#15 – Landscape Planning

Autumn has arrived and the grounds maintenance contractors (and some active strata owners) have been working hard to prepare the property for winter. Some strata Grounds Committees will spend the coming few months making plans for next year’s garden displays. Others work hard to reduce the amount of maintenance work preferring a minimalist approach to their property’s landscaping.

In either case, we encourage all our clients to review their landscaping programs from a longer term perspective – 10 to 15, and even 20 years out – and offer three basic reasons for consideration.

  1. Plantings grow, grow old, and die, each of which, creates a need to manage the process. The owners might like a young sapling growing five feet from the wall of a building, but what happens in 10 years when the root system invades the perimeter drains or branches bang up against the walls..?? Replacing a large but dying rhododendron can be an expensive undertaking unless everyone can accept starting with young growth again.
  2. As shrubs and trees grow, they can have serious effects on the effectiveness of exterior lighting and the general security of the property.
  3. Perhaps the most important reason for a long term Landscape Management Plan is that it will clearly define the wishes of the Owners on the priority and direction given to the property’s landscaping. A formal plan should reduce the number of potential owner conflicts.

Many developers spend a significant amount installing plantings that give the impression of “instant” maturity, in order to help generate that all important “curb appeal”. The choice of plantings has little to do with long term viability or suitability, and some larger properties start off from the beginning with significant costs for annual grounds maintenance and operations.

Many new strata owners looking for the “easy care/no care” lifestyle, so often promoted in the sales literature, have received a rude awakening when they realize how much the gardens and grounds cost to maintain. Some will find it even more difficult to accept the need for a special levy to fund the removal and replacement of significant plantings as the gardens go through their inevitable cycle.

Long term management plans for a strata’s landscaping should be simply seen as one aspect of the property’s overall Maintenance Plan. As winter approaches, the Grounds Committee can start to develop proposals for the “philosophical” direction of the Corporation’s landscaping plan. This, of course, while deciding on the colours and placement of next spring’s flowers.

John Grubb is a Property Maintenance Consultant serving Strata Corporations and building owners on Vancouver Island.

To Next Article: Strata Strategies #16 – Security & Safety