Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

August 24, 2017

Something Special Regarding Twin City Landscape Gardening, AD 2017

I have been wonderfully imprisoned, drugged, inspired  by landscape gardening for the past 57 years, most of these years involving our company, Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd…….

I cannot remember   a Spring and Summer season so rich and beautiful in  landscape garden life  as I have experienced and seen thoughout this year, AD  2017 in and around our Twin City, Minnesota area.   Do you experienced landscape gardeners agree?   I am sure you do, especially if you have fertilized your grounds efficiently.

This is what I have noticed from plant life on my own home grounds, filled with dozens of tree conifers,  some White Pine now over 80′ tall I planted as second  year seedlings in 1976,  five  major sized   deciduous trees, a Red Maple,  Kentucky Coffee Tree,  Ohio Buckeye planted from seed, a Ginkgo also planted from seed, a Japanese Lilac, and a White Flowering Crab Apple about 45 feet tall and 40 feet wide and countless shrubs, both angiosperms and conifers.

In  this garden season  most woody plants both young and old,  have grown more robustly in size and foliage.  Regarding the flower producers there have been more blooms, and more blooms which have retained flowers in shape and color for a much longer period of time.    It has been a happier, livelier appearing crowd out there in landscape garden world, here at home, and there where our clients live.

Why?

No heat and no drought all summer long.  Rainfalls  were reliable with a few driven by wind.  There was, indeed,  a devastating hail storm early June which  shattered  hosta leaves and fern fronds not protected by shade trees.  I remember only two days of 92 for an hour or two  after noon, and all summer long not even a minute  of hot foul winds chucking dust everywhere.

This August has been decidedly chilly compared to the norm.

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!

 

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.

April 7, 2017

Today’s “Garden” Conditions AD 2017 and the Landscaped Garden

Most folks who own ‘grounds’ are not landscape garden gardeners.  Especially these days of cultures of different drives and habits.

Beauty has disappeared from today’s American cultural experience and has been absent for more than two generations.   Yes, this is a matter of opinion, but most of you readers and “non-readers” aren’t old enough to remember the late 1930s through the 1950s when Americans of the Great Depression became dedicated to win a World war they had to win and became prosperous for doing so.

For peace and quiet for the living who remain honest citizens, there still is ‘the garden’….in particular the landscaped garden where human fingers instead of the mind are dirtied, where knowledge and experience  are  required and amassed to avoid failure,  boredom, and the malcontent.

Beautiful landscape gardens are for the eye, what beautiful music is for the ear….but who knows Beethoven, Handel, or Verdi anymore?

Nearly all  gardens, if they exist at all,  are flower gardens, that kind of garden in which colorful flowers are grown, but these are not  landscaped gardens.   There could be shrub gardens, tree gardens which might or might not be accurately deemed landscaped gardens….for they might be merely plant material on display with no spiritual activity obvious in its arrangement.

In the ideal, a landscape garden is a space, a  “room”, or series of “rooms” where upon entering  one exits  the world “outdoors”.    One becomes  captivated by the Garden of Eden  almost immediately becoming detached from any  worries of the day.

Warning:   Discovering beauty in  the  world of the  landscape garden may become habit forming……driving the victim to become inspired to own one, or even driven enough to learn how to create and/or maintain one…..or call us  at Masterpiece Landscaping Ltd  at 952-933-5777  to structure one for you to fit your grounds.

In the meantime, do remember that most  beautiful landscape gardened grounds are established by positioning  large plant forms first as structure, as if you are entering a special room.   Shrubs, trees, and the larger of whatever non-woody  plants are used for beauty whether for color, texture,  or form….. or whatever materials  your (or OUR MASTERPIECE  soul, eye,  and knowledge command, are to be planted first before the smaller floral or woody plant material……..Why?

……because Beautiful Landscaped Gardens are created,  for the eye…… as Beethoven’s masterpieces, were created for  the ear in order to reach the human  brain which inspires  the  twist and  conquer of creating beauty .

For the accomplished landscape garden creator, it is the eye which must be ‘touched’,  trained,  skilled,  manipulated to position  plants for their form, size, color, texture, fragrance, seasons of performance, contrasts, length of life,  to capture and  inspire the minds and souls of all those so fortunate to visit such paradises….

