Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

November 16, 2012

Pruning……”Tuning” to Improve Harmony in the Landscape Garden

The Art of Landscape Garden is, of course, a Visual art form.

So is ‘Magic!’ These are similar expressions, both being visual ‘trickery’……The ‘artists’ want to control what the eye is to see, or what the brain thinks the eye preceives.

In the ideal the art of landscape gardening should be to the eye, what Beethoven’s compositions are to the ear.

To the vast majoirty of home owners the grounds around the home they own is only a yard…..a piece of ground over which one must walk on the way to some conveyance to get to ones employment……or, mope around somewhere.

To many, perhaps most, it is a nuisance…..especially in summer when usually the duty of mowing the lawn demands attention each and every week.

For years beginning in the 1970s the snobbier American, mostly feminists, city and student folk both male and female, politically made snied remarks deriding and slandering suburban lawn mowing people, claiming the activity was an example of primitive Neanderthal males who didn’t know anything better to do with their time like joining the rape, pillage and burn culture of the times of that cultural revolution period.

Today, with the collapse of marriage females are often seen mowing suburban lawns. Many now days live alone.

Even among the happier homeowner the yard seems to be a threatening place. Nevertheless, the wealthier hire out. The poorer ignore it. These ‘yards’ are not the outdoor places where they want to play or work.

Yet, in middle America as one travels hither and yon throughout the Twin Cities, here near the tundra. we can catch sight of homeowners who care or take an interest in what the space around the house where they sleep, looks like. Some renderings smell as the nearest garbage dump. Others are minimalist, cold and mindless like the Rothko art piece that just sold for $75,000,000 on the modern ‘art’ market.

Others like the work of modern ‘art’ star, Jackson Pollock are smatterings of free form splotches. Instead of dripping or pouring cans of paint from a ladder over canvas, Pollock style, the homeowner reaches the same results by dropping potted shrubs throughout the yard as if casting feed to chickens until the yard’s space can bear no more. These enthusiasts are often new religion motivated, hugging trees and opposing global warming, preferring the bitter cold centuries of Neanderthal man’s life.

Neanderthal Man became extinct, however. Perhaps the tree huggers when in college, didn’t read that far.

Landscape gardening at homes or businesses is a very public art form

To enjoy a bad play, boring book, embarrassing Minnesota Gopher football, hear a terrible concert, view an exhibit of modern art, or strive for a modern university social science education, one has to pay for the suffering but has, at least, chosen the suffering in order to participate in the experience.

Although there isn’t any actual financial cost beyond fuel if you happen to be traveling through neighborhoods in some vehicle, bad landscape garden art is viewed nearly every where you happen to look when outdoors, whether you like it or not. One has no choice.

Worse…..Most Americans these days know nothing about the past, their’s or anyone else’s. They have become indoor people unlearned particularly in the history of life itself. In our America, majority polled two or three years ago believed Carbon Dioxide was a polutant and had to be reduced or eliminated from our air.

Congratulations to all of you who have discovered the miracle of life outside the walls of your own house for which you pay taxes every year. The world of landscape gardening is as old as gardening itself. It is the most cherished of all art forms.

In nearly every non polar culture throughout the history of our species, living in paradise is perceived as living in a beautiful garden.

November 15, 2012

Pruning, Beautfying the Landscape Garden in Late Fall

Two years ago November 13, a Saturday, my landscape grounds was buried under 32 inches of heavy, icy snow. Damage to white pines and arborvitaes accompanied the event..

I cannot remember last year’s advent of winter. It was uneventful.

Usually, the first snowfall is among the most beautiful, here in Vikingland. Especially if it is a dry one of about five inches of snow for a good white topping causing no tipping of pyramidal conifers.

Most Twin Citians don’t notice the winter of their garden……there is no winter garden to look at. They have never thought of a winter garden. On the contrary they, like the lawns covering their grounds, both the good and the bad, go dormant. Out of sight out of mind so other more important activities can occupy their winter weeks and months. Your guess regarding what they are is as good as mine.

Our first snow fluff here in the western Twin City suburbs arrived this past Monday, November 12. The covering lasted nearly the entire day. The gardened grounds here were spectacular. Each day’s sun since has reversed the calendar for awhile. Perennial bachelor buttons have opened a few blooms, fireworks solidago and garden phlox have done the same. My eight by eight foot Golden Carousel is totally ruby loaded with its bright red berries.
But the mainstay of any beautiful Minnesota winter garden comes from the upright conifers.
My landscape garden occupies a bit over a third of an acre in ‘garden’. I have a small pavered driveway and 7 minutes of lawn mowing. The rest is in gardened ‘design’.

But that design begins with a careful selection and location of the upright evergreen conifers.

The lawn is part of the design, of course. Lawn is just another ground cover which separates the statuesque of the grounds. It requires sun….and weekly maintenance when in its noticed season. Ideally, I should like to have had a bit more lawn than I actually have, but it didn’t work out that way.

Yesterday and the day before I pruned and cleaned. I pruned out what I thought was disorderly….only the twiggy, nothing major, which ideally should not be done with the onslaught of winter ahead. I clean up most of the hostas and many selected perennials……nearly all of the garden perennials which appear disorderly and ugly, primarily. The primary force always driving my removal decisions is whether or not the herbaceous perennial has any beauty duty left on the grounds. Secondly I consider whether the plant has any bird food or shelter value for the winter.

