Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

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.

 

 

September 12, 2016

THE BEGINNING OF THE FALL

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……..at 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 6, 2016

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

Spring is not,  by calendar,  that far away from today’s February  if you are a devoted landscape gardener…..in 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 God..in 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.

 

 

 

 

 

January 13, 2016

Landscaped Gardening is Supposed to be an ART FORM

The human genesis  on the Earth of  our day  originally  ‘arrived’ from a garden in our wonderful JudeoChristian religious teachings;  from  the  jungle in the more accurate scientific  vernacular.    This  we do know from the messages provided by genetics, geology, etc,etc.     It is amazing how accurately  the first chapters so artistically written in English of the King James Version of the JudeoChristian Bible fit the scientific understandings.

There are many kinds of gardens….vegetable, flower, shrub,  beer, and countless  spreads  called   Landscaped Gardens to decorate something or another living or  man made….in which vegetation is the primary tool.

The ideal Landscaped Garden is a garden  which inspires the visitor,  suggesting  to the visitor the trials of life beyond its entry will become happily  forgotten when visited.

The origin of its most successful  plan arises from ones soul….Does anyone these days  remember  what ‘soul’ means?

Among the ugliest  such  Gardens, are those  ‘designed’, planted,  and/or  ‘maintained’, by  government and its universities,  projects designed, planted  without soul, without beauty.

“Beauty” in  these days of irreligiosity,  is  programmed  to be a religious word, an insulting word in the lands of political correctness.  “If something is beautiful, it is suggested,  something else is either less beautiful, or perhaps even ugly”  which may, will destroy ones building of  self esteem or at least, cause bad feelings.

Some Landscaped gardens are just more beautiful than others…and for many reasons….design, maintenance, fragrance, color, mood, harmony, size, textural  relationships……all the result of the Landscaped Garden artist’s control of where visitors’  eyes (especially the artist’s)  should travel, and when they  concentrate with the countless  arrangements of plants and their features.

Below is a listing of some words a beginning landscape garden artist-to-be might practice imagining how each might be applied when plotting to create  this most popular visual art form of them all.

Color, shape, height, width, depth,  privacy, focus,  line, texture, pattern, number, weight, repetition, harmony, rhythm, shadow, space, contrast, movement, spread, memory, feel, quietude,  lure….and so on…..I list as a few.

July 22, 2015

When Should the Ideal Landscape Garden be at its Best?

When, at what season, does, should,  your landscape garden radiate its most inspiring  beauty?

The answer is simple……Whenever you enter your Garden of Eden.

I have lived at my grounds for over 40 years, long enough to be able to do,  genetically, mentally, physically, and culturally, what I was driven to do, planting and maintaining a beautiful  landscape garden  in some form or another.

I have been very, very fortunate in life, and have many other interests to know and worry about, such as the survival of civilized, JudeoChristian principles, understandings and responsibilities in our hostile world.

I began landscape gardening when I was about four years old. I remember the first move. I was playing in my neighbor boy’s sand box, an exercise which never lured him to experience, so I had his sandbox world to myself. It was in a space far enough away from my Mother to be free, relaxed, and creative. I was born a dreamer, and probably a loner. I was born to be happy and to be happiest outdoors deeply entrenched among beautiful scenery. I have always felt blessed possessing this wonderful escape from reality……and, without knowing it while early in aging playing in that sandbox, I have been directed by the drive my entire life since.

No art form can be as inspiring to pursue than the art of  making and maintaining  not merely colorful gardens, but  beautiful scenery.

I have loved the Earth as long as I can remember…..since drawing maps from atlases or tracing them against windows since before kindergarten. I placed the world at my finger tips.

I have also discovered by now in my eighth decade of life, supplied by years of teaching professionally, the male human eye is genetically made to be quite different from the eye of the human female ……and made to be especially keen in the out-of-doors. Honest females notice the difference. They were not stirred by endless thousands of years of genetic material development programmed to be defenders, protectors, hunters ‘of the clan’, and aggressors to hunt, invent, and collect whatever needed to continue life as a species. The human male was/is born genetically curious.

We do know the human female prefers color to form. This ‘law’ of human life is especially true in the landscape garden world.

