Book #2

A few days ago I was all set to officially embark on the journey for book #2.

I was seated comfortably on my favorite couch. I had my favorite mug filled with black coffee. The dog was curled into a pretzel and leaning against my right leg. I had my headphones secured and started listening to my favorite loud and aggressive bands. I had a blank Word document open on the laptop.

The writing process was in motion.

And then nothing.

For hours.

What I thought was a good concept for the next book suddenly was not. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t going to work because I was choosing what was easiest, not what was best. That never works.

So I’m back to square one. I’m back to evaluating all of the partially formed ideas that reside in my head. Back to the pros and cons columns.

And then I realized what I needed to do.

I need all of you to tell me what I need to do.

Here’s the cold hard truth: The first book was basically 8 years of blog posts curated into a book. Those posts formed the backbone of the book. Once they were pulled together, it wasn’t too difficult to tweak and edit it into a coherent book.

I have no regrets. I still feel strongly about the concept but realize the layout and content could have been better. While hooking up with a publisher wasn’t in the cards and there are limited options when self-publishing, I know there was still room for improvement. But I’m happy I took the plunge and published it.

#2 needs to be different.

I want to know exactly what you as reader would want to see in the next book. Yes, I want all of you to choose the concept/topic of my next book. Who knows better than the actual reading audience?

When that is determined, I then want all of you to weigh in on the layout/outline of the book. In short, I want to crowdsource this next book. I want the entire journey of the book process to be documented. I want the highs and lows accounted for in writing. After all, the fun is in the process and in the journey. If it’s going to be a marathon, I want you all there with me.

With that in mind, here are some of those ideas I referenced earlier. Read through them and let me know your initial thoughts. My best guess is that the topic for the next book isn’t in this first list and that we’ll slowly and methodically work our way there.

Let’s do this:

Ornamental grasses – including my origin story, my favorites, advantages, maintenance, history, etc.


Designing with ornamental grasses and perennials – I’ve got a ton of combos I’ve already identified from my own garden.


Part 2 of “Perennials Through the Seasons” – but presented differently and including bulbs and/or shrubs


Short stories/collection of garden essays – that tie to life – a mix of funny/serious/emotional. Like this:

Committing crimes at the nursery


My favorite shrubs – that match specific criteria in my garden – deer resistant, poor draining





12 thoughts on “Book #2

  1. Mary Max

    Grasses, grasses and more grasses please! All of your ideas are great and I’d like them all, but if I could only pick one, it would be ornamental grasses, second would be designing with ornamental grasses.

  2. Brad Willet

    Can you include the ecological and habitat creation that your garden or designs have created. If you put those together as beautiful and sustainable ways to do good for the landscape and the aesthetic that would be a great chapter. To address issues such as habitat loss, or stormwater retention and efforts to create a space that applauds nature and the natural resources that abound as well as how the plants you use are creating space for you and for the wildlife, and pollinators around you. Do you have any apiaries or friends who’s honey production is higher due to you being so close by? Do you see a greater number of species in your yard of say monarchs, swallowtails, or the types of native bees? What about lacewings, ladybeetles, or parasitic wasps? Do you put up “bee hotels”….anything like that that you could add?

  3. Kristin

    I love the idea of a book on grasses. I have little experience with them and would want to know how to choose them for the garden in order to avoid aggressive ones. How to dig and divide them, can I collect seed from them or is propagation best done by division? Yes to a chapter on how they can attract beneficial insects.
    I guess what I am saying is some basic information about grasses. I love plant specific books and they are hard to find.

  4. Chuck

    Fine. Grasses win. But please include some stories from base base traing camps AND about your father-in-Law. Those were the poss I resonated with most.

  5. marianna quartararo

    Hi John,
    I am new to your blog so I don’t have a “history” of your writings.There are many books out there on plants and combinations (grasses included) Why not tell us the story behind those combinations and your gardening story in general. How do these plants work towards better habitat creation and in term a better garden. Just a thought. As a note, I recently purchased a book from an author whose blog I read daily. Honestly, the book was just a regurgitation of the blog, I won’t purchase another book by him as nothing new and fresh was to be had. Good luck!

  6. Jane

    I’m new to the blog too so maybe don’t have a good perspective. But what I’ve loved since discovering it recently is your focus on how plants look throughout the season(s) and not just when at peak form and/or in flower. There are so few books/sources that I’ve seen that do this. I guess it’s what makes your first book so useful too. So I’d love another through the seasons book including shrubs and bulbs. And I guess this fits with the designing with grasses and perennials idea because it could cover how to use bulbs to cover (or showcase) new growth in other perennials, how to use grasses to fill in the perennial gardens when they are not in flower, etc.

  7. Bill Hodgeman

    Of your choices the one that excites me the most is “Designing with ornamental grasses and perennials.” But that may be because I’m a moron and can’t design anything without a manual.

    Another interesting book might be a memoire about being a young man who loves to garden because flowers are pretty – and your journey toward becoming an ONG and how people (from strangers to loved ones) have responded to your growing obsession and neurosis. But that may be because I’m a young man who thinks flowers are pretty.

  8. Kelly Bruszewski

    I’d love to see the Perennials Through the Seasons concept. Even with the wonder of Google there are very few resources out there that show pictures of plants during more than their peak season. Talking about the importance of leaving perennials to overwinter for wildlife and visual interest is a bonus. Also underplanting certain perennials with bulbs is a good one for the seasons too.

  9. Joel Stedtman

    While I have read and enjoyed most of your posts over the last year and purchased your first book, this will be my first comment. It is of my opinion that your greatest interest is in grasses and biggest strengths in garden design lie in combinations with grasses and perennials. Your talents in story telling are incredibly enjoyable with humor, whit and sarcasm that seems to flow effortlessly. My suggestion then would be to focus on the “some times to honest” story telling as it relates to the plantings. Show your favorite combos, but let us in on the journey of success and failures it took to reach the end results.
    Much success!

  10. AnnJ

    Initial thoughts:

    Everyone’s suggestions sound good to me. And yes, more ecological angles would be good. I think it is important to highlight your fortes: ornamental grasses, appreciation of perennials through the seasons, and personal anecdotes. Maybe “perennials and ornamental grasses through the seasons” with lots of anecdotes. I like the first book’s format, but I think that you need a way to make someone pick up your next book who doesn’t already know you from the blog. Training camp stories? A gorgeous cover with one of your spectacular photos, expensively produced?

    What do you feel most like writing about?

    Bill Hodgeman’s idea above sounds to me like a good structure. I would like to hear more about how you developed as a gardener and you could wander off on tangents about plant combinations or baseball or pollinators as it went along.

  11. Linda O’Connell

    John, you have a gift for storytelling so I like the idea of short stories but I also like grasses. Any way to combine those two?

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