Tour of the garden – 6/6/17

Today’s tour is less “Oh what a great combination” or “Wow, what a beautiful garden you’ve composed” or “I need to add that to my garden” and more “That’s a problem” or “Hmmm, interesting”.

Enjoy

I jumped the gun

If you recall, I complained in a recent post about the coloration of my Tsuga (Canadian hemlock) ‘Moon Frost’. The new growth was yellow and not bright white as advertised.

I should be smacked around for such a petty complaint and smacked around even more for my lack of patience. Check out ‘Moon Frost’ just a week and a half later.

 

That is what I’m talking about!

Lesson learned: Be patient and then be even more patient when it comes to plant development.

I’m a sucker

I’m totally enamored with the shrub Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ (I’m such a pompous ass for calling it that, let’s go with False Spirea ‘Sem’). The foliage color and leaf shape gives it such a presence in my overly green garden.

I posted a similar photo on Instagram and a thoughtful “follower” warned me of its desire to sucker like a champ.

Wouldn’t you know it, it didn’t take very long to come to fruition.

I have two of these in an area where they can fill in to their heart’s content but I’ll have to see how it all looks once the suckering kicks into high gear.

I couldn’t “bare” to show you

I don’t know that I’ve ever referenced my Serviceberry ‘Autumn Brilliance’ in a blog post. That has been intentional since it has been a big disappointment ever since it was planted back in 2011.

Here it is today, very top heavy in terms of foliage.

A lot of bare branches …

And don’t get me started on the flowers (little impact), the berries (virtually none) and the fall color (leaves don’t last beyond September). It has been let down city.

But … there may be happiness on the horizon.

I just noticed today that it is producing new branches with actual leaves from its base. I don’t need this to look like a tree. I just want leaves and foliage.

Close but no cigar

For the past two years, I’ve seen major re-seeding of Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ in my garden. New plants are popping up everywhere in spring now that I’ve refrained from cutting off the flowers and allowing the seeds to spread. I found that the flowers took away from the real selling point of this perennial, the dark foliage, so I’d chop them off as soon as they emerged. I’ve since changed my mind realizing the bees love the flowers and who can deny bees pleasure.

Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that the new seedlings do not match up perfectly in terms of size, color and leaf shape with the parent ‘Husker Red’.

Below, the plant on the left is a new seedling and the one on the right is the original plant.

The seedling is taller, not as dark in color and the leaves are larger.

The “original” ‘Husker Red’.

Hmmm, interesting.

My apple tree knowledge is rusty

Oh shit.

I’ll need some time to research which rust this is, but the color terrifies me already. My apple trees are still juvenile but I don’t want to see them fail so soon.

That was fast

Exactly one year ago, I divided a bunch of Physostegia (Obedient plant) ‘Vivid’ and used it to fill in a bare area of the garden.

Mission accomplished quickly, check out the front of this bed.

If at first you succeed, do that same thing again.

Lazy

This hurts. How did we get here?

 

Always thinking and planning

I was shocked to find this one Astilbe alive and well. I planted three of them last summer and allowed them to burn to a crisp. I gave up hope this spring only to discover this gift this morning.

Light bulb moment: since there is only this one Astilbe and I have room in this newly developing shade container. Hmm.

More is good

One theme of my garden planning this spring has been massing plants where I can. With a large garden, massing is necessary to keep things in balance and to maximize impact. With that in mind, I bunched all of my Lady’s Mantle together and I’m thrilled with the results.

The supply is running out

I’ve been cutting peony blooms at a rapid pace this past week so they can be enjoyed indoors and not droop to the ground with our excessive rain. I’ve supplied my wife with endless flowers that she is proudly displaying at her place of work. To say that her co-workers have … wait for it … wait for it … wait for it … peony envy is an understatement.

Unfortunately, that supply is dwindling.

Do I have to?

Dividing an ornamental grass is no easy task, but it is time to do so with my Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’. The centers of all three grasses are empty …

… and they all look spent and in need of some rejuvenation.

