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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
by 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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!
‘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 WhitesIn 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 MillerString the LightsAdd 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 WreathThere'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.
November 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.
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.
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 that 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!
As Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the pool continue to be replaced with watching football on the couch, the cooler temperatures are gradually settling in. Winter is coming, and preparing the landscape is vital for having a quick and healthy recovery in the spring. It’s also a good time to freshen things up in preparation for frost damage and brown, dormant months. Below are some tips on making sure your property is not only ready for the cold, but is looking good throughout the upcoming season.
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.
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 the 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 loose their vibrant colors, and perennials like lantana die back. It’s time to add some color! Winter annuals like petunias, pansies, snapdragons and Shasta daisies 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 base of a large tree, at the entrance of a home or surrounding a back patio.
The landscape industry is huge. With over 90,000 landscaping firms across the country and over 175 Billion in US revenues, mowing grass and trimming shrubs sure adds up.
To make it easy to understand this national scope of services, we've put together a little infographic on our diverse and unique industry. We hope it helps shed light that, in an industry so vast and crowded, it can be difficult to truly understand the differences between quality landscape companies from the rest. Don't get discouraged by the noise - there are powerful ways to decipher who should be on your property.
For a full-page view of this infographic, click here
Want to be updated the next time we create a new helpful resource?
September may mean the beginning of fall weather for many, but in the Southeast, the summer heat is still going strong. At this point, you're tired of the heat, you're ready to mow less often and worrying about the weeds is replaced with worrying about your kid’s new teacher. Hold strong; you're at the last stretch of the summer and relief will come soon! In order to get past the last month of high temperatures and prepare your property for the cooler weather ahead, follow these simple steps.Apply Pre-Emergent Herbicides to Avoid Winter Weeds
Prepare your turf for the winter by applying pre-emergent herbicides. Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied now before winter weeds even begin to develop. In fact, applying the herbicide once weeds have rooted does not have a controlling effect since herbicides actually prevent weed seeds from germinating. Improperly timing your pre-emergent herbicides also results in polluting our local ground water, rivers, lakes and ocean.Sod Installation/Replacement
In Florida, there are two prime seasons for replacing sod; in the spring and at the end of the summer while we still have afternoon showers. Though planting sod can be done at other times of the season, September is a great time to replace sod because of the warm weather, long days and afternoon showers. If you wait until the cooler months to replace sod, the turf has a more difficult time establishing and can even go into dormancy, giving it a bad start to healthy growing habits.Make Sure to Have all Pruning Completed
Make sure to have all pruning completed by the end of September. If you haven't pruned yet, you may even be in luck - late summer pruning can stimulate an additional flush of shoot growth on certain species such as Hibiscus, Oleander and Bougainvillea. But beware, pruning at the beginning of fall or shortly before a first freeze could stunt growth and damage plants. In most cases, it's best to prune far in advance of the first freeze.
Over the past several months, we've been creating resources and tools to help property managers across the nation more efficiently manage their landscapes. Just in case you've missed some of them, here are four of our most popular resources to help you with your community or commercial property's landscape:
1. The Best Landscape Calculator
How much mulch do I need for a 500 sq ft. area at a 2 inch depth? How many annual flowers are my landscapers planting?
Visit www.landscapecalculator.com. It's the best landscape calculator we've ever seen, not only for its quality interface, but more importantly, it's accuracy.
2. The Landscape RFP eBook
Maybe you're a new Property Manager, or maybe you've been managing large properties for 10 years. Either way, this eBook is for you. This landscape eBook is a 25 page, illustrated resource that goes through each step of the RFP process. The book shows you how to construct the perfect landscaping RFP. If you're fed up with getting bid results that are all over the board, this eBook helps you to get results that you can understand and compare. Click on the book below!
3. The Perfect Landscaping RFP Template
Don't have the time to put together a customized RFP template? Use our MS Word document as your template! The landscaping RFP template even has notes on the side of every page, explaining what sections you'll need, and what sections you can do without, depending on the type of property you're servicing. Click on the template below!
4. Apples to Apples Wizard
You've used the Landscaping RFP Template, you've read the eBook and now you have a handful of bids to compare. Time to pull out the Apples-to-Apples wizard! It's a simple excel spreadsheet that helps you tally and compare all of your incoming bid results.
These four resources are a great start to giving you more insight into managing the landscape. We sincerely hope you enjoy these tools and resources.
The end of the summer is drawing near. Vacations are coming to an end, back-to-school shopping may have started, and everyone is gearing up for the final stretch of the summer. The landscape only has to endure this heat for a month and a half more until the cooler, fall weather arrives. To get your landscape through the last part of summer, follow these simple steps.
Apply Supplemental Turf Fertilizer if Needed
A supplemental turf fertilizer application might be needed between regularly scheduled fertilizations in May and September. Your turf needs additional nutrients when its vibrant green color starts to fade. This supplemental application should be liquid, which differs from the granular, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer used for the regularly scheduled fertilizations. The supplemental fertilizer should also be high in iron to help green up the turf.
Look Out for Oleander Caterpillars
Oleander Caterpillars, if left untreated, can cause significant damage to plants. While mostly found on Oleanders, this pest can also affect Desert Rose, Bougainvillea, Mandevilla and Natal Plum. This is the only pest of concern found for Oleander.
An infested plant begins to turn brown as the caterpillars chew the leaf tissue, which causes stress to the plant. To treat, we recommend trying a cultural control first, especially if the problem has been detected early. This entails removing larvae-infested foliage. Once removed, put the sealed bag of foliage into the freezer for 24 hours. This will kill the caterpillars. Also, it is important to wash your hands immediately after handling the Oleander’s cut foliage since it is poisonous. A pesticide treatment, preferably by a professional, should be used if the cultural method is unsuccessful or if the plant is overly infested with caterpillars. Multiple treatments might be needed since Oleander Caterpillars can have up to seven generations.
If you have areas in your plant beds with bare soil, make sure to cover it with mulch. This helps keep the soil cooler and increases moisture retention. It also provides a fresh, clean look to the landscape as well as reduces weed growth. Make sure to install the mulch at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Also, keep the mulch away from the plant stems and tree trunks to prevent root rot.
Besides these steps, continue with weekly mowings, regular irrigation checks, and continuously monitoring your turf for pests and fungus to ensure a healthy, thriving landscape.