Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

August 24, 2017

Something Special Regarding Twin City Landscape Gardening, AD 2017

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

This August has been decidedly chilly compared to the norm.

July 25, 2017

Notes to the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society Regarding Their Visit to My Minnetonka Home

Filed under: About Masterpiece,shrubs and trees,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 10:59 pm

I began serious landscaping  in 1979, starting on our own home grounds, the  fifth year living in our Minnetonka home.  Masterpiece Landscaping was born in 1989.    By then  I had planted ten second year seedlings of White Pine for the home grounds  purchased from the Minnesota Department of Resources for about $1 apiece.  They were not available at garden nurseries.  (White Pines were, are victims of the deadly  but controllable White Pine Blister Rust.)   That  was in  1976, the 200th birthday of my nation, the one in which I was born.  I reeked the  patriotism I was taught by my gifted old maid school teachers, K through eleventh grade.  I wanted to celebrate every day I worked in my garden….that is my home grounds.

Seven of the ten White Pine  survived their planting and continue living this very day.    Today, three are at or nearly at the 100 foot mark.

I had known Thuja occidentalis, the American Arborvitae, at least the pyramidal form since I was about six years old.   That was the pyramidal evergreen growing near my neighbor’s sandbox, the box at which I began my landscaping a year or two earlier, the one I learned to bite off foliage I’d use as evergreens to decorate roads and streets to drive my 1937 Mercury coupe tootsie-toy car.  My dad had a 1936 Ford four door sedan.  Naturally, I often pretended I was driving our family  of four in the Mercury coupe…also a Ford product….It never came to me that we four could never have fit in a ‘real life’ 1937 coupe of any model.

Thuja occidentalis was not sold in the retail nursery plant market in the 1970s.  I had to send away for one in Spring 1975  as it turned out, the first tree  I planted on my property.   I ordered a seedling from an old time nursery garden  plant enterprise in Mentor, Ohio….no longer in business.   I think it cost me a quarter plus 3 cents postage.

It arrived promptly….in a ten inch envelope with moist cotton enveloping its two root strands.    I was thrilled and planted it in the middle of my 90 by 30 foot vegetable garden.   Although stripped of a huge branch during a 30″ snow storm about twelve years ago, it still stands appropriately  scarred today, the wizened  ‘granddaddy’ of the countless trees I have planted in the landscape garden you Wisconsin folks will be visiting this coming Saturday.

Nearly the entire grounds had been lawn before I settled in at this frontier.   A sickly paper birch, a gangly Russian Olive,  two weedy Box Elders were the only ‘landscape’ trees on the property outside a small ‘room’ of four teenage Red Oaks and one very crooked White Oak in its southwest corner ‘ravine’.    These all died of Oak Wilt epidemic about twenty years ago which began among the oaks at a neighbor’s  grounds high above this southwest valley.

My landscape garden includes  about 200 feet of pond shore.    It was the pond as well nearly a  half acre of lawn that made me greedy about owning these grounds.    I wanted to transform the land  into an ideal garden landscape of  woody plants.   It would remind me of the power, the beauty, and the  moody  of  Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and such….the music  that excited me so  while standing in punishment  staring at that landscape garden  painting by Canadian R. Atkinson Fox  so my Mother could hear her own joys of music by  Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and the great tragic Operas without my interruptions.

See you folks on Saturday!   Glenn H. Ray

 

July 23, 2017

Knowing, Remembering Names of Woody Plants

I knew what an elm was before I entered kindergarten.   Actually I already  knew of two ‘kinds’ (species) of elm, the Slippery and the White Elm.  The city of St. Paul planted a Slippery Elm about every 50 feet along the boulevard space adjacent to the street on the block  where we lived.

A White Elm, far more mature and  planted by Nature, was growing across the alley behind our house.  Its  leaves appeared very similar to the Slippery.  However one species  developed   very rough texture to the surface of its leaves,  the other  looked  very smooth, even sleek although they looked very much the same.  Guess which elm bore the ‘slippery’ name?

You’re right….the one with the rough surfaced leaves.

When a very young child I was  taught  that:           “God created the Heaven and the Earth…..and the Earth was without form.  Darkness was on the face of the deep.   And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters……And God said, ‘Let there be light’: and there was light…….And the evening and the morning were the first day……and God said, ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear’:  and it was so.    And God said, ‘Let the Earth bring grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the Earth’: and it was so…….And the Lord planted a Garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed…..And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food;  the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.