Understanding my priorities

Our insane dog gets loose at least once a week. When she does so she is gone for like 45 minutes and we have no chance of catching her. She eventually returns soaking wet, bleeding from her eyelids and covered in ticks. Fun.

We do our best to track her down to ensure she isn’t running in traffic or starting a brawl with the local coyotes.

Today I just want you all to know that I willingly ran over an ornamental grass in order to quickly initiate the hunt this past week via car.

I know my priorities.

She’ll bounce back.

The grass that is.

Coupon codes for my book and Santa Rosa Gardens

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Head over to Santa Rosa Gardens now and save 40% on their in-stock inventory by using the coupon code “40foryou” at checkout. The deal expires on 6/8 so stock up now. I’m scouring the site as I type this.

And if you head here and use the coupon code “8KQUT6K5” you can get 25% off of the purchase price of my new book “Perennials Through the Seasons”.

You won’t regret it.

But if you do, don’t let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ornamental grasses have arrived

Ornamental grasses are typically referenced as making an impact in mid to late summer and even more so in the fall. There is no denying their influence during these seasons and that is when my garden truly shines (self pat on back).

But I also see them as a great foil to all of the perennials and shrubs that are kicking ass in the late spring and summer. The perfect back drop to all of that color. The perfect contrast in texture.

They may not have reached their peak color or form, but this OG obsessive says they still play a big part in the spring/summer garden.

What do you think?

Here is where they stand in my garden today. Even their subtle emergence makes me happy. I literally can’t take a photo in the garden without at least one photo bombing the pic.         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s not what I ordered

Where’s my white?

Four years ago, in the depths of winter, I went on a virtual evergreen-shrub-buying- spree. Yes, my garden is dominated by perennials and ornamental grasses, but it also needs the contrasting texture/shape/size that an evergreen shrub can lend to the equation. It also desperately needs dem bones.

One of the shrubs that I purchased on-line that year was Tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost’. I was enamored with the color of the new growth and the white tone of the needles. Here is how I anticipated it to look (photo from Kigi Nursery):

I had the perfect location for it; right at the bottom of the stairs of my front porch where it would glow at night, living up to its name ‘Moon Frost’.

In year one, while small, it had that exact look. I was super psyched to watch it develop over the next few years.

Fast forward to the last 2-3 years and this is what I now have.

Attractive, but not what I had hoped for.

You (meaning on-line purveyors of said plant) all told me:

“New growth emerges white and the older needles retain a hint of white. The white foliage is often blushed with pink in winter.”

Bright, white, new growth with older, inner foliage that retains a light tone combine to give Tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost’ a distinctly white appearance. In winter, foliage of the seedling, developed by Ed Wood, takes on a blush of pink.”

I followed the recommendation of spotting it in partial shade where it is protected from the afternoon sun. Yet it still lost that desired white hue. The new growth is more of a yellow/charteuse.

I have no intention of ditching it as it is healthy and thriving, but I still long for what I saw in year one.

Where are my purple-black leaves?

“Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial that is grown in gardens … for its showy rounded clumps of large, glossy, purple-black leaves.”

Its best ornamental feature is probably the leaves which generally retain good color throughout the growing season.

Leaves may acquire some green tones as they age.

It forms a clump of large, rounded maroon-black leaves.

Come again?

This is what I have as of this minute and it is a repeat of what I had in years 1 and 2. It doesn’t quite match the stunning picture from the Bluestone Perennials website.

I’m happy to report, I have had a solid volume of flowers …

… but we all know we add this perennial to our garden for that killer foliage color.

I’ve researched it a bit and I can’t blame the color mismatch on how it has been sited. I have it in partial shade with moist soil and that appears to make it very happy, just not happy enough to give it that f’n black-purple color I ordered.

You can open up now flowers

Here is a photo of Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’ in bloom from a few weeks ago in the garden of yours truly.

