Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

July 17, 2017

Welcome Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society!

I live in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  Soon I will be  honored to open my landscape gardened grounds here in Minnetonka  to folks from the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society busing in from Madison, Wisconsin.   I, especially  my 78 years of “landscape gardening” welcome all of you for your interest in landscape gardens of the hardy kind!

The first tree I ever knew by name was the “White Pine”.  I was four years old.   My parents had a friend who owned a cabin at Lake Alexander, Minnesota which we would visit every summer for years.   Sand was everywhere, even amongst the tallest trees I had ever seen….groves of White Pine one hundred feet tall.

In the world of labor outdoors, gardening, especially landscape gardening,  can easily become  a drug of the first order, if beauty is the primary, or worse, sole goal for the hooked attempting to create something to uplift the soul.

I was lucky.   It was without choice at age six or seven my primary play outdoors was creating believable and the beautiful landscapes in a sand box about six feet by four in size….which belonged to the neighbor next door in a very modest, pleasant pre-World War II  St. Paul, Minnesota area where lot sizes were 45 by 90 feet each with a garage and alley.

“It”, that is my landscape gardening life, all began in that 6×4 sandbox when I was 4 and a half years old.

It ended, that is my landscape gardening in the neighbor’s  sand box, some time mid summer nearly 9 years later, the summer before I was to enter freshman year at St. Paul Central High School.

I remember being very pleased with the scenery I had created….beauty at last, believability  in  proper order had been achieved that day.   I remember not moving a single tootsy-toy car from its parking spot.   My favorite was a 1939 Mercury my Uncle Frank had bought me for my birthday that year.  It was a coupe, a realistic replica of the real, only two and a half inches long.

Both my sand box boulevard trees and landscape trees were  from a pyramidal arborvitae not far from the sandbox.   I’d bite off the tips of the greenery….and in doing so endured a bitter flavor as if chewing a lemon rind.  Years later, while studying Latin in high school, I learned arbor…vitae meant “tree” of “life”…and indeed so, for the Brits during their centuries as a world naval power, used to store Arborvitae trees grown in pots on their great sail ships which sent them all around globe for business, profit and democratic civilization….which led to the birth of own country,  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India, by the way ….(I taught ‘high school social studies’  for twelve years. I landscaped as a hobby-drug then.)

I used cigar boxes for corner shops and drug stores.   I lined my streets with ‘pruned’ arborvitae foliage…sizes and shapes formed by my teeth.    Toy building blocks were saved for modest houses like those in which I lived.    A dandelion bud both before and after bloom could be designed as shrubs.

However, that “believability” day was the last day I ever ‘touched’ that or any other sandbox.

Embarrassed by her 13 and a half year old son still monkeying around a sandbox…always alone and loving it, she opened the side outside door where she would be best heard by all  and seen by her ‘wayward’ son and shouted as loudly as possible:  “Glenn Ray, you are too old to be playing in a sand box!!!….but I shouted back, just as loud…..

“I’M NOT PLAYING IN A SANDBOX!  I’M MAKING SCENERY!”…and I knew I was right!!

Nevertheless, I understood the point she wanted ME to absorb for I knew she was right.   What if any of my buddies might ideed  see me making scenery, that is “playing” in a sandbox….something I had practiced for nearly nine years.

My Mother had won the day!

I wanted to avoid her celebrating her victory, however.  So, I covered the pain by  slyly filling a gunny sack with all of the paraphernalia required for community  landscape garden created  in that sandbox, with a laugh or two……for, after considering her claims,   I knew she was right ‘regarding the scenery’ at her distance.   My sandbox education came to its end!