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Keeping up appearances

Trees & Ornamentals

The work doesn’t end after you make the color sale.

Brian Horn | May 16, 2012

Color installation, more than anything, can involve a lot of maintenance to make sure the plants remains as vibrant as the customer wants. Jeff Miller of Creativexteriors says some of his larger projects have a number of flowers in pots (900 on one municipal property) that can’t be irrigated by a system, so they have to be watered by hand.

“If you do color and install it, you have to maintain it,” Miller says. “If you turn it over to somebody else it doesn’t always look that good. Honestly, the client might not call you back next year because the people who did the maintenance didn’t perform their end of the service.”

Melissa Scherb, vice president of business development for the Chicago Branch of Landscape Concepts Management, says she thinks ahead to avoid a maintenance time drain.

“In the commercial industry, it is important to select plant material that doesn’t need a lot of maintenance – angelonia, begonias – all varieties, lantanas, non-flowering coleus like 'Redhead’ or ‘Indian Summer,’” Scherb says.

“Generally speaking I tried to avoid plants that need a lot of maintenance like verbenas, marigolds (because of deadheading) and Zonal Geraniums. Since I have crews and managers who specialize in seasonal color, I encourage them to monitor sites weekly. Of course, weeding and fertilizing of beds and pots is critical and should be done on an as needed basis.”

Casey Vickery, president of Benchmark Landscapes in Austin, Texas, says his crews work on properties weekly, and has insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers to feed the plants as soon as they’re in ground.

“Not every site needs attending every week, but we have the stuff with us so as we see the problems we address it every week,” says Vickery. “On the commercial side, if your annual colors and your turf are looking good, you are usually on the top end of the landscape scale. So color is extremely important. If you let it fall or go backwards or if it’s not looking good, then it reflects on the whole property.”

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