Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

September 12, 2016


We human animals  spend much our life “avoiding”  falls.

This is particularly true when the coming “fall”  happens to be your 82nd birthday.  Yet, without it I’d be already dead.  (Oh, the irony of Life!)   And without that fall there’d be no blessed Spring.

Fall, that is the autumn one in our Minnesota , is a very short Fall, often barely over a month long  with every day the prospect of  colder, much colder temperatures with darker days, and therefore the end of Spring and Summer.

Most “Minnesotans”,  Europeans and others, since the disappearance of a thousand feet of our glacial ice over us  a few  thousands of years ago, spent  most of their days working  outdoors to survive.  Prosperity’s cultural influence have sent these animals indoors, however, and have done so locally overwhelmingly   IN MY LIFETIME.

In today’s newer homes and huge residential housing structures one measures the quality of   life  by avoiding the outdoors completely by ‘driving’ from kitchen to workplace without ever leaving a heated conveyance to avoid their enemy,  their outdoors.

Fewer and fewer people in the general population have to be “bothered” about the look, the feel, the being of the outdoors, the grounds around the abode where they live.   Fewer and fewer people understand the world of the plants around them and the  “Gardens of Eden”   their religions used to worship as the highest, most perfect, most beautiful  environment of  thinking animal life.  (It also happens to be where our food and water come whether today’s human animal is aware of it or not.)

Winter in Minnesota is this part of the world’s longest landscape season of each year.   It happens to be nearly as long as all other landscape seasons, Spring, Summer, and Fall, combined…..mid-October to mid-April…..and in my youth, even  through the end of April into May.

In that youth city and town homeowners, nearly none of them wealthy in those days, most paying taxes on 45′ by 90′ foot  properties, did their very best to maintain their lawns, foundation plantings, vegetable gardens and flower beds despite the city’s  elm tree on their boulevard grass and  the habitual silver maple tree in the middle of the front yard, the cheapest tree buy available, whether needed or not.   Beyond the beauty of the rise of each Spring with the rebirth of its flowers and foliage, almost all of  the landscape  was “artless”….but it was usually  well maintained and kept neat.

Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils,  lilacs, bleeding hearts, marigolds, four 0’clocks,  rhubarb, carrots, lettuce,  and tomatoes were the order of the day.   Pfitzer junipers covered cement blocks at the foundations  of older houses.

Outdoors is where city and town folk  used to meet, chat, and share…… a time when so little was available to beautify so much to meet the standards of that day.   Most homeowners could recognized a pine from a spruce, a conifer from an evergreen.    Fortunately,  most folks  couldn’t afford the non-living  junk that is sold at  garden markets these days.   The landscape was supposed to be welcoming to owner, neighbor,  and visitor alike.

In the ideal landscape gardening is supposed to be an art form…..the most cherished in nearly all human society.  “One is closest to God in the Garden” is a universal cliche.  WINTER IS AS BEAUTIFUL A SEASON AS ANY OTHER SEASON OF THE YEAR!

Fall, however, is an excellent time to examine ones home and/or business grounds.  Have such grounds been made beautiful for the coming fall of the leaves and temperatures?   What remains in your home or business landscape  grounds that is beautiful to behold?

THERE ARE MANY ROADS TO BEAUTY, FOLKS.   Winter is as Beautiful as any other Season!     Call us at  952-933-5777….Give us a chance to prove the Truth of this Truth.







February 6, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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






December 15, 2015

“There’s a Change in the Weather” arriving to your TC Landscape Garden Very Soon

I celebrate the year, 2015 in suburban Twin Cities, Minnesota,  as the most comfortable, the most gentle, , the most pleasing to garden plants of all shapes and sizes, and therefore, the most beautiful of my memorable lifetime,  well perhaps only seventy years of it.   Further, when it was decided to rain, the wetness was somehow ‘professionally’ timed to arrive gently and sufficiently around every third day totally free from  angry cloud bursts.   Last winter was mild and rather short of snow……a threat to  us in the snow removal business, but not to landscape gardens in our area.   We arrived in Spring somewhat short of  prosperity, however.

At December 15, we are rather late being introduced to  real winter this year……until this midweek when the cold is reported to be arriving.

My personal garden is about a half acre in property size…..about two acres in visual size (that is, including the geography within sight that appears to be part of my grounds, but of which I do not own and maintain).

