Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

July 22, 2015

When Should the Ideal Landscape Garden be at its Best?

When, at what season, does, should,  your landscape garden radiate its most inspiring  beauty?

The answer is simple……Whenever you enter your Garden of Eden.

I have lived at my grounds for over 40 years, long enough to be able to do,  genetically, mentally, physically, and culturally, what I was driven to do, planting and maintaining a beautiful  landscape garden  in some form or another.

I have been very, very fortunate in life, and have many other interests to know and worry about, such as the survival of civilized, JudeoChristian principles, understandings and responsibilities in our hostile world.

I began landscape gardening when I was about four years old. I remember the first move. I was playing in my neighbor boy’s sand box, an exercise which never lured him to experience, so I had his sandbox world to myself. It was in a space far enough away from my Mother to be free, relaxed, and creative. I was born a dreamer, and probably a loner. I was born to be happy and to be happiest outdoors deeply entrenched among beautiful scenery. I have always felt blessed possessing this wonderful escape from reality……and, without knowing it while early in aging playing in that sandbox, I have been directed by the drive my entire life since.

No art form can be as inspiring to pursue than the art of  making and maintaining  not merely colorful gardens, but  beautiful scenery.

I have loved the Earth as long as I can remember…..since drawing maps from atlases or tracing them against windows since before kindergarten. I placed the world at my finger tips.

I have also discovered by now in my eighth decade of life, supplied by years of teaching professionally, the male human eye is genetically made to be quite different from the eye of the human female ……and made to be especially keen in the out-of-doors. Honest females notice the difference. They were not stirred by endless thousands of years of genetic material development programmed to be defenders, protectors, hunters ‘of the clan’, and aggressors to hunt, invent, and collect whatever needed to continue life as a species. The human male was/is born genetically curious.

We do know the human female prefers color to form. This ‘law’ of human life is especially true in the landscape garden world.

I spent fourteen years of my professional life as Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society when it used to be a semi-State agency providing horticultural knowledge to our north land, Minnesota, owning a climate quite different from the big population sections of the country itself. I traveled the State three or four time every year for the Society, organized in 1866, and chapters were established in each of the states’ Congressional Districts. It was through the Minnesota State Horticultural Society that the popular Minnesota Landscape Arboretum came into being. The institution no longer exists as a state serving agency.

I was four years old when the spark of landscape-garden life entered my soul and began its control of my private time. My sister was in kindergarten as I would be the following year. I was alone at home, alone, at last…..with the exception of my Germanic mother, a devoted traditional gal-gardener in her own right. Flower gardening was the only world I ever saw her profoundly at peace at work, content with life, enjoying every moment of it as she maneuvered her annuals and perennials to satisfy her eye for making beauty.

We bonded in many ways, most of them having something to do with landscape gardening.

She loved picture puzzles….but ONLY the ones with colored pictures of beautiful landscape gardens with more than a thousand pieces so she wouldn’t become too bored too soon putting it all together. My Dad worked at his drug store all of the time; my sister played paper dolls and dolls in her bedroom. I was the only person aloud to touch Mother’s puzzle, for she was impatient for the finish. Being a boy, I saw the pieces better, quicker than she. She recognized and respected that. Although competitive, it didn’t bother her in the least for she had to perform all of the domestic duties of the day and work at Dad’s drug store part time, as well. She loved being with me as her puzzle worker partner.

By Spring 1942 there was the matter of the War. Dad, too old to serve and working 70 plus hours a week at his drug store, had been raised on a farm near Hope, North Dakota, and so, patriotically agreed to sign-up to be in charge of a Victory Garden at the three empty lots across the alley behind our house. The city would plow the space and provide seed packets for free if he would agree to plant and maintain a Victory Garden in that space for our harvest but share the larger harvest among neighbors.

Neither he, nor Mother had time for farm-life extras even for the war effort beyond Mom’s canning. It also turned out that she had a rather serious allergy to certain bee stings. So, at age 7, guess who, as a habitual rite of punishment, was ordered to plant this, hoe that, pick beetles here, stir the crows there, harvest everything hither and thither here, there, and everywhere in that garden all by myself? How could I have become so lucky to suddenly be drawn into paradise on Earth where there were no limits to a boy’s imagination and play…..especially during war time!