I spent fourteen years of my professional life as Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society when it used to be a semi-State agency providing horticultural knowledge to our north land, Minnesota, owning a climate quite different from the big population sections of the country itself. I traveled the State three or four time every year for the Society, organized in 1866, and chapters were established in each of the states’ Congressional Districts. It was through the Minnesota State Horticultural Society that the popular Minnesota Landscape Arboretum came into being. The institution no longer exists as a state serving agency.

I was four years old when the spark of landscape-garden life entered my soul and began its control of my private time. My sister was in kindergarten as I would be the following year. I was alone at home, alone, at last…..with the exception of my Germanic mother, a devoted traditional gal-gardener in her own right. Flower gardening was the only world I ever saw her profoundly at peace at work, content with life, enjoying every moment of it as she maneuvered her annuals and perennials to satisfy her eye for making beauty.

We bonded in many ways, most of them having something to do with landscape gardening.

She loved picture puzzles….but ONLY the ones with colored pictures of beautiful landscape gardens with more than a thousand pieces so she wouldn’t become too bored too soon putting it all together. My Dad worked at his drug store all of the time; my sister played paper dolls and dolls in her bedroom. I was the only person aloud to touch Mother’s puzzle, for she was impatient for the finish. Being a boy, I saw the pieces better, quicker than she. She recognized and respected that. Although competitive, it didn’t bother her in the least for she had to perform all of the domestic duties of the day and work at Dad’s drug store part time, as well. She loved being with me as her puzzle worker partner.

By Spring 1942 there was the matter of the War. Dad, too old to serve and working 70 plus hours a week at his drug store, had been raised on a farm near Hope, North Dakota, and so, patriotically agreed to sign-up to be in charge of a Victory Garden at the three empty lots across the alley behind our house. The city would plow the space and provide seed packets for free if he would agree to plant and maintain a Victory Garden in that space for our harvest but share the larger harvest among neighbors.

Neither he, nor Mother had time for farm-life extras even for the war effort beyond Mom’s canning. It also turned out that she had a rather serious allergy to certain bee stings. So, at age 7, guess who, as a habitual rite of punishment, was ordered to plant this, hoe that, pick beetles here, stir the crows there, harvest everything hither and thither here, there, and everywhere in that garden all by myself? How could I have become so lucky to suddenly be drawn into paradise on Earth where there were no limits to a boy’s imagination and play…..especially during war time!

Canning vegetables, however, was another area of deep bonding with the lady of our house….Although Mother wouldn’t allow anyone to disturb her own flower garden, because of her allergy, she didn’t dare a chance to even enter the Victory Garden.

I became manager, laborer, and play maker at the same time. I especially liked dive bombing potato beetles.

I loved every bit of it, but at a cost. I became devious. I was smart enough to pretend the punishment being sent to the victory garden was too severe for an innocent young lad of seven, eight, and nine, to endure. I knew Mother would send me on assignment there ever more often. That garden became my personal world. I had every garden duty there, I seeded, weeded, cultivated, harvested throughout the war years until Spring, 1946. It’s where we boys played hunting Nazis among the corn stocks in the Fall and dive bombed Nazi installations (the snow forts we had built for that very purpose) in the Winter, all for the war effort, of course.

The first ten years of living here in my eventual landscape garden paradise, I maintained an eighty by thirty foot vegetable garden to make certain none of my three kids would fail to know where tomatoes and such came from. The two boys paid attention. Our daughter did not. I was never German enough to maintain a perfectly well-manicured vegetable garden, but always have been jealous of those who do…..for such settings, too, can be made lovely as well as orderly.

With all of this background programming me to become a captive of landscape garden beauty, nothing matches the following domestic experience causing the final blow.

I was raised in a small five-room bungalow, as it was then called, built and moved into by our family in 1936, then a newly settled section of St. Paul, Minnesota. At the vestibule at the front door was a wall empty of everything except for a framed picture placed at the six foot level by my Mother, a picture two feet by one and a half foot. It was the wall in which I spent countless standing hours of my life from age four to ten most often during winter or whenever Mother was in the mood to silence me. This wall is where I contemplated about life, war, and the world. For it was there I stood in punishment, almost always for disturbing Mother by asking too many questions while she desperately wanted to listen to classical music over the static from our floor radio console…..especially when she wanted to hear Handel’s Messiah during Christmas or Easter from Chicago or anything Johann Strauss at anytime.

