Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

August 31, 2016

When Color Conquers the Landscape Garden



Color in the well developed landscape garden usually conquers all other senses and moods possessed by the human visitor.  It is the most enticing lure collecting visitors.  Spring is usually the season when the   most spectacular  of color shows occur.   The foliage is fresh in color and texture especially in our Minnesota location.

It is obvious to us northern landscape gardeners the beautiful colorful display  below did not occur in our climate zone.    We in the North do not have anywhere near the broad pallet from which to choose our  colors  and the shapes and sizes of plants carrying such colors.   Nevertheless, such a beautiful landscape garden as you view below can be, and is  managed in our communities, but with fewer varieties  of perennial  plants and the length of time their spectacular colors can be displayed.

The growing season is very, very short in our Twin City area compared to Vancouver Island.   The island, if I can remember by geography correctly, is North of our metropolitan community.   It’s the moisture and the lack of  our Minnesota winter there which guarantees a far greater number of beautiful flowering perennial plants from which to choose when planting.

From this view of this garden setting, to what planting, most likely, will your eye be lured  to view first?

The human male has many varieties of colorblindness which may interfere with the generalization to be written here.  It is likely that  the majority of  first viewers of this setting, their colorblindness tendencies notwithstanding, will be captured by the size and shape of the  colorful tree in the center and then move immediately to the right where white floral ground covers are central amidst  a large setting of many colors of several shapes and sizes.   White, yellow, chartreuse, orange lead the list in an order of colors commanding first human glance in the garden, with all things being equally ‘lit’.     Even in the light shade below, white dominates the first glance which quickly moves on to community of colors  surrounding it.     Some folks will be tagged at the light lavender to the back ground right, yet other eyes might be captured by the brilliantly colored lawn leading the red on the left  before returning to dwell on the beauty of the  FORM of the tree central to the picture.

Viewers should remember that floral color on perennials, both herbaceous and woody, is almost always brief.   In our Minnesota a week to three weeks at the most is common.

In our Minnesota, winter is the  longest landscape garden season of the year, as long as all other seasons combined….This truth, this reality seems to be totally unknown to government, home owners, most citizens by the winter displays of ‘gardened’ grounds. “Beauty  in the Minnesota winter landscape garden” is a rare sight except for grounds created by Masterpiece Landscaping.

How would you grade the beauty quotient of winter settings of  the home grounds in your neighborhood?

Call us at Masterpiece,  612-933-5777 for assistance if your ‘settings’ are starved of the beautiful.


August 30, 2016

Not all Beauties in the Landscape Garden World are Equal

Filed under: The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 11:32 pm



“Beauty” is a word which has disappeared from today’s American vocabulary.
For centuries in our “English” cultural past,  the adage, “ONE IS CLOSEST TO GOD WHEN IN THE GARDEN”,  was taken for granted as nearly a universal truth.   Paradise was God-centered where   perfection, goodness, peace,   reigned in God’s Beauty  on Earth,  a gardened landscape named Eden in the JudeoChristian tradition.
Modernity has put an end to such dreams.  Inspiration caused by  God-fearing man creating  beauty for the eye and ear to uplift the  human soul has been replaced by the Godless, the human   male and female, to be made mere  animals equal in the perverse, the mundane, the animal without soul mired in ignorance and jealousy.
In a ten year period of the 1990s, I spent nearly a year of my life visiting this  Stourhead of Wiltshire, England, as well as forty, maybe fifty or more Landscape Gardens of that beautiful  land,  other grounds of equal exquisite landscape garden beauty.
What is Beauty?   What is in the power of Beauty that so inspires viewers?
What is in  the power of musical Beauty that causes our breath to turn into tears when overloaded by its power?    (Do listen to Richard Strauss’ opening  3 minutes of    “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, or  attend the first half hour and the very end of the  movie, “2001 Space Odyssey” for similar ‘audio punishment’ from Beauty to the ear.)    Test yourself.
Beauty in music has arisen through  the human male mind  from the Natures grunts and  explosions, winds, and seas, calls and eventually melodies.   May we  forever bless Beethoven and his predecessors through the ages   for their  cravings to  package such gifts of great Beauty  caused by creating noise to INSPIRE!
Our “MOTHER” Earth is endlessly   offering the human eye with daily  Beauty, despite the hubbub of modern life, its industry, its roads, its speed of travel and time.   She sends us Beauty lessons everywhere if  humankind would look…..overwhelmingly   without a human touch beyond ‘preservation’.
It’s impossible  for the human animal to landscape garden something  measuring up to the Beauty of the Grand Canyon.   We remain small animals on this huge Earth….But this animal can, and has for centuries,   created landscape gardens of equal Beauty, because they ARE man made, designed, installed, maintained to gain and maintain Beauty to inspire all who enter its Garden’s gates.
Never forget that other adage the landscape gardened interested must memorize….”Landscape gardens, like people, gain character with age.”
Now, your lesson of our day…..Put into writing using accurate sentences…..from the photo of Stourhead above, WHY IS IT SO BEAUTIFUL?      What  tricks of the landscape gardeners’ trade  were employed to achieve such harmony?    Why were they done so?
And then, don’t forget to answer, what tricks of the photographers’ trade were used to assure this photo of this view of the Stourhead  grounds would be beautiful… order to inspire the viewer?
(Special thanks goes to client B.R. for sending the above photo!)

