Bowie Town Center: Landscaping for Great First — and Lasting — Impressions
When Bowie Town Center was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, operations manager Dennis Stillions had a big idea for the huge fountain that greets shoppers at the high-end shopping destination.
He wanted to spell out “20 YEARS” three times in vibrant flowers in the expansive beds circling the fountain.
Mary Ellen Burton, the Level Green Landscaping account manager who works with Stillions, got to work.
“She put an amazing amount of work into that fountain flower project,” Stillions says. “She did a lot of it on a PowerPoint but she was also out here with paper plates, using them as a template, placing them on the ground to help figure out the flower count. She did a phenomenal job.”
After Burton’s meticulous planning, Level Green crews painstakingly planted cheerful pansies in the spring to spell out the celebratory message against dark brown mulch, then switched them out for begonias for the summer and panolas in the fall.
It was a showstopper.
The outdoor areas of Bowie Town Center are as much of a draw as heading inside for a new pair of shoes or a chai latte.
The center’s management chose Level Green Landscaping to keep the popular retail destination’s landscaping looking great.
“They draw people in for the ambience,” Burton says. “It’s an open-air mall. People want to be outside, enjoying the courtyards and the patios with outside tables. It needs to be inviting and impressive.”
That means high-end landscaping care. Here’s what that looks like:
Welcome to Bowie
Bowie Town Center is an outdoor shopping mall in Bowie, Maryland that opened in November 2001. Located on Emerald Way near the interchange of US Route 301 and US Route 50, it features an outdoor “Main Street” environment that attracts visitors from surrounding communities.
Managed by Washington Prime Group, the 79-acre center is home to nearly 80 shops, including top retailers like Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, and Foot Locker and popular restaurants Olive Garden and Red Robin.
Lots of Logistics
“Logistically, working there is a challenge,” Burton says. “It’s open all the time.”
Lots of thought goes into efficient work patterns for the crews, right down to exactly where they should park their trucks.
“Can we cut off 15 minutes if we park here instead of there?,” she says.
Turf Care to Impress
There’s quite a bit of green lawn at Bowie Town Center, and it takes a detailed turf care strategy to keep it thriving.
Stillions keeps a close eye on the lawn, he says — he wants it lush, green, with defined mowing stripes.
Four applications of fertilizer and weed control throughout the year keep the turf healthy, green, and impressive.
Crews visit in July or August to spot spray only for any broadleaf weeds that have popped up. Spot spray is better for the environment, but still targets weeds.
“There’s a big emphasis on flowers here,” Burton says.
How big? More than 1,800 flowers. Give her a minute and she’ll look up the exact number. (She’s a detail person.)
Total: 1,836 flowers.
The fountain circle is a flower focal point, getting summer and fall flower rotations. An additional spring flower installation is added when the shopping center has a big event, like that 20th anniversary celebration.
High-impact flowers are a top priority for Stillions.
“I’m looking for flowers that are bright, vibrant colors, well maintained and well watered, and Level Green does all of that,” he says.
Burton uses the Bowie Town Center flower budget strategically, planning generic flowers for the bigger planting beds and choosing premium Proven Winners varieties for the many high-visibility 28-inch planters.
The wow-worthy pots might be anchored by impressive palm trees or evergreens and surrounded with fluffy white bacopa, striking angel wing begonias and voluminous sweet potato vine.
“They make a big impact,” Burton says. “Annuals are what people notice.”
Burton changes the color combinations each year to keep things fresh.
She creates a PowerPoint presentation with her suggested flower plan so Stillions can see what’s in store.
All those flowers and the expansive green turf need regular watering to thrive.
Routine irrigation maintenance is key.
Irrigation maintenance includes proper start-up and shut-down procedures for backflow devices and irrigation lines and monthly service checks to make sure the Bowie Town Center irrigation system is covering every inch of the landscaping and running just right — without wasting water.
