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  • Author or Editor: Robert Schutzki x
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Landscape mulches are widely promoted to improve soil moisture retention, suppress weeds, and improve the growth of landscape plants. The objective of this project was to determine the effect of common landscape mulches (pine bark, hardwood fines, cypress mulch, color-enhanced ground pallets) on soil moisture, soil pH, weed control, and physiology and growth of landscape shrubs. Two additional treatments were not mulched: no mulch + no weed control and no mulch + weed control. Growth was measured on eight taxa (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’, Spiraea ×bumalda ‘Goldflame’, Weigela florida ‘Java red’, Taxus ×media ‘Runyan’, Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Globe’, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’, Viburnum dentatum ‘Synnestvedt’, Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’). Leaf gas exchange [net photosynthesis and stomatal conductance (g s)] were measured on Hydrangea paniculata, V. dentatum, and V. trilobum only. All mulches increased soil moisture compared with no mulch + weed control. There was no difference in soil pH or foliar nitrogen among treatments. All mulches, except cypress mulch, increased plant growth of most shrub taxa compared with no mulch without weed control. Mulches increased g S relative to no mulch without weed control. Photosynthetic rates of plants mulched with cypress mulch were less than the other mulches and not different from no mulch. Overall, the result suggests that, except for cypress mulch, the organic mulches tested are equally effective in improving growth of landscape plants. Reduced photosynthetic efficiency and growth of shrubs with cypress mulch suggest potential allelopathic effects.

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Michigan State Univ. (MSU) offers 10 certificate programs through the Institute of Agricultural Technology. These programs are campus based, approximately three semesters in length, and include a professional internship. Efforts were made in horticulture to expand programs into major population centers through joint programs with community colleges. Cooperative agreements were developed with Grand Rapids Community College and with Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Issues addressed in the agreements include recruiting, admissions, advising, financial aid, integration of curriculum from both institutions, distance-learning delivery through the CODEC system, instructional commitments from campus-based and adjunct faculty, procedures for transfer to bachelor's degree program at MSU, and graduation. The symbiotic relationship between the institutions has expanded curriculum opportunities in the local areas, increased accessibility to MSU Horticulture programs, and better serves the nontraditional student. Outreach efforts for academic programs complement the traditional outreach that has occurred through the Cooperative Extension Service.

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Consumers face risks each time they purchase and consume products. Guarantees provide a means of potentially decreasing risk for products that cannot be evaluated until consumption has begun, as with ornamental plants. Despite the potential risk reduction, the effect of guarantees on consumer purchases has been a source of debate for many retailers. Research conducted at Michigan State Univ. examined the effects of guarantees on consumer satisfaction and regret of three horticultural products: hanging baskets, potted roses, and perennials. Over half (56%) of respondents stated the retail outlet provided a guarantee. Twenty-six percent stated the guarantee was a deciding factor in choosing that particular plant while 27% stated it was the deciding factor in shopping at that particular retail location. Results show that guarantees reduce risk for consumers, reducing the incidence of regret but have no effect on customer satisfaction.

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A consumer research study was conducted examining effects of plant guarantees on satisfaction and regret in the purchase of three horticultural products: hanging baskets, potted roses, and container perennials. Five hundred and seventeen respondents were divided into two groups: those who were offered a guarantee and those who were not offered a guarantee. The effects of satisfaction and regret on repurchase intentions were recorded on multi-item seven-point Likert scales. A structural equation model was used to examine simultaneous relationships between regret, satisfaction, and intention to repurchase. Survey results indicated guarantees would increase satisfaction and decrease regret for hanging baskets, but not for container perennials and potted roses. Five of six models showed regret and/or satisfaction directly impacted intention to repurchase. Both satisfaction and regret had a direct influence on repurchase intentions for the hanging baskets model regardless of the presence or absence of guarantees. When guarantees were absent, satisfaction and regret had direct effects on intention to repurchase for the perennial model. Regret was the only construct to directly impact intention to repurchase in the potted rose model. Guarantees appear to lower the risks of buying some products and may improve the perception of quality of the offering.

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For most residential home improvements, excluding landscapes, professionals can document return on investment. Our objective was to compare costs of installing landscapes with perceived home value, and determine return on investment. We administered surveys in eight selected U.S. cities in 1999. Self-selected participants from home and garden shows were asked to examine a photograph of a home without landscaping (base home), and were given its value estimated by local realtors. Participants were asked to view 16 additional photographs of the base home with different landscapes. Cost estimates for landscape materials and installation were calculated. Results showed that a sophisticated landscape with large and diverse plant material added up to 13% to the perceived value of a new $200,000 home. On average, any level of landscaping added value to the home. The increase in perceived value as a percentage of project cost was greatest for simple designs with small evergreen plant material. Complicated designs that included hardscapes and large, diverse plant material returned the least. In general, we found that return on investment for landscaping is comparable to the returns gained on several major home improvements, yet differed with respect to geographic region. We found that colored hardscape, developed from a red brick paver walkway, returned less than color from flowering annuals. Return on investment was greatest for annual plants added for color.

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