Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

July 21, 2017

The Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society is Coming to My Garden………..

…..Saturday morning, this July 29th.   My home grounds  display of “hardy plants” will be exposed to  Wisconsin folks most of  whom  live  south and southeast of Eau Claire, therefore living  in a much warmer climate than I do….people, gardeners, tree and shrub lovers  who can show off ten times more  hardy  plants in their neighborhoods  that I can here I Minnetonka, Minnesota.

No complaints, guys and gals…merely an observation.

One of my favorite deciduous trees is Acer griseum.   Bark color and texture, autumn color, growing season color, crown shape and ‘green’ are all exceptional show offs……in your Wisconsin, Zone 5 majority hardy plant lovers’ gardens.   I ordered and planted three about fifteen years ago….wussy looking sizes sent through the mail….all three!   There were  arguments among those in the “know” whether or not the tree could survive in any Climate Zone 4.

With this awareness, I planted one in full sun to the south of my home grounds, a second in the middle, but ten foot  lower  area of the landscape yet fully exposed to  northern  winds off a large pond in the winter, and the third to the East border of the garden amongst a collection of mostly conifer trees,  yew, red pine, and hemlocks.

The Paperbark Maple in the South grew two to three feet a year.  The one to the East grew a foot a year, and the one sitting in the winter path  in the  downstairs of the half acre garden sulked from the very beginning of its placement.  Noticing its childishness, I planted a Canadian Hemlock barely ten feet to the North of  the ‘depressed’ Acer griseum a few years later.

Here is an assignment I have  for our Hardy Plant  visitors, especially  from those warmer parts of Wisconsin.  Before arriving on tour  in my Minnetonka, please, just for fun,  put into order the condition of life expressed  as you will view the condition of  these Acer griseums in my landscaped garden,  fifteen or sixteen years of maturing “life” later.  Hint!  One of them is dead.   Which one?

 

 

 

July 17, 2017

Welcome Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society!

I live in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  Soon I will be  honored to open my landscape gardened grounds here in Minnetonka  to folks from the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society busing in from Madison, Wisconsin.   I, especially  my 78 years of “landscape gardening” welcome all of you for your interest in landscape gardens of the hardy kind!

The first tree I ever knew by name was the “White Pine”.  I was four years old.   My parents had a friend who owned a cabin at Lake Alexandria, Minnesota which we would visit every summer for years.   Sand was everywhere, even amongst the tallest trees I had ever seen….groves of White Pine one hundred feet tall.

In the world of labor outdoors, gardening, especially landscape gardening,  can easily become  a drug of the first order, if beauty is the primary, or worse, sole goal for the hooked attempting to create something to uplift the soul.

I was lucky.   It was without choice at age six or seven my primary play outdoors was creating believable and the beautiful landscapes in a sand box about six feet by four in size….which belonged to the neighbor next door in a very modest, pleasant pre-World War II  St. Paul, Minnesota area where lot sizes were 45 by 90 feet each with a garage and alley.

“It”, that is my landscape gardening life, all began in that 6×4 sandbox when I was 4 and a half years old.

It ended, that is my landscape gardening in the neighbor’s  sand box, some time mid summer nearly 9 years later, the summer before I was to enter freshman year at St. Paul Central High School.

I remember being very pleased with the scenery I had created….beauty at last, believability  in  proper order had been achieved that day.   I remember not moving a single tootsy-toy car from its parking spot.   My favorite was a 1939 Mercury my Uncle Frank had bought me for my birthday that year.  It was a coupe, a realistic replica of the real, only two and a half inches long.

Both my sand box boulevard trees and landscape trees were  from a pyramidal arborvitae not far from the sandbox.   I’d bite off the tips of the greenery….and in doing so endured a bitter flavor as if chewing a lemon rind.  Years later, while studying Latin in high school, I learned arbor…vitae meant “tree” of “life”…and indeed so, for the Brits during their centuries as a world naval power, used to store Arborvitae trees grown in pots on their great sail ships which sent them all around globe for business, profit and democratic civilization….which led to the birth of own country,  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India, by the way ….(I taught ‘high school social studies’  for twelve years. I landscaped as a hobby-drug then.)

