With about four thousand square feet of flowerbeds that I either maintain or am constructing at our house or our rental, I pay attention to decorative green space. A healthy, well-landscaped yard adds thousands of dollars to the value of a home.
I walk around the local cities and look at the landscaping. I watch for types of trees that might look good in my yard. I admire the homes with beautiful flowerbeds that evolve through the seasons. I walk around the downtown areas of our cities and the malls.
I also notice when the landscaping companies contracted by the city do a great job of mowing and edging grass and planting a few annuals. In contrast, they do a pitiful job of pruning and maintaining our trees and shrubs. The sad reality is that is not their expertise.
Dressing Rogers Up: Not Just for Special Occasions
The city of Rogers has probably several hundred thousand square feet of landscaped flowerbeds. The process for each area most likely started out by hiring contractors to design, lay irrigation, and plant it. The city invested $50,000 alone in 2014 in the new landscaping in the Pinnacle area. It is lovely. It’s amazing what it costs though to pay someone to do all that.
The Pinnacle landscaping project was part of the city’s LPGA tournament preparation. The city’s green space makes a big impression on people who visit Rogers for that tournament and other attractions such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Those types of visitors arrive in Northwest Arkansas the first time for an event like that. Their experience inspires a percentage of them to relocate here. Hospitality, nationally recognized shopping and dining establishments, good roads, nice buildings, and pleasant weather all year influence that decision. But nothing dresses out our city like well-designed and maintained landscaped areas.
Protecting Our Landscaping Investment with a Horticulturist
It is time for the city to employ a full-time horticulturist to manage our landscaped areas and the landscaping employees and contractors. This horticulturist should be experienced and/or college-educated. If the individual is not a certified arborist, the city should pay for the training and certification. If they have someone on staff currently who could step into that role, the city should pay for their training. This individual should be a member of professional associations in the industry and attend industry conferences to stay current and look for ways to innovate and design.
A horticulturist understands maintenance, cultivation, fertilization, pest and disease control, and current technology for creating lasting, efficient year-round beauty that is as good for our property value, image, and reputation as it is for the environment and the living things that inhabit our green spaces. A fair amount of landscaping upgrades could be designed by the horticulturist and planted by staff members or volunteers. This would allow the city to outsource only the most elaborate or brand new landscaping projects.
And speaking of volunteers, a staff horticulturist could work with the schools to propagate, grow, and plant the annuals that are currently purchased and planted by high school students who are in the Principles of Horticulture class or who need community service activities. Maintenance tasks such as weeding or pruning could be delegated to anyone needing community services credits of any kind. These are simple tasks that require some instruction and time. This is a far better option than trusting the maintenance of bushes by mowing crews who don’t understand proper pruning practices or what to look for when a tree or bush needed treatment for disease.
Our trees represent a substantial investment as well. Adding the additional arborist training to the horticulturist’s toolbox ensures that our trees are well-established, pruned, and fertilized. Arborists are trained in problem diagnosis and management as well as safe climbing and work practices.
We already invest in training and certifications for our police and fire departments. It only makes sense that we would make sure that a trained and certified individual manages the needs and planning of our city’s landscaping.
What Does This Cost?
A salary for full-time horticulturist costs between $30,000 and $45,000 (not including benefits). In this region, it is probably on the lower end of that scale. Additional association membership and training could cost an extra $2,500 to $3,500 a year. This individual would oversee the overall look and design of the city’s current and new landscaping. Included in those activities would be directing the contract landscaping activities, city employees who handle landscaping maintenance, and volunteers. He or she could plan city landscaping cleanup days, work with organizations, enforce the city’s landscaping ordinances, teach citizens how to landscape their properties, and inspect the health of the city’s trees, shrubs, and plants.
The Bottom Line
Yes, I know I’ve suggested something that might increase head count. We’re dealing with a gap in the city that is causing dying and shabby landscaping. Nothing that improves the look of our city and makes it more appealing to visitors and prospective citizens is free. But remember, the potential of the right person in this role could pay dividends in other ways if it doesn’t pay for itself. And what is the cost of tree and shrub replacement from improper care or the lost of a few potential residents because we didn’t put on our best image?