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Whether you're a landscape professional, a property manager, or you just plain like to have your yard looking good, this blog is for you. From property manager resources to homeowner tips and tricks of the trade, this blog covers all things landscaping.

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Get Your Property’s Landscape in Shape This Year

 

grass push up resized 600For property managers, January is a great time to think about getting your property’s landscape in shape for the New Year. Just like many of us plan on hitting the gym this month to get back in shape, your landscape might be in need of its own New Year’s resolution. Here are three helpful tips borrowed from the fitness industry that will help kick start your landscape’s New Year shape-up plan.


1. Establish a Baseline and Set Your Goals
Like stepping on a scale before you set personal fitness goals, you should start by taking an honest look at where your property’s landscape is today, then decide how you want to improve its appearance. By walking through your property now, you will see some areas where you know that you can make big improvements this year. Look for obvious areas first, like bare or overly distressed patches of turf, or trees with low hanging limbs that are in need of trimming. Pay special attention to the featured areas of the landscape like entrances and common spaces. Do they welcome visitors, or are they dull and need rejuvenating? You may not like what you see now, but by identifying the problem areas and setting improvement goals, you should start to see real progress by the time spring arrives.

2. Commit to a Plan and Record Your Progress
Now that you’ve established where you’re starting from and where you want to be, it’s time to create a plan. As with your personal health goals at the gym, your landscaping will need a plan that addresses not only the areas you want to improve, but all the components of a healthy landscape. Successful landscape service plans include not only the services you see, like mowing and detailing, but maintenance of other important areas, like your irrigation system, and will include fertilization and pest prevention for sustained, healthy growth. By committing to attend monthly walkthroughs to review your landscape’s most important features, you will be investing the time needed to make sure that this is the year that your landscape gets in shape. Map and photograph the areas of your property that you would like to improve, so that you can go back to them throughout the year to track their improvement. Once you start receiving compliments from residents, tenants, or guests about your landscaping, you’ll know that your time and hard work are paying off.

3. Get Help from a Pro
Finally, the most important thing you can do to make sure that your landscape gets in shape this year is to hire professional help. Just like a personal trainer will push you toward your fitness goals, a dedicated, professional landscape service provider will accelerate the improvements you want to see in your property’s landscape. A professional landscaper will be with you on your monthly property walkthroughs to help you see and understand the positive changes taking place in your property’s landscape. They are accountable to make sure that your improvement goals are met and will use their knowldge and expertise to make sure your property is healthy year after year.

These three simple tips will help make sure that you get your landscape in great shape this year.

Remember that your landscaping is a major factor in your property’s first impression – make sure that it always looks its best!

Before You Set Next Year’s Landscape Budget, Consider These 3 Things

 

describe the image“The grass is green, the shrubs are pruned, and no one complains about my property’s curb appeal. Why would I spend any more than I already do on our landscaping?"

That’s a really good question. Even when things are going well, your landscape budget should always get a closer look.  Setting the annual budget without taking the time to evaluate your investment means that you could be leaving some big improvement opportunities on the table.

Here are 3 things to consider before you pencil in next year’s landscape budget amount:
1. Has my property’s value increased this year because of my community’s appearance? Yes, it’s called landscape maintenance for a reason, but what if your landscape contractor could work within your budget and add new plant material to update one of your amenity areas? What about designing a new annual flower display at your property’s main entrance? In any property management setting, your first impression is critical.  An attractive landscape welcomes visitors to your property and adds real value to your community. Value that is reflected through higher property values in homeowner associations and through higher occupancy rates for leased properties.
2. Can I make my life simpler by consolidating related services with one vendor?  Are you spending half your day tracking down contractors to deal with all the needs that your property has?  One day there’s a plumbing emergency to attend to. The next, an AC unit goes out while you’re meeting with the security provider.  Most professional landscape companies employ specialists with skills that extend beyond basic landscape maintenance services.  Look for a contractor that uses an integrated approach, consolidating your landscape maintenance, irrigation, fertilization, and pest control.
An integrated services provider saves not only time, but is often less expensive than using multiple contractors with single service offerings.
3. Are my residents and tenants better off this year than last year? While your title may be Property Manager, make no mistake about it, you are in the People business. Whether they are property owners in a planned community or tenants that are leasing office space, keeping them happy is job number one.  Adding maintained green spaces to your property will positively impact the well being of everyone who visits. People are increasingly looking for outdoor spaces in urban and suburban areas as a retreat from their digital lives.  Taking care of people’s needs, as well as the property’s needs, will continue to set exceptional communities apart from average ones.