I have only a six minute lawn to cut, meaning most of the grounds is covered by countless trees, shrubs and perennials, and considered  cluttered to some, but artistically arranged to me, by me.   I have my favorites and  joys…..leading the list is a Ginkgo biloba I planted by seed about 30 years ago.

My paths remain the same in direction and location, but the settings in such gardens change.    When the Ginkgo biloba was only six feet tall,  it disturbed nothing in its surroundings which required sun.   Starting at about fifteen feet its crown began to shade the surroundings noticeably.   At its present 40 and still happily growing, I am faced with major problems regarding what  should replace the plants who couldn’t remain beautiful with the threat of ever more shade from the Ginkgo…..such as lawn grass.

Worse, at about the 25th year of birthdays this Ginkgo finally decided it was female and so since, has been supplying me with dozens, then hundreds, and now countless hundreds of fruit which is coveted in Far East cuisines, I am told, despite the human vomit fragrance of the squished fresh fruit.

I have never eaten Ginkgo seeds, have you?   They look like almonds.

Those of you who possess landscape gardens of some size may be worrying some about the delayed winter arrival this season…..We have had a very favorable Nature watering our gardens in this area since last April, not only in quality and quantity but in timing as well…about every third day throughout the garden year and none more or significantly less in the months since.

Somewhere around five or six years ago my landscape garden was overwhelmed by a very wet  35 inch snowfall on a Saturday, November 31 crushing countless branches off my White Pines and bending, breaking other conifers.   In such snowy seasons most perennial plants woody or herbaceous, don’t care what the temperature above  the snow line  is if the plants are truly  safe growing in your winter temperature zone….What might be  a real killer to some woody plants  in any winter is when temperatures drop below ten degrees F  with a any wind of 20 mph or lower  for hours.   Damage increases  if there is little or no snowfall for greater protection from winter kills.    With some shrubs, certain Spiraea and Hydrangeas,  for an example, the branchings could die completely  back to the soil level, but still send out new shoots in the Spring.

Visually, the winter garden season in our part of Minnesota lasts almost half of the year.   One should never burlap, or otherwise smother woody plants above the snow line which make the landscape setting ugly.    In the ideal a landscape garden is supposed to be  an art form, but those  in our Minnesota are usually reduced to  the  hobby kind.

Temperatures here by weekend are forecast to be in the twenties, perhaps dropping down into single digits at night.   WARNING:   If a strong wind accompanies the single digit or lower temperatures, and there is no snow cover,  there  most likely will be damage occurring somewhere in your landscape garden to  Rhododendrons and certain  Azaleas, and others…. bud kill, trunk or branch  splitting, even death….but, don’t worry the damage  will not be noticed until Spring.

If you are worrying about such consequences threatening your favorite shrubs, simply place a sheet, or light blanket, some  ‘clothing’ large enough to cover the  vulnerable plant until the wind dies down.    If winter beauty in your garden is a value, remove the coverings for beauty’s sake.

We at Masterpiece Landscaping welcome visitors to our landscape garden…..please call 952-933-5777 for scheduling.   Speakers are also available for groups interested in learning more about Landscape Gardening in our area.


March 11, 2014

Winter 2013-14, the Winter of Those in my Childhood

I have long rooted for global warming….well, not so much global warming as Minnesota warming…..up to a point, of course.

That point would occur when the Earth around where I live enters Horticultural zone five…..No warmer, and certainly no cooler. Why would I want to slip back into the dark ages of landscaping in Horticultural zone 3.5 or 4.0?

I’ll never see the day, but I have craved to be able to landscape in a clime where I can plant the laceleaf Japanese Maples where they won’t disappear over a long winter’s night.

Nothing in natures’ catalogs of small to medium sized trees matches these Japanese laceleaf Maples for color, texture, shape and shadow.

This past winter is a winter typical of my childhood when snow was forever still covering the ground during most of the Easter Sunday celebrations my family addressed. Snow was possible in May and on my birthday in September as well….Even though its cover didn’t last, snow at these times causes more psychological disorder than plant disruption.

This past winter was the most visually beautiful winter in my lifetime. But then, my grounds have been designed to include plant life with winter beauty primarily in mind.

