Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

January 7, 2015

The Cold and Empty Minnesota Winter Landscape

The Landscape Garden of classic western and oriental culture is supposed to be an art form. “One is closest to God in the Garden”……Paradise of nearly all known human cultures has been described, imagined as a “Garden”.

Yet, at today’s universities, in those which bother to include something oriented to landscaping of any kind, preach and enforce politics. Botany has become an unknown science to university undergraduate and graduate students except for perhaps at institutions in contrary, remote, and even colder North Dakota.

City know-nothings overwhelm the nation’s population. Children, even some parents have come to believe a tomato is manufactured at the local super market.

Every conifer is a “pine”. Beauty has been banned from our cultural vocabularies and therefore absent in thought, spirit and expression. If something is deemed ‘beautiful’, today’s American educators claim, other things, are logically less beautiful…..or worse, perhaps considered ugly, therefore a cause for inequality and unhappiness in the world.

Nevertheless, winter in Minnesota is still winter in Minnesota…..bleak, sterile, windy, coarse, threatening. Worse, global “COOLING” is on its way regardless of charlatan claims…..in just a few thousand years….which the honest, well informed, apolitical aware American knows ‘for certain’ from the overwhelming evidence from our Earth’s past.

At university, the national centers which control the degradation of all art forms, if landscaping is taught it is presented as a maintenance issue. Flowers and lawn are big time items in the ‘scholar’s’ curriculum. Political global warming competes with political correctness speech among university censors among the teachings. “Japgarden Juniper”, this conifer’s English name. Although insulting to no one during its two hundred years of landscape use, this name was dictated as ‘racist’. It is now sold as “Garden Juniper”. Golden and crimson barberries, buckthorns, polygonums, are on endless listings made ‘banned’ by energetic political urban bureaucrats from the Minnesota earth forever, most of these persecuted for being ‘foreigners’ to our state.

“Foreigner plant”, these university sources define, is any plant that has come to grow on a piece of Minnesota Earth occurring since the arrival of European ‘white man’.

Landscape garden settings are supposed to ‘inspire’ visitors. Certain music, now long dead, most of it no longer heard, used to be composed to ‘inspire’ whoever listens…..one art form ideally designed to inspire the mind via the eye, the other via the ear, but both art forms were composed to reach the soul.

How beautiful is the Minnesota space where you live this winter? last winter? the winter before last?

I used to teach a winter class through the University of Minnesota’s extension service some thirty years ago called “Beauty in the Bleak Season”. Each winter included a bus tour of Twin City landscapes I had selected as teaching props. A one-block long street, Red Cedar Lane, in Minneapolis was always on the visit list. Snow was deeper in those days of our tours. Walkways weren’t always cleared of snow. It was fifteen below zero during this one Saturday morning tour of Minneapolis’ Red Cedar Lane, yet all according to teacher’s instruction walked the block-long frontage along seven or so homes. As with other ‘visits’ in the metropolitan area, I asked the students to identify individual street-facing properties into three categories…..Was the property established by home-owner, by a professional landscape company, or by one particular landscape company? (I’ll refer to this landscape company as “B” which in those days executed a landscape setting which was always designed well, quite formally, but in harmony with the homes the setting was supposed to enhance neatly and beautifully.)

Red Cedar Lane was unique. “Red Cedars”, Juniperus virginiana, (a banned garden tree in those days) aligned the boulevard…and still do to this day. White pine, Pinus strobus was the major tree planted in the private spaces of the block long neighborhood. (The setting was decidedly something other than local Minneapolis visually. Some immigrant, I think a Serb, following the horrors of Europe’s World War I, immigrated to Minneapolis in the 1920s and bought the acreage where “Red Cedar Lane” now exists, as I remember, was primarily responsible for designing the setting.

The purpose for the survey given to class participants was to determine if they could tell the difference in design between professional landscapers and ordinary homeowners, and whether they could discover the work that “B” company performed. This company used to hire its landscape garden artists, guys trained in England…..which is no longer the case these days. These English artists all died out decades ago.

At the end of each visit the participants would identify their landscape grouping of the property and discuss why they came to their conclusions. Everyone correctly recognized the “B” company’s superior artistic rendering…..Beyond that, few could identify the differences between the professional landscapers and the home owner amateurs.

Creativity is destroyed when university’s gain control of ‘developing’ any art form.

For over two centuries the classical ‘garden’ in the West, has been floral this and floral that. Floral this and floral that arises from our English past. Human females prefer color over form. Human females among the wealthy usually were allowed to express their artistic preferences in a variety of arts….one being overseeing the estate garden…..Flowers became central to landscape garden design over which she governed. Spring, summer, and autumn are a lot kinder to human and plants in the British Isles than in our Minnesota.

Winter in urban Minnesota is flowerless of fresh colorful flowers about six months of every year. Much trickery work is occurring these days in Canada as well as our North in plant breeding and selection to stir or attempt to stir more ‘flowering’ opportunities to reduce winter’s landscape boredom in our northern world.

But, in truth, efforts to beautify the places where we live with floral this and floral that, is all penny ante when we look at the vastness of white, barren white, icy and crusty white Siberian expanses between and among the buildings where we work and live….buildings which direct the winter winds to assault the citizen ever so more cruelly in January and February. Gals can plant all the flowers out doors all they want…at home and in every open space and park. Millions upon millions of these perennial and annual pieces will still mean nothing, nothing at all for our winter landscapes every six months of every year where Minnesotans work and live.

If woody plants, especially the evergreen conifers could dominate our winter Minnesota landscapes as a general practical and artistic theme for community and cultural beautification, Twin Cities Minnesota could become inspiring to live and visit in winter. Countless plants are now available to create beautiful winter gardens where we live.

Landscape gardening is supposed to be an art form. With that in mind go outdoors with visual ‘beauty’ in mind as your measure. What captures your moment that ‘makes’ your day?

Give us a call at 952-933-5777 to begin to uplift your ‘vision’. Remember, no plant beautiful in winter, is ugly is summer. Begin your landscape planning and planting with winter first in mind.