If you like winter, don’t read this

This is the best representation of how it has looked outside for weeks running now.

winter lawn

Hurts the eyes doesn’t it? That is what my entire yard looks like right now.

It’s so icy that the deer are all like “No dude, a bite out of that Holly isn’t worth the risk of breaking an ankle.”

The New York Rangers called and wanted to lease the space for an upcoming practice.

I am not a fan of it or winter, just in case you didn’t know that already.

Our winter routine has become:

  • Wake up and say “Good morning wife.”
  • Walk downstairs, look out window, become blinded.
  • Pop advil like they are Tic Tac’s.
  • Mumble angrily to myself while making coffee.
  • Glance in mirror and wonder who that old man is.
  • Drink first cup of coffee, slide down the back of front door and pray for the strength to make it through.
  • Wake up the kids and blame them for my winter malaise.
  • Speak with said wife while getting dressed and after we are both properly caffeinated, about moving away from this ASAP.
  • Realize we are both late for work and agree to discuss at a later date.
  • Drive bobsled to bus stop and see kids off to school.
  • Walk on crunchy driveway, sprain ankle a bit and get in cold car.
  • Listen to Howard Stern on ride to work and wish I had his job.
  • Complete work day.
  • Drive home and dream big about “getting out”.
  • Freeze ass off walking from car to house.
  • Sit down at dinner together, repeat nightly lecture as to why no TV will be on, talk about our days and say “One more day closer to spring.”
  • Homework, next day prep.
  • Escape it all briefly through some web surfing and a little TV.
  • Turn on heated mattress pad in preparation for bed.
  • Go to bed and say “I love this heated mattress pad”.
  • Repeat.

Please, no lectures about the wonders of winter and enjoying each day. I get it. I really do. It’s just not for me. Maybe one day I’ll mature and look back and scold my middle aged self.

Speaking of maturity, what else is there to do in order to cope? For starters, stomping on the ice to break up the glare and to let off some steam is kind of awesome.

winter foot steps

Incredibly liberating. Mature? Not so much.

Maybe take some photos of plants in winter and pretend to embrace it? OK, I’m in.

plants in winter


plants in winter 2


plants in winter 6


plants in winter 4


plants in winter 5

That was … temporarily nice.

The real cure? Head to Florida for MLB spring training.

Later this week, be on the lookout for live action shots of fields of green, the pops of ball hitting glove and the cracks of angry bats. We are looking at temps in the 70’s.

The boys of summer have returned and I am fired up.

Juniper Wichita Blue

What I’ve discovered over the past ten years or so is that there are very few evergreen trees/shrubs that thrive/survive with poor draining soil and deer as frequent visitors. One of the exceptions to date for me (fingers crossed) has been Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’.


From all that I’ve read over the years, this tree is intolerant of wet soil but I have had no issues to date (3 years and counting). And I am happy to report that the deer have not as much nibbled a branch. So far so awesome.

So while I hope and pray that this tree continues to stay alive for me, I will continue to enjoy the fantastic blue green needle color.


And use that blue color and texture as a foil to my other trees/shrubs/perennials/shrubs in my mixed garden beds.

ninebark diablo

Not to mention the enjoyment of having some actual color in winter.


… beyond ornamental grass brown (I’m copyrighting that Crayola).


Some additional information on Juniper Wichita Blue, commonly known as Rocky Mountain Juniper:

  • Mature height from 10′ to 15′
  • Mature width of 4′ to 6′
  • Zones 3 – 7
  • Full sun preferred
  • Prefers dry and sandy soil (of which I have no concept)
  • Native to the Rocky Mountains and other mountainous areas in the U.S. and Canada

I have four relatively smaller versions of these in my landscape to date and would make the financial commitment to more but I still want to let things play out and see how these dudes respond.