What do you think? Is your landscape an asset that is growing value for your property, or is it just breaking even? Are there other line items in your budget that could benefit from the same evaluation?  We’d love to hear your comments in the space provided below.

Plants for your Pool and Beach Landscape

 

Pool and Beach Article3

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Have any ideas or questions about plants to use near the pool or beach? Comment below!

Taking the Guessing Out of When to Plant What

 

Whether you're new to gardening or moving to a new place, figuring out the right plant for the right place can be challenging! Luckily for you, we stumbled across a website that figures it out for you! Sprout Robot tells you when to plant for your climate, all you need to do is enter your zip code and Sprout Robot shows you a planting calendar. Each week shows what you should plant, along with instructions and the option to buy seeds.

describe the image http://sproutrobot.com/  

We love anything that makes home gardening easier, and we know you do too!

 

 

Summer Annuals

 

Now that the temperatures have risen, everyone has switched from their grays and browns into brighter colors. The garden is no exception, and the quickest way to add color to your landscape is to plant some annuals!

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For more detailed information, try these links:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topics/lawngarden/homelawn.html

http://www.floridata.com/index.cfm

 

 

 

 

January Landscaping Tips

 

Christmas Cactus 2012 (480x640)by Toni A. Smothers, Contributing Writer

Hello… Happy New Year! Are you excited about January?

It’s hard to believe that we’re beginning a brand new year.  Hopefully, you have prepared your outdoor environment so that it is wonderful. Yes I did say wonderful - Even in January?

Being prepared is key - Although our climate is in the 9 – 10 zones, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), plant hardiness zone map, we occasionally do get freezing temperatures for short periods of time. That’s why I am starting you off with a very basic task. Gather together all the blankets, sheets or drop-cloths, etc., you have available and keep them all together in one place so that you can easily find them when the weather forecast predicts the big chill. (Under 32 degrees) 

Trust me; you don’t want to wait until some chilly night when the temperature has been dropping steadily. This night is on its way to some-kind-of-serious cold when you’re almost ready for bed and you hear on the news that it is going to freeze. Where is all that stuff you’ll need to cover your most fragile plant beds and decorative trees? Can you let all that beauty, time and cost be devastated in one night? Although you are tempted, you can’t do it. (Burr!)

This is hardly an ideal scenario. So, being prepared will save you a lot of grief…and your lovely winter wonderland will live to bask in the sun yet another day. It’s a win-win! So, with that said, let’s get into some ideas to beautify.

January Landscaping Tips:

  1. Your trees can become great focal points. Even the deciduous trees that shed their leaves seasonally lend interesting looking branches and bark of various shades. The evergreen should also be present in a winter landscape. You may think green when you consider evergreens, but there are also yellow varieties (Gold Thread, false cypress). Some cedar evergreens grow up straight, thin and tall. When paired at an entry way, they appear almost as sentries on guard duty.
  2. Use brightly colored potted plants to offer a lively greeting to guests. Plants like red and white Poinsettia can remain inside their buried pots. The buried pot method lends pretty instantaneous, dynamic color in an otherwise stagnant spot. Additionally, you can invite the neighbors, (feathered friends), over for a bite, while adding the vivid colors found in berries. There are many shrubs and trees that produce berries in the winter season. 
  3. If you decide that certain areas of your landscape seem a bit dull, make mental note and plant perennials that have foliage in winter. Also, it’s a good time to consider planting bulbs like the beautiful amaryllises, which will bloom again and again each winter.
  4. Don’t forget your entryways. Plants like Christmas cactus bloom this time of year. Purchase some potted amaryllises, (make note after their flowers are spent), to plant their bulbs for next year).  As long as these plants get indirect sunlight and a little water, they will make a happy greeting for guests. Pine cones are always a pretty addition as well. If you don’t have those regal pine trees in your landscape, you can always improvise - Pine cones of every shape and size are available at local craft stores. Just spray paint or glue glittery shades of color on some of your pine cones, arrange and display them in baskets at the doorway, which makes a beautiful presentation.

So, as your landscape grows and changes and you are adding perennials that will bloom in all four seasons, there will always be drop-dead gorgeous color, texture and life…yes… even in January.

More December Landscaping Tips

 

Christmas Palmby Toni A. Smothers, Contributing Writer

Christmas is right around the corner!

At our house, we love to decorate both inside and out. What could be more appropriate then to lead off this blog post with a lovely Christmas Palm? Well, I guess if it weren’t for its height and swaying fronds, we could decorate it with Christmas ornaments… (Maybe not – how about a string of lights? Hum-mm)

There’s not much that could improve on the original. (Except maybe a comfy chase-lounge, a good book and the day off!)

