Calling Off Enhancements

Departments - Industry Insight

Contractors report commercial properties are forgoing flower rotations and small design/build improvements. By Nicole Wisniewski

October 19, 2009
Nicole Wisniewski

Hilton Head, S.C.-based The Greenery has seen enhancement work cut by 5 percent. Sterling, Va.’s Sunrise Lawn & Landscaping Services used to do $20,000 to $30,000 in enhancements annually for a condominium association that has about 70 to 80 units.

But this year, a resident who is not a professional landscape contractor, took over the job of planting annuals – and she’s starting to realize the job is too big. “She even did a lot of stone work and gravel work, but now she’s getting burnt out, and we’re stuck dealing with whatever she planted as we maintain the property,” says Joe Markell, president of the $2.5 million company.

This is a good example of what’s happening in today’s economy concerning enhancement work, Markell says. “Though we do everything – pruning, mowing and turf care, she’s doing the flower rotations and replacements,” he explains. Maintenance is the bigger chunk of the job at $35,000 to $40,000 a year, but enhancements made up a nice additional portion. The bulk of Sunrise’s commercial business is maintenance, and enhancements have dropped about 50 percent this year.

Many contractors are reporting customers taking over this work or  avoiding it altogether.

Lee Edwards has noticed a similar trend in his market. On commercial jobs, enhancement services have been cut back about 5 percent for Hilton Head, S.C.-based The Greenery.

Some of it has to do with the current commercial market trends, says Jody O’Donnell, president of Carrollton, Texas-based LMI Landscapes. Texas “won’t be immune” from this recession, he adds, pointing out he expects more commercial properties to foreclose or default on their loans over the next 18 months.

The author is editor of Lawn & Landscape. Reach her at Chuck Bowen, associate editor, also contributed to this story.