Early snows of the heavier kind keep the grounds from freezing. If not too wet they do not pummel the taller perennials such as hotlips turtlehead, fireworks solidago, Vernonia and some of the garden phlox. Occasionally, a single or two blooms appear above the snow….and in the case of the turtlehead, the plant occasionally remains standing stately, with all of its leaves still vibrant dark green to bright purplish-maroon rising above the snow line….all winter long.

Fireworks solidago is the best of them, however. Twice, they were still in golden bloom and green foliage dress above the snow line until mid January.

I sweep my garden paths throughout the winter, by the way. A winter landscape garden is a beautiful place to be…..even in a snowstorm.

Sometime the golden arborvitae uprights are more golden than other winters. Most of the chamaecyparis trees here usually remain bright yellow throughout the year….but only if they are growing in full sunlight.

Remember, when ‘cleaning up’ in late fall. give a good reason why the beautiful oak, red and sugar maple leaves, the Grace or Velvet cloak Smokebush leaves, or the leaves of any of the colorful sweeps you see at your feet in your landscape garden should be cleared away.

November 1, 2012

A Word or Two about Ginkgo biloba

I have a 70 foot Ginkgo biloba at the east border of my landscape garden. The following diary of events is visually, one of the most spectaclar events of the garden’s landscape calendar.

The normal Ginkgo biloba growing in a happy location is a big, big tree. A generation or two ago here in the Twin Cities there was one 25 foot Gb of note growing at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis proper. It was considered noteworthy because it was 25 feet tall and located in a prestigous burial place for the wealthy and political well to do.

It was felled by a June tornado sometime around 1985-1990 an event that gave this Mpls Gb final notoriety.

Bureaucrats in the city discovered the tree was rather tolerant of bad air and its residues and so declared it a tree for the boulevard grounds in the city where trees had fallen from elm disease and tornados and poor city tree plantings in the first place.

Goverment departments whether in city, state or Washington are usually limited to one thought.

When the more fastigiate Ginkgl bilobas were discovered the urban bureaus got the one thought…….

It is NOT a good boulevard tree, whether pointy or natural in shape.

My Ginkgo biloba was ‘born’ in 1974 and transplanted into a 4″ pot late in that year when I placed it at its today’s location and developed its 70 plus foot high natural form.

Was I the wise landscape genious who could forsee the future breadth, height, and beauty of this blessed of all Minnesota trees?

Are you kidding? I wasn’t sure it would live anywhere at all. There were a handful of some medium sized Gbs in the five county area of the Twin Cities, but I didn’t know anyone who knew what a Ginkgo was……and rembered seeing one …….at that cemetery I mentioned previously.

Suddenly in four years my Gb passed me by in height. A handful of years later it quadrupled my size in height.

I was fully aware since my youth Gbs were dioecious by RNA. Now that means that some Gbs are male…..guys who can’t deliver seeds to reproduce the species, but are required to permit female flowerlike parts of the plant to fulfill her female duties. The species was thought to be extinct a couple centuries ago. It had been identified in fossil form to have lived 60,000,000 years ago….immediately after Earth’s great holocaust which excused Tyrannasaurus Rex and such from our world.

Lo and behold, extinction as yet, was not Gbs fate. Although more closely related to a Spruce rather than an Elm, it was discovered in its more elmlike form on a religious retreat in western remote China growing in rows tended by monks…..the Chinese kind.

Having read about that when only a high school tyke, I knew that some day I had to try to own one.

I have loved my Gb since it was about six feet tall. After twenty and more years, I felt jilted.

In the landscape trade only male gingos are allowed for sale at your local nursery. Remember a rule of Nature…..Nothing is Perfect in Nature. Mistakes are Made all of the Time.

Landscape literature coming from I don’t know where announced that Gb fruit, which appears yellow and small apricot-like at maturity, stinks like human vomit…..and that would be repulsive in most non=political neighborhoods.

Since my Gb was born by the natural blending of female by male, I spent years awaiting evidence that I own a female. Sorry, guys, but I longed for a female Gb. I simply wanted her. And, after 35 years of waiting with the tree over 60 feet tall, I knew I had been jilted.

Gb’s autumn display of color is very brief. A week ago the entire tree’s waxy thick fan-shaped leaves were summer-green. Then in three days the entire tree’s waxy thick fan- shaped leaves turn blinding yellow. In one day….that is, three days ago, half ot the tree’s leaf load dropped, and yesterday the second half dropped……tons of the brightest yellow Nature’s colors can achieve covered lawn and garden forty feet around its trunk. With or without sunshine the sight was blinding……and beautiful.

This is my Gb’s habit every autumn…..in three days the crown turns from a shiny green to a brilliant shiny yellow, and on the fourth day Gb drops its first load, and the next day, its second, rain or shine.

Three years ago from yesterday or the day before my great respect for my Gb skyrocketed far further. I was raking its leaf tonnage…..beware….one leaf rake load of Gb leaves can easily snap the rake in half……and guess, what? I smelled human vomit!…..and shouted joy to the heavens.

My wish came true…..she’s a female.