I used cigar boxes for corner shops and drug stores.   I lined my streets with ‘pruned’ arborvitae foliage…sizes and shapes formed by my teeth.    Toy building blocks were saved for modest houses like those in which I lived.    A dandelion bud both before and after bloom could be designed as shrubs.

However, that “believability” day was the last day I ever ‘touched’ that or any other sandbox.

Embarrassed by her 13 and a half year old son still monkeying around a sandbox…always alone and loving it, she opened the side outside door where she would be best heard by all  and seen by her ‘wayward’ son and shouted as loudly as possible:  “Glenn Ray, you are too old to be playing in a sand box!!!….but I shouted back, just as loud…..

“I’M NOT PLAYING IN A SANDBOX!  I’M MAKING SCENERY!”…and I knew I was right!!

Nevertheless, I understood the point she wanted ME to absorb for I knew she was right.   What if any of my buddies might ideed  see me making scenery, that is “playing” in a sandbox….something I had practiced for nearly nine years.

My Mother had won the day!

I wanted to avoid her celebrating her victory, however.  So, I covered the pain by  slyly filling a gunny sack with all of the paraphernalia required for community  landscape garden created  in that sandbox, with a laugh or two……for, after considering her claims,   I knew she was right ‘regarding the scenery’ at her distance.   My sandbox education came to its end!

 

July 7, 2017

What exactly is a weed in the Northern garden? Astilbe chinensis?

Filed under: garden seasons,perennials,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 10:16 pm

It is likely the vast  majority of the today’s American population under age 40 have no idea what a weed is beyond an old fashioned word for marijuana…..the stuff of real value among our today’s American youth from homes without fathers.

Gifted humans, the ones lucky enough  who still ‘toil’ the soil in some manner or another, know that  to an experienced gardener, a WEED, is a plant out of place….end of story!

One of the weediest plants in my own gardened grounds is the aggressive  Astilbe chinensis of all shapes and sizes.   But “weediest” has nothing to do with the word “weedy” for neither are a weed if they are not unwanted.

Even in our TwinCity Minnesota area, Astilbe chinensis regardless of  all its salesmanship ‘nicknames’ likes to live and expand its realm where lawn grasses and soillessness are not a problem.   The first named one I remember planting was “Purple Cats”….a three footer or more whose flower spikes were strikingly purple.  That occurred  around 35 years ago.  It is still happy and still bears  a beautiful cluster of purple spikes starting again this coming week.  It  commands  the same  square foot of territory where it has bloomed every year since the day I planted it.  Strong stems and winsome foliage  add to its value.   It is more beautiful the bigger its crowd.

This Astilbe chinensis “Purple Cats” has also expanded its realm as well.   It might now own about fifty square feet of floral display beginning Monday, blooming earlier in sunnier locations than those in deep shade.  Full sun is not in its comfort zone.

Have you ever noticed how beautifully ordered Nature’s landscape gardens are?   Where there is time, HARMONY among plants eventually dominates the grounds.  There is order in Nature until disorder arrives.  Those (plants) victorious in claiming their realm do  so by expanding their own territory, conquering their competitors, enemies,  by making them out-of-place causing disharmony.

“A weed is a plant out of place.”    Is there an Astilbe chinensis in your garden?    There should be!

 

May 16, 2017

Redbuds and Spring, 2017 in Twin City Land

Nearly no one gardens anymore……whether the vegetable or the flower one…..even in Minnesota.

Seventy years ago, even during World War II and its previous Depression years, most city folk did manage to garden for food and flower …..as did our local  farmers who hadn’t lost  their land.

