NATIONAL REPORT—For travelers, one of the most appealing things about a hotel is often the landscaping around it. They find it inviting to see green, beautiful plants outside their windows, lining the pool, and greeting them at the front door.
Hotel managers fully understand how important this is to their guests, but they also face some challenges that can make it very difficult to landscape the way they’d like to. These challenges are compounded by financial concerns and, particularly in recent years, the desire of management and guests to see the hotel have the smallest possible adverse impact on the environment.
First of all, many hotels are limited on space. Newer facilities in suburban areas have sprawling property with lots of options for plants, and their landscaping staff just needs to order some nice trees, a good stockpile of Kentucky bluegrass seed, and some bedding plants to make a beautiful backdrop.
Conversely, the venerable downtown inns are in densely-developed areas with less space for planting. These are the places where people have to be creative. No matter how small the plot of land where a hotel stands, there’s still the footprint of the building itself, an area duplicated almost to the inch by the rooftop space on the building.
Developing something on top of the building instead of just around it can be an amazing way to bring some beautiful landscaping into the picture. Some hotels are even growing part of their produce on the roof of the building, bringing freshness, beauty, and ecological responsibility together right on your plate.
Another challenge is the presence of people. Lots and lots of people. Foot traffic is an enemy of all plants, and grass is subjected to most of the abuse in this area. Keeping a beautiful lawn around the hotel has a couple of different components. Not only should the landscapers choose a durable, well-adapted grass for the area, they should also be prepared to install permanent surfaces for the most heavily-traveled areas.
Hotel landscapes must also be able to tolerate the impacts of other chemicals used at the facility. Hotels include extensive areas of concrete and asphalt, and these areas must be kept as clear as possible of snow and ice during cold weather. In northern climes, these areas are being salted and shoveled as many as five months out of the year.
This can’t be avoided. Serious injuries can result if guests or staff walk on untreated surfaces, turning the winter into a very expensive season. And even if no one falls, the hotel will get a reputation as an unsafe place to visit, deterring travelers and other guests from choosing you.
Salt Can Damage Plants
So the issue is not whether to apply salt but how to apply it. Salt is very damaging to plants, so steps need to be taken to minimize the impact of winter maintenance. Salt should be used judiciously, with applications made only when conditions truly warrant it. And grounds personnel need to be cautious in applying the salt, doing their best to keep it off not just the plants but also the soil. Once temperatures permit, a thorough watering of salted areas will help to rinse the material out of the soil and off the plants.
Beautiful landscaping can be just as powerful of a draw for a hotel as many other amenities. Growing plants around the hotel, and doing so in a sustainable way that benefits the environment as well as the bottom line, is a very effective tool for building the hotel’s reputation as an ecologically friendly and beautiful place to visit.