Heavy, very heavy snow still remains on many of our conifers here in the Twin City area. Among the most vulnerable conifers from snow and ice damage are arborvitaes. But not all arborvitaes are equally attacked.

As a general rule nearly all of the shrubby conifers we use in our Minnesota pallet for landscape use will rise undamaged from four feet of snow cover. Often, especially regarding vulnerable arborvitaes, foliage is weighted down by heavy snows early and/or mid winter and remain in that awkward position throughout the season. Don’t ‘monkey’ with such arborvitaes by pulling on the stems to retrieve the foliage to its summer positions. Be patient….let spring melting do the job.

Occasionally major juniper and pine branches break challenging the future appearance of the tree or shrub. Remove the doomed branches, but wait for Spring to arrive to make the last more important surgery on the plant, if needed.

Yews as shrubs never seem to break anywhere at anytime. As trees, however, at juvenile and early maturity stages, thinner broad branches may break under the weight of heavy icy snow covering the foliage, and split down the middle of a trunk of a multiple trunk specimen. Remove the trunk at the ground line…..or at about the three foot line.

With the Japanese Yews, any foot of live Yew growing will most assuredly readjust to a new form of its same life, eventually governed by its genetics returning to its standard shape in time.

My landscape grounds was covered by three to five feet of snow most of the winter. Since it arrived rather early in the year, the frost line under that snowcover was nearly absent…..despite the cold of winter 2013-14.

I delivered newspapers in St. Paul for about five years of my life….both morning and afternoon routes.

This winter was a throwback to those bitter dark mornings and the blizzards of the after school hours of my deliveries. Let us hope Minnesota continues to warm up a tad or so more for the next decade so we can all enjoy the exquisite beauty of the laceleaf Japanese maples in our Landscape Gardens.

January 17, 2014

Deer, not Unicorns, Love my Winter Landscaped Garden

I love deer. My hunter-son hunts them during hunting season. We both are devoted to our occasionally gainful occupation in life, landscape gardening.

My home, therefore my landscape gardened grounds which surround it, is located in the third tier of middle, very middle class Minneapolis suburbs. Streets here were planned to curve when homes were built in the late 1950s. The lots are bigger, more often the 250 by 120 foot irreglarly-shaped kind rather than the more urban rectangles of the 40 by 100 foot kind in nearby suburbs.

Despite these geographical differences with rare exception, suburbanites have been programmed by the university world to design and plant their home grounds no differently from the rectangles of the far more formal city residential areas.

Virginia white tail deer live and roam nearby. Deer once inhabited my grounds very ‘nearby’, i.e., right under my kitchen window….year after year. The largest number of inhabitants came to 16 visiting there one winter, many years ago, overnighting after feasting on my landscape garden dinner table. Trust me, they ate and ate, probably all night long.

It was then I finally determined that if I were to enjoy the ‘fruit’ of my landscape garden art, I had to discover some kind of ‘deer’ control.

Coyotes do do their job from time to time, but I couldn’t regulate their take of the deer crop…the “why, who and when, or how” were in their hands, not mine.

I decided to begin fencing….somewhere around 600 feet of fencing to secure safety for my plants or many of them would never make it to maturity.

Yet, I was aging. Not only did I have to apply the 600 feet of fencing in late October, but I had to ‘unapply’ it in late March or whenever the 200 feet of pond shoreline was clear of ice. (Virginia white tails, despite their gorgeous warm coats, don’t like shoulder high, ice-cold water to hike through anymore than we humans.)

As soon as the pond ice is cracking up, I begin removing pondside fencing.

Unfortunately, however, the more successfully protected my landscape the rarer the deer appeared in sight.

I haven’t seen a White tail all winter! I see their tracks running through my neighbors’ domains. Deer are usually night travellers hereabouts…..until this very morning.

About eight o’clock when entering my kitchen to prepare morning coffee, my eyes are grabbed by movement along the long hillside to the West of my fenced-in grounds….a wide-open five hundred foot stage made viewable looking through the broad kitchen windows which ‘over see’ the woodsy scenery there. These are grounds owned by neighbors beyond the hill, beyond their efforts to bother its nature.

