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 4, 2015

We are having a garden party!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 5:14 pm

Masterpiece Landscaping cordially invite you to our annual Garden Party on Thursday August 13, 2015  5pm-8pm.

14624 Woodhill Terrace, Minnetonka, MN 55345.



June 10, 2015

Spring, 2015 and the Landscaped Garden

From early May much of my life over  the past twenty years I have spent most of every day in someone’s or my own gardened grounds.

I cannot remember a May so pleasant, so cooperating a climate for gardener and garden member alike. Cool, not cold, moist, but not wet,  and above all no violent winds or down pours. This past Sunday was June 8, 2015.  I noticed my first mosquito bite of the landscape season.  Yesterday the temperature reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit  with a humidity to oblige.   I noticed about twenty bites.

Landscape gardens, like people, gain character with age.

Most of the more significant additions to new landscape gardens these days come as potted plants.   Burlapped materials are both larger and pricier but offerings of varieties are limited.  In 1976 I purchased ten size one pot White Pines for my home grounds as a tribute to the  Nation’s 200th birthday.   They were nine inches tall.   Two died within a year, but eight have survived to this day.  These pines are the basic structural units  which provide the strength of my landscaped grounds throughout the year.  They are, indeed, beautiful pieces, magnificent structures,  soothing to both eye and ear especially in winter.   Their autumn needle drop provides a beautiful and practical cover for  walking  paths weaving in and out of various garden rooms  with Mother Nature replenishing the supply  quite free of your personal labor. Three of these beauties are over 80 feet tall.    The two which provide a pleasant  shade to the ‘dining’ patio,  are less robust in size and foliage quality, suffering a bit from the limestone base of the patio stone covering about half of their root zone.   White Pine, as are most pine, fir, and spruce, quite demanding of acid soils to maintain their best health.

The first  conifer in our  landscape is an American Arborvitae which I planted a year earlier.  Although this tree is a  common native  in woodsy Minnesota, none were sold  on the market locally in those days.   I ordered  one from Mentor, Ohio for a dollar plus postage, as I recall.   The six inch  ‘tree’ was sent to me in a size ten legal envelope  with roots wrapped in a touch of damp cotton and cellophane.   I nursed it like a baby for years until it was big enough to be on its own….and for years was a center piece form in the largest of our  garden ‘rooms’.    One November 13th four or five years ago, a Saturday of a heavy wet 32 inch snowfall  one of the structural stems of the tree crashed to the ground under the weight of the ice and snow.   About twelve major White Pine  branches from our  most majestic of the White Pines  joined the chorus of falling branches, one seemingly  playing the  old hymn, “Nearer my God to Thee” to me  while I was  underneath it  trying to lighten  the snow load off of its branches.   I’ve had back talk from a number of plants over my years and years of landscaping, but never one as personal as that pine branch episode turned out to be.

Flower beds are NOT landscaped gardens.   They are beds of flowers which may even include a woody shrub or two especially if they are roses.  Gals are noted for  growing flowers.  They are more taken by color than by form and/or placement of the ‘notes’ relative to creating a beautiful  setting, as if a symphony or concerto.

Landscape gardening historically  is supposed to be an art form   for the eye and at its best  what Beethoven, Handel,  Puccini,  Mozart,  Rachmaninov  and others of  similar achievements are for the ear. Ideally plants in the  landscaped garden  are merely “notes” arranged  for the human eye to perceive beauty and inspiration creating harmony for the soul.    Music as composed, throughout much of the world,  hasn’t been much of an  art form for the soul for  nearly a century.  Like all major arts,  landscaping and music  are unfortunately  owned by university bureaucrats these days.  Inspiration is not noted in  the curriculum.

March 28, 2012

Have You Had Your Watering System Installed, Yet?

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 1:19 pm

For those of you who have visited our Materpiece home  grounds in Minnetonka you often comment how lush everything appears  to be.   

I do too.  

First, by the luck of the  ‘home’ draw where I live, the soil nearly throughout the grounds is loamy and deep.   Second, I have only a nine minute lawn mowing reponsibility here leaving 90% of the land space, minus house, garage, and driveway, ‘open’ country for landscape gardening.

 I then have removed the original lawn to plant bit by bit, year by year, form by form, grouping by grouping,  the paradise landscape garden where I live.    Every fall I have embellished the soil by covering it with leaves, mostly oak leaves.  

These leaves, if moistened, rather quickly decay adding ’tilth’ to the soil.   On their way decaying they need water to hasten the process.    Very important in that process is the regularity of that water throughout the growing season both for plant growth and health and for quality soil maintainence.

