Mr. Hutcheson


6 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Landscaping Contractor This Spring

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

As we head into the last six weeks of winter (yes, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow), now is the time to connect with your landscaping contractor about preparations for spring. While spring brings warm weather, blossoming flowers, and (at last!) greenery, there's a lot of work to be done before the season changes. By working with your contractor now and creating a plan, you can guarantee that your hotel will be spring ready.

Here are a few simple questions to ask your contractor to ensure that all of your hotel's landscape needs are covered.

1. What Renovations are Necessary?

When you first designed your hotel's landscape, you and your landscaper likely had a long-term vision in mind. But over time, a landscape can change and shift away from the original vision. As the landscape starts to evolve, you need to ask your contractor what renovations need to be made in order to enhance and protect the design. For example, if a hotelier had an oak or willow tree planted in front of their hotel five years prior, and now it's turned into a mature tree, what necessary improvements need to be made this spring to ensure the grass beneath it receives sunlight? Or if you have trees that are blocking the view of exterior gardens, your contractor is going to have to come up with a renovation plan to fix this.

Before spring starts, hotel professionals will also need to ask their contractors about their plan of action to assess and repair possible damaged flowerbeds, bushes, and other vegetation on the property. That being said, if there was any damage that your staff reported during the winter season, it's important to relay that information to your contractor as well. Laying down a renovation plan and setting specific expectations will help your landscape grow into its ultimate vision and keep you and your contractor on the same page.

2. How Should We Invest Extra Budget?

If a hotelier has some extra money left in their budget and wants to freshen up their property with some new fresh flowers and plants, it's beneficial to include your landscaping contractor on the conversation for a number of different reasons.

Your contractor knows your property inside and out and also has a great understanding of your hotel's image. They understand how important curb-appeal is to your business and can be quite valuable when you're looking to match the look and feel of your hotel's exterior with the rest of the property. For example, if your hotel is traditional in design, they can offer plant selections that would foster a more simplistic feel. In contrast, if your hotel is contemporary, your contractor may have more elaborate flowers and plants in mind.

From an environmental standpoint, climate and soil type are other areas where your contractor's expertise comes into play. Since soil type is related to geographic location (temperate, polar, or tropical) they will be able to tell you which flowers and plants will be the most durable for your property. In the off chance that you choose flowers that aren't appropriate for your soil type, you will find yourself spending a whole lot more money on maintenance than you originally intended. Taking advantage of your landscaping professional's expertise will help you save both time and money when selecting the right vegetation for your hotel's property.

3. What is our Maintenance Schedule?

At a bare minimum, a hotel's property should always be maintained and kept clean and safe. Grass shouldn't be overgrown (or browned), trees and bushes should be trimmed, and weeds should be non-existent. To avoid any frustration or confusion with your landscaping professional this spring, create a clear maintenance schedule of when and how often they will be on-site. Aside from regular maintenance, you also need to ask your contractor when they're planning to do any enhancements to the property. This includes any significant non-routine tasks like color rotation of flowers, colonnade displays, or fertilization.

Before deciding on a maintenance schedule, it's essential to tell your contractor about any upcoming special events or conferences that will be taking place. If an event comes on the books unexpectedly, have your contractor designate a main point of contact for you to get in touch with to give a simple heads up. You don't want to have a lawn being mowed or sprinklers going off during an outdoor conference, wedding, or luncheon. Working closely with your contractor around special occasions will keep you and your guests happy.

4. What is our Emergency Weather Pertinence Plan?

April showers can bring more than May flowers. Spring weather can also bring flooding, high-winds, early hurricanes and, in some areas, extreme drought. Before spring is in full swing, hotel professionals must sit down with their landscaping contractors and determine how they're going to prepare for seasonal weather conditions.

Any good plan will include a method for preparation and cleanup. For example, If you're located in a region that experiences a high wet season like Florida or Louisiana and portions of the East Coast, your contractor should plan to come on-site to trim back bushes and trees before any big storms. This will help protect your property and hotel from any fallen trees or damage from broken branches. They should also make sure the property's gutters are maintained and kept clear of leaves. Checking the property's drainage system is also important to fight against flooding. After the storm is over, your contractor should plan to come on-site to assess any damage (i.e. downed trees) and clean up branches and other debris. They should also be aware of any wild-life

However, if your hotel is located in areas that experience extreme drought conditions, your landscaping professional's plan will be drastically different. To prepare for drought, hoteliers should expect their landscaping professionals to routinely check their irrigation systems and monitor their plants for water deficiency. If plants aren't treated in the early stage of water deficit, irreversible damage could occur.

In order to fully be on the same page with your landscaper, hotel professionals need to ask what the costs for all these "non-routine" services are. Have your contractor lay out additional fees for storm preparation and cleanup. Being open with your contractor about your budget will help prioritize your needs. Response time is another Setting expectations will help your hotel transition into spring seamlessly.

5. What Additional Services do you Provide?

Many hoteliers aren't taking full advantage of all their landscaper's service offerings. While in the process of planning for spring, ask your contractor to see a full list of services they provide. Most landscaping companies offer exterior services, which include parking lot maintenance and sweeping, pressure washing, and hardscape services. They also offer services like fertilization, pest control, tree work, and certain renovations.

If a landscaper doesn't offer a particular service you need, they're typically able to sub-contract another company at a much lower cost than a hotelier would and work with that team efficiently. Likewise, your contractor should be responsible for coordinating any type of work on your property because they have the most experience working with it. They have your landscape down to a science and are aware of elements that another company wouldn't (i.e. irrigation pipes). Hotel professionals know that even if they do hire another company to carry out a particular job, the landscaper ends up being involved in anyway.

It's important to point out that the reason many hoteliers aren't taking their contractors up on these services are simply because they just aren't aware they exist. Asking your contractor to see a full list of menu options will help increase property efficiency and services to be more cost-effective.

6. What are the Costs?

Before all of your plans are complete, there's one more question you need to ask your contractor: what is this going to cost me? In order to successfully set expectations, it's important to be open and honest with your contractor about your budget. Ask them to list out the services they're planning providing and the costs associated with each.

By listing out the costs of possible renovations, maintenance, and any additional services, you'll be able to better prioritize your needs. For example, if landscape renovations are going to cost more than you expected, you might not take your contractor up on additional services. Moreover, if your hotel is going to require more maintenance, which comes with higher service fees, you might not have room in the budget for planting new vegetation. Storm cleanup can also be costly, so always ask your contractors beforehand about what storm cleanup on a property size like yours is going to cost. Talking about costs can sometimes be awkward, but your landscaper would rather you ask these questions now, before it becomes a problem.

Now that you have a spring plan in place, you can be sure your hotel's landscape will be lively and welcoming to guests this spring.

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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