I crave that blue color but I’ve found other options are way more expensive, especially any of significance size. I’ve seen  lot of criticism with Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’ and it being so “common” and a favorite of the big box stores but I’m not one of those people … yet. I’m riding this one out for now.

Hopefully they all make it out of this winter OK. They seem to be taking a beating out there.

More to come.

Spring Training time in the garden

Over the next two weeks, major league baseball players will be reporting to Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. Promise of actual baseball games, not to mention better weather, is on the horizon. It is always my first sense of relief from the hell that is winter.

At this time of year there is always a sense of optimism with each and every MLB team as players show up in “the best shape of their life” and teams still have a record of 0-0. Anything can happen over the next eight months and that warm and fuzzy feeling makes its way to the fan bases as well.

This year my son and I will be attending Spring Training (Port St Lucie, FL, home of our beloved NY Mets) and we couldn’t be more jacked up. We expect big things from the New York Metropolitans this year and we’re ready to kick it all off. On top of that, my son has become an avid autograph stalker collector and I am so excited to just kick back and watch him watch the players with a sense of awe and chase them down for their signatures.

Another autograph for Jack through the mail #mlb #twins #autographs

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

Latest card in mail for Jack #mlb #reds #autographs

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

Autograph update for Jack. This came earlier in the week. #mlb #sfgiants

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

I love witnessing the transformation of my son from a quiet and laid back dude into an aggressive autograph hound. Good times.

As I become prognosticator extraordinaire and try to make sense of where I think this Mets team will end up by season’s end, I take a look at each and every player and try to determine if they were a flash in the plan, due for a bounce back season or will stay the course. Once that is complete, I can collectively assess the team and make my official prediction for the upcoming season (86-76 by the way).

And wouldn’t you know it, I do the exact same thing with my plants this same time each year. They get pre-season plant evaluations and it isn’t necessarily always pretty, even during this optimistic time of year. Once that is done, I have a pretty good feel for how I anticipate my garden looking that year. Yet another way baseball and gardening are so similar. Who the hell knew?

For today’s post, I’m looking at 5 plants that I added to my garden within the last year and showed signs of promise in year one. Like a rookie outfielder who bursts onto the scene and makes an immediate impact, we never know what we’ll get in year two. More of the same? Big regression? Small but steady improvement? All of the possibilities are viable.

Let’s do this.

Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’




This was a complete impulse purchase. Like a naive dope, I was pulled in at the nursery by the gold/orange blooms but knew little beyond that. I think I saw the word “moist” somewhere so that was enough to justify buying a few.

The plants were already in bloom when I bought them in early May so I really have no idea when they will bloom, if at all, with my conditions. Ideally, they bloom at the same time as my Salvia so we can get all orange and purple together.

And the deer need to stay away as well. Like I said, solid planning.

Lilac – and that’s all I know about it


Keeping with the poor planning theme, I honestly have no recollection of where I purchased this and what type of Lilac it is. I just remember saving it in late autumn.

I wanted to plant one Lilac near my deck so the spring smell can make its way to us. As you can see, it bloomed a bit in year one and I’m very pumped to see what year two has in store. It is also my wife’s favorite and it only took me ten years to plant one so there’s that.

Lobelia gerardii ‘Vedrariensis’

lobelia vedrariensis2

Purchased three of these in late fall 2013 and they bloomed like mad last summer. Lobelia have always been in my wheelhouse since they love the wet and have always been deer resistant. I want to see more of the same in 2015, just a little bigger and badder because that color in mid to late summer is tremendous.

Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’
andropogon red october


Now this is the plant I am absolutely the most psyched to see again this gardening season. Look at that foliage color and then imagine the impact it can have 4 or 5 times the current size. And I’ve got 3 within in my garden. Cause I am too cool for school.

Pennisetum ‘Desert Plains’  


All I ask for is more of the same. What phenomenal color backlit by the sun in late afternoon. And those blooms are sweet as well. So let’s just get a little bit bigger OK?

