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The Big One: An amusing site

October 26, 2020 -  By

Company: Ruppert Landscape
Location: Bowie, Md.

Ruppert Landscape has been responsible for planting, upkeep and mowing at this Six Flags America amusement park for more than 10 years.

“It’s literally in our backyard; it’s less than 15 minutes from our office,” says Matthew Davidson, area manager for Ruppert Landscape.

It’s a direct-report site for three to five employees most of the year. In February, the company uses a big mulching event as a training area to get the park ready for its spring break opening.

The park boasts more than 270,000 square feet of bed space across 60-plus flower beds. To manage the workload, the team breaks up the park into different sections.

“So, if bad weather impacts our day, we are able to switch gears to work on other areas or tasks,” Davidson says. “With strong communication, the park staff is always aware of what areas we’re working in.”

Davidson says one of Ruppert’s philosophies is to focus first on a site’s detailing, such as weeding or pruning, and save mowing for the end. However, it makes an exception at Six Flags. “Because we have such a short window on mowing, we do the mowing first so when the park is open, we can walk through the park and focus on the details,” he says.

This project earned Ruppert Landscape a 2019 Gold Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program.

Appearances are critical for this client with more than 270,000 square feet of bed space of perennials, annuals, flowering trees, tropical plants, shrubs and mature trees. There is extra scrutiny on the site. Ruppert holds its annual company picnic every two years at the amusement park.

Crews water hanging baskets and seasonal rotations daily mid-May through September before the park opens. Site personnel use a 7-foot wand and water truck throughout the park to keep these baskets looking vibrant.

Ruppert creates a mixture of textures and bright colors in the planting beds around the many attractions and along the walkways. In early spring, crews spend one week logging about 1,100 hours during the company’s “Mulcharama,” installing more than four football fields of mulch throughout this site.

Ruppert’s crews pay close attention to the detail work, including blowing and edging nearly 4 miles of curb line and walkways weekly.

During the summer, crews focus on detail work around the water park. This includes pruning, shearing, cutbacks and deadheading to keep hedgerows neat and walkways cleared to ensure visitor safety.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

The single and multistemmed queen palms and the variegated ginger plants provide texture and add a neutral balance to the vibrant oasis of the water park sensory experience. Rupert replaces the plants annually as the varieties do not survive the winter.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Crews service nontraditional areas, like beneath rollercoasters, as needed and coordinate with park maintenance staff who must shut off the power. Crews specifically trained to work in those areas apply herbicides to slow down weed growth in areas with gravel. In areas with turf, they mow, edge and trim while working around footers, cement pillars, pipes and cabling, all of which must be accessible for daily inspections.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Ruppert’s field manager communicates daily with on-site staff to address challenges and concerns and adjust the maintenance plan accordingly.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

There is a large deer population within the park. Ruppert selects plant material for its ability to withstand feeding. Crews often need to net plants or spray deer deterrent to keep the deer at bay.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Ruppert selected Chinese fan palm trees for the variety’s tolerance to mild cold, pests and disease. Large variegated ginger plants give a tropical feel in a nontropical climate.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Planting beds around the many attractions and along the walkways incorporate a mixture of textures and bright colors. In this bed, bright pink begonias, Victoria Blue salvia, crotons, elephant ears and other mixed tropical plants to create an eye-catching bed.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

After a storm, the contractor will inspect the site with the site manager and identify areas that need immediate attention. Depending on the severity of the damage, Ruppert will supplement personnel to complete maintenance and not disrupt park operations.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Ruppert monitors plant material for the earliest signs of drought, insect infestations, or plant diseases. The contractor proactively disinfects pruning equipment used on roses to prevent the spread of rose rosette disease. Ruppert attributes successful control of this disease to early detection, removal and immediate replacement of infected plants.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Ruppert worked with Six Flags to manage costs and designate the park’s 38 acres of turf with different levels of necessary maintenance. Crews manage 27 acres closest to highly-traveled guest areas — like near this picnic pavilion — more like a golf course and cut on a seven-day cycle. Crews also naturalized outlying acres and only mow only three times a year.

Landscape maintenance project (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Ruppert’s team members say. the secret to providing a consistently high standard of maintenance is strong communication between all parties and an eye on detail.

Christina Herrick

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