Sunday, 22 October 2017

In Home Buying, Landscapes Need Inspections, Too

When looking for a new home, buyers often become so focused on the house, they forget to consider other aspects of the home that can contribute to its value, mainly landscaping.

In fact, a healthy, well-maintained landscape can add 25 percent to the overall value of the property, according to Bruce Avery with AAA Tree Experts in Tallahassee, Florida.

“Landscapes, like most houses, can look beautiful and appealing on the surface but still have many underlying problems that may cost an unwary buyer significant expense in the future,” Avery says. “Landscape inspection considerations should include a thorough evaluation of all turf, natural areas, shrubs and especially trees. Many landscapes now include amenities, such as irrigation and lighting, that sometimes get overlooked in the home inspection process and may result in expensive repairs.

“However, most home inspectors don’t have tree and landscape expertise,” he adds. Professional landscapers can fill this void.

Here’s four of the big-ticket items that need an inspection:

1. Trees

“Healthy, mature trees are the single most important contributor to higher landscape values,” Avery says. “Consequently, unhealthy and hazardous trees detract from that same value. Are there any dead or diseased trees? Are there any trees stressed or declining from drought, construction damage, insect problems, old age, or a combination of these problems? What types of trees are on the property? What type of future maintenance should I consider to ensure their long-term health and safety?”

2. Shrubs and woody ornamentals

Like trees, these require the same maintenance considerations but don’t present the same hazards and risks as trees can.

3. Turf

Different types of turf require different levels of watering and care. “Most homeowners have a lower tolerance level for problems with their lawns than any other part of their landscape,” Avery explains.

4. Landscape lighting

Evaluate all wiring, light fixtures and timers to ensure they are functional and meet the goals of design and installation.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2014.

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Designing And Creating Natural Play Areas For Kids

play area

Some trends come and go, according to the whims of the ages. Others make perfect sense on many levels. The latest trends in children’s landscape design fall into the latter category. Today’s designers are moving away from garish play structures arbitrarily plunked onto square beds of asphalt or mulch, and toward lush, organic habitats replete with natural elements. Monkey bars are giving way to tree houses, geometric sandboxes to irregular-shaped sandpits and water features, and the boundary lines between play spaces and the rest of the landscape are fading.

Photo: Stout Design Build

Origins of a new aesthetic

Why such a radical change? What’s driving the movement toward more natural surroundings for children?

In large part, the trend reflects a general increase in awareness of and interest in the environment. The global climate crisis combined with an exploding Internet has made us all increasingly aware of how our collective and individual actions affect the planet and each other. The terms “holistic,” “sustainable” and “organic” continue to gain mainstream attention and acceptance.

The landscape is, of course, a natural area for these ideas to bloom. In particular, children’s landscaping is an especially appropriate venue because of another concern: the alarming rise of childhood obesity, ADHD, depression and other modern maladies. In his best-selling 2008 book “Last Child in the Woods,” journalist Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder,” citing a growing body of research indicating that exposure to nature is necessary for children’s healthy physical, mental and emotional development.

“It’s becoming a lot more evident that people are wanting to get their children back to nature,” says Holly Brooks, co-owner of King Landscaping in Atlanta, and mother of two young children. “I think it’s becoming more prevalent, and I’ve been hearing several more requests for that style of play area.”

A third factor affecting current trends in children’s landscape design is the economy, including the real estate market. People are less willing to spend for pools and other extravagant features and more cognizant of maintaining the salability and resale value of their homes. Putting in a conventional playscape that will have to be replaced in a few years has become a less attractive option. Natural play areas can be installed affordably and grow with a family, and they often include sustainable features, such as native plantings and permeable surfaces, which are increasingly viewed as assets.

How natural landscaping benefits children

There is ample research that a more natural environment helps combat ADHD, obesity and other disorders, and helps kids develop proper balance and control of their bodies. North Carolina State University Professor Robin Moore, who has been researching the effects of nature on children’s behavior for more than 40 years, reports anecdotal evidence that children are less stressed and get along better when they have access to naturalized outdoor areas.

“Several years ago we looked at the incident reports in a child care center pre- and post-naturalizing the outdoor environment,” Moore says. “The results are not published, but what we found was a drop in disputes between the kids. We had the same result at an elementary school we worked in in North Carolina. Squabbles and serious fights dropped so dramatically that they got rid of their time-out mode; they didn’t need it anymore.”

