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.

hydrangea

 

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).

northwind

 

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.

Next.

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

 

campanula 2

Tell me what to do already.

Next.

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

Next.

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

Next.

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.

 

 

Moving on to high school

How the hell did we get here so fast? How is it possible that I have a son who can now be identified as a high school student as of last night? Damn, I always envisioned myself reaching a certain maturity level and having my shit together by the time my son hit the 9th grade and well, that didn’t happen. My parents seemed so much more mature and fatherly/motherly when I entered high school and now I’m realizing they may have just been hiding it real well. We need to have that conversation some day soon.

But this isn’t about me.

My son Jack graduated from 8th grade last night and as you would expect, my wife and I anticipated some emotions to bubble up during the ceremony. They already crept in leading up to last night so we knew it could get ugly real fast. I had a masculine front to hold up in front of the other dads so I had by best lip biting routine ready to go.

Turns out, I held up fine but my wife, not so much. I managed to keep it together during the slide show presentation of the students as babies, when each of the students presented their personal lesson learned from the school year and even when Jack was presented with his diploma. Maybe it was due to the gallon of sweat hiding under my shirt or concern with how long the salmon needed to sit on the grill when we got home, but either way, I survived the ceremony.

But it didn’t end there. What eventually got me was the following photo and it didn’t even move me when I originally snapped it last night based on my wife’s recommendation. Instead, it hit me like a ton of bricks this morning, when I was reviewing all of the pics from the festivities.

grad gym cleared out

The gym was all but abandoned as most had moved on to taking their obligatory outdoor photos with the family. I look at this pic now and the gym seems to be taking a much needed breath. You can tell that the gym has done this a few times in the past and has the routine down pat. It had already moved on and for some reason that saddened me. This locale was a huge part of my son’s world and I still needed time to reflect. He had been in this school and in this gym for 8 years (the beauty of a small town) so there our memories in every corner of that red and black gymnasium.

I remember our initial orientation back in 2008 when Jack looked like he saw a ghost during the entire tour.

I remember his first year of basketball here and biting my tongue every time he traveled and playing it cool when he scored for the first time, after traveling.

I remember the first “Back to School Night” and staring out at all of the parents wondering who we would get to know well over the next 8 years.

I remember the concerts and wondering if Jack actually knew what we was doing with that saxophone. It kind of didn’t matter, he looked cool.

I remember basketball practices together from this year, forever thankful that I got to coach and hang with him one last time.

And now we’re forced to move on.

If the first 8 years of school flew by, I can’t even imagine what we’re in store for with the next four years. Based on my research and through various forms of intel, I’ve determined that we should expect those 4 years to feel like 3 months. And I still have so many questions I need answered by someone if I have any hopes of feeling any level of control again.

Do I push him hard to pursue his passion or let him find his way?

When does the college discussion become a reality?

How does a new school and new bus route impact our family schedule?

When does that baby face transition to High School Jack?

Should I be more serious about Rogaine in anticipation of the high school graduation photos?

Will he still be as passionate about the Mets and can I book Spring Training trips through 2020?

Do we have any chance of him still liking us?

grad

If you have any of these answers, please provide immediately and you will be fairly compensated. In fact, that is my question of the day. Give me one piece of parental advice when it comes to managing a child in high school.

Thank you.

Next post we return to the gardening world where I have so much more control.

That was a joke.

Funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Husqvarna Automower 315

A few weeks back I mentioned that I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to trial a robotic lawnmower from Husqvarna. I’ve now had a few days to spend with my new toy, the Husqvarna Automower 315 and wanted to share the experience with you. This isn’t a review; that will follow in a few weeks after I’ve had some significant time to witness the results.

First off, this is what the Husqvarna Automower 315 looks like.

husqvarna automower 315

It is much smaller than I anticipated and incredibly lightweight. I can pick it up easily with one hand. The best way to describe the blades used to cut the lawn is to imagine a series of small razor blades working in conjunction with each other. It is remarkably quiet as it traverses and cuts the lawn.