“Working” the land was still common regardless of ‘plot’ size.    People knew what  kohlrabi and  bleeding heart were.

Redbuds were understory trees, weeding throughout  eastern forest openings incapable of growing here in the colder midwest where winters often included evenings of minus 30 plus Fahrenheit.   Most Americans those days moving West into Minnesota came from Maine and  Massachusetts  before and during our Scandinavian settlements.   They missed their Redbud (Cercis canadensis) capable of growing in southern Quebec and eastern Ontario as well.   For years horticulturists at the University of Minnesota worked overtime to cause Redbuds to become hardier in order to join their thirst for more beautiful Springs.

During and shortly after the War, the wealthy of the  Lake Minnetonka area estates would plant trial seedlings of Redbud from the University’s extension service east of Waconia.   Eventually, this Northern Redbud became reliable enough as an attractive  local Twin City area understory both in clump form and in bright pink floral color arriving for show before foliage develops.

Most of my landscape garden where I live is without lawn….I have plotted it to be that way.  I  bought my first Northern Redbud about 30 years ago….and purposely  planted the clump rather crooked to one side in  hope that it would develop  a spectacular form during its old age.

It obliged…with this Spring bloom the most beautiful of all in color and form.  “Plants, gardens, like people, gain character with age”, I have often claimed.

Another purchased Northern Redbud planted about ten years ago, has struggled to look good in shape, for the color of hot pink in early May is always bright and clean of all the mature and living….usually.

Northern Redbuds seed profusely  where ‘open’ soil is available.   Their countless  pea family pods are filled  with seeds following their hot pink display.   Not all Redbuds are equal weed seed producers, however.  In my own mostly woodsy-like garden settings,  dozens and dozens of seedlings are produced  every Spring.  The vast majority will live a year or two before they succumb to the stress of  yesterday’s tenderness to temperatures colder  than  ten below zero of winter wear or be eaten by rabbits for their winter evening and morning meals.

Yet, some eaten still survive such meals and send out side shoots at the edges groundward from the eatings causing two to four side shoots to develop to keep the Redbud factory alive often for a good thirty years of character  forming some of the most beautiful clumps.

This past late April and May have produced the most beautiful, longest blooming period in Redbud history here in our Gopherland.    My ten or more Redbuds have been in a spectacular stage of  bloom for three weeks, longer than ever before.    This Spring’s flock has likely  been the biggest, happiest, most beautiful Northern Redbud bloom  ever in our western Twin City suburbs:  cool nights with  ‘hotless’ days with  no wild rainfalls or heavy snowfall.  Few, if any, have shed their hot pink.

 

 

 

May 8, 2017

Spring is an A Plus for the Home Landscape This Year

Filed under: garden seasons,perennials,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 12:55 am

NOT ALL SPRINGS ARE EQUAL

There is no doubt from my life’s experience  especially in the  landscape garden arts  that winters were colder, more brutal,  and longer during my outdoor life as a child  compared to the last five decades of Twin City, Minnesota existence.    I was raised in a five room bungalow house in St. Paul, Minnesota.  My outdoor winter life began “in earnest” around 1940 when I was six.   Despite being confined to small city lots, neighbors, home owners who weren’t poverty stricken, were better, more knowledgeable gardeners then than folks are  today.  Nearly every household had a flower garden managed by a Mother, vegetable garden dug by a male, a father or a son, and a neat appearing manicured foundation planting to hide the foundation structure along the front of every house.

Human powered mowers made little to no noise.  Only human powered tools were available then. Lawns had to look nice, neat to advertise that the citizens who lived in that house were civilized and cared about the neighborhood.     Only men and boys  mowed then.   Many local  properties included a hill  to the public walk out front of the house.  Mothers and sisters had other local duties.    Children were everywhere.  Lots were small. Divorces rarely existed.  A mother was a mother, a father, a father.

