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Landscape Team Transforms Resort and Club into Botanical Playground; Wows Guests and Members
Contact: Chuck Smith (561) 447-3370
BOCA RATON, FL -- For over 70 years the Boca Raton Resort & Club has been driven to develop the world's most beautiful resort playground. A charge not only undertaken in the architecture and development of the property, but in the overall look and feel of the destination. This "face of the Boca" begins with the landscaping program -- a true example for landscaping excellence not only in the community, but throughout the Resort and Club industry.
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Literally and figuratively harvesting this dream is Eric Love, direct of landscaping, dedicated to recreating a sub-tropical paradise that would become as renowned as the Resort and Club's architecture, service and facilities. Sixteen awards have been bestowed on the property's landscape. The Boca Raton Resort & Club now sponsors garden tours which generate great interest among guests and members.
"I want our visitors to stroll the grounds and to think, wow, this place is really special'," said Love. To help transform Boca into "a resort landscape unlike any other," the Resort and Club recruited Craig Morell as Horticulturist and Nursery Manager for the 356-acre property. In concert with Grounds Manager David Wilson, who has 15 years' experience at the Resort and Club, the gentlemen flee from any trappings of commercialism and, in their words, "avoid producing the stereotypical landscapes that tend to appear everywhere." With 20 years experience in horticulture and a Bachelor's degree in tropical horticulture, Morell was also given the mission to develop the Resort and Club's on-site plant nursery and to continue to expand its botanical collection.
While numerous varieties of Florida palms are evident at Boca, they are also the minority in Boca's population of flora. Tropical flowering and fruit trees, lush foliage -- even bamboos -- dot the broad spectrum of plants on site. While the Resort and Club features many great specimens and established vegetation Love and Morell continue to strive to showcase plants that nobody else has.
"Innovation is part variety, part artistry and part science," says Love. "It's not just the uniqueness of the species in our midst, but how we lavishly cultivate them that captures the attention of passersby."
Using Horticulture Psychology to Stimulate the Senses
The landscaping strategy for the entire Resort complex has its roots in horticultural psychology --using horticulture to reflect the psychology of a particular area. At the Boca Raton Resort & Club, each area of the property is evaluated for guest traffic, weather conditions, exposure and seasonal characteristics to create an area profile. In the context of each locale, a palate of plants and flowers is then established to stimulate the senses through color, fragrance and touch; busy, high-traffic areas (such as the center median of the main entrance) are flooded in bright colors; quiet areas where one can contemplate are nestled in mellow hues. High, large plantings can cool a warm area; butterfly-attracting plants bring these beautiful, vibrant insects into full view.
"Our landscape at the Boca Raton Resort & Club is about seeing color and interesting foliage, smelling fragrant flowers, listening to water splash in fountain pools, touching tropical fruits and their unusual textures, as well as tasting fresh-grown herbs as distinct as chocolate mint," asserts Morell. "We work to create an outdoor living space that stimulates the senses, so that our guests can savor the experience in every way."
Carrying on Mizner's Legacy
Addison Mizner -- the famed, eccentric architect from New York -- originally built the 100-room Cloister Inn in 1926 (renamed the Boca Raton Hotel and Club in the '30s, then the Boca Raton Resort & Club in the late '80s) He envisioned a pink palace to which the ranking hierarchy of the international society would flock. This structure still exists as the main hotel for today's Resort complex, replete with imaginative, Spanish-style architecture, courtyards and European fountains. Not only were antiques brought from old churches in Spain and Central and South America, but much of the plantings were imported as well, to supplement the foliage indigenous to South Florida.
Mizner envisioned a sub-tropical paradise that was fortunate to exist in so much land and water. Wanting to nestle the large, pink Cloister building in vines and trees, he made good use of the native and exotic plant specimens to enhance the beauty of the architecture he created. Even today, all the flower beds and the color schemes throughout the gardens are continually changed with the seasons, with variations that juxtapose the pink building, colored tiles and the lush greenery.
Since that time, the Resort and Club has grown in acreage, accommodations, facilities and recreational amenities, and the landscaping program has kept pace with change while preserving the free-spiritedness of Mizner's philosophy. The traditional formality of the Resort and Club has lessened over time and over the past five years has given way to a style of casual elegance. The grounds reflect this evolution; the once European-style gardens characterized by well-defined boundaries and geometric patterns have, under the direction of Love and Morell, diffused into more tropical and informal gardens.
Palms and canopy trees, which were originally planted in the '20s and '30s, are now towering at 75 feet high. 40,000 square feet of purple bougainvillea color the Resort and Club's pink facades and arches. Hibiscus, bird of paradise, croton and gardenias are some of the most brilliant perennials found throughout property. Shaving brush tree, butterfly ginger, perfume tree, buttercup and angel trumpet stand out among the tropical flowering plants, fruits and palms.
Around the Resort complex, even the slightest variations in weather conditions influence the type of plant growth. For example, salt winds from the ocean and Intracoastal Waterway are directed at the east side of the Cloister and "choose" plants that thrive in that environment. The west side of the Cloister is shielded from the salty, moist air but serves as the target of the afternoon sun and hosts different specimens of botanicals.
