Monthly Archives: November 2015

How to Protect Your Plants and Trees from Cold Weather

How to Protect Your Plants and Trees from Cold WeatherOur cold Philadelphia winters aren’t just hard on us—they’re hard on our gardens and landscaping too! But despite the hardship many plants, trees, and shrubs endure over the winter, all is not lost, and you needn’t surrender your garden design to the low temperatures.

How to Protect your Plants and Trees from Cold Weather

Each type of garden life will react differently to winter—particularly trees, shrubs, and plants. So let’s look at each aspect of your garden design individually…


Trees are some of nature’s heartier plants, which means they weather winter quite well for the most part. Trees meant for warm weather, however, will require specific care and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

While trees generally do well over winter, they do have a couple of weak spots that you can help them with—most notably root injury and frost heaving. Root injury occurs when frost penetrates the ground deep enough to damage the roots of the tree. You can give your trees a hand by using mulch, which acts as an insulator to (somewhat) protect the roots. If you have a freshly planted or transplanted tree, mulch can help protect the roots from any gaps in the backfilling.

The other issue with trees in winter is frost heaving, which is caused by freezing and thawing (making the soil expand and contract). Adding a layer of mulch, 4 to 6 inches deep, can help maintain a more steady temperature and prevent the heaving action.

So the answer to protecting trees in winter is, in many cases, mulch.

If your trees are damaged already from frost, don’t prune until they’re healthy again, and cover any areas where bark has been removed.


There is a fairly easy way to protect shrubs from frost: cover them with a blanket. While this isn’t practical for the entire winter, it can help in a flash frost in fall or spring.


This category is extremely broad, so we’ll try to cover as much as we can. However for fickle plants, especially warm-weather plants, you’ll need to consult their specific cold-weather rules.

Unfortunately, some plants simply aren’t designed to make it through the winter, especially less hearty species. Plants especially vulnerable to frost can be dug up, potted, and brought in doors. Similarly, plants with bulbs can be dug up, and the bulbs can be stored for the winter in a cool, dry place.

If the first frost is impending but hasn’t hit yet, thoroughly water your plants before they frost or freeze. This will give them a layer of insulating water and help collapse any air tunnels (which lets frost get to the roots).

Professional Winter Prep

If you’ve spent ample time and money on your garden design and want to ensure that it makes it through the winter and is resplendent for spring—contact us. Our professionals here at Blue Tree can help you prepare your garden design for winter…and beyond.

6 Steps to Prep Your Yard for Winter

6 Steps ro Prep Your Yard for WinterYour yard and landscape design should be put to rest for winter in the same loving way you put a child to bed…with careful planning and a soothing touch. After all, it’s about to lay dormant for months while fighting off the pings of frost.

Luckily, prepping your landscape design for the cold winter isn’t difficult—it just takes a little planning and some elbow grease.

How to Prep Your Yard for Winter

Prepping your yard for winter can be accomplished in 6 (relatively) simple steps…

1. Mow Your Lawn

Many Philadelphia residents give the lawn a last mowing based on a somewhat arbitrary date, generally around the time it gets cold. But our cold-season grasses like bluegrass and fescue will continue growing through the cold, albeit at a slower pace. Continue mowing until the ground is frozen (though with the slowed growth you’ll only need to mow every two weeks). Keeping the grass short before snowfall will help prevent fungal growth.

2. Remove Some Debris

Removing all leaves and natural debris isn’t required, as they can provide excellent ground cover and fertilizer. However, having said that, look for larger clumps and remove them to prevent your lawn from being smothered.

3. Aerate

Aeration (creating little holes in your lawn) will help uncompact your lawn and provide it with much-needed oxygen. While it shouldn’t be done willy-nilly (over aerating has no value), it proves exceedingly useful if you have lawn clippings or other natural debris that are more than half an inch deep.

4. Fertilize—for Winter

In the springtime, lawns can be fertilized with nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote quick growth. In winter, however, you want the exact opposite…slow growth. Look for a fertilizer with potassium to slow lawn growth but still leave the soil ready for spring blooms.

5. Don’t Prune the Perennials

Many homeowners prune back their perennials in the fall in preparation for spring. We say leave them be. Letting them finish their natural growth cycle is a powerful way to let their energy reserves store up.

6. Control your Weeds

Fall is the best time to control weeds—especially those that prey on your perennials. By spraying for weeds in the fall you disrupt their natural growth cycle, causing them to die over winter without having the energy required to reboot in the spring.


With a little elbow grease your landscape design will be ready to hibernate over winter—and bloom brilliantly in the spring.

