Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass)

My kids are pulling together all of their school supplies.

They’re also panicking with the current status of their summer reading assignments.

There are exhibition NFL games playing on TV.

Grocery stores are peddling all of their overrated pumpkin products.

Horrific TV shows are being pimped by the big networks.

Fall is coming and there’s nothing we can do about it.

I’m the biggest fan of summer there is and I’m in no rush to wish it away, but the reality is once September 1st arrives and the kids are hopping on and off of the bus each day, autumn has arrived. Summer gets ripped off by almost a month and I hate it.

End of rant.

From a “glass hall full perspective”, my garden may look its best in the fall. And that is all because of my large collection of ornamental grasses. Most OG’s reach their peak in September and October as their mix of stunning foliage color and uniquely colored blooms announce their presence with a fluorish.

If you ask me which grass in my garden stands out more than any other, I’d choose Miscanthus Purpurascens or Flame Grass.

Miscanthus purpurascens

The photo above doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. From August through November it puts on one mother of a show.

Here it is current day, with its bright green foliage just starting to show hints of yellow and orange (ignore the blooms in the pic, those are from Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ in the background).

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

I have a bunch of these grasses all over my garden. Most in full sun, but a few in partial shade and they’ve all been thriving for years now. In the photo below (middle of the bed and to the right), you can see how that bright green plays well in a mixed bed with other grasses, shrubs and perennials.

 

The blooms start to emerge anywhere from mid-August to early September here in zone 6B New Jersey. They start off red-tinged and quickly transform to a bright white.

Miscanthus purpurascens

At that same time, you can see how the foliage color really transforms into a delicious mix of green/orange/yellow.

I like to play off of the Miscanthus Purpurascens blooms with the blooms of other grasses like Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’ below.

 

Or with Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’.

 

When this grass is backlit by the sun, it’s magical.

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

I’ve also come to appreciate how the flowers provide a very cool backdrop to the spent blooms of the Bee Balm or Coneflowers.

 

Did I mention the Miscanthus Purpurascens foliage is kind of killer?

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

Even as the late summer/fall progresses, the foliage remains stellar, eventually changing to all orange/tan.

Miscanthus purpurascens

 

One foggy and mystical-like morning last October, I took the following three photos. This alone made it worth adding Miscanthus Purpurascens to my garden.

 

 

I know. I won’t even try to be humble here. Those pics are amazing and I’m amazing for taking them.

Even as we move into the dark days of November, Flame Grass still makes a big impact in the garden with the blooms persevering and providing a fantastic contrast to all of the “brown” that has taken over.

Miscanthus purpurascens

The specifics:

SIZE: 4-5′ x 3-4′

ZONE: 4-9

EXPOSURE: Full sun to partial shade

BLOOM: August to November

SOIL: Consistent moisture required

GRASS TYPE: Warm season

NATIVE: Japan

MAINTENANCE: Cut to ground in late winter or early spring as with most ornamental grasses.

DRAWBACKS:

  1. Miscanthus sinensis, in general, is identified as invasive in many states. I’ve had no issues with rampant self-seeding to date.
  2. This Miscanthus is clump forming so there may be a need to keep it in bounds through division every few years.

 

 

 

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – August 2017

It’s good to be back after a week’s vacation down south with the family. If you care to read about our 13-hour car ride to South Carolina, you can check it out here:

A 13-hour car ride with the family  

Or if you share my obsession with people watching in the ocean, check this out:

The ocean is the great equalizer

I was also super excited to read this review of my book:

John Markowski’s book finds a place in my garden

No more self-promotion, I swear.

In terms of the garden, things are looking eh; a little worn out and beaten up from all of the rain this past week.

I’ve missed Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for a months running but fortunately remembered it for today. Before diving into my garden pics, here are a few other GBBD posts from some of my friends around the country.

May Dreams Gardens

Hayefield

The Outlaw Gardener

The Rainy Day Gardener

On to my humble lot:

A little Lobelia love

Lobelia cardinalis ‘Black Truffle’

 

Lobelia gerardii ‘Vedrariensis’

 

Lobelia siphilitica

Grasses flower too

Micanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass) in front. Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ in back.

