Having attractive landscaping is an important feature in any community. Not only is it appealing to current residents, but it also can raise property values and make the neighborhood more desirable to prospective buyers. Whether you are designing a new area or looking to spruce up your community’s existing landscaping, here are four factors to consider when deciding how and what to plant.
1. Climate
California has a wide variety of climates, and few plants will be appropriate everywhere. Some of the elements that affect how well they will grow include:
  • Precipitation
  • Temperature
  • Sunlight
  • Moisture levels
  • Soil composition
Plants that can thrive in in the dry, desert conditions of Palm Springs, for example, would not do well in the cold winters of Mount Shasta. And some of the plants that grow well in the more temperate parts of the state would not survive near the ocean where the soil is saltier.
“You wouldn’t want to grow roses near the coast,” says Anthony Hudson, vice president of operations at FirstService Residential Landscape Services. “They don’t do well when the salinity of the soil is too high.”
Whenever possible, use native plants or those that have been bred for your particular climate. This is especially true when dealing with the kinds of drought conditions that have faced Southern California for years. Landscaping in this part of the state must include plants that can tolerate low moisture. The Royal Peacock—which is native to California and produces large, colorful flowers—is one such plant.
According to Bobbie Potts, business development and marketing director at Desert Classic Landscaping and a certified arborist, native plants are also easier and less costly to maintain. “Horticulturists have developed a great number of desert-adapted plants over the years that are vibrant and aren’t the proverbial cactus many people think about when they hear the words ‘desert adapted,’” she explains. “There are many beautiful plants that love dry heat and can serve whatever purpose and aesthetic feel a community is looking for.”
Replacing grass lawns with artificial turf is another way that your homeowners association can retain the community’s appearance while reducing water consumption. Many homeowners in Southern California have begun doing this as well—even when their HOA’s governing documents prohibit it. If your HOA’s governing documents ban the use of artificial turf, it may be time to amend them.
Since the passage of Assembly Bill 349, attempting to enforce such regulations is now against the law. With this bill, the legislature recognized that conserving water during a drought state of emergency takes precedence over HOA rules designed to regulate aesthetics. What’s more, if you issue violation notices to homeowners who install artificial turf or who simply stop watering their lawns, your HOA may be fined.
2. Sustainability
An easy way for HOAs to incorporate sustainability into their landscaping is by making a point of planting species that are native to California. Native plants require less water and maintenance, making them especially desirable during a drought. In addition, they help to reduce the use of pesticides because of their natural resistance to many pests and diseases.
Another way that California communities can make their landscaping more eco-friendly while addressing the state’s drought is by using reclaimed water to support their irrigation needs. Although a system that uses reclaimed water may be more costly to maintain, water usage savings, along with the reduced environmental impact, can make this a worthwhile option.
Hudson points out that many HOAs are concerned about the amount of chemicals used for pest control. With traditional pest management, pesticides are applied across a wide area according to a set schedule. This type of application can leave chemical residues in unintended areas and affects beneficial insects even when they are not the target.
Integrated pest management (IPM) offers an alternative that is more environmentally friendly than the traditional approach. According to the University of California Statewide IPM Program, IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pests and pest damage by identifying their root cause. This approach consists of implementing:
  • Biological controls, which use natural enemies to control the pest population
  • Cultural controls, which prevent the establishment and survival of pests by removing inviting conditions
  • Mechanical or physical controls, which may include removing, trapping or blocking pests (for example, using traps, mulch or barriers)
  • Chemical controls, which entail the use of pesticides, but only as needed and in a targeted way to reduce their environmental impact
3. Seasons
Even in parts of California that are warm all year long, you may have occasional periods when temperatures reach below freezing. Be sure that you keep seasonal changes in mind when you design your landscaping. Some plants are not well suited to harsh winters at all; others may need special care in the colder months. Consider trees and plants that will resist frost if you are in these areas.
On the other hand, if you live where summers are especially hot, look for plants and trees that are native to those areas are that are adapted to desert conditions. This will make it easier for you to maintain an attractive landscape year-round.  
Whether your harsh season is winter or summer, another alternative is to use planters. When the weather is mild, your more delicate plants can remain outside. When temperatures get too low or too high, those same plants can live indoors.
Seasonal preparation is also important. In many areas, this means mulching, which has many benefits, according to Hudson. These include:
  • Retaining moisture
  • Improving soil quality
  • Moderating soil temperature
  • Limiting erosion
  • Reducing weeds
  • Protecting trees and shrubs
  • Beautifying the landscape
“You can install mulch anytime,” says Hudson. “Most communities and homeowners tend to apply mulch in the spring and again just before the holiday season.” Hudson also recommends applying mulch after you do any landscaping or complete a renovation project. New plantings will benefit from the retained moisture, and your landscaping will have a more finished appearance.
4. Expert advice
Figuring out the best landscaping can be a bit overwhelming, so Potts and Hudson recommend discussing your needs with a local nursery or a reputable landscaping firm. Let these experts review your budget and what you hope to achieve for your community. Explain your priorities. Are you most concerned about sustainability, cost or privacy? Based on this discussion, a specialist with landscaping expertise can suggest the right plants and the right maintenance program for your community. An experienced community management company with a strong local presence can refer you to quality landscaping firms near you.
Learn how improving the landscaping in your community can help enhance property values and enhance your residents’ lives. Contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading community management company.
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Tuesday November 29, 2016