A garden at a business is subject to the same facts of nature as a home garden.
If we can bring our work home, why not bring a bit of home to the workplace? And what better place to start than with a garden.
A garden at a place of business can make the area quite attractive. It can transform an impersonal commercial area into a place that looks welcoming, comfortable and familiar. Customers notice the landscaping, and so do employees. A garden on the company grounds might even become a favored place for an afternoon break.
Many local business owners have landscaped their sites. These commercial gardens range from small ones with a few containers overflowing with flowers at the entrance to the business to precisely mowed turf and a more elaborately designed garden. Take a drive some Sunday afternoon and notice how lovely these commercial gardens are.
I recently visited with Curtis Baucom, landscape designer with Sunrise Garden Center, and Stephanie Botteron of Horticultural Services. Last year, they collaborated on a garden project at Coldwell Banker Real Estate. The garden is clearly visible in the front of the building along Sixth Street. Gently elevated garden areas rise out from a sea of grass and are filled with plants that provide plenty of color and texture. Even driving by at 40 mph, onlookers will be attracted this beautiful garden.
"The overall concept is his," Botteron said of Baucom. "He just left the spaces for the annuals."
Baucom developed the design of the garden keeping in mind the scale of the building and garden area.
"I try to look at the type of building and soften (it)," he said. Ornamental grasses and trees that can be planted close to buildings, such as redbuds, are effective in blunting the straight, hard look of the building's corners. Two sloping berms filled with flowers have been made in the large grassy area in front.
"I like to use berms so the building doesn't stick out so much," he explained. "I like to use a mixture of annuals and perennials," he added.
Customer is always right
Once the design of the garden and most of the perennials were planted, Botteron took over. She planted the annuals and does the regular maintenance of the flower beds each week.
"I go with whatever the customer likes," she said of her plant choices. "I don't want to use a plant that they hate." That explains all the beautiful begonias ringing the lower edge of the berm. "The only input John (McGrew) gave me was that he really likes begonias," she continued. "That's why there are so many begonias out front."
Surprisingly, large rounded mounds of begonias grow in full sun. She explained that new varieties of begonias are being developed to tolerate sun.
"I prefer bronze leaf begonias," she noted. "They take more sun. You see them in sun around town."
Even a professional gardener such as Botteron has surprises. "Last year I only had red" (begonias,) she said. "That's what I thought I ordered this year." Instead red, pink and white flowered blooms popped up in a pleasing combination. "I like it," Botteron admitted of the serendipitous outcome.
Another wish was the desire to have blue-colored plants flanking the large sign in front of the building. So, Victoria Blue salvia was planted en masse. Deep blue blooms waved in the breeze.
The delicate looking pink blooms of fairy roses fill in large spaces near the back of the berm. Short wide evergreen bushes and ornamental grasses offer pleasing combinations of textures. Young ash trees rise up to shade the beds. Perennial veronicas continue to bloom even late in the season.
"If you keep them deadheaded really well, you get this second bloom," Botteron noted.
I asked Botteron what the difference was between planting for a commercial garden and planting a residential garden. "You can't put in delicate things," she said. "I stick with the tried and true." Victoria's salvia, periwinkle, cleome and zinnias are some of the ones she mentioned specifically.
Another consideration is to avoid too many different plants. "At home you might try a lot of varieties," she said.
But a commercial site, especially one along a main thoroughfare such as Sixth Street, has different viewing patterns.
"People are driving fast," she noted. "You want to hit them with a lot of color."
To keep color coming, Botteron uses plenty of annuals. "You just can't count on perennials to give you color throughout the season," she said. "You don't get enough of a show." Besides the begonia, rudbeckia, brilliant Pink Wave petunias and lantana dazzle the eye with vivid colors.
"When you come up with something that works, I do it again and again," she said.
Some of the favorite perennials that work well are fairy roses that bloomed profusely early in the year and were on a second blush of blooms during my visit.
"They're great," said Baucom. He said the plants slowed bloom production during the August heat wave, but resumed once it passed. Spirea, iris and spring bulbs produce a garden filled with different blooms in many seasons.
"I'm into low maintenance," Botteron confessed. No wonder. She weeds, deadheads and maintains about 25 commercial garden sites around town. That's one of the reasons the wave petunias creeping out at the foot of the sign are a favored variety. They do not require deadheading to continue blooming.
Pretty inside and out
An challenge for a commercial garden comes in the form of space. Often the area is larger than the home garden. And, in a place like this, the garden is most often viewed by motorists driving along the street, rather than by the property owners.
Botteron, like most of us, is really busy in the spring. All the plants to be used in the commercial site are delivered to her house. This gives her a chance to generously fertilize them for a few weeks before they are moved. After they are planted at the business garden, she fertilizes the young plants again. Then, it's a matter of maintenance. And, like many home gardeners, she gets busy and runs out of time. Consequently, regular fertilization sometimes falls behind schedule.
"People want their places of business to be as pretty on the outside as they are on the inside," she said.
From the looks of this garden spot, I'd say she and Baucom succeeded.
-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.