The Landscape in Winter


As I look out my office window on this blustery February day, I notice a few things that don’t normally stand out during the warmer months. The landscape looks much different this time of year, in some ways rather barren due to the lack of leaf and flower, but in other ways more beautiful in its austerity and stillness. The perennials and groundcovers are mostly out of view, covered by layers of snow. The visible now include evergreens, stone work within the landscape, and deciduous tree trunks reaching towards the sky. Just outside of my window reside several interesting elements that enliven what is otherwise an expanse of white powder. A Coral Bark Maple’s bright red branches provide a stunning contrast to the snow, and with the color lasting throughout the season, makes for an excellent addition to almost any landscape. Just to the side of the maple, a drilled stone column water feature bubbles all year long, providing motion in the landscape and a constant source of fresh water for resident birds. Native Eastern Red Cedars round out my view, the subtle color of their needles ranging from light green to russet to purple as they stand tall and do their best to protect the office from the wind. The view from my office window is actually quite interesting this time of year, and that is intentional, as a well designed landscape contains visual elements for all seasons.

There are two main factors to consider when evaluating a landscape in the colder months: winter interest and winter wildlife.

Winter interest, as the term implies, involves selecting plants that provide something visually interesting in the winter months. Examples include ornamental grasses, winterberry hollies with their clusters of red berries, red stem dogwoods, and the conifers that prove to us that all is not dead outside this time of year. Now is the perfect time to look out of your home’s windows and think about areas that could use some visual interest this time of year.


The other consideration is winter wildlife, and by that I mean considering where all of the creatures that inhabit the garden are going to shelter in the winter months, and how they are going to sustain themselves. The ecology and food web of your landscape are important factors in determining how much wildlife your landscape can support, and the diversity of species you will see throughout the year. Conifers provide shelter and protection from the wind and the cold during the winter, and also provide bird nesting sites in the summer. Vibernums, Virginia Creeper, and White Oaks all hang on to their fruit during the winter and can be a critical food source when heavy snow blankets the ground. Water features that run all year provide drinking water for birds and animals when many other sources of water freeze. The bubbling stone feature outside out side of my office window is regularly visited by our resident winter birds.


Keeping these factors in mind, a landscape can be designed or modified to provide year round interest along with being an important part of your neighborhood’s ecological diversity. Think about your landscape the next time you look out the window, and if you would like a few ideas to liven it up, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

For more information on landscaping with birds in mind:


The Rain Guy’s Summer Travels

This summer ‘The Rain Guy’ took a trip to check out some interesting projects that were happening in New York and Chicago. He first stopped by New York City’s High Line which opened up its second section between West 20th and West 30th Streets on June 8, 2011.

The High Line

View of High Line

The High Line is a linear park built on the former elevated freight railroad along the lower west side of Manhattan. The park takes the concept of a green roof to a whole new level. The multiple layered ‘living roof’ includes pourous drainage, gravel, filter fabric, subsoil and topsoil, allowing everything from small perennials to full grown tree’s to grown high above the streetscape. Parts of the park are also designed to re-circulate water and there are future plans to harvest rainwater from the roofs of nearby buildings. The High Line Project is a great example of how sustainable landscape ideas can be successfully used to create unique and beautiful spaces.

Bird houses on the High Line

After visiting New York, The Rain Guy was then off to Chicago to participate in Aquascape Inc.’s sustainable outdoor water feature build at Shedd Aquarium. The pond, stream and wetland installation was devised to serve as a hands-on training event for Certified Aquascape Contractors to learn the latest innovations and applications of sustainable landscape solutions. The design philosophy of this project was to incorporate the native flora and fauna while emulating a native Illinois stream.

Contractors working together at Shedd Aquarium

The Rain Guy worked with contractors from across the continent to install a 30’ x15’ pond, which included a 1,500 gallon reservoir, allowing the feature to operate for extended periods without rainfall. Along with a 50-foot long stream and waterfall system, the project included an oversized wetland to provide water filtration while also creating a unique aquatic habitat. The water feature will serve as one of the aquarium’s exhibits. It will also help educate visitors about the importance of native habitats and how we can make a positive impact on our environment.

Completed Water Feature

Completed Water Feature before Landscaping

To learn more about these places check out the links below:

High Line

Shedd Aquarium

Montgomery Township’s Autumn Festival

Please Join Us This Saturday at the Montgomery Township Autumn Festival

This day long event will take place from 10 til 4 at William F. Maule Park at Windlestrae off of Kenas Road in North Wales.

