Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

July 21, 2017

The Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society is Coming to My Garden………..

…..Saturday morning, this July 29th.   My home grounds  display of “hardy plants” will be exposed to  Wisconsin folks most of  whom  live  south and southeast of Eau Claire, therefore living  in a much warmer climate than I do….people, gardeners, tree and shrub lovers  who can show off ten times more  hardy  plants in their neighborhoods  that I can here I Minnetonka, Minnesota.

No complaints, guys and gals…merely an observation.

One of my favorite deciduous trees is Acer griseum.   Bark color and texture, autumn color, growing season color, crown shape and ‘green’ are all exceptional show offs……in your Wisconsin, Zone 5 majority hardy plant lovers’ gardens.   I ordered and planted three about fifteen years ago….wussy looking sizes sent through the mail….all three!   There were  arguments among those in the “know” whether or not the tree could survive in any Climate Zone 4.

With this awareness, I planted one in full sun to the south of my home grounds, a second in the middle, but ten foot  lower  area of the landscape yet fully exposed to  northern  winds off a large pond in the winter, and the third to the East border of the garden amongst a collection of mostly conifer trees,  yew, red pine, and hemlocks.

The Paperbark Maple in the South grew two to three feet a year.  The one to the East grew a foot a year, and the one sitting in the winter path  in the  downstairs of the half acre garden sulked from the very beginning of its placement.  Noticing its childishness, I planted a Canadian Hemlock barely ten feet to the North of  the ‘depressed’ Acer griseum a few years later.

Here is an assignment I have  for our Hardy Plant  visitors, especially  from those warmer parts of Wisconsin.  Before arriving on tour  in my Minnetonka, please, just for fun,  put into order the condition of life expressed  as you will view the condition of  these Acer griseums in my landscaped garden,  fifteen or sixteen years of maturing “life” later.  Hint!  One of them is dead.   Which one?

 

 

 

July 17, 2017

Welcome Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society!

I live in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  Soon I will be  honored to open my landscape gardened grounds here in Minnetonka  to folks from the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society busing in from Madison, Wisconsin.   I, especially  my 78 years of “landscape gardening” welcome all of you for your interest in landscape gardens of the hardy kind!

The first tree I ever knew by name was the “White Pine”.  I was four years old.   My parents had a friend who owned a cabin at Lake Alexandria, Minnesota which we would visit every summer for years.   Sand was everywhere, even amongst the tallest trees I had ever seen….groves of White Pine one hundred feet tall.

In the world of labor outdoors, gardening, especially landscape gardening,  can easily become  a drug of the first order, if beauty is the primary, or worse, sole goal for the hooked attempting to create something to uplift the soul.

I was lucky.   It was without choice at age six or seven my primary play outdoors was creating believable and the beautiful landscapes in a sand box about six feet by four in size….which belonged to the neighbor next door in a very modest, pleasant pre-World War II  St. Paul, Minnesota area where lot sizes were 45 by 90 feet each with a garage and alley.

“It”, that is my landscape gardening life, all began in that 6×4 sandbox when I was 4 and a half years old.

It ended, that is my landscape gardening in the neighbor’s  sand box, some time mid summer nearly 9 years later, the summer before I was to enter freshman year at St. Paul Central High School.

I remember being very pleased with the scenery I had created….beauty at last, believability  in  proper order had been achieved that day.   I remember not moving a single tootsy-toy car from its parking spot.   My favorite was a 1939 Mercury my Uncle Frank had bought me for my birthday that year.  It was a coupe, a realistic replica of the real, only two and a half inches long.

Both my sand box boulevard trees and landscape trees were  from a pyramidal arborvitae not far from the sandbox.   I’d bite off the tips of the greenery….and in doing so endured a bitter flavor as if chewing a lemon rind.  Years later, while studying Latin in high school, I learned arbor…vitae meant “tree” of “life”…and indeed so, for the Brits during their centuries as a world naval power, used to store Arborvitae trees grown in pots on their great sail ships which sent them all around globe for business, profit and democratic civilization….which led to the birth of own country,  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India, by the way ….(I taught ‘high school social studies’  for twelve years. I landscaped as a hobby-drug then.)

I used cigar boxes for corner shops and drug stores.   I lined my streets with ‘pruned’ arborvitae foliage…sizes and shapes formed by my teeth.    Toy building blocks were saved for modest houses like those in which I lived.    A dandelion bud both before and after bloom could be designed as shrubs.

However, that “believability” day was the last day I ever ‘touched’ that or any other sandbox.

Embarrassed by her 13 and a half year old son still monkeying around a sandbox…always alone and loving it, she opened the side outside door where she would be best heard by all  and seen by her ‘wayward’ son and shouted as loudly as possible:  “Glenn Ray, you are too old to be playing in a sand box!!!….but I shouted back, just as loud…..

“I’M NOT PLAYING IN A SANDBOX!  I’M MAKING SCENERY!”…and I knew I was right!!

Nevertheless, I understood the point she wanted ME to absorb for I knew she was right.   What if any of my buddies might ideed  see me making scenery, that is “playing” in a sandbox….something I had practiced for nearly nine years.

My Mother had won the day!

I wanted to avoid her celebrating her victory, however.  So, I covered the pain by  slyly filling a gunny sack with all of the paraphernalia required for community  landscape garden created  in that sandbox, with a laugh or two……for, after considering her claims,   I knew she was right ‘regarding the scenery’ at her distance.   My sandbox education came to its end!

 

July 7, 2017

What exactly is a weed in the Northern garden? Astilbe chinensis?

Filed under: garden seasons,perennials,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 10:16 pm

It is likely the vast  majority of the today’s American population under age 40 have no idea what a weed is beyond an old fashioned word for marijuana…..the stuff of real value among our today’s American youth from homes without fathers.

Gifted humans, the ones lucky enough  who still ‘toil’ the soil in some manner or another, know that  to an experienced gardener, a WEED, is a plant out of place….end of story!

One of the weediest plants in my own gardened grounds is the aggressive  Astilbe chinensis of all shapes and sizes.   But “weediest” has nothing to do with the word “weedy” for neither are a weed if they are not unwanted.

Even in our TwinCity Minnesota area, Astilbe chinensis regardless of  all its salesmanship ‘nicknames’ likes to live and expand its realm where lawn grasses and soillessness are not a problem.   The first named one I remember planting was “Purple Cats”….a three footer or more whose flower spikes were strikingly purple.  That occurred  around 35 years ago.  It is still happy and still bears  a beautiful cluster of purple spikes starting again this coming week.  It  commands  the same  square foot of territory where it has bloomed every year since the day I planted it.  Strong stems and winsome foliage  add to its value.   It is more beautiful the bigger its crowd.

This Astilbe chinensis “Purple Cats” has also expanded its realm as well.   It might now own about fifty square feet of floral display beginning Monday, blooming earlier in sunnier locations than those in deep shade.  Full sun is not in its comfort zone.

Have you ever noticed how beautifully ordered Nature’s landscape gardens are?   Where there is time, HARMONY among plants eventually dominates the grounds.  There is order in Nature until disorder arrives.  Those (plants) victorious in claiming their realm do  so by expanding their own territory, conquering their competitors, enemies,  by making them out-of-place causing disharmony.

“A weed is a plant out of place.”    Is there an Astilbe chinensis in your garden?    There should be!