 

Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’

 

Panicum ‘Northwind’

 

Blooms of Molinia ‘Cordoba’

Still going strong

Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) ‘Gateway’

 

Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) ‘Phantom’

 

Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan)

 

Allium ‘Mt. Sinai’

Newly emerging

Helenium (Sneezeweed) ‘Mariachi Series’

 

Boltonia (False Aster) ‘Pink Beauty’

 

Rose of Sharon through the lens of an ornamental grass

 

Sedum (Stonecrop) ‘Autumn Fire’

Fading

Monarda (Bee Balm)

 

Echinacea (Coneflower) ‘Fragrant Angel’

 

Astilbe and Echinacea (Coneflower) ‘Sunset’

 

Veronica (Speedwell) ‘Royal Candles’

 

Perovskia (Russian Sage)

Hydrangeas

 

 

Tour of the Garden – 8/3/17

‘Karl Foerster’ ornamental grass makes everything else look better

With Ninebark ‘Diablo’:

 

With Rudbeckia:

 

With Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’:

 

As a backdrop to Lobelia siphilitica:

 

Layers are good

Pink Clethra (Summersweet) shrub, Joe Pye Weed ‘Gateway’ and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’:

 

Joe Pye Weed ‘Baby Joe’ and a lot of other stuff:

 

Grass on grass

Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ amd Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’:

 

Instagram filters are cool

I really dig the muted vibe. A 70’s feel, no?

 

Keep the weeds?

I believe this is Bull Thistle and I didn’t intentionally let it grow. I missed it along the way.

But now I wonder if I should keep it for the bees or will it bite me in the butt and reseed and spread like mad.

Help.

 

Letting them be

I like to get right in the face of the butterfly when taking photos. I can tell they get annoyed so I decided to hide around the corner and take their pics this go-around.

 

First signs

The ‘Mariachi Series’ Sneezweed have put out their first blooms: 

 

That Lobelia ‘Black Truffle’ sure is purty:

 

Unplanned strategy

Could the scent of the Bee Balm be keeping the deer away from this Hydrangea?

 

Patience

The “Carex within the Ajuga” plan is finally coming to fruition:

 

An excerpt from my gardening routine

It’s very rare that I’m blessed with large chunks of time to tend to my garden. The more likely scenario is that I’ve got a half-hour before heading to work in the morning. Or 15 minutes between conference calls. Or 7 minutes before the family emerges outside and insists that we depart for vacation.

Those tiny pockets of time are crucial in terms of prioritizing what needs to get done. I’m not above setting a schedule for the week where I identify my potential “gardening available time” or GAT as it’s known in my household. Each GAT is assigned one or two must-do tasks (logged in Excel of course), knowing that I must also eradicate a few weeds along the way.

No f’n around with this gardening stuff.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled the results of one of my recent GAT sessions. This one ended up with a duration of 17 minutes and I like to think it’s a realistic representation of how these sessions typically proceed.

Enjoy.


As with everything in my life, it all starts with coffee. It doesn’t have to be morning coffee only. I enjoy and take advantage of its caffeine prowess throughout the day.

As I finish my last cup, I start to get myself pumped up. A few grunts here and a few air punches there and I’m primed to go. By the time I’m done, I have my game-face on.

Once I’m good and fired up, I head out to the garage and step into my favorite boots. Take notice of the length of the laces. I’ve never tied them over the years out of pure laziness and as a result, they’ve slowly torn off over time. I may have mistaken the pieces of lace as a small snake more than once over the years.

Once the footwear is secured, I head over to my collection of garden “stuff” and grab what I deem necessary for the current GAT.

For today, I determined that I’d first put on my trusty gloves and just do a quick walk around the garden before determining what was to be accomplished first. These Atlas Nitrile gloves are the absolute best by the way.

Yes, there are holes emerging at the fingertips, but I’ve used these extensively for three years running. And yes, that is a Fitbit on my wrist. I’ll often purposely forget a tool just so I can walk back to the garage and retrieve it, therefore upping my step totals.

