Landscape Design for Commercial Properties

Just as in residential landscape design, the first impression is key with commercial landscape design. In fact, it’s even more important. After all, you’ll still sit down and visit with Aunt Edna even if her front yard sports petunias in a white-painted tractor tire, but a bed and breakfast doesn’t have sweet Aunt Edna. Good landscape design is about more than just stopping cars, however. It’s important that customers can safely walk around the grounds of your property, and you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg maintaining it all. I’ve found that there are some common mistakes commercial property owners make when it comes to their landscaping.

Wrong plant, wrong place – This is basic to all landscape design, but it’s especially problematic in a commercial setting. If a plant gets too large for the space, it’s a maintenance nightmare and can be a hazard to customers. If it’s too small for the scale of the building, it makes the landscaping (and the business) look cheap. Finally, most businesses have a lot of pavement relative to plant beds, which is hard on plants that aren’t heat and drought tolerant.

This is a shot of a building down the street from my office that does a great job of illustrating wrong plant, wrong place.

Bad bed design – If the bed is too big, there are huge expanses of mulch that either have to be hand weeded or chemically controlled. If the bed is too small, the plants can get damaged by cars, mowers, or pedestrians. Bed shape can make a big difference in terms of maintenance costs as well. Big, smooth curves that don’t require a lot of backing up or trimming save time, which in turn saves money. Commercial landscape maintenance is a game of margins, so you know your mowing company has figured out their man hours to the minute.

Poor layout – How many places have you been to where the grass (or plant beds) have been trampled by people making a beeline for the door? If you plan your paths appropriately, people will stay on them. The first commercial design client I ever had was a property manager for a small apartment complex. He was tired of tenants cutting across the grass to get to their cars, so he wanted the meanest, nastiest hedge I could come up with. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to lay out better paths?

Here’s a picture of what it can look like when paths aren’t planned out well.

credit: Phil Gyford (click to visit his flickr page)

In my time as a designer I’ve worked with wineries, garden centers, home builders with model homes, and even the owners of a large shopping center. I get it – the goal is to get the maximum impact for the least cost. I encourage business owners everywhere to think about how their landscaping can impact the top line (sales) and the bottom line (operations). A professional landscape consultation can result in huge savings for years to come.

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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