Another visit to The High Line

I spent a good part of the day Thursday at The High Line in New York City. It is one of my favorite places on earth. It overstimulates and relaxes me at the same time. It is one of the greatest juxtapositions of urban and meadow I’ve ever seen. It was designed by Piet Oudolf.

Drop the mic.

I won’t carry on too much today because I’ve written about The High Line in the recent past and you can and should check out those posts before proceeding any further.

You can read about my inaugural visit here:

The High Line

And then dive into greater detail with my visit last year, broken down into 3 separate posts because, well, the subject matter justifies it:

High Line part 1

High Line part 2

High Line part 3

The High Line runs roughly 20 city blocks and I walked it end to end at least three times.

The first time without taking a single photo, just a chance to enjoy the stroll, enjoy the day off from work and to just watch. Watch people, plants and the chaos of Manhattan down below.

The second time through was all about capturing photos of the plants against the city backdrop.

The third time was the slowest jaunt of all as I imagined the thought process behind the plant design/layout when it was originally constructed. This was my favorite walk of the day.

If you didn’t check out my prior posts above just know I am going to post pics here without much context. Just a series of pics I like and feel happy sharing.

But before I do that, I feel the need to also share with you, five things I learned about myself while traversing this abandoned railroad in the sky.

  1. I’m old and have no sense of what is fashionable for men today. Yes, I was in New York City, the fashion mecca of the world, but still, I saw more short shorts on men and more man thigh than necessary. One day they’ll look back and laugh.
  2. I love the extremes of the city and the country. The loud noise and chaos doesn’t faze me but there is something about the deafening silence at night in my little rural part of New Jersey that makes me smile.
  3. My own garden mirrors the style of the High Line more and more each year. Let me rephrase that: my garden wishes to be even 5% of the awesomeness of The High Line.
  4. I want to quit my day job and work maintenance on The High Line. The beating down of the summer sun would not phase me one bit. I’d even give tours as well. This place is in my blood.
  5. I need to visit here four times per year: April, June, October and January. I need to feel the vibe of all four seasons.

And on to the photos:














































QOTD: Tell me about your favorite public garden.




Atlas Nitrile 3701 gardening gloves

This is not a paid endorsement. I wasn’t given these to trial and this isn’t a sponsored post. My wife bought me gardening gloves two years ago and they are easily the best I’ve ever owned. They are the Atlas Nitrile 3701 gardening gloves.


As you can see, I’ve beaten these up something good and yet they hold up like a champ. Not one tear in the glove to date and my precious little hands have been preserved as a result.

And while they’re tough as nails, they are thin enough to allow me to pick even the smallest of weeds with my fingertips. The best of both worlds.

That’s it. Get them. They’re the best. When I wear them, I wield my rake like I’m indestructible.
gloves 2

QOTD: Which gardening gloves do you use?

The latest and not always greatest in the garden

Some observations from out in the garden:

This white bee balm is the only one to have survived last winter and while it is nice to see it blooming, it honestly doesn’t do much for me and the powdery mildew is real bad, worse than with all of the other bee balm. We don’t know until we try, right?

white bee balm


Right plant for the right location = happiness, as seen with the Physostegia (Obedient Plant) below. This first photo was taken back in May when I dug up and divided a massive batch of these and relocated them to my newly extended and very empty garden bed.

divided obedient

Two months later and they are thriving in a very wet and full sun location. I am very psyched for the massive pink display to arrive next month.

obedient vivid


You’ve all seen all of my numerous pics of Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ and read my raving reviews of this perennial but in the spirit of my last post and with full disclosure, here is the reality of the “legs” on these right now.

veronica bad

Fortunately, I’ve shielded most of them with other low lying plants so the blooms remain the attraction.

veronica good


I love how one ‘Karl Foerster’ grass (Calamagrostis) can break up a mass of perennials and not only lend a different height/uprightness, but a different texture as well.

front bed


I cleared this area of nasty Canada Thistle by cutting them all at soil level and not by attempting to pull out the roots like a dope which has failed me miserably for years now since it actually multiplies the number of weeds when pieces of root break off.

thistle path

I will now finally track the results properly. Here is one example of the cutting.

thistle cut

And about one week later. I’m going to now cut it back again soon and will continue to do so until it kills itself by sapping all of the plant’s energy. Or so I hope. More to come.



I just purchased a few ‘Delft Lace’ Astilbes solely because I fell in love with the red stems and red tinged foliage. I’ll be sure to track this one for you and hopefully I don’t fry them since you know, they need constant moisture and it is the dead of summer. Smart.

delft astilbe


My attempt at a path with a true destination worth visiting.


These purplish bee balm are incredible right now and are my favorite current place in the garden. 

planter bed 2


planter bed


bee balm 2

They are bringing in a ton of visitors. 

hummingmoth 2


butterfly bee balm 2


Check out all of the action with this video.

QOTD – Where do you purchase most of your plants? And I want specific names and locations please.

Thank you.



Humblebrag alert – I was fortunate to have my garden featured on the Fine Gardening “Garden Photo of the Day” blog today. You can see it here. The comments from the readers are above and beyond and I truly appreciate the feedback knowing how much effort I’ve put into my garden. The years of blood and sweat and stitches and ticks and sketches and research and frustration and false elation is all worth it.

