Bluestone Perennials order

After much thought and in depth analysis, I finally settled on the six plants to include in my annual Bluestone Perennials order. Check that, it is my semi-annual order, one for spring and one for fall.

This is a very deliberate process. I use the Bluestone Perennials “Plant Finder” and immediately filter their full plant list to match my conditions:

Wet Site Tolerant


Full Sun

Deer Resistant

Once that is done and the list has been significantly cut down, I go through each plant one by one in order to cut the list down even further. Some are easy to immediately eliminate; those I already have, those I know I’ve killed in the past and those that don’t pass the eye test.

With the list that now remains, I do some cursory research on those plants I am not all that familiar with and if I think the plant is a viable option, it gets added to the shopping cart. From there I know which remaining plants are on the wish list and they get added to the cart as well.

When that process is completed, we review the cart and start to compare plants against each other with the goal of not exceeding the predetermined $100 budget. Sort of my own version of a plant shopping reality show.

“Honey, I really love that new Aster but that pushes us over our budget.”

“I know. And we can’t forget to factor the kids in here. How will they feel about living with that Aster?”

“Screw them, they won’t even know it exists. They never even set foot out in the garden.”

“Good point. Let’s take a risk and do it. I love you.”

(A great big hug follows and then collective smiles as we both click the “submit” button together).

After the list has been finalized within the shopping cart, I excitedly hit “submit” and immediately add all of the plants to my master plant spreadsheet. I also then start to map out where the plants will be located in the spring.

One hell of a good time.

So without further ado, here are the 6 different plants I ordered from Bluestone Perennials. If you click the photo for each, it will take you to the plant description on the Bluestone Perennials website.

You’re welcome.


Bluestone Perennials

  • Love it for the height 3-4′
  • Love it for the larger flowerheads
  • I’ve grown the annual Rudbeckia and it still reseeds ten years later. A little bit worried about it being invasive.







Bluestone Perennials

  • Another tall plant – 4′
  • Not really deer resistant but I don’t care. I’ll hide it well.
  • Will definitely be added among some ornamental grasses.







Bluestone Perennials

  • Had me at those black stems
  • Tall 3-4′ (sensing a theme here)
  • A no-brainer for those of us with soggy soil








Bluestone Perennials

  • A smaller Buttonbush. Why the hell not?
  • “Loves a boggy wet spot”
  • Multi season interest with blooms, berries and ever changing foliage color








Bluestone Perennials

  • An ornamental grass I don’t have. Some times that is enough.
  • Already imagining the breezes with this one.
  • Another Kurt Bluemel creation, say no more.








Bluestone Perennials

  • I think I tried this one before and somewhere it got lost in the shuffle.
  • I like grasses, like a lot
  • Those blooms are killer




There you have it. What do you think? Solid choices? Do you want to ruin my bliss with any negative feedback?

Have at it.


Miscanthus Gracillimus

This is an update to the original Miscanthus Gracillimus post from 5 years ago. I’ve learned and experienced quite a bit more since then and honestly, the photos are a hell of a lot better.

Miscanthus Gracillimus made it on to my top ten ornamental grasses post and has for me personally, remained the most upright Miscanthus residing in my garden today.







Before I share some additional photos and my experience with Miscanthus Gracillimus, here is some information to whet your ornamental grass whistle:

    • Like all Miscanthus, it is a warm season grass, so the new foliage doesn’t begin to grow until temps warm up in the spring.







  • Gets 6 to 7 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide
  • Survives in zones 5-10
  • Prefers full sun to bright shade
  • Blooms late September until frost; blooms are a reddish bronze
  • Deer resistant
  • Great as a specimen, background or massed into a hedge
  • Stays upright all winter extending it’s architectural interest for three full seasons
  • Can be divided in spring before new growth emerges
  • It is one of the oldest cultivars of Miscanthus but is still popular today

Some of my photos:

While rounding into shape in summer, it works beautifully as a background/specimen.








In full bloom in September.







Fall color emerging in late October. Great complement to all of the red hues.









And the standard brown/buff in November. This Miscanthus stands at attention all winter even under the most extreme conditions.