Regularly available water is vital not only for the general  health of the plants, but for their  look as well.  As the leaves covering the grounds decay, available water allows the acids they release   to unite with nutrients of the fertilizers you have applied,  to become  more readily, more quickly available for use by neighboring plantings.

A result whether desireable or not, is most plants grow bigger and faster than the catalogues or your fellow garden friends who do not have  a watering system claim.

The original watering system in our Masterpiece grounds was installed in 1990.   I was not financially able to use it for about six years but eventually  I hired a local company to activate it.   

Eventually when Masterpiece was installing a landscape garden at a Kenwood home in Minneapolis, the homeowner introduced me to a ‘sprinkler’ guy she had hired after investigating  “sprinkler” guy businesses.    He thought water sprinkling was beautiful.   He saw its spray refreshing the plants in its range, the way gals swoon when they smell a fragrant rose.  

Let’s call him Jim.    Jim has had control over watering our Masterpiece landscape garden in Minnetonka ever since that day in 1998.    Jim  also installs and maintains the watering systems for all of our irrigating Masterpiece clients.

In my unscientific, but in my view, accurate, survey from experience, Nine out of Ten plant deaths in the gardened grounds are cause by drought.   Nearly all damage upon plants is caused by Winter.   Among the ten percent of remaining deaths to garden plants one can add all those  caused by  insect and disease agents, caused by winter kill, automobile stress and child ill treatment…..whatever killing agent you can think of.

The installed watering system to cover and acre might be rather expenseive.   But for most gardened grounds of the average resident home the installation of an irrigation system is not expensive.    If budgeting is a problem, think about irrigating the garden area which might benefit most from regular watering.

Winter blowout of the system and Spring set up are ‘small change’ in the house maintenance budget.

Give us a call at Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd for an estimate…..952 933 5777.

October 6, 2011

Inviting Birds to Your MN Landcape Garden in October

Filed under: garden seasons,perennials,shrubs and trees,Uncategorized — glenn @ 8:49 pm

I was a ‘birder’ by age 12.   I discovered their populations during my morning paper route which included homes  at the end of my route, near the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Cliffs…stone abutments….huge boulders,  woods, slopes, and torrents of water moving southward, noisily and threateningly.  It was exciting to climb and sit and observe.

What more could a paper boy  want   having delivered his papers by  5:30 in the morning with nothing around him but birds and fox, trees, woods,  and an angry river….at least in the Spring?

I explored.    I learned some trees had different looks  besides ‘elm’.    They differed in their leaf patterns, shapes and sizes.  I had to know their names…they had to have names…..and so, went to the Groveland Park Library to find out.

The name,  Aralia spinosissima. sometimes named Aralia spinosa, wasn’t listed there.   It arrived at the grounds where I now live about 35 years ago when I was in my 40s….and I had never heard of it until then.

I did study Latin in high school…..I chose the class without advice or pressure.   I lucked out.  Fewer learnings have taught me a greater collection of understanding in my lifetime… history, the world of plants, Bible studies….and my understandings of  America, its language,  and the western world.

I shall tell the story of Aralia spinosissima’s arrival to my property in 1976 or so in another report.

Its name tells us that it is an Aralia…..that it is related closely in its ‘being’ with these relatives, the Aralias….all of whom  have similar  genetic makeup ….such as Aralia racemosa, Minnesota’s native ‘spikenard’.     But this Aralia is not racemosa, an herbaceous perennial, but is a ‘spinosissima’, a spiny woody perennial.

Its name  in Latin means the most spiny spiny thing ever.

Aralia spinosissima  (or Aralia spinosa) is well named.    Even its  leaves, double compound and  three feet long, are spiny.

In my own grounds where it had set root, totally unbeknownst to me, and had grown among some French lilacs, its trunk was so spiny it shredded the skin off of my right arm when I reached passed it to weed where  it  touched  me as I pulled my arm away from the task.  I had assumed it was just another lilac trunk…..but where did it get its thorns?  I asked myself  staring at the bleeding.

Aralia spinosissima blooms in early September, late August at my grounds.   It grows  in full sun and,  since its dramatic entrance to my world of plants, has spread to about six trunks which have reached fifteen feet in height….about its maximum size.  It’s not a plant for limited spaces.

I have a landscape gardened grounds….about a half acre in all,  with hundreds of varieties of plant material.   The birds collect here in vast numbers starting late August  lasting throughout much of October.  These birds are busy preparing for their southward flights.

No plants on my grounds cause more frenzy among birds  than my Aralia spinosissimas.   They swarm their meals  as  if blood were spilled  into a pond of pirranha, particularly over an hour or two after dawn.

