Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

September 20, 2016

How Beautiful is the Drive to Your Garage?


So, you’re driving home from work.   Traffic is miserable.  Every day traffic seems to become more consuming of  the world in which  you  live.   Home… home,  paradise at last?

What would paradise be….a bath?….a nap?…..playing with ones kids?…..supper?……a beautiful family  living in a beautiful setting,  all of these pleasures at their proper time?

We at Masterpiece Landscaping are in the beautiful-setting business for homes and businesses.   The following drive to home and its garage was designed to inspire the eye and therefore the mind the moment one turns from the public streets of noise and danger.

Peace, peace at last….  color, fragrance, light, temperature, forms, memories, Mother Earth,  replace the time and tension and the angst of driving home.

Home, home at last for the  folks living  in the St. Paul garden picture below, who have worked with us at Masterpiece over the past several years.



Ideally, the  landscape gardening is supposed to be, according to history whether East or West, the most favored art form known to mankind, an art for  the eye and mind what Beethovens’ adagios are for the ear and soul.

Eternal Paradise according to nearly every major religion of history is  a Landscape Garden, not a symphony or opera, no matter how beautiful and inspirational its music, however.   It is life ALIVE for the pleasure of the thinking  animal to feel closest to God while on Earth.

For several generations,  causing beauty has  disappeared from the American   mind and soul.   Causing beauty for the eye and ear are TRICKS OF A TRADE,  tricks no longer professed at school and university, where we are programmed to believe beauty is dangerous.   If something is deemed beautiful automatically deems something less beautiful, therefore causing jealousy in the world.

For those of you interested in creating or  restoring beauty to your home or business grounds, call us at 952-933-5777!






August 28, 2016

Why Do Metropolitcan Politicians, Bureaucrats Make Community Streets So Ugly?

My parents bought the house in which  I was raised in 1936 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It was newly built on a “vacant”  lot of  the more prairie edges  of  the city south of Randolph, west of Fairview down to the Mississippi River itself.  “Civilized” American urban areas were developed post Civil War with the arrival  of European immigrants for the next forty years or so.   Scandinavians, Germans, and Czech went rural.  Slavs, Italians went Iron Range….East Coast  AngloAmericans were moving westward to plot urban  matters that counted as well as farm.

Suburbia occurred after World War II.    My neighborhood was ‘urbia’ from its beginning;  straight streets, mostly one-story houses, small lots, 45′ wide  by  90′ depth with alleys in the back of the house  leading to one-car garages all arising from plowed fields.

Then, as in so many communities today, the city  demanded, as so many suburban communities command  today, the rights to line these streets up with ‘shade’ trees of their dictate.   In our neighborhood the tree of worship then was Slippery Elm.    City folk needed shade whether they liked it or not.

Foundation plantings were the decorations the home owner would determine and it became a godlike worship that a maple tree should be planted in the middle of the front yard of lawn,  whether needed or not.    That Slippery or American  Elms, Sugar or Silver Maples being planted streetside by bureaucrats reach ninety feet  in height eventually, never seemed to cross anyone’s mind.    It would take more than  generation or two for  humans to discover their downside….their  size, overbearing shade, leaf tonnage, root conquerings,  weedy seedlings, their effect controlling and even destroying the  visual environment of the community.  But, they were cheap and grew rapidly….and no one dared to complain about their intrusions.   Eventually there came shade, whether needed, wanted  or not….and storms.

Green ash lollipops and all of their seedlings, became popular during the early stages of suburban sprawl.

Recently, city and suburban human  figures dictating urban plant disorientation today have found a special way to spread ugliness along streetsides….along Mississippi River Boulevard in today’s St. Paul, for instance….They ‘decorate’ new boulevard tree plantings with large  green plastic sacs attached to each  tree assuming, I am assuming, that no one will notice how ugly these ‘garbage’ sacks really are.

