Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

January 9, 2013

How Beautiful and Inspiring are Your Winter Grounds?

In our part of Minnesota the Winter landscape is equal in duration to our Spring, Summer, and Fall landscapes put together. Do your own adding. With the exception of some oaks, leaf fall is over before the first of November.

Leafing out in Spring invarably begins the week of May 15 here in the Twin Cities dictated by the habits of our major deciduous shade trees. This lacing of our landscape is one of the most beautiful scenes of the year in our Northland. Bare twigs, dead and stark, announce the coming of the new growing season, fresh and clean, delicately turning sun into shade, the dead back to life.

Equal in visual beauty and far more frequent by habit is the fresh gentle dry snowfall covering the living and the dead, the tall and small, the vegetable, animal or mineral, whether we are ready for the scenery or not.

Even the ugliest of landscapes in our neighborhoods fade for the duration, covered for their moment of harmony on stage…….for a day or two……Once melting returns, the scars, the disorder, all of the visual ugliness hidden by leaf cover during the growing season returns to the human eye conditioned to expect such sights as punishment for living in our Minnesota.

Now is your time to walk through your gardened grounds. Even you city folk with smaller spaces. Are you, will you be inspired?

The art of landscape gardening is a visual art form…..So is the ‘magic’ performed by professional magicians. The eye can be easily persuaded to see what the skilled successful landscape artist prefers them to see.

Years ago when I was Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, my grounds here in Minnetonka were open to garden club visits. Society offices were in St. Paul so most of the time I could not be available to lead visitors through the gardens…..which didn’t seem to bother anyone.

I decided to landscape the grounds in a manner to lead visitors to follow along the paths I preferred them to walk. Nearly all of these garden club members were gals.

Gals worship color. Guys prefer form. Don’t get mad. It’s in our DNA, folks.

Because of the layout of my house, I designed a single hallway uniting my front ‘yard’ grounds to the major portion of the landscape garden in the back of my home. As one passes through this hallway I guided traffic to turn left. After sixty or so feet I provided a choice, to turn right or continue forward another sixty feet and the turn left at the bottom of a hill to enter a woodsier section of the grounds. Whichever paths the group or individuals chose, I planted understory conifers to hide paths and exits other than the ones I wanted them to take.

Since visitors were always gals, what do you think I planted to force, tease, encourage them to make the correct turns onto the paths I had planned?

Flashy flowering annuals and perennials folks! Gals turn toward color anywhere in the garden. If I wanted them to turn left, the color would be displayed on the left……and it worked ‘beautifully’…. for on a few occasions I watched from our second floor windows to test my assumptions. I confess that I was proud of the results.

Beyond of the purity of winter white, its starkness, mass, its capture of shadow, FORM dominates the season whether that form is spectacular or not. No one seems to care about winter’s beauty so little is done to prepare our grounds, both public and private to demonstrate the visual glories of season. Prunings, choices and positioning of plants are vital in the development and care of plants for the winter landscape.

In summer the greenery from our trees, large and small, appears as a mass over our heads in our older communities. In newer establishments, trees, if planted at all or by a city whether you want them or not, of course are younger, usually uglier, and look like weeds.

The most important landscape materials for beautifying the Minnesota winter landscape are the hardy evergreen conifers…….from shade trees to writhing shapes and varieties of sizes and even colors.

This winter Masterpiece Landscaping is offering a couple outdoor classes, sessions to stimulate understanding and planning the possibilities of beautifying our winter landscape gardens. They will be offered Saturday mornings in February and perhaps March, depending on the degree of interest, but not any particular degree Fahrenheit.

Please call us at 952-933-5777 or 612-919-5300 for further information.