August 29, 2016

Gardens, Like People, Gain Character with AGE

Filed under: battling the Minnesota climate,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 11:18 pm

“Gardens, like people, gain character with age” is a truism which, at least  in the dream of things, is TRUE.   In both cases good fortune is a necessity.   Both people and beautiful landscape gardens can be destroyed, ‘ killed ‘ by the same tornado, mud slide, flood, fire, or earthquake.  As a generalization, however,  the adage IS true, at least in the ideal.

Both beautiful people and beautiful landscape gardens usually  need  help, care and attention   especially when young to develop their ‘glow’ in later life.   It’s  living human beings who  make  judgments on the matter, however.

Most homeowners who do love and seek beauty in a landscaped garden are folks with average income, or are retired from years of average, or slightly above average income.   The super wealthy usually hire university degreed   landscape architects to  line things up  the way architects are trained to do.   Hedges become popular and can be practical in the setting.  After all, a wall is a wall is a wall.   One might even appear beautiful someday.

Sometimes for some folks,  the more expensive is deemed more beautiful merely by its cost rather any notice of  something ‘beautiful’.

Most of our plants which provide structure in beautiful landscape gardens are sun-loving.   Massive deciduous trees may become beautiful on their own account as individuals  after a century of living in the landscape garden, but because of root expanse and the living tree’s demand  for light,  living woody plant matter whether young or old doesn’t have much of a chance to compete in such an environment .

In our Northland, East exposure  to the Sun is the location superior to all other woody plantings for best growth.   South is runner up.  It’s hotter.    West, where the ground is usually hot longer and  drier,  is an ‘also ran’, with North dead last, often a sure killer for countless beautiful woody specimens when the season is with wind and severe cold without much snow cover.

Do remember, however, that the nature of the ambient soil does have a dictate in the health of  plants in their domain.   A sand ‘bottom’ is a far drier environment  for most  plant roots  than  clay.

Sometimes trees and shrubs, and occasionally people,   gain character from periods of  suffering….   While we root for human avoidance of  the condition,  older trees which survive  years of  suffering can become among the most beautiful in form  in ones landscape garden.  Skillful prunings can relieve many a landscape  tree or shrub suffering from ugliness and/or  general disorder.

We at Masterpiece invite folks to review the ‘beauty quotient’ of their existing trees and shrubs.   If your plants are not gaining character with age, do call us for advice and action….at 952-933-5777…..even if they look old and crusty.   Some plants can live with character  for centuries, you know.


August 28, 2016

Why Do Metropolitcan Politicians, Bureaucrats Make Community Streets So Ugly?

My parents bought the house in which  I was raised in 1936 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It was newly built on a “vacant”  lot of  the more prairie edges  of  the city south of Randolph, west of Fairview down to the Mississippi River itself.  “Civilized” American urban areas were developed post Civil War with the arrival  of European immigrants for the next forty years or so.   Scandinavians, Germans, and Czech went rural.  Slavs, Italians went Iron Range….East Coast  AngloAmericans were moving westward to plot urban  matters that counted as well as farm.

Suburbia occurred after World War II.    My neighborhood was ‘urbia’ from its beginning;  straight streets, mostly one-story houses, small lots, 45′ wide  by  90′ depth with alleys in the back of the house  leading to one-car garages all arising from plowed fields.

