Mr. Hutcheson

Eco-Friendly Practices

Exploring the Lifecycle of Your Landscape

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

Like all other living organisms your landscape has a natural lifecycle. But, with so many different landscape components (i.e. grass, shrubs, trees, flowers, etc.) it can be difficult for hoteliers to recognize the red flags indicating the need to renovate.

By understanding the importance of the landscape's life cycle from a holistic approach, and taking the necessary steps to protect each component, hoteliers can ensure they're fostering a healthy and valuable property.

The Value of Your Landscape

Hoteliers know that their landscape is a direct extension of their overall image, as it can be the first interaction guests have with their hotel. In fact, if properly designed and maintained, the landscape can add a tremendous amount of value to the property and the guests' overall experience. At the very least, hoteliers need to maintain a crisp and clean landscape to boost the hotel's curb appeal and create a safe environment for guests.

However, to determine how much return on investment a hotelier can expect from their landscape, and therefore decide exactly how much to invest, they must think about the type of experience they're offering to guests. For example, a four or five star hotel brand like the Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Hyatt, or Fairmont, would require a landscape that is more intricate and elegant in order to uphold their brand standards and live up to the guests' expectations. In contrast, a two or three star hotel, would likely take on a more simplistic and clean landscape.

It's important to point out that all features from the main entryways, sidewalks to the pool and other property areas, contribute to the hotel's brand. By supporting the hotel with the appropriate landscape practices, hotel owners and managers can foster the type of atmosphere that will please guests and more importantly turn them into returning guests. As previously stated, high-end hotels and resorts, will invest more into a landscape in order to make sure they uphold their brand standard. No matter the location of the hotel, whether it is in a city or suburb, they will have to spend more on their landscape and property features. This also means that their landscape will require more upkeep throughout the year because their foliage will be more extravagant, compared to that of a less expensive hotel, in which a hotel owner or manager will just need to make sure their landscapes are clean and safe.

Exploring the Life Cycle

Just as guest rooms, bathrooms, eating areas, lobbies, pool areas, powder rooms, etc., have their own specific lifespans, so do the various components of the landscape. However, in order to properly identify the longevity of each feature, hotel owners and managers must conduct a landscape audit to accurately pinpoint which components require immediate attention or replacement. Conducting an audit can be a lengthy and time consuming process, and it requires the right amount of expertise, so it's important to work with your contractor when carrying out this step. This will ensure that you're making the most accurate decisions moving forward. Your contractor will also be able to offer valuable recommendations to help protect the health and overall look of your landscape. For example, if you have vegetation that looks dull or doesn't appear to be blooming, it can often save you time and money to simply replace the vegetation rather than focusing on saving it through various fertilization or other types of irrigation methods. Trees are an exception to this case. Because of their complex genetic makeup, if a hotel owner or manager notices symptoms of an infected tree, they should consult an arborist immediately. An arborist will be able to diagnose the type of infection (bacterial or fungal) and offer the most effective treatment plans. The sooner the disease is detected and treated, the better the odds are of saving the tree.

A landscaping audit will also lead to the construction through a 30, 60, 90, 120 day maintenance schedule that will prioritize high-risk problems (i.e. dying ornamental trees or a pest control issue) and plan for future projects. A quality maintenance plan addresses services like irrigation, fertilization, pruning, trimming, the selection of plants, mulch replacement, etc. Through proper maintenance practices, you can foster a healthy and attractive environment, as well as extend the life of your plants, grass, flowers and trees.

It's important to point out that while routine maintenance increases the longevity of your vegetation, vegetation can also be over manicured or "over-pruned" and can actually have the opposite affect and decrease their lifecycle. This often happens on upscale hotel properties where the foliage must appear immaculate at all times. To avoid having to aggressively trim your foliage, hoteliers should work with their landscaping contractor to select foliage that's better suited to their location. A common example of this is when a property has a tree that's too large for its location, or when there's a type of hedge that was selected that isn't native to that region. Working with your landscaping professional will help you make educated decisions and reduce the number of surprises in your landscape's future. Another critical assessment that will help you ensure the safety of your landscape is establishing your budget and sharing it with your landscaper. Every maintenance plan is different. So in order for your contractor to make the right recommendations for your specific property and suggest projects that fit within your budget, they will need to know exactly what they're working with.

Your Landscape's Design

The design of the landscape directly correlates with the property's maintenance requirements - an occurrence often referred to as "Design/Maintenance Interference." The extent and quality of this relationship and the benefits it produces are determined by the degree to which maintenance considerations are included in the design stage of a landscape project.

From a design perspective, plant materials have three major functions in the landscape: aesthetic, structural and utilitarian. Aesthetically, plants create a visually appealing environment that can enhance the guests' overall visit. Structurally, plants can organize and define spaces - whether it is lining a walk or providing a natural boundary to a restricted area. Plants can also be utilitarian because they can transform the environment for the comfort of the user by modifying light, temperature and humidity. Plants, such as evergreen shrubs, hollies, and junipers, can also be used to control noise and odor.

The design of a landscape also has a direct influence on the type and intensity of work that is required for its proper maintenance. For example a more sophisticated design will require additional routine maintenance, which includes mowing and pruning, and non-routine maintenance, which includes planting new foliage, replacing mulch, offering pest control, and providing fertilization. Depending on the hotel's brand and clientele, the design of the landscape is going to require more or less maintenance.

If you're working with a new landscaping contractor it's important to walk them through the design of your hotel's landscape, as the type of service and frequency of service your property needs, directly aligns with the design itself.

Key Landscape Features

Trees, shrubs, groundcovers and turf, are elements of your landscape that play an instrumental role on the design and value of your landscape. Trees in particular have an extremely long lifecycle-some living for over hundreds of years, making them positive investments. When first planted, trees may not look impressive, but as they grow, so does their value. If properly maintained by a professional, trees can be the cornerstones of a landscape. Willows, palms and oak trees are just a few examples of trees that have prolonged lifecycles and also contribute to the design of any landscape. In addition to their long life spans, they can provide shade for other vegetation, shielding them from the harsh summer sun. They can also create a relaxed and serene environment when planted around a hotel's pool or patio. Likewise, shrubs and groundcovers live for several years and can quickly grow into a useful part of the landscape's design. Turf is another feature that plays a crucial role in the design of the landscape. While turf may have a relatively short lifespan depending on your geographic location, it's a dominant force on the property and enhances the overall design.

Working Together

To ensure that a hotel is running efficiently and catering to the guests' needs, hotel owners and property managers equip themselves with various service members including front desk staff, concierges, housekeepers, bellman, etc. In the same way, protecting the landscape and preserving its lifecycle doesn't just fall on the landscaping professional-it's a collaborative effort among several participants. Hotel owners, property managers, landscaping professionals, arborists and designers must work together to maintain the health and beauty of the landscape and to protect the overall value of the hotel.

In order to collaborate effectively, hoteliers should think about their long-term and short-term goals so they can invest wisely. This will also help determine which contractors they will need to involve at various points in their plan.

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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