If in the spring you decide that your landscape design could use a little sprucing up, give us a call here at Blue Tree Landscaping. Our hardscaping, garden designs, and other elements can give your yard that extra oomph it needs.

5 Pool Landscaping Ideas to Make Your Pool Stunning…and Your Neighbors Jealous

5 pool landscaping ideasIn ground swimming pools have come a long way! No longer are they functional at the price of your yard’s style—instead, a quality pool can be the visual highlight of your yard while offering hours of entertainment.

To help you get inspired to spiff up an existing pool or start on a new in ground swimming pool design, we’ve put together 5 of our favorite pool landscaping ideas…     

1. Lounge Area

Patios are a common sight around in ground swimming pools, but you can take this concept a step further by upgrading your patio to a swanky lounge area. By trading your dated table and chair sets in for modern loungers and outdoor sofas, you’ll not only look significantly more stylish, but you’ll also be way more comfortable while catching rays and watching the kids.

2. Pergola

Pergolas are a great way to highlight a lounge or patio area by a pool. While they don’t provide much protection from the elements (which you likely won’t need if you’re outside for a pool day anyway) the added modern oomph that they offer is tangible.

3. New Stonework 

Adding high-quality inlaid stones around your in ground swimming pool can quickly (although not ‘easily’…which anyone who has laid brick or stones before knows all too well) turn a 90’s-looking pool into a modern design. High-quality stones can be pricey, but will last over the long term—and add a hefty chunk of change to the value of your home.

4. Hardscaped Walls

Adding hardscaped walls around your in ground swimming pool can not only improve its safety and add extra seating for parties (if the wall is thick enough), but also give a beautiful visual. If it’s a retaining wall, you can add a beautiful garden around the pool to boot.

5. Trees

A pool isn’t an island—it should be part of a landscape design that includes trees and nature. Trees can make a pool look more natural by incorporating green and other natural colors into its surroundings.

The key with trees is to carefully select ones that won’t grow over the pool or shed their leaves or other debris in it. For around-the-pool trees we recommend paperbark, copper beech, dogwood, and lindens—although these trees require pruning as they mature. Evergreens, cedars, and yews are also great options.


Tree transplanting, lounge furniture acquisition, and pergola building are possible DIY projects, but for a more professional look—or if you simply don’t have the time or effort to spend—you may want to look into professional help. In ground swimming pools, hardscaped walls, and stonework should be completed by a professional.

Contact us here at Blue Tree landscaping today for recommendations to rejuvenate your pool landscaping…within your budget.

What Type of Gazebo or Pergola Design is Right for YOU?

Gazebos and PergolasA gazebo or pergola can be a beautiful addition to your landscape and patio design. However, these beautifying structures are more than just visual statements. They also provide essential patio shade on sunny Philly days. So, when choosing between a gazebo or pergola, how do you choose which one is right for you and your patio, yard, and landscape design?

Choosing a Shade Structure

Each shade structure has its own landscape design, visual effect, and function, so let’s begin by taking a look at the qualities of each one:


Pergolas are freestanding structures that consist of 4+ supporting pillars/posts, and decorative (somewhat shade-forming) cross beams, in either a line or lattice pattern. While they can be used for walkways, they are most commonly used in residential design as an element for outdoor patios. The most common pergola designs use wooden beams and posts, though metal is also an option.


  • They provide a decorative and classy look.
  • They provide some shade, without blocking all sunlight.
  • They offer a vertical growth place for vines (which can provide additional shade when grown over the top of the pergola).
  • They are more cost effective than gazebos, as they require fewer materials and are easier to erect.
  • They can be constructed quickly and easily.
  • They help build your patio’s aesthetic.


  • They don’t provide complete shade, so they aren’t a full respite from the sun.
  • They don’t offer rain protection.


Gazebos are more effective at providing shade than pergolas, thanks to their eight sides and full roof. Their design can be inspired by a number of styles, though English and French are the most common. In recent years, gazebos have been overshadowed by the pergola design, as a consequence of the DIY trend.


  • They offer greater protection from the elements, especially rain and sun.
  • They offer enough coverage for electrical outlets and lighting.


  • Quality gazebos are more expensive, and are difficult to construct without additional help.
  • They don’t work as well as pergolas for patio spaces.

Which One is Right for YOU?

The two biggest differences between gazebos and pergolas are protection and appearance. Pergolas tend to offer a more modern look, while gazebos lend to a more classic appearance. Their shape also differs, with gazebos having a round, octagonal shape, and pergolas using a square or rectangular design.

So, ask yourself a couple of questions: Does your landscape design have a modern or classic look? What level of element protection are you looking for?

For a professional opinion on what best suits your yard, and for professional design help, contact us here at Blue Tree Landscaping today.