Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

March 28, 2012

Have You Had Your Watering System Installed, Yet?

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 1:19 pm

For those of you who have visited our Materpiece home  grounds in Minnetonka you often comment how lush everything appears  to be.   

I do too.  

First, by the luck of the  ‘home’ draw where I live, the soil nearly throughout the grounds is loamy and deep.   Second, I have only a nine minute lawn mowing reponsibility here leaving 90% of the land space, minus house, garage, and driveway, ‘open’ country for landscape gardening.

 I then have removed the original lawn to plant bit by bit, year by year, form by form, grouping by grouping,  the paradise landscape garden where I live.    Every fall I have embellished the soil by covering it with leaves, mostly oak leaves.  

These leaves, if moistened, rather quickly decay adding ’tilth’ to the soil.   On their way decaying they need water to hasten the process.    Very important in that process is the regularity of that water throughout the growing season both for plant growth and health and for quality soil maintainence.

Regularly available water is vital not only for the general  health of the plants, but for their  look as well.  As the leaves covering the grounds decay, available water allows the acids they release   to unite with nutrients of the fertilizers you have applied,  to become  more readily, more quickly available for use by neighboring plantings.

A result whether desireable or not, is most plants grow bigger and faster than the catalogues or your fellow garden friends who do not have  a watering system claim.

The original watering system in our Masterpiece grounds was installed in 1990.   I was not financially able to use it for about six years but eventually  I hired a local company to activate it.   

Eventually when Masterpiece was installing a landscape garden at a Kenwood home in Minneapolis, the homeowner introduced me to a ‘sprinkler’ guy she had hired after investigating  “sprinkler” guy businesses.    He thought water sprinkling was beautiful.   He saw its spray refreshing the plants in its range, the way gals swoon when they smell a fragrant rose.  

Let’s call him Jim.    Jim has had control over watering our Masterpiece landscape garden in Minnetonka ever since that day in 1998.    Jim  also installs and maintains the watering systems for all of our irrigating Masterpiece clients.

In my unscientific, but in my view, accurate, survey from experience, Nine out of Ten plant deaths in the gardened grounds are cause by drought.   Nearly all damage upon plants is caused by Winter.   Among the ten percent of remaining deaths to garden plants one can add all those  caused by  insect and disease agents, caused by winter kill, automobile stress and child ill treatment…..whatever killing agent you can think of.

The installed watering system to cover and acre might be rather expenseive.   But for most gardened grounds of the average resident home the installation of an irrigation system is not expensive.    If budgeting is a problem, think about irrigating the garden area which might benefit most from regular watering.

Winter blowout of the system and Spring set up are ‘small change’ in the house maintenance budget.

Give us a call at Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd for an estimate…..952 933 5777.

March 26, 2012

The Spring following the Winter without a January or February

It is cold today….for this Spring, that is…..windy and 40 degrees F. ……a  normal Spring after a normal Winter, but not for a winter without a January and February, that is this past  season of little precipitation and no traditional Minnesota wind and cold.   Last year we wouldn’t have noticed.

Checking out our landscape grounds, I noticed last Saturday, March 24, 2012,  that the following are now  in bloom performance:      Merrill Magnolia,  Leonard Messell Magnolia,  Weekend Forsythia, Pachysandra,  and   Scilla, Pushkinia, Snowdrips,  Crocus  and Helleborus  come to mind.   Juddii Viburnum and Toka Plum are about a week  of 60 degree temperature away.   The Northern Redbud will soon follow.

But, then again it may cool and snow and “slow” the garden down next week or two.

I particularly like Scilla, or Siberian Squill, its other name.  It’s a minor “Dutch” bulb.  There isn’t a prettier, brighter pure blue in Nature and one never has to worry about rabbits eating it or the weather being too cold.    It is wonderfully ‘weedy’ without anyone really noticing it spreading until it has spread.   “Where did these come from?” is the usual question.  “I never planted them here!”

About a month after bloom, Siberian Squill will lose its foliage until next winter’s thaw.   If you’re wondering how it can travel from the front garden to the East, West, and back garden, well most likely the converyor belt is YOU.     If you rake around Scilla world, transplant a valued perennial or dump what you  never liked by digging it up and throwing it into the back gardened grounds  or compost pile somewhere and the dumping isn’t buried too deeply, you might have a hundred or so  “seeds”  of  future Scilla  plants carried along with your primping up….. never, never noticed.

Never forget that a weed in the landscape garden is a plant “out of place”.

It is helpful  to develop your plant’s flowering calendar.    You can do this by  crossing the date along one axis of the chart with the name of the flowering plant, let us say, Juddii Viburnum, a deciduous shrub that is imperative to own for the Twin City landscape gardeners south of St. Cloud.