An example of its versatility. Here she is in summer, quietly hanging out in the background, minding her business.

misc g 2







And then in fall, she displays fantastic color and completes one of my favorite vignettes in my garden.

fall stuff








Having said all that, I have a dirty little secret. My Miscanthus Gracillimus looked great in bloom this past year.

misc g 4







But a peak behind the curtain tells a different story.

misc g 3







Only about half of the grass emerged from the cut back stems this year and my gardening prowess tells me it is time to divide it. It will be a hell of a job but I’m determined to pull it off. I’m thinking this one grass will become three smaller versions in spring. My hands may fall off or I might throw my back out, but it will be worth it in the end; for my garden’s sake and for great blog fodder.





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Miscanthus Morning Light

This is an update to the original Miscanthus Morning Light post from over 5 years ago. I’ve learned and experienced quite a bit more since then and honestly, the photos are a hell of a lot better.

I recently put together a list of my top ten ornamental grasses and one of those included is Miscanthus Morning Light.

morning lt 12


I’ve had this grass in my garden since June of 2009 (yes, I referenced my plant spreadsheet to confirm the date). It has performed admirably since then, but admittedly, it has precipitously fallen off of my photography radar. Since 2012, I’ve taken very few photos of this grass and I’ve clearly gone out of my way a number of times to purposely avoid including it in photos.

And here is why.

Take a look at the photo at the top of this post. The grass looks nondescript and that is exactly how it appears during the majority of the year. It wasn’t always that way. When I initially planted it and for the next few years to come, it was upright and with a well defined shape.

morning lt 13






But this is what it now typically looks like in late spring/early summer each year.

morning lt 11






Not so appealing, eh?

As a means of contrast, take a look at the following photo.

morning lt 7





The grasses on the left side are Miscanthus Morning Light. The darker green grasses in the background towards the right side of the photo are Panicum ‘Northwind’. To me, there is no contest in terms of which draws in the eye more.

Now having said that, it does improve dramatically as we move into late summer/early fall and I actually have quite a few photos of it during that time of year. In my garden, I have three of them placed behind Joe Pye Weed and the two contrast and play off of each other perfectly.

morning lt 10


joe pye and miscanthus


clethra joe pye fall








They really do shine when they aren’t required to be the focal point.

While I have you, some Miscanthus Morning Light facts:

  • The leaves are very fine with a white margin – as a result it emits a silvery appearance
  • Survives in zones 4-9
  • It is a warm season grass – new growth emerges in Spring as the weather starts to warm up
  • Prefers full sun
  • Typically reaches 4′ – 5′ tall with another 1′ added on with the blooms
  • Typically 3′ to 4′ wide
  • Blooms in late Summer to early Winter – blooms are wine colored
  • Tolerates all soils from clay to sandy
  • Like all ornamental grasses it is deer resistant
  • Looks good as a contrasting specimen or in groups as an informal hedge

There was one additional bullet on the original list, but I had to delete it because it isn’t what I’ve personally experienced:

  • Miscanthus Morning Light holds up well in winter and looks fantastic.

IMHO, not so much. If it hasn’t already collapsed under the winter snow.

morning lt 5


It remains rather “eh”, especially when compared to other grasses like the aforementioned Panicum ‘Northwind’ (both photos taken current day).

winter morning light

Miscanthus Morning Light







winter northwind

Panicum Northwind

I can vouch for the great wine color on the Miscanthus Morning Light blooms which consistently appear in mid September in my garden.

miscanthus morning light



morning light and joe pye





They usually last until early to mid October before both the foliage and blooms turn a tan/buff color for the remainder of fall and all through winter.

Miscanthus Morning Light should be cut down to about 10″ in early Spring before the new growth emerges and I usually use a hedge trimmer to complete the job as efficiently as possible. Once the warmer temps hit, the new growth emerges and catches up to the cool season grasses rather quickly.

My goal this spring is to divide my three Miscanthus Morning Light grasses to see if that rejuvenates them and brings back that nice vase shape I experienced years ago. As usual, I’ll document the results along the way and would love to hear from all of you and your experience with this ornamental grass.


