Category: Blog stuff

Book excerpt – looking for your feedback

Here is an excerpt of a first version of my book that I’ve been pounding away on for weeks now. I so cherish all of your feedback and have taken all of your comments into account to this point.

When in doubt, why not ask?     

I would love your feedback on the following:

Book title – any creative ideas after reading through below? I’ll handsomely award the winner of the one I like best.

Content – more or less info based on the excerpt below? Less “sentences” and more boxes/bullets/etc?

Layout – this snippet isn’t an exact replica of the layout but it is as close as I can get. What do you think?

Tone – is it me?

Thank you all in advance for taking the time to assist me here.


Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle)

I remember the exact day back in the fall of 2003 when I decided to purchase some Lady’s Mantle for the first time. Up until that point, all I thought about was flowers in my garden. Foliage was nice, but an afterthought.

My obsession with plants and gardening was gaining steam and I was reading books relentlessly. Books you ask? Those are pages of printed words and photos that are held together with binding. Your grandfather can tell you all about them.

I don’t recall the exact book, but it was all about design and one photo grabbed my attention and changed the course of my garden fanaticism. A beautiful and haunting garden photographed in the early morning was lined with Lady’s Mantle that was covered in dew droplets. My tongue dropped to the floor and I knew I had to try it.

Fast forward a few months and I planted a whole bunch myself in my tiny front bed at our old Cape Cod home in Somerville, NJ. I was so proud of it and sensed that my love of plants was going to exponentially increase now that foliage was part of the game.

Sadly, we moved out of that home by the end of that year and I never got to grow with my new favorite edging plant. I did drive by the home periodically for a good 2 to 3 years after that just so I could watch my babies mature into full adult plants. They ended up looking beautiful even if the new homeowners let everything fall to shit in the garden around them. The day they pulled them out of the ground, I almost got out of my car and approached the house in a fit of rage.

Luckily I thought better of it and drove away and spared myself jail time.

Instead, I bought a bunch and put them in my newly developing garden where they still reside today.

Alchemilla mollis rarely steals the show in the garden. Instead, it is that steady performing groundcover or edging plant that makes the garden whole.

From the moment those leaves start to unfurl in spring, you know old reliable is back for another season.

Let me correct myself for one moment. There is a time when this perennial does truly “shine”. That is when Lady’s Mantle captures the rain droplets in spring. It is a photographer’s dream.

Beyond that, this plant provides a nice contrasting leaf shape to other perennials and shrubs from spring through fall.

The chartreuse blooms, typically arriving in June, are a nice understated feature as well.

 

 

 

I have found it is best to trim off the spent flowers as soon as possible to keep this plant looking its best as summer approaches.

 

 

 

Specifics:
• Survives in zones 3 – 8
• Size typically maxes out at 1.5 ‘ x 2.5’
• Can handle full sun to almost full shade
• Blooms in June here in zone 6B
• Prefers a consistently moist soil
• Has been reliably deer and rabbit resistant over the years
• Non US native
• Flowers brown quickly and can become an eyesore (see more below)
• Leaves are scalloped and fuzzy to the touch

I currently have these as a groundcover in my back bed along the deck.

In full bloom in June and backed by the light of the afternoon sun.

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see below, Lady’s Mantle comes along pretty quickly in spring as evidenced by the “still no signs of life” ornamental grass sitting behind them.

**NEGATIVE ALERT** The one negative/higher maintenance aspect of Lady’s Mantle is that it does require constant moisture. If not, this is what you may see.

Luckily for me, constant moisture isn’t much of a problem unless we have a real dry summer but keep that in mind before purchasing Lady’s Mantle.

This perennial has been labeled as “invasive” but I can say that has not been a problem for me at all. In fact, I’ve never seen a single seedling since I’ve had these. This may be due to the fact that I am pretty diligent in cutting off the spent blooms and therefore there is no opportunity for reseeding.

I must also add that my deadheading has never resulted in any re-blooming later in the season.

 

Friday odds and ends

I started a push to convert the non gardening folk over to our side with an article here.

Who knows if it will go anywhere or do anything but I had to let it out. Feel free to comment on the article to aid in the fight.

The family is heading to Port St Lucie, FL in a few days for our annual trip to Spring Training for the New York Mets. I’ll be writing a daily post that sums up that day’s action so be on the look out for that baseball fans.

I made a left turn with my book writing. I have been busting my hump on a “Perennials” book that I’ll be publishing myself. It will only include perennials I currently have in my garden today along with my personal experiences.

