Grounds Management Award Winner:
Opening the Gates of Guildwood

By Linda Erskine

Creating a landscape from scratch — deciding the intent of the property and how the design can work with the natural flow of the property and its site conditions, choosing the hard and soft landscaping materials and implementing all of these changes within a certain timeframe is what many landscape designers and contractors say is what enchants them most. Not so for grounds management contractors. Some remark that it is the longevity of the project, and the challenge of picking up where another left off to make their own distinct mark or improvement on what was left behind, which holds the appeal.

     Salivan Landscape Ltd. is submersed in both realms, creating garden paradises for residential clients and aesthetically pleasing landscapes for corporate centres, and maintaining horticultural excellence when weather and site conditions, not to mention vehicular and pedestrian traffic, sometimes work against them. This was all true in the case of the Gates of Guildwood condominium complex.

Challenges ... or opportunities?
It was five years ago that Salivan Landscape Ltd. was awarded the contract to provide maintenance and snow plowing services to the Gates of Guildwood multi-residential complex. Upon initial consultation, this large, gardening intensive site was in need of renaturalization. “The shrubs required substantial thinning and pruning to renaturalize some of the plants’ form,” says Gregg Salivan of Salivan Landscape Ltd., of which he is co-owner with his father Don.

     Salivan set out to improve the site horticulturally, taking into account the site’s many environmental challenges. One of the challenges lies in the site’s topography. A very windy, hot and open site, Salivan had to consider which plants would do well in a relatively stressful situation. “It’s an extremely hot site. We have a lot of heat reflection from the asphalt,” Salivan confirms, also admitting that ensuring each area receives the right amount of irrigation takes a lot of scheduling. “The moisture that does not evaporate from the heat is dried up by the high winds. We combat this by running each zone every other day and compensating by hand watering,” he says. “With the size of the property and the number of zones throughout, we would have to run the system all day. The system just can’t stay on long enough.”

     Topography also affects other maintenance practices such as mowing, which must be completed in two steps — one with a riding mower and the other with a hand mower. “We’ve got some steep terrain that is not conducive to the riding mower,” says Salivan, citing workers’ safety as the main consideration.

The ‘people’ part of making it work
Prior to the beginning of the season and just after completion of spring clean-up duties, Salivan will meet with the condominium committee to perform a walk-through of the site, discussing possible upgrades to the existing landscapes, as well as other improvements and programs the company can put in place. One such improvement was the relandscaping of the property’s central circle almost three years ago, which just one year after completion, received the International Peace Garden Award from Communities in Bloom. Designed with coniferous centrepieces, the look of the circle was natural, with Salivan suggesting the use of more native trees such as white and Scots pine. Thinking that these trees were too wild looking, the committee instead opted to use spruce trees, accented by a selection of flowering shrubs, smaller evergreens, as well as perennials and annuals, which included cosmos and blue salvia. The next improvement, says Salivan, is a revamp of the area around the residents’ tennis courts, removing outdated and overgrown honeysuckle and shrub roses, which also promotes weed growth, and replacing them with low-growing shrubs, native plant material and low-maintenance ground cover. “This selection will not include cotoneaster,” Salivan says adamantly. “The only place I would consider using cotoneaster is cascading over a planter’s edge or rockery.”

     With a property measuring three acres and consisting of several different buildings, consistency in plant material also proved to be difficult, with each entrance having its own and sometimes-differing weather conditions. Salivan handles this by using colour to tie in each area, and in some cases, trying to match plant varieties if possible.

     While there are some plant varieties that will never make Salivan’s list for the Gates of Guildwood, he states that there are some plants that he would not have normally chosen if not for the fact that they are a preferred plant of the committee. As such, four varieties of marigold take up residence in planters and beds around the property, and share the space with such plants as tuberous and fibrous begonias, cosmos, dahlias, geraniums, impatiens, lantana standards, licorice plant, nicotiana, verbena and portulaca, to name a few.

Managing for efficiency
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Plant Health Care practices are of particular importance to Salivan’s maintenance program. At the Gates of Guildwood, the five- to six-person crew visits the site each week to conduct general maintenance tasks, as well as to monitor for pests, diseases and environmental conditions. One crew member pays a return visit to double check irrigation schedules and examines plants for infestations or reaction to environmental conditions. “We’ve always conducted an IPM program here,” says Salivan, noting that in their program, they deep root fertilize a portion of the trees every second year, as well as ensuring pests, etc. are kept at a tolerable level.

     “Sometimes, chemical controls are warranted,” says Salivan, mentioning that euonymus scale, which can spread through all plants at a rapid rate, can be controlled adequately through applications of dormant oils. “Horticultural oils are very important in the control of over­wintering pests.”

     With five years and the Awards of Excellence Grounds Management Award under its belt, Salivan looks forward to maintaining horticultural excellence at this property as well as other improvements that will be made over the next five years. Salivan notes this would not be possible without the horticultural pride exemplified by the company’s foremen, supervisors and crew in maintaining the site, as well as the commitment and funds the Gates of Guildwood condominium corporations invest to create an aesthetically pleasing property in which to live.