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.

2 Comments »

  1. You’ve really captured all the essentials in this seubcjt area, haven’t you?

    Comment by Xexilia — December 8, 2011 @ 5:29 am

  2. Frankly I think that’s abslouetly good stuff.

    Comment by Mildred — December 9, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

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