Most garden tools were hand-me-downs.  One mower lasted more than a lifetime for those depression years.   Spending was for food….and then there was the war, 1941-45.   Whether needed or wanted or not, elms were planted by the city along the ‘boulevard”, the space between the public walk and the street curb.   It made things appear cozy and cool in the summer  until Dutch Elm disease appeared in earnest.    Maintaining a neat and attractive front yard landscape indicated home owners cared about the quality of their neighborhood.   Adults weren’t as obnoxious then as so many seem to be these days.    Children didn’t dare misbehave where I lived.   They, we, didn’t dare.

I learned what a Lombardy Poplar tree was when I was 4…. as well as a Spruce, Elm, Bleeding Heart, Phlox, Juniper,  Four-0’clocks, Spiraea, marigolds, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and chrysanthemums that same year.  I became my Mother’s gardening  agent.  My sister played dolls and paper dolls in the bedroom.   (Did I ever luck out.  I loved the outdoors especially gardening from then on. It was a geography in which my Mother and I bonded besides doing thousand piece picture puzzles with her indoors in Winter).

There were no driveways dividing front yards in the city then.   Ugly stuff was confined to the back alley.

We learned birding at school starting in first grade.   There were several empty lots in our neighborhood across the alley from us before World War II.   In 1942 the City plowed up these lots for Victory Garden use…..The major weed in these lots was called hemp in those day.   No one seemed to care about such matters.   Everyone had a church or synagogue to tend to.

Despite our economic struggles these days,  there is always welfare and fewer families with children by percentage unlike those years when boys my age had two pairs of pants, people were never fat, and food never wasted but often grown somewhere in the backyard during Spring and Summer.

Knowledge about our human past was taught in schools then.   Classical music was allowed to be heard twice a month during public school time when Matilda Heck appeared.   I was already aware of Beethoven stuff even before third grade while at home standing like a soldier at a wall near our front door, looking at a R. Atkinson Fox picture painting  of a lovely  landscape garden hanging on the wall just above my head.

April 9, 2017

Twin City Spring…2017 in Our Northland

Filed under: Bulbs,garden seasons,Ground Covers,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 4:52 pm

It’s been very dry this Spring of our Minnesota northland.   It also has been warmer than usual, thank God!   Yes, Winter in Gopherland….which  should be called Rabbitland,  was colder and longer when I was four years old back in 1938, the first year  I discovered “garden”.

Minnesotans, at least we urban ones, had tons of close  friends and relatives who had to be visited including many owning a family farm.  I loved visiting family and friends from the very beginning.  It was a helluva lot better than watching television folks!   People especially cared  for  family, regardless how large.  No life insurance.   Death was not uncommon.    Cancer had taken two grandparents before I was born.   By 1947  an aunt, an uncle,   the two remaining grandparents, and a cousin, who died from leukemia also were gone.

We lived in the city.   Everyone we knew among family, friends, and neighbors  were Godfearing,  preferring to follow the JudeoChristian rules of goodness over marijuana, amass knowledge over  feelings, be civil rather than savage.   We knew our neighbors, about sixty or more, very, very well.

We Americans, in those days, were expected to grow up!   We were outdoor people….and lived rather closely together.   Our city lots were 45′ by 100′, which included  a single car garage in the back yard.

Everyone, every grounds had a flower garden and a vegetable garden….Apple and plum trees were extra, and we kids were known to have stolen a number of units during season.  No noises came  from motorized tools in those days.   Lawn mowers were borrowed from time to time when emergency called.   Knowing about 20  neighbors’ telephone numbers by heart was about average then until television arrived about 1947.

Raising a lovely city gardened yard was a sign folks who lived in the neighborhood were civilized and learned.   A well maintained  lawn and properly pruned spreading conifers along the front foundation of the house were proof neat neighbors lived there.  The neighborhood was clean, well manicured, and in Spring, always displayed tulips, narcissus, hyacinths, crocus, and scilla  in the side or backyard garden, if only sometimes to coax the eye away from the vegetable garden if not perfectly manicured.