The Automower remains in bounds by following/reading/reacting to a guide wire that surrounds the area to be cut.

husq 2

As you can see, the wire is installed about a foot short of all boundaries – garden bed, sidewalk, driveway, tree, etc – so trimming is still required. This is done as the robotic mower extends about a foot over the wire before it reacts and heads in a different direction. I’m told the wires will eventually disappear out of view as the grass eventually grows over it.

The mower runs for an hour or so before it senses its low battery and heads back to its “garage” or charging station. Once there, it charges for an hour and then gets back to work.

husqvarna automower 315

Right now, I have the mower set to run 24/7, 7 days a week so it never stops. And here’s the kicker, it is super quiet. Like you don’t even know that it is doing its thing. The mower itself has a built in keypad where I can customize the settings including when it runs each day of the week. But since it is so inconspicuous, I figure why not let it run all day and night.

One other potential bonus, if I can figure out how to pull it off. If the Automower runs all day and night maybe it will keep the deer away. And if that doesn’t work, I can add some sort of deer repellent on top of the mower and rig a way for it to spray as it moves about the yard. Hmmmm.

It’s too early to assess the quality of the lawn cut but I’m told it will ultimately eliminate the typical lawnmower lines and look like a carpet of green. In theory, the lawn always looks cut since the Husqvarna Automower 315 never sleeps. Real tough work for me.

husq 3

Did I mention it runs rain or shine? I had firsthand experience this past weekend and it didn’t skip a beat.

husqvarna automower 315

Again, no review from me yet but I can tell you it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, requires zero effort from me and since it runs on battery, reduces the need for a gas powered mower.

Check out the three videos below to watch it in action. I’m also documenting it on Facebook, Instagram (jmarkowski0) and Snapchat (jmarkowski0).

Would love to hear your thoughts on the idea of a robotic lawnmower. Leave a comment and let’s chat.

On to the videos:

 

 

Dynamic

My wife and I managed to score a few free hours this past Saturday morning before the never ending softball cycle kicked into high gear. We spent it touring a few gardens as part of an organized local garden tour. It was warm and sunny and I was ready to get my booty inspired and steal some ideas from these extravagant and lush gardens.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen.

I won’t go into any specifics and call out any particular gardens, but I left the tour completely uninspired. We didn’t spend more than 10 minutes at any of the gardens we visited. I wanted to see “gardens” and all we really saw were exquisitely landscaped properties.

I appreciate a nice bed line as much as the next guy and understand the importance of mulch, but when they become the star attraction, color me bored and uninterested. Listen, I have my share of what is often considered to be a “boring” and landscaper friendly shrub like a spirea, but when they dominate the garden, I’m out. A garden needs a certain level of messiness and a “Wow, what is that plant?” feel in order to pull me in and none of these gardens provided that vibe.

If I had to sum it up in one word, I want my garden to be dynamic. It needs to feel like it has a life of its own, that it changes on a daily basis, that while one perennial is putting on its last flush of blooms, another is ready to take its place. I want movement with the wind. I want flower petals on the ground next to a shrub with flowers that are about to pop. I want to sense that the gardener struggled to pull all it all together and still has work to do.

While I have light years to go to achieve a level of dynamic that is most likely impossible in this lifetime, it is what makes me most proud of my garden today. It is what drives all of my garden design decisions. It is what keeps me up at night. It is the reason I tour the garden each and every morning knowing I’ve going to witness something new. All the mulch in the world can’t compete with two perennials that entwine in a perfect match of contrast and similarity.

With that in mind, my garden as it stands today and how it is acting all dynamic and shit.

The ‘Bowl of Beauty’ peony is still putting out fresh blooms each morning.

peony 2

But time is quickly running out with these daily reminders.

peony 3

 

peony

 

Even after the blooms have disappeared or faded, the Allium are still lending an incredible visual in tune with the rest of the garden in its path.

allium

 

allium 2

 

front bed 2

 

It is always around this time each year when the ornamental grasses subtly announce their presence. And when they do, it seems to tie the entire garden together.

driveway garden

 

miscanthus variegatus

 

Some of the grasses have even begun to reveal their multi colored highlights, even more pronounced covered in raindrops.

panicum rots

 

My Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ are blooming and while we all know they dominate the most in autumn with their garnet fall color, I still think the blooms are underrated.

itea

Back to another question of the day and thank you to all of you who have responded to date. You are providing great info for all of us.