“Beauty” has long disappeared from the American art vocabulary, for according to current ‘intellectual’  talk,  things have a right to be or made to be ugly.   Besides, “Beauty” in the landscape takes too much time and knowledge to know the tricks of the trade.   There are only so many notes in music to play with….millions of notes to play with in the plant world.   Today’s American-made ‘music’ is supreme in its ugliness.  Why should our  landscapes have to  be the same?

Because  beauty to the eye and the ear,  when it  reaches the mind,   inspires, uplifts  the human soul.   The more one lives in  beautiful  surroundings, the more inspired and curious one becomes about beauty itself.  The more beautiful the neighborhoods become.

It is not the job of  bureaucrats to sell ‘beauty’, something they know nothing about.  Why, then, are they permitted to curse your ‘yard’ and the yards all around you by lining up the tree of their  day up and down your residential streets unless they add beauty to citizen life?


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?




March 22, 2013

Among the Best People in the World are Those Who Garden Their Grounds

If there are 1,243,772 pieces of knowledge necessary to command ones personal computer, I know about 17 and a half. I spent years fighting the idea of placing my face in front of an invention with a screen that was even more vacuous than what usually appears on television.

Eventually, I discovered that I was wrong…..but I was too late along in life for me to recover from lost time gathering computer expertise. Nevertheless, the 17 and a half pieces of knowledge I do know about the computer, I know well.

For most of the time I have been writing articles for this Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd blog site, I was rather depressed about the absence of commentary from readers. How unlike gardeners of any type, I thought…..and kept thinking. But, I love what I do and enjoy writing and talking about what I have discovered from my years of Landscape Gardening. I like sharing this good fortune of knowledge.

It turned out that among the things about the computer I didn’t know was that good people, good souls, and fellow gardeners HAD been emailing with comments to make about the blog articles, but I was unaware of the space at this computer where these comments arrived…..until company compatriot, Josh Perlich discovered the articles yesterday, 194 of them, which until this discover went unanswered.

I want to thank all of you who have enjoyed these articles as much as I have for your remarks, comments, humor, and other gardener charms which go along with the nature of such animals. I think that among the very best people in the world are those who garden the soil around where they live. It has something to do with a deep soul being revealed in full public. I shall try to list all of the names, in time to thank for their commentary beginning with the following gardeners: Gert, Nikki, Peerless, Heather, Jennica, Jahlin, Jaycee, Aspen, Tisha, Wind, Mark, Dorie, Estella, Lola, Lettie, Stretch, Takeo, Jeannie, Vianca, Infinity, Sukey, Adele, and Darrence….for starters.

Please continue to write in and do include questions along with your comments which will help you enjoy succeeding in your Landscape Gardening, God’s greatest artform to mankind.
Thanks again. glenn ray, christian ray, josh perlich and all the folks at masterpiece

November 16, 2012

Pruning……”Tuning” to Improve Harmony in the Landscape Garden

The Art of Landscape Garden is, of course, a Visual art form.

So is ‘Magic!’ These are similar expressions, both being visual ‘trickery’……The ‘artists’ want to control what the eye is to see, or what the brain thinks the eye preceives.

In the ideal the art of landscape gardening should be to the eye, what Beethoven’s compositions are to the ear.

To the vast majoirty of home owners the grounds around the home they own is only a yard…..a piece of ground over which one must walk on the way to some conveyance to get to ones employment……or, mope around somewhere.

To many, perhaps most, it is a nuisance…..especially in summer when usually the duty of mowing the lawn demands attention each and every week.

For years beginning in the 1970s the snobbier American, mostly feminists, city and student folk both male and female, politically made snied remarks deriding and slandering suburban lawn mowing people, claiming the activity was an example of primitive Neanderthal males who didn’t know anything better to do with their time like joining the rape, pillage and burn culture of the times of that cultural revolution period.

Today, with the collapse of marriage females are often seen mowing suburban lawns. Many now days live alone.

Even among the happier homeowner the yard seems to be a threatening place. Nevertheless, the wealthier hire out. The poorer ignore it. These ‘yards’ are not the outdoor places where they want to play or work.

