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10 tips for Choosing the Best Plants for Commercial Sites

The landscaping on commercial sites may be low on a business owner’s list of priorities for their property. But you should not underestimate the positive influence an attractive landscape can have on potential clients. With this in mind, here is a list of ten issues to consider for choosing the right plants to keep your property’s landscaping looking and functioning at its best.

Non-Invasive

Some very hardy plants would be great choices for commercial landscapes if not for their tendency and ability to invade and spread where they are not wanted. This may happen via seedlings or by creeping rhizomes (horizontal underground stems that can send out new roots and shoots). Luckily, here in Colorado and the Inter-Mountain West, our growing climate is challenging for many invasive plants that have ravaged milder climates in North America. However, there are some plants you should never allow to take root in Colorado due to their invasive nature. For a list of plants see: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/unitedstates/co.shtml; http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/2041.html

ArtGym-Grass-and-Lavender

Blonde Ambition Grama Grass and English Lavender

Disease Resistant

Nobody wants to spend extra money or time dealing with or replacing diseased or dying plants. Avoid choosing plants that are easily susceptible to attack from disease or pests.

Long Lived

Along the same lines of replacing diseased plants prematurely, nobody wants to spend time and money replacing plants that live short lives. The cost of purchasing and installing landscape plants is significant, so it is wise to choose plants that will stand the test of time.

Adaptable to various exposures

The location you are planting on your property may currently be in any degree of exposure from full sun to full shade. But conditions may change in the near future. Will a new building or new trees be placed on the neighboring property? Conversely is a structure or tree slated to come down, creating a new pocket of full sun? Picking plants with higher adaptability to various exposures will ensure success for your landscape.

Adaptable to various soils

The soils in my area are typically heavy in clay with a high (alkaline) pH. This is one more challenge to add to the list of issues that face landscape plants. For best success and longevity, choose plants adapted or adaptable to the soil conditions on your property.

Adaptable to variable moisture levels

You may be familiar with desert plants and you may be familiar with rainforest plants. These two extremes of ecology illustrate the wide variability of climate that plants live in. Your landscape likely falls somewhere in between these extremes. However, even in the most average commercial landscape, we might find wide degrees of moisture and irrigation levels. Having plants that can handle these extremes will help ensure your landscapes do well.

Drought Tolerant

Although nearly all municipalities require automatic landscape irrigation, it is good if the plants you specify for a site are truly drought tolerant.

But on the flip side, some plants that are considered very low water plants may be more difficult to establish on a commercial site due to over watering. Many but not all native plants fall in this category. They are more fussy about soils and drainage. They may need to be ruled out of the “set it, and forget it” situation that many commercial clients may seek. But if you have the time or the staff to work with some very low water plants during their establishment time, they can eventually become great components of your drought tolerant landscaping. The easiest plants to use in your landscape will be adaptable to varying soil moisture levels.

HD_perennials

A variety of perennials and shrubs adapted to Colorado’s climate.

Not messy or difficult to maintain

Your maintenance crew has enough on their plate with regular landscape maintenance. There’s no reason to increase their burden and your costs by having messy, difficult plants on your property.

Readily available from nurseries (not rare)

If you lose some of your landscape plants due to accidents, vandalism or bad weather, you will likely want to easily replace the missing vegetation. If the plant that needs to be replaced is hard to find, you might have to resort to replacing it with one that does not match.

Attractive/Interesting/Eye-catching

Attract eyeballs and attention to your business by choosing interesting trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Just as having aesthetically pleasing buildings or signage is good for business, eye-catching vegetation and other landscape elements makes good business sense. Choose Trees and shrubs with notable flowers or good fall color.

Crataegus - Hawthorn 2

A Hawthorne tree in spring bloom.

In Summary

If you are planning a new commercial landscape or taking an assessment of your existing commercial landscape, keep these guidelines in mind. They’ll help you avoid potential problems that might repel clients and customers from your property, rather than inviting them in. An inviting landscape on your commercial property is one of the first steps to achieving business success.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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What Not to Do – Placing Fence Posts Within a Lawn Area

While visiting a project site last week I noticed a mistake in landscape design that I had to share:

fence post damage from weed wacker

In our landscape plans we always prefer to place fencing out of lawn areas and within landscape beds, or at least in a strip of rock.  In the photos above, these nice 6″x6″ posts are being slowly whittled away by trimmers, commonly known as “weed wackers”.

This is a condo project that was only built about 10 years ago.  I don’t blame the maintenance crews, I blame a poor landscape design.

If anything, the maintenance crews are probably cursing the landscape architect- because they have to trim around about 80 of these posts every week.

Since lawn was designed around the fence (rather than placing the fence in a strip of rock), it also gets over-sprayed by the lawn irrigation, which not only wastes water, but will quickly deteriorate a wood fence.  That’s probably why it looks like it recently had to be re-stained.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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What Not to Do – Planting a Large Tree Directly Under Power Lines

No, this is not a new species of tree selected for it’s graceful “V” shape.

When large trees are planted directly under power lines the utility companies will hack them back with no regard for for aesthetics.  In general, it is always best to avoid placing trees too close to any utilities or permanent structures.

Tree Under Power Lines

Here are a few guidelines and things to remember:

1) In addition to being aware of overhead wires, always call for underground utility locates (dial 811 in Colorado) prior to doing any digging or planting any trees.  These fine folks will come to your property and locate with markings all of the underground utilities.

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What Not to Do – Turfgrass in Parking Lot Islands

Did you know that in Colorado over 50% of the water used on a typical property goes toward irrigating the landscaping?

Most of this is treated water that has gone through a long and expensive process of being collected and travelling through a complex system of catch basins, detention ponds and storm drains.

Next, the water is treated at a water treatment facility to the point where is certified drinking-quality tap water- often it is of better quality than what you would buy in a bottled water.

Finally, the water leaves the facility and travels through a DIFFERENT extensive system of pipes to your home or business.  The system, and all of the maintenance on it, is paid for by you the taxpayer.

Why then, would you design or maintain a landscape that sheds drinking quality water every day right back into the storm drain?

Water Running off Into the Gutter

Water Running off Into the Gutter

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What Not to Do- Placing Irrigation Heads Next to Fencing

This is my first in a series of “what not to do” posts related to landscape and site design.

One of the ways that I challenge myself to learn and to stay on top of the latest trends is to keep my eyes open for good and bad designs and ideas as I travel around my area or out of town.fence damaged by irrigation

The fence on the right is located near my home, in what appears to be an HOA (home owner’s association) maintained area next to a single family housing development.  This is just one example of fences like this that can be found all over Denver.  The root of the problem is that they have put sod directly against a wooden fence.  Sod is typically irrigated by overhead spray and the water from the irrigation is discoloring and deteriorating the fence.

Problems with placing irrigation heads directly next to fencing

  • Discolored fencing is unattractive:  Obviously this is an aesthetics issue- these fences are a real eye-sore for these developments and the surrounding community. (more…)

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