Seasonal Color: Effectively Keeping Color in the Landscape Year-round

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | March 02, 2014

In todayís economy, the competition for hotel guests is strong. First impressions are important and a propertyís curb appeal is one of the first things a guest may notice. Ensuring the property looks its best year round will help draw guests anytime of the year, while quality customer service and generous amenities will encourage guests to return to a property again and again. A bland or overgrown landscape can speak poorly about the quality of service provided by the hotel, eroding customer confidence and injuring long-term loyalty. Regularly updating and improving a hotelís exterior appearance with a healthy-looking, eye-catching landscape will create an environment that is appealing and inviting to guests while sending a strong message about the hotelís commitment to service as well as add value to the property without crippling the bottom line.

While making sure a hotel property looks its best year-round can help keep the reservations coming in, it requires foresight and proper planning. Planning out the landscape will help hotel executives guarantee that the hotelís brand is communicated from the minute the guest steps onto the property. If there are particular colors that are important to incorporate, then a plan will make certain the best plant colors are in place to complement the property and highlight the propertyís brand whenever possible. It is also important that the correct plants and trees are planted for the environment in which the property is located so as to ensure the best opportunity for them to grow and thrive. For example, marigolds and snapdragons are well-suited for colder climates such as those found in the Northeast, while perennials such as verbina and geraniums are well-suited for the desert Southwest. Working closely with a landscape professional can ensure the property will be laid out in the most efficient and effective manner. Putting a plan in place before any planting begins will ensure that all elements will have the best chance to survive and thrive.

Color is a key element of landscape design which promotes an enjoyable atmosphere. Simple aesthetic changes to a propertyís landscape can greatly enhance a propertyís appeal. A dreary landscape can be improved by removing non-flowering plants and bringing in blooming varieties instead. Although spring and summer are the time to showcase a propertyís creativity, it is possible to inject color year round when planned properly. Winter-flowering plants provide a respite from an otherwise dreary landscape. A few of the most popular winter bulbs include hyacinths, crocuses, and daffodils. These cold weather bloomers are suitable for resorts in various geographic regions.

The warmer months provide a considerable variety of flowering plants to choose from. Blooming shrubs such as forsythia are one of the earliest bloomers and can help transition the property to the colors of spring. In addition, annual flowers can be planted in most locations and with a wide range of colors, species and sizes, and the ability to thrive in the shade or sun; they can revitalize the look of any property. The critical component to remember about annual flowerbeds is they must be planted in an area that can be cared for adequately. While color can have a significant impact on the landscape, it is a design element that can have a negative impact when poorly maintained. Before annual color can be planted, itís imperative that the soil is prepared properly. In addition to ensuring the beds have drainage and water holding capabilities, the soil itself should be made up of at least 50% organic matter so as to maintain optimal aeration of the beds. If a new bed is being planted, fertilizer should also be incorporated into the mix, depending on the needs of the plants. Raising annual beds 4-6 inches will help avoid drowning the plants during rainy weather. Itís important to make sure the beds maintain their optimum pH balance throughout the year. A landscape professional can assist with this as well as planning beds so that color can be incorporated into the landscape year round.

It is important to take into consideration the propertyís environment when planning the landscape. Goldsturm black-eyed susans and woodís pink asters do well in the Pacific Northwest while Spanish gold broom and spike speedwell thrive in the Rockies. In order to keep color throughout late spring, heading into summer, consider lilacs or mountain laurels. It can be more of a challenge to keep the spring color throughout the summer as most spring blooms give way to leaves, but depending on the propertyís climate, there are ways to incorporate more color. For example, in the more northern states, the long-blooming rose of Sharon wonít bloom until the summer, and in the Southeastern states, the crape myrtle tree has a long blooming period. A landscape professional can provide insight on the best varieties that will complement the climate and style of the property, as well offer advice on the best colors and designs that highlight your property.

Planning the landscape and incorporating color year round is only half the battle. Itís essential the plantings receive sufficient hydration to maintain the health and appearance of the landscape. Either under-watering and over-watering can wreak havoc on plants and either can cause tremendous unnecessary expense. With the current trend of water and energy conservation, carbon emissions reduction and the protection of local ecosystems it makes proper irrigation crucial to effective grounds maintenance. There have been significant developments in irrigation technology which allow landscape professionals to design custom-tailored systems based on a particular propertyís needs. This will result in reduced water usage and lower ongoing maintenance expenses. Making sure that irrigation equipment is up-to-par and that plants are receiving the right amount of water will also help keep plants in top condition, and can also generate savings on water bills and reduce plant replacement costs. A landscape contractor will be able to suggest a watering plan that is appropriate for a hotelís property, and may also recommend adjustments to any current watering system.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.