Paradise was a garden, an ideal, a place of perfection and beauty without want and evil.

The above is what I was taught from the very beginning of my memory.   And there was more than this King James Bible declaration that had captured my attention throughout my life to the rule  that one is closest to God in the Garden.

I had terrible dyslexia as a kid….years before dyslexia was ‘born’.  I was a terrible reader from the very beginning of my school life.   I couldn’t read, that is see words  that others….mostly girls….could so easily see….letters making words, words making sentences.  Instead I photographed what I saw in pictures….not words.   To this day at almost 83, I am still a laborious reader.   Instead, unbeknownst to me until very late in life,  I learned ‘stuff’ by auto-memorizing  pictures…. maps, faces,  pictures,  photos, paintings, settings, gardens.   Enter the story of my life regarding the famous Canadian ‘painter’, R. Atkinson Fox.

I am four and a half years old in 1938.  I was left at home alone with Hilma, my Mother.   My sister was off to kindergarten every school day  morning, a year ahead of me.   Hilma, my intelligent, very driven, gifted  Germanic Mother  graduated formal schooling to conquer the world  when she was 13..  She adored classical music….especially Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, anything  Johann Strauss Jr, bits and pieces, here and there,  including Appalachian Spring, and the great  arias from classical opera.

She wanted to be the best.  She competed in ice skating and ball room dancing, the latter where and when she met my Dad and entered the 1920s ball room dancing competitions in St. Paul with him as her partner.   She knitted, sewed, she cooked, she baked and canned, gardened and worked away  part time late afternoons.   We needed the extra money….especially after the war broke out.

At ten o’clock five days a week Mother listened  to classical music from Chicago come hell or high water, as they used to say then.   Remember, these are radio days, 1938 on.   Then,  anything waffing into ones ear from a Chicago station during daytime in the Twin Cities and not carried locally  would be met with static….lots of it if the weather didn’t behave.

There was another irritation the poor woman had to endure besides radio static from Chicago….From age four on,  when my sister was off to school, I’d be  asking  my Mother a hundred questions per half hour (her statistics, but I’m sure she was right…..and then finally she rebels….”If you ask me one more  question, you’re going to the wall.   Do you hear me?”

I wanted to know the Why and What she was doing as well as what the world was about.  She was always so  busy, up to something interesting. I wanted to know, too.    At ten AM when it was time for classical music from Chicago, static and all,  I’d forget to stop asking….especially with my sister away at school during the ten o’clock morning hour.

So I’d get the wall….standing, looking at the wall for ONE HOUR….not fifty nine or sixty two  minutes, every time except once….when I pouted purposely trying  to make her feel bad…..I was there for two hours.  It became routine.  She learned to put me to the wall for an hour.   I learned to be at the wall for an hour nearly every work day at 10AM….for I’d forget, for I was programmed to ask questions.

The wall, just inside the front door,  was plastered.  Our  little house, a five room bungalow, was only two years old.   The wall smelled new and clean.

At about  the six-foot mark above me ,  there hung  a picture, a very pretty picture roughly 3′ wide by 2′.  In the lower left had corner was written  “R. Atkinson Fox”, the first reading I remember undertaking at age  4 and a half that year of ten o’clock punishment….leading to the following one morning when my sister was still at school in kindergarten.

It’s ten o’clock AM.  It’s Beethoven and Strauss  on radio time.   There I was well into my punishment at the wall…..tenth time by now maybe.  But it was no longer punishment.    I had already been captured by the color of this beautiful garden.  I had already recognized the hollyhocks and peonies early on in my sentencing.  Mom grew them at home.   I’d help her plant and weed.  I especially like planting tulip and daffodil  bulbs.   She made me know all the names of her favorite plantings.  “Bleeding Hearts” were exceptional.   She never argued or seemed cross while in her garden.

The day I remember so well is when I noticed in this “R. Atkinson Fox” picture painting the trees in the upper left background of the garden looked a lot like my neighbor  Mrs. Rowell’s, tree at the East corner of her house…a very narrow  upright proud looking ‘deciduous’ tree….the ones without needles I had been told.

“I wonder what its name is.  I’ll have to ask Mrs. Rowell.”

That very minute my punishment hour was up,  I ran out the back door over to Mrs. Rowell’s house.  I rang the back door bell…(Front doors were limited to grown ups in those days.)……my very first at the Rowell house.

“Why, Glenn, whatever are you doing here?” she asked so sweetly.