In nearly ever culture known to mankind, eternal paradise is not a flower bed, not a swath of lawn, nor a National Anthem,  but an EDEN, a  LANDSCAPED GARDEN arrangement of plants causing a dream of  INSPIRATION AND PERFECTION OF LIFE EVEN AFTER DEATH’……

Do enjoy your day.   It’s been very, very dry thus far  this Spring.   I have to retire to my  Paradise on Earth now  to nurture  its plantings with  some precious water, the source of life on Earth,  to encourage them to become happier earlier to extend   their beauty of  life  longer  to inspire all  who enter the landscape garden’s realm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…..an 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.

 

April 19, 2016

There is No Life Without Decay

Every year more and more Americans live and work indoors.   Every year more and more Americans know more nothing about their outdoors  where they live.

I was lucky being born 82 years ago.   I was raised in the city, in a house on a ninety by forty-five foot lot taught to know the outdoors, both at home and at school.  It was in first grade before World War II when  I was first forced to collect tree leaves so I could identify these living outdoor  things, both the small and the massive.   Everyone in the neighborhood had gardens for both flower and food.   No one sweated guilt  about growing  things  organic or inorganic.   It was in the garden where ones  grass clippings went.  There were no noises coming from the gardened grounds in those days.   Things were done by thought, hand, and back, not motors.

For the past forty two years I have lived in suburbia.   Lawns are in, and with some messy exceptions, they are well taken care of.    The same Annabelle Hydrangeas planted  sixty years  ago when this community was built are still growing seven or eight in a row as a hedge between lots.   Most of the originally planted  Blue Colorado Spruce, all sixty feet plus of them, are sickly…. 75% of their foliage dead, but no one looks skyward.     Green Ash cultivars and Silver Maples  were popular and cheap then…..$5 a tree , so became choice for shade and are still alive.     Many are a mess in their old age…..tree trimming isn’t free.

City folk aren’t very religious anymore about the spiritual.   But many are told to  believe in the spirit of things Organic, as if  Organic  is the new god for  modern American better  being.

Knowing by lack of  practice,  nothing about outdoor plant life, they are fully willing to pay higher prices for edibles called  “Organic”, for government and its university city folk  feel it more godly if they   program their public  to believe an ‘organic’ banana is better  by taste and moral  goodness of chemistry than a banana without the benefits of  ‘organic’  title.   The poor banana, whether organic or not, is the same banana when eaten  whether the consumer pays more for it or not.

However, ‘organic’ does mean something in the garden.   Whether a blade of grass, a petunia petal, and oak tree or a dog, you or me we pass through our  paths of decay  from life to abet other life .  Things “organic” were once living things bearing ‘organs’ of sorts which made things, units,  living.   Life matter  is God’s gift of  recycling, the give and take of once living matter from the dead to the living.

EVERY THINKING GARDENER EVENTUALLY COMES TO DISCOVER THE FULL MEANING OF ‘LIFE ETERNAL’.    THERE IS NO LIFE WITHOUT DECAY!

For years and years since the 1970s, a foot or so  of  top soil was removed from probably the majority of lots where homes and business buildings were built in suburbia.  House building was financially a  risky business.  Since lawn was the human habit of  vegetative ‘life’ where living,  suburban or city, top soil  depth wasn’t needed to help it’s green color remain green during the growing season.   Lawn  needs a pinch of soil,  nitrogen and watering.    The subsoil, rock, stone outcrop, clay, gray, tan  clay with stone, stone pressed with gray, tan clay remained so dense  underneath this ‘pinch’, most  rainwater ran off  looking for the nearest sewers.

Autumn leaves nearly everywhere in suburbia, even where there is plenty of space on the homeowners’ property  for recycling this magnificent organic stuff  necessary for the betterment of living matter,   are bagged up and hauled off.     Ninety per cent of living leaf matter is water.    Decay needs water for decay….for a pile of decaying leaf matter or any other matter once living,  is loaded with elements required for things  living.   Without decay, remember, there is no life as we know life.

Autumn leaves with moisture regularly provided is one of the better ‘mulches’ used to keep weed seeds from sprouting all garden season long.   A mulch better for soil improvement can be made by chopping up  leaves and small branchlets to hasten plant decay and quicker release of nutrients available for plant life…..Remember also, that any  mulch factory creating decay needs ‘fuel’, to energize its power to decay and release its own elements for living plant use as well.

Simply add a touch  of Nitrogen to your outdoor perennial world  once in awhile along with weekly watering, your  plant world, especially  your shrubs and smaller sized trees will  respond beautifully.

