It may be milder than predicted right now, but winter is far from over. Remember, snow is not the enemy, nor are cold temperatures. Problems can occur over the winter when temperatures drastically fluctuate from cold, to warm and back again. This confuses plants as they don’t know whether to remain dormant or start to push new growth. Freezing and thawing precipitation can also expand and contract in hardscape joints, creating shifting and heaving of stone and concrete, or worse, cracking, peeling and other damage to walking surfaces. Other hazards are icy, wet and heavy snows that sit on woody shrubs and trees for extended periods of time. Wind also can be very de-hydrating and far more damaging than minus zero numbers. My best advice for the remainder of the cold winter months is the following:

Monitor plantings after snowfalls to make sure heavy snow is not sitting on branches, weighing them down. Try as much as possible during heavy precipitation to get outside and gently brush wet snow off of tree and shrub limbs. This keeps them from permanently bending or worse, cracking off. Once frozen however, this work cannot be accomplished – you must wait for temperatures to warm up and melt the ice. Keep a wide broom handy to push snow off of your evergreens in particular to help keep their branching intact and try to shovel walking surfaces before too much snow accumulates.

Now a warning! Salt for de-icing can be very damaging to plants, not to mention the walking surfaces for which they are intended. The only place that it is safe to apply salt is asphalt. Natural stone like bluestone, but even concrete, can be damaged by use of salt for melting snow and ice. It’s also tough on pet paws. We recommend instead using alternative, gentler agents. Newest to the market is CMA (Calcium Magnesium Acetate). It’s chemically similar to vinegar, biodegradable and will not harm the environment. Although expensive, it will spare your landscape, hardscape and pets. You can also shop for Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride or Potassium Chloride – all typically available in hardware stores. Research before buying, however, because some of these may be harmful to pets with kidney disease. Cat litter can be used to create a gritty ‘tooth’ on a walking surface, but it is not deicing agent. Clearly, the sooner one can remove snow before it freezes, the better. Given that this is not always possible, do your best to minimize quantities used and avoid casting de-icing agents onto adjacent soil and plants.


My father joked continually about wanting to live until the year 2020 at which time his eyesight would magically be restored to perfect. Sadly, he didn’t quite make it to July of this year when he would have turned 100. His corny sense of humor (which I diplomatically endured for many years), did however invite my mind to wander, perhaps less much about a perfect eye exam, and more about having a clarified vision of the bigger picture.

As seasons, parents and friends pass on, one tends to ponder all life, excavating painful losses to mine for larger meanings.  My father’s death, coinciding with a new decade, pushed me to look towards 2020 as an opportunity to refresh stale perspectives,  to sharpen how I see everything and re-vision my path forward in a most chaotic, and confusing time.

Landscape design, like fashion, has trends that influence it. Things come and go just as with every other form of creativity. Today, first time homeowners are streamlining exterior choices as they are inside their homes. Edited, modern landscapes with cleaner lines and sparer plant selections are trending. Organically shaped pools are being bypassed in favor of simple rectangles. Curvy bed lines look less ‘new’ than straight, narrow hedge rows.

To that end, it was time for an update to my website.  A year of sporadic work as time allowed has finally resulted in an updated, clean and graphic presentataion along with some new photography of recent projects.  Please fee feel to navigate around the site to explore the changes.


Sending you my best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year and New Decade!


The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape.  For assistance with any of the above information please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation, outdoor furnishings and property maintenance services.