Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

February 27, 2012

A Snowstorm, the Heavy kind, Expected. Should Landscape Gardeners be Worried?

Snowfalls are great for Landscape Companies in cold climes like Minnesota who have a snowplowing business in Winter.    We,  at Masterpiece are one of them.

Winter is a good time for certain kinds  of pruning, but most  gardens in these parts are in deep sleep this time of year.    Thank God for plowing driveways.

I have just spent a couple hours prowling through my own gardened grounds to do some pruning and  prepare some conifers for a ten inch snowfall forecasted by the local weather people this morning.  The deluge is expected to begin tomorrow in the early afternoon.

It will be the wet stuff….which might cause  probems with some evergreens, especially if the snowfall exceed four inches.   Last week’s four-inch drop was very wet.   And so with another snowstorm, a heavier one scheduled to be  on its way,  I went out  onto  my grounds to prepare for the return of winter.

Some conifers are more troubled by heavy wet snow than others, even some within the same species…..arborvitaes (Thuja), for example.    Rheingold, Bowling Ball, born to become  floppy if needed, usually collapse out of sight  under the weight of snow.   Even my 7 foot Siberian  Arborvitae and a couple of teenage deGroot’s  gradually  disappeared from view  in the 12 hour 30 inch snowfall on November 13, 2010 at my home.

I highly recommend homeowners don’t depend on such good fortune.   Not all wet snowfalls are the same.     Many of my gardens’ conifers still were covered with heavy blobs of  small boulder sized crusty and icy  snow clumps from last week’s dump.   I brushed them off from the arborvitaes and upright junipers, all of the chamaecyparis,  and a few spruce.    Hemlocks, pines, and yews   don’t seem to be bother much by heavy snowfalls.   Colorado  Spruce foliage and branchings are very strong and stiff.    Even with the 32 inches of snow that hit my property that November didn’t phase the Blue Spruce I have.    But, to be safe, I brushed off the snow blobs on them as well.

Pruning this time of year should be wisely limited to only a few plants.   Experience is always a good teacher regarding what the landscaper can get by with successfully.  

One notices visual artistic errors better in Winter.   Abundance of foliage hides such scars the rest of the year.    Cross branchings, ugly branches, plants with ugly forms, weedy woodies,  unexpected woodies, failing woodies are better seen in Winter.   One can view the unpleasantness more clearly and more often through windows as well as along walkways.

The winter landscape garden, all six months of it each year,   should be as beautiful as any garden any other time of the year.

If it isn’t, be sure to call us at Masterpiece to create a beautiful  winter garden or setting for you this Spring or Summer.  Call us at 952-933-5777.

February 26, 2012

When is a Weed a Weed?

When is a weed a weed.   When it is a dandelion?

Well, maybe….usually yes, because dandelions makes a lovely lawn appear ugly, expecially when the seeds are produced.   Because the seeds are produced in such numbers, dandelions become a more noticeable weed.

In our Masterpiece Landscaping dictionary,  a weed is defined as “a plant out of place”.

Our Masterpiece Landscape garden where I live doesn’t have much  lawn.    If there are dandelions,  they occur occasionally in the landscape garden  appearing as a natural wildflower and so is hardly noticed.     If I don’t want a natural looking yellow flowered dandelion where it is located, it becomes a weed, so I cull it.

Goldsturm rudbeckia and gigas seed readily where there is no lawn.   Sometimes they seed themselves in places which make you become a landscape genius.   Last garden season I let gigas run wild in my front garden.   This season they will be controlle,  I want to show off  Rheingold and Sunkist Arborvitaes, Gentsch Hemlock and  Andorra Juniper this year giving them all a cleaner, neater look by opening up more ‘negative’ space.

I grow gooseneck lysimachia in the front grounds.    This perennial is a serious spreader…..well, almost anything  Lysimachia is.    It becomes ‘a weed’, or weedy the week before  your eye notices  it’s attacking neighboring plants including the woody ones.     It does very well in shade or sun.

