What results do you expect from a property that is managed sustainably verses one that is managed conventionally? Many are ok with more weeds or lower quality plant material. I am not. My expectations for any landscape are the same. I expect a property to be clean, weed free, good color and have all of the details handled. As a visitor, should my expectations change because the manager has decided to lower their inputs into the property? For me, when a manager decides to manage their property more sustainably, they have taken a path that requires more work and attention to detail. Achieving the same results in a sustainable manner requires it.
Managing a landscape sustainably is hard. Some have completely removed synthetic products and have moved to 100% organic programs. I have not. It is an admirable goal, and one I wish to achieve. I am just not there yet.
I have chosen to take a more deliberate path towards sustainability. I still expect perfection in the landscape. I am not delusional; I know that we will always have problems. However, one of the first things I learned in business school was that marketing was about managing perceptions. This has stuck with me over the years and I find that it is one of the truest statements that I have ever heard. The perception we want to present here is one of perfection to the last detail. You only have one chance to make a first impression. I refuse to waste this opportunity.
So I have taken a different approach to sustainability. I eliminate products where I can find a more suitable alternative. We have reduced our irrigation usage by over 70% in the past 5 years, but we have less drought stress today than before. I have cut our fertilizer usage by over 50%, but we have denser and greener turf. Phosphorus has become a long forgotten memory, but our flowers are blooming better than ever. We have less scale today on the shrubs even though I use fewer insecticides. Impossible? No, just better management. This is a sustainable path. We are using less synthetic products but are achieving better results. This gives the impression that we want. Does the property exude class and detail management? Yes. Can we confidently say that we operate with a mindset of environmental sustainability? Yes. Have we settled? Never.