If your lawn is ‘everything’ on the grounds where you live, couldn’t you take a first step to contour a ridge somewhere where a handful of shrubs, especially evergreens, can grow….where you can recycle your own autumn leaf  ‘waste’  from whose ever trees covering your lawn.   If you have the spiritual urge to do so, but not the experience or time, give us at Masterpiece Landscaping a call at 952-933-5777 a call.

 

 

 

April 17, 2016

What Does Your Garden Show This April?

We in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area this garden season thus far, are living our usual  early May in middle April this year of our Lord, 2016.

We have had a mild and short winter season.

Being a landscape gardener,  I have been rooting for a tad of global warming here in our Minnesota for the past sixty years….and  my plea was  almost answered until  a few years ago of rough winter.

The best garden climate of all for those of us who like a winter break,  is horticultural zone number 5…..the Japanese, Central Chinese, and English garden paradises….the world of azaleas and rhododendrons of all shapes, sizes and colors, but more, the world where hundreds of varieties of Japanese Maples can be grown without the worry of winter kill.

I estimate my garden’s horticultural zone is 4.6…..slightly colder  than a decade ago when I was, with great fever and energy, trying out a number of ‘hardier’ cutleaf Japanese Maples to serve beauty on my grounds.   Each trial would last for  a handful of years, and then an old fashioned Minnesota winter  would arrive  either killing  or forever scarring  my performers.   Most woody plants can live half-dead in our northern gardens.   Occasionally such half-deads show character, and with a bit of pruning can SHOW OFF with great character…..with pruning to feature both the living and the dead of its parts.

I finally got tired of resurrecting these beauties every year I added on to my time landscape gardening.

When I was a teenager,  Pachysandra terminalis was not at all hardy in the Twin Cities…..nor was it available.   Easterners then knew something about  gardens  then.   Today’s urban  majority  in America have no clue how to ‘grow’ a tomato or Swiss Stone Pine.  They don’t even know what a fir is for  they live  and work their lives inside something or another.

Pachysandra is an evergreen* ground cover  which prefers areas away from direct sun to remain ‘forever’ healthy.   Its leaves are broad and shiny, rich-appearing, so very rich in showing off its proud green no matter what  season.   If it is treated well in its location, Pachysandra loves life and spreads and spreads beautifully until something or someone defines its borders.   I have many, many swarms of Pachysandra terminalis on my beautiful landscape grounds.

They are pleasantly in bloom now and have been since past Thursday in the sunnier areas under deciduous woodies which are not yet in the mood of swelling their buds for this Spring’s display of leaves.

I shall list here a number of non woody perennials covering the 90% of my grounds void of lawn grass which have begun their bloom this past week….

The Dutch Bulbs:   Tulips, Hyacinths, and Narcissus are referred to as the major Dutch bulbs…..because their bulbs are larger than the ‘minor’ Dutch bulbs.   All of my Red Riding Hood tulips, foliage and flower,  have been eaten by rabbits, so that’s a downer.  Narcissus, that is the world of daffodils, are immune to animal eatings, and like tulips come in early, mid and late Spring bloom schedules depending on the bulb selection.   They come in yellow and white bloom color.

Hyacinths are fragrant, wonderfully, powerfully fragrant, to all humans under age eighty….Most humans of that age have to imagine the beauty of the fragrance.  I write from personal experience.   Dutch bulbs lose their foliage by mid Summer.

Among the minor bulbs on my grounds,  I report the following which  are presently in bloom…..Pushkinia which spreads well, Snow Drops…which have been in their white bloom for over a month even surviving the 25 degree temperature we had one evening a few weeks ago, Chionodoxa,  Scilla….(Blue Squill) also in bloom for over three weeks in the sunny areas and now opening its most beautiful blue color in Nature in the shadier areas….I think I must have  a million now in bloom somewhere or another on my grounds.

My Eranthis did not show up  this Spring.  Crocus did, but in very small numbers.   Rabbits love Crocus.   Expect   losses of over 50% annually to rabbits  where ever Crocus are planted.

Some evergreen groundcovers encouraged by weather and sun, are also beginning their bloom.   Common Vinca, or Periwinkle, with its blue flowers, and Arabis caucasica, white rockcress,  with white blooms the whitest in Nature, and even the pink flowering Lamiums are enjoying their sun baths earlier this season….and longer, for these perennials perform their best  and show much longer than when  any 80 degree temperatures arrive to dry them out.