Most major weeds in my or any landscape garden are  tree seedling;  elm, silver maple, norway maple, box elder, sugar maple, red oak, white oak, burr oak, buckthorn, mulberry, crab apple,  and red bud among others.    These are major weeds.   If I weren’t around to groom the garden, that is to cull them by hoeing or kicking them out with my foot when they are only about an inch high.   If you are too late youtll then  have to  have to get them out by hand or shovel, both tedious to do.

I am constantly prowling around the garden grounds to see or sense what is out of place.   Ones eye must be trained to inform the mind.   

The disorderly is best seen in Winter.    Deciduous foliage isn’t in the way.   Scars, ‘weeds,’  and ugliness are.    Again, a week meaning a plant out of place.

Such a plant could be a sickly 35 foot blue spruce tree that is now 90% dead when last winter it was ony 75% dead.    How much more dying will this ugliness have to be before it is a plant out of place?

Whatever is ugly is likely to be  a weed unless there is some other reason for its existence on the grounds than creating or supporting beauty,  or controlling where you want the eye or the feel to go.

You must remember that winter is not only the longest landscape season in the year here in the Twin City area, it is equal to ALL OF THE OTHER LANDSCAPE SEASONS TOGETHER.

You should be able to walk your grounds these days with our winter without a January and February and little snow.   If you need help collecting ideas, let us know.

Give us a call at 952-933-5777 for a winter tour of our  landscape garden grounds also.

February 21, 2012


Filed under: The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 2:04 pm

My Mother was into punishment, that is,  for me,  being her only son.  

 She was a driven energetic and creative human being who could give a doll to her only daughter to ensure the girl’s  disappearance from my Mother’s tasks at hand…..which were many, including some not terribly necessary from an outsider’s point of view.  I don’t think she ever experienced a bored thirty seconds in her lifetime even on her death bed.

 I have learned through these,  my last years of   life, that I have been  much like her, except for the punishment bit.   I cannot remember ever  being  bored, and I, too, have handled certain tasks, the necessary and the unnecessary with full speed ahead as if I were a truck plowing snow.

Whether Mother  was  dusting   furniture, vacuuming  the carpet, wall papering, canning, conducting  business on the phone, or working part time at a shop, or performing a thousand other tasks per week,  my own endless energy and curiosity  got in her way.   I had questions to ask, noise to make with my trucks and attack air planes.   I had to know what things were and how they were used.  I was a boy.

My Mother had no time to put up with a likeness of herself and wanted me out of her way……punishment was the answer, whenever needed, for deed or no deed at all.

Hence, I discovered R. Atkinson Fox, the purpose of this post.   And, I really do believe that from this punishment, and the spring and summer  punishment being sent into our  Victory garden during World War II to pick the potato beetles and hoe, weed, harvest, seed, and other duties, led to  one of my primary loves of life…….landscape gardening.

The form of my primary  punishment from age 3 to age 11 or so, was to be sent to a wall, facing that  wall for about an hour, or until mother’s task was accomplished or her mood soothed.

Far above my three year old head I spied a print hanging on the wall of my punishments. Years would come,and  the years would go, both wall and print never changed.   It was a beautiful print, a landscape garden masterpiece  print.    Every year life would make me taller and bring me closer and closer with each punishment to this masterpiece  landscape garden print for a better view.  

When I was ten I discovered a name scrawled across the bottom right hand corner of this  beautiful landscape garden print…..”R. Atkinson Fox”.   ‘It must be the name of the man who painted such  beautiful scenery’, I thought.

When younger, I would cry or whimper at each punishment.    But one gets used to certain patterns in life.   The whimpers were more brief, until, worried that I might be sent somewhere else, I learned to pretend-whimper to make certain Mother  knew I was ‘suffering’.    Also, I learned quickly to complain about picking potato beatles…..dishonestly, I confess.   My favorite place for  punishment was  the Victory Garden.   There, I could explore, and since it was war time, I could dive bomb the beetles.  

I learned to love being around plants whether vegetables or landscape beauties.    I noted in Spring the highest in value among my mother’s tasks was her organizing  the  ten by ten foot  flower bed she’d assemble  each and every year.    This was a different Mother in action, as I viewed her work thirty feet away, safely playing ‘scenery’ in my neighbor’s sandbox.   She was at total peace with herself and others.  So was I watching her from afar, practicing landscape gardening  in my sandbox neighborhoods and making roads for  my Tootsie Toy cars.  