Pretty and orange, but it would look even better once those flowers open up and are in full bloom, right? Just like 99% of the plant catalogs have promised.

But no.

They didn’t and they haven’t for years now.

It might be nit-picky, but it still bothers me. I scoured the ‘net for photos the first year it occurred and in only one were they presented similarly to my non-opening-up-flowers. I’ve yet to find this discussion on any message board or forum but I’ll keep hunting.

I guess the possibility of a label mix-up exists as well.

Conclusion

This shit is unpredictable.

Have a great long weekend.

 

Tour of the garden – 5/23/17

The Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ are still making a big impact even as they start to decline, especially when absorbing the raindrops.

 

And still drawing in the critters.

Allium ‘Globemaster’ is in peak form, mixing well with the emerging flowers of Baptisia australis.

 

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ is in flower.

 

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’ is in full bloom mode and a bit ahead of Baptisia australis in that regard.

 

I haven’t written much about Arborvitae ‘Rheingold’ over the years, but patience has paid off as it has rounded into an appealing shape, about 7-8 years in. It sits now at a golden chartreuse and will soon change to a very handsome light green as we head into summer.

 

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) is another perennial in full bloom in my garden right now and the drooping branches of the Ninebark ‘Diablo’ shrub add a nice contrast in color.

Nepeta also combines well with the Salvia ‘May Night’ in the background.

Speaking of ‘May Night’, it is a bee magnet.

Lots of activity today. #bee #pollinator #flower #blooms #garden #instagarden #beesofinstagram #flowersofinstagram

A post shared by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ is bursting in color and only after some serious dead branch clean-up was it presentable. I am leaning towards a harsh prune post-flower to hopefully improve the shape of this shrub. It has been years since I’ve pruned it at all.

 

 

 

Foliage contrast is in full effect with the variegated Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’, Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Monarda (Bee Balm) below.

 

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ (Beard Tongue) and Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ rounding out the tour for today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A more honest view of the garden

I have one knee buried in the dirt and the other comfortably resting on a surprisingly smooth rock.

I’m profusely sweating with drips of said sweat some how finding their way to the inside of my eyelids.

I’m slightly shaking from too much coffee but then shaking more worrying about my shaking.

I’m strategically using my broad back to block the sun from shining on the Astilbe below so I can snap this picture without blinding sunlight.

Why the hell am I doing this again? Oh yeah, to capture that red stem up close and demonstrate how that lends additional interest to this perennial.


I first lay flat on my back on the front sidewalk. It’s 2:45 and my son’s bus will arrive home soon so I have to get this done quickly. I slowly raise my torso so I’m only a few inches off of the scalding hot stone that lines my front walkway. The abs are getting a killer workout, but I barely have enough strength to push the appropriate button on the camera. Thank God I pulled it off, because I got this gem.

Why is this a gem again? That’s right, I wanted to show how these Carex appalachica have a beautifully airy quality, especially when you can view those oh so slight seed heads/flowers.


I try to run at least twice a week. It isn’t a run as much as it is a lot of sprinting and walking. I learned a while back that high intensity intervals are generally better for you than steady state running. So I jog for five minutes and then alternate between 30 second sprints and a minute walk. The entire thing takes close to 40 minutes. I take the exact same path every time. I don’t why these details are necessary, but it’s too late, I’ve already given them to you.

I’m not going to lie, these runs are dangerous. It’s in the middle of nowhere and if I were to ever be attacked or even fall, no one will locate me for days.

Every time I take this turn, I wonder what evil lies on the other side.

Gunshots from the local shooting range keep me running fast and there is a high probability that I may be mistaken for an intruder by paranoid neighbors.

There is a reason for the build-up here, I promise.

By the time I am done with my run, I’m physically and emotionally shot. I can barely walk by the time I make it back to my street.

But there is one final hurdle and this one is the worst of all.

I have to do my best to not view my garden from the street. I’ve gotten really good at staring at the ground until I am at the front door. But every once in a while I make the mistake and take a glance. I’m already exhausted and sore and angry after the run, but the reality of seeing my garden from afar pushes me over the edge.


