Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

March 20, 2017

The Rabbit Problem

Filed under: Bulbs,garden seasons,Pruning,shrubs and trees — glenn @ 10:21 pm

I have made myself wander through our gardened grounds here in Minnetonka where I have lived since January 1, 1974.   Walking through and cleaning up the grounds isn’t as easy as it used to be.  I had knee replacement surgery on my right leg late last November.   That plus my elderly condition in general has delayed service in my keeping the grounds beautiful…..

……especially when I wasn’t around to keep deer and rabbits “in their place”.  They must have thought I went somewhere South for the winter instead of being crippled indoors.

Most of you home owners cover your grounds almost entirely with grass.   My gardened grounds has to be a bit more than a half acre upon which I have only a five minute mowing patch of  lawn…..all of it quite mediocre.

I did apply Milorganite as recommended in our previous article this past February.  Most of the damage had already been done.

Rabbits love arborvitae, at least those which have foliage reaching the ground.  Yet, not all arborvitae are equally pleasing to these pesty rodents.  Those shrubby with yellowish foliage seem to be breakfast, lunch, and Sunday dinner unless protection is provided.   Don’t worry about  the tree forms once they have reached adolescence….about ten feet tall…..There after the bark is too ‘barky’ for rabbit food.   In a few years after adolescence, however, when the arborvitae tree bark is about a foot or  more in diameter at your waistline, you can expect male deer activity in October and November to shred it into ribbons with its antlers while hunting down some doe to do their nature together.

Fortunately only females jumped my fencing during my recovery……some eatings, lots of poop dropped, but no scars on any of my countless trees from antlers.

This is the best time for pruning the lower branches made nude of foliage by rabbits.  All you have to do is observe the ugly damage usually below  the first foot or three above the ground, depending upon the  snow  depth of the past winter.   Use a professional felco hand sheers for smaller woody cuts or a quality Japanese hand saw, but not the low quality stuff you usually see being sold at your local monster store.   Use your eye as your art scope ready to make your eaten shrub beautiful….not necessarily for the moment, but for its future.

Remember, the conifers Pine, Spruce, and Fir are not pruned as if they are arborvitae, chamaecyparis,   juniper or yew.   Pine, Spruce, and Fir develop candle-like foliage clusters rather than a mass of  new foliage of greenery, foliage which can easily be sheered if needed.

If you  want  to artistically , or need  to prune back any of these new  Spring-developing Pine, Spruce, or Fir candles, prune back only the fresh candles, but never previous years’  candles.   Remember that the previous year’s  foliage is not able to produce new buds on the old wood of  these particular  shrubs or trees.

Note:  My  snow drops opened bloom last Saturday.   The rabbits have probably destroyed nearly all of my Crocus…but the Chionodoxa and Narcissus will begin blooming in April.

Do not forget, all Narcissus produce a chemical which makes them uneatable for the animal world.

April 7, 2016

“Whither Goest Thine Eye?”……(with your landscape in mind)

Whether one lives in the woods, in suburbia, the city with “a yard” or on the 24th floor of some structure, most of us have two eyes which help lead us on our path from birth “to dusty death” as Shakespeare described the end for some.

Our eyes  absorb things ugly and things of beauty.   What the eye absorbs usually becomes  habit forming.    Our todays are not carbon copies of yesterdays personally, collectively, and morally.   So, who are we today….from the view of the author of this ‘note’ crowding in on his 82nd birthday?

Beauty is far less cherished today than yesterday’s yesterdays.   The human animal is no longer  surrounded by  cause for beauty as an expression in life to uplift one’s soul.    If something is beautiful, it means something is LESS beautiful, therefore causing discomfort, sorrow,  despair and jealousy for  the ‘victims’.   Therefore, in today’s  America it is better NOT to have “SOUL”….so all of us can feel ‘equal’…….

Today in our ‘cultural’ year 2016, NONE  of our artistic expressions including the art of landscape gardening, are focused upon creating beauty.    Nearly all ‘professionally’ are products of  our America’s departments of  “ART” where university bureaucrats preach the pictures, forms, and politics of their day.

