“Special” woodies to me are shrubs and trees on my grounds which are simply EXTRA special…..not necessarily my favorite woodies, the ones I couldn’t live without, but those I am extra thrilled to “own” as a part of my landscape garden life.

I could not manage this outdoor life of mine without conifers with none as a group more special than the others. Name a creepy juniper, a mature White pine or Swiss Stone pine, I find them equally beautiful in settings set to show off that beauty.

Leading my special woody list is the maple, Acer griseum…..the Paperbark Maple. What a beautiful, beautiful understory deciduous tree in shape, leaf, and bark. Michael Durr of trees for the North fame, wrote an article somewhere which caught my fancy about ten years ago. He insisted in his frank and open way that folks living in horticultural zone four were idiots for not planting the Paperbark maple, ‘officially’ classified as limited to zone five in its tolerance for the cold.

I didn’t believe him…..but then….why not try him out, sharp tongue and all? I special ordered three of them from Bachman’s our local landscape wholesaler.

I didn’t believe him when I planted them. I didn’t believe him even where I planted them….all hidden carefully from our brutal north and west winter winds; one in garden ‘center’ south side to a Canadian hemlock barely two feet taller than my experimental specimen, a second to the south of my house nestled in amongst a number of stately arborvitaes for further protection from northern winds, and the third along the east border of the landscape garden well protected again by arborvitae, so overwhelmingly, that over the years I forgot about the thing entirely, that is, until one late autumn its crown of shocking fire-red foliage stunned me to memory the moment I saw it spectacular blazing cinnamon red bark back lit in the morning sun.

Its autumn color in our neck of the American ‘woods’ isn’t always reliably red as it is in warmer zones…..only if the autumn runs well into November. All three trees are over twenty five feet tall, about twenty while in my possession. They receive reliable waterings all summer long.

Closely following the paperbark maple, and perhaps even a more spectacular tree, is the evergreen conifer, Golden Chamaecyparis pisifera nidiformis, except that it isn’t evergreen, but everyellow. At first look one knows immediately it’s beauty must be from something directly out of a Japanese garden.

Locally these Chamaecyparis are sheared and sold as shrubs…. and never really amount to anything beyond the yellow. What a shame for its normal struugle to grow offers a form unsurpassed by the human touch of pruning.

I received two gift plants as house warming presents from devoted gardener, Allie Simonds when my wife and I were lived on the first floor of her duplex a decade earlier. She had ordered them from White Flower farms in the year 1974, when we had moved to our new Minnetonka setting. The two Chamaecyparis ‘trees’ were about eight inches in height nestled in a web of peat moss held tightly together by a kind of celephane paper.

I had never heard of a Chamaecyparis and thought Allie extreme in her imagination that such a strange conifer could live in hostile Minnesota, much colder then in winter than now. I, thinking they were shrubs and not fit to live long, planted them along the narrow band of my property south of the house.

They must be among the most beautiful trees in our metropolitan area, not for my view, for I am forced to walk under them for they serve me as shade trees. It’s my neighbors to the south who see the golden glory of the Golden Chamaecyparis crowns twelve months of every year.

I planted my first Red Obelisk Beech around six years ago, again certain I knew better than the eastern landscape pros who had labeled this ‘true’ beech as hardy in Gopherland. I would give them, the gurus, a try…..and hold them responsible for my loss when it dies.

No true beech could make it through a Minnesota winter….even though my grounds twenty miles west of the twin cities proper, has maintained between a 4.3 and 4.6 horticultural zone, by my guess, over the past three decades of my residence here.

The third of a trio of these special plants living around me is the Hillside Spruce…..a foreigner frowned on by certain political purists who demand that American gardens should bear only American natives.

Hillside is a product of the European spruce beauty, the Norway spruce, hauled over to the new world to be used as wind breaks for the growing number of farmsteads in our young America. Sorry, political purists who have invaded the landscape garden business, the most beautiful, most reliable and quickest growing among our spruce is NOT a home grown one, but the foreigner European “Norway”….and among its beauties both big and small is the Hillside….my favorite as well as my ‘special’.

One brief glance at a specimen whether ten or one hundred or a thousand inches tall will startle the first time viewer. What a silhouette….stiff and rugged appearing ready for winter and summer as well as any stately upright cactus of the southwest deserts, arrogantly showing its form despite any trial it might face.

These three trees are special in my 2/3rds of an acre landscape gardened grounds.

Garden clubs are encouraged to view these grounds…..call Masterpiece Landscaping at 952-933-5777 to secure appointments.