I began my drive to create a landscape garden 38 years ago this past Spring.
I had just been appointed to become Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society and was winding up my graduate “studies” program and the University of Minnesota Horticultural Department.
But the useable part of my education never came from those post graduate studies. The two year effort was like being in the military service paying duty as a part of the social contract.
A few classes were truly invaluable. By far the most inspiring class ever of the nearly 700 quarter credits worth of my college study, for I loved learning and had become a high school teacher, was beginning and intermediate Biochemistry under Irvin Lerner at the University of Minnesota.
A couple classes about soil were very informative adding some important facts to my yet, unrealized goal of creating a beautiful landscape garden.
The University’s Horticultural Deparment provided nearly nothing worthwhile toward my goal which was alive within me, but yet unrecognized at the time.
One was taught to line up the delphinium, balance the home landscape with pyrmidal arborvitaes, become dormant about Winter, and plant spreader yews instead of Pfitzer junipers for foundation plantings for city and suburb alike..
Silver maples, Summit Ash, and Russian Olive were the trees of choice with some competition coming from the Honeylocusts and River Birch.
It was a boring diet for any artform that might be considered worth while for the human experience, so no one ever thought about landscaping as an art form.
I had taught high school for thirteen years both Social Studies….mostly classes in issues in American Democracy, and Russian previous to my formal horticultural department experiences. Moreover, I was a child of the second world war and the American society that went with it.
“Landscaping” had already become a hobby…a playtime thing somewhere around my age of five or six. It began in a neighbor’s sandbox which except for me went unused year after year. It was positioned a few feet from a pyramidal arborvitae whose twigs I would bite off to become the trees which would decorate my streets along which my tootsie-toy cars could drive.
I made my houses from blocks. My Dad, who owned a drug store would save me “Dutch Masters” cigar boxes, which I would use as my corner drug stores and family markets. Looking back, I already had developed a sense of size relationships and harmonies of form by the time I was seven.
At age 12 or 13 while tending to my sand box settings, I was shouted at by my disapproving Mother….disapproving because as she shouted, “Stop that playing!! You’re too old to be playing in a sand box.”
Of course, I knew she was right….and always kept the activity a secret from my contemporaries, but I shouted right back…..”I’m not playing in the sand box….I’m making scenery”.
She had brought my secret into the open. I collected my possessions and never returned to the sand box place again.
From time to time I did have a chance to mow lawns and give advice about garden plantings. Neighbors knew I was knowledgeable about trees and shrubs……even four 0’clocks and such, My mother also gardened flowerbeds of her day. When tending them, she seemed to have left the conscious world to reach a better place in body and spirit to do her artwork.
I was impressed by what I observed.
Although my adversary, she and I had bonded in a number of areas much earlier in my life. She was a fanatic solver of jigsaw puzzles. At about age seven, early in the War sometime, I must have wandered curiously to her puzzle table standing in the middle of the living room with more than 1,000 pieces and wound up as her puzzle partner….the only one in the family to develop her jigsaw puzzle addiction.
She was a woman of law and order. This law and order regarding jigsaw puzzles required that the puzzle have more than 1,000 pieces to solve and that its picture HAD TO BE AT ALL TIMES, a picture of a beautiful landscape garden setting.
She was an impatient jig saw puzzle worker for she had many other chores of the day to do besides house work, cooking, sewing, wall papering, painting, canning, and working part time downtown St. Paul. She truly welcomed my assistance in jigsaw puzzle solving. It meant she could buy a new box with another beautiful landscape picture much more frequently. She was not much into patience.
Then there was my introduction to R. Atkinson Fox which had begun when I was four years old. We’ll report on that series of experiences another time.
Go look up R. Atkinson Fox on the internet. He painted.
It is probable that my discovery of R. Atkinson Fox beginning, in a manner when I was three or four, probably became the actual seed in my head and body that drove me to undertake the world of landscape gardening which has profoundly captured me to this very day.
I have been truly blessed. Landscape gardening is a wonderful artform for anyone to experience. Remember, in our human thoughts and dreams, it is a landscape garden such as EDEN which has inspired mankind as the most perfect form of art since the beginning of recorded time.