Mr. Hutcheson

Maintenance

Xeriscaping Your Way to Savings

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

In the ever growing hospitality industry, first impressions are critical for establishing and maintaining a competitive edge. Vacationers, professionals, and travelers of all kinds are looking for a home away from home, and the landscape surrounding a hotel plays a major part in their appraisal of your property. It's imperative that the outside be just as inviting as the inside: a beautiful, welcoming, and unique landscape that will differentiate your hotel from others. With today's fluctuating economy and climate, one of the most practical ways to upgrade your property without exceeding your budget is to make changes to the way you landscape. Xeriscaping is a growing trend, as it allows you to incorporate slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape. Xeriscaping at least a portion of your property can not only help you stay within budget, but provide an environmentally friendly yet aesthetically pleasing property.

Landscapes can be designed to reduce the amount of resources needed to maintain them by selecting the appropriate plants and most efficient irrigation systems. Doing so will assist you in finding a balance between achieving your aesthetic needs while reducing resource use. One of the biggest misconceptions in regards to xeriscaping is that it leaves your property looking messy or barren. On the contrary, xeriscaping does not mean you must remove all grasses, flowers and trees, and leave your property with no sense of color or design. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. There are a number of large resorts and properties that embrace their "wild areas," and have become sought-after destinations as a result, turning their woodlands, grasslands, or desert surroundings into their main attractions. But these exotic locations are not the only environments that are conducive to xeriscaping. Every geographical region has variety of plants in trees in a number of shapes and colors that are both drought-tolerant and indigenous to the area.

Though there is a possibility of higher costs at the initial onset of the transition, depending on how your property is currently designed, long-term benefits of making the change to xeriscaping include lower water consumption and lower water bills. Additionally, plants tend to survive and thrive during water restrictions. With the proper design, soil grading, and mulching, you'll notice greater rainwater retention as well. Xeriscaping with colorful plants can also make a more inviting space for butterflies and hummingbirds and reduce noise pollution in the surrounding areas (making a more inviting space for you and your guests, too). And your unique space will require less maintenance than traditional landscaping.

If you make the decision to convert parts of your property to a xeriscape, it is important to plan ahead. Planning and placement is critical. Professional landscapers can help you identify specific types of trees, shrubs and plants that are well-suited for your property based on its particular location and characteristics. A landscape professional can help ensure the xeriscaped landscape takes into account the regional and climate conditions of the property, the proper zoning of plants according to water needs, and the existing vegetation and natural conditions, and create a plan that will lead to a long-lasting, healthy xeriscape.

For instance, the placement of trees at strategic points of the property is an important decision that will have a significant, permanent impact on your property. Trees can provide summer shade for buildings, pedestrians or parking areas, which can keep air conditioning costs down and comfort levels up. Those same well-placed trees lose their leaves in the winter and let the warmth of the sun into those same areas for cold-season comfort; again, helping reduce heating costs. The size and growth potential for trees and shrubs are also important factors to take into consideration. Ensuring that plants are placed in the proper zone is critical. Water -loving plants cannot be placed in the same area as drought-tolerant plants, for example. You may want to talk to your landscape professional about creating levels or terraces. This would help ensure the proper amount of water is distributed to the plants as they need it, as drought-tolerant plants require less water and are adapted to drought conditions and soils with lower water-holding capacities.

It is also important to note that creating a xeriscape landscape also does not mean that you have to get rid of turf completely. There are a number of drought-tolerant turfs that grow well. A landscape professional will be able to help you select a grass that works best for your property and your climate. If you incorporate turf grass into your xeriscape landscape then the selection of turf grass is one of the single most important decisions to be made. The selection should be is based on where the property is located and how the turf will be used and maintained. Turf grasses that are not suitable for a specific area, are continually stressed, and are also more susceptible to diseases and pests, requiring increased maintenance costs in terms of labor and pesticides. For example, centipede grass works well for most of the Southeast. In Florida, consider switching to Bahia grass, as it is drought-tolerant. It makes a relatively low-maintenance turf grass as well, having less disease and insect problems than some of the other warm season grasses. Although transitioning to a Bahia grass may seem less aesthetically appealing, the positive environmental impact can be very beneficial and the transition can be partial.

If you want to convert only part of the property to xeriscape landscape, consider leaving the more attractive grasses at the property entrance and high-traffic areas, and use the more drought-friendly grasses in the less traveled parts of the property. While this may not be an ideal solution for all properties, it would assist in lowering water bills, reducing the use of pesticides and would require much less work to maintain. During times of drought or occasional dry periods, allow the turf to go dormant so as not to waste water. These grasses will turn green again once it rains or you are able to water.

Something else to consider is increasing the number of mulched areas on the property. Mulch can be extremely beneficial in maintaining your landscape by performing a number of functions, which explains why it is used extensively in xeriscaping. Mulching can eliminate smaller areas of turf that require high maintenance in tight spaces, as well as replace areas that require extensive watering. Mulch helps lock in moisture, reducing evaporation, which in turn reduces the amount of watering required to maintain your plants and/or flowers, reducing your operational costs. Mulch also assists in erosion control, holding valuable topsoil and nutrients in place during heavy rains, and can also be used to help suppress the growth of weeds and unwanted vines, which will help reduce the need to use excessive amounts of fertilizers and weed control products.

A number of hotels have begun incorporating more drought-tolerant plant species into their landscapes, many of which are native to their region. By moving away from more ornamental trees and shrubs that aren't drought-tolerant or native to the region, these hotels have increased their savings without having to compromise aesthetics. For example, in California, California redbuds, firecracker penstemon, and sulphur buckwheat plants are more drought-tolerant than some other species, but all provide a wide range of color to the property. Properties in the Southwest may want to consider incorporating desert willows as they are extremely drought-tolerant and work well in xeriscapes while providing a nice splash of color to the property.

By incorporating these more colorful elements into the landscape, along with the more traditional ones, hotels are able to create beautiful properties without draining the limited water supply.

Hotels have found that making such adjustments to their property has significantly decreased the amount of water needed, as well as decreased the amount of work needed to maintain the property. And as they have moved towards plants that are native to the region, their landscapes are more pest and disease resistant, reducing the need to use pesticides.

It is important to discuss with your landscape professional which variety of grasses and plants are best suited to your climate. While a change in landscape philosophy doesn't occur overnight, there are a number of factors to consider which may make the transformation an appealing, long-term solution. Transitioning part of your property to a well-planned and well-maintained xeriscape can be advantageous to both the environment and your bottom line; something that can benefit you and your guests.

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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