Mr. Hutcheson

Maintenance

Seasonal Color: Effectively Keeping Color in the Landscape Year-round

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

In today's economy, the competition for hotel guests is strong. First impressions are important and a property's curb appeal is one of the first things a guest may notice. Ensuring the property looks its best year round will help draw guests anytime of the year, while quality customer service and generous amenities will encourage guests to return to a property again and again. A bland or overgrown landscape can speak poorly about the quality of service provided by the hotel, eroding customer confidence and injuring long-term loyalty. Regularly updating and improving a hotel's exterior appearance with a healthy-looking, eye-catching landscape will create an environment that is appealing and inviting to guests while sending a strong message about the hotel's commitment to service as well as add value to the property without crippling the bottom line.

While making sure a hotel property looks its best year-round can help keep the reservations coming in, it requires foresight and proper planning. Planning out the landscape will help hotel executives guarantee that the hotel's brand is communicated from the minute the guest steps onto the property. If there are particular colors that are important to incorporate, then a plan will make certain the best plant colors are in place to complement the property and highlight the property's brand whenever possible. It is also important that the correct plants and trees are planted for the environment in which the property is located so as to ensure the best opportunity for them to grow and thrive. For example, marigolds and snapdragons are well-suited for colder climates such as those found in the Northeast, while perennials such as verbina and geraniums are well-suited for the desert Southwest. Working closely with a landscape professional can ensure the property will be laid out in the most efficient and effective manner. Putting a plan in place before any planting begins will ensure that all elements will have the best chance to survive and thrive.

Color is a key element of landscape design which promotes an enjoyable atmosphere. Simple aesthetic changes to a property's landscape can greatly enhance a property's appeal. A dreary landscape can be improved by removing non-flowering plants and bringing in blooming varieties instead. Although spring and summer are the time to showcase a property's creativity, it is possible to inject color year round when planned properly. Winter-flowering plants provide a respite from an otherwise dreary landscape. A few of the most popular winter bulbs include hyacinths, crocuses, and daffodils. These cold weather bloomers are suitable for resorts in various geographic regions.

The warmer months provide a considerable variety of flowering plants to choose from. Blooming shrubs such as forsythia are one of the earliest bloomers and can help transition the property to the colors of spring. In addition, annual flowers can be planted in most locations and with a wide range of colors, species and sizes, and the ability to thrive in the shade or sun; they can revitalize the look of any property. The critical component to remember about annual flowerbeds is they must be planted in an area that can be cared for adequately. While color can have a significant impact on the landscape, it is a design element that can have a negative impact when poorly maintained. Before annual color can be planted, it's imperative that the soil is prepared properly. In addition to ensuring the beds have drainage and water holding capabilities, the soil itself should be made up of at least 50% organic matter so as to maintain optimal aeration of the beds. If a new bed is being planted, fertilizer should also be incorporated into the mix, depending on the needs of the plants. Raising annual beds 4-6 inches will help avoid drowning the plants during rainy weather. It's important to make sure the beds maintain their optimum pH balance throughout the year. A landscape professional can assist with this as well as planning beds so that color can be incorporated into the landscape year round.

It is important to take into consideration the property's environment when planning the landscape. Goldsturm black-eyed susans and wood's pink asters do well in the Pacific Northwest while Spanish gold broom and spike speedwell thrive in the Rockies. In order to keep color throughout late spring, heading into summer, consider lilacs or mountain laurels. It can be more of a challenge to keep the spring color throughout the summer as most spring blooms give way to leaves, but depending on the property's climate, there are ways to incorporate more color. For example, in the more northern states, the long-blooming rose of Sharon won't bloom until the summer, and in the Southeastern states, the crape myrtle tree has a long blooming period. A landscape professional can provide insight on the best varieties that will complement the climate and style of the property, as well offer advice on the best colors and designs that highlight your property.

Planning the landscape and incorporating color year round is only half the battle. It's essential the plantings receive sufficient hydration to maintain the health and appearance of the landscape. Either under-watering and over-watering can wreak havoc on plants and either can cause tremendous unnecessary expense. With the current trend of water and energy conservation, carbon emissions reduction and the protection of local ecosystems it makes proper irrigation crucial to effective grounds maintenance. There have been significant developments in irrigation technology which allow landscape professionals to design custom-tailored systems based on a particular property's needs. This will result in reduced water usage and lower ongoing maintenance expenses. Making sure that irrigation equipment is up-to-par and that plants are receiving the right amount of water will also help keep plants in top condition, and can also generate savings on water bills and reduce plant replacement costs. A landscape contractor will be able to suggest a watering plan that is appropriate for a hotel's property, and may also recommend adjustments to any current watering system.

Another important step that is essential to preserving a colorful and healthy landscape is proper plant and lawn care, which includes pruning. Proper pruning allows the trees and shrubs to maintain their greatest flowering or fruiting potential. Hand pruning is generally preferable to sheering in order to help the plant maintain its natural beauty, but there are some instances where sheering will augment a more formal garden. It is also important to make sure that any borders and flowerbeds are mulched properly. A properly mulched property provides benefits such as ensuring key nutrients and moisture in borders and flowerbeds are retained while also promoting healthy plants and reducing weed growth. In addition, mulching helps protect the soil from harmful chemicals and will help prevent run-off. Be sure to properly aerate and dethatch surrounding lawn areas with help to minimize susceptibility to disease for the entire landscape. In order to prevent harm to plants, it is important to select a landscape contractor who considers the specific needs of the property, as well as the image the property is trying to convey when it comes to maintenance.

For those properties that incorporate turf into the landscape, be mindful that during the winter months, the cold weather can take its toll on the turf, causing winterkill. Be sure to identify the areas most likely to be affected by winterkill as those areas need to be treated so as to enhance winter survival. Also, soil moisture is critical to the survival and overall health of property's turf grass. The cold air will cause the turf to dehydrate, which decreases its winter hardiness. Irrigating during extended dry conditions will help keep turf grass healthy and give it a head start when warmer spring temperatures arrive. An irrigation audit can help determine how often and how much the grounds should be watered.

An attractive landscape creates more than just aesthetic value for a hotel. It is an investment in the property's future. New and existing guests appreciate a fresh, beautiful atmosphere as it can significantly enhance their experience and increase the likelihood of repeated business and recommendations. Not only will a healthy and attractive landscape create a pleasant and inviting environment for guests, but when properly planned it can generate long-run cost savings for commercial property owners. A landscape professional can help create a landscape plan that enhances the beauty of the hotel property can be developed and assist in delivering the hotel's commitment to service. And with a few simple maintenance techniques, create a wonderful and lasting first impression while keeping the property looking its best year-round.

Ken Hutcheson is President of U.S. Lawns. He joined the company in 1995 and has grown the organization from a regional 18-franchise network to a national network of over 250-franchises in all 48 contiguous states. U.S. Lawns is nourished by the values and passion of family-owned and operated franchise businesses. Mr. Hutcheson champions an entrepreneurial spirit and a teamwork culture. He’s skilled at developing employee, franchisee and customer bases that are anchored on a commitment to long-term relationships. His focus on the company’s Franchise Development and Support is central to the company’s steady national expansion and consistently high rankings on industry lists. Mr. Hutcheson can be contacted at 407-246-1630 or khutcheson@uslawns.com Please visit https://uslawns.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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