Yet, in middle America as one travels hither and yon throughout the Twin Cities, here near the tundra. we can catch sight of homeowners who care or take an interest in what the space around the house where they sleep, looks like. Some renderings smell as the nearest garbage dump. Others are minimalist, cold and mindless like the Rothko art piece that just sold for $75,000,000 on the modern ‘art’ market.

Others like the work of modern ‘art’ star, Jackson Pollock are smatterings of free form splotches. Instead of dripping or pouring cans of paint from a ladder over canvas, Pollock style, the homeowner reaches the same results by dropping potted shrubs throughout the yard as if casting feed to chickens until the yard’s space can bear no more. These enthusiasts are often new religion motivated, hugging trees and opposing global warming, preferring the bitter cold centuries of Neanderthal man’s life.

Neanderthal Man became extinct, however. Perhaps the tree huggers when in college, didn’t read that far.

Landscape gardening at homes or businesses is a very public art form

To enjoy a bad play, boring book, embarrassing Minnesota Gopher football, hear a terrible concert, view an exhibit of modern art, or strive for a modern university social science education, one has to pay for the suffering but has, at least, chosen the suffering in order to participate in the experience.

Although there isn’t any actual financial cost beyond fuel if you happen to be traveling through neighborhoods in some vehicle, bad landscape garden art is viewed nearly every where you happen to look when outdoors, whether you like it or not. One has no choice.

Worse…..Most Americans these days know nothing about the past, their’s or anyone else’s. They have become indoor people unlearned particularly in the history of life itself. In our America, majority polled two or three years ago believed Carbon Dioxide was a polutant and had to be reduced or eliminated from our air.

Congratulations to all of you who have discovered the miracle of life outside the walls of your own house for which you pay taxes every year. The world of landscape gardening is as old as gardening itself. It is the most cherished of all art forms.

In nearly every non polar culture throughout the history of our species, living in paradise is perceived as living in a beautiful garden.

August 22, 2012

Just a Note about Masterpiece Clients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It reads:

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

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

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

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

June 16, 2012

Whatever Happened to Beauty in our American Lives?

A people’s culture is imprisoned by the habits of the day.   It is designed by religion, politics, and education or the lack of it whereever people collect and settle.

We live in an America that has been reduced to the indoors.   Perhaps the majority of its population now believe that the tomato is manufactured at the local super market or factory.

We live in an America whose indoor college graduates in the social sciences believe that carbon dioxide is a polutant and must be  eliminated from our atmosphere.

They know nearly nothing about the miracle of chlorophyll, but they are keen on manipulating the young human mind.

If a lateral branch of a tree stretches out at the four foot level from its main trunk, and the tree grows a foot per year, at what height will that branching be in those ten years?

I’d guess from my nearly life time experience in landscape gardening the majority of today’s urban Americans adult and otherwise, would be troubled finding the correct, but very, very simple answer to the question.    Yet, the majority of these folks live in their own homes which are located on grounds which grow a number of trees and shrubs.

The national ignorance might be good for our landscape businesses, but it isn’t good for those of us in the landscape business who are interested in creating beauty to uplift the spirit and souls of all who bear witness to beauty…….which, of course, is the God-given reason that the human being, at least in Western culture, accepts landscaping of whatever kind around the houses where they live and many businesses where we still work.

The world’s Western population is an indoor population.    It is a university controlled population.  It has been instrumental in the killing of things classically beautiful, because it destroys so much of the individual’s personal creativity funneling it, diminishing it into the cheap, low, the empty, the spiritless, the bureaucratic mundane, taught by the unthinking, unimaginative, programmed instructor who was herself, himself were  taught by the unthinking, unimaginvative, programmed instructor. 

I spent two years as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota Department of Horticulture in the middle 1970s.   I received some vital learnings which furthered my education about this generally outdoor art and science……soils, some more advanced learnings in botany and plant diseases and pests, but nothing at all of value regarding ‘horticulture’ for the world of landscape gardening.  Nothing was offered in its art, history, purpose, its collective importance in the human domain………the most revered art form of all art forms.

