Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

November 18, 2013

Beauty and Your Landscape Garden

Unfortunately for the broader community, our Minnesota landscape industry does not view ‘landscaping’ as an art form.

At university it is not taught as an art form. The ladies of the garden clubs love flowers. They do not consider the home grounds as a canvas for landscape garden beauty. Husbands are allowed to mow the lawn.

Cities often demand trees be planted along the roadways whether needed or not and without regard for beauty.

My city, Minnetonka, sells trees and shrubs to its public, whether needed or not…..at bargain prices…as a kind of civic duty which makes the bureaucrats feel good.

Years ago I subscribed to The English Garden with the expectation that those bloaks across the Atlantic would be smart enough to share pictures of the countless spectacular man-made landscape gardens I had seen which occupy so much space throughout the kindgom’s beautiful islands. Until more recent generations, landscape gardening there was indeed practiced and advertised as an art form. The upper classes once valued them.

The United Kingdom lures tourists by the millions to visit these masterpieces every year…..but alas, outside of a picture or two, the publication, The English Garden, wasn’t interested in selling beauty….it had products to sell for the ladies to buy. Garden centers run the industry. As it is here locally, those who sell flowers and trinkets in orderly fashion, plant flowers and trinkets in orderly fashion. Beauty is merely an out-of-use word.

See for yourself.

Page through any of the ‘flower’ magazines, or any pages where garden-oriented advertisements might be posted. Review the articles, the topics, pictures of settings. Look at the advertisements. Besides pretty flowers, what is the industry selling for your landscape garden?

Worse, we live at a time of history when we are informed and taught everything must be made equal…..We certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. What would the neighbors think if someone’s home grounds actually were made beautiful?

Tour your neighborhoods. Much of landscape gardening of business and home grounds is in public view. To see a bad play or opera, lousy movies, or listen to a boring, revolting, or deceitful lecture, one usually has to pay something up front….Not so in the art world of landscape gardening. In nearly every neighborhood it’s free for the viewing whether you like it or not.

It’s November 18 according to my calendar. The “Fall” is about finished. The leaves of most of the standard deciduous woodies have dropped. Other trees and shrubs still show off colors and form only seen in autumn.

Still others, the evergreen conifers, will now move to center stage for act four of our Minnesota garden season play……the LONGEST ACT OF THE PLAY……equal to all other landscape garden acts combined.

It is their moment for unmatched beauty….beauty of form, texture, and color, whether solo or in choir …..standard bearers of life and substance for the year round, but especially front stage during ACT IV of our Minnesota year.

How beautiful is your winter home-landscape scene?

Take your time deciding. You have about six months to evaluate your Winter Act.

Do call us at Masterpiece if you need any assistance…

We are at 952-933-5777.

November 13, 2013

The Onslaught of Winter

We should have shared this Onslaught of Winter article with readers a few weeks ago. However, the nature of this particular Twin City late autumn has been keeping our company busy until the real snow arrives.

Each autumn in our area is unique in its appearance and character. No one seems to record each year’s peculiarities and we usually remember only the extremes….especially the thirty inches one Halloween in the 1990s and a repeat the next year a day later….or the crushing wet three foot snowfall of November 13th a few years ago.

Last week’s three inch snowfall was noted only for its wet and ugliness. Most of the deciduous trees maintained their leaves until the drop and the cold which followed. Most of the leaves never reached full color. My Ginkgo never aroused its beautiful yellow, but dumped its green in a two day fall last week.

The redbuds held their bright yellows for three weeks; the Ohio Buckeye, earlier in October was as beautiful an orange as ever. The red obelisk beech are coloring well, but late. The PJM Rhododendron’s autum color was as always exceptional….but also a bit late.

Most all of the spiraeas, viburnums, the winged euonymus, magnolias, azaleas, weigelas, dogwoods and my teen age white oak remained in summer attire and color until the last few days.

I shouldn’t complain about the beauty of the garden color this fall despite its late start. Every year this gardened landscape appears more radiant, for most of the color is larger because the plants are larger.

We had a late frost this year….a killing one at my grounds only last week.

I have more than a half an acre of gardened grounds. I begin ‘clean up’ as soon as I have time to do it and then straighten out the visual disorder first in areas viewable from my windows or along the paths I walk in winter.

The grounds here are bird sanctuaries year round. Most of my woody plants are conifers where they can nest and/or hide. I also leave plenty of deciduous material standing or lying around for other bird needs. Bird feeders are ugly, messy, and attract varmints.

What material stays is usually what is still beautiful. The weather usually dictates beauty.

Among the most beautiful herbaceous perennials in the winter garden is the rich red-brown mass of Hot Lips Turtlehead stalks and foliage, but only if the early snows are dry. Any heavy wet early snows easily crush their still green stems as well as the stems of most other herbs.

Big hostas get ugly quickly usually the day after the first frost. I wait a week or so when it quite easy to pull the sloppy wet leaves from their crowns.

Usually, it is a good idea to remember that most winters n our area are rather normal winters…with some longer than others, and maybe a bit warmer or colder.

If you don’t have time or find it too cold to clean up the landscape garden in late autumn and decide to leave the chores until Spring, you are saving most of your plants from the one disaster that is the most devastating to those who fastidiously purify their gardened grounds going into winter.

About once every 20 to 25 years our Twin City landscapes suffer a Test Winter…..a winter with little or no snow cover with temperatures reaching fifteen or more degrees below Fahrenheit, or below zero at all if accompanied by wind.

There will be losses for those of us who grow cultivar conifers and/or specialty herbaceous perennials….anything with suspect hardiness.

By leaving foliage in place until Spring the winter ‘breezes’ push leaf debris against any resistance, obstacles such as shrubbery ….any plant stems especially those with foliage providing cover at the crowns of each plant offering some protection in a snowless world.

To be extra safe do as I do….Collect some bags of oak leaves and store them in the garage in the event threatening temperatures do arrive at your snowless landscape garden so you have something handy, inexpensive, and very useful in protecting your favorite, more tender items.

Lawns should be free of leaf cover to avoid disease problems no matter what the temperature.