QOTD – What would you consider to be the most dynamic plant in your garden today and why?

Leave a comment with your response.

Grats.

 

 

 

 

 

Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ update

It has been a while since I chatted you all up about my Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ shrubs. Back in 2011, I did a little experimental pruning with my three different W&R shrubs to see which of the three options (severe prune, selective prune and no prune) panned out the best. At the time, I concluded (albeit with scant evidence) that some sort of pruning was the way to go for the best foliage display and best overall shape.

Fast forward to 2016 and I’ve lost 2 of the 3 shrubs after moving each of them to a wetter and poorer draining location. Neither was residing in standing water or anything that extreme, but both were not in as dry of a location as the lone standing W&R. So point #1, fast draining soil is a must. I’ve got the evidence to back that up.

The last living ‘Wine and Roses’ Weigela was the one that was originally “selectively pruned” and it did look great for 2-3 years after that. However, in the years since, the shrub has become “twiggy” (the scientific term) as I haven’t touched it since 2011. Here she is current day:

weigela

Uninspiring, even in full bloom.

Upon closer inspection, you can see the bare branches which collectively, give it the current mediocre look.

weigela 3

 

weigela 2

 

weigela 4

I still really enjoy this shrub as a foliage first plant and a great background to a variety of perennials, especially when the purple coneflowers are in full bloom. With that in mind, I’m going to prune this shrub selectively once again, probably within the next week or so after it has put out its bloom to ensure I do not cut off next year’s flowers. It looks like this will be an every 2-3 year job based on current evidence.

More to come.

 

 

Eye Candy

As we come out of the long Memorial Day weekend and into the work week, I’m going to keep the positive vibes rolling and share some of my favorite garden pics from the weekend. With all of the rain we’ve had this spring and now with the hot temps, everything seemed to explode and this guy ain’t complaining one bit. This is why we bust our asses in the fall/winter/spring planning and planting and prepping and moving things around until they are in that perfect location; for these types of displays of color and all around awesomeness.

Enjoy.

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’ kicks ass year after year and the blooms rarely fall over like so many other peonies. I have more impending blooms this year than I’ve had in years. Go me.

peony

 

peony 2

 

peony 3

 

Still not sure which white cultivar this is but who cares when they look this good.

white peony

 

My Baptisia are in full bloom and I have to forcibly stop myself from taking any more photos.

baptisia

 

baptisia 2

 

baptisia 3

 

clematis

 

baptisia 4

 

Even after the Allium are spent and technically no longer in bloom, they still look phenomenal and lend so much to the garden view from so many angles.

front

 

front 3

 

front 2

 

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’ in full bloom and standing tall among the other soon to be blooming perennials and exceedingly fast growing ornamental grasses.

baptisia back

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ adding so more color to this vignette of daylillies and Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’.

amsonia blue ice

 

I honestly have no idea how this Siberian iris showed up underneath this Nepeta (Catmint) but hot damn if it doesn’t work. I should have lied and told you I planned it, but my street garden cred is too important to me.

iris catmint

 

Carex grayi has become a fantastic edging plant for me, loving the constant moisture, and when the seed heads emerge, it takes them to the next level. And by the way, that next level is called “Ass kicking” if you weren’t already aware.

carex grayii

 

Ho hum, Amsonia still blooming. Quick note – If you haven’t been here before, that “ho hum” was sarcastic. Just enter “amsonia” in the search box and you’ll see why.

amsonia

Question of the day – What newly blooming plant in your garden has you the most impressed this spring? Please leave your response as a comment and let’s chat things up!

 

 

Allium love, a new holiday and introducing “Question of the Day”

Here is the latest and greatest in my garden on this, dare I say, warm and beautiful May afternoon.

It’s all about the Allium right now, as the fruits of my fall labor are being realized this spring. I’ve got at least 25 Allium bulbs in bloom right now and they are kicking ass and taking names.

