Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

May 16, 2017

Redbuds and Spring, 2017 in Twin City Land

Nearly no one gardens anymore……whether the vegetable or the flower one…..even in Minnesota.

Seventy years ago, even during World War II and its previous Depression years, most city folk did manage to garden for food and flower …..as did our local  farmers who hadn’t lost  their land.

“Working” the land was still common regardless of ‘plot’ size.    People knew what  kohlrabi and  bleeding heart were.

Redbuds were understory trees, weeding throughout  eastern forest openings incapable of growing here in the colder midwest where winters often included evenings of minus 30 plus Fahrenheit.   Most Americans those days moving West into Minnesota came from Maine and  Massachusetts  before and during our Scandinavian settlements.   They missed their Redbud (Cercis canadensis) capable of growing in southern Quebec and eastern Ontario as well.   For years horticulturists at the University of Minnesota worked overtime to cause Redbuds to become hardier in order to join their thirst for more beautiful Springs.

During and shortly after the War, the wealthy of the  Lake Minnetonka area estates would plant trial seedlings of Redbud from the University’s extension service east of Waconia.   Eventually, this Northern Redbud became reliable enough as an attractive  local Twin City area understory both in clump form and in bright pink floral color arriving for show before foliage develops.

Most of my landscape garden where I live is without lawn….I have plotted it to be that way.  I  bought my first Northern Redbud about 30 years ago….and purposely  planted the clump rather crooked to one side in  hope that it would develop  a spectacular form during its old age.

It obliged…with this Spring bloom the most beautiful of all in color and form.  “Plants, gardens, like people, gain character with age”, I have often claimed.

Another purchased Northern Redbud planted about ten years ago, has struggled to look good in shape, for the color of hot pink in early May is always bright and clean of all the mature and living….usually.

Northern Redbuds seed profusely  where ‘open’ soil is available.   Their countless  pea family pods are filled  with seeds following their hot pink display.   Not all Redbuds are equal weed seed producers, however.  In my own mostly woodsy-like garden settings,  dozens and dozens of seedlings are produced  every Spring.  The vast majority will live a year or two before they succumb to the stress of  yesterday’s tenderness to temperatures colder  than  ten below zero of winter wear or be eaten by rabbits for their winter evening and morning meals.

Yet, some eaten still survive such meals and send out side shoots at the edges groundward from the eatings causing two to four side shoots to develop to keep the Redbud factory alive often for a good thirty years of character  forming some of the most beautiful clumps.

This past late April and May have produced the most beautiful, longest blooming period in Redbud history here in our Gopherland.    My ten or more Redbuds have been in a spectacular stage of  bloom for three weeks, longer than ever before.    This Spring’s flock has likely  been the biggest, happiest, most beautiful Northern Redbud bloom  ever in our western Twin City suburbs:  cool nights with  ‘hotless’ days with  no wild rainfalls or heavy snowfall.  Few, if any, have shed their hot pink.

 

 

 

May 8, 2017

Spring is an A Plus for the Home Landscape This Year

Filed under: garden seasons,perennials,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 12:55 am

NOT ALL SPRINGS ARE EQUAL

There is no doubt from my life’s experience  especially in the  landscape garden arts  that winters were colder, more brutal,  and longer during my outdoor life as a child  compared to the last five decades of Twin City, Minnesota existence.    I was raised in a five room bungalow house in St. Paul, Minnesota.  My outdoor winter life began “in earnest” around 1940 when I was six.   Despite being confined to small city lots, neighbors, home owners who weren’t poverty stricken, were better, more knowledgeable gardeners then than folks are  today.  Nearly every household had a flower garden managed by a Mother, vegetable garden dug by a male, a father or a son, and a neat appearing manicured foundation planting to hide the foundation structure along the front of every house.

Human powered mowers made little to no noise.  Only human powered tools were available then. Lawns had to look nice, neat to advertise that the citizens who lived in that house were civilized and cared about the neighborhood.     Only men and boys  mowed then.   Many local  properties included a hill  to the public walk out front of the house.  Mothers and sisters had other local duties.    Children were everywhere.  Lots were small. Divorces rarely existed.  A mother was a mother, a father, a father.

Most garden tools were hand-me-downs.  One mower lasted more than a lifetime for those depression years.   Spending was for food….and then there was the war, 1941-45.   Whether needed or wanted or not, elms were planted by the city along the ‘boulevard”, the space between the public walk and the street curb.   It made things appear cozy and cool in the summer  until Dutch Elm disease appeared in earnest.    Maintaining a neat and attractive front yard landscape indicated home owners cared about the quality of their neighborhood.   Adults weren’t as obnoxious then as so many seem to be these days.    Children didn’t dare misbehave where I lived.   They, we, didn’t dare.

I learned what a Lombardy Poplar tree was when I was 4…. as well as a Spruce, Elm, Bleeding Heart, Phlox, Juniper,  Four-0’clocks, Spiraea, marigolds, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and chrysanthemums that same year.  I became my Mother’s gardening  agent.  My sister played dolls and paper dolls in the bedroom.   (Did I ever luck out.  I loved the outdoors especially gardening from then on. It was a geography in which my Mother and I bonded besides doing thousand piece picture puzzles with her indoors in Winter).

There were no driveways dividing front yards in the city then.   Ugly stuff was confined to the back alley.

We learned birding at school starting in first grade.   There were several empty lots in our neighborhood across the alley from us before World War II.   In 1942 the City plowed up these lots for Victory Garden use…..The major weed in these lots was called hemp in those day.   No one seemed to care about such matters.   Everyone had a church or synagogue to tend to.

Despite our economic struggles these days,  there is always welfare and fewer families with children by percentage unlike those years when boys my age had two pairs of pants, people were never fat, and food never wasted but often grown somewhere in the backyard during Spring and Summer.

Knowledge about our human past was taught in schools then.   Classical music was allowed to be heard twice a month during public school time when Matilda Heck appeared.   I was already aware of Beethoven stuff even before third grade while at home standing like a soldier at a wall near our front door, looking at a R. Atkinson Fox picture painting  of a lovely  landscape garden hanging on the wall just above my head.