Six white tail deer caught my eye. Two larger, likely females, perhaps sisters, and four smaller, likely yearlings. I do know that the big bucks are happy loners until mating season in the fall. That is the time we who value our trees in deer country, must protect the trees we love from these stags rutting, damaging or destroying the trunks of any tree of stag choice, best abling the male to fight other males, programmed to fight other males in order to dominate mother-deer land and offspring for the sake of keeping the Virginia White Tail alive as a species.

Early in my residence here, one Spring early one morning while walking along the pond path. Surprisingly, she held her ground, so I began to chat with her…..”Why aren’t you running from me, this morning?” partly joking, I asked.

She actually voiced a snarl-type noise and didn’t look happy or frightened, but concerned, and I could see that….and then I saw what she was wanting to protect….her newborn, still in its sac wiggling to become free.

I backed away as quickly and quietly as I could….and saw mama go to her fawn, chew up most of the birth-sac, nudge junior for a minute or two, pushing the body, then a leg until the newborn stood up.

Whether mama knew I was watching this birth only God knows, for in just a few minutes she began to move up the woodsy hill very much in charge, with baby awkward but seemingly as confident, a few steps behind.

And then the miracle of it all in my opinion…..They both ran off deeper into the woods, as if the kid had been with mama for months.

The six which visited this morning looked well fed. There was nothing gaunt about any of them.

They are beautiful animals. Truthfully, I prefer them to dogs in the neighborhood. Both destroy garden plants. Deer don’t yap, they run away, instead…..and they prefer to find their own eats. Yet, the day years ago when sixteen white tails were counted in my landscape garden, is the day I realized the Virginia White Tail had to be controlled….not eliminated from our neighborhoods, but controlled.

My visitors must have spent the night sleeping on the hillside. They are trail animals perferring to move from place to place for self preservation.

I want them to visit again….that is, to see them resting and eating on the other side of my garden fence. I have bagged oakleaves from the autumn fall which will do the trick just fine.

After all, aren’t they beautiful animals?

November 13, 2013

The Onslaught of Winter

We should have shared this Onslaught of Winter article with readers a few weeks ago. However, the nature of this particular Twin City late autumn has been keeping our company busy until the real snow arrives.

Each autumn in our area is unique in its appearance and character. No one seems to record each year’s peculiarities and we usually remember only the extremes….especially the thirty inches one Halloween in the 1990s and a repeat the next year a day later….or the crushing wet three foot snowfall of November 13th a few years ago.

Last week’s three inch snowfall was noted only for its wet and ugliness. Most of the deciduous trees maintained their leaves until the drop and the cold which followed. Most of the leaves never reached full color. My Ginkgo never aroused its beautiful yellow, but dumped its green in a two day fall last week.

The redbuds held their bright yellows for three weeks; the Ohio Buckeye, earlier in October was as beautiful an orange as ever. The red obelisk beech are coloring well, but late. The PJM Rhododendron’s autum color was as always exceptional….but also a bit late.

Most all of the spiraeas, viburnums, the winged euonymus, magnolias, azaleas, weigelas, dogwoods and my teen age white oak remained in summer attire and color until the last few days.

I shouldn’t complain about the beauty of the garden color this fall despite its late start. Every year this gardened landscape appears more radiant, for most of the color is larger because the plants are larger.

We had a late frost this year….a killing one at my grounds only last week.

I have more than a half an acre of gardened grounds. I begin ‘clean up’ as soon as I have time to do it and then straighten out the visual disorder first in areas viewable from my windows or along the paths I walk in winter.

The grounds here are bird sanctuaries year round. Most of my woody plants are conifers where they can nest and/or hide. I also leave plenty of deciduous material standing or lying around for other bird needs. Bird feeders are ugly, messy, and attract varmints.

What material stays is usually what is still beautiful. The weather usually dictates beauty.

Among the most beautiful herbaceous perennials in the winter garden is the rich red-brown mass of Hot Lips Turtlehead stalks and foliage, but only if the early snows are dry. Any heavy wet early snows easily crush their still green stems as well as the stems of most other herbs.

Big hostas get ugly quickly usually the day after the first frost. I wait a week or so when it quite easy to pull the sloppy wet leaves from their crowns.

Usually, it is a good idea to remember that most winters n our area are rather normal winters…with some longer than others, and maybe a bit warmer or colder.

If you don’t have time or find it too cold to clean up the landscape garden in late autumn and decide to leave the chores until Spring, you are saving most of your plants from the one disaster that is the most devastating to those who fastidiously purify their gardened grounds going into winter.