In my two years of classroom horticulture imprisonments at the University of Minnesota Department of Landscaping, I never saw a single picture of any kind of a Minnesota  winter setting.   I did complain to Phd Professor, Jane MacKinnon, a charming, likeable, bright gal from Mississippi why the Department seemed to avoid presenting any information about the longest landscape season of the Minnesota year……as long as all of the other landscape seasons combined, she seemed shocked and stuttered, “Well, it’s much  too depressing to even  think about Winter.” …so, the inference was, why and what can we teach about its landscape.

I also have had some experience in  the University of Minnesota’s Fine Arts Department some years later.   The teaching of that art in that place  seemed to be confined to lecture and lectures’ attacks on the idea of beauty……..almost entirely due to the fact they themselves were not artists at all, but bureaucrats to talked about art and made their students believe they could become artists, but no one ever seemed to learn how to  create color mixes for they didn’t know how to mix paints.

What about the “art” of music…….how is that ‘taught’ these days.   Why is beauty so totally absent from our music-deprived ears?    Why has its noise  become so akin to the smell of garbage in the street, but in aural form?    At what university anywhere, coast to coast, in any continent north or south, has there been  produced a Beethoven, whose music tells us how good it is to be alive, or even a composer of another “Piano Man”?

Why do we put up with this up-to-date and expensive university world which universally  preaches the political and religious doctrine of the  “Death of Beauty”?

You, dear home owner, can begin to change all this, by making a statement.   How about starting  a twenty square- foot area somewhere on the ground for which you pay taxes and establish as your goal to make this space BEAUTIFUL.  

Begin to think “beauty”.

Do some reading and visiting first.   Observe.   Judge the good versus the bad.    Ask yourself  and answer, how and why they differ.  

 The landscape garden is a visual art form… is magic.  

Like people, even those attending or graduating from university,  not all plants are the same.   They have their own genetic material which provides certain opportunities and limits to contributing  to your happiness.

Help restore creating  beauty  into the American way of life.   It is so much easier to slip into the ugly, the sloppy, the mundane, isn’t it?

Call us  at Masterpiece, if you need assistance.    We have alot of tips to share and home  grounds to show.    Our number is 952-933-5777.

May 21, 2012

Developing a Landscape Garden….

That age old saying, “One is closest to God in the garden” does not refer to a vegetable garden or flower bed…..or a home orchard.   It refers to a landscape garden.

What is a landscape garden, then?…….to be basic, it is a piece of land that is landscaped.    It is a piece of land to be entered as one enters a cathedral or a cemetery park, classically to  inspire the visitor  by the most revered art form in all of  the human experience.

Paradise in nearly every non polar culture has been imagined as a garden of perfection, exquisite beauty, quietude, thought, memory and inspiration…….a landscape garden.

I often announce that the landscape garden is to the eye what Beethoven is to the ear……where harmony is to dominate despite moving from notes of incredible combination and accent from melody to melody, beat to beat, texture to texture, rhythm to rhythm, color to color, space to spacelessness, glorious form and unforgettable fragrance.

As our ancestors must have known  what we, as deprived moderns do not…..Evil cannot be designed as a classic garden feature but can be easily created in man’s other art forms….especially music. 

Fragrance can, however.

We Americans do live in a time where beauty is eliminated from our vocabulary.     Our dogmatic flavor of our  day of political correctness is the insistence  there is no God, that good and bad are matters of opinion, that everyone must be made equal……that  if something is deemed beautiful,  something else  is therefore less beautiful…..perhaps even ugly…..and feelings will be hurt.   Such  a thought that something is beautiful might be deemed a thought crime at your local university.

A couple of years ago I stopped by the offices of our  state Horitucultural Society, and orgnization I managed for about thirteen years.    It is run  by women now.    I was interested in adding my name to their speakers’ lists and was handed a listing of over 100 topics.

Not a one of those more than 100 topics included any word related to the word ‘beautiful’.