In addition to teaching, Moore is a design consultant and founder of the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), an organization founded to research and promote the importance of the natural environment, including design, to healthy childhood development. He is also the author of the NLI’s recently published report “Nature Play and Learning Places,” a set of national guidelines for creating and managing places where children engage with nature.

What goes into a natural play yard?

Let’s look at some trending features and ideas.

Organic design elements. “Designs that lean toward the organic realm rather than the geometric tend to create more dynamic, interesting spaces, engage children for longer periods of time, and encourage movement and exploration,” Moore explains.

Natural play areas tend to incorporate winding pathways, irregular and organic shapes, and natural elements, such as stones, boulders, tree stumps and branches, along with trees, shrubs and other perennial plantings. Including elements kids can manipulate and build with keeps them engaged in the environment. Sand, as well as items such as sticks and bricks that they can use to build forts and shelters, are also good choices. Water features are extremely popular and need not be deep enough to pose a danger. Even a very small, shallow rivulet can be endlessly fascinating to young children.

Kids also need shade, especially in warmer climates. If trees are not present or are too small to provide shade, try vine teepees, arbors, pergolas, shade tents, umbrellas or playhouses. Many of these structures do double duty as private hideouts, which kids love.

Communities and ecosystems. In a conventional play yard, the play equipment dominates. There is little to offer an individual who is not actively using it. This can make adults – from teens to the elderly – bored or uncomfortable and unwilling to linger.

In contrast, naturalized play yards tend to feature a central community space, which is often a patio, fire pit or outdoor lounge that is inviting to people of all ages. The children’s area occupies the periphery, whether it’s curved pathways between plantings, a tree house where they can look out, hideouts carved into the shrubbery, or a climbing wall at the back of the yard. This provides teens and adults with an attractive place to relax while still keeping an eye on the little ones. The children, in turn, can engage in active play without disturbing adult activity, and have ready access to adult company when they feel the need.

Such an arrangement recognizes the continuum of human experience and places the family or community at the center rather than any one age group. This type of design can be adapted to a family’s changing needs with less expense than the complete redesign often necessary when children outgrow a conventional play area.

Just as older family members are included in a naturalized play space, so is nature itself. Central to the aesthetic is to “invite in the wild” by leaving some areas intentionally unmown and not manicured. Edible plants, grasses and wildflowers also attract beneficial insects and other wildlife, so the play area becomes a kind of ecosystem of which the child is a part. Diversity is important in an ecosystem, so be sure to include a wide variety of species.

Dual-purpose features. Many of the features common to natural play areas can serve double duty in the landscape, often with environmental benefits. “A sandbox can also be used as a swale for water collection when it rains,” says Tom Stout with Stout Design Build in Los Angeles. “We also did a below-grade trampoline that was in a 3-foot pit with gravel underneath. It satisfied ecological certification credits for water collection and was a fun play feature in the landscape. The other way we’ve gone is to make a swale into a pathway, with boulders sticking up as stepping stones.”

An aesthetically pleasing rock climbing wall from King Landscaping.

Integrating traditional play yard elements into the landscape

So, does adopting a more natural aesthetic render traditional play structures obsolete? Not at all, says Stout.

“Play structures are still OK, but try to choose colors that integrate [with the landscape],” he says. “We did a project where the fire pit was opposite from the play structure. We chose a darker brown for the play structure to help it recede visually. Another technique is to extend the same mulch used in the play structure area into the planter beds. We also like to use boulders and logs around the edges of a play structure to help it transition into the landscape.”

The slope of the land can also be used to create play structures. Instead of leveling an area, try incorporating slides, climbing walls, stepping-stones and the like into the slope.

Don’t discard turf. Moore recommends integrating open grassy space as an important element to encourage active play. “Set aside an area of good-quality, irrigated turf. It encourages chase games, hide and seek – all kinds of physically active games,” he explains.

Natural playscapes can even be adapted for small spaces. “You can get creative in small spaces,” Brooks says. “If you have a small space, you can go vertical. Compose a small Ewok village with platforms and ladders and trees. There’s a lot of ways to do it.”