“Mrs. Rowell, what’s the name of that tree you have out front by your house?”

“Why, Glenn.   That’s a “Lombardy Poplar”.  Why are you asking?”

“Thank you, Mrs. Rowell.   I just wanted to know.”   By the end of the month I knew the names of most of the trees of the neighborhood including the conifers.   I was a boy.  I just  wanted to know.

I am looking forward to hosting you members of  the Wisconsin State Hardy Plant Society at my landscape garden this coming Saturday.

“One is closest to God in the Garden” is  an ancient  Chinese  adage I learned as Truth by the time I was ten.   I was so lucky as a child to have had to listen to Beethoven, the classical opera arias, Strauss waltzes, Appalachian Spring,  Wagner,  Puccini  and such at that wall listening “in blessed  silence”, yet occasionally with static,  along with  my own Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 21, 2017

The Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society is Coming to My Garden………..

…..Saturday morning, this July 29th.   My home grounds  display of “hardy plants” will be exposed to  Wisconsin folks most of  whom  live  south and southeast of Eau Claire, therefore living  in a much warmer climate than I do….people, gardeners, tree and shrub lovers  who can show off ten times more  hardy  plants in their neighborhoods  than I can here I Minnetonka, Minnesota.

No complaints, guys and gals…merely an observation.

One of my favorite deciduous trees is Acer griseum.   Bark color and texture, autumn color, growing season color, crown shape and ‘green’ are all exceptional show offs……in your Wisconsin, Zone 5 majority hardy plant lovers’ gardens.   I ordered and planted three about fifteen years ago….wussy looking sizes sent through the mail….all three!   There were  arguments among those in the “know” whether or not the tree could survive in any Climate Zone 4.

With this awareness, I planted one in full sun to the south of my home grounds, a second in the middle, but ten foot  lower  area of the landscape yet fully exposed to  northern  winds off a large pond in the winter, and the third to the East border of the garden amongst a collection of mostly conifer trees,  yew, red pine, and hemlocks.

The Paperbark Maple in the South grew two to three feet a year.  The one to the East grew a foot a year, and the one sitting in the winter path  in the  downstairs of the half acre garden sulked from the very beginning of its placement.  Noticing its childishness, I planted a Canadian Hemlock barely ten feet to the North of  the ‘depressed’ Acer griseum a few years later.

Here is an assignment I have  for our Hardy Plant  visitors, especially  from those warmer parts of Wisconsin.  Before arriving on tour  in my Minnetonka, please, just for fun,  put into order the condition of life expressed  as you will view the condition of  these Acer griseums in my landscaped garden,  fifteen or sixteen years of maturing “life” later.  Hint!  One of them is dead.   Which one?

 

 

 

July 17, 2017

Welcome Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society!

I live in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  Soon I will be  honored to open my landscape gardened grounds here in Minnetonka  to folks from the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society busing in from Madison, Wisconsin.   I, especially  my 78 years of “landscape gardening” welcome all of you for your interest in landscape gardens of the hardy kind!

The first tree I ever knew by name was the “White Pine”.  I was four years old.   My parents had a friend who owned a cabin at Lake Alexander, Minnesota which we would visit every summer for years.   Sand was everywhere, even amongst the tallest trees I had ever seen….groves of White Pine one hundred feet tall.

In the world of labor outdoors, gardening, especially landscape gardening,  can easily become  a drug of the first order, if beauty is the primary, or worse, sole goal for the hooked attempting to create something to uplift the soul.

I was lucky.   It was without choice at age six or seven my primary play outdoors was creating believable and the beautiful landscapes in a sand box about six feet by four in size….which belonged to the neighbor next door in a very modest, pleasant pre-World War II  St. Paul, Minnesota area where lot sizes were 45 by 90 feet each with a garage and alley.

“It”, that is my landscape gardening life, all began in that 6×4 sandbox when I was 4 and a half years old.

It ended, that is my landscape gardening in the neighbor’s  sand box, some time mid summer nearly 9 years later, the summer before I was to enter freshman year at St. Paul Central High School.

I remember being very pleased with the scenery I had created….beauty at last, believability  in  proper order had been achieved that day.   I remember not moving a single tootsy-toy car from its parking spot.   My favorite was a 1939 Mercury my Uncle Frank had bought me for my birthday that year.  It was a coupe, a realistic replica of the real, only two and a half inches long.