In this setting I was never in her way.   Peace, at last.

I have landscape gardened my entire life……the past twenty five or so years as owner of  Masterpiece Landscape, Ltd.   

We deliver a strange message in our landscaping…..that it,  landscape gardening is  an ART FORM… a matter of fact, the most revered of all art forms in our human history….PARADISE is not a painting, or theater, or a book…..PARADISE has been imagined as  A LANDSCAPE GARDEN.

I have known for decades I have been a very lucky individual, blessed in so many ways.    I was so lucky to have been so often  punished in my Mother’s manner.

One of the benefits of old age, again, if one is lucky, is to be able  to look back and follow the trail of ones memory.   How did I get to this point of my life?

During the winter, a long one in Minnesota as you  experienced people know, I bonded further with this  ’Grand She’ of our household.    At age eight on, I rose to unbelievable heights in Mother’s  esteem for me.    She had a profound weakness from her own course of duties, needed and unneeded, in life…..conquering jigsaw puzzles……the larger number of pieces, the greater the victory.   Neither my dad nor my sister were interested in sitting at the card table in the living room  figuring out where the 1,000 pieces or more  would fit to make a picture……and not just any old picture.

Television didn’t arrive at our house until my freshman year in high school

Every single jigsaw puzzle ever placed on that card table had to become a picture of a beautiful garden setting.   No other pictures could send Mother full speed ahead toward puzzle completion, nor completion of  any other Mother tasks, the needed or unneeded.    When the livingroom walls were painted, the jigsaw puzzle laden card table was placed in the middle of the room, no matter what the consequence.  

No threats were made, but all three of the rest of us  in the family knew her jigsaw puzzle  table was sacred.   God help one and all if it were ever disturbed…….and it never was.   Actually, she painted or wall papered all the faster, so she could take a rest at that very table to set more puzzle  pieces.   “Glenn, get over here and help your Mother!”   I gladly obliged and sensed  that  any mistake, real or unreal that  I had ever made in life was purged from her memory.

Mother was an accomplished jigsaw puzzle solver.   Naturally being a male, I wanted to beat her.   We never said anything about this sweat, but I had a quicker, keener, younger  eye.   She never had a chance, but never complained.  We seldom got tired ‘picture puzzling’.  We bonded  tightly.

By the time I was nine, because of the frequency of Mother  punishments, I became King of the Victory Garden.   Frankly, no one else  ever went there after spring cultivation and seeding.   I made daily visits, some forced, some voluntary.   It was a good place for us boys  to play guns where we could shoot Nazis hiding among the corn stalks.    No one knew more about this vast area of vegetable production than I, regardless of age.    I knew when the green tomatoes were big enough for frying and red enough for table and producing enough for canning.     I was  the only one who did the harvesting, when the cucumbers were big enough for pickling and the big cucumbers good  enough for canning chunk pickles. 

“The only thing I don’t like about gardens,” my Mother would complain, “it’s the bees”.   If stung, her  wound really did swell up… I was sent to the fields instead.   It was okay if I got stung, but I never did in that sanctuary.

We, rather I,  grew our spring potatoes on ‘hills’ for easier and more productive  harvesting.  My  Mother’s German father  recommended  this.    Hunting for the appropriate potatoes, those of the proper size was like hunting for treasure for a boy of 8, 9, or ten years.     I had orders to ‘pluck’  the larger ones so we could get the most our of the crop.  

There was an art to plucking potatoes.    One  was to stick one’s strong hand into the soil  and probe until the touch found a good tuber for plucking.   Since the edible part of the potato is this  swollen stem and not a root, the harvest could  be somewhat extended by allowing more ‘tubers’ to gain larger sizes  in a single  season.   To be German was to be frugal.

The problem here was one couldn’t see what one’s hand was touching  underneath the soil.    There is a downside to this frugal harvesting of  spring potatoes.   The hand may send a message regarding  the right size for picking, but the hand doesn’t anounce the health of the underground potato.

