Monday, 25 September 2017

5 Landscape Trends For Fall 2017

Fall landscaping

Fall is officially in full swing – regardless of what the weather feels like. This fall season has been warmer than usual for most parts of the country meaning that homeowners will be spending more time outside enjoying their landscapes. Looking to extend their summer entertaining season, homeowners will look for an adaptable landscape no matter the weather. The National Association of Landscape Professionals says your clients will be interested in the following trends this fall.

1. Fire Features

Hardscape Fireplace and Pizza Oven, Colorado

PHOTO: Lindgren Landscape & Irrigation Inc.

Fall is the most popular time for clients to request fire features, like outdoor fire pits, fireplaces and fire tables, according to the NALP. Many current fire features can be controlled remotely by smartphones, or programmed to turn on or off at specific times. They help bring ambience and warmth to your client’s outdoor living area.

2. Fall Plants

Falling for Color

PHOTO: JOHNSON’S NURSERY

Chrysanthemums, boxwood and maples are hallmarks of fall landscapes, according to the NALP. Some of those classic plants have been engineered to be more hardy, longer lasting and require less water. This fall, try arranging the classic fall and winter plants in a modern style with contemporary groupings, clean lines and simple sophistication.

3. Landscape Lighting

Fireplace lighting

Photo: Brian Larsen, County Wide Landscapeing

More landscape designs are incorporating lighting so the outdoor areas can be enjoyed safely at any time of day. “Proper landscape lighting is especially important during the shorter fall and winter days, ensuring outdoor play areas are well-lit and walkways are easily accessible through the evening and nighttime hours,” the NALP says.

4. Unique Hardscape Materials

porcelain pavers

Photo: Belgard

More durable, low-maintenance materials, such as porcelain tiles for patios, decks and walkways, are rising in popularity. They mimic the look of real wood and natural stone, but have less maintenance, don’t cause splinters and are less likely to wear out over time or be damaged from weather. Also on trend: faux finishes and materials on outdoor furniture, such as synthetics that look like real leather.

5. Interiorscapes

Living wall

Photo: iStock

Indoor landscapes, known as interiorscapes, become more popular in the fall and winter as temperatures drop and homeowners begin to spend more time indoors. Living walls and container gardens help bring the outdoors in and can even create dramatic focal points as living decorations.

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2017 Product Roundup: Aeration And Overseeding Equipment

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Billy Goat
OS 901
The OS 901 self-propelled hydrostatic overseeder features forward and reverse operator controls. The blade design reduces thatch and improves blade life due to its sharpened leading edge, attack angle and height adjustment for more blade depth. The unit is 22 inches wide with an 11-blade slicing reel and comes standard with a 30-pound seed box.
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Graham Spray Equipment
GSE Trident
Our coring-type hand aerator is constructed from rugged steel and includes a foam handle for extra comfort. The GSE Trident aerator gets into those tight spots where a full-sized aerator can’t go. Its three prongs penetrate even dense, heavily compacted soil, removing 3- to 4-inch plugs and letting air, water and nutrients travel deep down to the roots.

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Jacobsen
GA-24
The GA-24 aerator features a 9-horsepower Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engine. The unit has four tine sizes for varying soil conditions. The light weight and maneuverability allows for tight turns without causing turf damage. It creates a 2-inch-by-2-inch aeration pattern.
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LT Rich Products
Z-Plug
The redesigned Z-Plug stand-on, zero-turn aerator has improved ergonomics and a shorter wheelbase designed to provide better maneuverability. The commercial V-Twin engine now has easier access to its components for maintenance and repair. The machine has a maximum ground speed of 8 mph and can aerate over 100,000 square feet per hour.

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Redexim
1275
The 1275 overseeder from Redexim buries the seed up to 0.78 inches into the ground. The close spacing results in a quicker fill time and eliminates waste with the accurate seeding system. The machine can be pulled with a utility vehicle.
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RYAN Turf
Lawnaire ZTS
The new Lawnaire ZTS stand-on aerator can cover 2.25 acres per hours at speeds up to 7 mph. The machine features a shock-absorbing platform, a rapid hydraulic tine lift, an automatic chain-tensioning system and hassle-free access panels. It produces consistent aeration depth from 2 to 5 inches in half-inch increments.

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Toro
Aerator
The 30-inch stand-on aerator from Toro features ground speeds up to 7.5 mph and the ability to adjust plug length on the go. The floating operator platform isolates vibrations, reducing operator fatigue, according to the company.
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Turfco
TurnAer XT8
The new TurnAer XT8 stand-on aerator has speeds up to 7 mph and can cover 92,000 square feet per hour. The unit has raised ground clearance and zero-turn agility. The patent-pending Auto-Depth Control allows operators to set a tine depth for consistency.