Julie Moir Messervy, head of Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio (JMMDS) in Saxtons River, Vermont, agrees. “Using corners, built-ins or multipurpose spaces can give kids places to play,” she says. “Letting them make forts in the shrub border or helping them plant their own little garden or choose focal points for it doesn’t take up much room either. Porches are great for kids, especially if there’s a swinging bench there. Chalkboards and climbing walls can be installed against a fence or garage wall. Or try a small, shallow water feature or fairy garden as a focal point.”

The future of natural landscaping for children

Unlike most trends, the movement toward natural kids’ play areas has real health and social benefits. Whether or not it becomes a long-term phenomenon depends a lot on the designers, who may have to work hard at first to educate clients who are used to precisely manicured lawns and tightly controlled environments for children. Those designers who are successful will be in a position to create a true legacy with their work.

As Messervy puts it: “I expect this trend will continue as long as the Internet does, because in my experience it really works. At JMMDS, we have designed four children’s gardens for different institutions and are so pleased at the way that children and their parents and teachers use them. Designers can help in so many ways to counter nature-deficit disorder in children and also in adults. Getting kids to play, dig, plant and daydream in nature is the best antidote we can provide. Plus, it helps them become stewards of the earth as they grow older because they have experienced nature close-up.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2014.

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Friday, 20 October 2017

Hot Hardscape Trends for 2018, Plus 9 More Insights from GIE+EXPO

LawnSite network booth, GIE+EXPO 2017

Couldn’t make it to GIE+EXPO this year? We’ve got you covered. The editors of Turf Magazine are on the ground, covering everything you need to know at the show. At the end of the day, our editors come together and curate the top moments from the busy day’s events — from announcements at press conferences to inspiring advice from educational sessions. Here are some of the top moments from the first two days of the show.

1. Hot Hardscape Trends

Wondering what your clients are looking for in 2018 hardscapes? Here are 3 trends Rebecca Hughes with Natural Paving shared at GIE+EXPO:

  1. Gray and tan colors in natural stone are still very popular because they look natural and classic, matching many house shades and styles.
  2. Connecting indoor and outdoor flooring and patio spaces is a trend to more seamlessly connect the areas visually.
  3. Natural stone pavers are still popular for customers looking for that weathered, earthy look versus something more forced like concrete.

2. What Your Customers Think

The National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Missy Henriksen shared some statistics from their latest residential customer survey at the GIE+EXPO. Some numbers to note:

  • 76% of homeowners think the landscape industry is trustworthy.
  • 67% of homeowners think the landscape industry is necessary.
  • 62% of homeowners think the landscape industry is environmentally friendly.
  • 40% of homeowners say they have used a landscape and lawn care specialist in the last 12 months.
  • Why do homeowners choose to use a landscape professional: 62% want their yards to look better, 41% say using a landscape professional’s services saves them time, 30% want to enjoy their outdoor spaces and 12% think the work landscapers are doing is great for the environment.

3. Top 7 Ways to Crush Your Business Goals

GIE+EXPO and NALP’s LANDSCAPES’ session “Scale Like a Shark! Learn More. Earn More,” industry consultant Judy Guido said following these seven tips will help you crush your business goals:

  1. Ask the right questions.
  2. Own a word or two in your industry.
  3. Declare your brand promise.
  4. Create a risk-free brand warranty.
  5. Create a one-phrase strategy.
  6. Outline your differentiating initiatives.
  7. Define your profits per differentiation.

4. How Will You Market To Millennials?

Millennials have outspent every other generation in 2017. Now is the time to figure out how to market to that age group for your landscape business. Millennials are also the most active in home improvement projects and have the highest level of home improvement costs. Because they’re the fastest growing segment of home buyers, they’re great for the green industry. How can you make it easier to market to millennials?

  • Make it easy! They won’t open surveys and long emails.
  • More than 81 percent expect companies to make a public commitment.
  • Make it easy for customers to write reviews on your website. According to Beth Berry, vice president of Business Solutions at Real Green Systems, 84 percent of millennials don’t think companies really care about their opinion. Be sure to respond to any positive and negative feedback.
  • Email marketing works! Email is a big payoff for millennials. They don’t read newspapers, watch television commercials, answer telemarketing calls or like any form of interruption or formal sales pitch.