Crosslined to the dates of the month, insert the name of the plant, and the following code by number:   1…..no bud swelling;  2…… noticeable bud swelling to partial floral opening;   3…….in full bloom (that is, the plant showing between 25% of full bloom to peak bloom and until only 25% of bloom remains;  4…….reducing bloom, sparse, spotty;   5……..No blooms remain.

I have many years of records (lying around somewhere in this house)  and look forward to the day when I can find them to  make comparisons, especially the dramatic ones, such as with this year.

During the two summers following the eruption of Mount Pinatuba in the Phillippines in 1991, I think it was, we had no summer, only an extended spring all summer long.  Azaleas were in bloom from late May to the first of July.

Make note of where tyour Juddii Viburnum might be…..front grounds versus back grounds….for reference purposes.    Most of the  grounds behind the house  where I live are  under some degree of shade.   You will note about four or five days difference between peak bloom of woody plants in the two areas because of the shade.

Most Easters occur in April.   Until 40 years ago most Easter Sunday landscapes in our Twin Cities  were covered with ice and snow.   The sun might have been shining, but the temperature was a high of 40 degrees for the day.   There is no doubt that our horticultural zone has warmed up a bit over the past 60 years, from 4.0 to 4.7 where I live in 40 years…..a normal swing of the Earth’s northern hemisphere pendulum of thermometer readings during the same period.   

I want a growing season temperature just  a month  earlier and six weeks shorter of a slightly warmer winter…one in which we can grow  the lace-leafed Japanese Maples in the outdoor garden…..and you folks in Bemidji can grow Juddii Viburnum which this year might begin its bloom before your  first of April.

It is highly unlikely our area will be hit with severe cold yet this Spring.    We are running about  SEVEN WEEKS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE  regarding deciduous tree leafing.    Treat the season as if it were any other.    Normally the average frost free day is May 10.    I’d guess that it might be earlier by a week this year.   I would be very surprised if we get any day this spring where the high temperature will be below freezing.    Do whatever needs to be done, don’t wait, but start earlier.

For the past three decades, maybe longer, the “lace-leaf” season, that is the  five or six day period when the leaf buds  elms, maples, honeylocusts, cottonwoods, oaks, and birch and others begin to green up, but before reaching full size.  It is that very period in which the evergreen conifers no longer dictate the landscape plant forms.   During this five day period they begin to lose their forms and  blend into the sweep of green which in landscape garden art terms is no longer Spring, but Summer in its look.

This transformation of six months of the winter landscape……a time equal to all other Minnesota landscape seasons combined, remember,  happens in about five days give or take one or two.   In truth visually, in the Twin Cities,   the skyward spring landscape turns from winter into summer in usually less than a week.

Have you ever noticed that annual phenomenon of the quick change of landscape looks in our Northland?      If not, get outdoors and explore….   become acquainted  with the landscape garden world around you.  It needs a lot, a helluva lot of improvement.    There are countless more plant materials available in today’s market  than only twenty years ago….trees, understory trees, tree- shrubs, conifer shrubs, shrubby trees, perennials tall, perennials small, and ground covers too.      

Call us at  Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd., 952 933 5777  when you need assistance.    We offer visits and lectures at low cost for groups. 

Look over our website….call if  you  have landscape questions.

March 18, 2012

Why Today’s Cultural Disdain for the Landscaping Industry?

I have never been to Japan, but have spent almost a year of my life  roaming around the traditional landscape gardens of  England, Scotland and Wales.   I moved from one paradise on to another, again and again.   The United Kingdom government is interested in accruing money for the National welfare, and know full well, the art of the Landscape Garden is the Kingdom’s most cherished art form…..financially, in  numbers of visitors to these Edens, and historically the most cherished art form in nearly every non polar culture throughout recorded history.

Swipe a look or two at the Japanes version of their Edens…..their landscape garden art.   The pictures I have reviewed are breath taking in their incredible displays and spiritual expressions……often in the simplest combinations of forms.

These two island ‘kingdoms’ have ideal climates for the best of the best of all art forms….the one most cherished…….the one closest to the ideal of paradise, the perfect harmony of  the Earth, it’s Maker, and the human animal.   

Both geographies can grow with ease  the most beautiful of all delicate woody trees and shrubs…..above all the countless numbers of the laceleaf Japanese maples.  

I wrote the following review of the art and craft of the landscape garden  about 25 years ago, before my treks through the great gardens and countyside settings of this northern kingdom.  

