By Don Eberly and Jeff Collard
For more than a century, the U.S. Open has been one of the country’s largest golf tournaments. Rotating clubs yearly, it is a major event in scope and importance to the golfing community. It takes years of planning to make sure 10 days of golf — and all the celebration that goes with it — goes off without a hitch.
So when the historic Pinehurst Resort hosted the 1999 U.S. Open with such great reception, the United States Golf Association (USGA) immediately decided that Pinehurst would host the 2005 event. Hosting two separate events at the same location was a sign of past success and future ambitions for those involved. The Hayter Firm, a landscape architecture firm located in Pinehurst, had served as the resident landscape architect for the country club for some time. Robert Hayter, owner, welcomed the challenge and was instantly aware he would have to once again create gorgeous landscape designs for the 2005 event.
Though the event happened in 2005, it took two years of prior planning to achieve the beautiful landscapes needed to make the U.S. Open truly spectacular. Expectations were high. The Hayter Firm immediately went to the major national plant brand Novalis far in advance of the event to ensure the plants in the landscape would endure the June heat of central North Carolina.
With drawings for the landscape design in hand — which included predetermining the flow of guest traffic and designating a theme and palate for the plantings — Hayter needed a grower willing and capable of helping him create a successful site. “We actually went to Carolina Nurseries (Novalis’ founding nursery) with the drawings 18 months before the event and asked them what they were capable of producing on a contract basis,” said Hayter. “Anything in bloom had to be in peak flower during the event; all plants had to be in absolute perfect form for the full 10-day period.
“We had a performance expectation of what we wanted, in the way of color, foliage and accent, but we worked together with them to grow precisely what met that need. We did not have a predetermined plant list; we let Carolina Nurseries and Novalis tell us what would be foolproof and what we could depend upon.”
Landscape and grower synergies
The collaboration between The Hayter Firm’s Robert Hayter and Novalis founder and manager J. Guy was unique in that they worked together for 18 months to find plants that would not only look beautiful in the landscape but thrive in the specific and tough conditions.
The challenges facing Hayter and Guy were great. The U.S. Open creates a “village” of 50 to 55 hospitality tents at each event where sponsors entertain clients. At Pinehurst, the village was set up on the practice green and totaled about 12 acres. Each of the 50-foot by 70-foot tents required landscaping, paved sidewalks, lighting and access for the disabled. It was The Hayter Firm’s responsibility to get it all done. On top of that, there were specific areas around the course that had to be specially landscaped, like the Putter Boy statue, entrances, and other high-traffic areas. Another challenge was maintenance — the landscape crew could only water at night after all the festivities were done. This meant that the plant material had to survive the hot June conditions without fail, and it had to flourish with little maintenance and care in a high-profile and heavily-trafficked setting. As if that was not enough, the plants had to possess robust qualities, permitting them to later be recycled and replanted in other, permanent landscape areas.
Hayter credits the close collaboration with Guy for ensuring the right plants were going in the right landscape areas. “Our first requirement was color, and the next one was endurance — something that could be planted and establish itself and be durable and tough,” said Hayter. “Once these criteria were met, and we knew the right look could be achieved with J’s plant selections, we relied on his nursery to deliver, and that’s just what they did.”
Guy grew 1,500 Twice-As-Nice Daylilies for the corporate sponsor village, and he even bumped them up from one to three gallons to provide a spectacular display of larger flowers. “We made sure they were top quality, premium plants because we knew they had to have two lives if not more, and they had to perform,” said Guy.
Guy added that he appreciated Hayter’s continued involvement in checking on the plants and keeping lines of communication open as plans changed for different parts of the landscape over the 18-month process. “There were needs for re-landscaping other areas that became known mid-stream; he added to the product preparation plan at different times, and it was no problem,” Guy said. “Robert gave us plenty of notice when new landscape needs presented themselves, and we supplemented the contract grow at key intervals.”
Hayter also visited the growing range three times, once with a Pinehurst Championship Office official, to keep up to date on the plants being grown for the event. Guy frequently sent Hayter e-mails with photos of the plants to confirm size and color of the plants as they matured. Hayter said they were in contact at least once a month at the beginning of the project, and, by the end, they were talking once a week. The synergies they shared made the planning process flow more easily.
In total, the project demanded semi-trucks full of calibrachoas, lantanas, multiple ilex varieties, viburnum, multiple roses, Twice-As-Nice Daylilies, and many other varieties of plants. “We sent 12 tractor trailer loads of plants to the site for installation,” said Guy. “Our nursery staff worked closely with me to execute a high-level and organized shipment accounting for each and every plant.”
Restoration and recycling
One final challenge came after the event was over. The putting green had to be restored to its original state, which meant ripping up 60,000 square feet of asphalt, lighting, paving accents and miles of fencing. It also meant the plants needed to be tough enough to survive being pulled out of the landscape once again and divided between other landscape projects and a plant sale to the general public. “For a plant to go through that kind of treatment: shipped, planted, dug back up, back in the pot and sold, then replanted for the final time – well, that’s a statement about the need for first-rate plant material in itself,” said Hayter.
The story isn’t over for The Hayter Firm and Novalis, though. The two companies continue to collaborate on large-scale projects.
“It’s that strong sense of brand and partnership that equate to quality and confidence the job will be a success,” said Hayter. “Using a well-branded grower means more awareness on the part of the client, and the trust factor between landscape company and grower is essential.”
Don Eberly and Jeff Collard are co-owners of Eberly & Collard Public Relations, a national PR and advertising firm specializing in the home, garden, design, and agribusiness industries. Eberly and Collard mange marketing and publicity for growers, landscape designers/architects, builders, and a diverse range of home/garden product and service companies. They can be reached at 404-574-2900.
To learn more about Novalis, visit www.novalis.com
Take-away tips for working with a grower on a large-scale project
Start early. Advance notice allows for more flexibility in changing the plan as needed.
Communicate often. An open line of dialogue is the key to everyone getting exactly what they need.
Ask the grower for guidance. Nobody knows the plants better than the grower, so take advantage of their knowledge.
Be specific. The more details provided about the job and what is needed from the plants — sun/shade, maintenance, size, color, etc. — the better the result will be.