With that in mind, I have a few questions for you all if you would be so kind to provide feedback. While I have a lot of it done, I want to make sure it brings the most value to potential readers.

Would you pay for this in the form of an e-book? How much feels right to you?

The main differentiator is that I cover each perennial from their first appearance in early spring up until they die in winter. Does that pique your interest at all?

Should I stick to natives only?

It is heavy with photos but I think that is a strong draw. Do you concur?

The full list of perennials is at 35. Too much and should I break it up into separate e-books?

A sincere thank you in advance for your consideration and have a great weekend.

 

 

 

Santa Rosa Gardens – “My Garden Box”

One of the nice perks of writing a garden blog is that there are opportunities to test out products from various garden and plant vendors. I could write an entire post about some of the more bizarre offers I’ve received the past 7 years so there is a need to find the flowers among the weeds. I’ve probably said “no thanks” 95% of the time.

Many times in the past I’ve mentioned that my go to purveyor for ordering plants online, especially grasses, is Santa Rosa Gardens. I’ve even held multiple contests giving away gift certificates to this nursery. Santa Rosa Gardens has never failed me and all of the plants I’ve purchased from them over the years are still thriving in my garden today.

So when Santa Rosa Gardens reaches out and asks me to sample/trial a product, I’m all ears. This happened a few weeks back when they asked me to try out their “My Garden Box” product.

**A quick disclaimer** This product was provided to me free of charge and no expectations were set in terms of a review.

“My Garden Box” is a subscription service where Santa Rosa designs a custom crafted collection of plants and gardening goods on a monthly basis and delivers them to those who sign up. Think of it as a “Wine of the Month Club” but with plants in a deftly themed format.

Or to describe it more specifically, as pulled right from their website:

Seasonal Plants, Tools & Living Decor and a Touch of DIY

I’ll provide some additional details in a bit as I first want to show you the contents of what I received in my inaugural box.

The box arrived just before the holidays and that old familiar logo put a smile on my face when I found it on the front doorstep.

Upon opening it, I was surprised to see that there was a lot more inside than expected. I could have read up on what to expect before opening the box, but I’m a I-like-to-be- surprised kind of guy.

Here is what was inside, after opening each of the carefully wrapped and protected items.

Now I have to admit I’m typically a dig hole, drop plant in hole kind of gardener and crafty plant stuff can be a struggle for me. That is why I have a smart wife (who loves all of this even more than I do) who can hold my hand along the way. On top of that, each item came with detailed instructions, simple enough that even this dope couldn’t screw it up.

For me personally, I immediately jumped to the gigantic Amaryllis bulb. It is ‘Apple Blossom’ and wouldn’t you know it, my wife’s personal favorite. Score one for good garden blogger husband.

In no time, that bulb was planted according to the easy to consume directions and it sits on my windowsill just waiting for the growth to kick in.

The “box” included the bulb and the stones and the glass bowl you see above.

Next in line was the Tillandsia “Airplant” in a hanging glass ornament terrarium. Who knew such a thing existed? Yes, I know what you are thinking, dreams do come true. It fits right in with the living decor movement.  

And yes, that is a Hello Kitty ornament. Don’t judge. I have an 11 year old daughter.

The kit included the Tillandsia, the glass ornament terrarium, faux snow, faux ornaments/gifts and faux moss/grass. Crafty ONG put it all together with no problem and has properly followed the directions by soaking the plant once a week. It still sits on our Christmas tree as I type this and I’m not exaggerating when I say 7-10 people have specifically asked about this ornament ever since it made its way on there.

The final item in the box is this classic looking soap dispenser that has become the default soap dispenser in our kitchen every since it arrived.

If my math serves me correctly, that is three items that have made a big impact in the Markowski household over the holidays.

You can get all of the details as to how the subscription service works here.

I like the fact that you can do it for a year automatically, 3 months automatically or try it one time. There is something about getting this during the quiet time of year in terms of gardening here in the Northeast US. A little ray of sunshine through the bleakness.

I admittedly know little about houseplants and I am using this opportunity to get myself acquainted with them. It is a nice way to get the hands dirty even while indoors. The Tillandsia is my gateway houseplant.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this product/service. What do you think? Would you consider trying it out? Would you ever give it as a gift? Have you ever done anything like it in the past? Would you be interested in a giveaway for a subscription (wink wink)?