She’d warn me every time…”Glenn Ray, if you ask me one more question, you’re going to the Wall…..Do you hear me? Do you understand what I am saying?”

“Yes, Mother”, but sooner rather than later, I’d forget. I had too many questions to ask, answers to know, too many worlds to conquer. Whether in seconds, minutes, or hours, I’d be right at her apron asking more questions.

The punishment was very German. I’d have to stand there for one hour…..that’s sixty minutes, not fifty nine or sixty one….but sixty minutes. Mother was very precise when at her best which was usually always. That ‘best’ included destroying my ability to pout about any punishment. I could never get even with her with sulky, pouty, disagreeable looks, slouches, or displaying other attitudes. She’d pick up even the slightest sulk I come up with….I tried that trick only once….that old trick kids can pull in retaliation to make adults, mostly moms feel bad. It almost worked for my buddies when they tried sulking to their moms. But my mom’s memory was as sharp and German as everything else she did. She gave me the one hundred and twenty minute standing time the one time I dared to practice my frown trying to make her feel bad.

Let’s look at that lone picture hanging at the punishment wall I was forced to stare at all those years. Even though I was born horribly dyslexic, unable to read much beyond but atlases, encyclopedias, and news article throughout my life, somewhere along the line of these punishments, most likely when I was seven, I spied R. ATKINSON FOX, written, nestled into the lower right hand corner of a “painting” of an idealized, landscape garden setting. I didn’t know what R. Atkinson Fox meant then, but my eyes had recorded it. I inherited the picture about twenty five years ago and immediately placed it at the six foot level in my bedroom. Eventually, I remembered standing after standing, hour upon hour, with nothing to do but look at this this one picture, primarily as a result of my own Mother’s drive to listen to Handel, Strauss, and Beethoven, et alia in the background without any interference beyond radio static while she was doing her home chores and enjoyments before going to work in the afternoon.

When I was five years old and attending afternoon kindergarten and my sister was in the first grade, after an hour ‘at the wall’ and already well trained at looking up to the six foot level where the landscape picture had already so commanded my eyes and thinking, I began wondering about a line of trees along the left border of the picture-painting. I already knew what hollyhocks, delphinium, and peonies were. Both Mother and Mrs. Rowell our wonderful neighbor next door, grew them in their gardens. Both had told me their names, for I wanted to know.

Once while standing below the picture perhaps at the 44th minute mark of my punishment, I thought the tree of the lineup looked a lot like the tree growing in Mrs. Rowell’s front yard, a tall skinny one. I can see myself this very moment leaving the wall and its picture precisely at the hour mark going out our back door across the lawn to Mrs. Rowell’s back door….(In those days in St. Paul neighborhoods, all children unescorted by adults visited neighbors at the back door only. Front doors were reserved for adults.)

“Mrs. Rowell…..what’s the name of the tree you have growing in your front yard?”

“Why, Glenn, it’s a Lombardy Poplar.” she replied. “Thank you” and I turned around to go back home…..but Mrs. Rowell called out, “Just a moment, Glenn. Why ever did you ask me?”

“I just wanted to know”……which has been one of the best blessed gifts of my life…..a trait I inherited from my Mother, but a trait she was too busy to handle from some offspring in her family. Mrs. Rowell hired me when I was about ten to help her arrange her perennial garden.

It was the sand box by the alley at Mrs. Rowell’s where I first began learning the art of landscape gardening. In 1939 I got a set of Tootsie-Toy cars for Christmas from my favorite uncle. These were miniature ‘replicas’ of real cars of the day. I remember a Buick and a Mercury as my favorites. They all were about three inches long and appeared very real. I needed foliage to make my streets and country road believably tree-lined. One elm leaf was longer than a single Tootsie-Toy car. So, I bit a piece off of a conifer, a pyramidal arborvitae, which had dark evergreen foliage about the proper size relative to a Tootsie-Toy car to make it look like a street tree….and eventually a couple of park trees where my city parks would be built in the sand.

At age 13, although heavily secreted from any of my friends, I was still designing streets and gardens in this same sandbox. One day an angry Mother called from our back door while I was designing at the sand box……”Glenn Ray, you’re too old to be playing in a sand box!”

