The Fall Garden

We are in peak fall garden time right now:

As if we needed another reason to love on Panicum ‘Northwind’, look at that golden fall color. Phenomenal.



Grasses. Yeah.




Hydrangea and Panicum.



Andropogon (Big Bluestem) ‘Red October’



Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem) ‘Blue Heaven’



Pennisetum ‘Hameln’



Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’, I think. Missed this one on the spreadsheet a few years back.



Amsonia hubrichtii. Not quite in peak fall form yet.



Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’ emerging between an endless collection of you guessed it, ornamental grasses.



Ninebark ‘Diablo’ showing its first signs of decay. Albeit a good decay.



The fall color on Geranium ‘Brookside’ is underrated.



Red Maple ‘October Glory’ in all its … October … glory.




Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’ making the turn towards leaf drop time.



And finally, Phlox subulata (Moss Phlox) with a subtle yet impactful foliage change that reminds me we are in the home stretch every time I walk out of my front door.


QOTD: What is the most underrated fall foliage star in your garden?


A weekend fishing trip

I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you all before and if not, I apologize in advance. I just thought it was important that you get to know a side of me that I don’t talk about very often on this blog. Revealing this side of me will hopefully serve in providing a richer blog experience for us all.

I am super masculine.

You may have sensed it as it palpably oozed off of these pages the past few years, but if you were unaware, you now know.

Getting this off of my chest allows me to take this blog in new and exciting directions. I’ll talk guy stuff like cars and engines and hunting and MMA fighting and motorcycles and meat. It will be killer and I hope you’ll ultimately agree.

This past weekend I flexed my manliness muscles in a big way with three days of fishing in Long Beach Island, NJ. The ultimate boys weekend. Fish guts, bait, beer, potato chips, football, farting and fist bumps.

Luckily for you, I captured the debauchery on camera so you could feel like you were right there with us.


Right off the bat, I made sure to capture my exploits on Instagram. Wait, what? Fishermen don’t drink local craft beers and then flaunt it on Instagram using the X-Pro II filter?



Oh, the goal is to catch more than one fish? So I shouldn’t be proud of the lone bluefish I caught? You can’t imagine the fight this one put up. Epic.



Is it safe to assume the same goes for my father as well? Isn’t the expectation of more than one fish caught over three days a wee bit high?



Next thing you’ll tell me is that selfies on the beach are a no-no as well. That beard looks solid though, doesn’t it? Did you say neck beard?



It took me a while to set up this vignette on the tackle holder thing. I like how the ruggedness of the knife is offset by the soft curvature of the shell.



I’m still not sure what the purpose of this “weight” thing is but it sure looks cool with an ocean backdrop in this shot.



I love the way the tree branches frame the entryway to the ocean  … I mean, let’s cast our rigs f’ers.



I had no idea shasta daisies could grow in the sand. I’d plant more to soften the edges of the decking.


So what are your first impressions? Excited about the new blog direction?

Early morning garden photos

After a morning of panic because my son slept through two alarms and then awe at his ability to shower, shave, get dressed and eat breakfast in 7 minutes and then seeing him off to the high school bus after ensuring there were no clowns hanging at the edge of the woods with Snickers bars, I grabbed my camera and took the following photos.

Hope you enjoy.



























The grasses take the lead role

A few thoughts for today:

  • Doesn’t this picture make you a little bit sad?


I cut back this one Agastache to the ground a few weeks back because it was dried to a crisp and did it ever put on nice new growth in no time. And then just this week this one bloom appeared. It feels so bittersweet since the real cold weather is just around the corner.

Valiant effort little guy.

  • Is there a better name than Flame Grass for this one?


True story: An unknown civilian called me over to their car in front of my home the other day. I assumed they were going to ask for directions but then realized, no one does that any more with Google and GPS right? I prepared for the worst and even prepared for an evil clown to emerge only to have them ask, “What is that bush over there? It is stunning.”

Sir, that is Miscanthus purpurascens or Flame Grass for you common folk.

