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Airport maintains colorful winter landscape

Though Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has an eye-catching landscape during the spring, the airport makes sure its outdoor spaces remain vibrant for passengers during the winter season, too.

On a recent, frigid Tuesday afternoon, Abra Lee, landscape manager at Hartsfield-Jackson, was out inspecting and beautifying the landscape to ensure it is kept up to standards.

"What we look for in the winter time is opportunity, and what I mean that is ... we look for areas where we can fill the void," Lee said from inside a City of Atlanta vehicle, with the heater running.

Lee said if one can see the "bone" of a section of the landscape during the winter, it calls for beautifying that area.

"If an area looks too dead, I know we need to put something there," she said.

Lee explained that trees may be stripped of their leaves and brown grass may surround their trunks because of cold temperatures, but plants such as red ferns and heucheras -- which can withstand cold weather -- can be added to give life to that section of the landscape.

"All are very cold-hearted plants," said the landscape manager, who has been at the airport for four years.

Other flowers, plants and vegetables showing this winter season at the airport include snapdragons, violas, pansies, kale and Swiss chard, said Lee.

She added that perennial bulbs, such as daffodils, are being installed so they bloom in late winter and early spring.

"Daffodils can be planted in December and are poisonous to rodents," explained Lee.

The flower blooms in several colors, including yellow, white and orange, but as the weather gets warmer, the flower dies.

Lee said the daffodils, which are perennials, don't need to be planted each year, because after they bloom, the daffodil plant rebuilds its bulb for the next year.

"Once we put them in the ground, they are in," she said.

Tulips are treated as an annual flower and are replaced when they die off, she added.

"We are planting tulips now," Lee said. "They bloom in the spring and bloom more in April and May."

Tulips are planted in a pot with hyacinths, which give off a sweet fragrance, said Lee.

"The hyacinth plants come up first, and as soon as these die, the tulips start blooming," she said.

"We're trying to get away from the annual look of plants ... put down a classic look and put down color," she added.

Lee said some perennials and annuals are set out in different months, so that they bloom throughout the spring.

"We call it ‘extending the show,'" said Lee.

Lee said four bulbs are planted per square foot, which provides the maximum impact for bulbs.

She said renewal pruning is done in the month of February, to encourage a plant to grow later in the winter season.

She said that though she is responsible for the aesthetic portion of Hartsfield-Jackson's landscape, there are large green areas next to runways that are maintained maintenance crews in the Department of Aviation. The landscape at the airport totals about 4,800 acres, she said.

The landscaping near runways is "more of a functional part of the landscape," Lee said.