I shouted back, “I’m not playing in a sand box. I’m making SCENERY!”……..but the dagger hit me hard. I swiped at the streets I had designed, collected all of my blocks, the houses and skyscrapers I had built and gardens I had arranged with petals, florets, and conifer cuttings I had used to imitate and idealize reality, and never returned to “play” in the sand. Mom was right. I was afraid my friends might find me playing landscaping in the sandbox…..I WAS too old….and yet, here I am almost 81 and have been playing the same visual art game for a living for more than half my life. What did I ever do to be so fortunate?

How beautiful is the scenery where you reside?

 

 

 

April 28, 2015

NOT ALL TWIN CITY SPRINGS ARE EQUAL

The Spring  lacing of deciduous tree foliage is about to begin in a day or two here in our Twin City landscape gardening area.  It’s the time when our  major evergreen conifers no longer overwhelm our  winter’s six month  landscape dominating the deciduous ghosts of Winter.  My 60 foot Red Maple is already  overwhelmed with young leaves and countless bloom clusters causing the first sign of casting  its shade.   A taller cottonwood, one-third of its girth on my property,  is still naked in that noted  jay bird style.  Nature planted these behemoths  before I began my landscape garden over 40 years ago.

Of my other major deciduous  trees, those now  already over 50 feet, I have planted a Ginkgo by seed which turned out to be a she, an Ohio Buckeye, also by seed,  already  about to open its bloom, and   a  Kentucky Coffee Tree  originally planted from a  size ten pot,  still totally naked regarding leaf cover.   The kings of these grounds are two of  ten  one foot tall, second year seedling White Pine I purchased in 1976  to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of our Nation.   Three died before ‘grade school’,  but two must be over 60 feet tall, a third over 50,  and the remaining four between 30 to 40 feet, their punishment by being  planted   closer together than the others.

Among the more substory trees I have planted, my  30 foot Merrill Magnolia began blooming over a week ago, is still blooming, but is beginning to lose  its stardom as of today…..but won’t fill out with foliage for another week or more.   The  fragrant Toka plum bloom opened up day before yesterday , and the Minnesota Hardy Redbuds and  their seedlings old enough to show off  will be in full bloom by Friday, both species leafing out after bloom.   My  fragrant French Lilac planted in 1975, one, as are all others advertised in the local nursery catalogs as a shrub growing up to twelve feet, surpassed 25 feet ten years ago still is in its winter mood.   It’s   bloom will arrive  in a couple weeks.

Normally Spring lacing of our landscape large deciduous trees begins around the fifteenth of May suggesting that our Spring is  two weeks earlier than the norm.  The last average last  frost date occurs May 10th in our part of Minnesota.

One should also remember that snow storms have occurred in May in our neighborhoods.  We had a twelve inch very wet one  about fifteen years ago.  I’ve been praying for Minnesota warming all of my landscape gardening life, and fortunately  it has come to pass.  My space is somewhere around horticultural zone 4.5……The Russians claim, however, that  the seventy year of warming in the Northern Hemisphere is over  with Earth’s cooling trend showing signs of change for almost a decade already.

Ninety per cent of Russia lies to the North of the Twin Cities in case, dear reader, you are interested.

(Rabbits were evil nearly everywhere in our area  this past winter.  I suspect the city or county have killed all of the coyotes who feasted on  my garden bunnies about the past ten years.  I haven’t seen any fox recently either.)

 

April 8, 2015

Too Much Lawn on your HOME GROUNDS?

There can be  no doubt that a well manicured  lawn  on one’s outside home grounds  is as beautiful as a stunning Oriental Carpet is  on the inside of a person’s domain.  Yet, if left alone in a vast room of nothing else, how winsome can they really ever  be if they lie  alone in their space?

One carpet requires  great human effort to maintain its beauty, which actually includes another art form, the clipping  of the lawn itself.  Remember, too, this carpet  has to be ‘fed’ certain nutrients, water, raked,  and provided  weed -prevention medicines. Nevertheless, at their best, life would be rather lonely and boring if these ‘beauties” were left  alone without embellishments within their  surroundings.   Although eventually uncomfortable, one could sit on the indoor Oriental  during our winter wonderland season, but sitting out there on  the snow doesn’t seem to be very appealing.

