Like a good 12 year old malt, and although not themselves matured in sherry infused barrels, the landscaping business of John A. Morrison has nevertheless still nicely matured over the years into a well-oiled machine coping with the demands of customers across a 60 mile radius around its base in Keith, Banffshire. Set up in 1988 and supporting an industry that dominates Speyside, the family business offers a service that primarily looks after the needs of more than a dozen of the Scotch whisky distilleries. With their extensive grounds to keep up to scratch, the remit includes keeping them tidy both at the front as well as round the back and, with the business outside of family members, employing just one full-time staff member and relying on part-time labour to boost numbers when workloads are at a peak there is never a dull moment.
And talking of well-oiled machines, there is certainly plenty of those in the machinery store – from sweepers to verge mowers, triple flail mowers to hedge cutters and flail arms, sprayers to wood-chippers – you name it John A. Morrison has probably also more than one of them. The tractor fleet encompasses a brace of Fastracs alongside a covey of Kubota compacts and tractors from 38 hp up to 85 hp supplied either by local dealers Ravenhill Farm Services or Gammies Groundcare. John Morrison snr goes on to explain the rationale behind the choice and complexity of the kit within the business ‘The distilleries that we are maintaining have such a wide diversity of situations to maintain, one minute we are cutting huge banks landscaped around warehouses, which are too steep to put a tractor on yet too wide to reach with a flail arm, and then the next minute we are working on a fine turf area outside the main entrance to the premises where a quality finish is required and anywhere in between.’
It was this complexity of operations that lead John Morrison snr and John jnr to look at a piece of equipment that could work one minute in a striped lawn situation, then next minute scarify the thatch out of formal grasses areas and then go on to tackle waist-high grass and weeds whilst at the same time collecting leaves, topping off spring bulbs and clearing up any hedge cuttings or mulching environmental areas. Mr. Morrison takes up the story again. ‘One of the high-tip, out-front flail deck compact tractors was due for change and we were looking for something that could cope better with longer, wet grass with a cleaner collection as well as carry out finer cutting work on the more formal areas and that’s when we had a demonstration with the new AMAZONE Profihopper 4WDi.’ With their connection to Gammies through the Kubota fleet, a demonstration was duly arranged and a new PH1250 4WDi Profihopper put through its paces at the Chivas Brothers, Longmorn Distillery in Elgin ‘The machine is ideal, the manoeuvrability second to none with its 0-turn steering and the out-front horizontal flail PowerCompactor deck makes light work of anything put in front of it. The high-tip hopper easily tips the cuttings into trailers which are then removed off site and used as a green manure.’ goes on to sayMr. Morrison snr.
That was a couple of years ago now, and based on the success of their Profihopper, the AMAZONE fleet has been added to now with the purchase around 12 months ago of a GHS 210 Jumbo tractor mounted flail collector. ‘We do both cut and collect and cut and drop depending on the situation and the mulch flap in both machines offers us the chance to easily change between collecting or mulching’ says Mr. Morrison. ‘It was following our positive experience with the Profihopper that lead us to expanding the AMAZONE fleet with the Groundkeeper Jumbo. The GHS210 is ideal for the larger, more open areas; for instance, we have 100 acres or more around some the Distillery warehouses, where the 3,500 litre hopper attached to the 7’ cutting width rotor makes short work of swallowing up copious amounts of grass which can also be tipped into trailers for clearance off site. The GHS is pulled behind either a Kubota M8540 or L5240.’ commented Mr. Morrison.
And just like enjoying a wee dram, the job can’t be rushed and so, when not down in the south at Braeval, Glenlivet or Allt A Bhainne, then they will be found up the road at, for instance, Benromach or Strathisla,and doing what the business does best - of course with the help of AMAZONE - lovingly tending the grounds of many of the leading whisky distilleries and making sure that their visitor experience is what people expect and so helping to support the oldest, perhaps the most important industry in Scotland.