The Christmas Palm is medium in size and very popular in Florida landscaping. A Christmas Palm’s trunk is usually grayish and slender and it supports about a dozen arching fronds that can grow up to approximately 5’ long. They sweep gracefully with each breeze and slap about abruptly when attacked by Mother Nature’s torrential storms. This type of palm does produce a cream colored flower/fruit, resembling an egg in shape that turns a bright crimson once it’s ripened - Usually in December.

This time of the year is sometimes a bit too hectic. You may decorate your Christmas tree in your home, maybe placing it center stage at your front window so it can be appreciated from inside or out. You also spend hours shopping for that perfect gift for each person on your list. Then there’s all the wrapping gifts with care, that delicious eggnog and probably a gazillion other things. But remember that the outside landscape is important in welcoming guests as they approach your home – It is their first impression.

So, what else is good to have in your landscape to get maximum appeal?

December Landscaping Tips:

  1. Pansies are sweet flowering plants that come in several different shades. They are available at your favorite supplier. They are annuals and I usually avoid annuals unless I want something that is relatively inexpensive for an entryway, at a time that I anticipate a number of guests. Pansies have only a limited lifetime, but in their season they usually can stand up to pretty harsh weather. They are low to the ground and when planted in clusters they really stand out, especially since most of the perennials are kind of sleeping at this time of year.
  2. An arbor strategically placed can boast small bell flowers that dangle from their vines. (Clematis vine) These cute, white blooms will definitely gain your guest’s attention. (They appear in December and last until March.) Place a bench in the arbor’s vicinity and you can be sure someone will sit down and enjoy the landscape.
  3. Camellia is another consideration that could provide a bright spot during the winter months. Camellia is a vivid red flowering plant that goes well with Christmas colors. If you can protect it in the harshest winter freeze, then Camellia will definitely brighten any dreary spots.
  4. There is a type of Heather, called ‘Saint Nick’, (gotta love that name).  The flowers are a warm rose or mauve color during December and January. ‘Saint Nick’ Heather is good for colorful ground cover because it stays low to the ground (about 10”) and grows in nice tight clusters. You always want to fill bare spots with this kind of obliging plant that will fan out approximately 18” and can usually tolerate most Florida winter weather.
  5. December is typically dry so be sure to give your grounds a good watering at various times during the month. (Strange fact: Frost damage is least likely to occur when the ground is wet.)
  6. One last tidbit: Did you know that you could make up a homemade pest control solution? It’s made from two tablespoons dishwashing detergent mixed with one gallon of tap water. I’ve used this recipe for aphids on my petunias and soft scale on shefflera.

Now that is more of a cost savings than you might think. I poured that solution into a 16 ounce spray bottle and used two bottles of that solution on just one shefflera. That plant was almost six years old when it was suddenly full of that creepy soft scale. I was so worried that I might lose that wonderful plant. What a relief to see those leaves cleaning up almost immediately. (To top it off – You can even use brand-x soap!)

Well, Merry Christmas – I’ll be back in the New Year!

3 Simple Landscape Tips for December

 
Landscaping for Christmas‘Tis the season! The end of the year is drawing near, and the holidays are just around the corner. Weekends are filled with shopping for gifts, getting the house ready for guests, and relaxing by the fire with some hot cocoa. But don't forget about the landscape; it's one of the focal points for creating festive cheer. The following are a few ideas for putting your landscape in the holiday spirit for the month of December. 



Reds and Whites

In the month of December, some red and white annuals will add a beautiful, festive tone to your property. Plant annuals in pots at your entrance, or plant them along a patio. Splashes of merry colors outside of the home give properties a 'wow' look! Good annual options for winter that bring festive tones include:

               -Dianthus

               -Poinsettias

               -Pansies

               -Dusty Miller

String the Lights

Add to your holiday spirit by hanging lights around your property like a professional! Measure each area you plan to string lights so you know the proper strand length that you’ll need. Locate your power sources and measure how many feet of power cord will be required to extend from the power source to the desired area. Whether hanging holiday lights from gutters, shingles, or the roofline, you can find clips to keep your lights in place. These tactics will help give your lighting a professional and elegant look!

Hang the Wreath

There's nothing quite like opening the front door for a guest and having the scent of fir enter the house. There are many different kinds of wreaths; Douglas Fir, Balsam, and Holly Berry are just a few of the varieties to look for, and each one can be decorated with pine cones, fruits, holly berries or just about anything that looks festive and offers fresh scents. A wreath not only adds to the home aesthetically, but it also symbolizes many things and is a historic icon dating back thousands of years. For example, a wreath's evergreen materials symbolize strength, due to an evergreen's ability to live through even the coldest of winters.

