Sustainable Gardens at The Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites
What makes the gardens at The Mendocino Hotel sustainable? The Hotel has designed and planted two acres of landscape and employs maintenance practices that attempt to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (the American Society of Landscape Sustainable Sites Initiative). The Hotel, beginning in the 1970s relying on the vision and creative foresight of noted landscape designer Ken Hayashi (and a cadre of dedicated disciples that followed in his footsteps) selected ways of preserving, enhancing and restoring the ecosystem service. Designers often fail to give plants enough elbow room, but Hayashi considered the needs of vegetation not as an afterthought, but rather designed the new cottages around the gardens that were constructed by the owner R.O. Peterson.
The Hotel actually looked at the existing trees and natural vegetation on the historic Heeser House property first, and then conserved the appropriate vegetation, salvaging certain plants for later replanting. The Hotel gardeners recognized that crushing trees’ roots is destructive, and that compacting soil renders it as sterile as bricks. With this in mind, a number of large specimens have thrived in the gardens over the years. The Hotel also carefully chose from a diverse plant palette, avoiding disease-prone monocultures. Trees and shrubs were being placed strategically for windbreaks along Albion, Kasten, and Lansing Streets, as well as their role in maximizing canopy. Most landscape plants are noninvasive and site appropriate, and preference has been given first to natives, then “regionally adapted non-native plants”. Wildlife thrives: witness the two dozen quail that have taken residence in the hotel’s gardens, and the abundance of birds that enjoy a small pond in the center of the gardens using recirculated well water.
Plants have been selected in ways that reduce resource water consumption, and a micro drip system is controlled through an elaborate automated control minimizes waste and evaporation. The hotel transplants extensively and buys plants locally (minimizing transport-related greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that plants have adjusted to the local climate), and has selected growers that use efficient irrigation systems and don’t sell invasives.The hotel attempts to plant trees and shrubs of the smallest feasible size, since larger specimens have higher mortality rates and use more resources to maintain. A powerful chipper is used to turn tree branches and trimmings into fine mulch which is used throughout the garden, where it offers nutrients as well as a reduction of water evaporation and the growth of weeds.
Finally, while attempting to offer a sustainable garden, the hotel strives to make it enjoyable providing both public and private spaces, and creating pedestrian links and pathways to Albion, Lansing and Kasten streets, so that the gardens may be enjoyed by local residents, guests and visitors alike.