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Home grown: how residents can improve your community's curb appeal.

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Positive first impressions are vital. Because curb appeal can be a community's best marketing tool, rarely are these first impressions more important than in real estate. Atlanta-based Post Properties' reputation for eye-catching landscaping has grown during the past three decades. Today, Post is letting its residents help with the creative effort, as 13 of its communities offer residents the chance to manage individual gardens onsite. These gardens promote resident interaction, which leads to a deeper sense of "home" and community.

Post reasoned that a showing of Mother Nature's finest would draw more potential residents to tour the communities, and increased visits would lead to more leases. That intuition paid off. Post's curb appeal is anything but common garden variety. Leasing, occupancy and rents have increased along with the community's curb appeal.

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Interactive Gardening

The essence of Post's approach to landscaping revolves around interactivity and making residents more aware of the outdoors. In the 1990s, Post offered resort-style interactive amenities, including putting greens, running and hiking trails, croquet and bocce ball fields, outdoor pingpong tables and outdoor chess areas.

Another popular amenity has been interactive gardens, including the company's urban vegetable gardens. Residents at many Post communities have the opportunity to manage individual plots of land onsite. These gardens promote resident interaction, which leads to a deeper sense of "home" and community among residents.

Balcony of the Month

Post has found that many residents are happy to add to the community's curbside appeal. Post's gardens often inspire green thumbs in the residents who decorate their balconies with ornate plants and flowers. To promote this hobby, many communities have adopted a Balcony of the Month award, a plaque which hangs on the rail and has become highly coveted in many communities. Residents who want to better themselves in the art of gardening are encouraged to visit the Post Web site to submit their questions about how to make their balconies more beautiful or their urban gardens greener. The Post floriculture manager answers each question personally and with expert advice.

Themed Gardens

Themed gardens are another point of curb appeal for Post. Some Post communities have as many as five or six courtyards, and each is unique. Residents can stroll through a highly manicured English-inspired garden with a touch of structure and formality, walk down a sidewalk to a naturalistic Asian-inspired garden perfect for meditation or turn a corner to find a landscape reminiscent of a tropical environment. Post tailors its landscaping to fit the architecture or microclimate of the area, whether in sub-tropical Tampa, Fla., drought-prone Atlanta or windy Manhattan.

Thrilled at the reputation Post had earned for its curb appeal, the company continued to innovate. Its in-house landscaping division began to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs in November and December. The result of this winter labor was a spring flower show unlike the landscaping at any other Sunbelt community. Post then implemented cool-season flowers to provide color during the winter months.

Gardening on a "Post scale" is a huge financial investment. However, even through market downturns, Post has never skimped on landscaping. That decision is a direct result of positive feedback from prospective residents who comment on the beauty of the grounds and how it sets apart the community. The company's philosophy is that because residents pay the same amount every month to live in a Post apartment home, they should enjoy a colorful, sophisticated garden year-round.

Adapting to Urban Developments

In recent years, as people have migrated from the suburbs into cities, the demand for live, work and play environments has skyrocketed. Many people want housing that is closer to work centers and within walking distance of restaurants, shopping destinations and cultural events. This trend has led Post to invest in dense mid-rise, high-rise and mixed-use communities. However, as density increased, the amount of landscaped square-footage decreased. Although Post's landscape team considered keeping a predominately hard-scaped environment at these communities, the team quickly determined that the landscape ethos is important to the Post brand and to a potential resident's living and pedestrian experience.

As they planned their Post communities, the landscapers realized that the architecture of these mixed-use buildings is often designed to be seen from afar. From a distance, a downtown skyline highlights many unique buildings, but, at the base of those buildings, they often become homogenous.

Post saw an opportunity to soften the intersection of the building and street and update its approach to landscaping. Post has become one of the pioneers in high-end roof-top gardens, courtyards and landscapes in mixed-use developments. Extensive plantings line small balconies at the street level of urban communities, pocket parks are designed into mixed-use communities, and large caliper trees help improve the look and provide shade.

Maximizing Limited Space

In urban communities, it is often challenging to make parking decks aesthetically pleasing. Post often tries to fully or partially "bury" the parking deck, which can present an opportunity for a roof-top garden, or green roof.