Not a one…….Rain Gardens  and  Using Minnesota Native Plants are tops.  leading the parade of listings without beauty.

What art form hasn’t modern governments corrupted?   Painting, sculpture, literature, music, poetry?  all of which universities control, by the way.

Well break away from that by-the-way. … Become free and begin thinking about where you live and what you see.

The art of landscape gardening is a visual art form.  So is magic.    Experts in both attempt to control what  the eye is to see and what the eye is not to see.  What is implied and what is not implied.  

When I was Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society a number of garden clubs,  mostly gals, would visit my landscape garden in Minnetonka.

The entry points to and through the landscape garden were clearly established.   Women are creatures persuaded by color…..guys by shape.    Knowing this I was able to  dictate the direction the gals would follow.    A landscape garden  usually consists of rooms and often hallways connecting  one room to another.   

No matter how beautiful a plant form might be, color dictated the direction of the path the gals would follow.   When the path entered a room,  if colorful plants, usually the flowering ones,  were placed to the left, the ladies would turn left.       

To begin ones lessons in Landscape Garden 101. one must understand you are entering the world of God’s plants.    Universities now might have you concerned about planting only “Native” plants, that is only those ‘born’  in  your county, your  state or your country.   If you are so racist, you can still learn the art form of landscape gardening, but your tasks to achieve beauty, as it is in the human world, will be very much limited.

Three  quick memorizations are required before we proceed.   1…a Weed is a plant out of place;  2…..the Landscape Garden is a result of ‘What do you put Where…..and Why did you do it?’…..three questions in one……and the most important of them is the WHY.

Another, the third, ….’there are Many Roads to Beauty’, but countless more to create and sustain ugliness.

Maybe there should be a forth:   “Landscape Gardens, like people, gain character with age.”

Where do you enter your estate…..that is,  the grounds to the place where you reside?    In more modern upper crust America, it has come to be  through the garage with no  one every knowing what the grounds look like. 

So let’s start again…..What is the setting of the grounds where you reside and ‘govern’  where you see or walk through most often?   Are every one of your windows a picture looking out onto  a beautiful setting?   Maybe that is where you might start your landscape play by designing from a window.

Remember, a  landscape garden is a plot  of ground made beautiful by the arrangement and careful cultivation of plants.   Landscaping ones home grounds is the means by which most Minnesotans become acquainted with at least the fringes of the art of landscape gardening.   When we dream of home, it is a house in a setting, a setting among lovely trees and shrubs civilized with a carpet of lawn and an arrangement of beautiful flowers.

What you have just read  is where I recommend begin your thinking.   It is where I started…..and I live in a paradise.

Decide, perhaps,  on the space which is the  most ugly on your grounds….or the space,  the improvement of which, would mean the most on the road to make your home grounds beautiful.

Where to begin?      Remove the  lawn or the otherwise ‘in the way’ of creating your masterpeice landscape.   It doesn’t have to be a massive project.   One of the most beautiful areas on my own home grounds is  a twenty by eight foot hallway going from my front grounds to the largest of my garden rooms on the property.   It needs to be seen to be appreaciated.   I am drawn to my hallways and rooms many times each day, each week, each month including winter, the longest landscape season in our Northland.

Look and study the canvas you have now created.  You need no new vocabulary to explain what you see, what you would like to see, or what you will see.    You will think every day words……the only new vocabulary will be the names of the plants.   NOT ALL EVERGREEN CONIFERS ARE CALLED PINES!     Only a few are.

Think forms first and then color.

Another warning……listen, but only with care,  to the advice of your local Master Gardener.   These well meaning people  know nearly nothing about the landscape garden, but are heavy on Rain Gardens and growing Native Plants in their agendas.   They are university folks filled with enthusiasm to dictate rules.

Once your sod is removed stand in a position there  where you will be most frequently viewing the rest of your grounds.  Is the painting you view worthy?  What do you wish to frame?    What might not be  worthy of framing?