And there are my early season plant evaluations for 2015. As always, would love to hear your thoughts on any of these plants.

Weekend photos

Yes, I enjoyed the extreme winter weather. I have the right to do that every once in a while.

Enjoy the pics.

Turn your sound up for this one. It adds to the enjoyment.

Valentines Day sledding

A video posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on


Action shot


Getting air


As you would imagine, big guy on little sled didn’t end well.


My daredevil and sweetest little girl on earth.


Putting a smile on my face since 1990.


Notice to all deer … please return to your homes … there is an angry homeowner on the loose. A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on


Hiding from the deer?

The hydrangea are hanging in there.

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

$100 giveaway to Santa Rosa Gardens

To celebrate me and how awesome I am, I am looking to give away a $100 gift card to Santa Rosa Gardens.


As I have mentioned numerous times in the past, Santa Rosa has provided close to half of the ornamental grasses currently residing in my garden. Their plants are ALWAYS shipped perfectly and timely and me thinks you will love the huge variety they have to offer.

In order to enter, simply leave a comment on this post, along with your email address, and tell me the one plant you would like to acquire from Santa Rosa Gardens. I will pick a random winner from all of those who comment.

A few additional details:

  • The contest will run from now until next Wednesday night, February 18th at 9:00 PM
  • The winner will be announced on the blog later that night
  • The winner will receive the gift card via email directly from Santa Rosa Gardens
  • Only those in the United States are eligible

Good luck!

Five years and still going strong

As of this past week it has been 5 years since I started this blog. I still remember writing that horrific first post like it was yesterday. A rambling tale of nonsense on a frigid February evening turned into what you are reading before you today. I have truly evolved as an artist.

Quick asidethat last sentence was meant to be sarcastic but some times I worry that it is lost in translation. I’m always tempted to add a “sarcasm disclosure” to play it safe but then that takes away the power of the sarcastic remark. Such a dilemma. Also, my kids are now demonstrating all the characteristics of being raised Sarcastic. 

Oh well. That will be great.   

So to celebrate a 1/2 decade in the game of talking plants, I’d like to take a look back on some of the highlights, lowlights and those who left us way too soon.


The plant that has provided the greatest diversity of visitors over the years and maybe kicks more ass than all of the others combined is Joe Pye Weed.
5 year6

joe pye weed



The boneheaded move of all time – planting mint in a raised bed where it wasn’t contained. It has played out like a horror movie.
5 year30


How most of my tomatoes looked in the early years before I got smart and put in a bit more effort. Blossom end rot be damned.
5 year2


This is how you protect your blooming peonies from the deer and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
5 year9


There was a time when I was decent at capturing the birds in action. I need to get back to that.
5 year11


I like grasses, like a lot.
5 year13


It hasn’t always been specifically about the plants. I love #4 more than all of the others. Is there still time to become a “saleb”? My tax dollars were well spent in the school’s phonetical spelling department.
5 year7


The strangest spectacle – watching me chase the humming moths like a member of the paparazzi.
5 year23


“The plant that has ‘worked’ that never should have with my conditions but blooms consistently year after year” award goes to Catmint (Nepeta) ‘Walker’s Low’.
5 year20


The biggest opportunity missed – a weed pulling exercise video.
5 year14


And I still fight the ability to enjoy winter interest.
5 year12


The “fool me 5 times and yet I still don’t do anything about it” award goes to not planning how to water the containers while we are on vacation in the summer.
5 year4


Picture taken and shared too often to an audience who could care less – the sheared back ornamental grass in spring.
5 year15


The bloom that almost launched a career in macro photography.
5 year21


The real stars of the show.
5 year22

And now we take a moment to mourn those who are no longer with us.

Viburnum ‘Shoshoni’ who outgrew her spot and couldn’t withstand a relocation plan.


Yucca ‘Golden Sword’ – you never did like the wet soil.


Spirea ‘Snow Storm’ – I’ll never know what really happened.


