Your business landscape should complement the architectural scale and style of your building and meet whatever standards are required by local design ordinances. But landscaping can also convey a sense of your business philosophy: modern and efficient, with a sharp balance of crisp foliage and hardscape elements; warm and family-friendly, with a tumbled cottage-garden look; or ecological-minded, with peaceful woodland glades or edible ornamentals destined for the local food shelf. Low-maintenance, regionally hardy plants can suit any business landscape style.
Landscaping regulations often require trees to shade parking lots or screen visually undesirable structural elements like loading docks or dumpsters. Trees can be the backbone of business landscape design, providing a boulevard effect to an entryway or breaking up horizontal building lines.
Trees can take a long time to reach full growth, so consider a two-tiered approach of planting a swift-growing tree type with a later slow-growing type, mimicking nature's principles of succession. Consider Lombardy poplar planted with slow-growing native northern white cedar; alders interplanted with white pines which require shade to grow straight and tall; or hemlocks planted under white birch.
Flowering trees bring spring beauty, but fruit trees can take a considerable amount of maintenance and attract yellow jackets in the fall, so stick with ornamental flowering specimens unless you have staff committed to keeping the fruit trees sprayed, pruned and picked (consider donating fruit to a local charity).
Some trees, such as Siberian elm or seeding cottonwoods, may be illegal to use in commercial landscaping in some areas, so check your local design regulations.
Shrubs and Grasses
Shrubs and ornamental grasses are workhorses that tie hardscape and vegetative elements together and offer year-round color and texture. Use Harry Lauder's walking stick for flowing summer foliage and corkscrewlike winter limbs, and red-twig or yellow-twig dogwoods for fast-growing reliable bushes with colorful winter interest. Viburnums are common, easy-care flowering shrubs; white- and blue-berried varieties add color to the late-summer landscape.
Pampas grass is a popular business landscape element for good reason: it adds a maintenance-free vertical element with white or pink summer flowers that dry for continued winter textural interest. Bamboolike giant miscanthus or feathery switchgrass are other business landscape large ornamental grass options.
Color is an important design element in any commercial landscape, but reliance on annual massed flower plantings requires a considerable investment in labor, water and new plants. Rely on hardy perennials that work with your tree and shrub landscape foundations, and keep annuals to easy-care planters or hanging baskets.
Bulbs provide beauty each year if you choose naturalizing varieties; avoid tulips and dahlias that need to be lifted in winter or frequently replanted. Crocus, daffodils, irises and daylilies require only once-a-year feeding and occasional dividing when they have grown too successfully (use divisions to expand your plantings--or give them to gardening employees).
Echinacea, daisies and black-eyed Susans add reliable masses of midsummer color, while globe allium, tall astilbe and sunflowers provide vertical elements. Add sedum, yarrow in a rainbow of colors and monkshood for late-season blooms. Don't forget colorful foliage: hostas for shaded areas or flowering kales and cabbages to carry floral effects into the winter months.