Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

October 30, 2011

Not all Minnesota Autumns are Equal

I spent  much of this gray  day involved in my own landscape garden.   I am loathe to call it work, for once I enter the space, I am too lost in its aura, too mesmerized  to feel any labor.    I become occupied and governed in deeds   the space has captured  me to do.

Not all autumns are equal.   In my space this October has been one of the most beautiful ever.   Traditionally in the Twin City area, the first two weeks in October will rival or surpass any two weeks in Spring for sheer beauty from color…..

In my garden world  the sugar and red maples and Ohio buckeye, the younger red and white oaks, typically  turn red or orange before October 15.    Their  leaves are gone by now,  opening forms they once hid in Nature’s shade and  mass of summer green.  The smaller notes of the garden composition, the ground covers, annuals and herbaceous  perennials flowered well  and long into the month.  Some garden phlox, lamiums,  hotlips turtlehead, goldsturm rudbeckia, fireworks solidago, the stonecrop Autumn Fire, and Johnson’s blue geranium  are still hanging on with spots of bloom, but more as highlights of color rather than sweeps.  The Ginkgo remains bright green until a heavy frost.  The next day the foliage is yellow…and the next,  it  all  drops.  

As brilliant and shocking as the color was this early October, today was ever bit its equal competitor. 

The color was made much softer from the grayness of the day, but their splashes are  far more noticeable and wide spread.     That which covers much at ground level, with the exception of the evergreen conifers,  is no longer green as earlier in the month.   Most of the  hostas, many of which are huge, explode with yellow and appear by the  scores throughout at ground level.

The most spectacular color for the past week and one or two more is the soft smoky pinkish-cinnamon, red-orange yellow leafed barberry, eight by eight feet in size, standing large  behind a dwarf turquoise  foliaged Scots pine both rising above the yellow hostas and the green pachysandra, gray green lamiums, darker green vinca, and almost black-green fall display of one of my favorite plants in the landscape garden, bronzeleaf ajuga.  These ground  covers are ‘rugs’ in the landscape garden, some to be walked on, but these listed  are to be appreciated  for their color and frangrances and color of bloom, if so endowed.  

The groundcovers mentioned are at their very best displayed  when they become relatively large rugs opening the negative spaces needed to appreciate their  forms and color contrasts with their neighbors more precisely.  

In the ideal landscape garden the eye must be controlled if captivating the visitor is to become as complete as possible.   It is your artistic goal to cause anyone who enters this sacred space of Earth, which you are learning to form, to forget from whence they came…..

Most often the person escaping will be you, its artist, and its most frequent visitor.    Beginners should realize that the more often you enter your space, there likely will come a point of no return when you become lost to your  landscape garden’s  spell.  

Losing ones self in the grounds  comes easy for a lot of guys who mow lawns.   Many love what they do, and know exactly what I am conveying in this article.  And they don’t have to know very much as long as the mower is operating properly.  

Learning the ‘rules’ of the landscape garden can be complicated for a period of time.   Except for the names of the plants, there is no new vocabulary necessary to learn.    You know the words….such as space, height, size, shape, color, rhythm, shade, texture, and so on.

Most of today’s October maroons in my landscape garden are maroon all garden season.   Velvet Cloak smokebush, Black Beauty Elderberry, Rosy  Glow barberry, Helmond Pillar barberry,  Concord barberry, Centerglow Ninebark all of which can be seen better with absence of foliage from the major shade  trees.   Northern Hilites and Dwarf Korean azaleas are in  their maroon foliage in my garden  today as well.   The  Crimson Spire Oak grown in full sun,  is on fire with scarlets, reds and oranges. The one in a fair amount of shade is still green.

Green is a an essential  color in the autumn landscape garden display.  There are so many varieties of green……as you know it is the king and queen color of God’s garden……for we  couldn’t live without  its chlorophyl.  

What is the longest landscape season in Minnesota?    When I taught classes through the University of Minnesota Extension Service, I almost always opened up the session with that very question.