5. Differentiate Your Brand In The Digital Age

How can you differentiate your brand in today’s digital age? Where can you start? Kathleen Hegedus from Houzz talked about the power of a strategic profile on Houzz and how you can benefit from it. Setting up an account on Houzz is simple. Once you created an account, the next step is to optimize your page for success. If you’re not mobile friendly, you don’t exist. Having a mobile-friendly website is crucial to your online success and branding. Here are three tips for branding in the digital age:

  1. Appeal to emotions using photos of your employees or family. Have multi-way conversations.
  2. Have multi-way conversations. Respond to all negative and positive reviews about your business.
  3. The consumer is in charge. Cultivate nice stalkers by responding to all comments on your page and discussions.

6. Mean Green Growth Validates Battery Power

If you need any further proof that battery power is getting huge in the lawn services business, just walk the floor of the 2017 GIE+EXPO. The EXPO is bristling with suppliers offering battery-powered trimmers, chainsaws, mowers, etc. The products keep getting lighter, offering more run time and coming with more convenient charging options. Significantly, in unveiling Green Mean’s newest battery-powered commercial mower, the Revolt, founder Joe Conrad says his company started a new assembly line in his Ohio plant due to a tripling of demand for his products. He and his son Matt Conrad tag-teamed the release of the Revolt, a 48-volt unit available in both 48-inch or 52-inch decks, can provide a full day’s production on a single charge. Sources close to Mean Green (not Joe or Matt) tell Turf that BrightView, the biggest landscape company in the world, is a big buyer of Mean Green units, and also that an entrepreneur in Michigan has jumped into the industry thanks to landing a $1 million municipal contract and servicing it with Mean Green units.

7. Do You Know the EIQ of Your Lawn Care Products?

Do you know what EIQ stands for? If you’re providing and marketing “environmentally friendly” lawn care services this is something you really should know. The Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) is a formula created to provide pesticide users (growers, lawn care operators, etc.) with data regarding the environmental and health impacts of their pesticide options so they can make better-informed decisions regarding their pesticide selection. The website of the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences lists the EIQ of 120 pesticides. Each pesticide listed in the formula is assigned a number based on such things as dermal toxicity, chronic toxicity, bee toxicity – 11 criteria in all. The lower the number assigned to a particular pesticide, the more environmentally friendly it is. During a press conference by Intelligro at the GIE+EXPO, a short discussion arose concerning the EIQ and its significance in regards to the announcement of the company’s Civitas WEEDfree Brand Concentrate, an odorless herbicide that kills more than 60 listed broadleaf weeds. Intelligro touts the “sustainability” of its product claiming its patent-pending technology allows for a significant reduction of the proven 3-way mix active ingredients without reducing their efficacy. Intelligro says the Civitas WEEDfree formulation has an EIQ of 6.4 compared to the 3-way mix’s EIQ of 28.5, which should matter to anyone in the lawn care business.

8. More OEMs to Offer Self-sharpening Blades in 2018

Fisher Barton announced the original equipment manufacturers that have signed on to carry their self-sharpening LaserEdge EverSharp blades in 2018. Manufacturers include Ariens, Big Dog, Cub Cadet, Grasshopper, Gravely, Husqvarna and Hustler. During the company’s press conference at the GIE+EXPO on Oct. 18, Fisher Barton noted the challenges facing landscapers today in reducing maintenance and profit pressures. According to the company, having self-sharpening blades results in less mower maintenance hence significant savings.

9. Eye-Opening Economic Stats

What does the new landscape and lawn care economy look like? Mary Kelly, founder of Productive Leaders and author of 11 business and leadership books, shared these eight sobering statistics to help you strategically plan for future business success.

  1. 71% of first-time home buys are millennials.
  2. 50% of homes today are selling for more than the listing price.
  3. The median home price in the U.S. today is $201,900 (up 3.1%).
  4. Americans today have the highest credit card debt than they’ve ever had in our history.
  5. Labor productivity growth statistics are poor. Improve training and tools to increase productivity.
  6. The top five non-degree jobs today are in the healthcare field … and they all pay more than landscaping.
  7. The average American changes jobs every 4.6 years; the average millennial changes jobs every 2.1 years.
  8. 40% of the workforce is more comfortable freelancing over getting a full-time job. Can you find a way to use freelancers for some of your services?