  • A close 2nd to the “best looking ornamental grass right now” is Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium).


Tremendous coloration, especially when back lit by the late afternoon sun.

  • This combination of Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’) and an Anemone I have no memory of ever planting has been fun. I couldn’t recreate this effect if I tried.


It is better to be lucky than good.

  • The Obedient plant (Physostegia ‘Vivid’) has easily quadrupled in size in the past two years and is a unique bloom color this time of year.


  • And finally, I would be super appreciative if you could read my latest post over at How losing my wallet made my life easier. This may sound crazy, but the content and style of this article is one that I’m strongly considering for a book. If you do check it out, I would love for you to click on the little heart at the bottom of the story. That greatly helps me with getting others to read it as well. And as always, let me know what you think, good or bad. I need the feedback, desperately.
  • I lied, one more. I hopefully fixed the issue with the subscription pop-up but need your confirmation that it is in fact working again. Let me know in the comments section if you have a minute.

Thank you and have a hell of a day.



Macro photography on Instagram

I’m still plugging away at my new found love for macro photography using the camera on my Samsung Galaxy 7 phone. As phenomenal as the phone is, it is in conjunction with Instagram where it all shines. Macro photography on Instagram is stunning and I’m having a grand old time studying others work and tweaking my own work along the way.

Some of my latest pics are included below and if it wouldn’t be a bother, I’d love to get your input on which ones you like the best. Admittedly, these photos lose a little when not viewed via Instagram but hopefully you can see what I was going for when I was taking them and hopefully they still look OK through your collective eyes.

Would you be so kind as to let me know your top 3 photographs in a comment below? A simple #3, #8 and #11 would be perfect. But should you feel like you have to provide additional feedback in the worst way, I would welcome it and be forever grateful.

I have something in the works with these photos and your opinions would be a huge boost to that endeavor. To be revealed at a later date …

Thank you a ton in advance.

1. Anemone petals

macro photography on instagram


2. Dew on anemone

macro photography on instagram


3. Boltonia bloom cycle



4. Boltonia unfurling



5. Aster

macro photography on instagram


6. Sneezeweed



7. Sneezeweed petals



8. Hardy ageratum



9. Rudbeckia



10. Geranium



11. Coneflower



12. Dew on leaf



13. Tomato



14. Sorbaria


Bragging through photographs

An unusual thing happened today.

I had some free time on my hands while at home. When that happens, instinct typically kicks in and I head directly to the garage where I put on my gloves and grab some combination of my trowel, spade and a large container for weeds. I then head out into the yard without any plans and just start weeding or planting or moving plants. All of this is done with reckless abandon until I realize I have run out of time or I pass out.

But today was different.

No trip to the garage.

No desire to do anything in the garden whatsoever.

I feel done for the year.

This feels unusual and I’m holding out hope that it is only temporary. Is it possible this is the new normal? Am I wearing down sooner in my old age? I’ll have to let it play out a few weeks longer before jumping to any conclusions.

I claim the right to change my mind in the near future without any ridicule from all of you. But at least let me have this today. 

While hard laboring John is on temporary hiatus, shutterbug John is not. Fall is arguably the best season for bringing out the best in my garden so I am outside taking pictures on regular rotation. I can’t miss a thing.

After taking a series of photos today and then reviewing them I couldn’t simply just post them here without any commentary like I did last Friday. I owe you more than that. My desire to write hasn’t dwindled a bit either so fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) I have come up with a theme for today’s pics. That theme is what I’m proud of with each shot. Proud in terms of my gardening skills not my photography skills.


Layers are good. It has taken a lot of time and experimentation but I’m happy with the results on this front.



Masses. Always good for the greatest impact. Especially in a wide open garden setting like mine.



Grasses make the garden literally shine in September and October.



“Foundation plantings” are boring and too neat. Glad I stayed away.



Protecting my precious tomatoes from the deer using ornamental grasses as fencing has been fun and rewarding.



