Correcting a big mistake – “Carex appalachica” edition

A little over a month ago, I shared a planting dilemma with you all. Without much thought, I had planted 10 Carex appalachica under a River Birch tree in Fall of 2014. And as you will soon see, it resulted in a bizarre-formal-half circle that haunted me each time I set eyes on it.

carex under tree

Ouch, it still hurts.

I knew at some point I would overhaul the design but struggled to come up with an alternate plan. I knew that this sedge prefers dry soil and could thrive in competition with tree roots.

With that in mind, I finally settled on a new location – under my crabapple tree. In literally 15 minutes time, I removed the ugly Ajuga that was under the tree and weaved this magic.


All is now well in my world.

I’m thinking about adding something else amongst the Carex to really frickin nail it. But for now, I am content with the new, less formal design and the hideous prior attempt is in the rearview.

BTW, I can’t say enough about how much this sedge glistens in the sun, especially after a rain.


Thank you yet again Hoffman Nursery for turning me on to Carex appalachica.


The forgotten Spirea and another garden TV idea

Here’s what’s going on out in the garden these days:

The hydrangea is nice and all.


But isn’t it that much better when viewed through the Andropogon (Big Bluestem) ‘Red October’?


Speaking of the oh so wonderful ornamental grass, ‘Karl Foerster’ is in full bloom and is a solid vertical accent in numerous spots throughout my garden.



True story, two years ago in a fit of rage, I heaved my three “dead” Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ into my woods after they seemed to have bitten it over the winter. Not one of my absolute faves, but a solid performer that was always ignored by the deer. Three more damn holes to fill in.

Flash forward to this spring and I spotted one of the “dead” Spirea looking all awesome in the middle of my woods. I could see pink flowers blooming amongst the brush.

Typical. Show it disinterest and it thrives.

Not one to dismiss a shrub that appears to be competent, I jumped into the tick infested woods and gave this guy another chance. If at first you don’t succeed …

So far so good.



And I swear to you, another alive and well Spirea has been spotted and I’ll be grabbing that one too. Maybe I have some sort of magical forest with healing powers? Maybe the ticks brought it back to life and we can now understand their real purpose. Time to chuck some other under performers in there and test it out.

What a difference even a week or two makes.


lady's mantle

I was on top of removing the spent flowers on the Lady’s Mantle, Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ and Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ in hopes of keeping up their appearance as we jump into summer. A definite lesson from seasons past.

The Astilbes are all in bloom.



First Bee Balm bloom of the year


With oodles to follow.

Seriously, there is no bigger bloomer in my garden than Monarda. It has spread everywhere and I friggin love it. Just wait until I show you in the next few weeks.

First Coneflower bloom.



Some Veronica I got on the cheap from Lowe’s and have no idea if I like it or not.


Achillea ‘Pink Grapefruit’ has arrived.


A Bellflower (I think) that is EVERYWHERE and I don’t have the energy to remove it. Although with the thick carpet, it is suppressing the weeds beautifully.


And I’ll leave you with yet another TV show idea that I’ll regret not having pursued.

Have you ever watched Chopped on Food Network? Contestants are given various ingredients with which to pull together and create some semblance of a meal. I’m talking like watermelon, salmon and crushed peppermint. A real challenge to present something edible but the amateur chefs always manage to pull it off.

What if we tried the same with plants that weren’t the least bit compatible? It could work, right?

The idea came to me when I attempted to put together the container below.


I had a collection of annuals given to me by an uncle and I tried to make the best of it. We’ll see how it turns out, I’m not exactly a container gardening expert.

Are you with me? Would you watch that show?












My future profession

If you have read this blog long enough, you know I have mastered the art of over promising and under delivering.

Not to mention dreaming big and doing nothing about it.

Or the love of a good ramble. 

This post covers all of those.    

To this day, I cherish and long for my lunch hour trips to the local nursery/garden center. One to two times per week, starting in March and ending in November, I can be spotted walking amongst the plants wearing a sensible polo shirt and the same pair of jeans I’ve had for 4 years now. It is a much needed break from the “desk job” and a chance to become “ONG” for an hour or so.

Contrary to how it sounds, I don’t make a ton of purchases while I’m at the garden center. Some times it is purely research, some times it is the hunt for a specific plant(s) and some times it is to wander aimlessly. It all does the soul well. It is my domain and where I belong. Not to sound too corny, but I am thankful to be able to have a garden that allows me to fill it with plants, a family that supports my passion and the health to be able to do it all without issue.

That was too sappy. Now I need to change it up and talk to you about something I witnessed while wandering the garden center earlier this week. It still sticks with me today and I apologize in advance for putting you through this.

As I walked through the main entrance of the nursery, my eyes were not drawn to the blooming hydrangeas, but to a dude wearing a tank top exactly like this.


