There must be some good tips from professional landscapers and their crews on how to manage the plantings and upkeep on a large rental and condo home development. We can use some help as we try to make our units more attractive from the outside to potential renters and buyers! (Donald from New Haven, CT)
Good question, Donald. We decided it was a bit out of our comfort zone and expertise, so we went to Rob Seitz, a marketing communications and event planning specialist located in New Rochelle, NY. He also works in the real estate field and is in contact with landscape pros like NY landscape architect Daniel Sherman, who is responsible for the plantings you see in the photo below. Thanks, Rob, for taking over the column this month!
Michael Lombardo knows and appreciates the value of curb appeal.
Vice President of Plaza Realty & Management Corporation, which owns 50 properties in Fairfield County, CT, Lombardo says that a building’s outward appearance can be the deciding factor for prospective buyers or renters. He’s also competing with plenty of newer high-rise and garden apartment complexes for the same customers and so he recognizes that maintaining and upgrading the outside of his properties helps sustain their long-term value.
One such property is Old Greenwich Gables, a 167-unit condominium development, situated on 7.5 acres in Old Greenwich, CT. “A rooftop garden above the garage had been leaking for 30-years,” said Lombardo. It is now in the process of being fixed and redesigned, partially with the help of Daniel Sherman Landscape Architect, PC, a Valhalla, NY-based firm that I recently began working with. “Overgrown trees and shrubbery can cause rot,” explains Dan Sherman. “Also, only a limited amount of soil can be placed on a rooftop. As trees grow bigger and bigger you sometimes have to pull them out and replace them with something smaller.”
Plaza Realty properties range from 20-unit garden complexes to 300-unit high-rises. It has on-going projects that frequently require the services of Sherman’s firm. “Landscape is alive and grows,” he reminds us. “Buildings, on the other hand, are stable. As the landscape grows, it doesn’t keep the same look. It also begins to grow into the building, causing other problems.
“Landscapers don’t always know all the ins and outs,” he adds. “They don’t necessarily know how big the plants will grow, or what impact the shade or sun will have on their growth patterns and needs. When you’re doing a large project, you want a professional landscape architect to create the original design.”
Although Sherman is very knowledgeable about various plant species and his staff includes arborists with specific expertise on the needs and growth cycles of plants, bushes and trees, he relies on the expertise of nurserymen, as well. “But sometimes a shrub or tree has a growth spurt or pattern that is unprecedented. In my own garden at home, I planted a Rhododendron shrub, two years ago, in a spot that should have been adequate for the next several years. Yet it is already way too large and so now I have to find a place to transplant it to.”
Lombardo says that he also “recycles” trees on his properties whenever he can, yet he defers these decisions to Sherman who he has been working with for at least five years. “Sometimes it’s pretty obvious about what can be done to camouflage an eyesore and remedy an over-growth problem at the same time,” says Sherman. “We had one property where a tree had been planted too close to the side of the building and grew out of control. Besides blocking the unit’s sunlight, it posed a threat of structural damage. Not too far from this spot, ugly garbage dumpsters were exposed. We successfully uprooted and transplanted this large tree in front of the dumpsters, solving two problems at once. We saved the client money in both the short-term and long-term.”
Elsewhere, Sherman recommended investing in new trees and a new walkway to replace a row of trees that were pushing up the sidewalk that they lined, posing the threat of injuries and lawsuits. It was a design installation that pre-existed his tenure. His solution included planting smaller trees and paving stones, allowing more room for the newer trees’ roots to spread.
Landscaping can be an extraordinary expense for a community association. Plaza Realty has annual landscaping budgets ranging from $10,000 to $160,000. Special projects have cost upward to $500,000. Although Lombardo is not bashful about telling his homeowner associations when they have to finance high-ticketed projects, in this soft economy he has had to put on-hold some new projects of this scope. “But you always want to maintain fresh curb appeal. If people don’t like the property when they first drive up, it’s hard to change their minds.”
To help clients protect their existing landscaping investments, Sherman has recently begun offering an all-natural, deer-control service. Each month a crew will spray plantings with an organic mix of rosemary, eggs, mint and vinegar. It’s a recipe that sends deer looking elsewhere for their free lunch. “A deer can eat through $1,000 worth of shrubbery, overnight,” says Sherman.
Does this mean we’ll be seeing Bambi as Jenny Craig’s next celebrity pitchman?