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Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium)

If I could only take one perennial with me to a deserted island (and assuming zone plays no part in this fictional game) it would be Eupatorium maculatum (Joe Pye Weed).

joe pye


We’re talking a statuesque plant, a focal point in the garden. We’re talking summer blooms that last for weeks. We’re talking bees, butterflies and birds galore. I could go on and on but let’s make it easier and give you some conveniently bulleted factoids of this fan favorite:

  • The ultimate size is about 6′ x 3′.
  • Survives in zones 4-8.
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade.
  • Blooms are a pink/mauve color from late Summer to early Fall.
  • As mentioned previously, the blooms attract bees, butterflies and birds.
  • Prefers medium to wet soil conditions but should never be left to dry out.
  • They can be left up for Winter and from personal experience, have managed to stay upright even during decent snowstorms.
  • These ladies are native to the Northeast in wetlands and moist meadows.
  • Beyond the blooms and attraction to wildlife, they lend an almost architectural vibe to a mixed border with their strong stems and height.
  • I have had deer chomp these only once and it actually created a layered effect that was pretty cool as a result. A deer prune if you will.
  • You can prune these in early Summer to control the height (more on that in a bit) and not affect the blooms too dramatically.
  • Joe Pye Weed is named after a Native American named “Jopi”, who was from a New England tribe and traveled widely during the American Revolution selling this plant as an herbal remedy for typhoid fever.

Some additional photos:

These plants are slow to emerge in the spring as they do not appear for me until early May.

joe pye weed








But once they appear, they really take off with the warming temps.







By the end of July/early August, here in zone 6, the Joe Pye Weed blooms are fully developed:

joe pye


joe pye 2








And do they ever draw in the butterflies:


joe pye weed







And the birds:

5 year6







By early September, as the blooms start to fade and the foliage begins it’s inevitable decline, it still looks damn good:

joe pye pennisetum

miscanthus and pye








Even after the first frost, Joe Pye Weed still makes a statement.

joe pye


And while it is fleeting, the yellow fall color lends itself well to the landscape.







In winter, still quite awesome.

joe pye winter






As I mentioned previously, I have experimented with pruning these for size control and for a layering effect and you can read more about the results here.

I simply pinched back the new growth in early June.

joe prune 2






joe prune 3







And within a week or so, the new growth appeared.

joe prune 4







It all led to a kind of cool layered effect, if that is your thang.

joe prune






Or simply leave it alone and it will dominate in your garden, assuming you have the space. I’ve also added smaller options as well, like ‘Little Joe’, which may be a better fit for you.

1977 Topps Baseball – Belloir, Kucek and Lindblad

I’ve mentioned previously that I am attempting to build a complete set of 1977 Topps baseball cards. I’m looking to do it through purchasing small lots of cards on eBay (just purchased 55 more for $3.50). I’m obsessed with the ’77 Topps set out of nostalgia and if I’m honest with myself, I’m probably regressing back to my 7 year old self as an escape from reality.

At first, there was a lot of laughing at the cards; strange photo angles, airbrushed hats, horrific uniforms, embarrassing poses and questionable athleticism. It is also fun finding the cards I distinctly remember from my childhood; players I loved (George Brett, Pete Rose) or even uniforms I thought were the coolest (Padres, Expos).

But what I’m most intrigued by now are the fringe players. Those who only had a small cup of coffee in the bigs and then were never heard from again. Their cards captured a moment in time when they realized their dream, when they “made it”. Looking at these cards now, I swear you can see it in their collective faces. Add in the fact that it is so easy to research what they have done since their careers ended, and you have the recipe for fascinating human interest stories.

Here are three of those stories:

1977 topps baseball

  • Only 36 hits in 81 career games
  • 12 errors in those 36 games
  • Debuted in ’75 and had 6 hits in a two game span. This article from ’75 sums up the excitement of getting to the MLB and just appreciating the opportunity.
  • Missed the ’71 season due to military service
  • Out of the majors by ’78
  • While I appreciate any type of humor, I find this type of negative blog post to be unnecessary. Dude made it to the majors, that is like winning the lottery.
  • I found his Facebook profile and it seems too understated. Photo should scream, I played in the frickin MLB. I’m still contemplating sending him a friend request and asking for an interview.


1977 topps baseball

  • 7 career wins over 7 MLB seasons
  • Career 5.12 ERA
  • 2nd round draft pick in ’74
  • That grin tells me he appreciated being able to put on that killer Sox hat.
  • In 2008, he invented the Strike Out Strippz, a pitching glove that helps pitchers evaluate their pitching motion after each simulated pitch. A great sales pitch here: “Strike Out Strippz Pitching Glove will do for pitchers what the batting tee did for hitters.”
  • Here’s an example of Roger Clemens pimping it.
  • After digging around some more, my best guess is that he sold it as it is promoted current day through this site without his name prominently attached.
  • I located his LinkedIn profile as well. I am fascinated how typical it looks until you scroll down his page and see “Former Major League Pitcher”. What? Put that shit up top dude, you are one in a million with that.