10. Use Digital Marketing to Recruit Top Employees

There’s a 1.5 million deficit of skilled laborers in the U.S., according to Jack Jostes, president and CEO of the digital marketing agency Ramblin Jackson during Thursday’s Breakfast with Champions event. That stat came as no surprise to the participants in the quick, round-table discussion who noted the biggest challenge their individual companies face is finding and recruiting good employees. Jostes provided advice on how to make better use of digital marketing to recruit employees. First, he recommends, use video. Most companies feature stories from the owner or leadership team. Instead, interview employees on camera and give them a chance to tell their story. Feature it on your company’s website and on social media. Second, keep your online presence updated and consistent. Monitor your company’s profiles and job listings on Glassdoor, Indeed and other employer review websites. Make it part of your process to check in with your staff. If you get a bad review, try to outweigh the bad with the good by asking your best employees to write reviews for your company.

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Like A Boss: Positioned as the Expert

Todd Thomasson, owner of Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to tackle some of their own landscape maintenance projects only to find that they made an error that caused more problems. For instance, scalping the edges around a driveway or walkway can make weeds prone to grow in those areas. Or cutting certain flowering shrubs too late in the season can cause damage by mistakenly cutting off their newly formed buds. When those shrubs don’t flower the next season, the client is left wondering what went wrong. Todd Thomasson, owner of Rock Water Farm, has addressed these types of concerns — and more. He’s found that the best way to combat homeowner mistakes is to put more emphasis on education.

There’s always a fine line between educating customers on how to do something themselves and encouraging them to hire Rock Water Farm for the service. But teaching people how to do it on their own can actually be good for business. Thomasson has found that while most people appreciate being taught the right way to do something on their own — they’ll often still hire Rock Water Farm because they didn’t realize how much work was involved.

Todd Thomasson, owner of Rock Water Farm

Todd Thomasson, owner of Rock Water Farm

“Oftentimes, when you educate someone the proper way to prune — as we did in a recent blog post — they realize there’s more involved in the process than they’d thought and they would rather we just handled it,” Thomasson says.

But it can also benefit the company to educate customers so that they aren’t making landscape maintenance mistakes that reflect poorly on Rock Water Farm. For instance, Thomasson says they have found that clients who have hired them to perform aeration and overseeding don’t realize the importance of also hiring them for leaf removal. Since they weren’t keeping up with it themselves, it was causing problems.

“If they keep the leaves sitting on their newly seeded lawn, those leaves will run the risk of smothering the new lawn,” Thomasson says. “We have to educate them on the importance of leaf removal and how there’s more to it than just aesthetics. Then they won’t come back to us questioning why their new seedlings didn’t grow. And if they’re not up for doing leaf removal themselves, they’re hire us for it.”

Thomasson uses blog posts on his website as well as a lot of direct conversations with clients to educate them on landscape maintenance.

“You can never assume the client knows these things,” Thomasson says. “It’s on us to teach them. They turn to us because we’re the expert. It’s a great opportunity to build a good rapport with clients.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Being Prepared Pays Off For Goodman Snow Services

Snow plow BOSS

Brock Goodman runs his Goodman Snow Services out of a tiny community in central Ohio, but he takes his cues from snow removal companies in much bigger cities like Erie, Pennsylvania, and Boston. He puts such cues at the forefront of his planning, which is why he and his crew were ready — and able – to grapple with an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm in early March 2015.

Places like Erie and Boston get five times the snowfall Cardington does, says Goodman, but that snowstorm still put Goodman Snow Services, which Goodman launched in the winter of 2010-2011, to the test.

“Some people may laugh at what we consider a bad storm here,” he says, but the daytime storm was trying, particularly for an area too far south of the so-called lake effect to qualify as a snow magnet like Cleveland, on the Lake Erie shore.

It had been a fairly mild winter until then, occupying Goodman’s company with a typical task like spreading salt — but pushing little snow. That day was different.

“We had just landed a large contract for a new shopping mall, our biggest contract yet, and we were providing them with excellent service. This morning we had been out on a quick salt run and had all the trucks back in the shop by 8 a.m. They had forecast off-and-on snow showers that day, but nothing was supposed to accumulate.”

Preparing for action nevertheless, Goodman watched the radar fill in the weather screen, and by 10 a.m., one to two inches of snow was falling hourly. “Any snow contractor knows that daytime snows are the worst, but this one was particularly bad for us,” he says. “The shopping mall we had signed for that year was having a special event that day and expecting nearly 10 times its normal number of visitors. This storm lasted until around 6 p.m. that evening and dropped close to 10 inches of the wettest, heaviest snow I have experienced.” With temperatures in the 30s, “the snow was like concrete. We finished getting everything cleaned up around 9 p.m., and then spent most of that night relocating snow piles.”