Canning vegetables, however, was another area of deep bonding with the lady of our house….Although Mother wouldn’t allow anyone to disturb her own flower garden, because of her allergy, she didn’t dare a chance to even enter the Victory Garden.

I became manager, laborer, and play maker at the same time. I especially liked dive bombing potato beetles.

I loved every bit of it, but at a cost. I became devious. I was smart enough to pretend the punishment being sent to the victory garden was too severe for an innocent young lad of seven, eight, and nine, to endure. I knew Mother would send me on assignment there ever more often. That garden became my personal world. I had every garden duty there, I seeded, weeded, cultivated, harvested throughout the war years until Spring, 1946. It’s where we boys played hunting Nazis among the corn stocks in the Fall and dive bombed Nazi installations (the snow forts we had built for that very purpose) in the Winter, all for the war effort, of course.

The first ten years of living here in my eventual landscape garden paradise, I maintained an eighty by thirty foot vegetable garden to make certain none of my three kids would fail to know where tomatoes and such came from. The two boys paid attention. Our daughter did not. I was never German enough to maintain a perfectly well-manicured vegetable garden, but always have been jealous of those who do…..for such settings, too, can be made lovely as well as orderly.

With all of this background programming me to become a captive of landscape garden beauty, nothing matches the following domestic experience causing the final blow.

I was raised in a small five-room bungalow, as it was then called, built and moved into by our family in 1936, then a newly settled section of St. Paul, Minnesota. At the vestibule at the front door was a wall empty of everything except for a framed picture placed at the six foot level by my Mother, a picture two feet by one and a half foot. It was the wall in which I spent countless standing hours of my life from age four to ten most often during winter or whenever Mother was in the mood to silence me. This wall is where I contemplated about life, war, and the world. For it was there I stood in punishment, almost always for disturbing Mother by asking too many questions while she desperately wanted to listen to classical music over the static from our floor radio console…..especially when she wanted to hear Handel’s Messiah during Christmas or Easter from Chicago or anything Johann Strauss at anytime.

She’d warn me every time…”Glenn Ray, if you ask me one more question, you’re going to the Wall…..Do you hear me? Do you understand what I am saying?”

“Yes, Mother”, but sooner rather than later, I’d forget. I had too many questions to ask, answers to know, too many worlds to conquer. Whether in seconds, minutes, or hours, I’d be right at her apron asking more questions.

The punishment was very German. I’d have to stand there for one hour…..that’s sixty minutes, not fifty nine or sixty one….but sixty minutes. Mother was very precise when at her best which was usually always. That ‘best’ included destroying my ability to pout about any punishment. I could never get even with her with sulky, pouty, disagreeable looks, slouches, or displaying other attitudes. She’d pick up even the slightest sulk I come up with….I tried that trick only once….that old trick kids can pull in retaliation to make adults, mostly moms feel bad. It almost worked for my buddies when they tried sulking to their moms. But my mom’s memory was as sharp and German as everything else she did. She gave me the one hundred and twenty minute standing time the one time I dared to practice my frown trying to make her feel bad.

Let’s look at that lone picture hanging at the punishment wall I was forced to stare at all those years. Even though I was born horribly dyslexic, unable to read much beyond but atlases, encyclopedias, and news article throughout my life, somewhere along the line of these punishments, most likely when I was seven, I spied R. ATKINSON FOX, written, nestled into the lower right hand corner of a “painting” of an idealized, landscape garden setting. I didn’t know what R. Atkinson Fox meant then, but my eyes had recorded it. I inherited the picture about twenty five years ago and immediately placed it at the six foot level in my bedroom. Eventually, I remembered standing after standing, hour upon hour, with nothing to do but look at this this one picture, primarily as a result of my own Mother’s drive to listen to Handel, Strauss, and Beethoven, et alia in the background without any interference beyond radio static while she was doing her home chores and enjoyments before going to work in the afternoon.