Green roofs, while a new trend in the United States, is not a new idea. Countries such as Germany and Switzerland have used green roofs because the roofs reduce urban heat islands, retain storm water and offer sound attenuation. Post embraced the idea of green roofs for another reason, too: green roofs allow a community to regain some of the green space typically lost when developing in an urban area. Planting green roofs atop embedded parking not only allows residents to enjoy the gardens by walking through them, but Post often designs them to be seen from all of the floors above. So, rather than looking onto an asphalt or ballast roof, residents look onto a garden.

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Looking Out for Mother Nature

Whether on acres of property or just on a roof top, Post's approach to landscaping has always been environmentally friendly. That means using the right plants in the right places for long-term success. Post landscape crews recycle green waste into re-usable compost and use only drip irrigation in container and planter landscapes, while low-volume irrigation is used in all municipalities that require it.

Separate irrigation zone configurations help irrigate plants with similar water needs. Post also subscribes to organic fertilizer only and integrated pest management practices for all color displays on its properties. The company strives to use pest-resistant plant material to reduce the need for insecticide and fungicide applications.

Post's initial investment in curb appeal for a community is not cheap. A community may boast as many as 150 different types of plants, trees, shrubs and blooms. But over time, the company has found that the upkeep on these communities is often less than that of a similar apartment community with lots of turf, and Post's scale and expertise has helped it to remain efficient. Grass is expensive to water and time-consuming to manicure. Post's landscapes are traditionally naturalistic, so they require less maintenance.

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Plants Easiest to Maintain

by U.S. Region

Southeast (Zones 6 & 7)

1. Abelia grandiflora

2. Spirea "Gold Mound"

3. Nandina "Gulf Stream"

4. Rosa "Knockout,"

5. Ilex vomitoria, nana "Schillings," Dwarf Yaupon Holly

Southwest (Zone 8)

1. Berberis thunbergii "Rosy Glow," Barberry

2. Crape Myrtle (hybrids)

3. Leucophyllum, Texas Sage (all varieties)

4. Sabal minor, Dwarf Palmetto

5. Texas Mountain Laurel

Mid-Atlantic (Zones 5 & 6)

1. Acer palmatum, Japanese Maple

2. Buxus, American Boxwood

3. Chamaecyparis pisifera aurea nana, Dwarf Golden Mop/Threadleaf Cypress

4. Juniperus virginiana "Grey Owl," Juniper

5. Viburnum macrocephalum, Snowball Viburnum

Sub-Tropical (Zones 8 & 9)

1. Allamanda schotti, Shrub Allamanda

2. Pedilanthus tithymaloides, Devil's Backbone

3. Philodendron solloum

4. Strelitzia reginae, Bird of Paradise

5. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Chinese Hibiscus

Environmentally Friendly Landscaping Techniques

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1. Recycle green waste into re-usable compost.

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2. Install drip irrigation in container and planter landscapes.

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3. Create separate irrigation zone configurations to irrigate plants with similar watering needs.

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4. Use pest-resistant plant material to reduce insecticide and fungicide applications.

Landscaping Trends

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1. Container landscaping adds flair to small areas,

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2. Organic turf care is an environmentally friendly approach to landscaping.

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3. Green roofs allow a community to regain green space in an urban development.

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4. Irrigation smart clocks with weather sensors provide real-time watering. *

* See the July 2006 issue of UNITS.

Splashes of Color

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1. Angelonia "Angelface"

Tall spikes for color, varieties include blue, purple, pink and white

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2. Begonia "Dragon Wing"

Bred in Florida for sun and heat tolerance, varieties include red and pink

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3. Calibrachoa hybrids, Trailing Petunias

Great for pots and baskets, brightly colored

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4. Duranta "Cuban Gold"

Pest and disease resistant, bright yellow foliage

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5. Vinca, Pacifica series

Drought tolerant, brightly colored

How Much Do They Spend?

Following is what Post Properties spends for landscaping:

* Garden-Style

$300 per unit per year

* Mid-Rise

$150 per unit per year

* High-Rise

$75 per unit per year

Where to Look

Looking for unique and interesting foliage? Check the Green Industry Yellow Pages at www.giyp.com or the Proven Winners Plant Collection at www.provenwinners.com.

Todd Tibbitts is Senior Vice President, Properties Services, Post Properties, Atlanta. He can be reached at toddtibbitts@postproperties.com or 404/846-5621.
COPYRIGHT 2007 National Apartment Association
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Author:Tibbitts, Todd
Publication:Units
Article Type:Cover story
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Words:1541
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