One of my favorite perennials of all in our Northland is Bloodroot.   I have about  a dozen clumps  somewhere on my grounds all arriving from God knows where for I never planted a one of them….bird poop probably.   The white of their bloom rivals White Rockcress….but neater, more precise looking rather than mass.

NOTE:   To an experienced landscape gardener a WEED has only one definition:  A PLANT OUT OF PLACE!

Any bird who needs to poop Bloodroot in my landscaped grounds, is forever welcomed!  Although its bloom time is limited to a couple weeks, depending on the heat of the temperature and moisture available….it prefers afternoon shade, Bloodroot also shows off lovely distinct and clean  foliage throughout the rest of the growing season.

My grounds are also presently overwhelmed with over a  hundred Mertensia…..Virginia Bluebells.    I never planted a one of them.   Some Mertensia  foliage arrives maroon before it turns green.   The clumps are beautiful when young but rather scraggly eventually by the time the blue of the bloom appears.     Like the Dutch bulbs, whether major or minor, Virginia Bluebells’ foliage disappears  by July.

My favorite of these God given beauties of the non-bulb world  which have invaded my home’s landscape world is a Corydalis……now in its sixth  year of appearance upon my grounds. Each plant rises no taller than five inches with the most beautiful delicate cutleaf foliage eventually carrying  dusty pink blooms.   When in full bloom, the dusty pink dominates.

If these plants number a few dozen, they would be praised by gal gardeners  for being cute.   Their seed must be spread by wind, even the slightest, most gentle  breeze,  for since their first appearance there must now be tens of thousands of these delicate things showing off their exquisite form and color so thickly they appear as a beautiful rug for three weeks……and then retire from view  till next year when,  if  it is indeed their habit, there will be thousands more added  where there is no lawn grass to interfere.

*Not all evergreens are conifers…..Not all conifers are evergreen…..a law of vegetative life a ‘budding’  landscape gardener should memorize.

August 19, 2015

The Big Four Essentials for Garden Plant “Happiness”…from Masterpiece experience

Sun, water, soil, and nutrients  are the basic essentials for healthy garden plant growth…..Once again:  SUN, WATER, SOIL, NUTRIENTS for plant and YOUR happiness!!!

Sun:   Not all garden plants, either  woody or  herbaceous,  prefer full sun.   Others disdain deep shade.   Full sun might burn sensitive plants’ leaves, turning them ugly brown or pathetic yellow.   Deep shade  advances diseases on wet leaves which are sensitive to rot.    Nearly every perennial plant,  shrub, and understory tree  can tolerate   full morning, that is,  East  sun.   It’s the afternoon shine and heat  that does the damage to the sensitive.

Water:  Nearly  none of our garden plants can endure long periods of time under standing water.   During that rainy  spring and summer  in our Twin Cities, 2013,  I lost  thousands of dollars worth of relatively mature shrubs, conifers, and perennials along  a two hundred thirty foot  pond path which had flooded and remained underwater for over a month……nearly all twenty or more conifers eventually succumbing by September.   Only a Gold Lace Juniper, about a six year old, survived for some unknown reason and is beautiful to this very day.   A twenty foot North Star Spruce succumbed  the next Spring, with   a six year Red Obelisk Beech, a Redbud, and my prize, a ten year  Hillside Spruce  doing the same thing.  All of the pond side herbaceous perennials were lost.

I spent the entire summer ‘diking’ up the pond path area  more in anger than in preventing the next  flood.    The pond, an artificially made catch basin pond,  I share with four neighbors is almost a full acre, but it is swamping.   It has no outlet besides flooding to control water level.  Moreover,  each fall billions of leaves drop from spectacular mature  oaks, red maples, and cottonwoods  into the pond collecting, raising the pond bottom levels ever higher each season to increase its flooding  zone.

Today, however, the pond path gardens despite  the smaller immature  replacements have never been more beautiful.   The flood made me start all over again with a blank slate.

I have an automatic watering system throughout most of my grounds.  It is scheduled for fifteen minutes every other early morning.    Nothing except perhaps good soil, is more important  to the health of most landscape garden plants than REGULAR, RELIABLE WATERING!    Wonderful things can happen, such as beautiful plants usually so cherished, become weedy…..Astilbe chinensis, Anglelica gigas,  Brunnera macrophylla, and our native American Arborvitae are but a few examples.

Landscape Gardening is classically supposed to be a beautiful  art form.    One would never know as we see it practiced   today in our 21st century ….but then so is the same with music.   No one hears a Beethoven adagio anymore!