Except he didn’t look exactly like that.

At all.

Imagine a cockier George Costanza with slick backed, jet black hair and a remarkable tan. My best guess is early 50’s.

I fought off the urge many times to pull his mini shirt back to cover his nipples which he apparently was thrilled to expose. Was anyone else as in awe as I was? I love and hate this guy all at the same time. So Jersey.

But even stranger than that was the fact that he had one small Sedum groundcover in his hands that he stared at, put down and then picked back up in an endless cycle.


He was there as long as I was and never moved off of the Sedum purchasing decision. I would have killed to have known how it all was playing out in his head. And to follow him home to not only see how long he would wear that shirt, but ultimately where that Sedum ended up.

I could excuse the attire, but never the purchase of only one groundcover.

Moving on.

In the early days of taking the weekly trek to the nursery, I learned about plants through theft. These days, I enjoy it for different reasons. At my mature age of 42 and having been around the garden block a few times over, I am well aware of those plants that will never work for me (basically anything that isn’t deer resistant and prefers sandy soil).


As a result, my vision is much more narrow. I enter with a purpose and the number of nonsensical purchases has been dramatically reduced. This pinpoint focus allows me to make smart decisions and my garden has improved as a result.

I also enjoy walking around and butting into other peoples’ conversations or personal contemplations. I am a quiet individual for the most part and typically mind my own business, but I have no issue jumping in where it is required.

“You don’t want that Crepe Myrtle, it won’t survive the winters here in zone 6B.”

“Really, another Arborvitae? Have you not seen enough of them around here? Let’s expand our horizons, aight.”

“Yes, that Ligularia will handle some sun. Do it.”

Thank you and come again.

Over the years, I’ve also observed the art of “the sell”. Or should I say the lack of “the sell”. My best estimate is that 75% of the shoppers at the nursery don’t know very much. Especially if they are there during the peak months of April/May when everything is at full price (note: buy in mid to late summer and late fall). These people need to be guided and educated. Put down those impatiens and let’s talk perennials. You don’t want only one coneflower, you want seven and here’s why.

As I paced the garden center this week, I came to a realization. I would love to own a nursery and sell plants to the public. My years of wandering their grounds has taught me that. I would love to impart my knowledge on those in desperate need of it. I would love to bring them coffee in the morning and share my new favorite IPA with them in the afternoon as they browse my amazing collection of Andropogons.


I want to hang with plant people and provide them with unique finds.

Of course I say all this without considering all that goes into it. I’m not that naive. And I am too risk averse to ever give it a try. But it is the aspect of gardening I enjoy the most.

I could never get into garden design because:

a)I only like what I like

b)I find that I lose interest when it comes to other peoples gardens

c)It seems like a lot of work

But plants without consideration of how they play with others is pretty fantastic. I can even imagine buyers taking the plants home and sending me pictures of them all grown up (the plants that is). People posing with their Panicums like they were a pet. We’d all be one big plant loving family and there would be peace throughout the world.

Guess I better keep my day job to fund this little adventure.

Have a great weekend.






Garden Haiku

In an attempt to show off my diversity of skill, I will now expand upon each of the photos below via Haiku.

I know what you are thinking, does his creativity and genius have no limits?

That would be “no”.


Grass emerges now

Plays so damn well with others

I love see through trait   




Morning fog a treat

Garden photo opps arrive

The grass takes the cake




Morning sun like ouch

But grasses like “bring it on”

Fun to photograph




Meadow Rue arrives

Reaches towards the bright sky

Why did I not buy ten more?




Allium stopped blooming

Still putting on a great show 

Called structure baby




This Andropogon

I like totally love it

And man you should too




More Andropogon

Color is off the charts great 

Called Red October

andropogon october 2



Soon to bloom Alliums

Early summer color blast

Awesome choice by me




Photographing the garden

For reasons unknown, I never took one photo of any of my gardens before I started this blog back in February of 2010. I have no idea why, other than the fact that I never felt that the garden was camera worthy … which it probably wasn’t.

It would have been too much of a shot against my fragile ego to reveal how the camera interpreted my mess of a plant collection. I was young and weak and easily defeated. But damn, what an opportunity I missed to evolve as a gardener.

The minute I took the very first photo of my current garden over five years ago, everything changed. I never looked at my garden the same again. It literally brought out a dimension to the garden I had failed to see before. It inspired me to try new things and to appreciate subtle changes in light or how I could play off of the early morning or late afternoon light. And don’t even get me started about the post rain garden. That shit was awesome. Suddenly I was an artiste.

This morning, I found the article I have linked to below, which sums up my aforementioned feelings about garden photogrpahy better than I ever could. Check it out:

“How Garden Photography Can Make You a Better Gardener”

For those who aren’t doing so already, I highly recommend getting down and dirty and snapping all sorts of pics in your garden regardless of its size. It will do wonders to your appreciation of what you’ve got going on and will inspire you in ways you can’t imagine.