Things beautiful were “forever”  created by the human male animal…..whether in old China, old Europe, Old Amazon territory, in ‘barbaric’ Vikingland, or the Easter Islands.   It is in the human male animal DNA to roam, explore, defend, build, protect, be curious, be industrious, to invent, to paint, sculpt, landscape,  from his genetic material driving him to produce comfort, health, and beauty for his mate and off spring.  It has been the human male animal’s DNA in his Nature, the  God-given drive to survive,  which has driven the world until the arrival of today’s politically, sexually  “remodeled”  western institutions where FEELINGS  now replace LEARNINGS.

I was in first grade a couple of years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.   My teacher’s name was Florence Ray…a tall beautiful woman,  but no relation to my family.   Although I lived in the city, St. Paul, Minnesota, knowing the outdoors was considered very important in the learning world of the  day.   So was classical music and  some kind of introduction to beautiful literature, paintings, sculpture, and the appropriate  placement of words whenever such words were needed.  (Swearing  in public whether on the street,  at home, or in school, did not occur.   People then  were churched to feel ugly whenever  performing the ugly and  to believe a price would be paid for selling or acting out the ugly.)

It was in first grade I first received classroom instructions to collect tree leaves for identification. I learned what a conifer was.     It was then I  discovered perennials “Obedience”, “Bleeding Heart”, “Peonies”,  and  biennials – annuals;   “Evening primrose “,  “4 O’Clocks”,  Hesperus, “Petunias, Marigolds, and shrub roses, Pfitzer junipers, and Bridal wreath Spiraea.   The following year I fell into “paradise in exile”, when it became my responsibility to have ‘sole’ as well as “soul”  care for  a double empty lot -sized Victory Garden across our alley.   “I” grew and maintained nearly every kitchen vegetable you could name….even okra.   Digging by hand  for potato tubers made me feel  like digging for gold.

I even learned to dive bomb the potato beetles as I plucked them off leaves  and smushed them by hand.  It was world war time, remember.   I was pretending to aid the war effort.   I also knew exactly where tomatoes came from…for there were very few super markets in those days.

I wonder how many households today include children.  I wonder how many of the households who do have children, bother to teach the young what I was taught about the outdoors  by setting examples   exploiting their home grounds to become a teaching “room” for discovering beauty of the landscape garden.    I wonder how many households of people who pay taxes for the grounds they occupy  yearn to enter the outdoors for the beauty it offers the eye, mind, and soul of anyone who enters it.

Landscape gardening, in the ideal, is supposed to be a visual  art form to inspire all who enter.  It should be to the eye, what Beethoven’s adagios are for the ear… help you,  for a moment or several ,  enter some place special to escape the outside day, and discover beauty over which you have a piece of control.

If  you have  interest in becoming acquainted with creating   garden “pictures” such as those I have written above…….please give us at Masterpiece Landscaping  a call at 952-933-5777,  for an evaluation of your home or business grounds, and the means to introduce a touch of paradise  for your being or, and the essentials regarding how to care for it.

Some things are simply  more beautiful than others…..with reasons too many to describe or even know.   However there are some ‘rules’ many of which are vital in creating the visually spectacular or quiet.   “Tricks of the trade”, we at Masterpiece call them.     Beethoven’s adagios were no bought!   They came from a human brain led to by the ear,  knowledge, and experience  of his day.

On the front page entry to  this website you will find a series of pictures, nearly 100, of various settings we have created for clients.   Not all of them are of equal beauty.   Beauty in our business relies primarily on space available, choice of material,   maintenance,  and a  location based upon controlling what the eye should see from primary, secondary and so on, settings.     As you view the settings,  ‘grade’ the beauty  of the picture….and then, far more importantly,  determine by language why it is more or less beautiful than another.



February 6, 2016

Landscape Garden Thoughts Best to Consider in our Northland February and Early March

Spring is not,  by calendar,  that far away from today’s February  if you are a devoted landscape gardener… particular one who is devoted to express this love  as it classically is supposed to be……from one’s soul.