Then, as in so many communities today, the city  demanded, as so many suburban communities command  today, the rights to line these streets up with ‘shade’ trees of their dictate.   In our neighborhood the tree of worship then was Slippery Elm.    City folk needed shade whether they liked it or not.

Foundation plantings were the decorations the home owner would determine and it became a godlike worship that a maple tree should be planted in the middle of the front yard of lawn,  whether needed or not.    That Slippery or American  Elms, Sugar or Silver Maples being planted streetside by bureaucrats reach ninety feet  in height eventually, never seemed to cross anyone’s mind.    It would take more than  generation or two for  humans to discover their downside….their  size, overbearing shade, leaf tonnage, root conquerings,  weedy seedlings, their effect controlling and even destroying the  visual environment of the community.  But, they were cheap and grew rapidly….and no one dared to complain about their intrusions.   Eventually there came shade, whether needed, wanted  or not….and storms.

Green ash lollipops and all of their seedlings, became popular during the early stages of suburban sprawl.

Recently, city and suburban human  figures dictating urban plant disorientation today have found a special way to spread ugliness along streetsides….along Mississippi River Boulevard in today’s St. Paul, for instance….They ‘decorate’ new boulevard tree plantings with large  green plastic sacs attached to each  tree assuming, I am assuming, that no one will notice how ugly these ‘garbage’ sacks really are.

“Beauty” has long disappeared from the American art vocabulary, for according to current ‘intellectual’  talk,  things have a right to be or made to be ugly.   Besides, “Beauty” in the landscape takes too much time and knowledge to know the tricks of the trade.   There are only so many notes in music to play with….millions of notes to play with in the plant world.   Today’s American-made ‘music’ is supreme in its ugliness.  Why should our  landscapes have to  be the same?

Because  beauty to the eye and the ear,  when it  reaches the mind,   inspires, uplifts  the human soul.   The more one lives in  beautiful  surroundings, the more inspired and curious one becomes about beauty itself.  The more beautiful the neighborhoods become.

It is not the job of  bureaucrats to sell ‘beauty’, something they know nothing about.  Why, then, are they permitted to curse your ‘yard’ and the yards all around you by lining up the tree of their  day up and down your residential streets unless they add beauty to citizen life?


August 25, 2016

WHAT, on Earth, IS A WEED?

Yes, what on Earth,IS a weed!

Our governments and other fanatics who choose to  dictate human thoughts and moods these days, insist weeds are plant-like  things they’ve been programmed  to dislike in order to feel good.    These ‘dictate’ people are  indoor people…office people…..downtown people, usually government people  who live amid cement and asphalt.   If these people  are third or more generation Americans,  their grandparents were raised on a farm, not the street…..but they are all  dead…so yesterday with yesterday’s habits.

If they were raised on a farm in our Minnesota, they would have  known the differences between a potato and a tomato, wheat from corn, a pine from a spruce, a marigold  from a rose.   They would have lived in some kind of house, a house of their own.  They would have maintained a flower and shrub garden, a demand of the lady of that house….Paradise, after all, was a GARDEN with family.

In my own lifetime the majority of Minnesotans worked the soil.   They knew what a weed was, and if they were still alive, what a weed is today… irritating, disgusting…..but merely….

“A PLANT OUT OF PLACE”…..the ONLY accurate definition!

Recently in Minnesota  downtown people, those cement and concrete people have declared war on certain plants they have  declared weeds which at one time gave    gardeners  interest….the perennial, Lythrum, often called purple loosestrife,  and an understory tree,  Common Buckthorn, both arriving from their native Europe.

One of my most cherished trees in my home landscape garden is a Common Buckthorn, even  the fernleaf kind banned in Minnesota by the cement and concrete downtown people.    Purple loosestrife discovered my property about thirty years ago and I have allowed it to remain rent free along a pond front ever since.   It struggled for survival for a few years.  I was told the city had  air sprayed an herbicide along with its mosquito control program one spring.

Let us not forget, all of you  rare gardeners and  millions of non-gardeners of cement and concrete life, many many plants are ‘weedy’.   It’s in their genetic material.   The most popular of all, at least the best known, is  the garden plant  cherished especially   by government folks at all levels,  LAWN GRASS.

