Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

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.

 

October 23, 2016

The Art of Landscape Gardening #1

Beauty as a value in our western culture began its death throes from the unspeakable horror of the industrialized slaughter of countless millions of  World War I.   It stands to reason its disappearing  accelerated into oblivion with the slaughters which followed….World War II, and the estimated 20,000,000 in the USSR murdered by Joseph Stalin and the 60,000,000 killed by Mao Tse Dung to rearrange China into  police states.

Music is an aural experience to human kind, inspiring the soul via the ear.   What one visualizes as a work of art is, of course, sensitive to the human eye.   Can beauty exist without soul?

What ‘music’ have you heard  profoundly  beautiful to the ear has been composed  within the past ninety years?

Likewise, what have you seen recently or since the First World War settings created which are  profoundly beautiful in any of the visual arts created by anyone?

To socialists who are now politically  conquering our America with things government, “beauty”  must disappear, for if something is deemed beautiful,  other things are deemed  not as beautiful, therefore causing bad feelings and despair among some folks.

Beethoven  became   dead to the ear and therefore the brain in our American culture  years ago.  With his and similar inspiring music, what is left to hear?

Noise and vulgarity!  Both  now fill our American ears and have so for more than a half century.

Landscape gardening is the most favored among all of the arts including the musical.   Among nearly all  classical religions, especially JudeoChristianity,  paradise is perfection existing in a beautiful garden.  No other art form reaches such  height and honor.   It’s understandable, for so much of the Earth when  in its order is so beautiful to view.

The landscape garden shown in the photo below is a setting in the back yard of a 45 by 90 foot property in crowded Dinky town, Minneapolis featuring the owner’s garage.  How does your landscape grow?   Are you inspired every moment you enter  and walk  through your gardened grounds?   What causes beauty?

It arises from the imagination nested in the human mind.   The best in the art of landscape gardening it is created by TRICKS OF THE TRADE as seen by the eye pursuing some kind of order.

However in today’s  practice,  nearly all  human made grounds visible to urban and town folks are quite ugly.   Make a list of the most important words you think are needed to whet your mind to generate  creating  a beautiful landscape garden.

I think it fair to claim that we, at Masterpiece, created this piece of gardened  grounds many years ago.  It is also fair to claim that the homeowner of these grounds studied so carefully  over its many years of our assistance, she became so inspired by it,  she  learned the tricks of the trade to make  it her own Masterpiece.

Landscape gardening is a visual art form.   Let us assume there is a beauty to the landscape garden shown below.  What tricks of the trade have enticed you to want to enter these grounds?   Learning the vocabulary is the first trick.    Call us at Masterpiece when you need assistance.

 

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?

 

August 25, 2016

WHAT, on Earth, IS A WEED?

Yes, what on Earth,IS a weed!

Our governments and other fanatics who choose to  dictate human thoughts and moods these days, insist weeds are plant-like  things they’ve been programmed  to dislike in order to feel good.    These ‘dictate’ people are  indoor people…office people…..downtown people, usually government people  who live amid cement and asphalt.   If these people  are third or more generation Americans,  their grandparents were raised on a farm, not the street…..but they are all  dead…so yesterday with yesterday’s habits.

If they were raised on a farm in our Minnesota, they would have  known the differences between a potato and a tomato, wheat from corn, a pine from a spruce, a marigold  from a rose.   They would have lived in some kind of house, a house of their own.  They would have maintained a flower and shrub garden, a demand of the lady of that house….Paradise, after all, was a GARDEN with family.

In my own lifetime the majority of Minnesotans worked the soil.   They knew what a weed was, and if they were still alive, what a weed is today…..an irritating, disgusting…..but merely….

“A PLANT OUT OF PLACE”…..the ONLY accurate definition!

Recently in Minnesota  downtown people, those cement and concrete people have declared war on certain plants they have  declared weeds which at one time gave    gardeners  interest….the perennial, Lythrum, often called purple loosestrife,  and an understory tree,  Common Buckthorn, both arriving from their native Europe.

One of my most cherished trees in my home landscape garden is a Common Buckthorn, even  the fernleaf kind banned in Minnesota by the cement and concrete downtown people.    Purple loosestrife discovered my property about thirty years ago and I have allowed it to remain rent free along a pond front ever since.   It struggled for survival for a few years.  I was told the city had  air sprayed an herbicide along with its mosquito control program one spring.

Let us not forget, all of you  rare gardeners and  millions of non-gardeners of cement and concrete life, many many plants are ‘weedy’.   It’s in their genetic material.   The most popular of all, at least the best known, is  the garden plant  cherished especially   by government folks at all levels,  LAWN GRASS.