Because of that past, today I still  live in paradise, but it’s a lonely place  these days.   No one seems to be aware of their nearby outdoors, here where I live and, in general throughout the metropolitan area….and generally the grounds show it.

We are having an early Spring season this 2017 year.  Last year there was a 4″ snow fall this week which slowed Spring life up for nearly a month.  The spring bulbs came and went within a week.

Already scilla, snowdrops, puschkinia, crocus, chionodoxa have opened  up for display on my grounds.  Narcissus, that is, daffodils are already displaying foliage.  They’ll begin flowering in a week.

If the weather stays cool, most of these bulbs will remain in bloom for a couple of weeks.  Remember the rabbits.   They love crocus and tulips, don’t seem to know what Puschkinia, Chionodoxa and Snowdrops are…..and hate Narcissus.

It’s the heat of the location of planting that dictates the length of bloom in general.

Bulbs aren’t the only easy to oblige Spring plants in our area.   I have hundreds of Bloodroot and Virginia Bluebells now greening up for bloom next week or so, depending on the heat of the days.

But I have never planted Bloodroot or Virginia Bluebells  on my grounds.  I am presuming  birds did.   Since most of my acre grounds is lawnless,  I now have hundreds of clumps of both….I toss these Bluebells when they invade beyond their spaces.  If they are kept hugging each other, their spring blue is truly exceptional….with no worry at all.   By early June your Bluebells will disappear from life for another year.    Last year Bloodroot was in bloom about three days in May….for it was a warm Spring and rather late.   Yesterday, I saw a clump of it in full bloom on the South side of my garage….a first, for it must have seeded itself  over the past year.  You will not find a wildflower as neat as Bloodroot.   I let it grow where ever it wants to live…..usually in some shade and often understory to  large wide spreading shrubs.

Notes:   Nearly any flowering perennial, woody or not, marked as shade-loving here in Gopherland can survive beautifully in full morning Sun.  It’s the rising  heat of the afternoon hours that usually causes trouble

The bulbs mentioned above  lose their foliage by mid-June.     They appear for sale on the market around Labor Day here in Minnesota for Fall planting.

 

April 7, 2017

Today’s “Garden” Conditions AD 2017 and the Landscaped Garden

Most folks who own ‘grounds’ are not landscape garden gardeners.  Especially these days of cultures of different drives and habits.

Beauty has disappeared from today’s American cultural experience and has been absent for more than two generations.   Yes, this is a matter of opinion, but most of you readers and “non-readers” aren’t old enough to remember the late 1930s through the 1950s when Americans of the Great Depression became dedicated to win a World war they had to win and became prosperous for doing so.

For peace and quiet for the living who remain honest citizens, there still is ‘the garden’….in particular the landscaped garden where human fingers instead of the mind are dirtied, where knowledge and experience  are  required and amassed to avoid failure,  boredom, and the malcontent.

Beautiful landscape gardens are for the eye, what beautiful music is for the ear….but who knows Beethoven, Handel, or Verdi anymore?

Nearly all  gardens, if they exist at all,  are flower gardens, that kind of garden in which colorful flowers are grown, but these are not  landscaped gardens.   There could be shrub gardens, tree gardens which might or might not be accurately deemed landscaped gardens….for they might be merely plant material on display with no spiritual activity obvious in its arrangement.

In the ideal, a landscape garden is a space, a  “room”, or series of “rooms” where upon entering  one exits  the world “outdoors”.    One becomes  captivated by the Garden of Eden  almost immediately becoming detached from any  worries of the day.

Warning:   Discovering beauty in  the  world of the  landscape garden may become habit forming……driving the victim to become inspired to own one, or even driven enough to learn how to create and/or maintain one…..or call us  at Masterpiece Landscaping Ltd  at 952-933-5777  to structure one for you to fit your grounds.