Both my sand box boulevard trees and landscape trees were  from a pyramidal arborvitae not far from the sandbox.   I’d bite off the tips of the greenery….and in doing so endured a bitter flavor as if chewing a lemon rind.  Years later, while studying Latin in high school, I learned arbor…vitae meant “tree” of “life”…and indeed so, for the Brits during their centuries as a world naval power, used to store Arborvitae trees grown in pots on their great sail ships which sent them all around globe for business, profit and democratic civilization….which led to the birth of own country,  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India, by the way ….(I taught ‘high school social studies’  for twelve years. I landscaped as a hobby-drug then.)

I used cigar boxes for corner shops and drug stores.   I lined my streets with ‘pruned’ arborvitae foliage…sizes and shapes formed by my teeth.    Toy building blocks were saved for modest houses like those in which I lived.    A dandelion bud both before and after bloom could be designed as shrubs.

However, that “believability” day was the last day I ever ‘touched’ that or any other sandbox.

Embarrassed by her 13 and a half year old son still monkeying around a sandbox…always alone and loving it, she opened the side outside door where she would be best heard by all  and seen by her ‘wayward’ son and shouted as loudly as possible:  “Glenn Ray, you are too old to be playing in a sand box!!!….but I shouted back, just as loud…..

“I’M NOT PLAYING IN A SANDBOX!  I’M MAKING SCENERY!”…and I knew I was right!!

Nevertheless, I understood the point she wanted ME to absorb for I knew she was right.   What if any of my buddies might ideed  see me making scenery, that is “playing” in a sandbox….something I had practiced for nearly nine years.

My Mother had won the day!

I wanted to avoid her celebrating her victory, however.  So, I covered the pain by  slyly filling a gunny sack with all of the paraphernalia required for community  landscape garden created  in that sandbox, with a laugh or two……for, after considering her claims,   I knew she was right ‘regarding the scenery’ at her distance.   My sandbox education came to its end!

 

April 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

November 17, 2016

2016….The Most Beautiful Autumn of My Conscious Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 26, 2016

The Wisp of Winter without an Attracting Setting is Often Very Gray……and Very, Very Cold

Temperature doesn’t measure the arrival of Winter in Minnesota.   Our landscapes usually do.

If one bothers to look,  Winter in Minnesota is equal to Spring and Fall in the quality of its beauty  offered by sight.   Outdoor viewing during and immediately after snowfall creates a landscape garden aura of its own…..if there is a landscape garden in site, that is.

And, let us thank God, this garden “aura” doesn’t occur in summer as it has in mid May and late  September upon occasion in my own life time.  It might otherwise make winter living unbearable in our Northland.

The setting below was photographed during a late  autumn hoar frost and light snow fall a few years ago  at our Masterpiece Farms near Maple Lake, a bit northwest of Minnesota’s Twin Cities.   I grant the photo is not an inspiring and incredible beauty to advertise as a landscape garden if color was its primary measure.   Winter in Minnesota is six months long folks….equal in length to all other landscape seasons combined.

Imagine what this photo, and therefore the setting, would look like without the planted plant material.    There it is in the background, a background unattractive and uniform  enough to  make viewers focus on the textures, forms, and “colors” of the garden plants and the positioned boulder in the foreground.

When you first spied the photograph, what captured your eye first?????

We know, for most viewers,  it was  the boulder…..Why?   At immediate glance the eye quickly  picks up the full setting more or less without noticing form, that is true….but only for an instant….There is  no color to attract ones searching eyes, folks.   No yellows or whites surrounded by masses of green to grab your mind.

Moreover there are a couple of Nature’s arrows pointing to the boulder….White, frosty  ones according to my eyes.   Without a doubt the darkness  and texture of the Arborvitae foliage corners the boulder pronouncing its existence to capture your eye.

Will anyone want to sit there?   Perhaps….but for the landscape garden uninitiated, probably not, unless there is a spectacular scene to the right, somewhere in its  horizon, if one does.

Landscape Gardening is ideally  an Art form based upon soul, knowledge of plants, space, texture, and form, even fragrance….  Tricks of the Trade, ideally,  an art form when at its best, is designed to impress and then capture  the human eye to inspire the human soul.

 

 

Without Decay, There Is No Life…Especially in the Landscaped Garden

Filed under: shrubs and trees,The Art of Landscaping — glenn @ 5:47 pm

Dear Minnesota  Homeowner….It’s late October in the Twin Cities.   What are you planning to do with all of those falling leaves now swirling around your grounds?