So shoes and gloves are on and now it’s time to determine where we attack first. And I say “attack” because that has to be the mentality when there is limited time. I take a right turn out of the garage and down this path, into the backyard.

Once I’ve traversed the path, I glance to the right to evaluate this section of garden. It’s a somewhat young and developing section and I initially wanted to tweak it a little bit. Fill in some gaps, prune a bit or even relocate a shrub here from elsewhere in the garden. After 13 seconds of reflection, I decide to hold off for now as it quickly slides down the priority list.

We move on.

But first I get a close look at this apple tree and get sad and really angry. Year two and it looks like a pile of hot garbage. But I can’t revel in the anger right now. It needs to be pushed to the subconscious.

Shit, how did I end up here? Now I’m looking at the Northern Sea Oats that have emerged from underneath the Amsonia. I frickin hate NSO.

Again, I can’t let that slow me down today. Just grin and bear it, John.

Finally, I make my way to task number 1. I need to cut back the very spent flowers of the Catmint ‘Walker’s Low’. They line my front walkway and look tired and unappealing in their current state. I can’t have visitors judging me as they walk to my front door.

Time to cut them back severely.

Time to take the walk back to the garage where I not only grab the required tool, but also increase my steps number. 

Yes, this is a battery-powered hedge trimmer because you know I’m evolved like that.

Wait, what is that? Let me put down the trimmer and grab my phone out of my pocket.

Sweet. Where was I?

Oh yeah, the Catmint.

17 seconds later and the job is done.

Clean-up can be completed during the afternoon GAT.

While I’m thrilled that the task can be checked off of the to-do list, it does result in the exposure of the poison ivy that has been plaguing me for years now.

I’ll have to schedule time with my wife so she can attend to pulling these.

While I was chopping down the Catmint, my peripheral vision provided me with my next task. Since I already have the trimmer out, why not cut down the Veronica as well? They are clearly in need of a haircut.

Boom. Done.

Oh how pretty. Look how that Veronica bloom fell perfectly on top of the Sedum ‘Red Carpet’. That’s a great photo, let me grab the phone again. Instagram, here we come.

What’s next?

Look at that, that one phlox I saved from near death in early spring and divided into 5 sections is actually blooming. Damn I’m awesome. I’m like the plant whisperer.

Back on task.

These three weeds need to go. They are destroying the view of this killer combo of Clethra and Panicum ‘Northwind’. This has gone on for too long.

With one single-handed grasp and pull …

… they’re all gone, roots and all.

While I’m ruthless with the weeds, I’m still careful to not remove my nearby struggling New York Ironweed during the carnage.

How much better does this little vignette look now?

One last task before we head back indoors. Time to hand prune these other Veronica plants out back … wait … is that what I think it is? … yes it is … screw these pruners

MUST … TRACK … DOWN

Tour of the garden – 7/20/17

And on the very hot day, he sort of rested

This is where I’ve spent a lot of my time the past week.

Temps have been in the 90’s here in Jersey and it’s been wicked humid. That doesn’t mean I haven’t busted my hump out in the garden though. I’ve been weeding like a mo fo and just before I’m ready to pass out, I head to this rocker in the shade, drink gallons of water and rest up until I’m ready to get back out there again.

Call me crazy, but I love this weather. It’s uncomfortable and the bugs are all up in my business, but this is what separates the hardcore gardeners from the casual gardeners. I love the sweat and the head rushes and the feeling of toughing out; not to mention the post-weeding cold shower avec a tasty cold beverage.

 

Plant recommendation for the week

Molinia ‘Cordoba’ or Moor Grass

It didn’t take long for this ornamental grass to get established as its only been in my garden for 3 years now and it started off as a tiny little plug.

While the grass leaves are only about 2 feet in height, it’s pushing 6′ – 7′ in height while in bloom.

I’m still tinkering with how to best use it in terms of design. I did follow a suggestion of planting it in front of a dark background as seen in the photo above where it is situated in front of a Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ shrub.

From another angle though, you can see how it can easily be lost in the garden shuffle.More to come as I joyously tinker and as the fall color emerges in a few weeks.