What is sacred and will not be removed  under any circumstance?    …………Well, one sacred item will  be the house itself, if it stands before you.   If it is at your back, the sacred  might be a white oak or spectacular Sunkist Arborvitae or a redbud……or maybe a fifty year old “overgrown”  neglected juniper that might be shaped as the Japanese might form.

If you alrady have some sod removed  do cover it with some kind of ground cover….mulch if you cannot think of anything else.    Use a mulch which will NOT attract the eye.    If you do nothing Nature will decide what your landscape plants will become……including maple, elm, ash, box elder or mulberry trees.

Try not to buy your plants just to buy plants.   It  can become  very expensive and wasteful and lead to profound discourgement.    They are living things which need special care if sitting in a pot all week long.

Some of the ground covers which will  keep Nature’s choice to a minimum in the lawn cleared area are Pachysandra, Ajuga,  Sweet Woodruff, Lamium,  Vinca,  and a number of sedums including  Sedum acre and kamchaticum.   NEVER purchase perennial Snow on the Mountain (Aegopodium) or Bishop’s Weed, for it becomes  a weed perpetually out of place.   

If you buy about five of each of the above mentioned units in the removed lawn space,  and water regularly and the soil is tolerable to life,  by the end of the summer  a 150 square foot space could be  substantially “ground covered”.

Then, too, purchase  easy-to-grow attractive perennials, Euphorbia polychroma, bloodroot,  cordylaria,  and Celadine Poppy and wild ginger and mayapple, plants  which spread rapidly by runners or seed while you are deciding what woody plants might be worthy of  adding.

And then remember another vital rule for beginning landscape garden practice:  When in doubt about positioning, GROUP.

Do expect to spend some time removing plants out-of-place volunteering in the open spaces among those you have actually planted.    Might be a good idea to buy a few bags of mulch to control them.    My I suggest Scott’s Dark Brown Forest Mulch.

Creating landscape gardens for HOME GROUNDS is our specialty at Masterpiece.    If all of the above is too complex or time consuming for your busy schedule, be sure to call us at  952-933-5777 and let us PITCH IN.

P.S.   How does your landscape garden set for next winter?    Call us if you need improvements.

February 18, 2012

A Look at the One Art Form We Humans Are Forced to Experience


                                                     (unless you live in a prison or in New York City.)

I used to run alot during my middle years of life.  

I walk now.    

I found running stimulating and it kept my heart strong and weight down.   In my yesterday,  I could run home 24 miles  to Minnetonka from Anoka, and did.   I left my Chevrolet there at Main Motors for repairs.   Running gave me freedom to run home rather than depending on someone else  to give me a ride.

One can review home landscapes  much easier when walking.  

Most of what one sees is festering  wounds, cancers, scars and organized disorder often surrounding an otherwise lovely house.  Every tenth homestead or less, one passes  by  an exception and slows down to appreciate the pleasant site, the special statement by its homeowner.    People who live at these exceptions take care of where they live.

I cannot help but slow down at such sites……especially while passing a  handful of ‘yards’  in my neighborhood which  Masterpiece Landscaping has been developing.    I am usually very proud of what I see.    We built their outdoor structure, and they are keeping  their ‘home’, their  ‘paradise’.

Landscaping ones home grounds is an investment.   Most homeowners aren’t aware that  this is a fact.

My neighborhood is a community built about 40-50 years ago.    It was designed for families with children….for families generally satisfied with their station in life with family and retirement-living expected to be experienced in the same home.      Most homes are modest in size and appearance.  

It is a very middle middle class part of suburban Minneapolis, but built before the age of ostentation…….that strange decade or three when after raising families,  parents removed themselves to Bear Path, Eden Prairie, Apple Valley and similar locales to these  much larger even estate-like homes built on postage stamp lots once their children left home…….a mausoleum for two people, ma and pa kettle.   There was no room for any paradise garden.

