Real Work: NINE TO FIVE

Name

Sally Weber, 29

Occupation

Landscape gardener

Salary

pounds 12,500

Address

Beaminster, Dorset

How did it start

I did a work placement at a local garden centre when I was 16, and they offered me a weekend and holiday job. Then I went to horticulture college, which included another year's work experience. After that I made the decision to go into garden design so I transferred to a Higher National Diploma in Landscape Design and Management. I qualified and worked in a couple of private gardens and another garden centre before setting up Weber Landscapes in 1995.

Describe what you do

When I get a new enquiry I visit the prospective customer and garden. I only work within an hour's drive of my Yeovil base. The first session will be spent listening and finding out what is required. All sites are different - some are fields, others are existing gardens needing redevelopment. I use a click camera to take "before" photos and carry on taking pictures as long as I'm involved with the garden. I use the same builders for the hard landscaping - like paths and walls - and I will prepare the beds, plant, turf it and any other soft landscaping like pruning or moving existing plants. Spring and autumn are my busy periods with lots of planting, while the other seasons are better for the hard landscaping and designing.

How does your day start?

I generally wake up at 6.30am; my battery alarm clock bleeps me into action at seven. Breakfast is a bowl of Rice Krispies and a cup of mint tea. If I'm spending the day designing I like to get to the office by 8am. Sometimes if I'm working in a garden some distance away I get up earlier so I can start work work there at 8am.

What do you wear?

It's the same every day: a light green polo shirt with my tree logo and Weber Landscapes printed around it, and a dark green sweatshirt with the same thing, jeans and boots. My customers often laugh and say "Will we ever see you in a skirt and looking feminine?"

What's your journey like?

It's a 15 minute drive through the rolling countryside. In the morning I see the occasional deer, as well as badgers in the evening.

Describe your work environment?

The gardens I work in can be anything from a tiny terrace plot to a three- acre field that needs to be transformed.

How long for lunch?

Not long enough. If I'm out planting I will take a half an hour. I'll eat rice cakes, fruit and crisps. The customer will usually provide a cup of tea and some of them even make you cakes.

What stresses you out most at work?

The busy season, serving every customer, fitting everyone in. The key is being as organised as possible and forward planning. It helps to order plants, turf and hard landscaping materials well in advance.

What are the perks?

It's what I enjoy doing. Horticulture isn't my job, it's my life. It developed from a hobby, and it has become a whole way of living. I spend my free time visiting gardens. I talk to friends about gardening. I grow my own vegetables. I never get bored with it. There is always something new to learn.

Hours per week?

It varies, perhaps five 12-hour days per week. I try to have one day off over the weekend and the whole weekend off during quieter periods. I work when the work has to be done.

How much holiday do you take?

It's difficult, when you're setting up in business, to pull yourself away. But my boyfriend Rick and I hope to have a break this summer.

What time do you stop work?

I was finishing at 8.30pm last week, but I can leave at 5pm if I'm going out.

What do you do when you're not working?

For the past eight years I've been playing netball two nights a week and I play tennis. Sometimes we eat out, go for a drink or catch up with friends.

What's the first thing you do when you get home?

Eat, probably.

How do you feel on a Sunday night?

Happy with life.

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