Morehouse College: making the decision to hire a landscape contractor
“No matter where someone walks on our campus, we want it to look great and represent Morehouse appropriately and accurately.”
John Zachary, Logistics Manager
When you think about the look of a college campus, it’s only natural that these things come to mind: historical architecture, manicured green spaces, mature trees, and well-maintained flowerbeds.
Founded in 1867, Morehouse College is a private institution on more than 60 acres of land near downtown Atlanta. And with a student body of 2,100 students — not to mention visiting friends, family, dignitaries and prospective students — this college is no stranger to having a visitor or two (or 10,000) on campus.The campus of Morehouse College is no exception.
Like most institutional settings, Morehouse understands the importance of a good first impression. The better a property looks; the more inviting it feels; the more functional it becomes.
Morehouse’s logistics manager John Zachary says, “No matter where someone walks on our campus, we want it to look great and represent Morehouse appropriately and accurately.”
But what if that doesn’t happen?
“We weren’t getting the desired results,” Zachary says in regard to the time Morehouse staffed its own landscaping department. These undesired results prompted the college to take a closer look at the costs associated with staffing and supplies for this department.
“We started thinking, it may make more financial sense for us to contract in a company to take care of the landscaping and benefit from their expertise,” he adds.
“They wanted a better product while cutting landscaping costs,” says Eric Pence, Client Relations Manager at HighGrove. Pence has worked closely with Zachary and Morehouse for the last 6 years.
In November 2001, HighGrove Partners took over the landscape maintenance and design responsibilities at Morehouse College.
Reestablishing A Beautiful Landscape
HighGrove’s first order of business: Establish shrub beds with edging and straw mulch.
“The college’s landscape was in need of a good deal of proper landscaping techniques and establishing shrub beds is a great place to start,” says Pence. “Grass was running right up to the shrubs, so we added edging, which gives the landscape a finished look and also keeps grass from invading garden beds.”
In addition to redefining borders around existing beds, other immediate landscape improvements included planting trees and roses, addressing turf health concerns and an installation of seasonal color throughout the campus with large flower pots and flower beds.
“Over the years we’ve added a lot of seasonal color to the campus and it’s really made a strong impact on the grounds,” Pence says.
Understanding which flowers show the best with each season is crucial. And adding seasonal color to key focal points on an institutional setting — at key entrances, along busy walkways, near important signage — is a great way to rejuvenate the look of a property and ensure it’s standing out from the crowd year round.
Preparing A Property For Special Events
The start of a new school year.
For Morehouse College, these four major events draw plenty of attention and visitors to the campus. The college will play host for up to 10,000 visitors on commencement weekend alone.
“We look at these four events like they are four major goals — for us and for Morehouse,” Pence says. “It’s very important to us that the campus is looking its best.”
From spring plantings a few weeks before commencement to refreshing seasonal color a couple days after homecoming, consistent communication and good coordination between the contractor and the client are necessary in achieving these goals.
“Eric and I meet (in person) every week,” Zachary says. It’s a frequency he appreciates. “We talk about any issues that may pop up, and I keep him up of any special event activities on campus. If we’re having a special activity at a specific building, we make sure that area gets special attention.”
Whether it’s a fresh application of pine straw to beds before a big event or a revised hand-watering plan under drought conditions, these weekly meetings ensure there are no surprises when it comes to client expectations and contractor execution.
The Contractor-Client Relationship — A True Partnership
“I truly feel like a partner,” Pence says of his relationship with Zachary and Morehouse College. “We bounce ideas off of each other in terms of what we think will make an area look better.”
How can we make this better? This simple question drives so many of their meetings.
“John will bring in some large containers and we’ll talk about where on campus they’d make the biggest impact and be seen the most, and then plant them up,” he adds. “We’re working together to make sure Morehouse is on track to look its best.”
Zachary admits the grounds of Morehouse College continue to be a work in progress, but over the last few years the landscaping has “improved substantially.”
“There have been times when the campus has never looked better, and I’ve said that two or three times and it continues to improve,” he says. “Looking back, it was a great decision to bring HighGrove aboard. When you have a contract with someone, you really have to trust who you’re working with and it’s really worked out well for us.”