In the meantime, do remember that most  beautiful landscape gardened grounds are established by positioning  large plant forms first as structure, as if you are entering a special room.   Shrubs, trees, and the larger of whatever non-woody  plants are used for beauty whether for color, texture,  or form….. or whatever materials  your (or OUR MASTERPIECE  soul, eye,  and knowledge command, are to be planted first before the smaller floral or woody plant material……..Why?

……because Beautiful Landscaped Gardens are created,  for the eye…… as Beethoven’s masterpieces, were created for  the ear in order to reach the human  brain which inspires  the  twist and  conquer of creating beauty .

For the accomplished landscape garden creator, it is the eye which must be ‘touched’,  trained,  skilled,  manipulated to position  plants for their form, size, color, texture, fragrance, seasons of performance, contrasts, length of life,  to capture and  inspire the minds and souls of all those so fortunate to visit such paradises….

In nearly ever culture known to mankind, eternal paradise is not a flower bed, not a swath of lawn, nor a National Anthem,  but an EDEN, a  LANDSCAPED GARDEN arrangement of plants causing a dream of  INSPIRATION AND PERFECTION OF LIFE EVEN AFTER DEATH’……

Do enjoy your day.   It’s been very, very dry thus far  this Spring.   I have to retire to my  Paradise on Earth now  to nurture  its plantings with  some precious water, the source of life on Earth,  to encourage them to become happier earlier to extend   their beauty of  life  longer  to inspire all  who enter the landscape garden’s realm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 3, 2017

My first “employment” in The Garden

Filed under: About Masterpiece,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 5:03 pm

I am Glenn Ray, the old timer of Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd.   It was 75 years ago this very May, I began my first venture in ‘managing’ a gardened piece of land.  It was the Spring following Pearl Harbor.  Our America was at World War.   I lived in a very modest, but newer part of St. Paul, Minnesota at that time, a neighborhood where there were a number of empty lots, all sized at about 50′ by 100′ feet per lot.   There were three directly across the alley from our house.

As a part of the War effort, my Dad, too old to sign up or be drafted, joined the Victory Garden movement.   The city would plow empty lots larger than 40′ x 40′ free if any homeowner would take responsibility, care and cost, for developing a vegetable garden and share half of the produce with the neighborhood.  My father, a pharmacist and former North Dakota farmer agreed.  After plowing, my parents and I raked and ‘seeded’ peas, pole beans, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, raised corn and tomatoes and the like.

That was the last time this trio met “to work” in this Victory Garden.  Due to lack of labor my Dad had to work overtime; my Mother developed an allergy to bees.

I was given charge….in general as a punishment for some or another chore I had failed to perform.   I loved the place from the very beginning.   No adults around……..free, free at last to play and pretend….where I could dive bomb weeds, beetles, and worms as another part of the War effort.   When hoeing I could use my weapon to ‘shoot’   enemy Zeros, that is, crows or robins.  That garden was the best place I’ve ever been to play, in or out of ‘punishment’…..all four years of it.

I alone was the harvester.  I picked the ears of corn, tomatoes, radishes, green beans, and kholrabi, cut the leaf lettuce, ate the peas right out of the pods.  I planted the seeds and picked off the Colorado potato beetles and squeezed the aphids.

I became profoundly respected for my achievements…yet, even sent there as punishment from time to time.  I was smart enough to keep my paradise a secret, so I practiced pouting…. (“Oh, not again!”).  Such duplicity was never discovered, for I would have been otherwise punished for being ‘deceptive’.

