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.


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 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  than 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?




May 16, 2017

Redbuds and Spring, 2017 in Twin City Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




February 3, 2017

The Beauty of the Fragrance of Human Manure In the Landscape Garden

Winter is rarely  a kind season for most of our landscape gardens and their gardeners  here in Minnesota.   Winds,  killer  evening temperatures,  crushing snow layers, sunburns on bark, deer, dogs,  and then there are the rabbits.

Sixty years of rumor have told me   rabbits are hit with a vicious virus or two about every seven years which wipes out the vast majority of a settled rabbit population…,.I used to believe the rumor….until reviewing the last five to seven years of rabbits running around winter in my gardened grounds.

Last year rabbits caused more  damage in my grounds  and others our Masterpiece Landscaping company  has created,  was the worst in a decade or more.   Arborvitae shrubs chewed to pieces to the one foot high mark….some  chewings even  higher where plant foliage and snowdrifts meet.  Many of my plants’  rabbits came from neighbors’ habitats and nearby woods.   I laid out some wire fencing in areas where my  most valuable cherished plants are located.   Some young woodies disappeared entirely into rabbit poop over a single night.

There is a “friend” available at most garden centers and hardware stores you might want to meet for assistance in reducing your landscaped grounds rabbit population….It’s usually  sold in about a 25 pound bag….with the name MILORGANITE  printed on it.

Again…MILORGANITE…and it has been around these northern areas for decades, and available in eastern Wisconsin for many, many decades more.   Milwaukee is where these bags originated.  One can tell by its name…”Milwaukee organic matter”…and it used to be  found very close to home in the old days.  It may still be ‘organized’ exclusively in Milwaukee, for  the organic matter it sells originates from Milwaukee area human poop…..aged to perfection, of course!

If your garden plants have been  pestered by rabbits this  winter,  you might want to try  Milorganite  for temporary rabbit control.   It consists of countless  tiny pellets of human organic waste and is sold as a slow release garden fertilizer.   But, this fertilizer  carries an odor, which of course, doesn’t bother any plants at all…..nor does it bother Mr. or Mrs. Gardeners.   It seems to bother rabbits of all shapes and sizes for a while.

It can be spread broadly around the garden area or around any  plants at any time for normal garden soil and plant enrichment.

Before snowfall, rabbits usually have an endless supply of herbs to eat up.   After snowfall most of that rabbit food becomes unavailable forcing a change in the bunny diet….conifer foliage and bark…..young deciduous tree and shrub bark now appear on top of  the rabbit diet.

So, whenever you are in the mood to fertilize your  trees and shrubs after snowfall, you might want to think of human manure from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.    I usually wait until after the first major snowfall before I apply this unusual fertilizer.    Whatever power Milorganite has over rabbits, it weakens when its pellets are  lying under every major snowfall, so  keep that in mind.

Spread it by hand in  glove.   Throw handfuls of this “aromatic” fertilizer around the crowns of   shrubs and young tree trunks, bunnies usually  nest or chew on.   Rose shrubs, those beautiful new hybrids available to northern gardeners these days, are usually breakfast, lunch, and supper desserts  to rabbits of all ages.  Winged Euonymus bark near soil level can be ravaged by a bunny or two in a week.  Canadian plum trees of all varieties when  can be chewed to pieces by deer or rabbits  in winter or anytime if there is no protection such as tree wrap around the structural stems.

Don’t be wussy about the amount of Milwaukee manure you throw around the trunks of your susceptible cherished plants.   Toss  to ten or even  more handfuls, around each trunk  of the susceptible plants you cherish more than your  rabbits do…..ideally, each time after a heavy snowfall.   Good Luck.

Be sure to call us at Masterpiece Landscaping at 952-933-5777 when you need help creating and maintaining beauty on your home or business grounds.


November 17, 2016

2016….The Most Beautiful Autumn of My Conscious Life

About six weeks ago I had planned in mind, but not on paper or computer, what a landscape garden expert…me….should share to you, the vast landscape garden  unaware of the great outdoors around you before snowfall.

I had in mind a written lecture NEVER to almost  never, mine the grounds you own by throwing away its leaves, for leaves should be recycled rather than burned or sent to garbage…..I planned to suggest tricks of my trade from learnings I have been blessed to absorb during the 42 years I have developed the magnificent grounds in which I live.

I am a Milorganite user kind of guy…The past hour  I was applying ‘sweet-smelling Milorganite bits around the plantings of my domain this very day, for I got wind that tomorrow snow will bring winter, and the snowfall might become  considerable by wet and inch.   About twenty minutes into the labor, I remember that about a month ago, before snowfall, I should share with readers the benefit I have discovered from applying Milorganite in the landscape garden ever Autumn just before snowfall.

A lot of good it will do at this point a day before the deluge…..and I have to hurry for I have a business appointment to attend within 30 minutes…..What I should have written a month ago, beyond saving the leaves every Autumn is the following tidbits about Milorganite.

