South Florida is often portrayed in the movies and other media as one long beach, lush with exotic plants and palms stretched out under a brilliant, sunny sky. While that snapshot of South Florida living is pretty accurate, the verdant backdrop didn’t just happen by magic. Even in a sub-tropical climate, nature needs a helping hand to control plants and trees in an urban setting—and those romantic photos give no clue to the hard work behind the scenes.
Cultivating an attractive landscape in a multifamily environment presents numerous challenges for association boards, HOAs, COA’s, and co-ops alike. Pollution, heavy foot traffic, pets, pest, and litter all make it tough for plants and flowers to survive, and thrive. So where does a board or landscape committee go for information, resources, and guidance? What about “reading up” on soil, water, and native plants, and doing it yourself?
Down the Garden Path
Many times boards and landscape committees put energy and time into do-it-yourself (DIY) landscaping in an effort to spare themselves the expense of hiring a professional landscape design company. However, if a committee chooses the wrong type of plant, or puts a shrub, tree, or flowerbed in the wrong place, the poor results may be more than just an eyesore; a mistake can result in both replacement costs for dead or damaged plants as well as repair costs for structural damage caused to roofs, foundations, or pavement.
If a committee is willing—or actually enjoys—the physical labor associated with landscaping, a professional can be hired on a consulting basis to develop a sound plan with appropriate plants; moving forward without at least some professional advice is risky business. A little proactive spending on a consultant to get a proper plan in place could save considerable time, money and effort. Visiting informative sites on the Internet, especially the local IFAS Extension Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) can help a board formulate a specific Q&A before raising questions with a current vendor or calling another professional landscaper.
Bringing An Expert On Board
Once the board has a rough idea of the challenges, the desired outcome, and budget constraints, it is time to reach out to a professional. Scott Prinz is owner and president of LandKeepers, Inc. in Miami. He says the number-one problem he notices with landscaping is that of placement. “Architects often place planters close to the buildings to create an attractive entrance. It is assumed since the planters are outside, nature will supply rain water and keep the plants healthy, but the reality is the building overhang diverts the rain, and these plants die quickly.” Prinz explains this is easily missed, and a few rotations of plants may come and go before the reason for the constant die-offs becomes clear. Switching out to more location-appropriate plants is one solution; Prinz also suggests the board consult with a professional for some watering options, since moving the planters is often impossible.