Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Mayhem


Warp Speed is in effect here aboard Landscape Design Studios. Jack and I have been working hard, making it to a number of appointments and starting some of the first spring projects. I have been spending quite a number of hours drawing on the computer well into the evening. Things are busy and a bit sleep-deprived, but generally are going well.

This is such a beautiful time of year. In my yard, the tulips are in bloom and are almost finished, my mayapples are up, my Trillium gradiflorum is in bloom, the crabapples are in bloom (including the large red splendor next door and my little snowdrift in the front yard), and surprisingly, the mature common purple lilacs along the property line are about to reach peak bloom (about 2-3 weeks early!). I love working late at night in the sunroom, with the breeze blowing heavy doses of lilac scent through the window. 

According to a story I heard on Minnesota Public Radio, this is one of the very earliest lilac blooms on record due to the 4th warmest March and 2nd warmest April on record so far. According to Jim Gilbert, phenologist who keeps journals at the University of Minnesota Arboretum, the average lilac bloom has moved a full two weeks earlier over the past 40 years. (

Perhaps, another bit of evidence that the Minnesota hardiness zones might be shifting toward a solid 4a and 4b in a changing climate. But I won’t go out and buy a Oak Leaf Hydrangea or a Japanese ‘Bloodgood’ Maple for my yard anytime too soon.

A couple of general tips for May:

- Fire up the mower and do your first cutting if you haven’t already. I am doing mine (slightly overdue with such bad cold/allergies this year) tomorrow. It is good to cut it at about  2.75-3” long and leave the clippings as they provide nutrients for the lawn.

- If you applied lawn fertilizer, wait for a month to apply a crabgrass preventer to your lawn.

- You can prune your pines, namely mugho pines or any specialty pine that you want to inhibit growth , by clipping off the tips of the candles by ½. The one’s I have seen aren’t all the way there yet, but be ready to if you want, in the next couple of weeks.

- Watch for pests in your pines, like little larvae, as you might need to treat them.

- If you suffered any winterburn on your yews or arborvitaes, I tend to resist the urge to cut the brown out right away and let the new growth flush out first, and then make the decision on what and where to cut it out.

- In some cases, plants such as arborvitate might need some support if they are still misshaped from the winter snow, as might be plants such as a larger spirea where you piled your snow. You might want to tie them up and pull them back in shape a little if you have to.

- Generally, your perennials are all coming out now and fresh mulch if needed and a little weeding are good for your beds, while making sure that they are given the room and freedom to grow.

I must say that the spring cold and allergy season has been exceptionally rough this year. It has been tough to feel healthy enough to work through it and remain fully productive over the past couple of weeks. It seems that many other people that I have spoken with have noticed it being especially bad for their allergies as well. The doctor I saw said that is has also been common for these pesky allergies to invite a bad sinus and respiratory infection like the miserable one I had. So keep on those allergy meds if you need to, otherwise you might wind up with the brutal nasal, ear, and chest infection going around.

On the drawing table have been some fun designs. I always enjoy designing and the creativity above and beyond anything else I do for a living, aside from getting the chance to meet some really nice people. Design by way of drawing and using visual tools, and tinkering out problems-solving situations is my personal video game or my daily Sudoku puzzle. If you can truly relate to this, you might be one of those people who have given me multiple daily Farmville updates on my Facebook news feed, maybe to the extent where I have decided to block any and all news about Farmville. (You know who you are!)

In my obligatory sports news, it has been fun watching the Twins get off to a good start and take command of the AL Central. I am so used to a slow to bad start from them, which builds the way for their dramatic surge after the all-star break. They are such a fun ball club to follow through the course of the season. 9 innings of baseball in the background while I work and hang out with my family is a daily routine and therapy for me. Gotta love it.

Also, my alma mater, Iowa State University… they just hired the former local hero and local legend that is Fred Hoiberg to be their next basketball coach. In addition, they have the ultimate legendary player at Iowa State, Jeff Grayer, as Fred’s assistant. It is an exciting time to be a Cyclone fan, even after a sub .500 season when the team has been in total disarray.

I went to Johnny Orr Basketball Camp at Iowa State in high school, while scaling back from playing baseball one summer after having elbow surgery due to excessive usage of the curve ball at age 14. It was the highlight of the summertime for me that year. Especially looking back now, as my 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 teammate at camp turned out to be Fred Hoiberg. It has been cool to say that I at least got to set a few solid screens for him and to faintly pretend to drive to the basket or take a shot before dishing the ball to him for the score that summer at camp. Perhaps I even made Freddy shine a little brighter at camp while all of the assistants and recruiters had their eye on him as a big prospect for the Cyclones.

Since that basketball camp, it has been cool to watch that guy excel at Iowa State, and have an NBA career including an amazing run with the Timberwolves.  Especially in the 2003-04 season, he led the NBA in 3-pt percentage, if not also free throw percentage, and was positively instrumental in getting the Wolves into the Western Conference Finals. Of course, Kobe, Shaq, and company put an end to their best-in-franchise season and ended my brief but rabid following of the NBA in recent years.  It has been easy to yell at the TV screen for Freddy in the past, and it sure will be great to yell at the computer screen for him and the Cyclones while watching the 2010-11 basketball season!

Back to Landscape Design now…. What I suppose I could parallel this with is…. I am the guy who will orchestrate your ideas into a well-contrived design, and will help you to find the best installation crew for your project. Just like on a basketball court, my role will be in helping to set up the play with the screen, the upcourt pass, or the drive-and-dish to the best landscape crew for your project, to make the big play and get the big score. That is what I strive to do: assisting to make your project a resounding success.


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