The shopping center property includes two stormwater ponds. Set back at the rear of the property, visitors don’t notice them. But they need crucial care.
Burton works with the property’s engineers on the critical care of these ponds, which collect water from rain and runoff and release it slowly, at a nice, easy rate that prevents flooding or erosion.
Regular maintenance twice a year — including clearing grates that pesky beavers tend to clog — keeps them working smoothly and ensures they pass annual inspections.
The Trouble with Trees
Level Green’s contract with Bowie Town Center includes regular tree assessments.
“The trees are not looking great,” Burton says. “In this environment trees don’t last for more than 20 years.”
She has suggested that Stillions budget to remove the current struggling oaks, maples and zelkova trees and replace them.
Trees in urban shopping center settings have to weather some tough conditions.
Heat. Salt. Drought. Compaction.
“Replacing trees is part of capital improvements, like replacing a roof,” Burton says.
Level Green’s contract with Bowie Town Center includes snow management.
“The biggest thing is safety,” Burton says. “We don’t want anyone to slip and fall.”
Planning starts early, months before any actual snow falls.
“There are a lot of challenges with snow because every storm is different,” Burton says. “Digital binders for crews map out exactly where to plow, where to put snow. There’s a lot of pre-planning.”
Part of the plan here is keeping crews and equipment on site.
“We keep a loader on site and boxes on site with snow melt products,” Burton says.
Some stores, like Panera Bread, Starbucks, and a fitness center open early, and need sidewalks clear before sunrise.
“We keep a crew member there with a shovel and salt so things are constantly kept clear,” Burton says.
Other areas need critical extra attention, too, she says, including a hill that gets extra slippery and areas of shade that stay icy as long as a week after a storm.
“There are a lot of moving parts for snow.”
Budget, Bows, and Biewer Biscuits
Burton makes sure busy operations manager Stillions doesn’t have to worry about the landscaping.
“I do anything that makes his job easier,” she says.
That means assisting with budget plans, creating a PowerPoint presentation explaining the various ways to pay for snow removal, and even impressing his two dogs, Biewer Terriers Winston and Samson.
“Three or four times a year she bakes homemade dog treats for my two dogs,”
Stillions says. “They absolutely devour them. They see them and they go absolutely ballistic.”
Last year Burton personally decorated a Christmas tree in Stillions’ office: “I can do bows in my sleep,” she says.
“Part of my job is to make Dennis’ job easier,” she says. “He’s really busy. If he wants something, I’ll put it together for him.
“He’ll let me know when special events are happening, like their fall festival,” Burton says. “We’ll give it a little extra love. I’ll tell the guys it needs to look tight.”
Stillions appreciates it all.
“My motto is I get one chance to make a good first impression when new shoppers show up,” he says. “Hopefully, they’ll like what they see and come back.
“Level Green does a fantastic job,” he says. “I’ve given them a lot to handle in the past couple years and they’ve done a knock-out job, from the fountain flower project to leaf removal for the whole property. We have 79 acres and a lot of trees, which means a lot of leaves. They handle it all and do a fantastic job.
“I don’t ask for anything extra, but Mary Ellen does extra things on her own time,” Stillions says. “She’s baked me cookies and other little trinkets. It shows me how much she cares about me, about the property. She goes above and beyond.
“If I have an issue I can call Mary Ellen or shoot her a text and I get an immediate response,” Stillions says.
Don’t try to tell Burton that her job is in sales.
“I don’t call myself a salesperson,” she says. “I’m a client advisor. I build relationships with my clients. They look to us for good recommendations.”
“I manage three properties and I have Level Green on all three,” Stillions says. “They take excellent care of me.”
Looking to take your commercial property to the next level? Contact us today and see how Level Green Landscaping can help.
“They draw people in for the ambience. It’s an open-air mall. People want to be outside, enjoying the courtyards and the patios with outside tables. It needs to be inviting and impressive.”Mary Ellen Burton
Level Green Landscaping