1977 topps baseball

  • I can’t shake this one. Shame on me for not remembering him and more importantly, not knowing his tragic story. More on that in a bit.
  • A lefty middle reliever who made 655 career appearances in the MLB.
  • Was the winner of game 3 of the ’73 World Series against my beloved Mets.
  • He has the distinction of being the last pitcher to face Willie Mays.
  • Participated in 3 World Series with the A’s and was part of the 1978 Yankees World Series team.
  • He died in 2006, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Take a look at this fascinating article from ’97 that talks about the disease in great detail.
  • He started showing signs of early onset Alzheimer’s in his late 40’s. It has been determined that his children have a 50/50 chance of getting Alzheimer’s as well.
  • Research shows that he was a descendant of one of a few German families that migrated to Russia in the 18th century and were linked to familial Alzheimer’s.

Panicum Rotstrahlbusch

The very first ornamental grass I ever planted was a Panicum Rotstrahlbusch.
panicum rotstrahlbusch

I ordered these through an on-line catalog and they were about six inches high at that time. However, it didn’t take long for them to reach their mature size (about two years). And what beauties they are. Some quick facts:

  • It is a “warm season” grass so new growth doesn’t emerge until the weather warms up in Spring.
  • Survives winters as far north as zone 3.
  • Mature size is about five feet tall by three feet wide.
  • Prefers full sun and a consistently moist soil.
  • Should be cut down in early spring right before the new growth emerges (definitely use a hedge trimmer).
  • Pink wispy blooms emerge in July (will show you some shots of the blooms in a bit) and last until the middle of autumn.
  • Has tremendous burgundy color in the autumn (although the burgundy color starts to emerge as early as July).

Years ago, I successfully divided this grass by simply digging out three sections with a sharp spade; I never removed the grass from the ground. From there, one mature Panicum Rotstrahlbusch turned into three new grasses as seen in the photo below.


And only a few years later they looked like this.



The Panicum Rotstrahlbusch blooms are fantastic come mid summer.



And I have found that this grass mixes well with other shrubs and perennials in your typical mixed border. I have them located all over my garden and they work everywhere.




These grasses are typically not found at your garden center but can be purchased online at a number of ornamental grass vendors. Trust me, even if you purchase them small you will see almost immediate results within that first year.

Or, if you are nice enough, I may send you a cutting through the mail because as you know, I am a man of the people.


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Top ten ornamental grasses

My garden is dominated by ornamental grasses. It started out of necessity as they could handle the poor draining clay soil, all day sun, harsh wintry conditions and were completely ignored by the deer. But is has since evolved into me simply loving the hell out of them as witnessed by my numerous posts on the topic. They are the backbone of my garden.

A friend recently asked me “Which grasses should I plant this spring?” and I told him I’ll do you one better, I’ll dedicate an entire post to my personal favorites. A handy little guide for those who are just entering the OG world or are looking to add a few to their existing collection. My recommendations are solely based on grasses that have resided in my own garden as I’ve had the time to watch them mature and adapt over the years. There are definitely others I’ve seen in other gardens that I would recommend as well, but until I have a personal experience with them, I cannot comment.

I’ve dedicated posts to many of these individual grasses, so simply click on the name of the grass to read in greater detail. I’ve also included a few quick tidbits below about each grass.

Here are my top ten ornamental grasses (in no particular order):


Panicum ‘Northwind’Top ten ornamental grasses

  • Grass remains completely upright all year long.
  • Reached full size (5′-6′) within three years after planting a tiny plug.
  • Underrated yellow fall color.





Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’Top ten ornamental grasses

  • First grass I ever planted.
  • My favorite fall “red”of all the Panicums
  • I’ve divided this grass numerous times with ease.



Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’Top ten ornamental grasses

  • The biggest head turner in Fall with its foliage color of red/green/orange.
  • The silver blooms are a nice contrast.
  • Looks fantastic with fall perennials (Dwarf sneezeweed in the photo)


Sorghastrum ‘Sioux Blue’indian panicum sage

  • This towering native grass (middle of pic) reaches 7 feet when in bloom.
  • Took 2-3 years to establish, but now upright and stays that way through winter.
  • Individual blooms are interesting when viewed up close.