I realize that the majority of the photos on this blog are close-ups of the garden. That is the best way for you the reader to truly understand the attributes of a plant. It’s also the easiest way for me to make things look all pretty. The best way for me to present my garden in an appealing way. I can hide the fact that most of my perennials start growing late in the season and therefore lead to many open spots. I can hide the warts, and the air conditioner and the not-neatly-spooled-hose.

The close-ups also allow me to highlight plant details that differentiate the more unique and dynamic ones from the mundane. Hence the need for the red stemmed photo and the grass close-up presented at the beginning of this post. I love these details and have made it the focus of this blog for 7+ years now.

But my garden as a whole, that is a different animal.

This isn’t a “woe is me” complaint, but my garden and property is large and open. It provides limitless opportunities which is exciting, but also crippling and overwhelming. The vastness more often than not, dwarfs the garden; the reason why I duck my head after a run. Denial. 

I can be in the garden and be proud of all that I’ve constructed the past decade or so, but once I take steps back and look at it in relation to the property, I become disheartened and yearn for a small and intimate space.

So with that in mind, I’m going to present a few photos of my garden after taking a walk backwards. I’m not quite ready to show a view from the street, it’s too soon for that. This is just the first step in my rehabilitation.

There will be no further comments to accompany the photos, just an opportunity for me to allow these to be out in internet land and be comfortable with it.

A truer and more honest perspective of my garden.

I’m scared shitless but happy to put it out there.

 

 

 

Tour of my garden – 5/11/17

BLOOMING

Long ago, I made the assumption that I could never successfully grow a Clematis in my garden. It must have been me thinking this climber couldn’t withstand my poorly draining soil. Or I was lazy. Probably a mix of both.

In 2014, while attending a gardening conference, I scored a bunch of free plants including a Clematis ‘Scented Clem’. It was free so it was a no-brainer to attempt to add it to my garden. I had zero expectations and just put it in the ground with nary a thought.

Fast forward to 2017 and we are in year three of “proving John’s dumb assumption was incredibly wrong”. This Clematis is a profuse bloomer and allegedly has a similar scent to that of a Gardenia. As many of you already know, I can’t smell a thing. I may need to pull the family in to confirm.

 

It’s official. Geranium ‘Espresso’ is my favorite Geranium of all time and it isn’t even close. That foliage alone is borderline orgasmic and when you throw in the lavender blooms, well, I need a cigarette.

 

I wrote about Golden Ragwort last week. Just here to report that it’s still blooming and looking great.

 

There was a time not so long ago when I had 5 or 6 Campanula ‘Joan Elliot’ plants thriving and flowering each spring. I am now down to one. But that’s OK. Through the wonders of division and some TLC, I will multiply this happy bloomer in no time.

 

And on the 7th day, God created … Allium. While they are still in the early stages of blooming and still forming into their happy ball of awesomeness, NOTHING screams “Happy spring time” like Allium. All of the Allium in the following three pics are ‘Purple Sensation’ and are all making a repeat visit.

 

 

 

The ‘Globemaster’ Allium is slowly unfurling, kind of like “I’ll take my sweet ass time because I know I’m all that.”

 

ABOUT TO BLOOM

I know every gardener likes to take photos of their peony buds and the pics are everywhere on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t care because they’re awesome. I am holding out hope that this white peony blooms while there’s still a semblance of the Lilac blooms next door.

 

A comparison of Amsonias:

First we have ‘tabernaemontana’.

 

And then ‘Hubrichtii’

Both will be loaded with star-shaped flowers soon and that will rock my world.

As the Lilac slowly ascends to flowerdom, the nearby Baptisia tries to keep pace. If you look to the left, you’ll see I left the old flowers of the Hydrangea on the shrub for shits and giggles. I kind of like taking advantage of the ornamental quality until this year’s flowers emerge. You feel me or “no John, dumb”?

