Nature blooms during lockdown across Dart properties

From the returned visibility of the Himalayan mountain peaks to herds of goats roaming the streets in Wales and starfish aplenty at Grand Cayman's Starfish Point, places all over the globe have observed nature’s surge following reduced human activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Even the Cayman Islands has witnessed the positive impact of the country’s four-month shelter-in-place regulations on its flora and fauna.

The horticulture and landscape design teams at Dart first recognised some of these benefits upon their initial assessment of its properties after the shelter-in-place restrictions began to ease at the end of June. President Real Estate Asset Management Justin Howe said his team’s discoveries were reassuring for the company.  

“The assessment of our properties, once we were able to return, was quite an eye-opener for us,” said Howe.

“The plants in our properties’ landscaping, which were frequently manicured and maintained before the lockdown, have had the opportunity to produce more blossoms and foliage. Overall, the aesthetics are improved, and it’s better for the environment having the plants grow into their natural state.” 

Nature doing its thing 

Although the changing of seasons in the Caribbean is more subtle than in North America, there are still changes in the growing patterns of plants. Dart Senior Manager Landscape Services Anand Adapa said late winter and early spring are times when plants in the Cayman Islands typically get the best conditions they need to grow. 

“The transition of the lockdown to the reopening was perfectly timed with the transition from winter ending and stepping into spring,” said Adapa. “This is the time we usually see some of the biological phenomena of plants happen.” 

Adapa said the coincidence of the season transition and the shelter-in-place order, and having to halt maintenance because of the pandemic lockdown, allowed the plants on Dart properties to grow and blossom.  

Properties such as Dart’s flagship development of Camana Bay are designed with their environment in mind, ensuring the buildings and infrastructure blend seamlessly with the landscape around it. Senior Manager Landscape Design and Horticulture Whit Connors said that when he returned to work, he noticed that many of the plants were in full bloom.    

“While on my observations, I saw how the landscape returned to more of a wild state where flowers that would have normally been pruned off with regular maintenance, were allowed to flourish and benefited from being left to their own devices,” he said.

Connors thinks that by having to stop maintenance during the lockdown, it allowed the plants to further demonstrate the thoughtful design of the property’s landscape as intended by its designers.  
“In designing our landscapes, we aim to include both native and ornamental plants that are often best showcased in their natural form,” said Connors. “Encouraging our developments to embrace a natural and tropical feel is something that both residents and visitors can appreciate, and will hopefully keep them coming back to enjoy these spaces.”

To prune or not to prune 

Having noted these environment and design benefits, the horticulture team immediately began to test how maintenance can be adjusted for the properties.  

Some areas that had previously been pruned and cleaned daily were maintained half as often, while areas like the lawns saw maintenance reduced from once a week to once a month. 

Adapa said finding the right schedule is an ongoing process, and he has been working with site contractors and property managers to find the right frequency for maintenance. 

“We are doing weekly site walks to identify areas that need to be addressed and what that time frame is, be it tomorrow or next week,” said Adapa. “Instead of providing contractors with general instructions for maintenance, we are outlining specific tasks.” 

Maintaining a property like Camana Bay requires various considerations such as high foot traffic areas, safety and overall tenant and customer needs, said Adapa. 

“We continue to seek feedback from our tenants and customers to help us gauge our maintenance techniques and frequencies, compared to simply maintaining for a pristine look or following the trends.”   

By adjusting its maintenance processes, Dart also recognises the environmental benefits of reducing the use of landscaping equipment. 

“There’s research that shows how the landscaping industry contributes to noise and air pollution, such as having to use lawn mowers, leaf blowers and trucks to mobilise staff,” said Adapa. “So by adopting the lessons learned during the pandemic we ultimately help reduce our carbon footprint, aligning with the vision of making places like Camana Bay greener and more environmentally friendly.”

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This article appears in print in the August 2020 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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