Monthly Archives: November 2014

Creating a Dramatic Focal Point With Pergolas

Pergolas - The Perfect Spot to EntertainFew things are as enjoyable as taking advantage of your home’s outdoor space. But, whether you have a patio or a deck, there is one persistent problem: the sun. Without any cover, spending time outdoors can be hindered due to extreme heat and UV rays. Patio umbrellas and awnings are options, but they may not provide adequate cover and are costly, considering they will most likely need to be replaced every few years due to sun and weather damage.

A more permanent and elegant solution to providing cover for your patio is to install a pergola. Pergolas are freestanding latticed structures that are typically constructed of four pillars that support parallel crossbeams or girders, and are often used to control and shepherd vine growth. Not only will the pergola’s beams break up incoming sun, but you can also take advantage of the overhanging trellis to support climbing plants like wisteria and varieties of morning glory to create a lush canopy for added protection and ambiance.

Pergolas offer a practical solution by providing much needed shade. However, they can also serve as the dramatic focal point of your outdoor space. Lacking structure or boundaries, an empty yard can feel isolating and unwelcoming. Adding a pergola will help break up the emptiness of your backyard, and will immediately change the dynamic of the space. The added cover is perfect for outdoor seating and entertaining, and you will naturally gravitate to this new oasis. Suddenly, your yard will have a bold centerpiece to encompass.

When considering a pergola, it is important to remember that they can be constructed from a variety of materials. Traditionally, pergolas are made of dense hardwoods like beech and cedar that can easily support the weight of the crossbeams, as well as the additional weight of any creeping plant that might grow atop the trellis. Cement or stone columns are an alternative to traditional wooden pillars, and offer a sturdier and more permanent foundation for the pergola. For a more rustic look that will conjure images of life on a vineyard in the Italian hillside, try roughly hewn whole timbers. However, that is the traditional image of a pergola. If you have a more modern sensibility, there are pergola designs that incorporate wave structures and irregular angles, and you can construct your pergola out of minimalist aluminum and finish it off with bamboo blinds for added privacy.

Whatever design you choose for your pergola, you can rest assured that it will add critical financial and social value to your home. You’ll have the go-to spot for entertaining friends and family, regardless of the season.




Happy Thanksgiving from Blue Tree!

Your Thanksgiving TableFrom our family to yours…

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Think about using some of your beautiful fall foliage to decorate your holiday table.  Get some great ideas here.

Fall Landscaping Tips: Prepping Your Home and Garden for Winter

Winter in Skippack PAThough autumn has another month to go, it’s never too early to begin thinking about and planning for the winter months ahead. With the care and devotion you spent tending to your garden and yard throughout spring, summer, and fall, you shouldn’t overlook preparing for the inevitable damage that freezing temperatures, heavy snow, and ice can inflict on your yard and property.

Here are just a few tips to prepare your yard for the long winter.

Move patio furniture indoors

Patio furniture is made to withstand the elements. After all, it sits outside for most of the year. But, it’s safe to say that come winter your deck chairs and table will not be used at all. Rather than leave these costly furnishings to the punishment of snow, ice, and sleet, plan ahead and make space in your shed for proper winter storage. Or, if your shed is packed with other long-hidden items (as is usually the case), your basement or garage are fine alternatives. Even when you move your furniture indoors, it should still be protected with a cover or tarp to prevent moisture and critter damage.

Aerate and fertilize your lawn

Though usually done in the spring, aerating your lawn in the fall is just as beneficial. Also, take the opportunity to fertilize and reseed any naked or dead patches of grass that are a blight to your lawn.

Plan for snow

It’s prudent to plan for a big snowfall long in advance of a winter storm. That means stocking up on ice melt, making sure you have at least one heavy duty snow shovel on hand, and, if you have a particularly long driveway, arranging for a plow to add your home to its route. Even if it’s a mild winter, you’ll be ready for next year!

Protect shrubs and trees

Most importantly, it is essential to care for the plants that are the biggest investment in your yard: trees and shrubbery. If you have newly planted saplings or thin bark trees, make sure to wrap their trunks with paper tree wrap as an insulator to prevent cracks in the bark. Certain delicate shrubs should even be buried in a heap of mulch for further protection. Protective netting or burlap draped over shrubs can also be used to shield them from foraging animals like deer, as well as salt damage if your shrubs are near a roadway.


Easy Steps to Prevent Soil Erosion and Keep Your Yard Beautiful

Ways to Stop Soil Erosion

Plant vegetation to create a natural barrier against soil erosion, especially in hilly or sloped landscapes

One of the most persistent problems homeowners will encounter in keeping their yards pristine and well-manicured is topsoil erosion. Though soil erosion is a natural process by which wind, rain, and melted ice gradually remove a layer of topsoil, housing developments often clear cut land to build homes, which creates a vast open landscape that is more susceptible to erosion. Without trees and shrubs to set a firm network of roots that will hold the soil in place and to prevent winds from blowing directly across the ground, the nutrient rich topsoil that many plants require for proper growth will forever wash away. If left unattended, erosion could leave your yard barren, requiring topsoil deliveries to help replenish the soil that is missing.

Here are several preventative measures you can take to keep your topsoil from washing away.