Typically there were no snappy responses.from the students….perhaps thinking it a trick question.  And, indeed it was.    They couldn’t answer because they never thought of winter as a landscape season.

Shocked!  They were shocked when they learned that the landscape season, winter, is equal to all other landscape seasons….fall, spring, and summer…..combined in our  Twin City area.

My next question followed thusly:   If winter is the longest landscape season in our Minnesota year, what are the most vital trees for Minnesota’s landscape beauty?

Silence…..until, typically someone shouted out “pines”!

Well, not exactly, but I  knew that  ‘pine’  among Minnesota home owners means …..”pine,  plus  spruce, hemlock, yew, juniper, arborvitae, fir, microbiota, and chamaecyparis”,,,,,, in other words, the northern  evergreen conifers.

Normally, sometime  in mid October these magnificent evergreens, their  large shrubs to medium sized trees to the giants, Norway Spruce,  Colorado Spruce, Scots and White Pine rise from the summer’s green to dominate our grounds for six months until mid May when in a week or so the lace of  deciduous green begins to cover most of our gardened state in cycle once again.

The conifer ground covers and spreaders and small  shrubs   add greens of all shades;  gray green, dark green, lime green,  turquoise, and chartreuse.  Some turn plum color for the winter, yet others such as the ‘Red Cedar’ juniper and microbiota, brown. 

Most evergreen conifers darken as they enter winter.  Yet, I have a Chamaecyparis tree which remains yellow all winter,  while  other same chamaecyparis turn  chartreuse.   Shade, soil, genetics,  the regularity of moisture, one, all, or none of the mentioned , probably  have some bearing on color control from season to season.

If you are a Minnesota homeowner and your house has some space available for plantings, please do consider a landscape garden as an art form for your enjoyment.   Give us a call Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd….952 933 5777  if you are interested in joining a tour of landscaped gardens in the Twin City area……..spring, summer, fall,  and the big daddy of them all in these parts, WINTER.

October 6, 2011

Inviting Birds to Your MN Landcape Garden in October

Filed under: garden seasons,perennials,shrubs and trees,Uncategorized — glenn @ 8:49 pm

I was a ‘birder’ by age 12.   I discovered their populations during my morning paper route which included homes  at the end of my route, near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Cliffs…stone abutments….huge boulders,  woods, slopes, and torrents of water moving southward, noisily and threateningly.  It was exciting to climb and sit and observe.

What more could a paper boy  want   having delivered his papers by  5:30 in the morning with nothing around him but birds and fox, trees, woods,  and an angry river….at least in the Spring?

I explored.    I learned some trees had different looks  besides ‘elm’.    They differed in their leaf patterns, shapes and sizes.  I had to know their names…they had to have names…..and so, went to the Groveland Park Library to find out.

The name,  Aralia spinosissima. sometimes named Aralia spinosa, wasn’t listed there.   It arrived at the grounds where I now live about 35 years ago when I was in my 40s….and I had never heard of it until then.

I did study Latin in high school…..I chose the class without advice or pressure.   I lucked out.  Fewer learnings have taught me a greater collection of understanding in my lifetime…..in history, the world of plants, Bible studies….and my understandings of  America, its language,  and the western world.

I shall tell the story of Aralia spinosissima’s arrival to my property in 1976 or so in another report.

Its name tells us that it is an Aralia…..that it is related closely in its ‘being’ with these relatives, the Aralias….all of whom  have similar  genetic makeup ….such as Aralia racemosa, Minnesota’s native ‘spikenard’.     But this Aralia is not racemosa, an herbaceous perennial, but is a ‘spinosissima’, a spiny woody perennial.

Its name  in Latin means the most spiny spiny thing ever.

Aralia spinosissima  (or Aralia spinosa) is well named.    Even its  leaves, double compound and  three feet long, are spiny.