When I was five years old and attending afternoon kindergarten and my sister was in the first grade, after an hour ‘at the wall’ and already well trained at looking up to the six foot level where the landscape picture had already so commanded my eyes and thinking, I began wondering about a line of trees along the left border of the picture-painting. I already knew what hollyhocks, delphinium, and peonies were. Both Mother and Mrs. Rowell our wonderful neighbor next door, grew them in their gardens. Both had told me their names, for I wanted to know.

Once while standing below the picture perhaps at the 44th minute mark of my punishment, I thought the tree of the lineup looked a lot like the tree growing in Mrs. Rowell’s front yard, a tall skinny one. I can see myself this very moment leaving the wall and its picture precisely at the hour mark going out our back door across the lawn to Mrs. Rowell’s back door….(In those days in St. Paul neighborhoods, all children unescorted by adults visited neighbors at the back door only. Front doors were reserved for adults.)

“Mrs. Rowell…..what’s the name of the tree you have growing in your front yard?”

“Why, Glenn, it’s a Lombardy Poplar.” she replied. “Thank you” and I turned around to go back home…..but Mrs. Rowell called out, “Just a moment, Glenn. Why ever did you ask me?”

“I just wanted to know”……which has been one of the best blessed gifts of my life…..a trait I inherited from my Mother, but a trait she was too busy to handle from some offspring in her family. Mrs. Rowell hired me when I was about ten to help her arrange her perennial garden.

It was the sand box by the alley at Mrs. Rowell’s where I first began learning the art of landscape gardening. In 1939 I got a set of Tootsie-Toy cars for Christmas from my favorite uncle. These were miniature ‘replicas’ of real cars of the day. I remember a Buick and a Mercury as my favorites. They all were about three inches long and appeared very real. I needed foliage to make my streets and country road believably tree-lined. One elm leaf was longer than a single Tootsie-Toy car. So, I bit a piece off of a conifer, a pyramidal arborvitae, which had dark evergreen foliage about the proper size relative to a Tootsie-Toy car to make it look like a street tree….and eventually a couple of park trees where my city parks would be built in the sand.

At age 13, although heavily secreted from any of my friends, I was still designing streets and gardens in this same sandbox. One day an angry Mother called from our back door while I was designing at the sand box……”Glenn Ray, you’re too old to be playing in a sand box!”

I shouted back, “I’m not playing in a sand box. I’m making SCENERY!”……..but the dagger hit me hard. I swiped at the streets I had designed, collected all of my blocks, the houses and skyscrapers I had built and gardens I had arranged with petals, florets, and conifer cuttings I had used to imitate and idealize reality, and never returned to “play” in the sand. Mom was right. I was afraid my friends might find me playing landscaping in the sandbox…..I WAS too old….and yet, here I am almost 81 and have been playing the same visual art game for a living for more than half my life. What did I ever do to be so fortunate?

How beautiful is the scenery where you reside?

 

 

 

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.

May 20, 2013

Thank you, Readers, for you Comments about our Comments about Boulders in the Landscape Garden

Filed under: boulders and stone,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 9:46 pm

It’s coming on four years since we at Masterpiece published the article on boulders in the Minnesota landscape garden which has turned out to be our most popular. Thank you for you comments. They still are collecting.

However, we wrote then about boulders in the garden toward the end of the season, September 8, 2009, to be exact. I offer the reprint below in hopes it might still be useful reading for those contemplating there might be boulders in your home landscape garden future….perhaps even this year:

BOULDERS IN THE MINNESOTA LANDSCAPE GARDEN

“Here in Minnesota boulders happen. They were carved out from bedrock by glaciers and then dumped willy-nilly as the glaciers receded. For decades farmers gathered the gatherable to get them out of the way of plowed fields. Some still do. Now, they sell them.

Some boulders are more beautiful than others. Some are larger, others more square than oblong. Some are granite, others limestone.

Things “boulderlike” have become very popular in landscapes. In the old iron mines up north, rock outcrops are quarried and the products marketed….selling them to builders and landscapers.

For years the Minnesota landscape people have built boulder walls which resemble egg piles. Roundish things often the same size piled and pushed by bobcat tightly one onto another creating an enormous eye sore for you and future generations to view.

