No fumes and less noise for gardening London squares

A section of residential central London is undergoing a major change in the way its communal gardens are maintained, with a marked benefit to the local environment. This significantly includes the machinery being used to do it.

The Church Commissioners Hyde Park Estate, an area bounded by the Edgeware and Bayswater Roads, is maintained under contract by Tony Heywood Landscapes, one of the few gardening businesses actually based in central London. Its proprietor Tony Heywood has set out to promote the whole idea of sustainable practices in gardening for the private squares under his charge and owners of the land, the Church Commissioners through its management agents Frank Knight, have agreed to a three year programme of step-by-step action to achieve it.

Tony Heywood Landscapes aim to be seen as a ‘green’ unit in London. Both they and the Church Commissioners are keen to promote an image of environmental responsibility.

The scheme being put into action by the company’s team of seven staff, all of them trained horticulturalists, involves different planting regimes such as prioritizing perennial bedding rather than annuals, and replacing chemical control of weeds with hand weeding and organic methods.

Another of its principal features is a gradual switch-over from petrol to battery-powered equipment for the routine maintenance tasks, and this is already under way with the recent introduction of a Helion hedge trimmer, an Airion leaf and debris blower, and an Excelion strimmer all made by French manufacturer Pellenc. These were all supplied by Aylesbury-based RT Machinery, which has also provided, on trial, a battery-powered Etesia Bahia ride-on mower. After just three months usage there is favourable response from both staff and residents for all of these. Reduced noise levels, hand vibration, and elimination of fumes have all been welcomed, according to THL head gardener Lucy Mackenzie.

“I went to Saltex last year specifically to take a close look at battery-powered machines suitable for work in the Hyde Park Estate squares,” said Tony Heywood.

“The Pellenc and Etesia machines impressed me most and they are already proving their worth. I already had a good working relationship with RTM and will continue to talk to them about how we can extend the switch-over and keep a check on future developments in this area by the two manufacturers.”

Tony Heywood, who also lectures on garden design, is closely associated with the Royal Horticultural Society, he and his partner Alison Condie being its ‘artists in residence’.  He hopes the example being set in this part of London for the way its squares and gardens are looked after can set a standard for such work in urban areas everywhere.