Landscape Design Tips for the HOA Community

Casandra Maier- April, 2021

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As HOAs develop regulations that affect uniformity and aesthetics within their community, the landscape is at the forefront.  The landscape creates an initial and lasting impression.  If the grounds are improperly designed or maintained; safety, property value, and overall well-being are adversely impacted.  The groundskeeping standards set by these associations and committees must strike a balance between budget, needs, and maintenance over time.  Implement the following landscape design tips to visually enhance the property and protect value.  To assist with cost projection, budgeting, and maintenance planning; fostering a relationship with a landscape designer is an invaluable asset to the HOA community.    

Form a Focused Committee and Hire a Designer

To ensure proper planning, the HOA, whether composed of elected residents or developers, must designate an individual or group to be the administrator of the landscape.  Formation of a focused landscape committee is the first step to creating accountability, promoting a uniform image, and developing consistent aesthetic regulations.  The community is further enhanced when this committee forms a relationship with a landscape designer.  Design consultation helps the HOA create a successful and cohesive landscape concept.  Designers work with the community's budget and priorities, providing cost projection, management, and reduction.  They offer planning to streamline long and short-term improvements and maintenance, breaking them up into manageable phases.  Additionally, designers provide colorful graphics and rendering services that help the HOA community visualize their landscape plans and make adjustments before construction and installations begin.                                  

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Invest in Entrances and Interior Focal Points

Entrances at the exterior, and landscaped focal points on the interior, are the first to make an impression on residents and visitors in the HOA community.  As high impact areas, the visual quality of these spaces affect the community's reputation and property value.  While a large part of the landscape budget goes into the development and maintenance of these areas, it is also possible to enhance and improve these spaces and experience savings.  HOA entrances and focal points rely on color, strength, timing, and up-keep for aesthetic value.  Annual and perennial flowers provide a pop of color and seasonal interest.  Free-standing masonry walls create an opportunity for signage and strongly highlight areas of impact.  A balance of evergreen and deciduous plants, as well as early and late bloomers, provide year-round color and texture.  Avoid large ornamental trees and shrubs that might overgrow the space or interfere with state and local line of sight regulations.  Seasonal swap-outs and routine maintenance ensure clean, tailored entrances and focal points.  Because these areas make a statement, care must be taken to keep them clear, definitive, and up to date.      

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Image Credit: Property of ND Design Services Inc.  

Develop an Approved Plant List

Between resident gardens, community gardens, and year-round landscaping, the HOA has its work cut out to create a uniform aesthetic.  Regulations around plants and planting help residents know what to expect and what is expected.  For this reason, it is highly efficient for the HOA to develop an approved plant list.  The size of this list depends on the size of the community.  Working from this list encourages continuity throughout the property.  It also streamlines plant approval, construction, and maintenance.  An approved plant list, along with a proper planting plan, leads to a thriving landscape with fewer invasive species.  Cost-effective measures include working with the existing landscape and choosing native plant species.  Weigh the options of flowering perennials, which cost more up front but bloom season after season without the need for replacement; versus flowering annuals, which cost less but require seasonal swap-outs.  Savings are also found in low and slow-growing plant varieties, which require less maintenance and pose less risk of overgrowing or overwhelming the landscape.                                                                   

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Image Credit: Property of ND Design Services Inc.  

Increase Safety and Well-Being

Th HOA landscape budget depends on several factors, including the size of the property.  Communities of all sizes benefit from investments that increase the safety and well-being of residents.  The return on these investments are directly reflected in the property's value.  Lighting is used to enhance curb appeal, and to spotlight architectural elements and focal points within the landscape.  It is also used to increase security.  A proper landscape lighting plan reduces the chance of crime by 39%.  Groundskeeping and maintenance also contributes to security.  Pathways, entrances, and windows need to be free from overgrowth and encumberments.   Feelings of safety increase well-being in the HOA community.  Usable outdoor space also affects mental health and well-being.  There are enhancement opportunities for landscape budgets of all sizes that increase the usability of outdoor spaces.  Residents benefit from amenities such as green space, site furnishings, outdoor cooking areas, and shade elements.  People and pets are happier when there are opportunities for outdoor activities and recreation.                                                                                                 

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Look to Progressive and Sustainable Practices for Savings

With proper planning, it is possible to reduce landscape maintenance costs, while adopting sustainable and eco-friendly practices.  This is achievable without sacrificing the uniformity or aesthetic value of the community.  A significant portion of the HOA landscape budget is dedicated to mowing and mulching.  Consider reclaiming and replacing areas of turf with low-mow fescue, native turf-grasses,  ornamental prairie mixes, or groundcover blends.  These varieties are slow-growing and produce fewer weeds, requiring less mowing and eliminating the use of chemical treatments and fertilizers.  Drought tolerant trees, shrubs, and plants require less water consumption.  Low-growing and dwarf plant varieties need less pruning and maintenance.  Savings are also found in perennial flowers and bulbs that may be split and divided to create new beds and planting opportunities.  Mulch may be substituted for gravel or groundcover.  These materials cost more up front but do not need to be refreshed season after season.  HOAs that utilize eco-friendly practices are both practical and progressive.  The savings created by sustainable maintenance may be reinvested into other areas of the  landscape that need to be updated or enhanced.                                                                                                                      

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Image Credit: Property of ND Design Services Inc.  

Sources:

Dodge, N. (April, 2021). Interviews with ND Design Services Inc. 

HOA Leader (June, 2011). "10 Ways Your HOA Can Save on Landscaping." Featured Articles- HOAleader.com.  

https://www.hoaleader.com/public/586.cfm

Wentz, E. (April, 2016). "Impact of Homeowner Association (HOA) Guidelines on Residential Water Use." AGU Journal.   

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2015WR018238

Nemo, L. (December, 2019). "Cookie-Cutter Suburbs Could Help Spread Sustainable Yards." Scientific American.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cookie-cutter-suburbs-could-help-spread-sustainable-yards/

Pember, H. (April, 2009).  "Landscaping for Less." New England Condominium.  

https://newenglandcondo.com/article/landscaping-for-less/full

Wetherbee, K. (January, 2019). "Landscape Lighting: Increase Safety and Time Spent in the Garden." OregonLive- Home and Garden.

https://www.oregonlive.com

LEDs Magazine. (May, 2018). "Major Study Finds Outdoor Lighting Cut Crime by 39%." LEDs Magazine Architectural Lighting

https://www.ledsmagazine.com/architectural-lighting/article/16701511/major-study-finds-outdoor-lighting-cut-crime-by-39