My Minnetonka neighborhood is blessed with smaller, more reasonable sized homes usually owned by parents who raised children in the bedrooms and kitchens where those  children,  when returning to mom and dad for visits in later life can remember the joys and sorrows of growing up by just being there.     There is usually ample room for paradise to grow  around these modest homes.

That is what “Home” used to mean generation after generation.

Unfortunately, few homeowners think about any beauty just outside their doors anymore.   In newer house designs homeowners  don’t even exit  directly outdoors,  but walk  into a  garage or two, climb into a  vehicle of choice and exit directly out unto the city street.   The mind is totally void of any thought of landscape garden beauty.

Generally, however, one can tell the modern from yesteryear’s ideal.    Most yesteryear folks attempt to keep  their own home grounds  more neatly despite any lack of artistic inspiration.

Our neighborhood is not unattractive at first glance.   It is shady in summer from its huge ash, Norway and  silver maple and honey locust trees with a few river birch here and there.   Scars are hidden by leaf cover.   Some of the native oaks were saved from development  and still flourish.  Some lawns are very well kept, even watered. 

 In winter many  of these oaks  are character-filled specimens and excel in  their beauty  when some retain their full head of hair of tan and golden  leaves throughout the otherwise bleak season.

And bleak season it is,  in my Minnetonka area.    Hundreds  of spruce, many of them blue spruce  are still standing where they were  planted by homeowners  40 to 50  years ago.     Nearly all these spruce are skeletons of themselves, ugly and nearly dead from foliar disases, lack of water,  winter troubles, and assorted other  neglect.   Many are dying under twenty five years of  shade from  an enormous green ash or silver maple which zoomed skyward past the height  these conifers could attain.

These horror trees and the honey locusts probably should not have been planted on these grounds in the first place, but they were cheap….$5.00 a shot……The tract developers weren’t skilled  in landscaping anyway.  Money spent to build a house was never supposed to go to the landscape.   

Designers  sat   at desks looking at checkered paper and would make marks where the fastest growing and cheapest  trees would grow.

Sometimes the homeowner ‘designed’ the grounds to keep costs in check.   Because they are more expensive than other woody plants, few developers had any conifers planted except for rinkydink ‘stuff’ as foundation plantings, whether foundation plantings were needed or not, attractive or not, the right size or not.

Almost all of the planted trees, the ugly and the beautiful,  I see as I walk by on my daily  exercise tour have managed their lives totally on their own.  “Fertilizing” and trees are never caught in the same sentence by homeowners  hereabouts.     It is the habit in the community to ignore the out doors until the outdoors causes a problem.    Some guys  have boats parked in their driveways or golf clubs leaning against car fenders.  They plan to go elsewhere to spend their money to seek pleasure.    Investing  money, body and soul on the home grounds  has never entered the mind.

Most don’t walk their streets in Winter.  And the few who do don’t seem to notice the dying  spruce, the mangled, disorderly and diseased crabapples,  the dangers and ugliness  of a 70 foot silver maple hovering  over a one-story rambling or split level house.

One has to go indoors to see a bad play, to an arena to  hear vulgar rap,   or a theater to watch a disgusting movie.   One has to open a book to read whether  modern junk or Shakespeare.   One can refuse to watch television.    Folks need to go out of their way and often spend money to endulge in something called art in some way no matter how bad it all might be except for one art form.

Every day one leaves  home, one will  be exposed to the ‘art’ of landscape gardening with all of its modern disorder and ugliness, whether one wants to or not.

In Minnesota the longest landscape season each year is WINTER.   It is as long as all of the other landscape seasons put together.     Invite yourself outdoors onto your own grounds.   Look around your  inch of Mother Earth.

Is there a French Lilac in your future?      Where would it go?    Why?    Would you take care of it?

None of  the art forms of mankind so uplifts the human eye and soul more than  an  idealized  landscape grounds.    After all, in nearly every human nonpolar culture PARADISE is imagined as a BEAUTIFUL GARDEN!

If  you want any help in any way to  bring more landscape garden beauty to your life where you live or work, please call us at Masterpiece Landscaping Ltd., at 952-933-5777.

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