New Jersey is only 166 miles long and 65 miles across at its widest point, with less than 8,000 square miles in total land area. Compact as it is, the Garden State nevertheless experiences a full range of seasonal changes in all five of its distinct regions: Northern, Central, the Pine Barrens, Southwest, and Coastal. From the famous Jersey shore to the Kittatinny Mountains, New Jersey is no stranger to both hot humid summers and freezing winters. With 40 to 51 inches of rainfall—and no less than five tornadoes annually—this little state sees some big weather.
Establishing and/or maintaining an attractive landscape in a climate this varied is a definite challenge, perhaps even more so for multifamily environments in urban or suburban areas. When you factor in the additional foot traffic, pets, liter and pollution commonly associated with multifamily dwellings, it can be tough for plants, trees, and flowers to survive, let alone thrive.
Down the Garden Path
In an effort to save money, some boards and grounds committees put a great deal of time and energy into do-it-yourself landscaping, rather than hiring professionals. Weeding flowerbeds and raking leaves is one thing; but if a committee chooses the wrong type of plant, or puts a shrub, tree, or flowerbed in the wrong place, the poor results may be a very costly mistake. In addition to being an eyesore, misguided plantings can result not just in replacement costs for dead or damaged plants, but even repair costs for structural damage to roofs, foundations, or pavement.
This is not to say that a volunteer landscaping or gardening committee is a bad idea—far from it. If your community includes folks who truly enjoy the physical labor associated with weeding, planting, and so forth, they can absolutely participate—but perhaps under the guidance of a landscaping professional hired on a consulting basis to develop a sound plan with site-appropriate plants. With the New Jersey climate, plants that can adapt to extremes in the weather are an obvious choice, but investing in a consultant to get a proper plan in place can also save a considerable sum in the long run.
Another nearly-guaranteed money-saver for interested board members is self-education. The New Jersey Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program, (http://rutgers.edu/master gardeners/helplines.asp), provides educational outreach to the general public. Visiting this informative site can provide a solid foundation of research-based information and help a board formulate a specific Q&A before calling a professional landscaper.