Plant trees and shrubs

The most effective approach to offsetting soil erosion is to plant trees and shrubs in areas that are showing signs of erosion. Typically, this means sloped and hilly landscapes that water can easily run down. Planting trees and shrubs in this area will allow soil to remain in place as it clings to the underground network of roots. Also, planting a line of trees or shrubs near the edge of an exposed or open property will help break up strong winds that can cause soil erosion.


Though planting trees and shrubs is a vital step to preventing soil erosion, it is equally important to mulch the surrounding area to further prevent rain runoff and wind from sweeping away topsoil. Mulch of every kind acts as an insulating layer to help keep plants safe from frost and freezing temperatures, and it also helps trap rainwater for nearby plants to absorb. This is especially important as soil erosion not only removes nutrient-rich soil, but it also prevents much needed water from saturating the soil that remains. This only compounds the effects of erosion, and putting down a thick layer of mulch will ensure that water is properly absorbed. You can also add stone edging around the mulched area to further prevent water runoff.

Route drainage away from problem areas

It is also very important to remember that drainage runoff from gutters and driveways can also cause erosion. Heavy rainstorms create strong flows of water that can not only cause soil erosion in the area around the drainpipe mouth, but can also damage your home if excess runoff seeps into its foundation. Make sure drainage pipes are routed away from your home to an area where the water can safely run off, like a bed of river rock or stone that can easily handle the discharge.




Trees 101: How to Add Style and Flair to Your Yard

Trees for Your YardMany of us strive to design a visually appealing yard, but are unsure of which plants and trees might best create our dream environment. Additionally, when planting, you have to take space constraints and the plant’s functional benefits like privacy provision and easy maintenance into account. The trees listed below are both easy to care for and aesthetically appealing. Try planting one, or a few, to instantly beautify your yard.

Weeping Birch

This tree’s intriguing structure and appearance are irrefutable positives: the weeping birch looks very much like a small version of a willow. Its dark green leaves stem from branches that grow downwards instead of upwards, creating a unique effect that will contrast nicely with the other trees in your yard. Furthermore, the weeping birch does not grow to the lofty heights that a typical birch tree does, so it could be an excellent addition to your yard if you’d like a birch tree but just don’t have the space.

Saucer Magnolia

If you’re looking to add a pop of color to your yard, the saucer magnolia is a great tree to consider. During the spring months, its scented flowers bloom in stunning shades of pink, purple, or white. The tree requires very little maintenance, although pruning is sometimes necessary once or twice a year.

Kousa Dogwood

The beautiful white flowers that blossom during the spring months on kousa dogwood trees will create a serene and calming atmosphere in your yard. Additionally, the tree produces a sweet, edible berry that provides unique charm. Its slight stature of 15-20 feet makes it perfect for planting beside driveways, patios, decks, and in front yards.

Thuja Green Giant

Typically installed to add privacy to backyards, the thuja green giant is a versatile tree. If planted continuously along your property line, it will keep neighbors and passersby from seeing into your yard. It grows around three feet a year, and can be trimmed to your ideal height. Additionally, the thuja green giant offers deep green foliage and a charming conical build. This tree is the perfect final addition to your yard, as it encloses your yard and any other trees, shrubs, and flowers you’ve planted, thereby creating a sacred space for you and your family.

Northern Catalpa

The northern catalpa grows to a height of around 40-70 feet, making it the perfect addition to yards that are on the larger side. Like the kousa dogwood, this tree sprouts elegant white flowers during the springtime, though they are greater in size and form a unique bell shape. As an added bonus, the northern catalpa is great for providing shade. So if you were baking in the heat this summer, consider planting a northern catalpa!




Choosing the Right Sod for Your Yard

Get a Green Lawn with SodSod, or “turf,” is what most lawns are made of. It is a dense, pre-grown layer of grass and soil, held together by a tangle of roots. It can be installed in large sheets like a carpet. Dozens of varieties are available, each with unique pros and cons. When it comes to which variety you should choose, there is no “one size fits all” answer, and the decision often boils down to personal preference. Still, certain types of sod will fit your yard’s features better than others will. Making the right choice means knowing the options, and understanding the tradeoffs.


If you want to picture Bermudagrass, think golf courses and suburban developments. Imported from Bermuda but native to the Middle East, Bermudagrass is available in several strains, which vary in color and texture. All yield the same perfectly manicured look. The catch: all Bermudagrass strains are “invasive,” tending to spread where they’re not wanted. They also do poorly in the shade. Bermudagrass is a great choice for open lawns, but has mixed performance around trees and in wooded areas.


The perfect compromise between “wild” and “ordered,” Centipedegrass thrives in warm weather and grows wild in Southeast Asia, though many newly created strains are able to hold up to colder weather. It is noted for its resilience, and keeps its characteristic bright-green hue well into the fall. Named for its rows of identical blades, it resembles a gently disordered carpet up close, and requires little maintenance.


Neither truly blue nor musical, Bluegrass is still a popular choice in cold or dry regions. Bred for drought resistance and water conservation at the University of Nebraska, it can grow in sand, clay, and marshes. Overall, it may be the toughest breed out there. Further padding its resume, it tends to grow horizontally, and tops out at four inches. This makes regular mowing unnecessary. Those who choose Bluegrass will have little to be blue about.

Fescue grass

Fescue grass is perfect for seasonal climates as it is more than able to withstand cold temperatures. It is available in variable heights and colors, all of which can tolerate sustained cold and shade. This allows fescue to thrive in all temperate and northern US climates. Why it wasn’t named “rescue” grass is beyond us.