Pennisetum ‘Desert Plains’desert pennisetum

  • Only two years in with this one and it has already established itself well.
  • Great late summer/fall foliage color.
  • Tons of blooms starting in summer and they still look good into the winter.


Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’grass

  • Reliable performer year after year. 9 years in for me.
  • Doesn’t hold up as well in winter as the other grasses.
  • A bit weedy like most Miscanthus.


Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’og5

  • Yes, you can find them everywhere, but there is a reason for that. Care free and upright and buff blooms all summer and into fall.
  • I like to squeeze one in between perennials as a great contrast in texture and color.
  • I divide all the time with ease and nothing but success.


Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem) ‘Blue Heaven’k12

  • Great blue color in spring and then shades of pink and red in late summer.
  • Has handled early morning shade without issue.
  • Two years in with this one and I’m in love with it. Holds up all season including in winter.




Molinia ‘Skyracer’molinia

  • A slow to establish cool season grass but worth the wait. This one is all about the blooms as they get 4′ to 5′ tall and look killer at the back of a border.
  • Does not hold up in winter as the blooms break off.
  • Just planted ‘Cordoba’ for the first time which is allegedly even better than ‘Skyracer’.


Andropogon ‘Red October’andro

  • Another newcomer for me as we’re three years in. About 3′ to 4′ in height but should reach 6′ to 7′.
  • The foliage color is off the charts already. Red hues even in spring and then dark red in fall.
  • Seems slower to establish but it will be worth the wait. Only a few blooms to date.


And a few bonus “non-recommendations”:

Calamagrostis ‘El Dorado’ 030

  • The picture to the right is this cool season grass at its peak. Short lived though as it becomes nondescript the rest of the year.
  • Nowhere near as solid as ‘Karl Foerster’





Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’107

  • Maybe TBD is a better description. Nothing bad, just not as exciting as other switch grasses to date.
  • I haven’t seen much of a blue hue so far, just a drab green.



Northern Sea Oatssea oats fall

  • Just read this and you’ll understand why I gave up on it.



1977 Topps baseball cards

I was an avid baseball card collector as a child and into my early teens. This spanned from 1978 up until 1990. During the early years it was all about trying to get a complete set or collecting my favorite players or beloved Mets.

And then the baseball card boom hit in the early 80’s and it became all about collecting and speculating on players’ rookie cards. I completely ignored the common/veteran player and just focused on those first year player cards. I was going to be rich with my 74 Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry rookie cards.

The baseball card market eventually crashed and all of those cards became worthless. This was in the early 90’s and I completely turned my back on the hobby and focused on other things like college and hanging with the girl that would become my wife years later.

Fast forward to current day and my son has taken card collecting to levels so way beyond anywhere I ever went with it. But now it is about collecting/finding rare inserts and autographed cards. One pack of cards was 30 cents back in my day yet they are now anywhere from $3 to $10 per pack. He has cards worth hundreds and actively sells and buys cards off of eBay. A burgeoning entrepreneur.

My son’s interest in the card collecting hobby has awakened a nostalgia in me that harkens back to a simpler time. The innocent era of collecting cards without any financial motives. Trying to complete the entire Minnesota Twins team set. Enjoying the players from back in the day who clearly never indulged in any performance enhancing drugs. Players that looked more like my weird uncle then a young and blossoming professional athlete.

Which brings me to 1977 Topps baseball cards. The set I worshipped as a child. The set I am now collecting again. The set that has inspired me to learn about each and every player in the set.

As a young dude, I always found the 1977 Topps baseball set to be the coolest. I loved the white border and bright colors.


The sets prior and subsequent to 1977 Topps baseball were drab and missing that 70’s funk. The players seemed to be photographed in cooler and stranger poses. I willingly traded many ’78, ’79 and ’80’s Topps cards for any 77’s anyone was offering up.

I’m now 43 years old and I still love these cards. I dug through my entire card collection recently to reunite with my favorite cardboard cutouts. As expected, they were in awful condition but just like I remember them. They made me smile and brought back a wave of great childhood memories.

But I didn’t have enough of them. I wanted more. I wanted the rush back.

So I followed my son’s lead and purchased a lot of 1977 Topps baseball cards on eBay. I didn’t want any superstars from the set. The more obscure the better. When they arrived, I found a quiet spot in the house and leafed through them slowly. They are still the best.

Here are some of the cards I received in the lot and why I love them so much. Some are based on the photos, some based on the uniforms and some are just freakin funny.