 

Filling in nicely

New garden bed and path back in 2010.

And current day where I am now running out of room for a path.

A good problem to have.

 

Never give up

I tried desperately to grow a Red Twig Dogwood in at least 5 different locations in my garden dating back a decade or more. The deer always got it or it simply never thrived.

I tried one in a container and it did OK but I feared it dying over the winter in that container so I knew I had to transplant it elsewhere.

On a whim, I planted it along the foundation of the house and the rest is history. She’s about 5′ to 6′ tall right now and that is after I cut it to the ground in March.

The deer don’t frequent this area that often but they will chew on some of the plants here sporadically.

True story: There is a large gap between the two sidewalk stones right in front of the dogwood and I’ve convinced myself that it messes with the footing of the deer so I haven’t adjusted it for years running now. Crazy? Maybe.

 

Lady in Red, isn’t dancing with me

If you look carefully at the pic below, you can see one flower on this ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea.

The sad thing is that the one bloom is still more than the last two years combined. In fact, this hydrangea has never bloomed well.

But it takes up space, comes back every year and has decent fall color.

Not significantly bad enough to justify eradication.

Yet.

 

Seed heads are good

You’ve heard me say it a million times (including in my new book). Keep those spent flowers on Baptisia because they add such an interesting element from summer through winter. Here’s how they look right now in the middle of July.

 

 

It’s better to be lucky than good

When these Veronica bloom, they are lit up by the emerging bright green grass (Pennisetum) in the background. I would love to say that I planned it this way but it was truly dumb luck.

 

What do you think?

The combination of Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Obedient Plant is an example of another not-planned-combo that has recently emerged in the garden.

I have no clue if I like the mix or not. So I need your input in order to decide how to proceed. Thank you.

 

If you plant it, they will come

That would be Swamp Milkweed.

 

 

Big hopes for the future

I posted this photo of a Purple Prairie Clover on Instagram recently. Very cool IMHO.

In truth, it’s the only one I have on the plant so it only looks great shot in macro. But if this native perennial blooms heavily next year, I am going to be madly in love. Those flowers are killer.

 

Shameless cross-promotion, not the least bit garden related

I recently wrote two new articles for Medium and I would love for you to head over there and check them out:

The Hardest I’ve Ever Laughed

Raising a Child That Is Nothing Like You

Thank you in advance.

 

 

A response to me from 42 hours and 23 minutes in the past

Dear John From What was Originally 3 Hours Ago – 

This is a response to your open letter from two days ago.

First off, the name makes no sense any longer. I can’t keep track of who is who, are you now “John from 42 hours ago”or are we back to being one again? I friggin hate time travel so let’s agree to stop f’n with the universe, OK?

Back to the task at hand.

By now you know that I/we moved that Viburnum.

I’m sorry to disappoint you but it was going to happen even with your efforts to go all Doc Brown on me. You knew this was going to be the outcome all along but I respect your perseverance. What I don’t respect is the cheap shot you took when bringing up “The Azalea Incident”. That was low and I’m still shocked that you went right for the jugular like that.

Need I remind you the success we had moving this Redtwig Dogwood back in the summer of 2012?

            

or this Ninebark back in 2015?


They look rather awesome now, do they not? 

I could go on and on but I won’t.

What happened to your sense of adventure and recklessness? This is us. Don’t listen to all those logical gardener wanna-be’s on Facebook. If we didn’t constantly tinker we’d get nowhere.

By the way, did you happen to notice that it’s been raining since yesterday afternoon? And that it’s been in the low 70’s and overcast all day today? Did you not think I looked ahead at the weather?

Let’s let all of the readers see how she looks right now?

Great right? You know we’ll baby her as much as necessary to get her through the summer. That’s what we do buddy.

So next time you think you want to call me out in front of an audience like this, try sending an email first. I’m not sure how that will work with time travel and all but you get the point.

I hope we can now move on and work together as one again. Let’s use that collective energy to eradicate all of the thistle that is threatening to destroy our 13 years of work.