Have you ever smelled a rotten potato?   How about ones you’ve squished in your hand while probing underground for the harvest?

Well, even at ones young age, one does survive  squishing rotten potatoes, but one never forgets the smell.   Besides, I was never allowed to complain, and early on had learned the benefits from not doing so.   

Furthermore underlying it all,  I did know perfectly well, the Garden is where I wanted to be.

Was there ever a R. Atkinson Fox in your past or was I just lucky?

February 18, 2012

The Landscape Garden

Filed under: About Masterpiece,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 6:08 pm

What is a Landscape Garden?

“The garden has long been perceived as the highest, most perfect form of all art creations, the one closest to God and bearing the imagery of paradise itself. Indeed, the timeless quote, “One is closest to God in the garden,” has been the splendid pleasure driving countless generations to transform the land into garden. No matter how pleasurable, how physically and spiritually rewarding working the vegetable garden and nurturing the home orchard may be, however, the paradise of gardening is the creation and maintenance of a landscape garden. This is the garden of art, the garden of soul. A landscape garden is a plot of ground made beautiful by the arrangement and careful cultivation of plants. The art is called landscape gardening and its artist and cultivator a landscape gardener. Landscaping one’s home ground is the means by which most Minnesotans become acquainted with at least the fringes of the art of landscape gardening. When they dream of home it is a house in a setting, a setting of lovely trees and shrubs civilized with a carpet of lawn and an arrangement of beautiful flowers.

Landscape gardening is primarily a visual art form. Its beauty is first to be seen, but its purpose is to stimulate thought, to cause to dream, to effect memory, to inspire. The landscape garden is classically to be a place of quiet where the visitor, upon entering, finds a closer communion with the thoughts and feelings of all who have ever gardened this Earth than with the time and troubles of the day.

Although picturesque, the landscape garden is not a painting, it is a performance. Its artist is not a painter but a choreographer arranging not fixed colors and forms on a canvas, but directing exits and entrances of living members of Earth’s realm, plants bearing color and form, lines and textures which, especially in our northland, are constantly changing. Yesterday’s garden as yesterday’s ballet will never again be performed. Yet the skilled landscaper garden artist, by tailoring shrubs and trees to a particular style or by using annual flowers for sweeps of color, can slow change in the garden to give the impression of permanence.

The landscape garden is to be entered, as one enters a cathedral or library. In English literature one “retires” to or “withdraws” into the library, presumably to consult or escape with some thought, some dream, some memory, some inspiration in print. To aid withdrawal there must be border. The gardened place must be defined so the eye and mind cannot wander; so thoughts and dreams cannot be interrupted. With no borders the landscape garden is no garden at all, but a field.

The arrangement of plants is to the landscape gardener what the arrangement of chords is to the pianist. Although it is possible for a novice pianist to find a pleasing chord, one chord does not make a composition. Likewise, a novice gardener may plant a pleasing combination of flowers and shrubbery, but a landscape garden this does not make. “Composers” of the successful landscape garden know their plants. They know plants’ shapes and sizes and how these can be tailored to style. They know plant colors and textures and when and how they change. Garden artists know the sun and shadow of the garden and how to introduce or exclude either. They know plant preferences for shade, soil, and moisture. They gain their knowledge primarily from the experience of working with plants, from years of planting and replacing until the right combination suits the eye.

Not only must the successful landscape garden be designed and planted, it must be given time to mature. Gardens, like people, gain character with age. It may take years, decades before a landscape garden performs its best. Trees cannot yet be manufactured. And the garden must be groomed, regularly tended by caring, experienced hands, the hands of an artist, the hands of a worker. And even when all this is done well, what is achieved is an arrangement of living plants each and all subject to Nature’s mood and dictate, to stand or fall as Nature sees fit. A garden as planned is a garden never achieved.”

I wrote the above essay over twenty years ago when I was Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society.   It is also printed in the Home Page here at our website.

A Look at the One Art Form We Humans Are Forced to Experience


                                                     (unless you live in a prison or in New York City.)

I used to run alot during my middle years of life.  

I walk now.    