Along with our display booth, our staff will be available just around the corner at our  office and display gardens. Please stop by before or after you attend this great family event to check out our water features.
Rain Date, Sunday October 2 12:00-4:00 PM

Lawn Care and Renovation

The lawn is often thought of as an extension of our home. It’s a place were families gather to relax and have fun. But keeping a green lush lawn means understanding the requirements of our lawn and providing the appropriate conditions they need to thrive. Such things as drought, excessive shade, poor drainage, soil compaction, inadequate fertility, acid soils, infestations, disease, thatch build-up, improper mowing, poorly adapted grass species, and others may contribute to poor lawn performance.

Cool Season Grasses:

Most lawns in the Philadelphia region consist of cool season grasses, like perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass and the fescues. These grass species thrive during the cooler seasons of fall and spring and can handle the freezing conditions and snow cover of winter. It’s during the hot and dry summers that these grasses struggle, often going dormant and turning brown.

 Soil Conditions:

One of the first important steps to a successful lawn is to assess your soil conditions. Check the degree of compaction and amount of topsoil present. Also it is essential to get a soil test done.  You can easily purchase a test kit from a university or private test lab. A soil test report will provide you with information about pH and lime levels and the amount of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium and organic matter in the soil. Along with the test results, test sites will often provide recommendations for liming, soil amendments and fertilizing. Taking these steps will help you determine the best course to take in improving your lawn.

Helpful tips to improve your lawn:

 Mow Right

  • Cut lawn at 3” or higher, not cutting more than ⅓ of the leaf tissue
  • Mow frequently during active growth
  • Leave clippings on your lawn, clippings containing important nutrients that will return to the soil, significantly reducing the need for fertilizer applications.
  • Make sure mowing blades are sharp

 Feed Right

  • Choose a complete fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) made for lawns
  • Read and follow all directions when applying
  • Spring and early fall are the best times to feed
  • Sweep products off hard surfaces and back into the lawn

Water Right

  • Its okay for lawns to go dormant during the summer
  • If you choose to water during the summer do it early in the morning
  • Water deeply and infrequently, about 1” a week when there is inadequate rain fall.
  • Frequent light watering encourages shallow rooting and germination of weed seeds

 Lawn Renovation

 If you have been struggling  to get a successfully established lawn it might be time to do a full lawn overhall. Lawn renovations restore failing lawn and with the arrival of cooler temperatures, September signals the perfect time to renovate thin, tired, weak, and wore out lawns.

Basic Steps for Renovating a Lawn




Weed Control Physically Pull For large or spreading weeds; won’t kill all weeds.
Broadleaf Herbicide If weeds are primarily non-grasses.
Nonselective Herbicide   Kills most green vegetation; allow 5-14 days to effectively kill the plants.
 Thatch Removal Vigorous Hand Raking Not practical for extreme thatch problem or large areas.
Vertical Mower Can be rented or hired; can also be used to prepare seedbed.
Sod Cutter Recommended for extreme thatch problem; can be rented or hired.
Soil Preparation Vigorous Hand Raking For small sites with little vegetation remaining.
Aeration 3-5 passes with commercial aerifier; especially recommended if soil is compacted.
Vertical Mowing Tines should nick surface to a depth of ⅛-½ inch.
 Fertilize Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus (P) Potassium (K) ½ pound of N per 1000 square feet; P and K as determined by a soil test.
Seeding  Hand For small sites mix 1 part seed with 4 parts fine sawdust or a natural organic fertilizer such as Milorganite.
Rotary Spreader Preferred method if mixed with sawdust or Milorganite.
Drop Spreader Seed in 2 directions or overlap ½ way.
Slit Seeder Equipment can be rented but requires skill; generally best done by professionals
Irrigate Water lightly to provide good seed-soil contact; then, water lightly twice daily to rewet soil surface. Don’t allow to become soggy.
Mow At 3½ inches, mow to 2½ inches with sharp mower; continue regular mowing as needed.

Other Helpful Links:

Penn State University’s Center for Turfgrass Science Home Lawns Website

Using Composts to Improve Turf Performance

Recycling Turfgrass Clippings

Meadows and Prairies: Wildlife-Friendly Alternatives to Lawn

Garden Giving Update

Collecting Extra Veggies

A student collects excess greens to donate to charity.

Last fall our staff volunteered to help in the creation of a garden at Shady Grove Elementary School of theWissahickon School District in Montgomery County. Cedar Run Landscapes donated soil, labor, and equipment which helped students create and plant a vegetable and flower garden.