Hydrangea (cultivar unknown) – now you can be reunited with all of your other hydrangea friends.


Spiderwort (Tradescantia) ‘Sweet Kate’ – I was in a bad place that day and would take it all back if I could.


Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ – we had two good years together right? That counts for something right?


I have no memory of you whatsoever.


Weeping Cherry tree – you seemed like a good idea at the time.


Hawthorn ‘Winter King’ – would still be here today if it weren’t for ‘Hurricane Sandy’.


Geranium ‘Karmina’ – I could only hold off the rabbits for so long. I thought your sweet scent would help fend them off, but apparently not.


Carex ‘Cappuccino’ – I pushed your zone and eventually you gave up. Thank you for the effort.


I’ve said enough about the daylilly.


… and Northern Sea Oats

Thank you all for 5 great years.

Here’s to 5 more!



Working through my Bluestone Perennials order

The reflection of the snow has been giving me a brutal headache these past few days so to remedy that I decided I will now stare at a computer screen uninterrupted for the foreseeable future.

The goal is to finalize my online purchases at Bluestone Perennials and use the gift certificate that has been staring at me since Christmas.


So let’s work through this live and see where we end up. As I write this post I am listening to Radiohead and slowly drifting off into a world of birds chirping, bees buzzing, callouses forming and me placing winter on a cruise ship and waving goodbye to it and all of the other passengers as they head out to sea.

Bon Voyage you f’er.

If you aren’t a Radiohead hater, play this as you move through this post. You can thank me later.

Before narrowing down my search on bluestoneperennials.com to find plants that suit my conditions, I need to take a look at some shrubs and dream of a non-deer world.

Viburnum ‘Red Wing’

Sucked in by the foliage color, realize that it is fleeting since only on new growth each spring, have too many other young Viburnums  already that I’m hiding from the deer. Pass.

Cornus ‘Golden Shadows’

Love the leaf shape and color, I’ve killed a few Cornus in my lifetime, only option may be in a container where I can control the drainage and protect from the deer, seems to need shade which I don’t really have. Pass.

Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’   
sambucus lemony

I love the foliage of this shrub, appears to like a moist soil, claims to be deer resistant (hmm …). I can envision a container this would look great in, good discussion piece, peeps will want to touch its leaves. Sold.

Clethra ‘Vanilla Spice’
clethra vanilla

You had me at Clethra … these have ALWAYS thrived for me so let’s try another one. Sold.

Clethra ‘Sugartina Crystalina’
clethra sugartina

Name sounds like a My Little Pony or an exotic dancer but again, me likey Clethra. Sold.

Spirea ‘Blue Kazoo’ 
spirea blue kazoo

I’ve been slowly phasing out Spireas over the years, but this has that blue foliage I am a sucker for, they are almost always care free. I want to say “no” but can’t move on. Fine, let’s give it a whirl. Sold.

Daylily ‘Christmas Carol’

How did this squeeze in there? I’ve bitched and moaned about the daylily for years now. No can do. Pass.

So now let’s narrow our search to wet site, deer resistant and mostly sunny since that is what I am targeting.


Damn I love this feature.

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

All signs point to this being a must considering my soil conditions but I have failed with these for too long to try again. Pass.

Monarda ‘Claire Grace’
monarda grace

Similar to Clethra, if you say Monarda I say “yes please”. I do however have a ton of these I can just divide. But I’m digging what appears to be dark stems. Cannot resist. Sold.

Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’

I failed once with this one as it didn’t appear to like all the sun it received. But damn it is sweet. Although it is not deer resistant and I have nowhere to hide it from the wandering herd. Playing it smart here. Pass.

You know what? I’m good. I’m going to finally show some restraint and end it here. I’m pretty sure these purchases will be covered by my gift card and wasn’t I the one who talked about spending little dinero this year and taking advantage of divisions?

