I am Glenn Ray, the old timer of Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd. It was 75 years ago this very May, I began my first venture in ‘managing’ a gardened piece of land. It was the Spring following Pearl Harbor. Our America was at World War. I lived in a very modest, but newer part of St. Paul, Minnesota at that time, a neighborhood where there were a number of empty lots, all sized at about 50′ by 100′ feet per lot. There were three directly across the alley from our house.
As a part of the War effort, my Dad, too old to sign up or be drafted, joined the Victory Garden movement. The city would plow empty lots larger than 40′ x 40′ free if any homeowner would take responsibility, care and cost, for developing a vegetable garden and share half of the produce with the neighborhood. My father, a pharmacist and former North Dakota farmer agreed. After plowing, my parents and I raked and ‘seeded’ peas, pole beans, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, raised corn and tomatoes and the like.
That was the last time this trio met “to work” in this Victory Garden. Due to lack of labor my Dad had to work overtime; my Mother developed an allergy to bees.
I was given charge….in general as a punishment for some or another chore I had failed to perform. I loved the place from the very beginning. No adults around……..free, free at last to play and pretend….where I could dive bomb weeds, beetles, and worms as another part of the War effort. When hoeing I could use my weapon to ‘shoot’ enemy Zeros, that is, crows or robins. That garden was the best place I’ve ever been to play, in or out of ‘punishment’…..all four years of it.
I alone was the harvester. I picked the ears of corn, tomatoes, radishes, green beans, and kholrabi, cut the leaf lettuce, ate the pea’s right out of the pods. I planted the seeds and picked off the Colorado potato beetles and squeezed the aphids.
I became profoundly respected for my achievements…yet, even sent there as punishment from time to time. I was smart enough to keep my paradise a secret, so I practiced pouting…. (“Oh, not again!”). Such duplicity was never discovered, for I would have been otherwise punished for being ‘deceptive’.
I was first introduced to the art of landscape gardening by “R. Atkinson Fox” that year, the same year I was made hands on in charge of ‘nursing’ our family Victory Garden as part of the War effort, May, 1942 in the empty lots across the alley from where we lived on Eleanor Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I met “R. Atkinson Fox” a few months earlier that year……a signature to a pretty painted picture of trees, shrubs, and flowers, hanging on the wall opposite the front entry way to our house…… Where and when that part of the Winter at that place in the house my mom introduced me to her style of punishment for me so she could listen to her beautiful classical music hours on radio without me asking questions or otherwise interrupting her Heaven. She was especially fond of Beethoven and Johann Strauss, Jr. She didn’t want anything noisy around, she warned….while she was listening to beautiful things.
When I goofed or forgot the rules, I had to stand at that wall silent for an hour every time, looking at beautiful things in the Fox painting of a landscape garden.
Outdoors, I began learning to play ‘making scenery’ in the next door neighbor’s roomy sand box, the only box on the block. I chewed off countless twigs of a conifer near the sand box for my trees… an Arborvitae. Unaware, this was the beginning of my future career and Our Company.
Following me in the company are two co-owners, my son, Christian Ray, and Joshua Perlich, who began landscaping at Masterpiece when he was 16….both are not only well trained in the world of landscape gardening, they are gifted artists as well.
Landscape gardening is supposed to be an art form….actually the one most cherished of human history.
In nearly every culture of human history, Paradise is perceived as a Perfect Landscape Garden.