Between in-house employees and service providers, Goodman Snow Services encompasses 45 to 50 employees and runs around 35 pieces of equipment.

Calling that storm “a true test,” Goodman thinks it caught many of his employees off guard, forcing them to mobilize quickly and clear sidewalks multiple times to accommodate businesses and customers who wanted the situation handled but were otherwise oblivious to a storm’s demands. “To them snow is snow and it doesn’t matter much whether we get one inch or 10 inches,” Goodman says.

He calls the Goodman Snow Services response that day a “feather in our cap.” Many competitors were short-staffed and had already sent their rental equipment back for the season; Goodman’s firm holds onto it until April.

“After this storm we have switched to using dedicated sidewalk equipment instead of hand labor on any site that we can,” Goodman says. “In big snow events, sidewalks are the first place guys get tired and you start seeing service failures. We also make sure that even in late-season storms, all of our sites are fully staffed with equipment, and we have backup equipment for all sites ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice.”

Visit for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

GIE+EXPO 2017: The 7 Key Roles of a Landscape General Manager or COO

GIE+EXPO 2017: Effective CEO/COO Partnerships: The Power of Collaborative Leadership

What makes a great company? A highly productive partnership at the most senior level, according to Jeffrey Scott, landscape industry consultant.

“You have to unleash your company’s full potential by upgrading your role as owner and CEO by helping your right-hand person develop his or her role as chief operating officer, general manager and division leader,” Scott said on Oct. 17, at the “Effective CEO/COO Partnerships: The Power of Collaborative Leadership” workshop at NALP’s LANDSCAPES 2017 at GIE+EXPO.

After case studies of successful CEO/COO partnerships were shared by Drost Landscape of Petoskey, Michigan; Sun Valley Landscaping of Omaha, Nebraska; and Swazy & Alexander of Newburyport, Massachusetts, Scott reviewed the role of a COO or general manager and how landscape business owners can take their company to the next level and foster better work/life balance by developing this role in their companies.

So, what should a COO do? Here are Scott’s suggestions for the key responsibilities of a COO. Depending on the size or scope of your company, you can tailor the position to meet your needs.

1. Identify issues and priorities. The COO’s job is to be your internal consultant, collecting information and helping to establish priorities.

2. Align the organization’s goals. Make sure everyone on the team understands the company’s vision and mission.

3. Make sure the trains run on time. For example, managing budgets, integrating systems, etc. Look for someone with a systems mindset for this position.

4. Hunt for and train talent.

5. Conduct strategic planning and budgeting.

6. Focus on continuous improvement personally and systematically.

7. Fill leadership gaps.

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Story Of A Landscape: Cutting Garden Grows Into Major Landscape Project

It’s not every day that a stop at a flower shop leads to recognition by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

Nor was the project – dubbed Monte Vista – which earned J.W. Townsend Landscapes a Merit Award for Residential Contracting in the $100,000-$500,000 category, a quick in-and-out job for project coordinator Geoff Shaw.

Shaw explains that he was headed to a conference when he stopped to pick up for flowers for someone in the hospital.

“I know the people who own the shop,” he says. “One of the women who works there asked if we’d be interested in installing a cutting garden that could be used for commercial things.”

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

Shaw went out and looked at the property, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and what he found was basically a blank slate. It had a large barn, with the house built into one side of it. The landscape, such as it was, consisted of one crepe myrtle tree.

“I looked at the property and everything it would take, and I said, ‘I think you need a landscape architect,’” Shaw relates. “At that point, I introduced the client to Mary Wolf of (locally based) Wolf/Josey Landscape Architects.”

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

Approximately eight months later, Shaw says he received a call from Wolf.

“She said, ‘I’ve finished the plans for the Monte Vista project, and I’d like you to look at them,’” Shaw says. “That’s how it happened. It’s unusual to have a job happen organically like that.”

Although the job encompasses only three-to-four acres around the barn, Shaw says it’s part of a much larger property.

“It’s a really big building, and to make the whole thing functional from a landscaping standpoint, it required a lot of work around the entire exterior of the building,” he says. “That’s where we came in.”