Not long ago the industry produced indescribably ugly reddish brown volcanic lava slag chunks and sold them as ground cover material to homeowners to “beautify the home garden”, hoping to stay up-to- date with their garden “arts”. Minnesota homeowners still have tons of limestone chips or river rock dumped around their homes believing that making their ground look more like moonscape enhances earth’s beauty.

I have lived at my property for 35 years. There were no boulders, and, lucky for me, no river rock or limestone “mulch” which I would have had to remove when I moved there. There was lawn, a tree or two, and more lawn. And there were interesting gentle slopes and slight differences of elevation in the 1/2 acre space. I like boulders naturally placed in the landscape. Quarried rock can be beautifully arranged there as well. But it does require more training and skill to create naturalistic settings than placing garden items living or man made simply where space allows.

One sentence incorporating three questions is all that is needed to understand the rules of both plant arrangement and the placement of boulders: “WHAT ARE YOU PLACING WHERE AND WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

“Therein lies the rub!”

No special vocabulary is needed to answer these three questions. What is required is an eye, a feel, and experience. Please visit our masterpiecelandscape.com Website lineup of landscape pictures. Of course I am biased but the guys who run Masterpiece Landscaping are very, very good at positioning the right plants, and the right stonework into the right places and combinations in the landscape. But, see for yourself after you finish reading this article.

What can boulders in the garden do for you?

My general answer may be, perhaps nothing. Some very astute gardeners deeply into landscape beautfy prefer a more formal, more gentle Earth setting. One without boulders tends to quiet and soften a view with the living not the cold, brutal hardscape. A rocky garden is less civilized and a less tranquill space than a rockless setting. It suggests the wild rather than the cultivated.

In Minnesota, especially around the city of Duluth, some of the most beautiful rock anywhere can be seen. Drop by the Lester Park area on the east side. Go to the streams rushing from the uplands onto the grand lake, Superior. Boulders, rock standings, some bigger than a house expand ones imagination.

If in your landscape you wish to create or imply a stream, your work could not be believable without rock or boulders. They make the water move laterally one way or another. They create the width or narrowness of the believable stream.

Plants grow, but boulders do not. This should always be remembered when determining plant-boulder space relationships. Here we can have a problem with large plant forms near any boulders. To repeat, plants grow, but boulders do not.

Boulders are expensive when set properly. Frugal and stingy gardeners don’t “plant” boulders. The stone itself may cost only $400 per ton, but how are you going to get the monstrosity home? And then up a hill or around to the back grounds, and then how is it going to be set? That is the art of it, isn’t it? It takes time, skill, equipment and labor.

I am sorry to say that some ”landscapers” simply dump boulders onto a spot. The “dumper” claims when looking at what was dumped, that nature made it dump that way. The next time you notice boulders set in a landscape, judge for youself the ones you think were dumped versus the ones you believe were set with beauty in mind.

Remember too, there always is a chance, maybe one in ten thousand, the boulder was dumped beautifully, so keep your betting money in your pocket.

Study those boulders you believe were set with beauty in mind and compare them with the dumps. Then explain with a meaningful vocabulary what you believe the difference is.

Alot of politicians these days are trying to sell equality. Landscapers and gardeners should remind them that that which is equally large, is equally small.

Sand, masses of sand are particles roughly of equal size. Boulders in arrangements of equal sizes are usually boring and in all ways uninteresting….pressing on the monotonous. Manufactured boulders are repulsive to look at.

A flat piece of land is usually associated with a more formal garden. It is the environment most associated with gal gardeners. In general, they prefer flowers, the more the better. To them garden means flowers. Not that they were born fixed in this belief. There are many practical, reasonable reasons for this…You think of some.

I have noticed a wonderful trend over the past ten years or so, however. Lots of our best clients, (sorry guys, most of them are women….guys are needed to help pay the bills), absolutely love boulder settings. Not all of them are in the suburbs either.

Some of the most beautiful grounds of all, in my prejudiced view, where boulders are central to the feel of the verdant landscape, are in small city lots, one in dinkytown and another in St. Louis Park.

There are many asides to boulders in the garden. Daylilies often are made more beautiful not far from one or some. Creeping evergreens, expecially Japgarden Junipers next to, around, creeping onto or away from boulders, never fail from causing a sigh of approval when seen.