Going forward, I plan on doing one post per week featuring one of the players and an in depth review of their story.


topps 5

  • My favorite hat of all time. That mustard color is phenomenal.
  • Quintessential 70’s mustache.
  • Traded to the Mets in ’79. Touted as the “savior”. Never liked playing in New York so I came to hate him.


topps 15

  • Coolest cat around. That necklace alone made this card awesome. Claimed it was the “second baseman’s teeth”. This photo captures him even better.
  • Wore a helmet in the field at first base.
  • Died in 2013 in his hometown of Greenville, MS.


topps 18


topps 13

  • Even as an 8 year old, I knew this dude looked stoned.
  • Epic mustache.
  • Funny thing, he never pitched for the Expos.


topps 8

  • Bake is the best baseball first name ever.
  • Always had a solid 70’s fro.
  • This video brings me back to Saturday afternoon games with Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola.


topps 12

  • Interesting fact – combined with his brother for a shutout. Only time in MLB history.
  • Great article from 1985 article on what he was doing now.
  • Maybe the least intimidating pitcher of all time.


topps 14

  • This is why I bought that lot of cards.
  • Phenomenal sideburns
  • More my weird uncle than an MLB player


topps 6


topps 11


topps 3

  • The air brushing of the hat is pretty awful. The Mariners had yet to play a game when their cards were added to the 1977 Topps set.
  • Probably the best Mariners hitter (27 HR and 90 RBI) in their inaugural season in ’77.
  • Was included with Nolan Ryan in the worst trade in Mets history.
  • Was beaten out by Bobby Bonds in ’77 and did little after that.


1977 Topps baseball

  • Top ten ugliest uniform contender.
  • Great action shot although I can’t figure out where the base is and why he is fielding the throw on the inside of first base.
  • Within 2 months had two 2HR/8RBI games.
  • Had no idea until now that he died of a heart attack in 2002 at the age of 55.


topps 2

  • Impossibly hideous uniform
  • Scored 1,000,000 run in MLB history. Great party trivia question.


topps 10

  • In the top ten worst uniforms list. The matching shirt and pants are classic.
  • Known as the “Bogalusa Bomber” which is simply awesome.


topps 9

  • I loved these quad rookie cards. Such promise and potential for the card gaining value in years to come. These are the guys I paid close attention to.
  • Mike Champion only played 2 years with San Diego.
  • Juan Bernhardt hit the Mariners first home run but only played a total of 154 games in the MLB.


topps 7

  • My favorite card in the set to this point based on the hair/uniform combo.
  • Cy Young award winner the year this card was created.
  • Credited with All Star save in ’75 and All Star win in ’76.
  • In his last start of ’76, he was injured and never the same again
  • Owned a catering company and hosted a baseball radio show.


Winter garden appreciation

I despise the cold weather and it is getting worse and worse as I get older.

I hate the snow and I do not find it to be the least bit “cozy”. It physically hurts my eyes to even glance at it.

I don’t ski and find sledding to be way overrated.

But even after having said all that, I have come to appreciate the winter garden. It is a reminder of what was, a chance to rest and recharge and at the same time, a promise of what is to come.

I recently put on my big boy pants and a warm jacket, and set out to capture just some of the plants in the winter garden. After reviewing all of the photos I had taken, I realized that I had similar shots of those same plants during the spring and summer. So as a means of contrast, I’ve included the most current pic and then one from earlier when it warm and delicious outdoors.


Tropical milkweed, which is an annual and one that reseeded for me this past year.

milkweed winter



Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ which looks like the annual Ageratum but is truly a perennial.

winter garden



A combo of Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed and Clethra ‘Hummingbird’.

winter garden



Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’, Bee Balm and Panicum ‘Rots’.

winter garden



Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ (Dappled Willow) with its awesome stem colors.

salix winter stems



Amsonia tabernaemontana looking cool and curly. Still a personal favorite of mine during all seasons.

amsonia winter



I love the dried seed capsules of Baptisia and admittedly have yet to explore how to save the seeds. That is what winter is all about, research and reading.

baptisia seed capsules 2

moth baptisia


Sedum ‘Red Carpet’ peeking through what little snow we have right now.

red carpet winter



And old reliable, the Purple Coneflower. I always enjoy watching the finches pay a visit and feast on the seedheads.

coneflower winter



Puppy Kindergarten

Last night was our third session of Puppy Kindergarten with our new pup Mia.

puppy kindergarten

If the criteria for success is to have the most social, most distracted and most self choking puppy due to an irresistible urge to jump on every dog, then we are totally killing it. If not, then we have a long ways to go.

