Glorious gardens from the Algarve to Gibraltar, Marbella to Madeira
THE NATURAL landscape of the Algarve, be it the stunning coastline, or the enormously varied inland areas, provides a fascinating environment for those of us fortunate enough to live here. The ever-increasing population creates a difficult challenge for those tasked with maintaining the natural beauty of the region. This is not an occupation for those without the sensitivity, creativity, and knowledge needed to combine an individual’s personal or commercial requirements with the existing environment.
For more than 15 years, Richard Westcott, one of Portugal’s best known Landscape Architects, has been establishing his company, Jardim Vista SA, as one of Iberia’s leading landscape design and construction firms. From its operational headquarters in Almancil, Jardim Vista SA has continually expanded to establish offices and project support facilities in Lisbon, Marbella, Gibraltar and Madeira. Richard recently gave this interview to The Resident’s Ruth Sharpe at his home in Praia da Luz, where he lives with his Spanish wife Diana and their four children, in which he discusses the industry and provides an insight into the huge commercial success of his company.
The Resident: Why the Algarve and how did Jardim Vista SA begin?
Richard Westcott: After reading Horticulture and Landscaping at Reading University, I accepted a position with a Saudi Arabian developer, Arabian Homes, followed by one in Dubai where I worked for the Maktoum family, rulers of Dubai. My first holiday visit to Portugal prompted me, in 1990, to leave the Middle East, as I believed there was ample opportunity to utilise my experience of warm climate landscaping in what could be a commercially successful environment. Armed with a few hired gardeners and an Opel Corsa, I managed to win my first job at Pincho, near Bensafrim. A few more contracts followed and I then met and teamed up with Michael Garveigh to create Jardim Vista Lda.
T.R: Your company has clearly expanded enormously. What sort of projects does Jardim Vista undertake today?
R.W: More than 60 per cent of our business comes from designing and building domestic gardens. This is our area of specialisation and, while we are privileged to have won landscaping contracts for many high-profile business parks, hotels, restaurants, leisure complexes and shopping centres throughout Iberia, we particularly enjoy the close relationships that can be established with private clients. Every project offers us a different challenge and, even now, having completed over 1,000 projects, I, along with our team of designers, still face new situations that require creative solutions every week.
T.R: Can you tell us about your future expansion plans?
R.W: In 2004, my partner, Michael Garveigh, left the business to pursue other opportunities and I took over his shareholding. The expansion we have enjoyed over the last 15 years seems to be continuing and, in addition to our growth in Portugal, we are particularly excited at the way our products and services have been received in the south of Spain. We shall commence construction of our largest project to date in Gibraltar at the end of this year. We are also currently working on the Vale das Oliveiras project in Carvoeiro, Palmyra in Vila Sol near Quarteira, the Savannahs project in Almancil, in conjunction with water garden expert Charlie Dimmock, as well as many private villa gardens in Quinta do Lago, Lisbon and Marbella.
T.R: What goes into the landscape design and construction process?
R.W: Design, construction, and maintenance. I have always maintained that to deliver and guarantee a first class product, we must control every element in the process. This starts with the first meeting with a client to receive their brief, continues throughout the design and construction stage and does not stop upon project completion. Professional maintenance is an essential part of the process if a garden is to achieve its design potential. We perform every aspect of the project in-house and initially this involves getting to know the client, their tastes, how they intend to use their garden, what they can spend and local conditions. Gardens are living, breathing, ever changing environments and ultimately it is the skill of the designer that can turn the ordinary into the spectacular.”
T.R: What separates Jardim Vista SA from its competitors?
R.W: I have always applied three principles to my business. First and foremost is attention to detail – this is an area where I never compromise. The second principle is achieving the highest possible quality in everything we do – second best just isn’t good enough. This ethic applies at the design stage, throughout the ground shaping, installation of irrigation and drainage systems, the hard landscaping and through to the final planting stage. Finally, there is the ability to bring a personal touch to every client – and this is the element that I enjoy most amongst all the things I do. I still personally oversee the setting-out of the plants in every garden we undertake as, not only is this absolutely fundamental to the end result, I believe the client has a right to this level of personal service. While I do believe in keeping business and personal life separate, I am fortunate in that many of our clients have become personal friends as a result of the countless hours we spent building their gardens.
T.R: Do you feel the Algarve is still a good place to set up a business and what advice can you give to a budding entrepreneur?
R.W: Yes, I believe the Algarve, and Portugal in general, offer enormous opportunities to those who are prepared to go it alone. It is still a country with much potential for development and this situation always offers opportunities. The only advice I can offer is to study your chosen market very carefully, don’t rely on luck, produce a business plan that covers every worst case scenario that could exist and be prepared to work harder than you ever thought possible to achieve your ambition.