Another mentionable, one tends to lose far fewer pruning shears, trowels, cultivators, hand tools of all kinds in gardens where there are boulders around, especially those not dumped. That is, if one trains to set them as tables where these tools can be safely if temporarily positioned when the gardener moves on to another task.

Then there is the sitting boulder. In the dinky town garden the front area was landscaped with sitable boulders for a seating of six to eight. The lady client had a book club of six to eight regular members and looked forward to an occasional outdoor setting. No garden furniture needed to be moved into position.

Boulders offer more to a successful landscape than what I have mentioned here. I wouldn’t want to reveal all we know about their uses in these blog articles. Otherwise, there might not be a need for you readers to call us to help keep us in business.”

August 22, 2012

Just a Note about Masterpiece Clients

I believe I write for all of us at Masterpiece that this landscape season we have had a wonderul group of new clients to add to our company’s family of beautiful grounds.

At a group of over 75 clients who gathered at our home grounds last Thursday I asked our clients how many were offered a plan by Masterpiece as we began our landscape projects at their homes.

I knew the answer, of course. I sought the drama and the following laughter.

No one, of course, raised their hand. It is our job to provide our clients with as much beauty as the money available can provide. And, we usually work in stages.

We do interview homeowners regarding their interests and expectations. Do they entertain? Do the plan to live the rest of their lives in their present home? Do they have children? Do they like stone, boulders, and if so, with what kind of look?

Most home grounds in the Twin City area are not well landscaped.

Most home owners beg for low maintenance……Most of our clients gain interest to play in the gardened grounds after we have developed them. If one owns beauty one usually wants to keep it beautiful.

Most Twin Citians are not familiar with the wide variet of plant material now available for the Minnesota home grounds.

We encourge that they review projects we have already been developing…..and remind them that Gardens, like People, gain Character with Age.
Beauty is not culturally or educationally valued in America presently. We live in a time when we are supposed to be made equal one to another, leaving beauty out of thinking.

If something is deemed beautiful, it automatically suggests that something is less beautiful.

Everything deemed equally beautiful is by definition equally ugly. Huge boulders of equal size are equally small.

We have had a good month…..and have landscaped for the finest of people for whom we have worked for the very first time. One sent us the following email just yesterday.

It reads:

“Thought I would share that tonight three of the neighbors stopped by because they wanted to see your work. They loved everything and thought it was so peaceful and different! Six of the kids were playing on all of the rocks around the fire pit! They all loved it….and we do too! It turned out so much better than we anticipated! The really neat thing is that it looks as beautiful from our basement windows as it does from our deck and standing in the back yard!

By the way, all of the guys were so friendly. I worked from home for a couple of hours on a couple of different times this week and got the chance to say hello to your crew. They were so courteous and wanted our thoughts and to make sure we liked the placement of the plants and watering system. Absolutely amazing service…and your guys are very proud and knowledgeable about their work!”

Are the grounds where you live or work as beautiful as you believe they should be?

If not, why don’t you give us a call, too…..952 933 5777

April 14, 2010

What’s That In Bloom?

Filed under: boulders and stone,Bulbs,garden seasons — glenn @ 8:24 pm

Well, what is that in bloom around the Twin Cities this year……April 9-20 depending on location of specimens?  

Among the trees there are the magnolias, pink being Leonard Messel and the white, the Merrill Magnolia.  Both are pleasantly fragrant.

The bright yellow flowering shrubs are the forsythias, probably Meadowlark or Northern Sun.  They have been in bloom in most locations for about a week already.  In older plantings one might see Nankin Cherry, a large ten foot high and wide rose family shrub with soft white flowers coverning the plant.  My own PJM Rhododendron opened its pinkish lavender blossoms in full force this very morning.  It is over 30 years old, twelve  feet by twelve  feet in size. 

The Amelanchiers both shrubs and trees will be beginning their flowering now, as well.   Floral displays are an off white.

The masses of stunning pure white among the groundcovers now in bloom is white arabis….or rockcress.  It is an evergreen spreader, and does like to spread, but is not at all weedy.  If wattered reliably the bloom might last for over three weeks.