About once every 20 to 25 years our Twin City landscapes suffer a Test Winter…..a winter with little or no snow cover with temperatures reaching fifteen or more degrees below Fahrenheit, or below zero at all if accompanied by wind.

There will be losses for those of us who grow cultivar conifers and/or specialty herbaceous perennials….anything with suspect hardiness.

By leaving foliage in place until Spring the winter ‘breezes’ push leaf debris against any resistance, obstacles such as shrubbery ….any plant stems especially those with foliage providing cover at the crowns of each plant offering some protection in a snowless world.

To be extra safe do as I do….Collect some bags of oak leaves and store them in the garage in the event threatening temperatures do arrive at your snowless landscape garden so you have something handy, inexpensive, and very useful in protecting your favorite, more tender items.

Lawns should be free of leaf cover to avoid disease problems no matter what the temperature.

March 6, 2012

The Storm Came; The Storm Dumped; The Storm Conquered

The most beautiful winter landscape garden in my thirty eight years of  living here in Minnetonka occurred this winter, 2011-2o12.  

In this the first winter without a January or February in the Twin Cities to my knowledge, there was little snow, no rain, and no cold.   

The yellows of the golden chamaecyparis, sunkist and yellow ribbon arborvitaes, the plum of the Andorra junipers, blues of the Dwarf Colorado blue spruce and even the blue pfitzers were stunning all winter long.   Add the usual wide variety  of name-your-green arborivaes, pine and junipers and the bright tan and brown leaves of the Crimson spire and Red Oaks and the rich cinnamon shine off of the Griseum Paperbark Maple, this winter was certainly special…….

……………until a week ago when dumped on by heavy rain and heavy snow.

My most beautiful white pine, one of the ten second year seedlings I bought in 1976 to celebrate the American bicentennial birthday, now sixty feet tall, was shredded.  SHREDDED by the weight of ice and snow……even worse than hat November 13th 32 inch wet snowfall of 2010.

I have spend three days picking up the debris, including most of the 30 branches over  six inches in diameter.    The usual weak-stemmed  shrub arborvitaes, Rheingold and  Hetz simply disappeared into the snow.      Five or six deGroots arborvitae wanted to disappear, but could only tip.   My back garden sunkist arbs were leveled but the well pruned beauty in the front garden hardly experienced a dimple over all its foliage.

Hemlocks, Yews, all of my spruce, expecially the Norway types, seemed to be bored by the weather attack.   The tightly pyramidal Cupressina Spruce didn’t bend and inch.

I did have to save the Crimson Spire Oaks, however.   All three had bowed nearly to the ground and would have snapped had I not carefully sorted the snow out of the leafy crown and gently lift the trunk vertically.

The entire back garden setting looked a if it had been bombed… still does.   We don’t have a clue how much foliage can drop from a white pine sixty feet tall and forty feet wide in such a rain-ice-snow storm….with only six inches of snow…..and more than six inches of just the foliage cover after the deluge.

I have six other surviving bicentennial white pine from the 1976 plantings.   None lost a much more than a fascicle or two.  I think I know the reason.    All but one of them doesn’t have the space to spread branchings 40 feet.

Mother Nature does do some beautiful work with her storms, however,    If character is a consideration, my shredded white pine has more of it now than pre-storm……after we do some post storm artistic pruning, however.

Techny arborvitaes don’t do well in these icy messes.   The globes collapsed.  The uprights are becoming telephone poles.

One of my favorite plantings, an American Arborvitae, was split top to bottom and felled.  A real loss causing a horrible sight.     Although native to Minnesota this arborvitae is not easy to come by at the nursery.   So about twenty years ago I sent away to Mentor, Ohio for a seedling.   It cost about a dollar.   It arrived in a ten inch envelope with its roots wrapped in moist cotton held together by Scotch tape, from 3M….Minnesota, Mining, and Manufacturing, as it was called in those days.   I got attached to that tree.

Damn, that felling was crushing for it took away so much of the trees beauty and character.

I have guests arriving this Saturday……to see “Beauty in the Bleak Season?….folks from the Lake Owasso Garden Club.   

At the moment the grounds are more bleak than the beauty.   Today’s 54 Fahrenheit with Sun kept me very busy.