Even now I often find myself taking the same photographs of the garden from the most commonly viewed angles. It’s nice and all, but once I get creative and take it all in from a different view, true inspiration kicks in.

With all this in mind, here are 5 different shots of the same section of my garden. While the photos aren’t dramatically different, they are all interesting in their own way. I like a lot of what I see but I have to admit, these photos have already provided me with ideas for plants I can add and sigh, move to a new location.


driveway bed


driveway bed 4


driveway bed 5


driveway bed 3








I’m awesome

Something kicked my ass into gear big time this week.

I’m like a man possesed.

I’m wielding a trowel like a ninja.

If there was such a thing as gardening yoga, I’d be the master. A yogi if you will.

Now if I had to make an uneducated guess, it is the fact that my garden is at the point where it is filling in beautifully and, I hope I don’t regret saying this out loud, it looks kind of great. I am thrilled with where things currently stand and I don’t feel the need to move a single plant. Newly planted bulbs from last Fall and newly acquired perennials from this Spring are thriving.

Who the hell am I?

After the mess that was the broken sump pump (and we are about 90% good to go for those keeping score at home) and the subsequent high from getting it fixed, I completed a garden inventory. This a very detailed review of the entire garden and can take hours. I take it very seriously as it provides my gardening direction for the foreseeable future.

Normally this inventory/audit results in a healthy sized color coordinated Excel spreadsheet that ultimately sends me over the edge realizing I’ll never get even 25% of it done. But not this time.

There will always be something to do in the garden, we all know that. But my current to-do list was now smaller than ever before. And I really was searching for items to add to the list. Either my standards had dropped precipitously, or I was finally doing something right.

After careful introspection over a West Coast IPA or five, I settled on “I’m kind of awesome”. Now this is subject to change before I hit “publish” on this post, but for now I am in self-congratulatory mode. But that doesn’t have me resting on my laurels (pun intended) by any means. Instead, I am determined to take care of every little detail so we can get this garden looking f’n stellar (f’n stellar > f’n awesome). The better it looks the more I want to make it look even better.

So I kid you not, I’ve been up early every morning this week ready to get something done out in the yard.         

me up early

And there is your proof people.

Yes 6:00 AM isn’t early for most of you, but I am not a morning person at all. I am a night owl. If I could garden in the middle of the night, I’d be all over it. My brain piques around 11:00 PM but then shuts down until about 10:00 AM.

I also realize that the clock could be at 6:00 PM in the pic above, but would I really go through the motions of taking this dumb selfie if I wasn’t trying to prove a point?

Further proof.

me up early 2

Damn it is peaceful this time of the morning. Oh you all knew that already? My only distraction was/is a rooster next door that howls consistently day and night. Does anyone know what that signifies? I find it funny … until it isn’t.

So I’ve been weeding like a champ each morning, relocating volunteer coneflowers and mountain mint to fill in gaps and just enjoying the time outdoors and the little garden oasis I’ve created. As I said before, this feeling won’t last and I’ll be back to my self deprecating ways soon, but for now, I like it. This is why I/we garden. In search of that oasis and the fun/struggle it takes to get there.

A few shots of the garden to take you into the weekend:

Astilbe ‘Amethyst’ surrounded by a lot of blue and purple.

astilbe amethyst


I kind of like my Veronica (Speedwell).


veronica 2


Good mix of color, shape and texture.

front bed


One of a few blue Allium that just appeared.

allium blue


I like Physocarpus (Ninebark) seedehads more than the flowers.

ninebark seedheads


I love love love Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’.

ninebark amber jubilee

ninebark amber jubilee 2


Joe Pye Weed is fantastic even before the flowers arrive.

joe pye weed


The buzzing of the bees is music to my ears.

bee catmint












Pruning updates

This spring (end of March) I pruned my Redtwig Dogwood just about to the ground.

pruning redtwig dogwood 3

And here is how it looks as of today, June 10th.

redtwig dogwood

It took a while to get going in April and early May but man has it taken off since. And it couldn’t look more fresh and healthy. I’m even convinced the leaves are much larger than they have ever been.

redtwig dogwood 2

So to date, all is good. The next test will be in the Fall/Winter as we analyze the redness of the stems.

Next up is the Salix (Dappled Willow). This deciduous shrub was also cut back severely in March.

pruning salix 6

And holy crap Batman has this savage shrub recovered quickly.


We’re talking about 6 feet high and wide.

The coloration early on was phenomenal.


And then settled in at about the same color as it was at this time last year.

What I now know for sure, is that it will require a yearly pruning in early spring in order to not outgrow its current location.

Such is the life of an avid gardener.