I found running stimulating and it kept my heart strong and weight down.   In my yesterday,  I could run home 24 miles  to Minnetonka from Anoka, and did.   I left my Chevrolet there at Main Motors for repairs.   Running gave me freedom to run home rather than depending on someone else  to give me a ride.

One can review home landscapes  much easier when walking.  

Most of what one sees is festering  wounds, cancers, scars and organized disorder often surrounding an otherwise lovely house.  Every tenth homestead or less, one passes  by  an exception and slows down to appreciate the pleasant site, the special statement by its homeowner.    People who live at these exceptions take care of where they live.

I cannot help but slow down at such sites……especially while passing a  handful of ‘yards’  in my neighborhood which  Masterpiece Landscaping has been developing.    I am usually very proud of what I see.    We built their outdoor structure, and they are keeping  their ‘home’, their  ‘paradise’.

Landscaping ones home grounds is an investment.   Most homeowners aren’t aware that  this is a fact.

My neighborhood is a community built about 40-50 years ago.    It was designed for families with children….for families generally satisfied with their station in life with family and retirement-living expected to be experienced in the same home.      Most homes are modest in size and appearance.  

It is a very middle middle class part of suburban Minneapolis, but built before the age of ostentation…….that strange decade or three when after raising families,  parents removed themselves to Bear Path, Eden Prairie, Apple Valley and similar locales to these  much larger even estate-like homes built on postage stamp lots once their children left home…….a mausoleum for two people, ma and pa kettle.   There was no room for any paradise garden.

My Minnetonka neighborhood is blessed with smaller, more reasonable sized homes usually owned by parents who raised children in the bedrooms and kitchens where those  children,  when returning to mom and dad for visits in later life can remember the joys and sorrows of growing up by just being there.     There is usually ample room for paradise to grow  around these modest homes.

That is what “Home” used to mean generation after generation.

Unfortunately, few homeowners think about any beauty just outside their doors anymore.   In newer house designs homeowners  don’t even exit  directly outdoors,  but walk  into a  garage or two, climb into a  vehicle of choice and exit directly out unto the city street.   The mind is totally void of any thought of landscape garden beauty.

Generally, however, one can tell the modern from yesteryear’s ideal.    Most yesteryear folks attempt to keep  their own home grounds  more neatly despite any lack of artistic inspiration.

Our neighborhood is not unattractive at first glance.   It is shady in summer from its huge ash, Norway and  silver maple and honey locust trees with a few river birch here and there.   Scars are hidden by leaf cover.   Some of the native oaks were saved from development  and still flourish.  Some lawns are very well kept, even watered. 

 In winter many  of these oaks  are character-filled specimens and excel in  their beauty  when some retain their full head of hair of tan and golden  leaves throughout the otherwise bleak season.

And bleak season it is,  in my Minnetonka area.    Hundreds  of spruce, many of them blue spruce  are still standing where they were  planted by homeowners  40 to 50  years ago.     Nearly all these spruce are skeletons of themselves, ugly and nearly dead from foliar disases, lack of water,  winter troubles, and assorted other  neglect.   Many are dying under twenty five years of  shade from  an enormous green ash or silver maple which zoomed skyward past the height  these conifers could attain.

These horror trees and the honey locusts probably should not have been planted on these grounds in the first place, but they were cheap….$5.00 a shot……The tract developers weren’t skilled  in landscaping anyway.  Money spent to build a house was never supposed to go to the landscape.   

Designers  sat   at desks looking at checkered paper and would make marks where the fastest growing and cheapest  trees would grow.

Sometimes the homeowner ‘designed’ the grounds to keep costs in check.   Because they are more expensive than other woody plants, few developers had any conifers planted except for rinkydink ‘stuff’ as foundation plantings, whether foundation plantings were needed or not, attractive or not, the right size or not.

Almost all of the planted trees, the ugly and the beautiful,  I see as I walk by on my daily  exercise tour have managed their lives totally on their own.  “Fertilizing” and trees are never caught in the same sentence by homeowners  hereabouts.     It is the habit in the community to ignore the out doors until the outdoors causes a problem.    Some guys  have boats parked in their driveways or golf clubs leaning against car fenders.  They plan to go elsewhere to spend their money to seek pleasure.    Investing  money, body and soul on the home grounds  has never entered the mind.