For about a century here in  Midwest America, that time in the 19th and early 20th centuries of urban settlements, the standard order of landscaping home grounds for the masses consisted of lawn everywhere, to demonstrate urban civility and order, with the exceptions of evergreen shrubs along the foundation to hide  cinderblock whether cinderblock was a problem or not,  a shade tree in the middle of the  back yard, along with  flower and vegetable gardens along the alley drive,  and  a shade tree in the middle of the front yard.    American Elms were planted by ‘the city’  along the neighborhood”s  ‘boulevards’.

These were city folks, not farmers,  living here in these smaller spaces,  in ‘civilized’ cleaned up  urban arrangements with neighbors living next door.

Landscape gardening, however, is supposed to be an art form.   The structure of the house is  ideally   to be located in a beautiful setting,  worthy  of uplifting, inspiriting  the  soul upon arriving home from work and during hours and days nesting there  as if living in  Eden.

Plants of appropriate  size, if well chosen, cleverly placed, and reliably cared for,  can make nearly any outdoor home  grounds become  as inviting, inspiring, as comforting for twelve months each year  as any indoor rooms  on  nearly any  city lot  95′ by 45′  or larger on tillable soil.

Like Beethoven’s great gifts of  music, creating truly  beautiful landscape gardens is merely the result of  tricks of  a trade  well done  to inspire.  (Call us at 952-933-5777 if you need help.)

 

April 6, 2015

The Landscape Garden as an Art Form in our Northland

Fewer and fewer Americans engage in ‘monkeying around ones grounds’ these days. Fewer and fewer Americans can identify five plants growing on their property or grounds near by. Fewer and fewer people bother tending to ‘gardens’. More and ever more Americans live all of their lives just a few feet above asphalt. Fewer and fewer Americans have children…..We now import them for political as well as economic reasons.

Botany is no longer taught at school….at any school.

We are told in politics and school that Carbon Dioxide is a poison and must be eradicated to save us all. Yet, there would be neither vegetative nor animal life remaining on Earth if these politicians would have their way ‘making’ Carbon Dioxide disappear. What do you think would happen if Carbon Dioxide increased by ten-fold, twenty-fold over the next generation? You’d probably be surprised!

It is likely that the majority of American junior high school students today believe a tomato is made at the local super market. What else would they guess when nothing in the outdoor vegetative world competes with modern indoctrinations and directives by governments? What can inspirit children to love life more than the life they cherish from family and garden?

One does not go to university to discover, learn, and know the garden arts…..it comes from experience, patience, tolerance, training, and spirit….. as successful raising of children used to be when the human family once had meaning.

City managers of all stripes, weight and sizes, know by instinct that trees are more than something to pass by or escape from the summer sun. It’s the place we homo sapiens lived and died before venturing out on the great place beneath. Typically in each arriving springtime around our Minnesota regions, they or their subordinates sell these woodies as goodwill rather than for profits and/or ‘beautification’ purposes and usually at bargain rates. It builds a reputation of ‘character’ for city institutions….the city CARES for you and me. People feel good.

But, where would the tree, or trees be planted? Which tree would be best suited for the space available? What happens to the setting relative to other forms nearby?

Deciduous trees here in Minnesota lose their leaves in autumn and don’t get them back until May. Does this matter? Not all dropped leaves are equal. Does THIS matter? Every year fewer and fewer Minnesotans know what ‘conifer’ means. “Pine” is a word that still lingers in their memory, and so, call all conifers ‘PINES’, for pines have needles.

A winter garden in Minnesota without conifers is a very cold, frigid, unwelcoming acreage where visitors are not likely to linger long much less evaluate the beauty of the space. Conifers cost more in upfront price, knowledge, and care, however….too many questions for city plant money-makers to answer.

A good friend of mine who lives in Minneapolis on a 45′ by 95′ lot, called the other day about trees the city was offering for ‘beautification’, good prices, and perhaps even for a bit of Carbon Dioxide ‘control’. Who knows real reasons which bureaucrats rely on to order the selections? Dozens were available, but descriptions of River Birch and Royal Plum had caught her attention…..one a major sixty foot deciduous tree with a beautiful bark for about twenty five years of its aging, the other a smaller thing with an acceptable bloom and purplish foliage, but disease issues. She should have bought neither, but I finally gave in on the Royal Plum. (It has a shorter life span).