Throughout the history of mankind, there are two ‘far superior’ spiritually-driven  artistic forms  of human  expression above all others…..”Paradise from beautiful music….and paradise from beautiful Earth.

Religiously…..”One is closest to the Garden,” so truthfully discovered  by and  from the ancients, both Chinese and JudeoChristian sources.

In our today’s world,   beauty has been made to disappear.   It is neither taught in music, sculpture, in architecture, and certainly NOT in the American garden….with some historic exceptions,  those still maintained for tourists to view.

We live in a much different world today where  neither art forms are personally  practiced.   We live in cement and concrete worlds belabored by noise sold as music  as if noise on busy streets.

I believe that  the easiest of all art forms for citizens owning some space of land, such as the grounds surrounding ones home, is the art of  beautifully gardened grounds.

I’ve been  God blessed in my lifetime.  From age five on, (before our U.S. entered World War II)  I was forced to listen to Beethoven, Strauss, Handel, and beautiful operatic arias by radio, often scratchy in reception,  and in the same day  I’d  find glory  building cities and  making scenery in a  neighbor’s sandbox.

We had a beautiful snow fall this past week in our Twin Cities.  For a day or two, lucky if a week, visual paradise covered our Earth.   That paradise would be less empty if our homeowners were more experienced in or sensitive toward  the art of creating and  maintaining a beautifully  landscape gardening.

Maintaining a landscape of lawn can be beautiful in its negative space, depending on the quality of clip the lawn receives during the growing season.   In winter the vastness from urban lawns can be beautiful from the negative space of a lovely snowfall.    But, without form, color, and shape, a landscape garden at any season,  is as empty as a prairie, and therefore no landscape garden at all.

The urban citizen lawn was an invention made popular after the American Civil War when woods and farming young  people began migrating to cities for work.   Big  time  industries,   built in the North to win the Civil War spread out to build railroads across the country as well as from city to city, east of the Mississippi,  building houses in new towns swelling in population.   Pittsburgh  belched out the steel to build homes to lure guys from the country needed for work AND buyers of new homes fresh off the Pittsburgh steel presses.   These homes,  often built enmasse  had to be cheap enough for purchase  by  both immigrants  and native farmers moving to towns,  both finding  work in the mills or providing service   elsewhere in the communities of  these fast growing cities and towns.

A well manicured lawn became a symbol of urban ‘superior’ living over the farm.   Towns and cities advertised  the people now populating their growing urban areas, as  less raw folks,  neighborhoods of folks  less imprisoned by daily,  nightly,  and seasonal chore demands, free  to live in a new world of civilized  city life with neighbors and schools ….where even newspapers began to show up.

Lawn was cheap….and easy to maintain.   City ordinances required lawns, mowed lawns to be maintained to advance the aura and reality of civilized urban life.

To keep house prices affordable for a labor oriented population, certain cuts were made to imply beauty from a distance, anyway of these new affordable homes…..Clapboard, that is sheets of  pretend brick would imply brick if seen from city streets….Also concrete block was used as foundation material rather than far more   expensive beautiful stone and/or  brick.

Covering over the ugly cement block gave rise to a new language and industry in the American  landscape world….”FOUNDATION PLANTINGS”…..Whether Denver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Duluth, Apple Valley,  Minneapolis-St. Paul, or Fordyce, Arkansas,  to this very day, whether needed or not, the one term known by nearly any homeowner anywhere in America is foundation planting…..usually in our northland….spreading junipers or yews diving the lawn from the foundations of the house….or even an apartment or business building.

What do these paragraphs of American history have to do with conifers and beautiful winter days?

Answer:   In general,  the most reliably beautiful plants in our Minnesota and other such northlands  for winter view essential in  our landscape gardens …..are the hardy  upright EVERGREEN conifers.    These days they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

The art of landscape gardening is a visual art form….SO IS MAGIC!    Both skills are based upon tricking the human eye to go where the artist wants  the viewer’s eye to go….and where to continue to flow…..