Most likely you’ll do what you’ve done as long as you have lived in your Twin City house…either rake the leaves up,  or  very loudly power blow them into a pile, bag them up and have them  driven  someplace  to make them disappear.

I have lived on my Twin City  western suburban property at the western dead end of a one block  cul de sac  for over forty years.   I am not aware of a single bag of leaves ever leaving my property.   On the contrary, I gather about 50 bags of leaves from friends for a variety of uses throughout my 27,000 square foot landscape garden.  (I grow only  about 160 square feet of mowed lawn.)

For my uses, I prefer most of the leaves to be chopped up for they decay into compost much more quickly.   Not all leaves are equal, however.

Chopped oak leaves are my favorite residue leaf for landscape garden use.    Unchopped oak leaves are my favorite among the unchopped regardless of the genus. Fallen oak leaves remain crisp throughout the winter.   They entrap ‘closets’ of air created by their crisp and often slightly curled leaves creating layers of insulation around roots and crown of their harboring  plants providing ‘blankets’ of protection from  severe temperatures during Winter.

Many oaks, especially those of  white oak heritage, usually  hold their leaves throughout winter….often artistically  a positive providing  form to our usually  formless urban winter “flatscapes”  in and around the Twin Cities.

Sugar and Norway Maple leaves are not crisp, do not provide pockets of warmth, but stick tightly  together as if glued by slime thereby forbidding aeration to keep stems and roots of many plants  healthy.   These leaves are particularly useful, however, in killing lawns or other  non woody vegetation.   They are useful, therefore,  when piled as mulch to kill grasses, weedy non-woody greenery to open areas of ones ground as prelude to plantings  of more beautiful, more  inspiring,  and/or  useful landscape garden plantings.

For an example:  Garden phlox can become a very dominating flowering perennial, that is weedy as some folks might say, in open ground seedable garden territories.   I cherish them.    These garden phlox seedlings can spread their seedlings in all sorts of directions of open ground territory in one gardened season.   I, my landscape garden’s sole artist,  then decide which flowering phlox I like best and cull the rest.

If Minnesotans  never raked their lawns or flower beds  amid Norway and/or Sugar Maple trees, in a couple of years  there wouldn’t be much left of any desirable  understory plantings, especially lawn grass.   If you become tired mowing that part of your grounds, you may welcome a visual change toward the more  beautiful.

I prefer conifers as the major tree features of my grounds.   Most Minnesotans forget that  Winter is Minnesota’s longest landscape season, equal to all other seasons combined.    Winter home  grounds are nearly universally  ghastly bleak  without these majestic EVERGREEN  wonders.

In Spring of 1976 I bought ten second-year old seedlings of  White Pine,  Pinus strobus, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of our then democratic nation.   They amounted to  nine inches in length (height)  per tree when planted.    In this, their 40th year,  seven are left….Two are already 100 feet tall, four others in their fifties, and one rather a runt.    Three died  within the first three years of the plantings.

To endure our northern winters, White Pines do drop old needles  in fall as do all  coniferous trees.    They, too, are useful as a mulch, but better used  for appearance than for weed control and decay.

Try   never to  mulch with plastics or other lifeless  matter including stone chips, especially limestone unless necessary for some particular scene you, the artist, want to create.     Boulders, as long as they are not lined up and the same size, can become  neighborhood garden beauties as well as seating  areas and climbing spots  if well positioned.

HINTS:  Artistically, it is better to bag, or otherwise group your tree leaves  separately by species and without scrap foliage when placing them upon the grounds you want to clear.  “Neatify” you work.    Where ever you spread them, and if you spread the mulch thickly enough, these groupings will look more like carpets throughout the winter and the following growing season, than a  dump for garbage.

Decaying plant  material, otherwise known as ‘organic matter’  in this case autumn leaves,  requires certain nutrients for the decaying process itself.  By piling them a foot or  more   heat increases over a period of time hastening  the decaying process which releases nutrients for ‘locals’ to absorb.   Regular, reliable watering hastens the compost making process.

According to the landscape industry’s advertising declarations, the expected height for the  Sunkist, (or Yellow Ribbon) Arborvitae is advertised as six to eight feet.   I planted one about twenty years ago in my front side landscape.   It is thirty feet tall.   Two doors down the block, I planted one in a neighbor’s front grounds about twelve years ago.   It is only six feet tall….but all the same, very attractive. The difference is in the soil, fertilizing and regular watering.

 

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