Landscapes of the Month: Maintaining a High-End Open-Air Shopping Center - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Maintaining a High-End Open-Air Shopping Center

Photo: David J. Frank Landscape Contracting

Located in Madison, Wisconsin, Hilldale is an open-air shopping center with over 50 stores located on 30 acres of land. Due to the previous landscaper not living up to Hilldale’s premium brand, the client decided it was time to hire a new company to complete the job.

In 2019, the client brought in David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, based in Germantown, Wisconsin, to handle the landscape management.

David J. Frank Landscape Contracting received a Gold Award for their maintenance of Hilldale in the 2022 Awards of Excellence. 

Photo: David J. Frank Landscape Contracting

“It means a lot to have earned this award for not only myself, but also the employees that work on this project, our company, and, of course, the client,” says Kurt Bartel, senior horticulturist at David J. Frank Landscape Contracting. “The client’s dedication and support of horticulture is very much appreciated. Personally, I worked very hard on this project; I collaborated with the client, ordered all the plant material, planned the install, and then executed it. I am very proud of our company received this award.”

Throughout the project, the company experienced a multitude of challenges, from perfecting the landscape to meeting Hilldale’s standards of not disrupting business.

“The most challenging aspect of the project is the overall scope of the job, spread over the 30-acre grounds of a very large, beautiful outdoor mall,” Bartel says. “The access is difficult, moving all the materials on site, and having to be off this site once the mall opens to avoid conflict with the businesses and their patrons.”

Adding on to why the mall caused issues, the ongoing maintenance of pinching, deadheading, IPM, weeding, fertilizing and watering all have to be done within the early morning hours to avoid conflict.

Photo: David J. Frank Landscape Contracting

The client also attracts high-end clientele, so high-end landscaping is expected when it comes to maintaining the project. David J. Frank Landscaping Contracting uses extensive four-season landscaping, which takes almost 200 manhours to meet the client’s expectations.

The spring color includes 950 cool-season annuals, 760 bulbs, and 512 mixed pansies. The summer display features 2,586 individual annuals, 129 large, raised containers, and 15 annual flower beds. The fall install has 2,072 plants, 163 pumpkins and large gourds, 72 bundles of cornstalks, and 46 hay bales. For the winter season, 4,515 pounds of decorative boughs, 612 square feet of garland, 147 bows, 28 birch stems, 13 six-foot balsam firs, and one twenty-five-foot tree , all fully decorated.

The four seasonal change-outs require the removal of the previous color rotation. The day before a new rotation is installed, all of the plant material and organic debris is removed. All beds and container soil are prepped with peat moss and mushroom compost to raise soil levels to proper heights and amend them.

Photo: David J. Frank Landscape Contracting

“To do the four-season color rotations takes about eleven employees to install each rotation in one to two days, depending on the rotation,” Bartel says. “Winter décor is the most labor-intensive rotation. The ongoing maintenance takes four employees to maintain, excluding management and administration.”

The watering consists of three applications, depending on the weather conditions, per week. The applications are done early in the morning to avoid any public contact and to allow for the moisture on leaf surfaces to dry to prevent disease.

Overall plant grooming is done weekly during watering cycles to keep the plants looking their best. Many of the plants are pinched to promote branching and keep the plants looking fuller; plants are also deadheaded to enhance colorful flowering and discourage disease development.

Photo: David J. Frank Landscape Contracting

All weeding is done by hand due to the client not wanting herbicides to be used; applications of a fungicide and insecticide are applied every two weeks to allow enough drying time and avoid exposure to the public.

“We are responsible for all aspects of maintenance,” Bartel says. “Watering and plant grooming is done three times a week for five hours on average for each occurrence. Mowing and weed control is done weekly with three employees, for thirty hours a week on average.”

When it comes to pruning, edging, lawn care, trim shape, insect and disease control, and other horticultural services, they conduct these when it is appropriate, outside of general maintenance.

Overall, the company spends about 60 hours per week, depending on weather conditions, maintaining this property.

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects by July 10, 2023.