In the ideal the most successful landscape garden is one that implies privacy…..God’s room away from the present…whether by form, color, shapes, contrast, and fragrance…..and best of all as in beautiful music,  HARMONY.


We at Masterpiece Landscaping are always glad to assist  folks at their  home or  business to create, guide, or correct settings of beauty where beauty is not well served.   Do call us at 952-933-5777 for an estimate.

P.S…..The crabapples are the most popular flowering trees in our  Twin City area  Minnesota landscapes.   Nearly all species and cultivars are very difficult to keep healthy, for they are prone to all sorts of diseases and maladies of form.  Late February and early March are the best times to rejuvenate the shape and look of your crabapples without spreading the disease.

April and May pruning may become lethal to your crabapples  by allowing the disease, ‘fireblight’ to enter  wounds made upon the tree during this time.     Call us, again, at 952-933-5777, for we would be glad to restore beauty by shaping and cleaning up  your crabapples or any other trees or shrubs during this time….

Warning….some of our area  flowering shrubs, viburnums,  azaleas, rhododendrons, and  northern bridalwreath spirea must NOT be pruned during spring….for there is no way to prune at this time without destroying their blooms.






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… 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… 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.

April 20, 2014

It Was a Rough Minnesota Winter, Folks

It snowed here last Thursday evening. We had only 8″ here in my territory, two-thirds of an acre just west of Hopkins, Minnesota.

By sunset yesterday, if the sun had been seen while setting in the rain, there was still some unmelted snow in the woodsier part of my grounds. Looking down from my office window as I write this note, I still see a portion of last December’s snowdfall on the north side of the cul de sac ending at my front garden.

Today is Easter Sunday, always a church morning for the first twenty years of my life, long before the international fraud called global warming was concocted at the United Nations a few years ago. To remind readers, the fraud is not “global warming” as has been recorded over the past several generations. Our Mother Earth’s northern hemisphere has been dramatically cooling for the past 700 years. Locally, we goopherland folks have enjoyed warmer and longer growing seasons recently.

The United Nation’s fraud noted as “global warming” and been changed to “climate change”… since the globe is actually NOT warming. The scare is a political strategy to tax the West, that is ‘white man’s culture’ for its inventiveness over the past centuries and therefore a drive to make working Americans share your American earnings with the rest of the world.

If Americans do not do so, and to boot don’t stop their inventiveness, the United Nations story line goes, the Earth will ‘climately’ collapse in a ball of heat in 30 years or less according to United Nations computer readings…..unless you vote for ‘global cooling’ folks.

This past winter of snow and cold lasting to this very week was typical of the winters of my first twenty years of life. Easter Sunday’s April then was always windy and cold, displaying a landscape filled with crusty ice and snow with patches of muddy sod exposed perhaps on the south side of white-painted houses.

And then arrived glorious warming, admittedly usually in bits and pieces, the next sixty years of my life allowing me to enjoy the fruits of this magnificent global warming throughout every part of my gardened grounds, Minnesota, USA.

Raised churched and American, I was programmed to be grateful, and at age 80 I am exceptionally grateful for today’s sun and warmth despite its late arrival in our year, 2014.

Accompanying the past winter’s cold and snow came the winds….and, to quote Shakespeare, “therein lies the rub”…..the ‘rub’ causing so much of the brown on so many of our so-called ‘evergreens’.

Some of the brown especially if covering the entire normal ‘green’ of your conifer might indicate that the tree or shrub is already dead.

BUT….maybe not. It is likely in the majority of cases that last year’s new ‘leaf’ growth has been damaged, but not this year’s growth buds….SO REMAIN PATIENT for a few more weeks.

Even though most conifers of tree form have a precise fixed form of growth, do not automatically remove a still living, but winter-damaged conifer, especially one located in a quality location. Forms can be manipulated. Artistic pruning may be in order to take advantage of the ‘scars’.