(It’s a plant easy to understand, requiring nearly no thought at all to maintain.     It needs light, topsoil, and Nitrogen for a good life and expands where ever Earth gives it its space.    To look its human best and is often walked on,  it needs to be mowed at least four times a month during the growing season…about the only need requiring thought beyond worrying about the mowing machine.

In the art world of  music,  lawn would be the eternal monotone, that single noise which in its landscape conquers the eye sans any and all interruption by something different and/or  beautiful…..very akin to  modern life, don’t you agree?)

I am a child of  the Garden of Eden people, and admit the  blessings taught by my elders….That is, I was born into a neighborhood which taught  the most beautiful, most perfect place in human existence is a garden….a Garden of Eden…

(Then, listening to Beethoven was deemed  runner-up…..but the two, Garden and Beethoven blending  together equals three in the math of beauty and  imagination  allowed the human being.


August 4, 2016

Is There a Sunkist Arborvitae in Your Future?

Masterpiece Landscaping is a Twin City, Minnesota  artistic landscaping company nearing its 30th birthday.   We line up and plant  garden trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials  in rows only when artistically required to fit  formal settings or for some other special artistic display to inspire visitors.

Landscape gardens, ideally,  should inspire the designer, the builder, and above all,   the home or business owners and their visitors whom we serve. It should never be forgotten, however, the installing the beautiful landscape garden is one art form, maintaining it is entirely another. We provide both services.

The Sunkist arborvitae, and its twin sister, the Yellow Ribbon,  are recent visitors to the upper midWest landscape, both being ‘born’ and made available for only  about 20 years.   I’ve been growing Sunkist on my grounds for nearly twenty years.   Yellow Ribbon is more  a newbie, available for only the past ten years locally.    The twins are  identical to us commoners. The following growth and care  information about these twins  is what is typically advertised as the following:

SUNKIST ARBORVITAE:    (Thuja occidentalis ‘Sunkist’        “Very bright golden tips.  Semi-dwarf, broad globe-shaed or oval pyramid shape form.  Compact growth habit.   Bright yellow foliage turns dark yellow to orange in fall/winter.  Evergreen shrub.    Great for use in asian style gardens, rock gardens, as a border or edge plant, or as a specimen or accent plant.

HEIGHT:  4-6 FEET     WIDTH:   4-6 FEET          Exposure:  Full sun        Hardiness Zones:  3-8

The above information doesn’t provide fullness of truth, however.   It is a carbon  copy of the sales tag the Sunkist or Yellow Ribbon bears when displayed for sale at your local Midwestern  nursery.    But is it true and helpful to the garden caretaker? It depends upon their  location, the amount and length of sunlight available, and  the care you and/or Nature provide them, the quality and character of the soil in which they  live, or try  to, and the amount and reliability of water available to the plants each week.

I have probably seven or eight of these golden arborvitaes growing in my landscape gardens.     The three oldest are all over twenty feet tall and  seven or eight feet in width.    Others I prune for shape or size control depending upon their location in the garden settings. However, I have outstanding soil to serve such plantings….both in tilth and depth…and  have an artificial watering system which  guarantees my plants water during season every other day.   I also fertilize somewhat reliably…usually  starting in February with Milorganite and standard 10-10-10 granulated  once or twice early season  until mid July.

All ‘golden’ arborvitaes including the global, are the same plant essentially. In contrast,  on grounds without such amenities for ideal plant growth,  these arborvitaes are quite different….In our neighborhood at a grounds a  couple doors to the East, I planted a Sunkist arborvitae #10 pot about twelve years ago.   It has received little care.  It sat ‘ungrowing’ but alive at four feet for the first half of its new life and since has gathered character and beauty at about the six foot mark. It eventually most likely by living twenty or more years, it  will  reach the twenty foot height similar to my plantings, with or without extra fertilizing.   If no fertilizing is added to its annual needs, the tree’s  foliage often does start to look thin and somewhat unhappy,  and begins to lose a bit of that bright Spring yellow the plant so well offers if treated right. There have been more ‘yellow’ and turquoise  foliaged conifers made available over the past two decades adding new colors as well as shapes and sizes to improve  our local landscape gardens.   Unfortunately, our Twin City public seems immune to the outdoors surrounding the places where they live.    Our schools no longer teach much about outdoor vegetative life these days.     Have you ever heard of: Chamaecyparis?   Microbiota?   Gigas Angelica?   Fernleaf Buckthorn?    Purple or Amber Jubilee Smokebush? If you, or you and your neighbors or garden club members are interested in visiting  our ‘home’  Masterpiece Landscape Garden. please all us at 952 933 5777.