Students working in the garden during recess.

The school’s initial goal was to help teach students about the earth and environment. As time has passed, another benefit that has taken form; students have been harvesting excess lettuce, spinach, and chard from their garden and donating it to the local food cupboard. They have also created a garden club, where students volunteer during their recess to help care for the garden.


 Blooming from mid-May until autumn’s first frost, these colorful plants can produce a dramatic and striking landscape. Their diverse colors and textures provide the gardener with numerous opportunities, like filling in open spaces in a bed, defining an edge in a garden or jazzing up an area in a planter box or container.

Cedar Run Landscapes has just received its spring order of new annuals. Each year we introduce new and different varieties to our customer’s gardens. This year we are featuring annual vines. Annual vines will add a vertical dimension to the garden, livening up even the smallest of spaces.

The Lime Sweet Potato Vines bright lime green foliage will brighten up any area and its large tubers are edible.


The Moon Vine blossoms, reaching 6 inches in diameter, are quite fragrant and open up at twilight.

 Some of the other interesting varieties we are carrying this season: 

Magilla Perilla

Reaching up to 24” tall, the brilliant splashes of hot pink, deep plum, and green foliage will add a tropical feel to any garden.

Sun lovers, these beauty’s really spice up a container garden and are a great filler plant.

Ptilotus ‘Joey’

A heat and drought tolerant annual, it has cone like spikes of feathery flowers with silver green foliage.


 Often called the Summer Snapdragon, its attractive flowers reaching 1-2 feet high and are covered with snapdragon-like flowers.  


Here are a few tips on how to care for your annuals once planted:

• Watering

Keep them evenly moist.  This may include daily watering. Make sure there are holes at  the bottom of  your plantings to allow excess water to escape and remember pots in the sun will need to be watered more than pots in the shade. 

• Fertilize

We suggest a combination of a slow timed release fertilizer such as osmocote, which provides 3-4 months of steady feeding, and a liquid fertilizer such as Peters 20-20-20 to be applied every two weeks.

• Deadhead

Remove dead blossoms to keep the plant growing and attractive.  If blooms remain, the plant will put its energy into seeds rather than new blooms and foliage.

 • Trim Back

Some plants become leggy or become too large as the season progresses.  Cut stems just above a leaf using sharp scissors or pruners.  This invigorates the plant to produce more foliage.

Here are a few links to learn more about annuals:

Converting Lawn to Meadow

More and more people are becoming environmentally conscious and looking for ways to become greener.  One way we can all make a difference is by decreasing the amount of lawn we have on our property. Our society has created an unsustainable monoculture of grass that requires annual fertilizing and constant watering during the hot summer months. Not to mention the harmful pesticides we use to keep a weed free lawn inhabitable to most insects and the noise and air pollution created by weekly lawn mowing.

Taking this monoculture landscape and transforming it into a diverse native meadow provides many benefits to our environment and local ecosystem. Meadows are low maintenance, needing to be cut only once or twice a year, and require little to no fertilizers or pesticides. Meadows also create a wonderful ecosystem helping to sustain wildlife. Native plant species provide food for insects that then help feed amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

The grass varieties we usually see in our perfectly manicured lawns are often a non-native species with a shallow root system. These shallow roots limit the amount of water and nutrients absorbed and why we so often have to throw on the hose to keep our lawns from browning out. Native meadow plants on the other hand have developed extensive root systems allowing them to be drought resistant and able to find the nutrients they need without our help.  These roots are also powerful soil stabilizers that can be used on sloped areas were lawns are difficult to maintain. Below you can compare the different species and their root system. The first plant to the left, Kentucky Bluegrass, is a commonly used grass species.


Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Illinois Native Plant Guide

Meadows can act as pollutant filters unlike the typical lawn that does little to absorb excess fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants. This excess is instead washed away with the rain and ends up in our waterways destroying aquatic habitats. Wet meadows strategically placed in a storm water system can provide a filtration barrier, absorbing those contaminants that have run off lawns and imperious surfaces, before it reaches our waterways.

To create a sustainable meadow requires planning and time. The need to have a good understanding of the site conditions and to know what type of habitat would thrive best in those conditions is critical to a successful meadowscape. It will take several years to develop a mature meadow, although with the right plant selection one will see beautiful flowering plants within the first season.  The most fantastic part about meadows is their aesthetic diversity. Each season brings with it new color, texture, and movement.

Meadow Fall Colors and Textures


Urban & suburban Meadow by Catherine Zimmerman