It comes from Milwaukee human poop, but is sold in pellets, very small ones.   It is a slow, quite slow, nutrient release fertilizer, relatively high in Nitrogen, a touch of Phosphorus, and no Potassium.    Those who visit these garden grounds I maintain, are always admiring the ’tilth’ feel of foot when browsing through its beauty and are shocked at the size and richness of color of my conifers….Well, some if the feel comes from moles playing submarine under each garden path, but the size, color, and their wealth of health is universal in the territory.

To “wit”, I planted ten second year old White Pines in 1976 as essential structural forms for the grounds, but most of all in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.   For your view each of the ten were about ten inches long…including root.

Three of them these forty years later are crowding or exceed their 100th foot mark…..and are gorgeous specimens.

Fall leaves and Milorganite have kept them healthy….for THERE IS NO DECAY WITHOUT LIFE….and the decay, autumn leaves and Milwaukee human poop have been, in my experience, essential in the health of these and dozens and dozens of other trees on my property….most ot them conifers…..(Winter in Minnesota  is long, folks, very long,    I have to run to attend a client….

But, don’t forget….rabbits don’t like the smell of human excrement, the major ingredient in Milorganite….


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.


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.




December 15, 2015

“There’s a Change in the Weather” arriving to your TC Landscape Garden Very Soon

I celebrate the year, 2015 in suburban Twin Cities, Minnesota,  as the most comfortable, the most gentle, , the most pleasing to garden plants of all shapes and sizes, and therefore, the most beautiful of my memorable lifetime,  well perhaps only seventy years of it.   Further, when it was decided to rain, the wetness was somehow ‘professionally’ timed to arrive gently and sufficiently around every third day totally free from  angry cloud bursts.   Last winter was mild and rather short of snow……a threat to  us in the snow removal business, but not to landscape gardens in our area.   We arrived in Spring somewhat short of  prosperity, however.

At December 15, we are rather late being introduced to  real winter this year……until this midweek when the cold is reported to be arriving.

My personal garden is about a half acre in property size…..about two acres in visual size (that is, including the geography within sight that appears to be part of my grounds, but of which I do not own and maintain).

I have only a six minute lawn to cut, meaning most of the grounds is covered by countless trees, shrubs and perennials, and considered  cluttered to some, but artistically arranged to me, by me.   I have my favorites and  joys…..leading the list is a Ginkgo biloba I planted by seed about 30 years ago.

My paths remain the same in direction and location, but the settings in such gardens change.    When the Ginkgo biloba was only six feet tall,  it disturbed nothing in its surroundings which required sun.   Starting at about fifteen feet its crown began to shade the surroundings noticeably.   At its present 40 and still happily growing, I am faced with major problems regarding what  should replace the plants who couldn’t remain beautiful with the threat of ever more shade from the Ginkgo…..such as lawn grass.

Worse, at about the 25th year of birthdays this Ginkgo finally decided it was female and so since, has been supplying me with dozens, then hundreds, and now countless hundreds of fruit which is coveted in Far East cuisines, I am told, despite the human vomit fragrance of the squished fresh fruit.

I have never eaten Ginkgo seeds, have you?   They look like almonds.

Those of you who possess landscape gardens of some size may be worrying some about the delayed winter arrival this season…..We have had a very favorable Nature watering our gardens in this area since last April, not only in quality and quantity but in timing as well…about every third day throughout the garden year and none more or significantly less in the months since.

Somewhere around five or six years ago my landscape garden was overwhelmed by a very wet  35 inch snowfall on a Saturday, November 31 crushing countless branches off my White Pines and bending, breaking other conifers.   In such snowy seasons most perennial plants woody or herbaceous, don’t care what the temperature above  the snow line  is if the plants are truly  safe growing in your winter temperature zone….What might be  a real killer to some woody plants  in any winter is when temperatures drop below ten degrees F  with a any wind of 20 mph or lower  for hours.   Damage increases  if there is little or no snowfall for greater protection from winter kills.    With some shrubs, certain Spiraea and Hydrangeas,  for an example, the branchings could die completely  back to the soil level, but still send out new shoots in the Spring.

Visually, the winter garden season in our part of Minnesota lasts almost half of the year.   One should never burlap, or otherwise smother woody plants above the snow line which make the landscape setting ugly.    In the ideal a landscape garden is supposed to be  an art form, but those  in our Minnesota are usually reduced to  the  hobby kind.

Temperatures here by weekend are forecast to be in the twenties, perhaps dropping down into single digits at night.   WARNING:   If a strong wind accompanies the single digit or lower temperatures, and there is no snow cover,  there  most likely will be damage occurring somewhere in your landscape garden to  Rhododendrons and certain  Azaleas, and others…. bud kill, trunk or branch  splitting, even death….but, don’t worry the damage  will not be noticed until Spring.

If you are worrying about such consequences threatening your favorite shrubs, simply place a sheet, or light blanket, some  ‘clothing’ large enough to cover the  vulnerable plant until the wind dies down.    If winter beauty in your garden is a value, remove the coverings for beauty’s sake.

We at Masterpiece Landscaping welcome visitors to our landscape garden…..please call 952-933-5777 for scheduling.   Speakers are also available for groups interested in learning more about Landscape Gardening in our area.