In my own grounds where it had set root, totally unbeknownst to me, and had grown among some French lilacs, its trunk was so spiny it shredded the skin off of my right arm when I reached passed it to weed where  it  touched  me as I pulled my arm away from the task.  I had assumed it was just another lilac trunk…..but where did it get its thorns?  I asked myself  staring at the bleeding.

Aralia spinosissima blooms in early September, late August at my grounds.   It grows  in full sun and,  since its dramatic entrance to my world of plants, has spread to about six trunks which have reached fifteen feet in height….about its maximum size.  It’s not a plant for limited spaces.

I have a landscape gardened grounds….about a half acre in all,  with hundreds of varieties of plant material.   The birds collect here in vast numbers starting late August  lasting throughout much of October.  These birds are busy preparing for their southward flights.

No plants on my grounds cause more frenzy among birds  than my Aralia spinosissimas.   They swarm their meals  as  if blood were spilled  into a pond of pirranha, particularly over an hour or two after dawn.

The original bloom is a collection of  dusty white  florets in a hoop resembling a queen’s tiara, and held high at the top of its taller branches.  As it ages going into September, it become slightly pink, and then decidedly pink.   As the fruit develops at each floret, the color darkens to dark pink eventually reaching a lovely maroon…..when it announces it is ripe for the taking.

The uneaten fruit darkens to a dark wine/purple color when it drops for rodents to finish the feast.

The foliage, resembling Green Ash from a distance, turns a bright yellow as the fruit darkens.

It is one of my favorite plants.   I can examine its floral show up close when looking out my second story windows.  I wish I could give you an accurate account of the birds who visit.   My eyes are too old to manage.   In later October there will be a weekend visit of Cedar Waxwings…..en masse, which will attack the Aralias, get drunk, and wobble for a day or two and then they flock southward.

Robins do the same….and I do know that many of our native sparrows monkey around when the fruit is ripe, but they are small and the markings are less telltale.

Aralia spinosissima is a rare breed for common gossip.  But one must allow it space.

Warning to Twin City Homeowners: Water your grounds well this fall

Since our monsoons of early summer, there has been a drought in the general Twin City area.   For well established plants there generally shouldn’t be much concern….as yet.   For newly planted woody plants and perennials regular watering……that is reliable water availability is essential for survival.

A prolonged period of drought has about the same effect on woody plants regardless of soil type.   Plants will wilt and die  sooner in sandy soils.   They also recover sooner, assuming there is enough life stored in the plants for  recover.

Water newer plants placed in sandy soils daily for ten or fifteen minutes during extended dry periods.   Don’t include a few drops of rain in the middle of the night or afternoon.   They hardly matter.  

For heavy clay soils water regularly….to prevent drought….once every three or four days for twenty minutes……using a gentle sprinkle.    If the soil had already caked and cracked, apply a light sprinkle for ten minutes twice a day until the soil again become maleable.

More important….don’t allow your landscaped grounds to enter the world of water deprivation.   Not too many people I know enjoy standing at each plant for ten minutes hand watering their flocks.  Especially if the plants number in the hundreds…..or thousands.

Nothing made my home grounds more attractive, alive and lush than when my irrigation system was intstalled.   (Note….I lucked out regarding the soil which anchors and nourishes this lushness.  It is the best loam ever……I bought my home property totally unaware of this blessing, 37 years ago.)

If you have not been watering your landscape grounds regularly…..Start NOW.   

If you want to be relieved of the ‘pain’ of watering or the angst of remembering when to water, give us a call at 952-933-5777.     We have the best landscape garden installer and fixer available.   He, too, is an artist.   I wouldn’t have any other grounds irrigation ‘guru’ touch my own landscape garden…..but I’ll share him with you.  Give us a call.   An irrigation system for your home grounds isn’t very expensive……especially if you cannot keep your home grounds plants alive.

MOST PLANT DEATHS IN THE HOME GROUNDS ARE CAUSE BY DROUGHT…….that is the lack of reliable watering.

Heat of temperature does make a difference…..As you’d expect, high temperatures  increase stress on all garden plants…..including on you, their caretaker.