Ideally, landscape gardening is supposed to be an art form. Think of your woody plants as musical notes, piano keys, for your eyes rather than your ears to behold Beethoven or Mozart, let’s say…..and ideally you are supposed to make lovely harmony to make your home-world pleasant for you and your family’s eye and soul…..at a time in human life where we learn at university to disdain beauty in art, for their professors are incapable of teaching it.

March 11, 2015

March: Our Ugliest Month of the Landscape Garden Year

Most homeowners in our Minnesota communities ignore landscape gardens. Lawn and a shade tree in the middle of the front lawn, mud in the shadier depths, and the foundation plantings habits fits their needs for the duration. Probably most homeowners are poorer now than they have been for more than a decade. They endure living in their sterile environment. More females mow lawns these days than ever. The American husband population from coast to coast has been disappearing.
Nothing beyond the human family, what is left of it these days, has the dimensions to inspire ones soul, if one has one, than living among the beauty of the Earth, the place from whence we come and where we return.

March is our Minnesota’s ugliest month of the year with or without Eden in our midst. The more lawn, the less garden and the less clean-up. The more deciduous trees, the less lawn, the less garden, and the more mud and leaves to clean-up. Diseased conifers trees don’t distribute their ‘leaves’ helter-skelter, but are uglier in March. Their diseases and distortions are seen more clearly. Some in my neighborhood have been 90% dead for ten years, but their homeowners haven’t come to notice yet. Some grounds possess shrubs whether needed or not. No one in the neighborhood plant names.

Nearly nothing is placed to direct the eye to the garden’s beauty, for there is no beauty for the eye to see.

In our Twin Cities suburbia there are generally no alleys. Garages appear at the front of the house. In most suburbs areas garages and their pavements dominate the entire front grounds of every home on the block. How is the beauty quotient of your front grounds holding up when you look across to the other side of the street and see the entire mess of it? These scenes are not as ugly in March for the pavements usually aren’t cluttered and the garage doors are usually still closed.

If you were more aware of the art of landscape gardening, how would you grow your front landscape garden or gardens better? How would you create and maintain its beauty so that every day its sight, its harmony inspires every time you see and enter it no matter what season of the year. Like the compositions of the great Beethovens, creating landscape garden beauty is simply A TRICK OF THE TRADE. With Beethoven and kind, the trick was to manipulate the human ear arranged sounds, instruments in harmony to reach the human the soul to inspire the moments, moods while listening.

In the ideal, the trick of the trade of creating a beautiful and memorable landscape garden is to manipulate plants to accomplish the same spirit, but to manipulate primarily the human eye, but also upon occasion and season, the ear, and the nose.

For those interested in reviewing the condition of your landscape garden, its design and/or allure, call us at Masterpiece Landscaping, 952-933-5999 for a consultation, for gathering information, advice, for installation or improvements.

With the arrival of a few days of endurable landscape garden weather, even though snow still occupies great swaths of ground in places, I spent the past three days cleaning up some of the residue under the weight of a drier than normal, windy five months of winter. Rabbit damage was more severe than normal. Japanese spiraeas, barberries of all kinds were eaten nearly to the ground…but they will recover but at a shorter size of growth compared to normal seasons. Lower branches of arborvitae shrubs, Norway spruce, Rhododendrons, and shrubby pines were denuded of foliage and bark what used to be the first foot, foot and a half of last year’s growth. Smokebushes, redbuds, and some hydrangeas also became tasty bark this past winter, but the damage didn’t appear lethal anywhere.

Pruning is corrective exercise but also an art form unto itself with its own rules. Nothing is complex about pruning for form and design. One needs to know what one is pruning, how to prune, what plants are damaged when pruned ‘out-of-season’. Pruning perennials is easy. The time to prune depends upon the time of bloom, and the beauty of the perennial in foliage and/or bloom held well in winter. Nearly all of the hydrangea shrubs and small trees on the Minnesota market, except for Endless Summer, produce reliable bloom clusters which hold exceedingly well throughout most winters. Winter blooms of Quick Fire are beautiful throughout the season.

Perennials with excellent winter bloom show include the Chinese Astibles, which become a spectacular weedy infestation when in bloom in grounds with reliable irrigation, the Baptisias, Vernonia, Joe Pyeweed hold their blooms proudly and attractively throughout most of our winters. My favorite of winter interest plantings is the Cinnamon Fern unless the snowfall buries it when over three feet.

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