After all, landscape gardening is supposed to be an art form…..not a habit called ‘maintenance’.

Call us at 612-933-5777 for more information.

June 2, 2013

When is a Shade Tree Not a Shade Tree?

Filed under: Pruning,shrubs and trees,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 5:36 pm

ANSWER: When a large enough tree is trimmed to be or by nature is programmed to be pyramidal…..that is more telephone pole than umbrella in shape.

Unfortunately if there are 200 words, not including the names of plants, associated with performing landscape garden art, the typical homeowner knows about six. The worker at the local plant store knows ten.

The modern American has become too divorced from the woody plant world around them.

Most homeowners cannot explain what a conifer is. Many of those under 50 don’t know or cannot remember what deciduous means. Mentioning a bush refers to anything bushy.

What’s a shade tree? In our part of the world the usual answer is elm, maple, ash, and oak.

When most folks lived in a city, houses were built two story. Even these structures were buried by mature Silver Maples and Elms, with homeowners never realizing the peril leaning over there heads when these trees reached maturity. In those days trees to reach mammoth sizes were planted in the middle of the front yard….where there was space for it, was the stated reason.

Homeowners in our Northland call trees which hang on to their ‘needles’ all winter long ‘pine’. Whether spruce, fir, arborvitae, juniper, hemlock, or pine, all evergreens are called ‘pine’……(No one ever heard of chamaecyparis a generation ago.)

The larger forms of these ‘evergreens’, except the spruce and fir, including the unmentioned larch, which would be called pine if this group didn’t shed their needles every autumn, are actually by nature SHADE TREES, but no one, including those in the industry who should know better, calls them SHADE TREES.

Except for many of their cultivars, large spruce and fir tend to, by nature, form like a Christmas Tree…..NOT SO with pine, hemlock, juniper, and generally with arborvitae by nature, that is.

Up in northland Minnesota where son, Christian, owns a lakehouse, the American Arborvitae is rank, native along side fir, pine, birch, red maple, and aspen. Nearly every mature arborvitae is pruned to look like a shade tree. Not because these tens of thousands had some loco landscape gardener hand shear each one…….the Virginia White Tail Deer do it for mankind.

My two favorite large shade trees for landscape use or to be seen in Nature itself in our Northland, are the White Pine and the White Oak. Drop by to check out Duluth or Grand Rapids if there are doubts regarding the White Pine.

Another beautiful evergreen conifer, conifer meaning cone-producing, is probably among the most beautiful midstory conifers anywhere in the world is a Canadian Hemlock raised from youth to become a shade tree of twenty five to fifty feet at some degree of maturity.

April 11, 2013

How to Save Conifers with 8 Inches of Snow in the Twin Cities and More Expected…

Filed under: battling the Minnesota climate,Pruning,shrubs and trees — glenn @ 5:05 pm

We have had late, late Spring ‘winter’ storms in the past. One, one of the worst, occured as late as early May with a dumping here of 13 inches. My conifers weren’t into teenagers or adults yet. They were still so cuddly and easily managed.

Not all conifers are equal in their abilities to stay in one piece during excessively heavy snowfalls. Let me start with the toughest….or better yet, those which easily handle heavy snows no matter how scruntched they may look…..

Balsem Fir, the firs in general, Colorado Spruce, and the Spruce in general lead the list of those who are stiff enough to endure about any weight….The proudest spruce of all, the one that stands the same with or without any weight on its shoulders is the Norway Spruce cultivar, Hillside.

Then there are the categories of conifers which are so supple they may bend all over with out breaking anything…..Chamaecyparis, some Arborvitaes, Sherwood forest and Rheingold, for instance.

Hemlocks don’t bend at the trunk, but the foliage droops easily under snow weight. I have about ten Hemlocks, all Canadian Hemlock type, and have never seen a split branch from any cause.

