Mr. Hutcheson

Eco-Friendly Practices

Is it Time to Spruce up Your Landscape?

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

Now that summer is here, it might be time to enhance the appearance of your hotel's grounds. If you think that trimming, edging, and mowing every other week will be enough, think again. Your landscape deserves the best in full-service grounds care carried out by trained experts with an eye for keeping your landscape healthy. Commercial grounds care is very different than residential landscaping, so even if your hotel has the best looking landscaping in the area, there are still circumstances you'll need to consider in order to keep your grounds safe, healthy, and looking great. As a hotelier, ask yourself these five questions to help decide if it's time to upgrade your landscape.

  1. When Was the Last Time You Assessed Your Surroundings?

    Routine property assessments should be part of any hotelier's to-do list. While maintaining the inside of a property might be a higher priority to some hoteliers, inspecting the grounds should be just as important. Your landscape is the first thing your guests see when they arrive, and you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. Typically, inspections should be carried out with two viewpoints in mind: first, from a landscape professional's perspective, and second through the eyes of a guest.

    Most professional landscape service providers recommend having a walk through with you or your maintenance manager to assess your property. A grounds care provider should check in on their clients' properties on a consistent, regularly-scheduled basis. Some hoteliers trust that their on-site maintenance manager would be capable of overseeing maintenance issues regarding landscaping, but there are some things only a seasoned landscape expert will notice, including hazards that could potentially result in an accident. These issues, if not rectified early on, can prove costly in the long run. Investing in a professional grounds care company - one that makes frequent inspections an integral part of their operations - will almost always pay off over time. Not only will an expert be able to look out for hazards that may be costly in the event of an accident, but they can also keep a property updated, in terms of industry trends, plant health, and best practices, which will enhance a property's appearance.

  2. Have You Assessed the Entire Property, or Just the Obvious Parts?

    When assessing the grounds of a property, most people tend to focus first on the aesthetic - and for good reason. When guests pull into the porte-cochere, park in designated parking spots, or take a walk around to the back of the hotel, it's important that what they see is consistent with the hotel's brand. While a hotel's maintenance manager may spot hedges in need of trimming, pests on shrubs or turf, or hazardous wet spots due to a leaking irrigation system, you may need an expert eye to discover what is causing those problems and others, and to address the best solutions and future prevention. Routine inspections and service by a professional grounds care provider will protect the investment you've made in your hotel's landscape.

    Properly managed irrigation is important in every region of the country. Recent years have seen local, county, and state government mandated irrigation restrictions increase in many areas - and not just in drought-affected areas. A professional grounds care provider will inspect your irrigation system to ensure it's functioning properly and efficiently, as well as delivering the right amounts of water to specific areas, and complying with any water restrictions in place.

    Another area for concern is pests and diseases. Unhealthy looking plants, dry patches in the turf, and discoloration anywhere on the grounds are all warning signs. Hoteliers may not notice these red flags or think of them as significant issues, but a seasoned grounds care expert is trained to recognize signs and symptoms early on. Your landscaping partner should be able to identify issues and make immediate recommendations for corrective action.

    Finally, a grounds care professional will always look for risk management issues, which could create potential hazards for your guests. Low hanging limbs, for example, could injure pedestrians or cause significant damage to a vehicle if the branch is in the path of foot or vehicle traffic. Walking hazards, such as holes, above-ground roots, unstable rocks or uneven pavers, and any other obstacles that an employee or guest of the hotel could trip over, are also a concern. Inspections that uncover these types of hazards should be conducted regularly, right alongside appearance inspections. An important part of any inspection, whether for aesthetics or for safety, is an honest and informed consultation with the hotelier. The end goal of the grounds care provider-hotelier partnership should always be to create a plan for what would make the property look better, be safer, and maintain brand consistency.

  3. So, You've Got Landscaping Covered, But What About the Hardscape?

    A hotel's grass, shrubs and plants aren't the only things in the hotel's landscape that a hotelier should focus on. "Cattle paths" - areas where your guests seem to repeatedly cut across grassy areas, or cut through shrub beds - for example, are cause for concern. One landscaping solution might be to put upa hedge that may prevent guests from trekking across the grass or through a shrub bed. A better alternative, from the guests' perspective, might be to turn to a hardscape option, by installing pavers or a sidewalk that wouldgive your guests the shortcut they chose in the first place. Hardscaping in this situation would be less restrictive to your guests, providing them witha safe path connecting two areas, as well as providing new opportunities toimprove the hotel's aesthetic fixtures. It's never a bad idea to ssome grounds area for the safety of your guests, and it's better to havegood-looking sidewalk than an unattractive bed. Other situations that may call for hardscaping solutions would be for risk management issues. Tripping hazards can be very costly for a hotelier, so being proactive and addressing potentially hazardous areas is a best practice. Nobody wants to twist an ankle on an uneven pathway, so if a path becomes hazardous over time by uneven bricks or pavers due to soft soil or roots, or if it is a mulched path, it may make sense to simply remove what's there and pave the path or install a concrete sidewalk.

  4. When is the Best Time to Implement These Changes?

    There are seasonal aspects to grounds care, and the planning, strategy, and budget process should be reviewed annually, and as early as possible. Fall is a great time to meet with a grounds care provider to review and discuss any adjustment to the upcoming year's landscape maintenance budget. Together you should review a checklist of maintenance requirements, and consider any improvements that you may want or need. In some cases, landscape or irrigation upgrades may fall into a capital budget, leaving more room in your landscape budget for color rotations or other enhancements. When considering a change, you must first assess how the current landscape looks. Some questions to consider are:

Does the irrigation system need to be redesigned or expanded? Do ornamental trees, hedges, shrubs, and flowers look healthy, or do they need replacing because of age? Should shrub beds be adjusted to keep up with the evolution of the landscape, or should the integrity of the original design be maintained?Occasionally, a hotel brand may invest in a major upgrade to the hotel's interior, but fail to consider an upgrade to the landscape and keep up with the brand's new look and feel. Many hotels are franchise brands, and such upgrades may be driven by corporate budgets and requirements. The franchisees will have a window of time to complete these changes, and if landscaping is going to be a part of this broader redesign budget, then it may be wise to strategize accordingly.

Look Low, High, Middle

The first thing to do is to create a checklist of potential problems that, if unaddressed, could result in immediate issues for the overall landscape's aesthetic value, or the safety of your guests or employees. Walk out onto your grounds and look low, high, and in-between.

Look Low - Look at the edge lines of your grass and beds. Is the mulch even? Are there holes or mounds that could cause someone to trip? Are there any cracks or loose stones or pavers?

Look High - Look at your trees. Are limbs hanging low or blocking signage? Are there damaged branches that could fall and injure someone?

Look in the Middle - Look at the shrubs and hedges. Are they blocking the walkways or view? Do they need to be trimmed or hedged? Are they flourishing? Do they still have the aesthetic appeal they had when they were first planted?

Summer months can be a stressful time for grounds care and irrigation management as temperatures rise. The warmer months are when plants are most susceptible to damage from heat, pests, and improper irrigation. If this sounds like a lot to take on, it might be time to hire a grounds care provider.

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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