3 Simple Landscape Tips for November

 

Landscaping, Thanksgiving, NovemberNovember is here! Winter is approaching, and preparing the landscape is vital for having a quick and healthy recovery in the spring. This month is also a good time to freshen things up in preparation for Thanksgiving entertaining. Below are some tips on making sure your property is not only ready for the cold, but is looking good throughout the upcoming season.

Preparing for Winter with Turf Fertilizer 

When fertilizing the turf to prepare for winter, the best fertilizer to use is one that is high in potassium. This is the last number listed on the fertilizer label (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium). Potassium strengthens the turf roots to prepare the lawn for winter. The longer the roots are, the healthier the turf and the less time it will take for it to recover from the winter. It is also always best to use a low to phosphorous-free fertilizer, which has less of an environmental impact on the Southeast's waterways and is not needed due its natural occurrence in the soil. 

Replenish Mulch

There’s nothing like a fresh application of mulch! Now is a good time to replenish the mulch because it acts as a barrier to help lock in moisture and keep the soil temperature warmer. It’s also a good time to replenish mulch because it adds a clean look to the winter landscape. Don’t forget to apply the mulch no more than 2-3 inches deep.

Add Some Color

During the winter months, many types of grasses turn brown and go dormant, small trees like Crape Myrtles lose their vibrant colors, and perennials like lantana die back. It’s time to add some color! Winter annuals like pansies, dusty miller and dianthus are all good choices for giving your landscape a lift this winter. If you don’t have an annual bed, try making one. Some good locations for annuals are at the entrance of a home and surrounding a back patio.

Besides these steps, mow as-needed, check irrigation regularly, and continuously monitor your turf for pests and fungus to ensure a healthy, thriving landscape.

The Happiest Property Manager

 

Happy Property Managers

If you're a Property Manager, congrats - you have one of the happiest jobs in America. The reason? It's all about the people you work with. From the residents to the vendors to the owners, Property Managers experience a plethora of relationships most professionals don't get to experience - ever.

This is why in property management, relationships really matter. And relationships have become even more important as Property Manager's duties continue to evolve, requiring more time and effort in areas of little familiarity.

One of the most important relationships for a commercial or community Property Manager is his/her relationship with the landscape maintenance provider. In most communities, especially in regions with year round landscape needs, landscape services are one of the biggest investments a community makes. It's also the service that can inspire the most noise from the community if something's not right. Here are some key points to help you grow these relationships that really matter:

It Takes a While. We don't mean to be downers, but relationships take a lot of time to develop. The reason for this is, of course, trust. You need to know that when you give your landscape company a call over a problem, they'll fix it. How responsive they are, how quickly they respond, and how well they're able to communicate all have a play into how much you can trust them. As in any relationship, trust takes time to develop, so be patient and cognitive of moments where trust is displayed. If you can trust your landscaper to be the eyes and ears of your community or commercial property, your job just got easier.

It Goes Both Ways. My brother, although I love him dearly, never calls me. I'm always the one to call him, and this one way stream kinda' drives me crazy. Relationships have to go both ways, especially in the landscaper/property manager relationship. No doubt - your landscape manager survives to serve you and your community. But, that landscaper will be able to serve your community more fully if you share a relationship that cultivates open and honest communication. Property Managers benefit when they articulate problems in a way thatHappy Property Manager empowers the landscaper's ability and passions. The bi-product of this kind of communication is a strong relationship where the landscaper's got your back and is proud of the community or commercial property he/she serves.

Finding the Right Partner. If you're looking for a landscape company, chances are, you're gauging whether you can trust them before they step on your property. You're checking references, verifying their financial capabilities and sorting out the services you would be provided. Other ways to learn how to pick the right landscape company before they're entrusted on your property are to:

  • Pay attention to the landscape company's responsiveness throughout the proposal process. If they're not complete in their submittals, non-responsive to pre-bid meetings or don't sound too enthusiastic about your landscape, what makes you think they'd be any different when they're on your property?
  • Identify whether the landscape company is engaged. Quality landscape firms will ask focused questions during the proposal process. Questions that get to the meat of what you're looking for and what they can serve.
  • Meet the team. That's right - request to meet the Account Manager that would be taking care of your property. After all, this would probably be who you'll deal directly with and who you're putting your trust in. But it's also good to get to know the culture of the company. This type of digging will give you a strong sense  of whether you can trust your landscaper before they arrive on your property.

In property management, relationships really matter. When you invest in these relationships, your job not only gets easier, but you'll become happier.

Want more information no how to get the perfect landscape company on your property? Check out our eBook!

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