Soil:   I have the best soil in the world….. loam….loam from  the trees, shrubs, perennials and chipped bark mulch,  loam from  top soil piled up from soil   removed  from  the watershed pond when it was originally dug almost sixty years ago.   However, for the first two decades lawn covered  the world around the house.   There is no life without rot.  Soil high in organic matter holds water and therefore nutrients favoring the vast majority of ‘normal’  garden plants.

There is no life on Earth without plants.   For beginners, it’s where we get our breathable oxygen, folks.

I began removing sod the first year of residence here at our Masterpiece’s garden, 1974.   A seven minute mowing with a push mower is all that is left.   The remainder is a world of  hallways  and gardened rooms……

Sandy soils are much better for landscape garden plants than clay.  Both are far better  top ‘soils’ than those  home grounds whose top soils were removed when the homes were built.   About the only thing capable of growth on many subsoil properties is lawn.

Every plant on this property is what I have planted, or is progeny of what I have planted, or is progeny of stuff growing elsewhere whose seeds were  dropped by birds or winds, or burried by squirrels,  which I have allowed to remain on this property.   To celebrate the birth of our Nation,  I planted ten  ten-inch two-year seedlings of White Pine in Spring of 1976.   Two died in two years.   Of the eight remaining three are ninety feet tall.   How’s that for growth?      It is a return from excellent soil and reliable water.

Nutrients:   I fertilize new plants with root starter nutrients.   I fertilize with Milorganite, a slow, very slow release granulated fertilizer in March throughout the garden.   That’s the routine folks….except a 10-0-10  for my  lawn space during the season.   Acid fertilizers  are occasionally added to the conifers, especially hemlocks,  when they are young.   Arborvitaes prefer non-acid fertilizing.   Junipers usually don’t care.

Conclusion:  Landscape Gardening is classically supposed to be a beautiful  art form.    One would never know as we see it practiced   today in our 21st century ….but then so is the same with music.   No one hears a Beethoven adagio anymore!    Beauty is no longer  a valued expression in today’s culture.

You can change your home grounds.   Let us at Masterpiece help you begin!

 

August 15, 2015

Thank you Masterpiece Fans and Friends for Your Loyalty and Friendship

Filed under: About Masterpiece,perennials — glenn @ 11:52 pm

There is something special about the character accompanying folks who beautify the Earth with beautiful grounds.   Few of the sixty plus  client visitors to our  past Thursday’s Masterpiece Garden  Party  know one another.    The evening was heavy of air but fortunately,  without rain.

Gardens draw  friendships together.   We all had a common bond …..to transform our grounds.  Conversations  and laughter  and addresses  were shared.

Without question the garden  plant  of  Party talk centered on  Angelica gigas, unknown generally, but when known is  commonly called  Korean angelica.   Several hundred of them were entering full bloom  and will continue to do so for several weeks.   Each specimen appears as a ballet dancer, tutu and all,  from  the first foot of foliage to its spectacular period of bud and sharp maroon  flower cluster show usually beginning in midAugust in our Twin City area.

No garden  floral display appears more stately, more proud to show off its  superior form of presence when in bloom.   No foliage greenery is better designed  to resemble a ballerina performing on stage.   It  is shockingly eye-catching,  whether  single or  in group.

I have had Korean angelica growing in our Masterpiece Garden grounds for about fifteen years.   I was early-on informed that Angelica gigas was a biennial,  that is, a herbaceous plant that grows from seed to  death in two years….. such as the common onion or carrot.      The first year develops  foliage,  strong  roots, storing the necessary energy to produce the next year,   the reproductive parts of the plant,  the  flowers and seeds to continue its future  the second year,  when it grows a  cane   ranging from  a puny two feet to a stately eleven feet tall, depending upon seasonal nutrient and water availability.

I have discovered since that  Angelica gigas,  after flowering,  often  does send out underground  root shoots in  the first year  which do  produce  blooms and their seeds  the very  next season, causing the species to behave like a perennial instead of a biennial.    Angelica gigas is  not shy about  producing seeds, lots of them whether grown in shade or sun.

After you establish the general number of plants for your garden display, I’d advise you remove the flower clusters as soons as the seeds are developed, usually in mid September.    Although Angelica gigas may qualify as a weedy plant  for its determination to reproduce, it is a weed ONLY if becomes a plant out-of-place.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

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