Most don’t walk their streets in Winter.  And the few who do don’t seem to notice the dying  spruce, the mangled, disorderly and diseased crabapples,  the dangers and ugliness  of a 70 foot silver maple hovering  over a one-story rambling or split level house.

One has to go indoors to see a bad play, to an arena to  hear vulgar rap,   or a theater to watch a disgusting movie.   One has to open a book to read whether  modern junk or Shakespeare.   One can refuse to watch television.    Folks need to go out of their way and often spend money to endulge in something called art in some way no matter how bad it all might be except for one art form.

Every day one leaves  home, one will  be exposed to the ‘art’ of landscape gardening with all of its modern disorder and ugliness, whether one wants to or not.

In Minnesota the longest landscape season each year is WINTER.   It is as long as all of the other landscape seasons put together.     Invite yourself outdoors onto your own grounds.   Look around your  inch of Mother Earth.

Is there a French Lilac in your future?      Where would it go?    Why?    Would you take care of it?

None of  the art forms of mankind so uplifts the human eye and soul more than  an  idealized  landscape grounds.    After all, in nearly every human nonpolar culture PARADISE is imagined as a BEAUTIFUL GARDEN!

If  you want any help in any way to  bring more landscape garden beauty to your life where you live or work, please call us at Masterpiece Landscaping Ltd., at 952-933-5777.

February 13, 2012

Wow! A Twin City Winter Without a January and February!

Filed under: battling the Minnesota climate,garden seasons — glenn @ 4:02 pm

There  may be some global warming folks, but it was not caused by mankind and will not be a threat to human existence nor the Earth itself.   

Do you remember that terrifying 8.9 earthquake  last March off northeastern Japan?   Well, it seems it tampered with the length of an Earth day a bit.    Read the following article from


“The massive earthquake that struck northeast Japan Friday (March 11) has shortened the length Earth’s day by a fraction and shifted how the planet’s mass is distributed.

A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth’s spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Gross refined his estimates of the Japan quake’s impact – which previously suggested a 1.6-microsecond shortening of the day – based on new data on how much the fault that triggered the earthquake slipped to redistribute the planet’s mass. A microsecond is a millionth of a second. [Photos: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in Pictures]  

“By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds,” Gross told in an e-mail. More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added.


The scenario is similar to that of a figure skater drawing her arms inward during a spin to turn faster on the ice. The closer the mass shift during an earthquake is to the equator, the more it will speed up the spinning Earth.

One Earth day is about 24 hours, or 86,400 seconds, long. Over the course of a year, its length varies by about one millisecond, or 1,000 microseconds, due to seasonal variations in the planet’s mass distribution such as the seasonal shift of the jet stream.

The initial data suggests Friday’s earthquake moved Japan’s main island about 8 feet, according to Kenneth Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake also shifted Earth’s figure axis by about 6 1/2 inches (17 centimeters), Gross added.

The Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph). The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth’s mass is balanced and the north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

“This shift in the position of the figure axis will cause the Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but will not cause a shift of the Earth’s axis in space – only external forces like the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon, and planets can do that,” Gross said.

This isn’t the first time a massive earthquake has changed the length of Earth’s day. Major temblors have shortened day length in the past.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile last year also sped up the planet’s rotation and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. The 9.1 Sumatra earthquake in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.

And the impact from Japan’s 8.9-magnitude temblor may not be completely over.The weaker aftershocks may contribute tiny changes to day length as well.

The March 11 quake was the largest ever recorded in Japan and is the world’s fifth largest earthquake to strike since 1900, according to the USGS. It struck offshore about 231 miles (373 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo and 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of Sendai, and created a massive tsunami that has devastated Japan’s northeastern coastal areas. At least 20 aftershocks registering a 6.0 magnitude or higher have followed the main temblor.

“In theory, anything that redistributes the Earth’s mass will change the Earth’s rotation,” Gross said. “So in principle the smaller aftershocks will also have an effect on the Earth’s rotation. But since the aftershocks are smaller their effect will also be smaller.”

 Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Comment:  Here in our Twin Cities winter has progressed without a January or February.   Yes, there have been a few dustings of snowfall, but the temperatures have been decidedly March-like.  With the lack of snow on grounds to the immediate south  of buildings tulips and crocuses have been popping up through the defrosted soil.  

Regardless of  my parochial position as a landscape gardener writing this article, I, nevertheless feel certain that the twitch upon the Earth’s tilt has to have had a hand in the disappearance of our 2012 January and February.

Back in the early 1990s a first rate volcanic eruption in the Phillipines, was so powerful that for the next two years here in our Northland summer’s heat  never arrived.   My azaleas and rhododendrons were in spectacular bloom for over a month.    Lilacs, viburnums, dogwoods behaved likewise.    

I wasn’t sharp enough at the time to understand what caused this five month Spring season until Summer returned a few years later.    I had read it somewhere.    The ‘debris’ from the volcano followed air current’s normal pattern moving into the Northern Hemisphere ‘clouding’ the Sun.   the Sun shone just fine, but its rays were less ‘radiating’.    It made sense.

February 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Winters


The present winter, the one without a January and February, has been an agitating  one.   We’ve been waiting winter’s arrival since November 13th , the  anniversary of the 25-35 inch snowfall the year before; the winter without any thaw in both  January and February.    The snow kept coming down and piling up around us.

Landscape gardens disppeared, hibernating under the snow until mid March a year ago.     I couldn’t walk my grounds all snow season.  

I did make a try once, but my little hills and valleys of the terrain of my landscape grounds had been visually  made a Siberian plain from property line to property line.

About a year ago as I was trekking slowly al0ng what I was guessing as the garden path along my pond, my left leg pulled my body downward as if in quicksand,  pushing through the  pristine snow making me sink up to almost to my belly button,.   However surprising the descension, it was a slow maneuver, a pleasant, comfortable maneuver.   But it left  my right leg  securely and very firmly still  positioned on the high ground where my full  body had been only a moment ago.

The snow made me do the splits.   Fortunately for me the snow also stopped me from splitting.

The scene  made me laugh.  I looked ridiculous.   The length of  the left side of  my body was  parallel to the snow line but buried a couple feet  into the snow.     That same  body was lying over my left arm making it immoveable, hand and all.   My left ear was  even with the snowline, its mate on the other side positioned  skyward enjoying the warmth of the  Sun.  

 It was a sunny day, and I had been  in a sunny mood, after all I had sunk into snow rather than quicksand.  It was a first in my life.

It didn’t take long for me to discover I couldn’t move anything.   I had become almost completely mummified by the snow.    My right leg and right arm seemed glued together.   I wasn’t hurting anywhere.   My profoundly split legs  were safely encased  in snow,  so there was no pain at all in that area between them.   Only my head and right shoulder to its elbow remained above the snowline.   

I was quite comfortable….still laughing, and very glad no one had seen  my performance.   I could still  see the house about two hundred yards on the other side of the pond and then realized what I had done.   

I had miscalculated the route of the pond path and had  fallen into the embankment of snow which had built up  drifting over the pond by five or six  feet thinking it was Mother Earth’s terra firma.

I felt foolish all of the half hour or more it  took  me to dig myself  out.   Only  one hand was available, but only  barely available.    I couldn’t get any leg or body strength because my legs were split and the body was suspended  by the snow.   I couldn’t get any leverage.

I was held in suspension, both body and mind.    The old body gets a bit cold rather quickly wrapped up in snow.

As of today, I think this winter has produced a total of eight inches of snow instead of the six feet and more collected last year.   Only  about a half inch of it remains and then only  where there is shade.

This year’s version of winter has allowed me to  ‘work’ in the garden nearly every day pruning a little clean up here and there,  mostly on hemlocks, junipers, yews and arborvitaes.   Nothing major, just a few hair cuts to clean up the forms.    I did get rid of a few Aralia spinosissima ‘trees’  to keep the clump more or less under control.

I like both winters…..Especially today’s winter.   The temperatures all winter have been above zero, Fahrenheit.   What a gift!