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

A major component of the job was excavating around the barn. Shaw says the site was relatively flat, but needed help with drainage. He says the excavation of the site alone cost more than $100,000.

“There was a pretty substantial amount of earth moving,” he says. “Everything behind the walls is either fill or cut or a combination of both.”

However, in the end, the site includes a ramp that leads to one of the doors, with much of the area contained behind more than 100 linear feet of poured concrete retaining walls.

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

“With some of them, to get deep enough, we had to go more than six feet deep,” he says. “Some of the walls have two feet showing, but four feet underground.”

That excavation also provided the job’s biggest challenge. Shaw says, quite coincidentally, one of the walls is right on top of the buried power line.

“It’s hard to dig a footer on a buried electric line,” Shaw says. “The guy on the backhoe was using it to scrape, and when it got down to the tape, he stopped. It was very tricky.”

He adds that the walls are followed with cobblestone thresholds and bluestone paving, as well as five-inch steel edging.

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

As for the drainage, Shaw says the biggest problem wasn’t the site itself as much as all the water coming off the roof of a large structure.

“We didn’t do extensive French drains or anything like that,” he says. “On the house side there are some 10-inch pipes that drain water from the roof out toward a creek.”

The other hardscape aspect of the project — lighting — was outside the scope of the J.W. Townsend contract. Shaw says the site now has heavy-duty down-lighting fixtures set in concrete bases.

Under the guidance of Wolf, the softscape aspects of the project grew well beyond a simple cutting garden.

“Mary Wolf and Paul Josey used a lot of native plants,” Shaw says. “Under the one remaining tree, we had to use an air spade to loosen the soil. And, we put in about 8,000 square feet of sod. Then, at the entrance, we put in 14 October glory maples, some northern catalpas, two magnolias, and two four-inch caliper northern red oaks.”

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

Boxwoods and 125 European hornbeams provide hedging and then, for ground cover, the company also planted 1,500 little bluestem and 1,953 sporobolus.

“It fills a big area, but it fits the scope when you’re doing the math like that,” Shaw says. “We had to be very careful how we prepared the soils and stayed away from fertilizer to not make them too rich and subsequently make the grasses suffer. I think that’s why they’ve done so well.”

The final piece of the initial puzzle for the property was the installation of a fruit orchard which includes 18 apple trees, 12 pear trees, and six each of plums, peaches and cherries, set out in rows of six.

“We built temporary cages to go around each of the trees to protect them from deer,” Shaw says. “They also have an above-ground drip system to provide some supplemental water. We get dry enough that if you don’t irrigate fruit trees in July and August, they’ll drop their fruit.”

However, no below-ground irrigation was installed on the property at the preference of the owners. Shaw says that’s partly because the property runs off a well. And, while J.W. Townsend supervised some watering to help get the plants established, the goal is to be water efficient.

The clients have liked the job done for them so much that the company was later called back to plant blueberries on the property. Additionally, Shaw is currently coordinating the installation of a seven-acre wildflower meadow.

“That’s still getting water but it was planted this spring,” he says.

Photo: J.W. Townsend Landscapes

Ultimately, he says the J.W. Townsend crew hopes the clients decide to build a house and the company will end of landscaping that.

In the meantime, Shaw says there’s a lot to like about what’s already in. His personal favorite is the work done around the barn – and the plantings.

“I like the front of the property with the hardscape of stepping stones and the steel edge,” he says. “And, I love the meadow. Mary’s vision of that was very intentional. The plants were very intentionally placed in groupings and we’ve had to do very little manipulation of them. Her vision for the long-term is breathtaking.”

In fact, he can’t praise Wolf’s plan enough. He says crews began on the job in the spring and wrapped up by Christmas, despite having as many as 20 people on the site at times, and dealing with multiple subs.

“I’m most proud that from a project management standpoint, and because the plans were so well done, we were able to come in, start the job and move through it in sequence and have it come to full fruition in a few months,” Shaw says. “It’s nice to move smoothly from start to finish without any major hiccups and come out with a beautiful final product.”

However, he adds, it also taught him the importance of logistics. Planning in advance is what made this job a success.

“It’s been a great property and a great place to work,” Shaw concludes.

The post Story Of A Landscape: Cutting Garden Grows Into Major Landscape Project appeared first on Turf.

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