5 tips for maximizing green space at an urban hotel
5 tips for maximizing green space at an urban hotel
22 FEBRUARY 2017 1:29 PM

Trying to add some color to your urban hotel for spring? Check out these planting tips from the GM at The Watson Hotel in New York City. 

NEW YORK—From the front door to the rooftop at The Watson Hotel in New York City, a variety of colorful plants, ranging from hibiscus trees to floral arrangements in the lobby, can be found throughout the two-tower, 600-room hotel.

Most urban hotels lack the amount of acreage that some suburban and resort properties have, which sometimes makes it harder to create green space. For Joe Cecala, GM at The Watson Hotel, finding space for flowers inside and outside of the property has never been an issue. 

Here are five tips for maximizing green space at an urban hotel.

Make it personal
Ever since Cecala started working at the hotel more than 20 years ago, he said he brought his green thumb with him to the hotel. The property was formerly the Holiday Inn Midtown, but was recently rebranded as The Watson Hotel.

“I had an estate that we lived on in New Jersey, and (gardening) was something I personally got involved with …,” he said. “And I made sure that I did the planting so that the flowers and even the vegetables … my flowers and my azaleas and the bushes that went back for 30, 40 (yards), how I trimmed them myself and brought that to the hotel.”

Timing is key
When it comes to installing a beautiful flower display or a few trees, timing is everything.

“The front of the hotel where we have the tree plants and the area around there, 20 years ago I developed those areas and I (make) sure they have an assortment of bright colors and flowers every spring to put down in May,” Cecala said. “We try to get them in around Mother’s Day, so that way we can have them before that holiday weekend.”

Splash of color
At the Watson, having one single color of flowers or plants isn’t enough; there have to be multiple colors, even during the colder months.

“In the front, there’s this long line … of 100 plus feet of terracotta area, and there’s ivy in there, which gives it a little greenery in the winter because there you can’t really get anything with any color during the winter season, and then we plant seasonals within the ivory,” Cecala said.

He added that plants are used in the hotel’s courtyard area to fill in the space, including what his daughter calls “elephant ears.”

“When we plant them in May, within about 30 days, they just bloom constantly, and they’re that purple and green, and within that area we put in a little yellow mix, so that way we get in a little color off the green and the purple,” Cecala said.

Consider alternative spaces for green
The front of a hotel and courtyard areas are common locations for green space, but alternative locations can be found within the property and on the roof of the hotel.

Guests at The Watson can often find a variety of shades within the hibiscus trees and palm trees near the rooftop pool, Cecala said. He added he likes to give plenty of attention to that area, which uses 16 fresh hibiscus trees each year and several palms. Cecala plants yellow hibiscus trees on the deck side of the pool along with hues of orange, pink and purple—but it’s not always easy upkeep.

“The thing about hibiscus … is that they die every day,” he said. “So you have to deadhead every single day.”

Cecala said there’s also a large flower arrangement in the lobby of the hotel that’s replaced every week.

“We just love to have it colorful and it’s really important for the guests,” he said. “The guests respond very positively to it.”

Don’t forget about your neighbors
When filling an urban hotel with as much green space as possible, it’s important to make sure colorful plants and flowers aren’t bothering your neighbors. Cecala said this has never been an issue for The Watson.

“I think it goes back to how the property was designed over 50 years ago,” he said. “I must say, the redesign of the front of the property, the arena where we have the ivy right now and the color in the terracotta area around the trees … I did that when I came here 21 years ago.”

He said the hotel has never had trouble with its gardening bothering neighbors to the west of the building, which is where Hanover House is, or with neighbors on the east side of the hotel, because the majority of the hotel’s landscaping is near the front of the property.

“We never ran into a conflict with adjoining buildings,” Cecala said. “On the east side, it’s a flat area. There are no windows there, so we don’t have a problem; there’s nothing to build there or design or color or anything.”

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