(It’s a plant easy to understand, requiring nearly no thought at all to maintain.     It needs light, topsoil, and Nitrogen for a good life and expands where ever Earth gives it its space.    To look its human best and is often walked on,  it needs to be mowed at least four times a month during the growing season…about the only need requiring thought beyond worrying about the mowing machine.

In the art world of  music,  lawn would be the eternal monotone, that single noise which in its landscape conquers the eye sans any and all interruption by something different and/or  beautiful…..very akin to  modern life, don’t you agree?)

I am a child of  the Garden of Eden people, and admit the  blessings taught by my elders….That is, I was born into a neighborhood which taught  the most beautiful, most perfect place in human existence is a garden….a Garden of Eden…

(Then, listening to Beethoven was deemed  runner-up…..but the two, Garden and Beethoven blending  together equals three in the math of beauty and  imagination  allowed the human being.

 

August 4, 2016

Is There a Sunkist Arborvitae in Your Future?

Masterpiece Landscaping is a Twin City, Minnesota  artistic landscaping company nearing its 30th birthday.   We line up and plant  garden trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials  in rows only when artistically required to fit  formal settings or for some other special artistic display to inspire visitors.

Landscape gardens, ideally,  should inspire the designer, the builder, and above all,   the home or business owners and their visitors whom we serve. It should never be forgotten, however, the installing the beautiful landscape garden is one art form, maintaining it is entirely another. We provide both services.

The Sunkist arborvitae, and its twin sister, the Yellow Ribbon,  are recent visitors to the upper midWest landscape, both being ‘born’ and made available for only  about 20 years.   I’ve been growing Sunkist on my grounds for nearly twenty years.   Yellow Ribbon is more  a newbie, available for only the past ten years locally.    The twins are  identical to us commoners. The following growth and care  information about these twins  is what is typically advertised as the following:

SUNKIST ARBORVITAE:    (Thuja occidentalis ‘Sunkist’        “Very bright golden tips.  Semi-dwarf, broad globe-shaed or oval pyramid shape form.  Compact growth habit.   Bright yellow foliage turns dark yellow to orange in fall/winter.  Evergreen shrub.    Great for use in asian style gardens, rock gardens, as a border or edge plant, or as a specimen or accent plant.

HEIGHT:  4-6 FEET     WIDTH:   4-6 FEET          Exposure:  Full sun        Hardiness Zones:  3-8

The above information doesn’t provide fullness of truth, however.   It is a carbon  copy of the sales tag the Sunkist or Yellow Ribbon bears when displayed for sale at your local Midwestern  nursery.    But is it true and helpful to the garden caretaker? It depends upon their  location, the amount and length of sunlight available, and  the care you and/or Nature provide them, the quality and character of the soil in which they  live, or try  to, and the amount and reliability of water available to the plants each week.

I have probably seven or eight of these golden arborvitaes growing in my landscape gardens.     The three oldest are all over twenty feet tall and  seven or eight feet in width.    Others I prune for shape or size control depending upon their location in the garden settings. However, I have outstanding soil to serve such plantings….both in tilth and depth…and  have an artificial watering system which  guarantees my plants water during season every other day.   I also fertilize somewhat reliably…usually  starting in February with Milorganite and standard 10-10-10 granulated  once or twice early season  until mid July.

All ‘golden’ arborvitaes including the global, are the same plant essentially. In contrast,  on grounds without such amenities for ideal plant growth,  these arborvitaes are quite different….In our neighborhood at a grounds a  couple doors to the East, I planted a Sunkist arborvitae #10 pot about twelve years ago.   It has received little care.  It sat ‘ungrowing’ but alive at four feet for the first half of its new life and since has gathered character and beauty at about the six foot mark. It eventually most likely by living twenty or more years, it  will  reach the twenty foot height similar to my plantings, with or without extra fertilizing.   If no fertilizing is added to its annual needs, the tree’s  foliage often does start to look thin and somewhat unhappy,  and begins to lose a bit of that bright Spring yellow the plant so well offers if treated right. There have been more ‘yellow’ and turquoise  foliaged conifers made available over the past two decades adding new colors as well as shapes and sizes to improve  our local landscape gardens.   Unfortunately, our Twin City public seems immune to the outdoors surrounding the places where they live.    Our schools no longer teach much about outdoor vegetative life these days.     Have you ever heard of: Chamaecyparis?   Microbiota?   Gigas Angelica?   Fernleaf Buckthorn?    Purple or Amber Jubilee Smokebush? If you, or you and your neighbors or garden club members are interested in visiting  our ‘home’  Masterpiece Landscape Garden. please all us at 952 933 5777.