 

 

All the best

John From Some Other Time or Whatever

An open letter to me, 3 hours from now

Dear John Three Hours From Now –                                                               July 12, 2017 3:37 PM

I know what you have planned. 

Don’t do it. 

Seriously, you know how this is going to play out. You’ve been here before many times and if you really look at the metrics from the past 20 years, has it ever panned out in a positive way? 

Look, I get it. When you have that itch, you need to scratch it. Don’t forget, I am also you. We’re cut from the exact same cloth. I respect your/our passion and your/our ingenuity and your/our borderline pathological need to tinker.

But that time is not now. You know this.

Logic has to win out here. Science will tell you that this doesn’t make any sense.

So I’m begging you, don’t do it. I will type it out bold and in all caps so you understand just how much I want you to not do this.

FOR THE LOVE OF PLANTS IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES, DO NOT MOVE THAT VIBURNUM BRACTEATUM ‘ALL THAT GLITTERS’ FROM ITS CURRENT LOCATION.

We are in the heart of summer.

It’s 90+ degrees outside today.

There is nothing but sun beating down on the garden right now.

You won’t be around very much the next few days and won’t be able to give it the necessary water.

The poor thing won’t survive. 

I didn’t want to go there, but remember the “Azalea Incident” from 2010?

I know, it’s a sensitive topic but you need to hear it. You need to remember how that made you feel. 

Let’s not suffer together again.

I have a deal for you. Let’s not touch the Viburnum just for today. We’ll take it one day at a time if that helps.

What do you say?

Can you hold off?

I think you can.

 

 

Sincerely,

John From Three Hours Ago  

              

 

Fulfilled

I turned 45 a few weeks ago.

That’s halfway to 90 which means the odds are stacked against me now if I want to say that half of my life still remains.

I know, I despise age complaints as much as you do. There’s always someone who can one up you or has been there before.

“You think that’s bad, I’m 63 and I have consistent pain in my …”

“Try being 76 with …”

“You have no idea what getting old means you son of a …”


My son turns 15 in a few days.

15 is scarily close to 16 which is the age where he is eligible to obtain his driver’s permit.

That’s some insane shit.


We moved into our current home in 2004.

My youngest child is currently 11 and if my math serves me correctly, she should be graduating from college in 2028.

My wife and I have talked about moving to the southern U.S soon after she finishes her schooling (fingers crossed for no medical school or graduate school, not that I wouldn’t be supportive but holy $$$$$ Batman).

That means we’re beyond the halfway point of residing in our current abode.

That means I’m beyond the half way point of composing my masterpiece of a garden.

Numbers are so stressful.


Here is where I now surprise you.

While the fear of my mortality has me up at night and seeking spiritual awakening and I’m genuinely missing the younger versions of my offspring, I love my fucking garden to pieces.

Seriously, no self-deprecation to follow.

It kicks ass and it’s all because of me.

It isn’t perfect and there’s much work to still do in order to obtain world domination, but I look at it right now and feel total fulfillment. It makes me smile. It moves me. It holds countless memories. It makes me mutter “Hell yeah” and it provides me with the perfect muse.

And to bring it all on home, I witnessed my wife utter these exact words as we strolled back to and within view of our home after a short walk last evening:

“Thank you for such a beautiful home.”

“It looks so lush.”

“It’s so not cookie cutter.”

Grab me a kerchief.  

The icing on the cake came courtesy of my daughter:

“I’ve never seen so many bees and butterflies in my life.”

It isn’t easy for me to speak so positively without a bit of snark but I’m going to do just that. The feeling may be fleeting and it may be due to the fact that I enjoyed some hemp oil with my coffee a few hours ago, but who cares. It’s here and now.

A few of my own observations from the weekend:

I finally understand the appeal of Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua ‘Blonde Ambition’) with its flag-like flowers that add a fantastic “see-through” effect.

 

 

The Allium ‘Mt. Sinai’ is thriving like never before and seems cool with a rather wet soil. It also goes without saying that the deer never touch it.

 

The fading of the Astilbe flowers doesn’t take away from this section of  garden and I could argue why it looks even better while in decline.

 

The late afternoon sun completely lights up this part of the garden.