 

FOLIAGE

Spring flowers are great. But the emergence of foliage and it’s dynamic quality are up there in terms of impact.

My ever-growing collection of the smaller-sized Itea ‘Little Henry’ looks fantastic right now. The red hues making it all the more interesting.

The reason I write “ever-growing” is that they are all perfectly suckering (the runner roots are expanding beyond the original shrub) and creating my desired “colony” that is filling the previously empty garden space beautifully.

 

How great is the foliage of the Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ (False Spirea)? I’ve yet to witness the full seasonal cycle (white flowers and pure green foliage later in summer) but the spring foliage is a winner on its own.

 

A request. Please ignore the weedy growth underneath the shrub below. I’m working on it. As much as it pained me, I had to expose my warts so that you all could appreciate the leaf color of this Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’. It’s even better in person; but you can’t come see it, I have too much work to do still.

 

The shrub in the two photos below is Spirea ‘Blue Kazoo’. While it displays reddish hues now in spring, it will eventually transition to a blue/green foliage color with white flowers. I love a plant that provides such distinct and different attributes spring, summer and fall. The challenge is attempting to pull it all together without it looking like a hot mess.

 

Oh Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’, you look so clean now but we all know you have plans to fall apart in summer.

And why oh why can’t you develop the dark foliage as demonstrated in this photo?

I like this Heuchera but have no idea as to the cultivar name. Any ideas?

 

Once the Nepeta (Catmint) ‘Walkers Low’ fills in, this part of the garden starts to take shape. Flowers will be here within the week; as will those kick-butt bees.

 

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) also filling in and contrasting nicely with the Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ in the background.

 

Speaking of Penstemon, I have a ton of these popping up all over the garden (assuming through re-seeding) and I’m trying to determine if they are true to ‘Husker Red’. Either way, I’ve been relocating them all to fill in available spots, to create foliage color contrasts and to attain that coveted garden design feature of repetition.

 

As much as I am proud of my ability to manage my garden and all of it’s inhabitants, I have no clue what this is. I love it by the way. Any clue as to what it is? First to answer wins … something.

 

OH SHIT

This Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is almost unrecognizable. It has been taken over, actually I should say “taken under” by Northern Sea Oats and other bully weeds. It is virtually impossible to make headway on removing them. It may be time to dig it up and perform surgery as a last gasp to make it presentable.

Another reminder: Northern Sea Oats = bad

Golden ragwort

During the winter of 2015-2016, I ordered 25 tiny plugs of Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) from my favorite online native plant nursery, Izel Plants. I knew nothing of this perennial before I found it there, but if the terms “likes moist”, “deer resistant” and “native to the northeast U.S” are part of any plant description, I’m in.

The Golden Ragwort were planted last April and a year later, well, wow.

Golden Ragwort

That didn’t take long.

An insane amount of blooms on almost all of the plants. I had been seeking a big time early spring bloomer and this appears to fit the bill perfectly.

To date they are thriving in wet locations in both full and partial sun. No creatures have as much as looked at them funny, let alone nibble them, and the blooms have looked divine for over a week now.

Ding, ding, we have a winner.

But I couldn’t leave it at that. Not this over-analytical gardener.

In bloom, the Golden Ragwort is about 2 feet tall. Once the blooms are spent and showing signs of wear, I plan on diligently cutting off all of the flowers to prevent any reseeding (they are known to be aggressive re-seeders). Once the stems are cut down to the low-lying basal foliage, they’ll be closer to 6 to 12 inches tall.

Golden Ragwort

With that in mind, I question my best use of these “groundcovers” from a design perspective. Right now in flower, they’re taller than all of the slow growing perennials and shrubs behind them. It looks a bit off and I can’t stop analyzing it.

But once the stems and flowers are removed, the appropriate “ascending in size order” look will be there.

Do I bite the bullet, enjoy the fine flowers and chill the f out?

Golden Ragwort

Or are you unfortunately like me, and subscribe to the school of over-tinkering and over-thinking?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.