November 4, 2015

There is no Plant Life without Rot……What Are You Doing with your Autumn Leaves?

Filed under: Plant health,shrubs and trees,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 12:24 am

This Twin City Autumn has been the kindest extension of Summer ever in my remembrance.   Warmth without heat, rain without snow and wind.

Leaf fall is merely one stage in the cycle of plant life here in our Northland.  This is the season our  Earth is being replenished with Earth’s yesterday foliage  in order to continue life’s cycle.  The health of our trees and shrubs ideally  relies on water and its relationship with rot, that is with the Fall of yesterday’s plant foliage.

There is no life without rot.   It is the rot from life that,  if present  among plants, stores moisture which allows all the nutrients needed by Nature to be recycled back from rot to life.   Yesterday’s ‘falling leaves’  entrap  available seasonal water   to aid in speeding the  decay  of all available soil  organic matter  in the process, absorbing needed elements from this ideal  ‘living’ soil, available for any  seeds and  roots within plant  reach.

But what happens when Earth’s  grounds are covered with lawn, the beautiful and the unbeautiful where  lawn’s leaf residue is picked up when mowed and in the fall of the year, any leaves nearby are raked up into bags to be taken away by garbage trucks?

You can figure it out.    There still is a touch of yesterday’s undergrass decay available and  microscopic particles of debris of the once living blown in from  nearby to offer an element  or two to struggling specimens.   If maples, elms and such are nearby, these and others of nature’s behemoth trees  will  get the greatest grabs of water and needed   nutrients regardless of any degree of  drought.

In the ideal every civilized  homeowner of  a home with grounds should learn how to practice gardening the Earth in some form  or another.

Every Autumn I distribute over  fifty large plastic bags of  chopped oak leaves around my favorite shrubs and trees.    I have about a half acre of plants and paths of which only seven minutes is devoted to lawn mowing.    I also  ‘make’ soil for seasonal use  with about twenty bags of chopped tree leaves mixed with lawn grass  (provided by neighbors),  which are  dumped upon  small piles which I make  appear to be  just another grown cover.

Be fully aware that fertilizing  woody plants living in  moisture and rot will alter their growth  size  unless you live in those suburbs in which all of the topsoil was removed from the property when the house was built.

We usually leave identity tags on the new plants we install on our clients’ grounds to note expected adult sizes of each one  both woody and non-woody.   If water, fertilize, and mulch with organic matter are applied on a regular basis, one should expect excellent and very healthy growth for nearly all species….(Some species are fussier about growing than others.)     An important post script is required here.   The kinder you are watering, fertilizing, and mulching your plants with decaying vegetative matter will most certainly cause certain results.   Your woody plants will become much happier and BIGGER in size.

Examples.   Twenty five years ago or so I planted a Golden Carousel Barberry….a deciduous thorny shrub listed as growing to three or four feet in maturity.   It’s fall color is spectacular in both leaf and fruit and last for two months or more.

Today it is alive and well  at eight feet tall and ten feet wide.

My Ginkgo biloba tree which I planted from  seed   around 1980, is now over 55 feet tall.   My white pine, of the ten ten inch second year seedlings  planted in 1976 in celebration of our Nation’s bicentennial, seven have survived.   The three tallest are around ninety feet tall.   Plant growth runs overtime in size on these grounds because of the  depth of organic matter, all that extra  rot  I have provided over the years.

October 31, 2015

A Brief Review of the 2015 Local Landscape Garden Season

I am old enough to have lived a history which includes remembering in a broader sense  personal experiences from varieties of  weather  and seasons over the years.

On two occasions around  World  War II time,  it snowed heavy wet stuff on my birthday of mid September, and  once later while watching a September Saturday  football game at old Memorial Stadium.

I like winter here in Gopherland, but it is so long.    I have long prayed for local ‘global warming’… least at the local level where I do my landscaping both as a career and as an artistic enslavement to the grounds where I live here in Minnetonka.    For the first thirty five years of my life there was usually still tons of  ice and snow covering the grounds  where I lived  then in St. Paul  throughout the month of April.     Snow usually dumped its first load well before Thanksgiving.

Horticultural zone five is in my view the ideal landscape gardening climate zone.   So many of the worlds most beautiful flowering woody plants tolerate zone five AND one can still plant a wider variety of coniferous evergreens as well.

Honest local weather gurus are forecasting a mini-cooling again of our regions over the next fifty to seventy years, since these minor swings of  our local war of comfort versus winter have a time frame all of their own.    Since in am already in my 80s I won’t have much to worry about.   So, by this article I merely want to record the following……


There were no dust bowl storms in April or May… torrential rains or poundings of sleet, no floodings, no hail,   and only a day or two of temperatures of 90 degrees F, and then only for an hour or so each day.   Best of all, there was no drought especially  during the hottest weeks.    For more than two month the heavens gently, reliably  watered my grounds every second or third day, late evening or early morning,  as if my sprinkler system had managed the entire timing.

And one further, well received blessing. ….there has been NO FROST over my grounds yet.   Only one wussy hosta showed a hint of frost  perhaps one hour of  wandering 32 degrees to one leaf.


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!


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