My Lenten roses are in their third week in bloom….and might continue for another couple weeks. 

Most of the earlier Dutch bulbs, eranthis, snowdrops, crocus, dwarf fritillarias, scilla (Siberian squill) and Chionodoxa are either in full bloom or are past their prime in the more sunny exposures.  All of these bulbs must be planted in the fall.   Scillas are the one super reliable minor (small) Dutch bulb in our northern gardens.  They will last and spread in the grounds for decades and decades.  There is no more beautiful  penetrating  blue in nature.  It is too bad they are so small……but then, a spread of  a hundred or more square feet of them is spectacular.   An issues arises after the plant fades and disappears in a month.  What is going to happen next in their space is often a question. 

My lone marsh marigold clump will begin opening  tomorrow morning.

Many of the narcissus (daffodils) are in bloom now.  Remember these bulbs are not eaten by rodents.  Unfortunately, they do not bare colors outside the yellows and whites, but they do bloom about the same time as the early rhododendrons which together is a color scheme no family member or neighbor will fail to appreciate.   They also are available in miniature sizes.  Again these must be planted in autumn as well. 

Tulips are sold as early, middle, or late season bulbs.   Early season was yesterday and the week up to yesterday.   I like the Kaufmanias.  They are shorter and therefore more attractive abutting boulders.   I much prefer bulbs, flowering perennials in general, whose blooms and foliage are under 18 inches for these smaller sizes make my garden boulders looks bigger. 

Most hyacinths will be blooming next week.  They are tremendously fragrant.  The big fritillarias are much later,  after all they become  a rather large plant in adulthood. 

If you keep track of bloom times of any flowering plants in your garden, you will notice by the records you’ve kept, that not every Spring is the same in sequence of bloom. 

This spring in my garden the season is about ten days further along than last year at this time.  The steady weather in March helped to lengthen  Spring. 

Gardeners should remember that, in general, the best location for flowering plants and those shrubs and small trees which might be a bit more sensitive or delicate for one good reason or another, is the grounds to the East of the house or where the plants are exposed to morning light.

Why?   Here’s a hint. 

Remember your explanation when you do your plantings.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons, those hardy for our northern areas, do their best in full morning light, especially in floral display.  They would be unhappy in afternoon sun throughout the summer.

September 8, 2009

Boulders in the Minnesota Landscape Garden

Filed under: boulders and stone,mediums in OUR artform — glenn @ 10:57 pm

Here in Minnesota boulders happen.  They were carved out from bedrock by glaciers and then dumped willy-nilly as the glaciers receded.  For decades farmers gathered the gatherable to get them out of the way of plowed fields.  Some still do.  Now, they  sell them.

Some boulders are more beautiful than others.  Some are larger, others more square than oblong.  Some are granite, others limestone.

Things “boulderlike” have become very popular in landscapes.  In the old iron mines up north, rock  outcrops are quarried and the products marketed….selling them to builders and landscapers.

For years the Minnesota landscape people have built boulder walls which resemble egg piles.  Roundish things often the same size piled and pushed by bobcat tightly one onto another  creating an enormous eye sore for you and future generations to view.

Not long ago the industry produced indescribably ugly reddish brown volcanic lava slag chunks and sold them as ground cover material to homeowners to “beautify the home garden”, hoping to stay up-to- date with their garden “arts”.  Minnesota homeowners still have tons of limestone chips or river rock dumped around their homes believing that making their ground look more like  moonscape enhances earth’s beauty.

I have lived at my property for 35 years.  There were no boulders, and, lucky for me, no river rock or limestone “mulch” which I would have had to remove when I moved there.  There was lawn, a tree or two, and more lawn.  And there were interesting gentle slopes and slight differences of elevation in the 1/2 acre space.  I like boulders naturally placed in the landscape.  Quarried rock can be beautifully arranged there as well.  But it does require more training  and skill to create naturalistic settings than placing garden items living or man made simply where space allows.

One sentence incorporating three questions is all that is needed to understand the rules of both plant arrangement and the placement of boulders:  “WHAT ARE YOU PLACING WHERE AND WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

“Therein lies the rub!”