The truth is, Mia is so overly loving of all dogs and all human beings that she cannot contain herself. If that means she will struggle to graduate from Puppy Kindergarten, so be it. We’re confident we will get there with our little rescue.

But it definitely wasn’t that way the first go round with our first dog, Casey.

Before we proceed, kindly answer the multiple choice question below:


When we attended puppy kindergarten with our first dog, Casey, which of the following occurred?

A. We were given a passing grade when all of us knew she wasn’t even close to passing.

B. During the final “challenge”, rather than walk through the maze of cones that lead to a fake front door and fake UPS delivery man, Casey stole one of the cones, ran off with it and proceeded to chow down on it at the feet of one of the other puppy owners.

C. I passionately said the following after our final class “You are such an embarrassment to us, get in the car.”

D. An annoying Jack Russell Terrier humped Casey during every free second of class and I was seconds within challenging his oblivious owner to a fight.

E. All of the Above


As you might have already suspected, if you responded with “E“, you totally nailed it.

Not one of my proudest moments.

When we got Casey back in 1999, we had yet to have children, so she was our first “baby”.

puppy kindergarten

And we treated her exactly like you would your first child. We were the prototypical helicopter parents. The two of us would hover over Casey day and night and attempt to analyze her every move.

Why does she keep scratching herself? F’n fleas, isn’t it? 

Why is she attacking our feet? That is part of a deep psychological disorder, I know it. 

Why won’t she look us straight in the eye? She has issues with authority already. How will she deal in the real world?

And our true final grade at Puppy Kindergarten did nothing to allay our fears.


But I clearly remember one weekday evening back in early 2000 when we made the turn towards Rational Town. Dinners were always a challenge as Casey would harass us to no end looking for a bite of our Red Beans and Rice. If we put her in her crate, she would rattle the cage to such an obnoxious level that we couldn’t handle it. So we would eat and deal with the lab clawing at our lap. One night, however, my wife forcefully ordered Casey to “lay down” and she friggin did it. And stayed there throughout dinner. Life as we knew it was back. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared.

And looking back, dealing with a puppy was the ultimate in prep for having a child. By the time Jack rolled around in 2002, we understood sleep deprivation. We welcomed the inability to not be able to leave the house. We knew that naps were a must if we wanted to survive that day. In fact, we quickly learned that it may be more difficult to tend to a young puppy than an infant because the infant doesn’t chew on the table legs and most importantly, isn’t the least bit mobile.

Quick aside #1: One memorable helicoptering moment with Jack. On day #2 of him being home from the hospital, we went (yes “we”) to change his diaper and were horrified to see that he had “discarded” what looked like rubber pellets. In a moment of terror, we got out our baby books and did a quick search online for “baby pooping little rubber balls”. We found nothing and feared the worst. Turns out his sopping wet diaper had broken open and the gel balls inside made their way into, well, you know where. Jack – I apologize if you are reading this and promise no one in school will find out. End of aside.        

By the time Jamie arrived in 2005, we were baby veterans. While I am proud of how attentive we were, we did hand over our helicopter parenting badges. Sicknesses were not the end of the world. Multiple wake-up calls in the middle of the night were chalked up to being temporary. And once we knew how to properly deploy our man-to-man defense in order to cater to simultaneous needs of both children, we were all set. After a rambunctious puppy and one newborn, we could have handled anything.

And now that applies to our little Mia.

Quick aside #2: How great is the name Mia for a rescue dog? Missing In Action. Big thanks to Deb B. for the heads up on that one.

We’ve been through this Puppy Kindergarten once before and instead of stressing over Mia’s inability to listen or her knack for peeing upon greeting new dogs/people, we are taking it in stride. During our first go round we were so consumed with Casey’s performance that we failed to listen to so much that the instructor had to offer. Now, we are absorbing each lesson, more concerned with learning and taking that knowledge home with us.

She will learn to walk off leash and come to us whenever we call her name.

She will learn that biting/heavy nipping doesn’t fly.

She will drop my shoe on command.

And most importantly to us, we will enjoying the hell out of this puppy phase and will not wish it away.

puppy kindergarten