to always listen to what my clients’ needs and concerns are, and strive to give the best level of finish possible to every project. I get enormous pleasure from delivering a garden that exceeds my clients’ expectations and seeing the joy that a well-constructed garden that fits and works with what its surroundings brings. I suppose in a nutshell, I consider myself to be really fortunate to love what I do and to work with an amazing team."
Pat has entered an incredible eight of his projects into the ALCI awards this year. We await tomorrow's show with great excitement when the winners will be announced at The Titanic in Belfast. Wishing him and his team the very best of luck from all of us here at SAP Landscapes!