 

 

Have a new product? Submit entries using our Product Form for Turf, Turf Design Build and PLOW, a supplement to Turf.

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Acoustics Of Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park with its very large red sandstone outcrops, has been an inspiration in Colorado since the early 1900s.

This mountain park in Jefferson County, Colorado, is owned and maintained by the city of Denver as part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. The red sandstone found throughout Red Rocks Park is geologically identified as belonging to the Fountain Formation, which means these rocks are considered to be between 290 and 296 million years old. The rock formations at Red Rocks even have names — from the mushroom-shaped Seat of Pluto to the inclined Cave of the Seven Ladders to the most visited rocks around the amphitheater, which are Creation Rock to the north, Ship Rock to the south and State Rock to the east.

Within the park boundaries is the Red Rocks Amphitheater, a world famous and award-winning venue for hosting concerts and events that’s a favorite among many performers because of its near-perfect acoustic surroundings. In fact, after being awarded Pollstar magazine’s Best Small Outdoor Venue 11 years in a row, the magazine named the award after the venue, taking it out of the running.

PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

And, this year, the park and amphitheater are adding to their status after being named a national historic landmark, along with Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, the spot where workers stayed while they built the park’s famed amphitheater in the 1930s.

“The outstanding architecture and landscape architecture of Red Rocks Park and Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp illustrate the principles and practices of New Deal-era naturalistic park design and master planning in a metropolitan park, as well as the use of Civilian Conservation Corps labor to develop such a park,” the National Park Service said in a news release.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees. Red Rocks is “renowned as the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world, and the diverse landscape attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and even dinosaur fans,” he says. “The Mount Morrison CCC camp is another historical treasure in the park, and one of the few surviving camps in the nation.”

Red Rocks is the 25th national historic landmark in Colorado.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2015.

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Green Spaces Make Memorable Cities

New York Central Park

Have you visited New York City? What about this bustling city stands out to you? What about Washington, D.C.? What’s the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when you think about your visit to the nation’s capitol? How about San Francisco? What is your fondest memory of this West Coast hub?

I’m going to bet that some of your most memorable and meaningful experiences in these iconic major metropolitan areas revolve around the outdoors. Think Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, or the cherry blossoms blooming in Washington, D.C.

Studies consistently show people tend to live healthier and happier lives in areas where they have access to nature, particularly urban areas that dedicate land to green spaces.

And the more space devoted to nature a city has, the more memorable that place becomes for residents and visitors.

Washington, D.C., devotes one-fifth of its land to parks. Green spaces account for almost 18 percent of San Francisco. In fact, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department spends $140 per each of its more than 800,000 residents on the park system. The money certainly goes to good use with nearly all of the residents being within a 10-minute walk to a park. And New York City boasts more than 38,000 square acres of park, which accounts for almost 20 percent of the city area.

I’ve been to all three of these major metropolitan cities more than once. And I can tell you I have very clear memories of strolling through Central Park, watching the fog hang low over the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoying the gorgeous cherry blossoms blooming around the Tidal Basin and welcoming spring in D.C.

Recent high-profile projects like Millennium Park have captured public attention for the landscape architects designing them. Since outdoor spaces are some of the least expensive to create, paying some of the highest returns on investment, and more people are returning to urban areas, continuing to invest in these green spaces makes sense.

“Landscape architects understand the natural environment, the built environment and the interface between them,” explains Kirt Martin, vice president of design and marketing at Landscape Forms. “And they are ideally prepared to take leadership in shaping outdoor spaces and framing public awareness about them.”

But buildings and their interiors continue to receive much more attention and financial support than their exteriors. “We have not made a strong business case for designed outdoor spaces,” Martin says. “I believe the design and innovation in public and privately owned outdoor spaces is lagging• — and the first step to address that challenge is to better leverage the skills and talents of landscape architects, the professionals best prepared to design them.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2015.

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Friday, 22 September 2017

Like A Boss: Filling A Valuable Niche

Bioretention rain garden

Chris Darnell, business development and marketing manager for Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance

Chris Darnell, business development and marketing manager for Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance

When bioretention first came to the St. Louis area four or five years ago, Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance, headquartered in Bridgeton, Missouri, took the bull by the horns. They made an effort to learn as much about servicing those areas as they could. While other companies have dragged their feet a bit, Bluegrass sent someone to get certified. They have also put effort into training crews to better understand storm water management and they’re investing in educating clients with blogs and even a webpage that is dedicated to the service. That effort is paying off.