No special vocabulary is needed to answer these three questions.  What is required is an eye, a feel, and experience.  Please visit our masterpiecelandscape.com Website lineup of landscape pictures.  Of course I am biased but the guys who run Masterpiece Landscaping are very, very good at positioning the right plants, and the right stonework into the right places and combinations in the landscape.  But, see for yourself after you finish reading this article.

What can boulders in the garden do for you?

My general answer may be, perhaps nothing.  Some very astute gardeners deeply into landscape beautfy prefer a more formal, more gentle Earth setting.  One without boulders tends to quiet and soften a view with the living not the cold, brutal hardscape.  A rocky garden is less civilized and a less tranquill space than a rockless setting.  It suggests the wild rather than the cultivated.

In Minnesota, especially around the city of Duluth, some of the most beautiful rock anywhere can be seen.  Drop by the Lester Park area on the east side. Go to the streams rushing from the uplands onto the grand lake, Superior.  Boulders, rock standings, some bigger than a house expand ones imagination.

If in your landscape you wish to create or imply a stream, your work could not be believable without rock or boulders.  They make the water move laterally one way or another.  They create the width or narrowness of the believable stream.

Plants grow, but boulders do not.  This should always be remembered when determining plant-boulder space relationships.  Here we can have a problem with large plant forms near any boulders.  To repeat, plants grow, but boulders do not.

Boulders are expensive when set properly.  Frugal and stingy gardeners don’t “plant” boulders.  The stone itself may cost only $400 per ton, but how are you going to get the monstrosity home?  And then up a hill or around to the back grounds, and then how is it going to be set?  That is the art of it, isn’t it?    It takes time, skill, equipment and labor.

I am sorry to say that some “landscapers” simply dump boulders onto a spot.  The “dumper” claims when looking at what was dumped, that nature made it dump that way.  The next time you notice  boulders set in a landscape,  judge for youself the ones you think were dumped versus the ones you believe were set with beauty in mind.

Remember too, there always is a chance, maybe one in ten thousand, the boulder was dumped beautifully, so keep your betting money in your pocket.

Study those boulders you believe were set with beauty in mind and compare them with the dumps.  Then explain with a meaningful vocabulary what you believe the difference is.

Alot of politicians these days are trying to sell equality.  Landscapers and gardeners should remind them that that which is equally large, is equally small.

Sand, masses of sand are particles roughly of equal size.  Boulders in arrangements of equal sizes are usually boring and in all ways uninteresting….pressing on the monotonous.  Manufactured boulders are repulsive to look at.

A flat piece of land is usually associated with a more formal garden.  It is the environment most associated with gal gardeners.  In general, they prefer flowers, the more the better.  To them garden means flowers.  Not that they were born fixed in this belief.  There are many practical, reasonable reasons for this…You think of some.

I have noticed a wonderful trend over the past ten years or so, however.  Lots of our best clients, (sorry guys, most of them are women….guys are needed to help pay the bills), absolutely love boulder settings.  Not all of them are in the suburbs either.

Some of the most beautiful grounds of all, in my prejudiced view, where boulders are central to the feel of the verdant landscape, are in small city lots, one in dinkytown and another in St. Louis Park.

There are many asides to boulders in the garden.  Daylilies often are made more beautiful not far from one or some.  Creeping evergreens, expecially Japgarden Junipers next to, around, creeping onto or away from boulders, never fail from causing a sigh of approval   when seen.

Another mentionable, one tends to lose far fewer  pruning shears, trowels, cultivators, hand tools of all kinds in gardens where  there are boulders around,  especially those not dumped.   That is, if one trains to set them as tables where these tools can be safely if temporarily positioned when the gardener moves on to another task.

Then there is the sitting boulder.  In the dinky town garden the front area was landscaped with sitable boulders for a seating of six to eight.  The lady client had a book club of six to eight regular members and looked forward to an occasional outdoor setting.   No garden furniture needed to be moved into position.

Boulders offer more to a successful landscape than what I have mentioned here.  I wouldn’t want to reveal  all we know about their uses in these blog articles.  Otherwise, there might not be a need for you readers to call us to help keep us in business.