August 1, 2016

Landscape Gardens, Like People, Gain Character With Age…..

Filed under: About Masterpiece,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 1:09 pm

……or, at least they should!    But, then, what is a landscape garden?

It is not a vegetable, beer, or flower garden, that’s for certain.

A landscape garden, at its best, is the most honored of all human art forms.   Nearly every human  culture’s paradise is perceived as a garden perfection,  therefore….a, THE,  Garden of Eden….a place of perfect harmony for the eye, body,  mind, and soul.   Its pieces are various collections and assemblies of Earth’s vegetative and hard surface world usually determined  by the inspired human  mind and imagination and  an amenable  climate to which the art forms  are  usually able to grow, cared for by the human hand  made to grow  into a paradise to enter and leave the troubles of the real world behind.

Landscape gardens, like people, gain character with age.

All other art forms are incidentals, with the exception of music….the beautiful kind, the Beethoven kind,  the kind no one knows anything about these days of noise, noise, and more noise as if  animal grunts.

I was in first grade when my teacher, Mrs. Florence Ray instructed our urban class of 40 students to collect tree leaves.  “We must know God’s beautiful world around us”, this public school teacher emphasized.   I already knew what mom’s peonies and roses  looked like…..I knew sugar maple and ‘slippery’ elm leaves, obedience plant, pansies, dandelions and four 0’clocks….and prickly junipers as well.   Balsam firs, the real ones made by Nature’s God  were celebrated as Christmas trees during the holidays.   I loved their fragrance as much as decorating them.

I learned the ‘tricks’ of the American citizen home garden trade by  working beside my Mother in the back “yard”….She was Germanic by background where garden beauty had to be colorful and precise.   Shrubs were incidentals confined to ‘foundation’ plantings…..that is,  evergreens….a habit from the American urban  1870s  following the American Civil War.

The country had become industrial to win  the war.  Afterward, homes had to be built for factory  workers and shop owners to build the nation….the Europeans were coming.  Workers had to have homes….and so city houses were built with wood, clapboard and cinder blocks to keep costs modest.    Spreader evergreen conifers were what “God” ordered to soften the cold and ugly of the cinder blocks on the street side of each urban  house of the labor class.   Some are probably still there in the older sections of many northern cities.

Urban lots were small, so gardens came to mean flowers, annuals and perennials for house wives…..seeds were sold and bought to control family budgets and that meant more flowers.    Lawn became a statement  of urban neatness of civilized, neighborly persons…..even during the Great Depression and until the end of World War II.   Neighbors shared.

Outdoors is a different place today.   Nearly no one in the Twin City metropolitan area look at a beautiful garden, whether  urban or suburban.    Homeowners no longer know  a fir, hemlock, or spruce….”The city”  plants trees along streetside…..whether the neighborhood  needs or can absorb them.    Beauty, since the garden hemp  revolutions of the 1960-70a, garden hemp, and all that goes with it,  has become the cherished plant of the new American garden  order.

Beauty, both for the American eye and the ear,  has not only disappeared from the  human touch, but among some,  has become an anathema, for if something is inspiringly  beautiful, something must then  be ugly, it’s opposite, and that would upset the level tables of the citizen to be made equal.

Where would one find aural or visual inspirational beauty in  today’s American culture  to depress it?

For a  three and a half minute lesson for the ear, listen to a top orchestral recording of Aaron Copland’s FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN…..for a half hour, listen to this American Aaron Copland’s  APPALACHIAN SPRING…or listen to nearly of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Largo, or  his “Spring” violin sonata adagio……Of course, there are countless others, if you’d bother to hear them.

Looking for them and finding them can become inspiring as well….I know.  I’ve been there.

For the eye, if you don’t  have your own  beautiful landscape garden to handle  inspiration, go to the Grand Canyon or Canada’s  Lake Louise…..If you want to learn how to grow and own your own  landscape garden for inspiration and beauty, please call us at Masterpiece Landscaping at 952-933-5777.