So there you have it. Time to check out and move on to other things. Oh wait, we are covered in snow and ice and it is 15 degrees outside. Never mind, I’ll just continue to navigate the information superhighway.


Meyer Lemon Tree Update

There have to be close to 40 blooms on my Meyer Lemon tree right now.


And a bunch more on the way.

lemon buds

I always anticipate quite a bit of leaf drop after bringing the tree indoors each fall, but this year I made it a point to allow the tree to slowly adjust to its new surroundings.

We went from full sun to partial sun outdoors for two weeks in September.

Then we stayed in the unheated garage for a two weeks once the temps dipped severely in October.

Then we made our way inside into a south facing window with supplemental light through the use of a grow light.

This new plan of a phased adjustment to a life indoors has worked with very little leaf drop along the way. However, within the last week or so we are seeing a lot of this …

lemon leaf

After some panicky research online, I decided to head in the fertilizing direction because I know I haven’t over watered the Meyer Lemon and saturated the roots. It must need some food.

So we did a feeding.

And started a program of misting the leaves in early afternoon on sunny days (Thanks Twitter friends).

I added a tray of pebbly water nearby to up the humidity.

I’ve even quickly removed a sucker forming below the graft line because I’m a serious mofo with this Meyer Lemon tree care now.

lemon sucker

We’ll see how this all pans out over the next few weeks. To date, I’ve only had one lemon with so many other tiny forming lemons falling off at some point.

So my question for you all – is there anything else I can do to up the chances of keeping the lemons on the tree?




Odds and ends

True story … I researched the origin of the term “odds and ends” and it was really boring so I stopped. And I didn’t feel like changing the title of this post so I left it as is.

My son is quickly becoming an entrepreneur in the world of sports card collecting and autographs and has just started a You Tube channel. I would forever be indebted to you all if you could check it out and maybe throw him a “like” or two or even subscribe. You can view it here.

Score one for dad.

My buddy Matt (he of this post) and I have rebooted our “Two Guys at Lunch” blog. You can read our two new posts here. So not only will Matt be joining me in our plan to take the gardening world by storm, we will also get back to our beautifully inane lunch discussions.

You’re right … it is going to be a huge year for us.

Speaking of Matt, I just unearthed a gem of a video he had sent to me this past summer. It is a tour of his backyard along with questions on how to improve his garden/landscape. This video will give you a good flavor of Matt’s plant knowledge level and also a glimpse into the personality of this budding (get it?) gardening superstar.

Grab a beverage and settle in and check out his video here.

After multiple views of the video myself, here are just a few classic moments that cannot be missed:

00:37 – Red mulch … uh oh

01:01 – “White thingies” coming out of hostas – officially scared

01:42 – Still looking for the “brick” wall

02:15 – I like the Coleus against the shed a lot

02:58 – Knows the name “pansy” … pause for effect

03:35 – Did he say “decorations”? Martha Matthew Stewart perhaps?

03:50 – Did his son call him “Matthew”? Must demand more respect

04:06 – I could listen to him say “hydrangea” on a constant loop … so proud

05:06 – Solid work on the lawn … even used straw … nice

06:08 – It hurts to see that the ornamental grass was hacked back. And in a god awful location. No Matt, that was not my advice.

07:12 – 07:55 – My fave story ever … the tale of cutting the hydrangea blooms and putting them in a vase.

08:09 – Nice call on the daylily!

So what do you think? Do you see potential in Matt or should I be worried?

In terms of my own garden, I ventured out into the snow to start assessing where I will be removing lawn and adding more “garden”. This spot below will be one of the areas for sure. This is looking from my driveway into the backyard …


And then wrapping around my deck …


You can sort of see the outline of the existing bed by the plants sticking out of the snow.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at alternatives for creating the newly sized bed from killing the grass by smothering it with cardboard or newspaper or a tarp to just removing it by hand and planting.






You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll learn what not to do