Chris Darnell, the company’s business development and marketing manager, says Bluegrass initially pursued bioretention because St. Louis’ Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) had put regulations on new building to be installed with bioretention rain gardens when displacing land or green space. Darnell says it was initially slow to the market but is now hitting full stride with MSD checking the conditions and enforcing standards. Darnell says the sewer system in St. Louis already struggles under the pressure of storm water and bioretention is addressing that.

“Bioretention areas help slow the water entering the sewer system, filter pollutants and trash, and allow water to be absorbed,” Darnell explains.

Since it’s still relatively new to those in the area, Darnell says that their effort to learn as much about it and to keep up with the changes has been valuable. It’s not uncommon for them to be chosen by clients largely because of their ability to manage bioretention areas when others cannot. As a result, they’ve been able to sell their other services as well.

Darnell says the company has learned a lot in a short amount of time. While bioretention was initially sold as “low maintenance” (due to the use of sustainable plants) people are learning this is not necessarily true. Typically, the contractor site plans include some recommended maintenance — and that’s where Bluegrass can step up. Those services include trash removal, weeding and plant/tree trimming, mulch replacement, soil aeration, and plant replacement when necessary. These are all areas where crews should be trained, Darnell adds.

“Make sure your team is trained on the differences between weeds and native plants,” he advises. “They look very similar. We have taken over several accounts where other contractors have pulled all of the plants, thinking they were all weeds.”

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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Best-Run Companies: Pacific Landscape Management

What does it take to make best-run company? Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

Having worked as a regional manager for the Northwest for TruGreen (after they purchased Northwest Landscape Industries) for a couple of years, overseeing 500 employees, Bob Grover certainly knew what it took to manage people and build a positive culture. When he went on to form Pacific Landscape Management, a Hillsboro, Oregon-based commercial maintenance and renovation company, he put those management skills to work. But Grover says in addition to his inward focus on company culture, it’s also been a commitment to the customer that has really helped him succeed.

Bob Grover

In fact, he recently presented on a topic with his coined catch phrase: “Just don’t suck at the landscaping part.” Grover says that good customer relationships have more to do with communication and follow-through than it does producing an outstanding landscape. A lot of people can do a good job at the landscaping part, but it’s the communication with the client where all the difference is made. Grover says if you do a fantastic landscape job but don’t talk to your customer about it, you don’t get the credit for it. Conversely, when you screw up — and you don’t tell the customer about it — the impact is 10 times worse.

“I tell my people, if you make a mistake, tell the customer about it and let them know how you are going to fix it,” Grover says. “It’s human nature to want to just fix it and hope they won’t notice, but the truth is — while I would never advocate anyone screwing up on purpose — you get a ton of mileage out of the recovery phase. People love honesty. And they come to really trust you when you’re willing to admit you messed up and then you go fix it.”

Grover says that the two most vital pieces to a successful business are the relationship with the customer and the relationship with the employees. He says that “both have to be your partners.” And if you abuse either side, it will hurt your business. Still, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t keep pushing forward. After all, without pushing forward, you’ll never grow. Grover says that building strong relationships — both with employees and clients — allows you to be able to successfully do just that.

“We drive our people really hard and have very high expectations for them, but we do so in an appreciative manner,” Grover says. “If we didn’t have that strong relationship with our employees, we couldn’t do that. In the same way, we push the envelope when it comes to charging for our work. We aren’t the low bid. We charge a lot without ever making our customers feel taken advantage of or disrespected and that’s also because of our strong relationship with them. They know we are charging more so we can do more. And they see the value in it.”

While even the best companies will admit they “always have room for growth,” there are definitely some businesses in the green industry that are already employing many of the practices industry professionals say epitomize a best-run company. Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Snowiest States Provide Contractors Big Opportunities

United States map

It’s the kind of list you want to be on if you’re a skier, a snowmobiler or a snow-management pro. For everyone else, having your home state on this list is a dubious honor. We set out to identify the snowiest states in the U.S. — the places where, year-in and year-out, the snow keeps piling up and plows keep pushing it back.

Trying to assemble a list of the snowiest states is trickier than you might think. It’s easy to single out the specific places that get the most snow. The top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, the highest peak in the Northeast, gets an average of 282 inches of snow each year. However, the only people there are meteorological researchers living in a reinforced concrete bunker.

Out West, Mt. Rainier is usually the snow king, with an average of 645 inches annually. But we were interested in determining the snowiest states overall, not the snowiest locations within a state. Besides, we’re looking at this from a snow and ice management perspective, so we didn’t want to look at snowfall atop mountains. We wanted to look at the places where people live and snow services are required.