The original bloom is a collection of  dusty white  florets in a hoop resembling a queen’s tiara, and held high at the top of its taller branches.  As it ages going into September, it become slightly pink, and then decidedly pink.   As the fruit develops at each floret, the color darkens to dark pink eventually reaching a lovely maroon…..when it announces it is ripe for the taking.

The uneaten fruit darkens to a dark wine/purple color when it drops for rodents to finish the feast.

The foliage, resembling Green Ash from a distance, turns a bright yellow as the fruit darkens.

It is one of my favorite plants.   I can examine its floral show up close when looking out my second story windows.  I wish I could give you an accurate account of the birds who visit.   My eyes are too old to manage.   In later October there will be a weekend visit of Cedar Waxwings…..en masse, which will attack the Aralias, get drunk, and wobble for a day or two and then they flock southward.

Robins do the same….and I do know that many of our native sparrows monkey around when the fruit is ripe, but they are small and the markings are less telltale.

Aralia spinosissima is a rare breed for common gossip.  But one must allow it space.

May 18, 2011

GARDEN TOUR AND PLANT SALE: May 26-27 and May 28

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 7:22 pm

Garden tour and perennials for sale from two classic landscape gardens featured
in the St Paul Pioneer Press, Mpls Star/Trib and Upper Midwest Garden magazines.

You will see the plants available for sale in their idealized settings.
Perennials include
sun and shade GROUND COVERS (Canadian and European ginger, Iris
cristata, Lysimachia
‘aurea’, Sedum ‘communis’,sweet woodruff);
WOODLAND PLANTS (Brunnera, Celandine poppy, Jack-in-the pulpit,
Jacob’s ladder, maiden hair fern, Mayapple, sensitive fern); and
SPECIALTY PERENNIALS (Angelica ‘gigas’; Aquilegia spp, Aruncus, Euphorbia
‘polychroma’, Japanese painted fern); even some CONIFER
SEEDLINGS to name a few and more…

TAKE NOTE THURSDAY 5/26 and FRIDAY 5/27 the sale will be in SE Mpls by the U of
M campus
at Sonny Schneiderhan’s garden
1219 8th St SE
Minneapolis, MN (just 4 blks north of Dinkytown U of M Campus)

THURSDAY MAY 26 at 11am to 5pm FRIDAY MAY 27 at 11am to 5pm

on SATURDAY 5/28 the sale will be in Minnetonka:

SATURDAY MAY 28 at 11am to 5pm
at Glenn Ray’s garden
14624 Woodhill Terrace
Minnetonka, MN
(just west of intersection of 494 and Hwy 7)



April 21, 2011

Please Try Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 7:45 pm

I received the following email from fellow landscape garden addict, Regina Reed:


44%  done


Installation Delayed…….Please Wait!


Installation Failed…..Please try again.   404 error:      SEASON NOT FOUND


Season “Spring” Cannot Be Located……..  The Season you have been looking for might have    been  removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. 

Please Try Again

August 6, 2010

Korean Angelica (Angelica gigas)

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 11:22 pm

Last year I had a grounds crowded with Korean Angelica.  I wasn’t pleased with the location of the various populations.   I have grown Gigas now for about 8 years.  We are  at a point where I limit the number of those permitted to mature to about 400.  Well, 200 plus, anyway.  I have removed over 300 not counting the seedlings which keep popping up all summer.   Fortunately, they are easy to cull or transplant.

Then, because Gigas  (Korean Angelica) is a biennial, I permit a number of first year plants to fill their space with a pleasant, but modest form this year, to show their magnificent presence and displays next year.

And what a display they are this season!   They began to open their seedheads (floral displays) about a week and a half ago.   With each tier of flowerheads still opening,  the maroon of the ‘bloom’ is beginning to dominate.  They are the most striking herbaceous plant in the gardens. 

Some plants are over nine feet tall.   The first opening  flowerheads begin to lose color after about seven to ten days as the seeds are developing.  The foliage is strong and beautifully formed with leaves and their stems  often over two feet in length.  

In one area of floral  display, the strong-stemmed gigas keep a dozen or so garden phlox beautifully erect.  There is no room to fall faint.

The seeds mature quickly and can be sewn in the fall as well as in the spring.  I often pull out the dried up plant and with sturdy central cane and all, I walk around the grounds where I want the plant to dominate shaking seeds from the plant like salt from a salt shaker.   The seeds are large enough to be individually counted. 

There is one color, maroon, the plant has to offer.  The manner of floral display is also striking.  Around the third week in July one of the new branch leaf growths will appear to contort and curl, and rise somewhat vertically.  The growth swells until the maroon begins to be exposed.

I liken the plant form to a huge very striking candlebrum with eight or so arms showing of the maroon collections.  Some central stems are thicker and stronger than a corn stalk. 

