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Ortho-McNeil Corporate Campus:

200 Acres of Immaculate Landscaping

By Karen Stretch, Regional Editor

Cana lilies, salvia, begonias, marigolds, and vincas are planted throughout the grounds. Tulips and pansies are planted in early displays due to their tolerance to cold weather. The crew favors daffodils because the deer that frequent the grounds and munch on the flower displays, don't like their taste. Twenty-one containers ranging in size from 24 to 60 inches were installed at the main entrances with large foliage plants and flowering annuals to create a lush, multi-layered tropical garden and to provide additional security.

Since 1997, The Brickman Group has been maintaining the landscape of the 200-acre Ortho-McNeil campus in Raritan, N.J. This is no ordinary office building; the Ortho-McNeil pharmaceutical company (one of Johnson & Johnson's operating companies) manufactures their products, ships them out and has their corporate offices all on one site.

There are 5,000 employees and visitors passing through the grounds during the work week; enjoying the scenery, the tennis courts, nature trails, and ball field on their way to the office. It is no wonder that this extraordinary work place won the Professional Grounds Maintenance Society's 2005 Green Star Grand Award for Industrial, Commercial Site, or Office Park.

To maintain the 200 acres of the Ortho-McNeil campus, the grounds crew uses Exmark ride-on mowers. Smaller equipment from Echo and Redmax, such as weed eaters and blowers, are also used. A five-man crew maintains the site year-round, with more people being brought in periodically to help with edging and mulching.

Mike Jannone, superintendent, has been with The Brickman Group for 20 years and heads the crew that maintains the Ortho-McNeil campus. Jannone and his crew maintain seven of Johnson & Johnson's operating companies. Because of Ortho-McNeil's commitment to keeping their site immaculately clean and beautiful, there is a crew member from The Brickman Group on site everyday. Jannone's passion for his work is evident in the language he uses to describe the Ortho-McNeil campus. "Extraordinary," "brilliant," "gives off an energy," are just a few of the adjectives he uses when describing the trees, turf and flowers on the site.

A Natural Approach

Surprisingly, the Ortho-McNeil campus does not have an irrigation system. All of the watering is done by hand, or by Mother Nature. The 40-acres of tall fescue and rye turf are watered only when it rains. This saves water and money, but left the rye grass brown and dry last year during a drought.

Jannone uses tall fescue seed due to its hardiness and ability to withstand drought conditions. Overseeding of the turf is done primarily in the fall from August through October, with patchwork overseeding done in the spring to fill in any bare spots that formed during the winter. To control dandelions, plantain, and crab grass, pre-emergence is put down in the springtime.

A crew member from The Brickman Group waters a bed of salvia and begonias on the Ortho-McNeil grounds. All 25 of the planting beds on the grounds of Ortho-McNeil are hand watered. Mike Jannone, superintendent for The Brickman Group, and his crew are all educated in watering techniques, which he says have become instinctual.

Ride-on mowers by Exmark are used to cut the grass and create patterns in the lawn. Smaller equipment such as blowers and weed eaters are from Echo and Redmax. The crew maintains a strict maintenance schedule and safety program. Goggles, earplugs and safety vests are worn at all times when the crew is operating equipment.

To protect the environment, animals, and of course, the people, pesticide use is kept to a minimum. Jannone uses horticultural oils to control insects found in the region such as pine saw flies, mites, lace bugs, and black vine weevils. Oils have been used for centuries to control insect and mites. They remain an important tool to manage certain pests on fruit trees, shade trees and woody ornamental plants. Oils can also be used to control some plant diseases, such as powdery mildew.

The grounds crew keeps the grounds of Ortho-McNeil beautiful and colorful by using a variety of flowers and shrubs. Along the walkway leading to the gazebo are petunias, salvia and black-eyed susans (three gazebos were installed on site and became designated smoking areas after smoking was banned from the building).