Plants like Sneezeweed, which tend to topple easily, are best planted among, you guessed it, ornamental grasses. The grasses provide support and their see-through quality allows for a cool display.



There is still nothing better than Panicum ‘Northwind’. She still holds the title as queen of the grasses.


QOTD: Are you still performing hard labor in your garden?



Swingset trellis

“Jamie, how would you feel if we took down the swingset and put in a large vegetable garden and orchard? We could all work on it together. Wouldn’t that be fun? You could learn all about gardening. Plus, you don’t really play on it any longer.”

“Dad, you would ruin my childhood.”

OK then.

I’m still not sure if she was joking, but point taken. This swingset was put up before she could even walk and she is now 10.5.    

swingset trellis

Those are actually nicely trimmed weeds within the “playground” and not grass. At some point I gave up on mulching it and trying to fight the otherworldly weeds that emerged there each spring.

And now I’m prepared to turn that area into a deer-proof vegetable garden along with a few fruit trees for good measure. I’m still an amateur when it comes to growing anything edible but I’m ripe and ready (see what I did there?) to get all sorts of educated.

But what to do about that swingset?

I’m a nostalgic guy and all but it’s just a swingset, right? We’ll always have those memories of sliding down the slide in the snow, pushing the kids for hours on end when they were wee things and that one time when our family picnic went awry when the bees started to attack us all. Just because the swingset is physically removed doesn’t mean the memories are removed, correct?

Would you mind telling her that?


And them that.


So my plan looks to have hit a roadblock. I can’t live with being a destroyer of memories.

But then one wonderful reader (may have actually been two) made a suggestion that I really should have thought of myself …

Use the swingset as trellis for beans and other edible vines. A swingset trellis solves the dilemma. 

I get it.

The swingset still stands in some capacity satisfying the children’s need to not erase their childhood and we get our long desired vegetable garden. F’n brilliant.

I haven’t approached the little decision makers with the swingset trellis idea yet but I think it could work. I can sell this. I’m even thinking we may be able to keep the set functional in ways while all sorts of deliciousness grows around them. This could actually be fun and dare I say, creative.

Here are some ideas I’ve already pulled from other sites:

Check out this swingset as trellis.

And this swingset as arbor.

And the benefit of not creating waste by doing this.

What do you think about a swingset trellis concept? Have any suggestions on how to best sell this to potentially heartbroken children? How about any creative ways to incorporate the swingset and keep it functional, like still being able to swing?

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Chasing down the hummingbird

I’ve noticed one remaining hummingbird that has been buzzing around the last few days and so I made it my mission to capture one last photo of him or her before he or she heads south. This hummingbird has been attracted to a batch of pink obedient plant (Physostegia ‘Vivid’) so I set up camp nearby on my deck. After an hour of failed surveillance and a lot of sitting and waiting, I finally got something as the hummer lingered in a nearby crabapple tree for only a few seconds.


Not too bad of a shot I guess. At least I walked away with something. My guess is that the hummingbird has since packed a bag and is off to greener and warmer pastures.

I did try killing time by snapping a few shots of other birds coming and going from the river birch tree also near my deck.




And shocker, a few photos of the garden as she quickly descends into hell autumn mode:

Joe Pye, Bee Balm and Karl Foerster grass



The blooms of Indian grass.



And moving from back to front: Boltonia, Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’, Baptisia and Joe Pye Weed.


QOTD: What did you do in your garden this past weekend?





F the pumpkin latte

Before you break the bank for that $5.75 pumpkin spiced latte.


Before you start buying overpriced mums from Shop Rite.


Before you head to the basement to hunt down the Halloween decorations.


Before you start with the leaves and the leaf blower and the lawnmower.


Before you start telling me how great it is to take a stroll on a crispy September evening.


Before you go apple picking.


Before you ditch the flip-flops.


Before you start cutting down your dying perennials … Grrrrrrr.



Can I get one last shout-out for summer?


Much appreciated.