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The Big One: Joy of planting

September 16, 2022 -  By
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Company: Balanced Environments
Location: Northbrook, Ill.

The client reached out to Balanced Environments to work on a few enhancement projects for Covenant Living of Northbrook, a 60-acre retirement community in a suburb of Chicago. The team at Balanced Environments originally completed some small enhancement projects, and the client was so impressed with the work that the team at Balanced Environments were encouraged to bid for the property’s maintenance account.

Property management surveys residents annually to ensure the landscape improves or stays consistent with property maintenance and exceeds expectations. Gayle Kruckenberg, sales director with Balanced Environments, says the team continues to think big each of the five-year plans created, of which Balanced Environments is on its second.

“(Covenant Living of Northbrook has) done a fine job of keeping up with our suggestions of where we see the campus growing and how we see it making improvements that we feel the campus needs to see exciting growth in the future,” she says.

Kruckenberg says as the retirement community plans to add a new building and the team at Balanced Environments will play a major role in the landscape design of that project to ensure the plants selected are appropriate for Northern Illinois and the Chicagoland area. A challenging part of maintaining the property is the requirement that crews be extra cautious around the property’s dementia wings. Mowers don’t run until around 10 a.m. and crews must be mindful of closing and locking courtyard gates to keep residents safe.

“It takes a team to simply manage and work a property catering to the needs of the graying population,” she says. “It takes backing by ownership. It takes a production department that will hear, understand, cooperate and follow the directions of the account manager. It takes enhancement people that are quick, responsive and talented in order to keep up with the flow of ideas coming from a property that large and diverse. It takes an absolute team of maintenance guys to show up to that account.”

Balanced Environments won a gold award from the 2021 National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program for this project.

Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Covenant Living of Northbrook, in Northbrook, Ill., is a 60-acre retirement community with 11 interconnected multitenant buildings, 18 duplexes and three quad-style residential units. The surrounding campus landscape has evolved to support hundreds of large landscape trees, flowering ornamentals, formal hedges and perennials all set against expanses of manicured turf.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Building entries receive daily clean-up before the arrival of first shift nursing staff, ensuring pavement and planting areas are presented cleanly and safely.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Seasonal color plantings at all critical signage provide a cohesive focal-point pattern throughout the property.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

The client expects sidewalks to be free of debris for ease of use for residents and visitors. Plantings must stop prior to the walking surfaces to provide a safe walking path.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

A mix of flowering shrubs, evergreens and flowering perennials provide framing and separation of specific parking lot areas, supporting individual buildings.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

The management team rotates seasonal color displays three times a year with a minimal winter display. Balanced Environments approaches each season as an opportunity to provide vibrant plants and intense colors to engage the residents.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Each building entry includes seasonal color to greet residents and guests coordinated for a cohesive, campus-wide setting.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Each of the 11 multitenant buildings has a minimum of three entries each with a unique style that reflects the tenant closet to the door. Doorway seasonal planters highlight all primary entrances. The seasonal plant varieties are kept consistent through repeating patterns across the campus.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Crews maintain the large, open turf weekly with season-specific fertilizer and pest control applications.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

The pond is the focal point of the campus. The Balanced Environments team plants a mix of seasonal color combined with perennial landscape elements to layer color transition throughout the year.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Project managers installed proper drainage, irrigation and insulation to protect the perennial plantings in the permanent window boxes.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

Color and texture play a role in the property’s landscape. The property’s plantings are divided into different foundations and take on the personality of its residents. No two foundation plantings are alike on the property.

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

(Photo courtesy of Balanced Environments)

A two-man crew is on-site five days a week, a four-man crew mows every Thursday and a two-man crew waters six days a week to maintain this property.

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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