 

 

While Veronica ‘First Love’ doesn’t blow you away, its long blooming period (6-8 weeks) makes it incredibly useful.

 

It wasn’t planned and I’ll never understand why, but the droves of japanese beetles that arrive in my garden this time of year, tend to congregate on one shrub (Dappled Willow or Salix) and inflict their damage there only.

I can deal with allowing them to go to town for a while and then cutting back the chewed up branches weeks later. It has become the sacrificial lamb.

I would ask that they get a room though when things get frisky.

 

The following pics celebrate all those who frequent the flowers and bring the garden to life, from morning to evening, all summer long.

 

 

 

 

Tour of the garden – 7/5/17

They’re here

And just like that, the butterflies, the bees, the same lone hummingbird we see year after year and Japanese beetles have descended upon the garden in droves. For today’s purposes I’ll keep it pretty and spare you the ugly. I’m desperately trying to capture a pic of the hummer, but to date he’s been too ninja-like for me to catch him.

 

 

Flowers

The ornamental grass shield continues to pay dividends as the hydrangeas have remained virtually untouched by the deer.

 

 

The Bee Balm is blooming and the Joe Pye Weed isn’t too far behind.

 

This is the lone Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra) flower that has eluded the deer and I still long for masses of these flowers on display at the same time. I have to up my deer-repellent spraying game.

 

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) continues to multiply year after year as the flowers are now emerging throughout the garden.

 

I’ll take the 5-6 blooms of Daylily ‘Little Grapette’ but I’m still pissed that the deer have ravaged them like never before. My strategic placement plan has failed.

 

I’ve had Yarrow (Achillea) ‘Moonwalker’ for 7-8 years now and they look better this year than they ever have before. The relocation plan to drier soil has paid dividends. Why it took this long I’ll never know.

 

Enjoy these coneflowers now before I bitch about their destruction from the deer in an upcoming post.

 

 

I’ve finally succumbed to using annuals to fill in empty spots in the garden. But I’ll still show my disrespect by not having a clue as to the name of this plant below. I have to keep some street cred.

Ornamental grasses

The original intention was to highlight the Hyssop and Mountain Mint in the two photos that follow below. Take note however, that the grasses (Panicum and Little Bluestem respectively) are in greater focus and that’s all you need to know about my affinity for the almighty OG.

 

 

I’m a ten year old girl at heart so why not embrace it and add a fun little extra to the Indian Grass (Sorghastrum) below.

 

While slow to establish over the years, Panicum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ still has tremendous color that can’t be ignored.

 

Swoon.

 

Pennisetum ‘Burgundy Bunny’ … drops mic.

 

Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ is the perfect foil to Joe Pye Weed.

 

While I will forever shout to the rooftops about my disdain for Northern Sea Oats and its painful reseeding, I have nothing bad to say about its brethren ‘River Mist’. Great color in partial shade.

 

Are you tired of me posting photos of Panicum ‘Northwind’?

Well then let’s get creative and up the artistic slant on the previous photo.

Amsonia

Words will never do it justice.

 

Interest beyond flowers

Baptisia seed heads post-bloom still lend an ornamental quality to this killer perennial.

Allow me to introduce you

Two recent additions:

Hypericum ‘Sunburst’

 

And Oregano ‘Kent Beauty’

Where did you come from?

I have tried to grow Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) forever and eventually settled a few years ago on the fact that it wouldn’t thrive with my wet conditions.

Lesson learned: Trying is overrated.

 

While I have to take some measures to control the Rudbeckia that pop up all over the garden, I always make sure that some are left untouched.

 

Slowly but surely

New beds are starting to fill in and only time will tell if I’ll have the patience to not tinker and screw it all up.

Still work to do

A lot of spent flowers to remove on the Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis).

 

Same goes for all of the Veronica ‘Royal Candles’.

 

 

California Vacation

It’s been a while, eh?

This has been the longest stretch between posts since I started this tiny venture back in 2010.

