Mr. Hutcheson


Mini Gardens and Specialized Landscaping

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

In the ever growing hospitality industry, first impressions are critical for establishing and maintaining a competitive edge. Each property has its own unique twists and turns that can be used to create an appealing look and feel for the property. Not only can a beautiful garden showcase your property, but it can also be a simple and cost-effective way to differentiate your hotel from the competition. Careful selection of plant varieties and regular maintenance can help keep the landscape within budget while still showing the hotel's property in its best light. The landscape can create a sense of peace and tranquility, awe, surprise, or even excitement. Whether you want to create small, intimate spaces, highlight a particular feature, or maximize a difficult-to-tame sloping property, every landscape can be used to create an attract space that transports guests to a different place.

Add a Small English Garden

Depending on the overall theme of your property, consider turning all or part of your property into a small garden areas. You can create one large garden with small nooks and crannies or turn only part of the property into a small, intimate space. Creating small gardens can provide guests with a place for quiet contemplation and relaxation.

There are many ways you can create small gardens on your property, and a landscape contractor would be able to help provide direction for what might work best for your property. A popular choice to consider is an English garden, as they are very versatile and can thrive almost anywhere. These types of gardens have become quite popular due to their charm and tranquility as well as the "natural" feeling they can evoke. A small English garden added to the property might include features such as shrubberies along a graveled or mulched walkway, tree plantations to satisfy botanical curiosity, and, most notably, the return of flowers in skirts of sweeping planted beds.

The first thing you want to do is select a few main colors to create continuity within the garden. Annuals allow you the option of trying new colors each year, as well as the chance to keep the colors continuous. If you want to create contrast, then use perennial blooms of opposing colors. You can achieve variety by using a number of different shades of the main color components. The more traditional flowers used in these types of gardens are roses, delphiniums, and foxglove; however there are many others you can use instead. Some others that are also used frequently are pink dianthus, pansies, and violas, but do not feel restricted to just these options. If you want to use more native plants, or have a particular color or style in mind, your landscape contractor can help make suggestions for what will work best for your property.

It is also important to add a little bit of structure, so consider grouping flowers together either by height or width within the various flower beds. A great way to create harmony and balance is by planting blooms based on shape, color, leaf size, and texture. This will help ensure continuity while still allowing for a sense of surprise. This can be further expanded by making borders and beds in different shapes and sizes. Consider making beds and borders narrower in some places and wider in others. This will allow you to play around with plant depth as well, creating a more interesting design.

Another important feature of an English garden is adding an antique element or a "surprise" item. Talk with your landscape contractor about including a trellis or an arbor. An arbor or trellis add a subtle architectural element to the garden and provide structure and style. They can also provide a shaded place in the garden to relax and unwind. A trellis is a great option if you're looking for a focal point, want to screen more unsightly areas of the property, or create an enclosure for the garden (the traditional use of a trellis). Typically, a trellis will have vines, such as clematis or roses, climbing on it. You can also consider small clematis varieties, camellias, black-eyed susan vines, or trailing nasturtium. Make sure the vine you choose will work well with your soil and climate and won't overrun your property.

Don't Let Slopes Get You Down

For those properties that have slopes or hills, don't be afraid to landscape them! This shouldn't be thought of as dead space, but rather a chance to add interest to the property without having to build it up. You might want to consider taking advantage of a long slope by creating a terrace. A great way to add interest and draw the eye is to divide it into different levels. You can place different types of gardens on each level or stick with one particular theme.

You can spruce up the different levels by adding retaining walls at each level. Retaining walls are bold architectural elements that create an intimate, enclosed atmosphere. Create more interest by selecting wall-building materials that allow you to plant in nooks and crannies along the wall's surface. Plants such as many sedums, creeping phlox, or rock cress tumbling over the top of a wall soften the hard architectural lines and add color to the retaining wall. You can also add seating areas on one or more of the leveled terraces, as it not only gives guests the sense of being invited into the garden, but provides a wonderful way to look out and survey the rest of the garden.

Join the different levels with wide steps that meander or zigzag, depending on the property and what fits best with the overall theme of the property. You can also plant annuals or shrubs along the upwards path to tie together each level.

If you prefer not to terrace out the slope on the property, you should consider planting shrubs and evergreens on the sloped ground, as these can spread to help stop weeds and prevent erosion without any serious work. Plant roots are very efficient at anchoring loose soil on a slope. A hill or slope can be turned into a beautiful portion of the landscape by selecting easy-care groundcovers that root into the bank wherever their stems touch soil. The dense mats they create will reduce erosion and weeds.

Another option would be to establish wildflower areas composed of native plants such as Echinacea and native grasses, or you could fill it with plants that resemble grass such as Iris and Daylily so when the grasses do invade, these plants can fight them off and hide them. Although this may require a little more attention, it's something that your landscape contractor could assist with.

Center of Attention

If your property is smaller, or you don't want to create a small garden within the landscaped property, consider focusing on one or two main features and plant around those. Some focal points or structures that work well are garden furniture, such as stone benches, a fountain or small pool, or a small statue.

Once you select the feature you want to incorporate into your landscape, decide how you want your guests to view that portion of the property. Is it an area to sit and relax, or is it an area to walk around and get lost in thought? If you want to create a place to relax, incorporate seating around the feature. On the other hand, if you want to offer guests a place to wander, then ensure there are paths that are easily traversed and full of color. Plant selection and garden maintenance add both short- and long-term benefits to the hotel property. Simply choosing the proper major foundation pieces that have a long lifespan-such as colorful shrubs and evergreen trees-can allow for up to 15 years of life before replacement is necessary. By working around the mainstay foundations pieces, a rotation of seasonal or perennial flowers can round out the aesthetic, leaving the hotel garden with a consistently updated and well-maintained appearance.

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. Whether you want to add a small garden, add interest to a sloped property, or focus on special features, it is important to work closely with your landscape contractor to select the proper plants, shrubs and trees to ensure a property- and environment-specific landscape

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 Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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