Driftwood Group

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…What Type of Garden is your Business?


A good friend of mine once suggested a new (and somewhat profound) business idea. It went roughly as follows:

1 – Take busy executives out of their office or boardroom environment

2 – Put them into the back of a van, conveniently stocked with all the ‘fineries’

3 – Give them a change of clothes & safety gear so they don’t spoil their suit

4 – Drive them out to a prearranged council or government site

5 – Provide lawn maintenance equipment in the form of a ride-on lawnmower

6 – Get the said executive on the mower and make them mow lawns for an hour or so

7 – Provide return to office services

My friend was convinced this was a brilliant business plan! The simple idea of going up and down along a sports field or council nature strip, whilst riding a lawnmower – striving to make ever-neater rows – was meditation GOLD to a busy exec. He wanted to call it “Executive Lawn Services”, but the name was already taken…sadly I don’t think the business ever came to fruition.

Nonetheless, this got me thinking – about business, and about executives and about stress, about time-out and most importantly about gardens. Everyone loves a decent garden, just try and tell me you don’t.

What if different businesses were like a garden? Some need lots of care and attention, careful pruning, fertilization, watering and tending. These are high-maintenance gardens, but the rewards speak for themselves.

Some need almost no input at all, full of gravel beds and cacti and so forth – able to withstand total neglect and yet still thrive.

And some are in-between, bit of a nip here, tuck there but in general, looking good all year round.

So what kind of garden is your business? Herewith, a starting point for classification…



Existing on a plane of experiential and meditative states whereby simple lines and structures are designed in a pure and uncomplicated way – thereby allowing those who engage with it to enter into the same meditative state. A place for contemplation, and quiet reflection. A haven of tranquility.

Garden Type: Highly-formal; Very high maintenance.

Business Type: Design-focus, perhaps a high-end architecture practice or creative house.



Constructed using the natural environment as a palette, the Landscape Garden seeks to mimic this image, but in a carefully planned and structured way. Think large feature trees in rolling lawns, with ponds and streams runneth through it. Upon entering such a garden, the boundaries seem hard to define, and walking about seems like a good idea.

Garden Type: Semi-formal; Medium-to-high maintenance; Significant upfront costs; Vague boundaries

Business Type: Biotech or Tech Start-up? Lots of blue sky, but we’re not sure exactly what we do, or where the path goes…



Built on a generally formal style, think low hedges and neatly cropped trees in rows. Edible plants often feature so one gains more than just a garden. There is a strong architectural element here, but corners are cut to ensure the appearance is grand, even if not every component works in perfect harmony. Appearance matters, as does size and scale.

Garden Type: Formal & structured, there are rules here; strong geometry; usually centered on some spectacular folly, fountain or statuary.

Business Type: Construction, has to be construction – “look at my skyscraper!”



Densely wooded and with a thick atmosphere of moist air sitting below a darkening canopy layer of foliage high above, the rainforest garden is a place where everything feels somewhere between alive and dead. You can feel the circle of life here, but overall this is an optimistic garden.

Garden Type: Informal –layered; Initially high maintenance tending to medium; Dense planting and overcrowding; Significant upfront work required to develop.

Business Type: Clearly you work in the healthcare sector, but stick with it – a noble cause.



Traditionally, the Australian garden features rectilinear patterns with lawns, fencing to clearly define boundaries, minimal planting save for the ubiquitous lemon tree – “Look! We did make an effort, there’s a Lemon tree.” Clothes lines feature to leave the viewer in no doubt – this place means business.

Garden Type: Low maintenance – mowing and watering when necessary. Functional and simple.

Business Type: Logistics – “It’s not rocket science but it does the job, you need it, and we do very well thank you very much!”



Semi-formal, the Italianate garden acts as a counterpoint to the more formal French style. Here the structure is less concerned with geometry and more with how the garden looks as a whole – as an experience. Often built by wealthy individuals in direct competition with their peers, some people find the Italianate style to have too much sameness, but this is to miss the point entirely. You must walk through it talking incessantly and gesticulating wildly to capture its essence – its sprezzatura’.

Garden Type: Formal to semi-formal; High maintenance – much work is required to give the appearance of not much work being necessary. A grand villa helps, as does a large family in conflict.

Business type: Consultancy. Training & Coaching…maybe even Human Resources!


There’s a start, now it’s up to you.

Let us know what kind of garden your business is…? Extra bonus points if you can tell us the name of the garden in the picture!


ALEX KELLY – 26th June 2015



Share this...

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Alex Kelly

Alex Kelly

Alex is a Director at Driftwood Group | Occasional Recruiter | Amateur Wordsmith | Career Interventionist