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01-24-20 | Feature

Promoting Pollinators in an Unlikely Venue

by Cynthia Cash, Cynthia Cash Landscape Architect

Cynthia Cash was the landscape architect that specified the plantings for most of the Raising Canes stores in the U.S. including this one in Gulfport, Mississippi, which features two species of annual color around the monument sign: White Serena Angelonia in the rear of the annual bed and Raspberry Trailing Vinca in the front of the bed. Cash likes to use a mix of at least 2 types of annuals to vary the bloom type, which, in turn, attracts more pollinators.
Landscape Architect, Jack Keisel of Keisel Designs in Ventura, California was the designer of this Canes in Orange, California, as well as others in the state. The pollinator plants shown are Coral Aloe and Sunspot Orange African Daisy.
In Hammond, Louisiana, the color is a mix of Picotee Dianthus, Purple Penta, and Knockout Red Rose.
This monarch butterfly is attracted to a 'Peachies Pick' Stokes Aster, a very hardy perennial with cornflower blooms six or more months out of the year.
At this store in Covington, Louisiana, the annual color at the sign is White Vinca and Coleus. The Coleus blooms in late summer and early fall and is highly attractive to numerous pollinators.
Rock Purselane was the flower of choice for this store in Vista, California. This large massing of blooming color around the sign is a company signature.

As a traditional "quick-serve," drive-thru type restaurant, Raising Cane's is hardly a place one would think of as promoting pollinators, such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Yet, by using a few fairly simple principles of planting design, as well as careful selection of species, a more healthy and sustainable landscape is being achieved.

As a rule, the sites are small, usually no more than an acre to an acre and a half. Given the need for both parking and a drive-thru, admittedly a majority of the site is paving. However, while green space is limited, it is thoroughly maximized. Signature landscaping consists of both shade and ornamental trees with caliper larger than the minimums required, ample sweeps of blooming shrubs and grasses, all accented with large splashes of annual color. These landscapes offer, among many things, a year-round bouquet of blooming color. And it is this color that attracts the pollinators.

The concept is simple. One of the boldest ways to achieve visual enhancement in the landscape is through color...color 'pops.' Just as color draws the eye of potential customers, it also draws the eye of butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. To achieve this, the following principles can be applied:

1) Determine key places on the site with the highest visual impact. Plant these places with masses of annual color, or bedding plants. Using masses of blooms attracts more pollinators than individual plantings. As a Cane's standard, color is designed in two places, under the main sign along the streetscape and in front of the menu board along the drive-thru lane at the rear of the site. The annual bed at the main sign may hold 300-400 bedding plants, while the menu board planting area is about half, or 150-300 plants.

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2) Provide a succession of year-round color, whenever possible. Seasonal color beds are changed at Cane's two to three times per year. For more northern climates, perennial color is employed due to snow cover. But, by the same token, perennials can attract more species of pollinators.

3) Select shrubs and ornamental trees that also provide blooms throughout the year. See the list on the next page for examples. Also, select native species whenever possible, as natives can attract up to four times the number of pollinating species.

4) Emphasize the use of diversity...diversity in bloom color, type, and size. Some species prefer a long tubular flower, while others are attracted to a flower with flat petals. In the South, the summer combination of Vinca and Angelonia is often used. Bees are attracted to blue and purple flowers, while butterflies and hummingbirds prefer yellow, orange, and red. As Cane's often offers outdoor seating areas, preference is given to the latter. New Gold Lantana is a mainstay.

Cane's has over 450 restaurants open across the country and probably another 50 either under construction or still on the drawing board. I've designed all the landscapes except for the first four, a handful in the far northern region, and those in California.

Depending on the part of the country, Canes uses various landscape contractors for the installation. And being the sites are so small, installation usually takes less than a week.

Some restaurants may have more pollenating plant materials, some less but the main guiding principles that I listed are fairly consistent. While every project will differ due to climate zone and conditions, the following is a listing of plants commonly used in the Cane's palette:

Ornamental Trees: Flowering Crabapple (non-fruiting), Redbud, Honey Locust, Sweetbay Magnolia, Blue Vitex, Yaupon Holly, Dahoon Holly, East Palakta Holly

Blooming Shrubs: Forsythia, Abelia, Knockout Rose, Camellia, Texas Sage, Compact Viburnum Tinus, Peking Lilac, Bottlebrush, Hawthorn, Tecoma

Perennials: New Gold Lantana, Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Texas Lantana, Mexican Petunia, Compact Rosemary, Peachie's Pick Stokes Aster, Salvia (Assorted Spp.)

Annual Color: Penta, Vinca, Red Salvia, Dianthus, Snapdragon, Chrysanthemum, Angelonia

In sum, given this age of diminishing habitat, the opportunity to promote pollinators becomes increasingly important in designing landscapes that are, indeed, more healthy and sustainable. Even on the smallest scale, in the most unlikely venue, such is possible.

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2020.

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