To Hollis Malone, a self-proclaimed nature lover and certified horticulturist, the grounds of the 2,881-room Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., are like the Garden of Eden. Beautiful trees, tropical plants and exotic flowers (more than 50,000 in all) and lush lawns sprawl over 410 acres – indoors and outdoors – making it a horticulturist’s dream.
Malone, who oversees the horticulture department for the resort and its attraction in Nashville, manages nearly 50 employees year-round to keep the resort’s interior and exterior landscapes immaculate for guests and visitors.
“We take pride in the fact that our resort is one of the best in the nation, and we take the necessary steps to keep the grounds in top shape in every season,” Malone says.
Maximizing productivity and saving time is important to Malone and his team as they work to maintain not only Gaylord Opryland Resort but The Inn at Opryland, a 303-room property nearby, as well as the Grand Ole Opry, General Jackson Showboat, several pastures and the headquarters for Ryman Hospitality Properties, owner of all the aforementioned assets.
According to Malone, the equipment they use makes all the difference: equipment that is easy to use, easy to maintain and reliable in every season. The equipment must be durable and provide unmatched performance – with a good dose of comfort added to the mix.
“For that, we use Grasshopper mowers,” he says. “They’re the best machines we’ve ever used, hands down. We love them.”
In fact, Malone says if it were not for the Grasshoppers, the resort would have been in serious trouble when Nashville flooded in the spring of 2010.
“It was a big mess, that’s for sure,” he says. “But it would have been even worse if we didn’t have our Grasshoppers to help with the clean up right away.”
Malone says that even though some areas of the hotel itself had 10 feet of water inside, the crews were out on the Grasshoppers mowing the day after the rain stopped, as most of the turf areas weren’t under water. When the water did start to recede from other parts of the grounds, the turbine blowers and rotary brooms were essential in helping clear remaining mud, silt and debris from the floodwaters.
“As the Cumberland [River] floodwaters were still receding, I was amazed to see our Grasshopper units already on the resort property cleaning up debris,” says Pete Weien, general manager at the resort. “Those units were vital to kicking off our massive clean-up and remodel.”
It took more than a month to get everything back to semi-normal, a job that Malone believes would have taken longer if not for the efficient maneuverability and performance of the Grasshoppers.
The horticulture department at the Gaylord Opryland Resort runs a fleet of Grasshoppers – three MidMount™ 428D mowers and three FrontMount™ 928D mowers – all day, everyday, throughout their mowing season, which ranges from mid-March to early December.
“Eight hours a day, five days a week, would take its toll on any other machine, but not these mowers,” says Malone. “They just keep going and going, every season. We don’t ever worry that they’ll just fall apart on us.”
Regular maintenance and routine check-ups keep the mowers running at peak performance, something that Malone would suggest for any machine put to regular use, but says that the maintenance time required for the Grasshoppers is minimal.
“They’re so well-built to begin with, it doesn’t take much to keep them going strong.”
The 28-horsepower diesel engines perform well in a variety of conditions, wet or dry, hot or cold, and everything between. Malone says that since his crew mows every square foot of the grounds at least once a week, the mulching option on the mowers’ 61-inch decks is a great way to keep the grass evenly cut while returning the nutrients from the clippings to the turf.
“And there’s no clumping, leaving that nice striped look that we want,” he says. “The crew switches the mowing direction every-other-mowing to create diamond-shaped stripes, which really enhance the attractiveness of the lawns.”
For year-round productivity, the department uses Grasshopper’s AERA-vator™ implement for overseeding, a turbine blower for quick-and-easy spring and fall clean-up, a front-mounted sprayer for chemical applications, and a rotary broom and heated winter enclosure for snow removal – when the snow does fall.
In fact, Malone recalls one specific instance when the city of Nashville received six to seven inches of snow overnight, and his Grasshoppers and brooms were out through the evening and early morning hours to keep the sidewalks and driveways clear for the resort’s guests.
“These machines and the attachments do everything for us,” Malone says. “There’s not much they can’t do. Of course, we have small push mowers for mowing the tight spaces, but we use the Grasshoppers for most of the grounds.”
The spraying equipment is especially helpful, since it has a 30-gallon capacity and labor-efficient 133-inch application width for herbicide chemicals. “The sprayer saves us a lot of time with chemical applications. Similar to the push mowers, we only use hand-held sprayers for the tight spaces the Grasshoppers can’t reach easily.”
However, more than Grasshopper performance, more than the easy maintenance and reliability, more than the durable construction, Malone emphasizes one thing about Grasshopper above all else: comfort.
Emphasizing effortless maneuverability and operator-friendliness with a lounge-chair feel, Grasshopper’s comfort features are the best in the industry, bar-none.
“Every one of my guys tells me over and over that our Grasshoppers are just the most comfortable mowers they’ve ever operated, and these guys have seen and driven everything,” Malone says.
Not only can eight-hour mowing days take its toll on the machinery, the operator can take a beating, too, but Malone says that’s not the case with the Grasshoppers.
“To me, the fact that you can ride these machines all day, and still have energy after the work is done, then be willing to get up the next morning and do the same thing all over again, that’s all that matters,” he says.
But more importantly, Grasshopper provides the reliability, performance and longevity that Malone requires for the rigorous landscaping demands of a internationally recognized resort.
“We’ve never used anything better,” he says. “And, as far as I’m concerned, we never will.”