Pines vary. The worst of all conifers in heavy ice storms is the native White Pine. In its native woods they grow densely unable to spread the canopy. My 70 foot 2nd year ten inch seedlings were planted in 1976 to celebrate our Nation’s 200th anniversary. All entertained sandy loam soild with plenty of leaf mulch every year. Some, planted closer together rather than as a specimen, are shorter and have developed less broad branchings. They aren’t troubled by icy snow. But my tallest, a beautiful specimen, lost about thirty major very broad branchings which couldn’t endure the 32″ snowfall of November 13 a few years ago. As they came crasching to the ground, they destroyed fell branches below them. After some pruning cleanup, the tree displays more character than beauty.

An excellent much smaller and slower growing by Nature is the Swiss Stone Pine. Once thought not to be hardy here in the Twin Cities, actually in my professional landscaping life time, it seems quite at home and appears immune to any and all icy invasions of these grounds.

I believe it safe to write….all junipers seem to ignore snow and ice weights. Their branchings don’t seem to spread…..What one has to look for is the entire plant, if it is pyramidaly might snap in half under snow if it is bent looping to the ground.

Among the arborvitaes, the Sunkist, Yellow Ribbon and Sherwood Forest seem to bend well. Degroot’s arborvitae may snap or be stripped of some vertical stems under snow weight, and the pyramidal might break in two, when under ten feet tall.

One way to protect your pyramidaly type conifers, especially the arborvitaes, is to prune a couple inches off of the foliage to tighten up future growth. If done regularly for about six or so years, these arborvitaes are dense enough in foliage not only to withstand nearly any snow weight, but to stand proud as if it couldn’t be bothered by such petti matters as a foot of snow in April.

November 15, 2012

Pruning, Beautfying the Landscape Garden in Late Fall

Two years ago November 13, a Saturday, my landscape grounds was buried under 32 inches of heavy, icy snow. Damage to white pines and arborvitaes accompanied the event..

I cannot remember last year’s advent of winter. It was uneventful.

Usually, the first snowfall is among the most beautiful, here in Vikingland. Especially if it is a dry one of about five inches of snow for a good white topping causing no tipping of pyramidal conifers.

Most Twin Citians don’t notice the winter of their garden……there is no winter garden to look at. They have never thought of a winter garden. On the contrary they, like the lawns covering their grounds, both the good and the bad, go dormant. Out of sight out of mind so other more important activities can occupy their winter weeks and months. Your guess regarding what they are is as good as mine.

Our first snow fluff here in the western Twin City suburbs arrived this past Monday, November 12. The covering lasted nearly the entire day. The gardened grounds here were spectacular. Each day’s sun since has reversed the calendar for awhile. Perennial bachelor buttons have opened a few blooms, fireworks solidago and garden phlox have done the same. My eight by eight foot Golden Carousel is totally ruby loaded with its bright red berries.
But the mainstay of any beautiful Minnesota winter garden comes from the upright conifers.
My landscape garden occupies a bit over a third of an acre in ‘garden’. I have a small pavered driveway and 7 minutes of lawn mowing. The rest is in gardened ‘design’.

But that design begins with a careful selection and location of the upright evergreen conifers.

The lawn is part of the design, of course. Lawn is just another ground cover which separates the statuesque of the grounds. It requires sun….and weekly maintenance when in its noticed season. Ideally, I should like to have had a bit more lawn than I actually have, but it didn’t work out that way.

Yesterday and the day before I pruned and cleaned. I pruned out what I thought was disorderly….only the twiggy, nothing major, which ideally should not be done with the onslaught of winter ahead. I clean up most of the hostas and many selected perennials……nearly all of the garden perennials which appear disorderly and ugly, primarily. The primary force always driving my removal decisions is whether or not the herbaceous perennial has any beauty duty left on the grounds. Secondly I consider whether the plant has any bird food or shelter value for the winter.

Early snows of the heavier kind keep the grounds from freezing. If not too wet they do not pummel the taller perennials such as hotlips turtlehead, fireworks solidago, Vernonia and some of the garden phlox. Occasionally, a single or two blooms appear above the snow….and in the case of the turtlehead, the plant occasionally remains standing stately, with all of its leaves still vibrant dark green to bright purplish-maroon rising above the snow line….all winter long.