But I feel uncomfortable with the praise at the same time.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been all in on Instagram of late and enjoy how easy it is to share photos and interact with other hardcore plant freaks, not to mention the creativity involved with the pics themselves. I enjoy tinkering with various filters and the macro capabilities through my phone are even better than what I can do with my “real” camera. I’ve received great advice and wonderful feedback on Instagram and again, it is affirmation that I must be doing something right.

But now I suffer from Insta-Guilt.

If others only knew how rough a good portion of my garden looks, they may second guess their praise. It’s so easy to take bits and pieces of the garden and mash them together to make it look like it is magazine worthy. Is it our/my responsibility to paint a more realistic picture of what goes into creating and maintaining a garden? In doing so, does that put other gardeners, especially newbies, at ease and allow them to push on without the thought that they may have a black thumb? This is a question I’ve been chewing on for years and I’m still not sure what the right answer is.

On the flip side, do people simply want to escape when they are scrolling through Instagram photos? Do most enjoy thumbing through 50 photos in 30 seconds with the occasional click of the heart as a “like”? Is it not the right place to expose reality and the ugly underbelly of gardening life?

Like everything in life, does the answer fall somewhere in between the two extremes? Relish in the beauty that is nature and that is plants but keep it all in check by throwing in a dash of “what can go wrong” or “here is what powdery mildew looks like”.

Here’s a real life example.

You cannot deny the beauty of the blooms on this Dwarf Sneezeweed.

sneezeweed mariachi

“Wow“, John Q Reader says, “I need to get me some of these.” And he does just that and sticks them in the ground and waits for those perfect blooms and the perfect looking plant.

Except he wakes up one day and sees this.


He then curses himself, labels himself as a non-green-thumb and potentially gives up on gardening. A bit extreme? I guess so, but where does the responsibility lie with telling him that this is super common with Sneezeweed? The seller? That will never happen if they hope to stay in business so does it then shift to those of us who write about plants? Me thinks so. Maybe it is “yes these blooms are beautiful but you better make sure you hide their potentially ugly legs by planting something smaller in front of it.”

Example number 2.

Bee balm blooms are exceptional and plenty in summer and do they ever draw in the bees and butterflies.


But buyer beware, the foliage will more than likely suffer from powdery mildew and things can get ugly real fast.


I’ve done a decent job of exposing my garden warts from the inception of this blog back in 2010, but it was always done in more of a comical tone with self-deprivation. I don’t know that I’ve been direct enough in doling out “what can go wrong”.

When the narrative of a blog post takes me there going forward, I really want to focus on highlighting the flaws of a plant or where mistakes can easily be made. This includes really exposing my garden and what it really looks like. A step back from the close-up shots is necessary. It may hurt to be so honest but I think it will pay dividends in the long run.

QOTD – do you agree with my assessment of a more realistic view of our gardens is needed?


Butterfly and Bee chasing

I really wish I could record myself as I’m busy chasing around the butterflies and bees. There is nothing goofier than watching a 6 foot 3 inch man run from flower to flower trying to get the perfect shot of one of these creatures. The only thing funnier than watching me gallop around like an infant chasing a balloon, is watching me attempt to get into position for the money shot. It’s like a lesson in how not to perform a yoga move. Downward Dog gone wrong.

So as you look at these photos and the video below, just keep in mind what went into securing them. Know that there is someone on the other end of the camera who puts his own awkwardness aside for the benefit of the reader/viewer. A true selfless man who looks possible injury in the face and pushes on.

I am a warrior.


butterfly coneflower


butterfly cone flower 2


macro 2


butterfly bee balm


butterfly bee balm 2





Macro photography

My latest obsession is macro photography on Instagram using only my Samsung phone. Would love to connect on Instagram if we aren’t already. Just click on the Instagram icon on the right sidebar or hit me up at @jmarkowski0.

Here are some of my latest pics.




















The greatest grass, accepting chaos and a plea for container ideas

A few thoughts:

We’re always trying to piece a garden together that has visual interest all year long. Ideally, we’ll construct it where one perennial stops blooming and takes a step back, while another takes center stage. Continuous succession of bloom or emergence of interesting foliage or texture. That’s the game.

Below is one of those situations where I’ve managed to play it perfectly. The pink Astilbe blooms have had their day in the sun but are now fading and losing color just in time as the yellow coneflowers are emerging. Yellow and pink, not so great together and fortunately, the world will not have to bear witness to it.

coneflower astilbe


I’m really starting to buy into the ornamental grass as deer-loving-plant-protector. This hydrangea bloom is proof. Now the challenge is how to design an ornamental grass moat and make it look pleasant and natural.



You can only say it so many times before the message is lost on people. So here is my last plea for you to find a way to get Panicum ‘Northwind’ into your garden. Even if you have a smaller garden, please add one and thank me later. What a handsome and massively upright specimen (how I’m often described as well).