They look good up close.

allium 2

And as we pan back …

allium

… and back even further.

full 2

 

Baptisia blooms have arrived this week and I’m thinking this day should be declared a holiday each year. That is how festive it makes me feel. At a minimum, I’m going to push for #NationalBaptisiaDay on Twitter leading up to this day in 2017.

baptisia

baptisia yellow

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’

 

Siberian iris ‘Snow Queen’ is blooming but I’m only giving you a macros shot because they actually look kind of lousy because this lazy gardener has refused to divide them for four years running now.

iris

 

Amsonia tabernaemontana is blooming and that’s all I will say here because I’ve raved about this plant enough already.

amsonia

 

All of my peonies will be blooming within the next week or so and until then, I’ll enjoy the ridiculously delicious scent of the lilac in the background.

peony lilac

 

Another day, another sigh from me regarding the awesomeness of Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’.

ninebark

 

And finally, it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching the garden fill in while all empty spaces disappear.

full

full 3

Thank you again for stopping by.

I am going to try something new today. A “Question of The Day”. Here it is:

What perennial do you find to be the most underrated?

Leave your answer in the comments so we can all discuss and get educated.

Grats

Divide and conquer

Once I have a garden idea in my head, I can’t let go of it. Even if it is a half-ass thought, I need to take action so I’m able to move on with my day. Now if I could only find a way to have that same issue with a money making scheme, I’d be in good shape.

Last fall I found myself consistently analyzing one section of a garden bed, wanting to extend it so it would dramatically impact the views from both the driveway and my back deck. The funny thing is, I had just extended that same section of the garden the year before.

bed

And by autumn of last year, I had filled that newly found empty garden space with a number of plants.

The intelligent planner would have completed the one giant extension at one time, determining then that there was plenty of room for expansion and why not maximize that within one project. But not this guy, he had to break it out into two long and grueling sessions over the course of two years.

And here’s the rub – by extending the same section further, the plants that were used and filled the original extension now would look silly and out of place since what was the front now would become the middle. Everything would have to be relocated to account for proper heights.

So dummy pushed on and started to map out the extended bed by using cardboard to kill the grass and rocks to keep the cardboard in place.

new bed

new bed 2

I then added mulch before winter set in to keep it all in place and to ideally aid in the breakdown of the cardboard at the same time the grass died.

new bed 3

Fast forward to spring and the number one goal this season is to get that open section filled by the start of summer. The pictures don’t really do it justice, it is a huge open spot and it will be a hell of a job to fill it. Not to mention expensive buying the necessary plants.

Or maybe, if John was smart, he could pull it off without paying a dime. Maybe he could divide existing perennials and turn 3 into like 9 or 10. Maybe he could relocate some reseeded perennials that were hidden under large shrubs and in crevices. Maybe he could divide a grass that has been begging to be cleaned up and divided for years now. And maybe, just maybe, he could finally take some of those small shrubs that have been wasting away in the “bullpen” (my term for the embarrassing always under construction bed I never reveal to you all) and put them to good use.

And yes you guessed it, John did do all of that. He’s good.

new bed

 

Four years ago I planted three Obedient plants (‘Vivid’) and now, thanks to their underground runners, 3 has become close to 50.

What they look like in August:

pink obedient 3

And how the small divisions look today:

divided obedient

 

I had at least 15 small Yarrow plants popping up all over the garden through reseeding over the years and now they are all reunited in one section of the garden to achieve the greatest visual impact in summer.

reseeded achillea

 

The aforementioned grass was Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ which looks like this in summer:

karley

And like this, after 1 became three (actually 4, the other section went back to the original location).

divided pennisetum

 

Allium ‘Mt Sinai’ was being overtaken by weeds and not reaching its fullest potential.

allium21

So it too was divided and doubled and used to fill in various open spaces in the newly extended bed and elsewhere.

allium divisions

allium divisions 2

 

And finally, a Weigela of some sort that I took home from a conference in 2014 and hid in a remote locale, was saved and put in a prominent spot in my new bed where she can feel free to spread her wings and grow to her heart’s content.

weigela red

Total cost (if you ignore my labor) is $0.00. And there is more where that came from. I’ve still got irises to divide and grasses to divide and plenty of coneflower volunteers that need a new home.

Not only am I saving money, but by increasing the count of my perennials, I am adding repetition to my garden design and creating greater visual impact by using larger numbers of the same plant.

A win-win-win.