While numerous studies have shown the benefits of plants in interiorscapes, Oakland Nursery in Columbus, Ohio, is working to expand the use of plants in streetscape plantings. Evelyn Chamberlin, director of interiorscapes and streetscapes at Oakland Nursery, says the company works primarily with corporate clients, property management companies and municipalities.
“Products include containerized plants, a lot of those are for corporations and property management companies,” Chamberlain says. “The streetscape division also does high-end residential specialty type containers including large planters and bedding plant installations for entry ways.”
Besides its interiorscape and streetscape divisions, the 70-year-old company also operates four Columbus-area garden centers. Many of the plants used in its interiorscape and streetscape plantings are grown at its 1-acre greenhouse production facility. The plants it produces are also sold in its retail outlets and wholesaled to other retailers.
Streetscapes Gaining Ground
Columbus is the largest city that Oakland Nursery works with in regard to outdoor plantings.
“We also work with building management companies in the downtown area,” Chamberlain says. The downtown hotels like to decorate and beautify their front entrances to enhance the buildings’ look for their guests.”
Although the company’s interiorscape division is larger in overall sales than its streetscape division, Chamberlain says customers often use both divisions to decorate the interior and exterior of their buildings.
“A customer who has asked us to beautify the inside with some plantings will also ask us to do some planting for the outside as well,” she says. “It has worked out well for us in regard to customers who ask for both types of plantings.
Chamberlain, who has been with Oakland Nursery for eight years, says during the last three years there has been an increase in the number of companies willing to spend money on exterior containers. She says more companies understand the value outdoor plantings add to the buildings.
Hotels and property management companies of commercial buildings make up the majority of the streetscape division’s customer base.
“We prefer working with property management companies, private companies and hotels. These are the new clients we seek to work with,” Chamberlain says. “We’ve found that these companies are easier to work with in regard to negotiating contracts.”
Oakland Nursery produces more mixed decorative containers than hanging baskets for its streetscape division customers.
“For smaller residential plantings, we do 14-inch containers, which we may put into groupings,” Chamberlain says. “The container size ranges up to 70-inches. The sizes that we plant the most range from 30- to 36-inches.
Oakland Nursery has different streetscape programs that it offers its customers. One of the more popular programs with corporate clients and property-management companies is a four-season color change out. Seventy percent of the company’s clients participate in the four-season program.
“In winter, it’s evergreens, whether that is cut branches, shrubs or something holiday-related,” Chamberlain says. “In the spring, it’s mostly plants that are cold-tolerant, including pansies and ranunculus. In the summer, tropicals and large annuals are used the most. In the fall, we do grasses, mums and ornamental peppers.
“We have found that if the containers are maintained year-round, even with cut branches during the winter, there is less vandalism and destruction to the containers and also less trash around the buildings. We always try to keep the containers looking good with something lush and alive just to give the buildings the look of good maintenance.”
Container maintenance is usually a part of the contracts with its corporate clients.
“We maintain the containers, water and trim the plants,” Chamberlain says. “A lot of the contracts come with plant guarantees. This ensures that the containers have beautiful, lush color year-round.”
Since many of the decorative containers the company changes out in downtown Columbus are concrete or stone, picking them up and moving them is not an option. In these situations, the plants are produced in the company’s greenhouses and then delivered to the site and planted into the containers.
Simplifying Hanging Containers
Of all the containers that Oakland Nursery plants in Columbus, the ones that require the most attention to detail are the more than 300 concrete hanging baskets that line the city’s downtown streets. There are 186 poles and each pole supports two half-moon shaped, 25-inch diameter baskets.
“This year we planned to use coco liners to line the baskets like we have done since I have been here,” Chamberlain says. “We ordered the liners in January, but then learned they couldn’t be delivered until June.”
Looking for another option, Chamberlain contacted Think Mint Inc. about its MagniMoist liners and whether the company could fill the order for the liners.
“Before contacting the company, I did some research on the MagniMoist liners to be sure they would work with the concrete baskets,” Chamberlain says. “The liners were actually an answer to a problem that we hadn’t been able to solve. Because the potting mix would dry out, city workers had to water the baskets twice a day. We had tried other ways of keeping the soil moist by incorporating water-absorbing crystals and lining the baskets with capillary matting.”
The 100 percent natural kenaf fiber MagniMoist liners improve the water holding capacity of the growing medium.
“I was impressed with the pliability of the MagniMoist liners,” Chamberlain says. “We used the 24-inch round discs and had to shape them into the concrete baskets. It was easier than I thought it was going to be. The pliability of the liners to fit them into the shape of the container went very well.
Prior to transplanting the plants into the concrete baskets, they are grown in large rectangular-shaped fiber planters in the greenhouse. A combination of annuals are grown in the same rectangular-shaped planter.
Three to four different plant varieties usually go into each basket. This year’s baskets contained red- and yellow-flowering petunias and lime foliage coleus and ipomoea.
“Some years we have done only one variety, which had bold-colored flowers,” Chamberlain says. “We try to mix it up from year to year and coordinate the colors with other plantings so there is a flow of color throughout the city.”
She said city officials are very good at allowing the company to choose the color scheme. The same growing medium, which is an in-house produced mix, is used in all of the baskets. The mix is also sold in the company’s retail stores.
“We are watching and working with city employees in regard to the MagniMoist liners and how often and how much water the baskets need,” Chamberlain says. “We are instructing them on how to feel the soil to determine if it is moist and then determining how many days the baskets can go without having to be watered.
“The MagniMoist liners have made it easier and require fewer waterings. We will do an evaluation in October after the baskets are taken down.”