March 8, 2021
Started by Brandon Gelderman in 2014, Gelderlands Landscaping is a relative newcomer to the landscape scene in Burlington, Ont., but company start dates are almost never indicative of the knowledge and expertise of its management. Brandon’s own opportunity for on-the-job learning came at the age of 12 — helping out in the family landscape and maintenance business when his father suffered a leg fracture. Gelderman's on-the-job education soon had him taking on most of the functions generally associated with residential landscape maintenance.
Those early years established Gelderman's keen interest in the sector and a desire to learn more motivated him to enrol in the landscape design program at Fanshawe College. It was at Fanshawe, under the guidance of instructor and landscape architect Ron Koudys, that Gelderman discovered his true passion for landscape design. His enthusiasm was reinforced by a full semester of travelling and learning about estate garden designs in Italy, as a part of his studies.
After his three years at Fanshawe, Gelderman gained further work experience at several well-known Burlington area landscape companies, but it was his employment as the landscape designer for a London pool company where he was finally able to indulge his passion for landscape design. While he truly loved his job, it had two major drawbacks — London was too far away from his home base and more importantly, it wasn’t his own business.
The original focus of the newly-formed Gelderlands Landscaping was to provide landscape design and management services to the area’s landscape contractors. Besides landscape design, its services included sales and cost estimates, quantity take-offs and the provision of various management competences, such as permit acquisition. Very early on, however, the new company found itself dealing with the harsh realities of inadequate cash flow that is so familiar to seasonal businesses. Residential and small commercial snow clearing contracts generated not only the needed cash flow, but also a local demand for a full slate of landscape maintenance services.
Today, Gelderland’s Landscaping is a full-service landscape maintenance company, employing up to 15 people during the season in the company’s maintenance, property restoration and landscape design divisions. With the help of loyal employees the maintenance divisions are now running smoothly, allowing Gelderman to refocus on his passion for landscape design.
If the challenge of taking a client’s vision and turning it into a reality is what fuels Gelderman's love of landscape design, the opportunity to use brand new technologies to communicate his designs could be considered the accelerant. By using Google Earth, explains Brandon, one does not need to leave home to service clients anywhere in the world, or in his case, anywhere in Ontario. “Our work in northern Ontario is limited, but otherwise we have worked on landscape design projects across the province,” Gelderman explains. Thanks to Google Earth and SketchUp, a related 3-D modelling program, the process of landscape design has come of age in today’s digital world. “Google Earth has already had a big impact on the landscape design sector, but its use will become even more prominent as more people begin to understand its scope and how to better use the technology,” he adds.
As with any new technology, the cost to early adopters can be a limiting factor. Within the company’s very mixed client base that includes estates, commercial developments, condominium and townhouse properties, and churches, it is often difficult to predict, says Gelderman, who will or will not be amenable to the higher costs associated with 3-D modelling.
“Demand has definitely dropped off somewhat since 3-D modelling first became available,” explains Gelderman. “It’s all related to cost. SketchUp is a definite advantage to those clients that aren’t able to read a traditional plan, and certainly, the landscape contractors would prefer that all clients opt to use this new technology, but ultimately, the cost is borne by the client.”
Gelderman's years spent in the family business also taught him the value of supporting the industry through association involvement and he has many recollections of attending local Landscape Ontario chapter events with his father. Especially for a young company, his association portfolio is impressive and includes the Landscape Ontario Congress Committee, many years of helping at Canada Blooms, and providing design services for landscape and home show contractors. Brandon has devoted many hours to the Skills Canada initiative, with a particular interest in progressing the profile of the landscape and landscape design sectors.
The blending of traditional values together with modern technologies and a keen sense that the outlook for the landscape sector is positive, Gelderman is confident about the future of Gelderlands Landscaping. He is now in a position to be more selective in the projects the company takes on, and looking for clients who understand the value of a passion for plants and above all, good landscape design.