Give us a call at 952-933-5777 if you need help with your storm damaged plants.   Perhaps we can create some special character by clever pruning.

February 27, 2012

A Snowstorm, the Heavy kind, Expected. Should Landscape Gardeners be Worried?

Snowfalls are great for Landscape Companies in cold climes like Minnesota who have a snowplowing business in Winter.    We,  at Masterpiece are one of them.

Winter is a good time for certain kinds  of pruning, but most  gardens in these parts are in deep sleep this time of year.    Thank God for plowing driveways.

I have just spent a couple hours prowling through my own gardened grounds to do some pruning and  prepare some conifers for a ten inch snowfall forecasted by the local weather people this morning.  The deluge is expected to begin tomorrow in the early afternoon.

It will be the wet stuff….which might cause  probems with some evergreens, especially if the snowfall exceed four inches.   Last week’s four-inch drop was very wet.   And so with another snowstorm, a heavier one scheduled to be  on its way,  I went out  onto  my grounds to prepare for the return of winter.

Some conifers are more troubled by heavy wet snow than others, even some within the same species…..arborvitaes (Thuja), for example.    Rheingold, Bowling Ball, born to become  floppy if needed, usually collapse out of sight  under the weight of snow.   Even my 7 foot Siberian  Arborvitae and a couple of teenage deGroot’s  gradually  disappeared from view  in the 12 hour 30 inch snowfall on November 13, 2010 at my home.

I highly recommend homeowners don’t depend on such good fortune.   Not all wet snowfalls are the same.     Many of my gardens’ conifers still were covered with heavy blobs of  small boulder sized crusty and icy  snow clumps from last week’s dump.   I brushed them off from the arborvitaes and upright junipers, all of the chamaecyparis,  and a few spruce.    Hemlocks, pines, and yews   don’t seem to be bother much by heavy snowfalls.   Colorado  Spruce foliage and branchings are very strong and stiff.    Even with the 32 inches of snow that hit my property that November didn’t phase the Blue Spruce I have.    But, to be safe, I brushed off the snow blobs on them as well.

Pruning this time of year should be wisely limited to only a few plants.   Experience is always a good teacher regarding what the landscaper can get by with successfully.  

One notices visual artistic errors better in Winter.   Abundance of foliage hides such scars the rest of the year.    Cross branchings, ugly branches, plants with ugly forms, weedy woodies,  unexpected woodies, failing woodies are better seen in Winter.   One can view the unpleasantness more clearly and more often through windows as well as along walkways.

The winter landscape garden, all six months of it each year,   should be as beautiful as any garden any other time of the year.

If it isn’t, be sure to call us at Masterpiece to create a beautiful  winter garden or setting for you this Spring or Summer.  Call us at 952-933-5777.

February 26, 2012

When is a Weed a Weed?

When is a weed a weed.   When it is a dandelion?

Well, maybe….usually yes, because dandelions makes a lovely lawn appear ugly, expecially when the seeds are produced.   Because the seeds are produced in such numbers, dandelions become a more noticeable weed.

In our Masterpiece Landscaping dictionary,  a weed is defined as “a plant out of place”.

Our Masterpiece Landscape garden where I live doesn’t have much  lawn.    If there are dandelions,  they occur occasionally in the landscape garden  appearing as a natural wildflower and so is hardly noticed.     If I don’t want a natural looking yellow flowered dandelion where it is located, it becomes a weed, so I cull it.

Goldsturm rudbeckia and gigas seed readily where there is no lawn.   Sometimes they seed themselves in places which make you become a landscape genius.   Last garden season I let gigas run wild in my front garden.   This season they will be controlle,  I want to show off  Rheingold and Sunkist Arborvitaes, Gentsch Hemlock and  Andorra Juniper this year giving them all a cleaner, neater look by opening up more ‘negative’ space.

I grow gooseneck lysimachia in the front grounds.    This perennial is a serious spreader…..well, almost anything  Lysimachia is.    It becomes ‘a weed’, or weedy the week before  your eye notices  it’s attacking neighboring plants including the woody ones.     It does very well in shade or sun.