Do not underestimate the “see through-ness”of certain grasses like this ‘Karl Foerster’.

karl foerster


While you are adding a Panicum ‘Northwind’ to your cart (virtual or metal) also throw in Amsonia. They play nice together.

amsonia and panicum


Nothing has reseeded more in my garden than Mountain Mint. It pops up everywhere in spring and even with my OCD tendencies, I’m able to let it do whatever the hell it wants. My therapist calls that incremental progress.

amsonia mountain mint


Bee Balm, friend or foe? Discuss.

bee balm


I’ve been trying to up my container planting game for a few years now and I’m still not happy with my progress. I have learned to experiment more and stuff each container to capacity but I still need work. I’d love your feedback on this one. It seems to be thriving in its shady location. Be gentle but be honest.

container persian

QOTD – What is your go-to container planting combo? I have no shame in stealing all of your brilliant ideas.

A calm and relaxing tour of my garden

We’re going to jump around a bit as I am way fired up about my garden these days. And when I say fired up, I don’t mean 100% pumped. If I had to estimate the “pumped up happy” versus “pumped up annoyed and rattled” ratio it is at about 60/40 right now.

Gardening, that relaxing hobby.

Here we go.

The section of my garden along the front of my home is providing some serious color right now.

front bed 2


front bed


front bed 3


ninebark astilbe


veronica pink

And here are my thoughts:

  • Is it too much color? Too loud? I think I love it but maybe I hate it and can’t bare to allow myself to know it.
  • I do know for sure that I love the fact that there is no room for another plant and therefore no room for weeds. It is full and lush and that feels good.
  • Is it a bit overwhelming for visitors upon entering my home? I didn’t want the traditional “foundation planting look” and I’ve succeeded on that front but again, is it too much?
  • I’ve received a lot of props from visitors so I should shut my mouth and move on to the more needy and weedy (see what I did there) areas in the garden.


I have no idea what cultivar of Campanula I have here but holy hell they are taking over. Do I enjoy it and ride it out or panic and remove them as a good manager of plant invasiveness?



campanula 2

Tell me what to do already.


I’ve struggled with Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ many times previously and killed two others but now it looks kind of healthy. But, none of that great red foliage color. Hmm. Glass half full or half empty?

britt marie


My massive bee balm collection is about to bloom and when it does, it is a wallop of color and draws in more creatures than any other plant in my garden. Brace yourself. Major photo explosion is coming.

bee balm


Compare this section of the garden to what I showed you previously with all that color. Which do you prefer and why? Seriously, put it in the comments as I would love to get a conversation going.

driveway bed

Last one for today.

We all know one shouldn’t move a shrub on a warm sunny day in summer.

You guessed it.

I did.

Can’t help myself.

When I have an idea I can’t get it out of my head until I act on it.

True story, I came up with the idea to move the Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’ below while in the shower. Before the shower was complete, I got out, put on my gloves and moved the SOB. I love where it is but now I’ve had to severely baby it to get it through the harsh weather.

ninebark amber

So no, that is not some super cool new colored Ninebark, it is a severely stressed one that looks like it would on like October 23rd in full autumn color decline. Not smart but at least I own it, right?

QOTD. What dumb thing do you do in your garden over and over again even though you know it is dumb?



Daylily Little Grapette lives to see another day

Before we discuss Daylily Little Grapette, a few important items as a backdrop for this post.

I first wrote of my frustration with the daylily here.

I did a feature on the ‘Joan Senior’ daylily here.

And eventually swore them off for good here.

Now a current day update:

I still have a bunch of Daylily ‘Happy Returns’ and in fact, just divided a bunch to fill a new section of the garden. You’ll never see any photos of these plants because they suck but I can’t bring myself to dispose of them because they take up space with no effort. They will be eradicated one day but that time has not yet arrived.

‘Joan Senior’ couldn’t hide from the deer for long and she met her untimely death in a fit of rage back in 2012. I was an angry gardener back then.

The only other daylily in my garden currently is Daylily Little Grapette which I’ve had since 2007. There have been many times when I was close to disposing of these as well since the deer consistently ate the blooms but they some how held on. And I think I’m glad that they did.

The current home for all of the Daylily Little Grapette is in front of Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ and I love the color combo.

Daylily Little Grapette

I think the deer ignored these last year as a means for the universe to tell me that this combo was killer and I got it right. It may all fall to shit soon and we’ll see in a few weeks.

Daylily Little Grapette put on a massive flush of bloom in late early/mid July here in zone 6B and they keep on coming for a good two weeks or so.

Daylily Little Grapette

Daylily Little Grapette

I try my best to remove the “one day lasting” blooms during the blooming period to keep them looking neat and tidy, but be forewarned, your fingers will be massively stained and it isn’t all that easy to remove said stains.

Daylily Little Grapette

This daylily is considered to be a dwarf daylily since it gets no taller than 16″ and while the claims are that it is a “rebloomer”, I’ve never witnessed it. Beyond that, it is like all other daylillies, kind of nice in bloom and then eh, the remainder of the gardening season.

Now having said that, here is your chance to sell me on a daylily you love. Put it in the comments and I promise, at a minimum, to research it and let you know what I think.

Will I ever add it to my garden?

Baby steps my friend.