The cost of landscape management: what you create you have to maintain
When next walking along the road, the railway trail, or a field in Hamilton, St George’s or Dockyard, take in the view around you.
Look carefully for whatever makes an impact, be it visually aesthetic or ‘wanting care and attention’. You may well be surprised at what these days we are simply accepting and taking for granted.
Be it a road, footpath, or right of way, take in its appearance. Is it in good condition? Does it need of attention? The longer a problem is left to deteriorate, the more costly the repair in time and labour.
Design, more often than not, dictates the extent of maintenance which, when based on the criteria of the design, equates to dollars and cents. Unfortunately, when budget cuts are required it is always the landscape budget that is cut first. This invariably leads to the deterioration of the landscape which then becomes a case of a deteriorating asset.
The landscape can be static or active but is always found in tandem being a hard or a soft landscape in its usage. As the hard landscape is a static entity many of its “problems” are created by a poor design concept in the form of poor plant selection.
A common flaw in garden design: the footpath, if primary, should be a minimum of 5ft wide to allow two people to walk side by side. As a secondary path, 24in to 30in should suffice. When a footpath is too narrow it will encourage people to walk on either the lawn or along the edge of the plant bed, which creates wear and tear and requires constant attention to keep at a high level of appearance.
Solid paths are easier to maintain than paved or bricked, as even the narrowest of gaps will invite weed growth. In areas where footpaths are likely to be mounted by vehicular traffic, this should be taken into consideration during the specification process. Car parks too, can become weed-ridden if not designed correctly.
Bermuda has many dry stack walls that, unfortunately, are falling into disrepair. The main culprit is "plant growth“ which has germinated to the point where root systems are dislodging the stones.
On many rock cuts one can see a surge in growth of various species especially that of the Indian laurel (ficus microcarpa), whose root systems are tenacious and which, if left, will simply explode with the result the rock face will shatter. Thereafter, erosion of the rock face could become a problem.
Roots too can create problems on foundations, footpaths and roads, with the uplifting of paths and tarmac/concrete and cracking of foundations. Plants, especially large trees, not only create problems via their roots but also with branches growing into utility lines, overhanging roads and footpaths, and dropping seeds, foliage and fruit on surfaces that can become slippery and therefore dangerous to foot traffic and two-wheeled cycles.
Deter the motorcyclist from riding on open banks – grass or otherwise – by blocking potential routes off with boulders or heavy plantings of thorny plants. Once wheel rut is established, especially on a bank, erosion does not take long to develop. The compaction will harm root systems and thus an adverse effect on growth.
Lawns, wherever possible, should be protected from unlimited vehicular use – the result being a surge in weed grass population and, with St Augustine grass, a diminishing healthy growth. Grass weeds thrive on compacted soil but the result is costly to repair. Overplanting will also create problems as plants mature, with the need for more constant pruning to keep growth within bounds, especially hedges and plantings close to footpaths.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society