I was first introduced to the art of landscape gardening by “R. Atkinson Fox” that year, the same year I was made hands on  in charge of ‘nursing’ our family Victory Garden as part of the War effort, May, 1942 in the empty lots across the alley from where we lived on Eleanor Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I met “R. Atkinson Fox”  a few months earlier that year……a signature to a pretty painted picture of trees, shrubs, and flowers,  hanging on the wall opposite the  front entry way to  our house……  Where and when that part of the Winter at that place in the house my mom introduced me to her  style of punishment for me so she could listen to her beautiful classical music hours on radio without me asking questions or otherwise interrupting her Heaven.   She was especially fond of Beethoven and Johann Strauss, Jr.   She didn’t want anything noisy around, she warned….while she was listening to beautiful things.

When I goofed or forgot the rules, I had to stand at that wall silent for an hour every time, looking at beautiful things in the Fox painting of a landscape garden.

Outdoors, I began learning to play ‘making scenery’ in the next door neighbor’s roomy sand box, the only box on the block.   I chewed off countless twigs of a conifer near the sand box for my trees… an Arborvitae.  Unaware, this was the beginning of my future career and Our Company.

Following me in the company are two co-owners, my son, Christian Ray,  and Joshua Perlich, who began landscaping at Masterpiece when he was 16….both are not only well trained in the world of landscape gardening, they are gifted artists as well.

Landscape gardening is supposed to be an art form….actually the one most cherished of human history.

In nearly every culture of human history, Paradise is perceived as a Perfect Landscape Garden.

 

March 20, 2017

The Rabbit Problem

Filed under: Bulbs,garden seasons,Pruning,shrubs and trees — glenn @ 10:21 pm

I have made myself wander through our gardened grounds here in Minnetonka where I have lived since January 1, 1974.   Walking through and cleaning up the grounds isn’t as easy as it used to be.  I had knee replacement surgery on my right leg late last November.   That plus my elderly condition in general has delayed service in my keeping the grounds beautiful…..

……especially when I wasn’t around to keep deer and rabbits “in their place”.  They must have thought I went somewhere South for the winter instead of being crippled indoors.

Most of you home owners cover your grounds almost entirely with grass.   My gardened grounds has to be a bit more than a half acre upon which I have only a five minute mowing patch of  lawn…..all of it quite mediocre.

I did apply Milorganite as recommended in our previous article this past February.  Most of the damage had already been done.

Rabbits love arborvitae, at least those which have foliage reaching the ground.  Yet, not all arborvitae are equally pleasing to these pesty rodents.  Those shrubby with yellowish foliage seem to be breakfast, lunch, and Sunday dinner unless protection is provided.   Don’t worry about  the tree forms once they have reached adolescence….about ten feet tall…..There after the bark is too ‘barky’ for rabbit food.   In a few years after adolescence, however, when the arborvitae tree bark is about a foot or  more in diameter at your waistline, you can expect male deer activity in October and November to shred it into ribbons with its antlers while hunting down some doe to do their nature together.

Fortunately only females jumped my fencing during my recovery……some eatings, lots of poop dropped, but no scars on any of my countless trees from antlers.

This is the best time for pruning the lower branches made nude of foliage by rabbits.  All you have to do is observe the ugly damage usually below  the first foot or three above the ground, depending upon the  snow  depth of the past winter.   Use a professional felco hand sheers for smaller woody cuts or a quality Japanese hand saw, but not the low quality stuff you usually see being sold at your local monster store.   Use your eye as your art scope ready to make your eaten shrub beautiful….not necessarily for the moment, but for its future.

Remember, the conifers Pine, Spruce, and Fir are not pruned as if they are arborvitae, chamaecyparis,   juniper or yew.   Pine, Spruce, and Fir develop candle-like foliage clusters rather than a mass of  new foliage of greenery, foliage which can easily be sheered if needed.

If you  want  to artistically , or need  to prune back any of these new  Spring-developing Pine, Spruce, or Fir candles, prune back only the fresh candles, but never previous years’  candles.   Remember that the previous year’s  foliage is not able to produce new buds on the old wood of  these particular  shrubs or trees.

