What to Consider When Planning Your Community Landscaping
Beautiful landscaping is integral to any community. The right community landscaping can enhance your property values and make the area more enticing to prospective homebuyers and residents. Whether you’re investing for the first time or revamping your community landscaping, here are four considerations to keep in mind when choosing what to plant, when to plant and how to maintain what you’ve planted.
1. Consider your climate.Where you’re going to plant is everything, and no one plant is perfect for all climates, even within a single state. Florida, for instance, has many microclimates, and the plants that work in the tropical, southern part of the state won’t work in the central or northern, more temperate parts of it, according to Anthony Hudson, vice president of operations at FirstService Residential Landscape Services. “Roses don’t like salinity, for example. You won’t find Ficus north of about Port St. Lucie because it’s just too cold,” he said. “By the same token, you don’t see coconut palms north of Vero Beach, and tropical plants don’t grow in Jacksonville.”
What factors into climate for landscaping? It can vary—even within one property! Climate includes the level of light that a plant will get and how that may change during a season, moisture levels and rainfall and soil composition. Soil close to a beach will be saltier, for example.
Your landscaping should consist of plants that are native to or bred for the local climate as much as possible. In areas like Florida, that means you should choose plants that can handle heavy rainfall or soil with higher salinity and low nutrient retention. In hot, dry places like Arizona, plants that do well in intense heat and that are drought resistant will thrive. Plants that hibernate and bloom with the seasons do well in generally temperate climates, which covers most of the United States and Canada. However, you wouldn’t plant tropical trees in Ontario and expect a great result.
Bobbie Potts, a certified arborist and head of business development for Desert Classic Landscaping in Phoenix, Arizona, asserted that native plants not only do better there, but they are less expensive to maintain and require less effort. “Mediterranean plants and many plants that do well in California’s temperate climate will grow here but take a lot of extra time and water to maintain. Even with great care, these plants will never look as beautiful as they do in their native climates,” Potts said. “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.’ There are many beautiful plants that love our dry heat and can serve whatever purpose and aesthetic feel a community is looking for with a little time and research.”
2. Take sustainability into account.Hudson said that most of the environmental concerns he addresses in landscaping right now are related to finding environmentally friendly ways to control pests. Overall, homeowners and associations want to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals in the environment while maintaining beautiful landscaping. He said that one approach is using integrated pest management (IPM), which is a reversal from the traditional “crop dusting” style of pest management in which all plants are treated, whether they need it or not. IPM focuses on treating only the plants in need and using as little chemical product as possible.
Using plantings that are less likely to attract pests is another approach. Ficus, for example, is widely used in privacy hedges because they are inexpensive and plentiful. However, they are expensive to maintain than other plants, requiring more labor for trimming, more pest control against the Ficus whitefly and more fertilization. Hudson said he often recommends swapping Clusia, green arboricola or gold capella for Ficus; those interested in native Florida plants can consider Firebush, Simpson’s stoppers or Florida privet for hedges. These reduce maintenance costs and require less chemical treatment because they do not attract Ficus whitefly. However, they provide a more rustic, untamed look than some homeowners might like.
Irrigation with reclaimed water can make landscaping more eco-friendly as well. It may be more expensive to maintain a system that uses reclaimed water, but the savings in water usage and environmental impact will pay off in the long run.
3. Plan and prepare for each season.Potts said to take your seasons into consideration when designing your landscape. Some plants do better than others when you have a particularly cold winter. Developing a pallet of plants and trees that are frost resistant should aid in keeping your landscape beautiful during cold periods. If you are in an area that experiences harsh desert summers, you’ll want your pallet to consist mainly of native and desert-adapted plants and trees so your landscape looks good all year long.
Caring for your landscape during seasonal changes includes preparing for each season before it arrives. Hudson said that mulching is an important part of this process. “Mulch retains moisture, controls erosion, provides and retains nutrients in the soil, beautifies the landscape, suppresses weed growth and controls soil temperature,” he explained. “Mulch also creates a barrier that protects trees and shrubs from harmful mechanical lawn maintenance equipment. Finally, it improves soil quality to help your plants take in vital nutrients.”
If you’re not already using it as part of your landscaping routine, you can install mulch anytime. “Most communities and homeowners tend to apply mulch in the spring and again just before the holiday season for a fresh look and to beautify the landscape,” Hudson said. It’s also a good idea to apply mulch after completing a landscape installation project or renovation. It will help the new plantings retain moisture and provide a finished look to the landscape project.
Winterizing your landscaping also includes making sure that you have prepared your irrigation system so that no water remains in it that can freeze and cause damage. Hudson also cautioned homeowners to find out how your community maintenance staff removes snow from driveways and sidewalks. Commonly-used rock salt can get pushed into hedges and grass, killing your plants and requiring landscaping replacement in the spring. Safer alternatives include calcium chloride, which is just as effective as rock salt but doesn’t cause damage.
4. Discuss what you want with experts.Both Hudson and Potts suggested having in-depth conversations with your local landscaping company or reputable nursey to discuss what you want to achieve, how much you can spend and what your primary concerns for landscaping are. Is a privacy hedge paramount? Is sustainability your top concern? What about budget? These experts can then recommend the right mix of plants and maintenance for your community. A quality property management company will have relationships with excellent landscaping firms and can facilitate that conversation.
Find out more about how a professional property management company can assist you with your community landscaping needs and suggest additional ways to increase your property values. Contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company, today.