Most major weeds in my or any landscape garden are  tree seedling;  elm, silver maple, norway maple, box elder, sugar maple, red oak, white oak, burr oak, buckthorn, mulberry, crab apple,  and red bud among others.    These are major weeds.   If I weren’t around to groom the garden, that is to cull them by hoeing or kicking them out with my foot when they are only about an inch high.   If you are too late youtll then  have to  have to get them out by hand or shovel, both tedious to do.

I am constantly prowling around the garden grounds to see or sense what is out of place.   Ones eye must be trained to inform the mind.   

The disorderly is best seen in Winter.    Deciduous foliage isn’t in the way.   Scars, ‘weeds,’  and ugliness are.    Again, a week meaning a plant out of place.

Such a plant could be a sickly 35 foot blue spruce tree that is now 90% dead when last winter it was ony 75% dead.    How much more dying will this ugliness have to be before it is a plant out of place?

Whatever is ugly is likely to be  a weed unless there is some other reason for its existence on the grounds than creating or supporting beauty,  or controlling where you want the eye or the feel to go.

You must remember that winter is not only the longest landscape season in the year here in the Twin City area, it is equal to ALL OF THE OTHER LANDSCAPE SEASONS TOGETHER.

You should be able to walk your grounds these days with our winter without a January and February and little snow.   If you need help collecting ideas, let us know.

Give us a call at 952-933-5777 for a winter tour of our  landscape garden grounds also.

February 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Winters


The present winter, the one without a January and February, has been an agitating  one.   We’ve been waiting winter’s arrival since November 13th , the  anniversary of the 25-35 inch snowfall the year before; the winter without any thaw in both  January and February.    The snow kept coming down and piling up around us.

Landscape gardens disppeared, hibernating under the snow until mid March a year ago.     I couldn’t walk my grounds all snow season.  

I did make a try once, but my little hills and valleys of the terrain of my landscape grounds had been visually  made a Siberian plain from property line to property line.

About a year ago as I was trekking slowly al0ng what I was guessing as the garden path along my pond, my left leg pulled my body downward as if in quicksand,  pushing through the  pristine snow making me sink up to almost to my belly button,.   However surprising the descension, it was a slow maneuver, a pleasant, comfortable maneuver.   But it left  my right leg  securely and very firmly still  positioned on the high ground where my full  body had been only a moment ago.

The snow made me do the splits.   Fortunately for me the snow also stopped me from splitting.

The scene  made me laugh.  I looked ridiculous.   The length of  the left side of  my body was  parallel to the snow line but buried a couple feet  into the snow.     That same  body was lying over my left arm making it immoveable, hand and all.   My left ear was  even with the snowline, its mate on the other side positioned  skyward enjoying the warmth of the  Sun.  

 It was a sunny day, and I had been  in a sunny mood, after all I had sunk into snow rather than quicksand.  It was a first in my life.

It didn’t take long for me to discover I couldn’t move anything.   I had become almost completely mummified by the snow.    My right leg and right arm seemed glued together.   I wasn’t hurting anywhere.   My profoundly split legs  were safely encased  in snow,  so there was no pain at all in that area between them.   Only my head and right shoulder to its elbow remained above the snowline.   

I was quite comfortable….still laughing, and very glad no one had seen  my performance.   I could still  see the house about two hundred yards on the other side of the pond and then realized what I had done.   

I had miscalculated the route of the pond path and had  fallen into the embankment of snow which had built up  drifting over the pond by five or six  feet thinking it was Mother Earth’s terra firma.

I felt foolish all of the half hour or more it  took  me to dig myself  out.   Only  one hand was available, but only  barely available.    I couldn’t get any leg or body strength because my legs were split and the body was suspended  by the snow.   I couldn’t get any leverage.

I was held in suspension, both body and mind.    The old body gets a bit cold rather quickly wrapped up in snow.

As of today, I think this winter has produced a total of eight inches of snow instead of the six feet and more collected last year.   Only  about a half inch of it remains and then only  where there is shade.

This year’s version of winter has allowed me to  ‘work’ in the garden nearly every day pruning a little clean up here and there,  mostly on hemlocks, junipers, yews and arborvitaes.   Nothing major, just a few hair cuts to clean up the forms.    I did get rid of a few Aralia spinosissima ‘trees’  to keep the clump more or less under control.

I like both winters…..Especially today’s winter.   The temperatures all winter have been above zero, Fahrenheit.   What a gift!

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