Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

August 13, 2013

What is Weed to You?

Filed under: garden maintenance,perennials,Wonders of Ground Covers — glenn @ 8:54 pm

In our modern America such a question might have been asked in a court room, school room, a family kitchen, office room, or laboratory.

I, thank God, arrived at a different generation with far different thoughts, beliefs and values. I was very lucky.

“Weed” when I was young was more like an order. “Time for you to go out and ‘weed’ the garden”, Mother used in verb form. The word in noun form referred to any vegetative life that was living out of place, visually speaking.

Cannabis grew as a major weed in the field across the alley from our St. Paul Highland Park area home. The War had halted further “growth” of house building in this newish neighborhood. No one around went bonkers trying to get particularly intimate with this ‘weed’. Its name was never mentioned, except as “hemp” grown as an ingredient in certain rope.

“A weed is a plant ‘out of place'” is the one and only true definition of “weed” for us who are devoted to the landscape garden arts.

Generally, the worst, that is the pestiest, weed in the “garden” is lawn grass. Try opening an area of sod by churning the grass amongst the soil to be used for space for perennials or vegetables. You’ll lose your battle in a month when the newly grown now unmowable lawn grasses make their reappearance. You’ll face the same issue planting woodies, young trees or potted shrubs at first. In six or seven years of rank uncut lawn growth commanding the zone, deep shade created by most trees and larger shrubs will come to win the skirmish and the war.

Many ‘desireable’ garden plants are weedy, that is if left up to their own genetics and personality, providing the environment is favorable and without competition from other weedies, they could go on weeding everywhere. Ground covers vinca, lamiums, pachysandra, white rockcress, houttunia, Lily of the Valley, Lamiastrum, some sedums are examples of such progressives.

Many perennials, some cherished, spread their space forever should environment conditions allow…..Anything named lysimachia, Hot lips Chelone, Tiger Lilies, Monarda and nearly all of our northern climate ferns are examples.

Other perennials once nestled in their space send out seed in uncountable numbers…..Goldsturm rudbeckia, Redbuds, Cottonwoods, Green Ash, Elm, Box Elder and other Maples…..even Arbortivaes and Japanese Yews might get into the mood if open soil exists near where their parents live.

Our landscape garden plants’ correct names are universally given in Latin. The suffix, “issima” means the very, very, very most of something…..so lets have a lesson or two…

What does Anemone robustissima mean? Anemone is a genus, that is a group of many closely related plants. The one for this lesson is named “Anemone robustissima”. Add issima to robust and you’ll discover Latin tells the truth of this anemone, it grows and grows and grows until it bumps into strong resistance, such a a brick wall.

One of my favorite trees in the garden is Aralia spinosissima or sometimes abbreviated as Aralia spinosa. Not only are its twigs, branchings and trunks spiny, this Aralia plays keep-away with spiny, very spiny double compound leaves…..it seeds and suckers everywhere.

Some creeping conifers, the junipers especially, can spread almost ad infinitum by another method…..their branchings ‘decide’ to root where they touch the soil. Some of the most beautiful of all gardens are displays of these junipers with rock and boulder. None of these junipers have ever been called a weed at least to my face.

May 28, 2013

Rain, Rain, and More Rain….but Beautiful, if Brief, Landscape Gardens

Spring arrived for a day or two several weeks ago and apparently didn’t like the setting. It yielded to cold and rain, rain, and more cold…..and made the color gray exceedingly dull, the only color in town.

Unless, that is, you have a bunch of healthy conifers decorating the world around your residence. Add a number of flowering shrubs and trees and you have indeed become blessed this Spring.

And then, there are the ground covers, the garden lawn being about the only one Twin Citians recognize.

Without a doubt, a well cared for lawn is an attraction during the wet season. Its green is greener with regular waterings. Lawn grasses grow faster when it is wet and cool. Weed dandelions close up flowering giving the illusion that even the worst maintained of lawns might be admired by the uniformity of color.

But lawn isn’t the only ground cover in town. For decades river rock and chipped limestone have been added “to cover the ground” by the coarse, lazy, and thoughtless, those having no regard for beauty, plants, and Mother Earth.

More recently wood chip mulches are bought or bagged up for general use to cover the ground. Even ‘chipped’ old rubber tires have been used as a cover to ‘keep out the weeds’.

We, at Masterpiece prefer the following:

By far the most attractive blooming ground covers in our area, the creeping plants which often happily and beautifully ‘cover’ the ground are Ajugas, Creeping Phlox, Lily of the Valley, Sweet Woodruff, Lamiastrum, many Lamiums, Pachysandra, Moneywort, several Sedums, Thyme, Vinca, and White Rockcress.

Then one must add the creeper conifers: The junipers, Calgary Carpet, JapGarden, Hughes, Daub’s Frosted, Goldstrike, Blue Chip and Blue Prince, Prince of Wales, Wilton Carpet, even Buffalo, Broadmore and Emerald Spreader Yew.

None of these woodies can be walked upon as if they were lawn. Only the Thymes among the non-woody can pretend to be lawnlike in this regard, especially when added to planting spaces amid rocks and walkways.

This rainy, cool, and cold Spring has produced the ugliest weather, halting and delaying nearly every bloomin’ Spring bloomer for weeks. No longer able to hold back Mother Nature these garden plants came to stage their color all at the same time….including all of the spring ground covers, most of the spring bulbs…with all of the conifers, creepers and otherwise, producing their ‘budding’ new growth more prominently than in their dry pasts.

Remember too, that well planned and cultivated landscape gardens, like people, gain character with age.