One-Stop-Cropping: Boca's On-Site Nursery
There are few resorts one can think of that have their own on-site plant nurseries, and none compared to that of the Boca Raton Resort & Club. One and a half acres of nursery support over 350 acres of landscapes. Until 1993, the facility was simply utilized as a holding venue and staging area for plants "in transit." After extensive renovation and expansions, the nurseries are now fully operational with a full-time staff to accommodate any type of plant need and serve as sites for plant recuperation and production. They presently house the foliage for the Resort and Club's interiorscape plants and act as growing and production areas for landscape plants.
"By creating new plants ourselves from cuttings, we are perpetuating the life of our botanicals and earning notable cost savings," says Morell. "To date, we have propagated over 2,500 plants from on-site specimens for essentially pennies beyond our normal staffing expenses. This will enable us to broaden our inventory stock and to provide a better showcase of botanical holdings." Plant quality standards are as high as every other standard at Boca.
Among the numerous structural additions to the nurseries are a new propagation mist house; two orchid houses; an expanded, double-level hanging basket structure; and a lofty shade house to accommodate the height needs of two-story palms. The facility is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing. Occasionally, Love and Morell sponsor a sale open to the Resort and Club's 2,000 employees to clear old inventory. These prized events augment staff morale, make money for the landscaping department and clean up plant stock for the benefit of the nursery.
A Real Herb Garden
Morell once overheard the chef state that every year his kitchens purchase over $70,000 worth of herbs for his culinary operations.
"That's a lot of money just for herbs," reflects Morell. Morell collaborated with the culinary team to develop an impressive herb garden on the northern end of the West Walkway next to the Cloister. The garden rotates a menu of 20 varieties of edible plants and provides guests and Club members with easy viewing for their enjoyment, easy access for Morell's horticulture staff, plus easy access for the chefs to use these herbs in their kitchens.
"We are tremendously excited about this garden taking a tasteful bite out of the food and beverage budget," says Executive Chef James Reaux. "This isn't just a few, token square feet of hidden area referred to as an herb garden. It's very substantial and will eventually grow to 6,000 square feet!" The culinary staff harvests the offerings of the garden daily. Among the plots' selection of herbs are basil, thyme, oregano, chives, tarragon, sage, rosemary, garlic-chives, mint.. even chocolate mint, and many more, as well as edible flowers such as nasturtiums.
Tropical Theme Gardens
In the summer of '94, the southern portion of the West Walk was transformed into a tropical rain forest with an array of fragrant gingers, heliconias, bamboo and tree ferns, graced with additional scents of tropical flowers. It became one of the Resort and Club's themed garden areas which would appeal to many senses such as smell, touch or perception. Gardens are planned for fragrance, for pure color or for a theme such as edible plants.
There are gardens whose flowers open only at night and aquatic gardens featuring tropical waterlilies in pools with tropical fish and water-loving marsh plants such as taro and arrowroot. In the midst of creation are additional rainforest planting areas with giant canopy trees; myriad tree-dwelling plants such as orchids, bromeliads and aerial ferns; as well as continual amendments to the overall landscape such as adding hundreds of flowering trees for seasonal color and for breaking up the sea of green around our golf courses. Such trees would provide vistas of brilliant hues spanning hundreds of yards designed to be visible from every vantage point-- high or low.
Landscape Re-engineering: Quality-enhancing and Cost-cutting strategies
Boca's nursery operation is just one example of reengineering in the landscaping division... finding new ways to operate which improve efficiency and quality while saving money. A Resort complex of this magnitude and scope demands large quantities of plant material for its interiorscape and landscape. To reflect the supreme standards for which Boca is renowned, the required attention and expertise requires a great deal of space, manpower, skill and financing to maintain this perishable and fragile natural commodity.
The nursery staff employs several cost-cutting strategies. Pots are cleaned, recycled and re-used in the nursery. The horticulture staff cuts pieces of plants at the Resort, roots them in its propagation facility and returns usable plants to the landscape the following year, at low costs. Though more time-consuming, growing landscape plants from seeds saves money and provides more seedlings once they are ready to plant (versus purchasing large, ready-to-plant trees). "On-site plants procreate more plants, at low cost," says Morell.
"We hunt for nurseries with close-out stock and have successfully networked with plant collectors who contribute their plants to us because we have better facilities and more expertise than some commercial nurseries," says Morell of the Resort and Club's strategy for doing business smartly. "We take every opportunity to secure better and different merchandise that offer us added value."
Landscaping Variety in Numbers
Illustrating the diversity of plant life at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, we have in our botanical holdings over 350 species originating from 37 different countries:
Supervising a staff of 40, Eric Love reinforces his commitment to training as a day-to-day philosophy. The entire team, including management, laborers and gardeners, is continually being educated to identify plants and flowers since each is a potential guest-contact employee. "The members of our landscaping crew have the opportunity to educate our guests and to enhance their overall experience, if only in the slightest way," said Love. "We want to take advantage of that."
Love's landscaping team is also well-practiced in safe landscaping. "It's just one more dimension of guest safety," he continues, "in that our staff is always on the lookout for potential hazards. If our spectacular grounds grab the attention of our guests and stop them in their tracks, we don't want anything to get in their way!" asserts Love.
It's one of the many ways that he and his team strive to set new benchmarks
in resort horticulture.