Great Seasonal Color Displays Start With Clear Specifications

Luke Tedder on Mar 21, 2017 4:40:53 PM

It’s the time of year when you’re thinking about annual flowers—a boost of color to spruce up drab winter beds. Maybe you’re writing specifications for annual flowers that you’ll provide to your landscape professional. Or, perhaps you will collect several RFPs for flower installation.

How many flowers do you want this season?

You write in, “6 flats.” You figure, six flats of flowers will be plenty to fill the landscape beds at the entrance of your commercial property. Your annual flower specifications are complete, right?

If you think that specifying annual flowers means identifying the number of flats you want, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and take a good, hard look at the terminology you use and how denoting “flats” can impact the cost and results. In short, stop using the term flats when talking annuals.

Instead, here is the terminology you should use when specifying annual flowers so you can be sure that the landscape provider understands not just the quantity of flowers, but other key factors involved in planning and planting annuals.

In order to properly bid annual flowers, your landscape professional will collect three crucial pieces of information:

  1. Total number of annual beds and square footage of each
  2. Design style and colors you want for your property
  3. Light exposure, soil type, and water regime to match the perfect flowers to your site conditions

Let’s explain this further and provide you with some pointers and the proper terminology so you can win at specifying summer annuals this season.

placement of annualsFirst, Pick the Plants: A Word On Selecting Annuals

The reason why “measuring” how many annuals you’ll need by specifying flats does not work is because not all plants are the same. Larger plants need bigger containers, and you’ll need fewer of those sizeable flowers to fill a bed. So, before you begin talking about number of plants, talk to your landscape professional about what flowers will thrive on your commercial property.  

Next, Know Plant Spacing—Size Up Your Beds

Bulk plants don’t come with tags, so we base spacing upon size at the time of planting for most varieties. Properly placed plants have room for root expansion, foliage growth and flower bloom. Clearly, plants that are smaller when purchased will be placed differently than larger plants. Smaller plants are placed closer together so that the bed looks fuller and fills in faster.

Forget Specifying Annual Flats (Or Be Disappointed)

Flats come in different sizes. Are you talking about a flat that holds 32 plants or 12? If you only specify number of flats, the number of plants is vague. How many plants are in a flat, exactly?

annual displayThe big problem with specifying annual flowers by number of flats is that you could end up with too many or not enough flowers. Your beds could get planted too densely or look too sparse. And, the cost estimate could be completely off-base. You might have saved money if you had specified by square footage.

For these reasons, square footage is the gold standard for estimating annuals. At Klausing Group, we like to give clients a visual point of reference so they understand how plant size and plant placement impact the number of flowers needed and cost. Just as we create site maps for landscape maintenance, we use a design program to produce an annual flower map. This provides a clear, concise picture of the landscape bed. Annuals are plotted into the map, and the design is presented to property managers to review. This way, they understand what exactly goes into the cost of annual flowers and how many plants will be required.

This annual flower map becomes a ready resource for future property managers and the landscape provider.

Use This Terminology When Specifying Annual Flowers

Here’s your new script for specifying annual flowers so you can be sure you are clearly communicating your needs to the landscape provider. Go beyond talking about flats and be specific about your annual flower needs.

  • Talk square footage: Rather than specifying flower flats, identify the square footage of your flower bed and note that you’ll need annuals to fill this space.

  • annuals in kentuckyAsk for an annual flower mapRequest that your landscape provider supply a design that includes the names and quantities of plants. A landscape professional can advise the best plant choices for your property.

  • Inquire about foliar fertilizer: Ask about fertilizer as part of annual flower installation. What fertilization is included, or worked into the soil at the time of planting. Will the annuals you chose require additional fertilization to thrive? Get recommendations from your landscape provider.

  • Bed preparation: How must soil be amended before planting to ensure that plants will thrive? Will the landscape bed need to be fortified with organic material to create an ideal planting space? Some beds are plant-ready and others will require some work to get in shape for new flowers. Bed preparation should be included in annual flower specifications because it impacts the overall cost (more materials, more time).

  • Big Impact: And if you want a big impact in the spring, add bulbs to your annual flower plan. Pansies are good for fall plantings but look ragged come spring. Tulips and daffodils will fill your bed space with bright long lasting color.
  • Additional considerations: When annuals are installed before Kentucky’s last frost date on May 15 (in time for Kentucky Derby), they may need extra precautions such as covering plants on nights when frost may occur.

Ready for spring?

Let’s talk annual flowers and determine how you’d like to fill your landscape beds this season. Give us a call in Lexington at 859-254-0762 or Louisville at 502-264-0127. Or, fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.


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