Mr. Brickman

Architecture & Design

Achieve Year-Round Aesthetic Interest with a Variety of Plant Materials

By Scott B. Brickman, CEO, Brickman

One of the first things guests notice upon arriving at a hotel is its landscaping. It is also one of the most crucial - and overlooked - aspects of building customer satisfaction. Since repeat guests are your best customers, it is important to maintain a fresh new look that will keep them entertained and returning for years to come.

But keeping your landscape fresh and up to date with changing seasonal aesthetics is challenging for many hotel executives - especially in areas like Southern California and Texas where there is little seasonal variation to the landscape. Color, climate and different light exposures all factor into the design and maintenance of an interesting landscape with a year-round aesthetic interest.

The best way to go about creating a year-round aesthetic is to carefully examine your hotel's property needs during each season. Spring and summer are times for inventive design, creativity and cultivation. During the fall and winter, your efforts should be focused on preserving and maintaining your landscape.

This article offers landscape design tips for spring and summer and preservation tips for fall and winter. By taking a seasonal approach to landscape design maintenance, you can create an aesthetic appeal that lasts year-round.

Spring & Summer: Create Aesthetic Value

To freshen up the look of your property, it is important to think creatively about how you can use colors and materials that accent your property's best features while also adding a seasonal twist. In dry regions like Texas and the Southwest, color areas should be changed out two to three times per year, beginning with spring annuals, followed by heat tolerant annuals in the summer months and planted annuals in the cooler fall months.

One way to enhance your hotel's landscape is to replace non-flowering plants with flowering ones. Remember that while trees and shrubs provide short bursts of color, annual flowers can be a source of color from within a month of planting until the first frost. With such a wide range of colors, species and sizes adapted to either shade or sun, it's possible to plant annual flowers almost anywhere. Your landscape contractor is an excellent resource on this topic. You can also experiment with annuals in beds, window boxes, rock gardens, hanging baskets or as temporary ground covers and fillers.

Keep in mind that annual flowers demand more care and higher levels of water. Because of this, annuals are best planted in accessible areas and near water sources. Grouping annuals together will prove to reduce the amount of maintenance. In the spring and summer, flowers like impatiens, petunias and begonias are a great choice for hotels interested in adding a splash of color. These colorful flowers will add liveliness to your hotel grounds all season and will provide your guests with a fresh and vibrant experience.

Landscape maintenance activities like edging or curving the edge of your hotel's flower beds can dramatically improve the visual appeal of your grounds. If your plants look overgrown, widening beds by two or three feet can help achieve a more desirable aesthetic. Defining the edge of your hotel property with shrubs and foliage is also a common practice and a wise idea, but also consider scattering foliage throughout the property to create a sense of dimension and depth.

Color

Annual plants and flowers bring a variety of forms and textures to a hotel's landscape and can act as a colorful extension of your brand. Simple mixtures of color work best together, particularly if families of colors are used (i.e., red, yellow and orange). Warm colors invoke excitement and tend to make the space they're planted in seem smaller. Cool colors like blue, purple and green can be used to soothe guests, while white flowers can create a peaceful aesthetic. Many hotels also use complimentary colors, such as orange and blue or purple and yellow. The contrast will be appealing, but will need to be coordinated with backdrop colors to achieve a complete design.

Design

A crucial design decision that is often overlooked is plant height. Usually a flower bed has the tallest plants in the back, medium height plants in the middle and the shortest plants in the front. To create a sense of uniqueness for your hotel, try island planting which designates the tallest plants to the center of the bed to be surrounded by decreasing heights.

As for style, your design can be either formal or informal. Formal designs tend to be symmetrical with geometric lines and shapes with a strong focal point that draws the eye. Informal designs, on the other hand, have curved, flowing lines and adhere to natural forms, follow terrain and create asymmetry.

Fall & Winter: Prepare and Maintain

As the cool fall air gives way to the cooler air of winter, hotels across the country have important preparations to make in readying their grounds for the snow and ice ahead. Here are several steps hotel grounds managers can take to help ensure the health of their landscape through the winter months. While these tips are intended to stimulate thinking on the subject, remember that individual hotel grounds vary and an optimal winterization strategy is best developed through consultation with a landscape maintenance provider with knowledge of your specific climate and grounds.

Winter Landscape Aesthetics

The selection of flowers and plant materials for your hotel's annual beds will be largely dependent on your region. Cool season annuals like pansies, for example, are a great choice for hotels in southern states like Georgia and the Carolinas. Further north in states like New York and Connecticut, hotel grounds managers may be better served by planting tulip and daffodil bulbs in the fall so they will open up in the spring.

In areas where the winters can be especially harsh, ornamental greens like evergreens or red twig dogwood are a great choice for creating an attractive winter landscape with a holiday twist. Among the most popular of the winter-flowering bulbs are the daffodil, crocus, hyacinth, and tulip. Hotels in a variety of different geographic regions choose any and all of these cold weather bloomers to add a colorful burst to the otherwise dreary landscape of mid-to-late winter.

Deciduous plants like yellow stemmed dogwoods can be beautiful in the winter as can evergreen shrubs like a nice holly or juniper. As a rule of thumb, think about what your landscape will look like in the winter months without an abundance of leaves and select trees and plants that have colorful or uniquely patterned branches.

Another important consideration in planning a seasonal landscape is how different exposures will impact your plant and flower choices. If the flowers around entranceways will have full exposure to sunlight, good choices may include: begonias, geraniums, petunias or tropical accents like hibiscus. Darkened entranceways or areas with limited sun exposure may be a good environment for flowers like bromeliads or other plants that offer bright colors in low light settings.

Pruning Trees and Plants

Take special precautions when cutting away overgrown plants in the fall as each variety will respond differently. Plants such as azaleas, hollies, rhododendrons and forsythia grow rapidly and fill out next season even if they have been unmercifully pruned. But be wary of junipers and yews, which will not grow new leaves on old wood and tend to require removal if they become overgrown.

While it is a good idea to remove dead tree limbs that could buckle under the weight of snow and ice, it is not a good idea to prune healthy limbs in the fall. Leading into the winter, a majority of trees are preparing for dormancy. The removal of healthy branches in the fall can stimulate a tree to re-route nutrients and actually promote growth at a time when the tree really needs to be conserving energy for the cold months ahead. The same is true of fertilizer, which should not be applied to trees in the fall but is good for certain types of lawns and turf (cool season grasses like bluegrass and fescue, not warm season grasses like Bermuda and zoysia grass).

Take Action

The appearance of plants and flowers in high visibility areas around your hotel property sends a powerful message to guests about your commitment to service. Meanwhile, hotel landscapes with overgrown weeds or otherwise unhealthy looking flowers can erode the confidence of your guests and seriously hurt long-term loyalty.

To ensure that your landscape is delivering a positive message about your hotel, consider your aesthetic and functional needs, think about how environmental factors will affect your choices, and seek a consultation with a landscape maintenance provider experienced in working with hotels like yours. Creating and maintaining bright, colorful plants and flower displays throughout the year can significantly enhance the guest experience and reinforce long-term relationships.

Scott Brickman is CEO of Brickman, the largest commercial landscape maintenance firm in the U.S. Brickman provides landscape maintenance and snow removal services to a wide variety of hospitality and hotel clients across the country. Mr. Brickman joined the Company in 1986 and in 1998 became a Director of the Company and was appointed Chief Executive Officer. His tenure with the company includes serving as a project director and a regional manager, and prior to 1998 he had responsibility for the Company's Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast operations. Mr. Brickman can be contacted at 301-987-9200 or scottb@brickmangroup.com Extended Bio...

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