Note:  My  snow drops opened bloom last Saturday.   The rabbits have probably destroyed nearly all of my Crocus…but the Chionodoxa and Narcissus will begin blooming in April.

Do not forget, all Narcissus produce a chemical which makes them uneatable for the animal world.

February 3, 2017

The Beauty of the Fragrance of Human Manure In the Landscape Garden

Winter is rarely  a kind season for most of our landscape gardens and their gardeners  here in Minnesota.   Winds,  killer  evening temperatures,  crushing snow layers, sunburns on bark, deer, dogs,  and then there are the rabbits.

Sixty years of rumor have told me   rabbits are hit with a vicious virus or two about every seven years which wipes out the vast majority of a settled rabbit population…,.I used to believe the rumor….until reviewing the last five to seven years of rabbits running around winter in my gardened grounds.

Last year rabbits caused more  damage in my grounds  and others our Masterpiece Landscaping company  has created,  was the worst in a decade or more.   Arborvitae shrubs chewed to pieces to the one foot high mark….some  chewings even  higher where plant foliage and snowdrifts meet.  Many of my plants’  rabbits came from neighbors’ habitats and nearby woods.   I laid out some wire fencing in areas where my  most valuable cherished plants are located.   Some young woodies disappeared entirely into rabbit poop over a single night.

There is a “friend” available at most garden centers and hardware stores you might want to meet for assistance in reducing your landscaped grounds rabbit population….It’s usually  sold in about a 25 pound bag….with the name MILORGANITE  printed on it.

Again…MILORGANITE…and it has been around these northern areas for decades, and available in eastern Wisconsin for many, many decades more.   Milwaukee is where these bags originated.  One can tell by its name…”Milwaukee organic matter”…and it used to be  found very close to home in the old days.  It may still be ‘organized’ exclusively in Milwaukee, for  the organic matter it sells originates from Milwaukee area human poop…..aged to perfection, of course!

If your garden plants have been  pestered by rabbits this  winter,  you might want to try  Milorganite  for temporary rabbit control.   It consists of countless  tiny pellets of human organic waste and is sold as a slow release garden fertilizer.   But, this fertilizer  carries an odor, which of course, doesn’t bother any plants at all…..nor does it bother Mr. or Mrs. Gardeners.   It seems to bother rabbits of all shapes and sizes for a while.

It can be spread broadly around the garden area or around any  plants at any time for normal garden soil and plant enrichment.

Before snowfall, rabbits usually have an endless supply of herbs to eat up.   After snowfall most of that rabbit food becomes unavailable forcing a change in the bunny diet….conifer foliage and bark…..young deciduous tree and shrub bark now appear on top of  the rabbit diet.

So, whenever you are in the mood to fertilize your  trees and shrubs after snowfall, you might want to think of human manure from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.    I usually wait until after the first major snowfall before I apply this unusual fertilizer.    Whatever power Milorganite has over rabbits, it weakens when its pellets are  lying under every major snowfall, so  keep that in mind.

Spread it by hand in  glove.   Throw handfuls of this “aromatic” fertilizer around the crowns of   shrubs and young tree trunks, bunnies usually  nest or chew on.   Rose shrubs, those beautiful new hybrids available to northern gardeners these days, are usually breakfast, lunch, and supper desserts  to rabbits of all ages.  Winged Euonymus bark near soil level can be ravaged by a bunny or two in a week.  Canadian plum trees of all varieties when  can be chewed to pieces by deer or rabbits  in winter or anytime if there is no protection such as tree wrap around the structural stems.

Don’t be wussy about the amount of Milwaukee manure you throw around the trunks of your susceptible cherished plants.   Toss  to ten or even  more handfuls, around each trunk  of the susceptible plants you cherish more than your  rabbits do…..ideally, each time after a heavy snowfall.   Good Luck.

Be sure to call us at Masterpiece Landscaping at 952-933-5777 when you need help creating and maintaining beauty on your home or business grounds.

 

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