Korean Angelica will grow happily in deep shade as well as full sun.   It prefers to be regularly watered.   I have grown plants in a size one pots.  There they  grow to only two feet, but nearly all will present a bloom or two despite the restrained root space.  My nine foot tall specimens are reliably watered every other day for 15 minutes, and are very impressive in stature as well as bloom. 

I use a balanced granulated fertilizer each spring.

July 30, 2010

Global Warming Right in My Front Grounds!

Filed under: shrubs and trees,Uncategorized — glenn @ 11:03 pm

I had a mature elm removed from the front grounds of my landscape garden last Thanksgiving weekend.    I suspect it was over 65 years old and of about the same height.  If someone wants to purchase  the trunk I have it stored away in a quonset hut.  I am not certain what I am going to do with it.

The tree did not have Dutch Elm disease, but it was afflicted with  a minor disorder…..a foliar disease in which for three or four years in a row before removal, it started to shed its leaves right about now, the first of August.

The mature elm must have a billion leaves, for I had to rake every day until late October to keep  my driveway over which the elm stood, somewhat clean.

I remember reading one time,  that if one lined up all of the roots and rootlets of a mature elm, it would reach the moon, 240,000 miles away.  I have never challenged that statistic, for anyone who gardens under the shade of an elm, maple or birch tree knows that these tightly wired roots are almost inpenetrable.  Moreover,  they seize most of  the water that comes their way. 

Nearly everything growing within the shade of this enormous elm, has thanked me for my deed except for the hostas and the brunnera, which are showing some to significant amounts of leaf burn.  The most severly suffering is Hosta, Great Expectations.   El Nino doesn’t seem to be bothered.

A special word regarding Host El Nino.  This one is unique in a hosta world populated with countless members some of which cannot be well distinguished one from another. 

El Nino in sun until about 2 PM in my front grounds has not shown signs of sun burn.   Those in the shade have such striking foliage, turquoise and a nearly white cream, and solid leaf form, the plant radiates its spot as if itself is perpetually under the spotlight.  It is unique among its relatives, both close and distant.   It blends and contrasts very well with Gentsch Hemlock, a dwarfish Canadian hemlock claimed to reach only six  feet. 

Whether in shade or sun, if well fertilized and never having to endure drought, Gentsch has a turquoise  tinge to its foliage except for the whitish new growth, which makes it pleasantly noticed especially in shade. 

They are sold as shrubs….but I have my doubts.   My second oldest Gentsch, probably six or seven years in my grounds (a purchase in a size 5 pot)  it is over 6 and a half feet already, and I have pruned in back each of the last two year by two feet. 

The oldest receives less sunlight but grows in a more crowded condition among other evergreen conifers in a group, two arborvitaes and a huge, fast growing Hetz juniper, all planted at about the same time.    This Gentsch is almost ten feet tall after about ten years in its location. 

Readers should know that there are many dwarf and semidwarf evergreen conifers which are relatively new on the market……cultivars “invented” or selected from some mistake in its heritage.

There aren’t many, or in some cases, there are none which have been grown to maturity yet here in Minnesota.   My front grounds Sunkist Arborvitae is already 15 feet in height in its 15th year in my garden.  It was a size five pot when purchased. 

The label tagged with the plant when purchased informed me it would reach 8 feet in height with nothing else added to the information.   This is not a complaint, only an observation.

It is very, very common that  heights of garden trees and shrubs as listed on labels  underestimate the heights of  mature heights of the plant.

I have excellent soil and an automatic irrigation system.

The rest of the plants in the front grounds have improved their color and appearance in general. 

Yet, Global Warming has attacked.  We do a bit more computer stuff in the evening these times since we have lost our shade cooling the second floor office.

April 14, 2010

The Conifer Garden at Courage Center

Filed under: Uncategorized — glenn @ 8:37 pm

We at Masterpiece would like to invite readers and friends to visit the Conifer Garden which we installed about eight years ago at Courage Center on Golden Valley Road in Golden Valley, MN. 

It is located at the South Entrance to the Center.  Spring is an exceptional time to visit the grounds.  The Leonard Messel Magnolia is now in full pink bloom.  The Redbud trees will begin their sharp pink-lavender blooms next week or so. 

Visitors will be amazed at the variety of colors, sizes  and textures of the evergreen conifers on display here.   Conifers are plants which bear cones.

There are three White Fir to be especially admired as well.   Check them out.  This tall evergreen, Abies concolor, should be used much more frequently in the Twin City area.

Write us ….let us know what you think of the garden….especially if you have any questions.

For inquiries please contact Mike Berg,  Joshua Perlich, Chris Ray, or Glenn Ray at Masterpiece at 952-933-5777.

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