Why the 3-week lull you ask? Great question. Here’s a detailed break-out of the causes:

41% – Life getting in the way

19% – Writing malaise

17% – My laptop has issues with uploading photos

15% – Garden malaise

08% – A one week vacation in California

Don’t bother doing the math, it adds up. I’m a stickler for math … and odd numbers.

Thank you to those of you who reached out with concern. Your emails put a big smile on this new-to-45-year old’s face. They are without question the most rewarding aspect of this writing gig. People actually missing my writing is all I could ever ask for. Seriously.

For today, I want to share our recent California vacation with you all and fortunately I’m able to load photos from my phone while the laptop is still under construction.

Enjoy.


It all started at Newark Airport in NJ where we willingly paid a premium to order and pay for lunch from an iPad. Kind of pathetic now that I think about it with a clear mind and not in vacation mode.

We arrived in San Francisco late that first night but made sure to find time to scope out a local “In-N-Out Burger”. It was our first trek there and I have to admit, it was just “good”. I can do without the half hour waits and chaotic parking lots. Shake Shack is still the king of the burger. Sorry left-coasters.

Still, the moment wasn’t lost on us as we took the ever important selfie to commemorate the occasion. Notice my son is missing from the pic. He is down on selfies these days.

The next day was a busy one. First up was an attempt to drive through the campus of Stanford University. That kind of bombed as there was a local high school graduation being held on campus and we got caught in the parade of traffic and over anxious parents and grandparents.

The next stop was much more successful. We took the 1-mile hike through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to consume the giant redwood trees. While the park and trees were visually stunning, I’m still consumed with the scent. I may have a deviated septum with little use of my olfactory sense, but this smell punched right through that damaged septum.

A redwood candle order has been placed via Amazon Prime.

From there we made our way to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The contrast in mood and vibe with the aforementioned redwoods wasn’t lost on us. It was chaotic and loud and sensory overload.

Also a lot of fun in that deliciously cheesy summer boardwalk way.

My son still has no idea that the photo above was taken. Dad for the win.

After a few hours riding roller coasters and eating Thai chicken wraps, we drove the world-famous “17-Mile Drive” along the coast.

Wow. Gorgeous x 10.

We stepped out of the car at least 7 times with only one of those requiring sneaking around a golf course so I could empty my ever shrinking bladder.

The first full day ended with dinner in Carmel and the inevitable collective crash in our hotel room that night in Monterey.

The next two days were spent in Yosemite National Park. I won’t bore you with the written word because words and even photos will never do it justice. It was overwhelming in a good way. I’ve never experienced anything like it. That either means I need to get out more or Yosemite is all that it’s cracked up to be.

My crippling fear of heights was tested over and over not only within the park, but the drive to and from each day. My wife had to console me with gentle words and warnings to not look right or left. I’m thinking guard rails might be a nice addition to some of these harrowing roads.

The last 3-4 days were spent in the city of San Francisco. I was thrilled to get rid of the car and be at the mercy of buses, trains, trolleys and Uber rides.

Here are a few pics from out and about.

I can’t get enough of the Haight-Ashbury district and some day hope to spend some significant time here even if it is a shell of what it used to be.

My daughter is obsessed with the show “Full House” so we had to get a shot of her in front of “The Painted Ladies” which are included in the intro song for the show. By the way, the show is terrible other than the fact that it has the nostalgia of terribly written dialogue and laugh tracks. I hope she doesn’t read this.

When in San Fran, one must ride a trolley. It’s a lot easier when you have a pretty lady on your arm.

Plenty of interaction with that little bridge known as Golden Gate.

 

Alcatraz, that foreboding island that once housed some of the world’s worst criminals. While the history is fascinating and the tour is engaging, I didn’t need to see it again after having been there back in 2000.

So in a brutally selfish way, I ignored everyone and focused on the gardens of Alcatraz Island instead.

And finally, it wouldn’t be a Markowski trip without baseball playing some role so we capped our trip with a Friday night game at AT&T Park (my now personal favorite ballpark) watching the San Francsico Giants play … you guessed it … our New York Mets.

The Mets won easily and broke our streak of, witnessing in person, ten straight Mets losses.

It sucks to be back on the East Coast again and it’s great to be home.