The criteria we used

We started with a list of the five most populous cities in each state, recorded the average annual snowfall for each of those cities, then calculated the average of those figures. The hope was that, by working with the five largest cities in each state, we’d be incorporating some geographic diversity, and get a sense of just how snowy the state is overall — at least in populated areas.

Of course, that left out states like California. The northern Sierra Nevada mountain range gets absurd amounts of snow (751 inches, or nearly 63 feet, in 2016-17 alone), but the state’s population is mainly in southern cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, where snow is practically unheard of. Ditto for Oregon, where the snow piles up in the Cascades, but the average for the five most populous cities (Portland, Salem, Eugene, Gresham and Hillsboro) is just 3.82 inches a year.

Then there’s Pennsylvania. Erie, which has the state’s fourth-highest population, is one of the snowiest cities in the country, averaging 101.2 inches annually. But when you factor in Philadelphia (22.4), Pittsburgh (41.9), Allentown (32.9) and Reading (44), you end up with an average of 48.48 inches for the state. Michigan was close behind with 46.4 inches. That’s nearly 4 feet of snow annually — impressive, but not enough to crack the top 10 on our list.

In fact, all of our top 10 snow states came in with more than 50 inches annually (honorable mention goes to Utah, which just missed the cut with a tally of 50.12 inches). A wide swath of the country is represented, from far-west Alaska to far-east Maine, from Colorado in the Rockies to Minnesota in the upper Midwest.

Ultimately, the winner — by a fairly comfortable margin — was tiny Vermont. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in snowfall. And, because it’s so small, every part of the state is snowy, so there are no warmer-weather cities to drag down the average.

The silver medal goes to New York. If the competition had been focused on just one portion of the state, it may well have taken the top spot. Western New York, thanks to copious amounts of lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes, is one of the snowiest places in the country. In fact, Syracuse, with 123.8 inches annually, was the snowiest city on our list.

Why the snow goes where it goes

Assembling this list was a fun exercise, and certainly there are bragging rights on the line, but we wanted to dig a little deeper to find out why some of these states get so much more snow than others do. Obviously, all of the states on the list get plenty of cold weather in the winter, but there’s more to it than that, explains Roger Hill, a meteorologist who provides weather services to a variety of clients, from radio stations and utility companies to municipal road crews in — fittingly — Worcester, Vermont, where he resides.

“It’s a combination of things,” he says. “Obviously it takes cold air to produce snow. But the Dakotas are super cold, and eastern Montana is cold, but it’s not that snowy there, really.” Moisture is also required. “So you have sources of moisture, like the Great Lakes, and downwind of the lakes, you get these plumes that really unload tremendous amounts of snow. That’s why you hear of places like Buffalo and Syracuse and Rochester in New York getting so much.”

In Vermont and other New England states, snow often piles up thanks to nor’easters — storms that draw moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and then dump it inland. “That’s what pushes the snow totals up for us,” Hill says. “But not all of our snow is from nor’easters; it’s also frontal systems and Alberta Clipper systems and little, frequent snowfalls that add up over time.”

Hill says that in recent years, the Northeast has been getting more snow. “What’s happening is that all precipitation, whether it’s rain or snow, is increasing in the Northeastern U.S.,” he explains. Part of that is just plain physics. As the temperature rises, it holds more moisture – but there’s another factor in the mix. “The jet stream is slowing, and when the jet stream slows, you get these waves, and the troughs and ridges are much more amplified. The pattern defaults and locks into a trough in the East and a ridge out West, so for a period of time, you’ll have many storms going over the same area. The Northeast lines up like that better than most places do.”

So there might be fewer storms, but more snow from each storm in certain regions. “When it does snow, it snows more,” Hill says. “The key words are ‘erratic’ and ‘variable.’ It’s all produced by climate change, and that’s all related to the loss of the ice up in the pole. It’s only going to get worse.”

The increased variability means that weather these days is “less calendar-like,” Hill says. “It used to be that, when it got to Thanksgiving in New England, we knew it was going start being snowy, with slight variations. Now, it’s highly variable. It could be January and all of a sudden it’s up to 65 degrees and the snow melts … and then we have a rain event, with just a tiny bit of snow at the end.

“And what this increasing variability means is that there’s more ice than there ever has been.” That means road maintenance crews require bigger budgets for materials to treat that ice.

Hill says that in his profession, the variability makes it more difficult to forecast individual storm events. Even the modeling algorithms, which use historical climatology, are confused by the changing climate and weather patterns. And that’s planet-wide, not just in certain parts of the U.S., he points out. “Past about five or six days out, the model verification falls off dramatically,” he explains. “So if you hear a seven- or 10-day forecast, treat it with a grain of salt. Or a little bit of sand!”

Visit PlowSite.com 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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