Fireworks solidago is the best of them, however. Twice, they were still in golden bloom and green foliage dress above the snow line until mid January.

I sweep my garden paths throughout the winter, by the way. A winter landscape garden is a beautiful place to be…..even in a snowstorm.

Sometime the golden arborvitae uprights are more golden than other winters. Most of the chamaecyparis trees here usually remain bright yellow throughout the year….but only if they are growing in full sunlight.

Remember, when ‘cleaning up’ in late fall. give a good reason why the beautiful oak, red and sugar maple leaves, the Grace or Velvet cloak Smokebush leaves, or the leaves of any of the colorful sweeps you see at your feet in your landscape garden should be cleared away.

July 8, 2012

Stress in our 2012 Landscape garden Reminds me of the Summer of 1988

Filed under: About Masterpiece,garden maintenance,Pruning — glenn @ 8:32 pm

I remember well the summer of 1988. I was working for a grounds maintenance company, some place out of Bloomington. Clients were a number of big corporations which occupied large pieces of property. I got $8 an hour, but was called ‘the Professor’, because I knew something about plants.

The hired, including me, were hired to be laborers, were expected to be laborers, and confined to be laborers.

Few holes were dug…..nearly nothing was planted. There was a large mowing crew and then the ‘artists’ who were in charge of pruning, preferably something simple which would keep shrubs the same size and shape forever more whatever the shrub.

No matter what the shrub was or looked like, management insisted it be reduced to a ball or egg.

The company did have us plant shrubs when necessary……usually at newly developed grounds. Management was reluctant to do much planting. That required knowledge and so, might threaten a deviation from the one regimen the company had for shrub maintenance, developing globes or eggs.

My work was pruning. I knew the names of all of the trees and shrubs nearabouts and I was much older than the dozen or so worker-bee comrades with whom I worked. They were in their early twenties…..They got along well with each other, but there never seemed to be any interest among them to know much about what they were doing. Most of the plants we played with were spiraeas, yet the follows as well as the owner called everything not a tree, a shrub, or bush, often with a swear word placed in front of “shrub” or “bush”.

The public which would walk by the landscape laborers, no matter where located in the Minneapolis and greater Minneapolis area, were cold and silent toward the crew. It was as if they saw beetles on the grounds doing something to the vegetation.
Beauty was absent, so nothing in the landscape could be admired.

The weather was hot and very dry, quite remindful of this year’s serving of rain and temperature. It was nearly 80 degrees every morning when we started at 8:30 AM.
Yet no one in the huge numbers of the public which would walk to huge parking lots and back to their offices, never made the slightest comment to anyone regarding the weather or the well being of the work force.

The equipment was well maintained. Most of the guys were quite brainy about not only working the equipment, but how to maintain and repair it. They seemed to eat up the challenge to fix something……to solve a problem.
But the laborers, these young guys, were never given an opportunity to problem solve directed at landscaping. Thiey might as well have been slaves laying out the Roman road during its empire two thousand years ago.

Cost was the bottom line. Corporate owners didn’t look upon their ground to be beautiful……only to be kept somewhat neat as cheaply as possible.

Landscape gardening, although by far the most revered art form in the human experience, is usually in America looked down upon as work for young male slaves who weren’t smart enough to go to college.
That wasn’t the case in my experience, however. These were not unintelligents as a group. Nothing resembling problem solving was expected of them outside of keeping the equipment working. What a waste…….and the public saw us all as ‘the unfortunate’…..slave market material.

It is the hot of this season that reminded me of the hot of the summer of 1988. I am as proud of our Masterpiece Landscaping working crew as an astronaut off to Mars might be about the crews which keep him alive.

I quit that job of 1988 in early August. I quit on the spot and walked twelve miles home. Peculiar as it may seem, the job was very, very good for me.

It was then I decide that I would start my own landscape company and I would make certain that each of my workers would come to realize what a beautiful place a landscape garden could be……especially if you are creating one.

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