Landscaping is often associated with garden apartments that boast acres of land and rolling hills decorated with towering trees, bountiful flower gardens and lush courtyards. However, landscaping is just as important, if not more so, in buildings with limited outdoor space. From vibrant impatiens and azaleas to flourishing mums and pansies to handsome shrubs and fruit trees, even high-rise buildings can create beautiful greenery and colorful gardens.
We landscaped to beautify the buildings and the area, and now it helps sell apartments, says Beverly Marcus, a board member at Riverdale Park in the Bronx. Landscaping can increase the value of a building by 20 percent, confirms Don Venezia, a certified arborist for The F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Co., a Connecticut-based firm specializing in tree care.
There are many places within and without the building that can be transformed into a garden wonderland with an array of seasonal and year-round flowers, plants, trees and shrubs. The sidewalks, pathways, lobby, hallways, terraces and rooftop decks can all be designed to attract potential residents, increase the property value and create a beautiful environment.
Trees Add Appeal
Garden apartments have an advantage: they practically sell themselves with their grand entranceways, brick gate houses and extensive land, but when approaching a city building, the first thing people see is the sidewalk. A sidewalk with just cement has no appeal, says Venezia. A sidewalk with trees adds curb appeal and can be a selling point for cooperatives and condominiums.
Sidewalk trees are generally the responsibility of the city. However, if a licensed and insured tree company obtains a permit from the city to care for the trees in front of a building, then the tree care becomes the building's responsibility. If there are no sidewalk trees, a licensed and certified company can get a permit from the city to build tree wells. Sidewalk trees are aesthetically pleasing and more inviting to potential buyers, says Nancy Bernstein, director of sales and marketing at Stanley Bernstein Poly-Fol Corp., a family-owned business in Mamaroneck, New York. Bernstein recommends decorating sidewalk trees by planting colorful seasonal flowers and adding a low picket or wrought-iron fence around the base of the tree.
Although people tend to care for trees themselves, Venezia encourages them not to. If a tree is not pruned and fertilized correctly, it can damage the tree. Pruning creates a nicer look for the sidewalk and allows more light to shine through, he explains. Fertilizing keeps trees healthy and vigorous and maintains the essential elements of the soil. These responsibilities should be left to a certified arborist who can make recommendations for the work required for your trees, Venezia explains. Standard maintenance at Bartlett Tree consists of pruning and fertilizing the trees approximately once a year. Extensive maintenance such as insect and disease control and root care can be done as well. The trees need to be watered approximately five gallons a week, and this can be done by someone from the building.
If you want to create a flower garden, or just want to spruce up the building with some plants but do not know where to begin, Nancy Bernstein of Poly-Fol, has some great ideas. For over 40 years Poly-Fol has specialized in the design, installation and maintenance of plantings and artificial foliage.
It is so easy to make something look instantly lush, Bernstein says. Besides maintaining outdoor trees, another way to spruce up the outside of the building is to install planters bordering the entranceway or pathway and fill them with flowers or greenery. Planters come in all shapes and sizes and can be as simple as plastic or as ornate as carved stone.
The roof deck and terraces are ideal places to create a garden. Plantworks, Inc., a full service landscaping company in Manhattan, will design and build individual planters filled with trees, shrubs and flowers or planters with benches attached. The company, which specializes in sidewalk trees and the design, installation and maintenance of live and artificial plantings for interiors and exteriors, will also provide lighting, awnings, irrigation and many other landscaping services to create the ideal atmosphere.
Maintaining Your Greenery
When it comes to landscaping, There is no such thing as a green thumb, says Madelyn Simon of Madelyn Simon & Associates, a Manhattan-based plantscaping firm. Planting is a science; you have to use a landscaper who knows how to put the right plant in the right place.
Landscaping companies will change the flowers according to the season, replace them when they are no longer blossoming and maintain them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Basically, you can use any flowering plant inside as long as the area is the right temperature. In the spring and summer, companies will plant annuals, lilies, azaleas, impatiens, petunias, pansies, shrubs and many more outdoor flowers. In the fall and winter they use chrysanthemums, cabbage plants, balsam branches and evergreens.
Landscaping should be part of the services provided by a building, adds Neil Mendeloff, president and owner of Plantworks, Inc. If not properly maintained, trees, plants and flowers can deteriorate.
According to Mendeloff, if you do not have the proper lighting or do not want to pay to maintain live plantings, you can opt for artificial flowers in your lobby. It looks so realistic, he says, and the only maintenance required is dusting, which can be done in-house.
When Elm Management took over Riverdale Park, a ten-building co-op complex in the Bronx, they found themselves with a surplus of money. We decided to use it to improve the exterior grounds and enhance the beauty of the complex, says managing agent Waite Buckley.
In 1996, Riverdale Park began its landscaping project by taking down the older trees and planting younger, healthier ones. The flower beds have been enlarged in the common garden to include both perennials and annuals, and flower baskets were added to the entrance of each building. The on-site garage looked too much like a warehouse, so the building changed the wire mechanism over the garage walls to glass-blocked windows and added shrubs along the walls. There is no question that, once the windows are all installed, the marketability of the co-op will increase even more, says Buckley.
For years the maintenance of the trees and plants was done by an employee of the building, but the board was not happy with the way the gardens were progressing so they decided to use a professional landscaper. Once we saw the improvement, we realized it was worth the money, says board member Beverly Marcus. It definitely improves the draw to the building, agrees Buckley.
Whether your co-op or condo has a few planters in front of the building or an elaborate roof deck, your landscaping project is bound to bring smiles to the faces of its residents. And experience has shown that it will also improve the overall value of the entire property. From the sidewalk trees to the flower garden, landscaping is worth the time and money. You will not be disappointed.
Angelina Mason is the former Assistant Publisher of The Cooperator.