Oils have different effects on insects. The way that they work is by blocking the air holes (spiracles) through which insects breathe, causing them to die from asphyxiation. In some cases, oils also may act as poisons, interacting with the fatty acids of the insect and interfering with normal metabolism. Oils also may disrupt how an insect feeds, a feature that is particularly important in the transmission of some plant viruses by aphids. Jannone noted that petroleum-based oil products must not be used on trees or plants that are bluish in color such as blue spruce and juniper, as it takes away their blue hue. Aside from some Round-up, Jannone doesn't keep many chemicals on hand. "I'll only purchase what I need when it's something extensive that needs to be done," said Jannone. Buy purchasing only the amount of chemicals that he needs for a particular job, Jannone and his crew are spared the hassle of storing any left-over, potentially harmful chemicals.

Keeping Up Appearances

The 1.4-acre pond on the site is one of the main focal points of the Ortho-McNeil campus. Two aerators keep the water circulating at all times and provide visual interest with large plumes of water spray. Because Ortho-McNeil is a pharmaceutical company and is inspected regularly by the FDA, it is important that a clean and healthy environment be maintained at all times. For this reason, no weed or algae growth is allowed. This is achieved by managing water levels, clarity, aquatic pesticides, and if necessary, manual harvesting of the algae. Bacteria application is done regularly to break down algae and pond dye is added to reduce the depth that sunlight can reach in the pond, thereby inhibiting growth of the algae.

Four-legged and Feathered Pests

When asked what some of the main pest control issues are at the Ortho-McNeil campus, Jannone is quick to mention the deer that wander the grounds. Despite their best efforts using deer repellents, the solutions often get washed away by watering and rainfall and have to be reapplied often. Deer will even munch on the new growth of plants that have been sprayed, but their favorite treat is devouring entire beds of newly planted flowers. Jannone and the crew have used plants that aren't as appetizing to the deer, such as daffodils, but when they get hungry enough, they have been known to eat them as well.

Two aerators help to circulate the water of the 1.4-acre pond on site. Bacteria is added to the pond on a regular basis to help break down algae. Dye is also added to reduce light that helps the bacteria grow. To keep Canadian geese out of the pond, chicken wire was installed along one side in addition to planting shrubs and trees to cover the area and deter the birds from settling near the water.

In addition to the four-legged pests on the ground, the crew from The Brickman Group have to contend with feathered pests coming in from the sky. Canadian geese populations in the northeast have increased dramatically since the passing of the Migratory Bird Act. This Act makes it illegal to harm or injure a goose and damage or move its eggs and nest, without a federal permit. Not complying with the federal act can result in fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.

Resident Canadian geese are geese that no longer migrate back north. They stay permanently within the same geographical location year round. This growing phenomenon has occurred largely because the geese have found ample food, safety and nesting sites within the nicely manicured lawns and retention ponds. Each of these resident Canadian geese will eat 2-3 pounds of grass and deposit approximately 1-2 pounds of potentially disease and parasite contaminated droppings every day.

There are 40 acres of lawn on the grounds of Ortho-McNeil. The turf is made up primarily of tall fescue with a small amount of rye. There is no irrigation system in place to water the lawn; all irrigation comes naturally from the rain. Because there is no irrigation system in place, tall fescue was chosen due to its hardiness. Overseeding is done primarily in the fall, with patchwork done in the spring to fill in bare spots that developed during the winter months.

To keep the geese away from the pond, fencing and mass shrub planting have been installed surrounding the pond to deter the birds from nesting and polluting the site.

11,000 Square Feet of Flowers

There are flowers everywhere on the Ortho-McNeil campus - 6,850 sq. ft. of annual flowers; 5,000 sq. ft. of perennial beds; two acres of shrubs; and seven acres of meadow. Tree species growing on the grounds include: red maple, sugar maple, red oak, white pine, blue spruce, sawtooth pine, sycamore, white birch, crab apple, and pine oak. Shrubs on site are ink berry, spiorea, viburnum, deciduous holly, butterfly bush, Russian sage, juniper, and azalea. A number of flowers are planted throughout the year and include: begonia, petunia, impatiens, marigold, black-eyed susan, vinca, vinca rosa, salvia, pansies, tulips, and daffodils.

Communication is Key

Spending 20 years in the landscaping industry has taught Jannone a thing or two about nature and working with others. "It is important to communicate, listen to other peoples ideas, work together, always be a student and find the safest and best way to do something," said Jannone. "Always remain open and teachable."

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October 23, 2019, 10:00 pm PDT

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