Please read the following essay.   If  you agree that no other art form is held in such esteem as the landscape garden art, WHY ARE AMERICANS SO DISDAINFUL TOWARD  LANDSCAPING  AS AN INDUSTRY?  

Why are in our own Twin City area nearly no worthy grounds to visit at home or in public, where this art is developed to breath-taking perfection.    There are occasional burps and blips, such as at the University’s Landscape Arboretum, but the primary  purpose there is to raise funding, not to create beauty.

A long time  ago I taught a course for many years through the University of Minnesota Extension Service called “Landscaping the Minnesota Home Grounds” which included a bus tour with each session.    An assignment during the bus tours  of various ‘landcaped’ neighborhoods, I asked students  to record whether they thought the homeowner or a professional landscaper designed the home’s “Garden of Eden”.     I selected the sites.

I won’t pass on to you the results….the same year after year after years.    But travel for yourself through some of the more exemplary neighborhoods and draw your own conclusions.   Be sure to do it NOW….as soon as possible, before we pass onto  our  landscape season called Spring.

Winter is Minnesota’s longest landscape season.   It is as long a season as all three  of the others combined……..

Please do read my essay about the art of the  landscape garden:

“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.

March 6, 2012

The Storm Came; The Storm Dumped; The Storm Conquered

The most beautiful winter landscape garden in my thirty eight years of  living here in Minnetonka occurred this winter, 2011-2o12.  

In this the first winter without a January or February in the Twin Cities to my knowledge, there was little snow, no rain, and no cold.   

The yellows of the golden chamaecyparis, sunkist and yellow ribbon arborvitaes, the plum of the Andorra junipers, blues of the Dwarf Colorado blue spruce and even the blue pfitzers were stunning all winter long.   Add the usual wide variety  of name-your-green arborivaes, pine and junipers and the bright tan and brown leaves of the Crimson spire and Red Oaks and the rich cinnamon shine off of the Griseum Paperbark Maple, this winter was certainly special…….

……………until a week ago when dumped on by heavy rain and heavy snow.

My most beautiful white pine, one of the ten second year seedlings I bought in 1976 to celebrate the American bicentennial birthday, now sixty feet tall, was shredded.  SHREDDED by the weight of ice and snow……even worse than hat November 13th 32 inch wet snowfall of 2010.

I have spend three days picking up the debris, including most of the 30 branches over  six inches in diameter.    The usual weak-stemmed  shrub arborvitaes, Rheingold and  Hetz simply disappeared into the snow.      Five or six deGroots arborvitae wanted to disappear, but could only tip.   My back garden sunkist arbs were leveled but the well pruned beauty in the front garden hardly experienced a dimple over all its foliage.

Hemlocks, Yews, all of my spruce, expecially the Norway types, seemed to be bored by the weather attack.   The tightly pyramidal Cupressina Spruce didn’t bend and inch.

I did have to save the Crimson Spire Oaks, however.   All three had bowed nearly to the ground and would have snapped had I not carefully sorted the snow out of the leafy crown and gently lift the trunk vertically.

The entire back garden setting looked a if it had been bombed…..it still does.   We don’t have a clue how much foliage can drop from a white pine sixty feet tall and forty feet wide in such a rain-ice-snow storm….with only six inches of snow…..and more than six inches of just the foliage cover after the deluge.

I have six other surviving bicentennial white pine from the 1976 plantings.   None lost a much more than a fascicle or two.  I think I know the reason.    All but one of them doesn’t have the space to spread branchings 40 feet.

Mother Nature does do some beautiful work with her storms, however,    If character is a consideration, my shredded white pine has more of it now than pre-storm……after we do some post storm artistic pruning, however.

Techny arborvitaes don’t do well in these icy messes.   The globes collapsed.  The uprights are becoming telephone poles.

One of my favorite plantings, an American Arborvitae, was split top to bottom and felled.  A real loss causing a horrible sight.     Although native to Minnesota this arborvitae is not easy to come by at the nursery.   So about twenty years ago I sent away to Mentor, Ohio for a seedling.   It cost about a dollar.   It arrived in a ten inch envelope with its roots wrapped in moist cotton held together by Scotch tape, from 3M….Minnesota, Mining, and Manufacturing, as it was called in those days.   I got attached to that tree.

Damn, that felling was crushing for it took away so much of the trees beauty and character.

I have guests arriving this Saturday……to see “Beauty in the Bleak Season?….folks from the Lake Owasso Garden Club.   

At the moment the grounds are more bleak than the beauty.   Today’s 54 Fahrenheit with Sun kept me very busy.

Give us a call at 952-933-5777 if you need help with your storm damaged plants.   Perhaps we can create some special character by clever pruning.