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High-maintenance Landscape Jewelry

Ah, color bursts made with flowers! What could be nicer? Public outdoor spaces graced with well-done, seasonal color beds make a local area special and improve the quality of living. They attract happy people, and happy people bring with them economic vitality. Beautiful annual beds make a visual statement about a community. They say an area is up-scale and alive with activity. Flower color is wonderful.

Public floral displays are prolific in places like Canada, New Zealand, England, and France as well as botanical gardens. Why not create more of these in the U.S.? Cost is typically the concern. The biggest cost is skilled maintenance. The second biggest cost is soil preparation. Everything else about it is pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. If your community can afford skilled crews three times a year for installation, someone to regularly water and weed the beds, and you can afford to purchase a good soil mix with slow-release fertilizer to freshen the bedding areas, your local floral displays can be prolific, too.

Skilled workers are needed to choose good plant combinations, install them, deadhead spent blooms, water (which can be frequent during dry spells), and stake and prune and groom as needed. The landscape crews need to install the right plants at the right time, usually with three rotations of planting. Once right before the first frost, once in late spring, and once in late-summer. Annual beds need lots of attention to keep them in a state of perfection, and they must be kept perfect in order to provide the benefits mentioned above. They use lots of nutrients for peak performance, and need a balance of enough fertilizer to keep them healthy, but not enough to spur excessive leafy (rather than floral) growth. Empty or dead spots need to be filled in with fresh plants as needed. Public annual displays require a dedicated installation and maintenance schedule.

If you design bright floral displays as part of your public landscape project, you will need to include a detailed maintenance plan for the seasonal color beds in your specifications, with clear responsibilities for who will fund new plantings, installation, and maintenance. Most of the time your best bet will be to hire a professional annual maintenance service to do this through an outside contract.

If you plan on in-house staff, then your crews will need to learn how to create the ideal soil conditions for the beds. Soils for annual beds need to be light and fluffy and moist, but not full of air pockets or wet. Existing soils you find on-site will not be good enough without amendments. Public streetscapes and popular outdoor spaces are compacted and spent from frequent use. You want a good mix of clay loam, organic matter, slow-release fertilizer, and coarse grit. A good dose of well-composted manure helps, too. You also want to locate the beds in an area near easy access to water. Be sure to include detailed information in your specifications on soil preparation as well as replenishment of spent soil amendments at each rotation of new plants.

The fun part of public floral beds is choosing which annuals to use. Each season the flower industry comes up with new ideas and introduces new species and cultivars. A lot of your choices will be dictated by what is currently available. Decide on a color scheme and pick plants that will provide the most “wow”. Mix in ornamental grasses and colorful foliage plants to build textural interest and strong contrasts. Most beautiful annual combinations include spikes, mounds, and cascading shapes. Harmonious color echoes and contrasting foliage texture add visual interest. Designing exciting plant combinations to delight the public is truly satisfying.

You will find that creating pleasant, pretty public spaces pays with people.

 

Installing Annuals