July 30, 2016

Aralia spinosa

Filed under: battling the Minnesota climate,shrubs and trees — glenn @ 12:39 am

One of my favorite woodies in my gardened grounds is Aralia spinosa….(Aralia spinosissima).   About forty years ago it arrived in my possession around mid- August,    I had a large vegetable garden and was beginning  my artistic landscaping of my  property  nearly 90% of which was covered by a mediocre lawn.

I was director of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society then.  Our office was located on the St. Paul University of Minnesota Agricultural School campus.  A devoted plantsman, Bob Estelle, although a Librarian at the University of Minnesota main campus, came rushing into my office around late August that year….upset that the University was destroying its century-old St. Paul campus landscaped garden to make room for a parking lot.   He was carrying  a rather prickly stemmed herbaceous-appearing thing with several  double compound spiky leaves squeezed into a brittle plastic green colored size two pot .

He announced the survival of this Aralia spinosissima (Aralia spinosa) was in jeopardy and was trusting me to plant it in my own garden in Minnetonka about twenty five miles to the west.  “It is a rare plant here in Minnesota!  We can’t let it disappear!”     He had apparently dug up a dozen or so ‘suckers’ and potted them to hand out to folks he could ‘trust’ to do them well.  I had to do my horticultural duty, he nagged.   He was too upset for me to let him down.   I accepted the responsibility, but once I got home I set the pot among others I needed to plant beginning the ‘bones’ of my intended landscape gardened grounds.

I knew countless Twin City  woody plants, but had never come across this almost woody thing called Aralia “the spiny” or Aralia spinosissima, “the very most spiny ever”.   Plastic plant pots were made very brittle in those days.  This one was colored very bright green.

Then it was suddenly early November and a 30 inch very wet snowfall began its dump while I was at work….unexpected.  I had to speed home to salvage all of my brussel sprouts, sweet carrots and other edibles still rich in the garden.    It was not quite dusk when I came across a pack of ten or so  unpotted plants I had intended to set into the ground and nurture that Summer, but never got around to doing it.   One was that  very Aralia spinosa still in its green pot, Bob had trusted me to take care of……  The snow was already a foot deep.   Even though the ground had not yet frozen, I was too tired to plant the darn thing.   I was also too tired to feel guilty about abusing the plant.   I had never watered the thing since the day it entered my property sitting among others similar in a far corner of the garden.

I disturbed a few inches of soil, dumped about a foot of oak leaves around and above the pot in the middle of a clump of three five year old French Lilacs I had planted…..and never thought about the plant for four or five years…..until one hot sweaty day in July when I was weeding with my shirt off, weeding  around  the grounds where my French Lilacs were growing so well.   I remember being very pleased with their good looks and growth….At about my third reach attempting  to collect some kind of plastic debris, my bare right arm was shredded as I pulled it back  having grabbed  a handful of  grassy weeds.    I looked at my upper arm where the skin was shredded as if some animal had clawed me big time.   I had never heard of any lilac being spiny, yet the  spiny woody stalk was easily five feet tall, with another two slightly shorter blending perfectly among some thicker woody stalks without spines.

Only for a moment did I try to digest that my French Lilacs had spines growing out of their stems.   Then I spied the truth  to calm my dismay……I saw a number of small pieces of brittle plastic around the ground swelling of the largest of the three spiny stems.   Moreover, my fist had wrapped around a few pieces of that same green colored plastic I dropped while  my arm was being slashed.

Thirty years later I have to admit, Aralia spinosa…..I prefer ‘Aralia spinosissima’, which is more accurately descriptive, is one of my favorite of  any of  perhaps a hundred or more woody plants I have planted or have allowed to be grown  and nurtured in my landscaped gardened grounds since.

Aralia spinosissima was its name when I first looked up the details of the stranger the day after its arrival.   Even the double compound leaves, each easily three feet long, possess spines.   It produces a large cluster of florets, one to two feet wide at the tops of the foliage (at the twenty foot level)….and is doing so as I write this biography of my “Club of Hercules” as it is romantically called.    These florets, countless in number, open up mid August and mature into berries which become very popular to robins and cedar waxwings in October when they literally  get drunk devouring them in preparation for their journeys southward for winter.

Three or four  years ago we had a winter with very, very little snow cover with temperatures down to minus 20 F….two or three times.    All of my Aralia tree trunks, about six, died to the ground.    This is the first crop of floral clusters, six in number, since that seasonal set back.   They are opening as I write this ‘report’.

I  planted starters in two other locations in my gardened landscape, done before I began to respect  their drive to expand their territories.    Fortunately, their shoots  are easy to pull out the first two years of growth…..Gloves are highly recommended.  You’ll learn why quickly!

In my Twin City metropolitan grounds, these spiny double compound leaves normally all drop within two or three days after the first killing frost.   Aralia spinosa (spinosissima)  sure looks naked and mean in Winter.

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