Thanks in advance and thank you to Santa Rosa Gardens for the opportunity to test drive this exciting product.

Journal entry #1 – January 2, 2017

Hi there.

I was going to start this with “Dear Diary” but that sounded very 1980’s teen girl-like. I am going to turn 45 this calendar year and it’s time I mature as a writer. Fortunately for me, this is a personal journal entry and no one will be reading this. Still, if I ever want to expand beyond “cute post”, I need to embrace a more mature writing style.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you like this. Very astute observation. I’ve actually never done this “personal journal” thing before but without proclaiming it as an official “resolution”, I have quietly promised myself that I would write daily. Chances are slim that I will stick to it but only you will know that.

The inspiration to write daily comes from a book I’ve raved about before “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Her concept of “morning pages” piqued my interest a few months back and I’m now ready to embrace the practice. This means a daily routine of writing each morning as a means of clearing the brain. The writing isn’t intended to ever be published but the hope is by removing the clutter, the clear and sharp writing will follow.

As you may or may not know, I’ve been writing regularly through the writing platform at medium.com and I love it. In case you ever wanted to check it out, click here. The ability to write about non-gardening stuff came at a time when I felt a bit burnt out on garden writing. I’m still not sure where things go from here but I know I haven’t lost the passion for gardening and writing is who I have become so chances are garden writing sticks around for a while still.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I need “morning pages” specifically for garden writing. I’m all over the place with it so I need to work things out through this sheltered and hidden communication means we have here. I just need you to listen, not judge and let me work it all out over the next few months. You cool with that?

If so, here’s my first attempt at employing my garden writing windshield wipers. It will be rambling, odd and hard to follow, but know the goal is to come out firing on all cylinders on the other side. “Morning pages” are supposed to be hand written but my hand hurts after writing with a pen for any longer than 45 seconds so that is why I am typing it out here.

Again, the smart move was to do this in secret because if any readers were to get a hold of this, well, they may not be readers any more. Never let them know that you are a weirdo.

So here we go and thank you in advance for allowing me to experiment here. The inaugural spewing of thoughts will be generic today but I hope to make them hyper specific as I proceed ahead over the next few months.


When I walked outside this morning I loved the winter garden. I am so “I hate winter”, “I like winter” that it is driving me insane. Today I like.

At the same time, I think spring once January hits. But I’ve lost my usual gusto when trying to find new growth in March but I hope it reappears this year. Life has a way of getting in the way.

Do I have too many grasses?

I’m sick of my own writing and how I sound? Is that normal?

I’m dreading cutting down the grasses. Do I have too many?

Is this the year I abandon growing tomatoes and veggies all together? Every frickin year I have big plans and can never stick with it. Does that make me a bad person.

When will I be comfortable enough to allow others to see my garden? If I were a betting man I’d say the answer is never. That sucks.

Do I try and journal my garden more seriously this year. Ditch the sarcasm and goofiness and just show the results? I may like to try that.

Why do I still get embarrassed when someone says “Ask John, he is way into gardening”?

Usually by now, I have my gardening catalogs set aside for some online shopping. I’m thinking about not buying anything this year. Is that good or bad?

Fuck hydrangeas.

 

 

 

 

The results of my gardening resolutions since 2010

I dove way back into the blog archives for today’s post. Inches of dust were swept away and endless doses of humiliation were consumed just to prove a point to all of my readers.

I suck.

You should go elsewhere.

I’m a phony.

This is no exaggeration. I’m not playing the sympathy card.

I traveled back in blog time and collected all of my prior end of the year garden resolutions and tabulated my success, ahem, failure rate.

I will keep you in suspense in terms of a % until the end of this post.

Each and every resolution has been copied in its exact wording from the original post. I will add my current day commentary after each one and whether each one was a “success” or “failure”.

You can click on the year to view the original posts if indulging in other’s humiliation is your thing.

Allow the carnage to begin.


2011
I vow to include my children more in the gardening process – Not even close. I haven’t even attempted to engage them for years now. Fail.

I will stay on top of the pruning, especially those perennials that require it for size control. There were some attempts back a few years but nothing since. Fail.

I will grow even more of my own food and do it in a sensible way. I have no idea what “sensible” meant but bottom line, I’ve grown a few tomatoes and that is it. I’m lazy. Fail

I will dig like a champ, put my body through complete torture and revel in the pain. I took on some bigger projects that following year but very little since. I hate myself. Fail.

I will continue to incorporate more and more native plants. This has been a focus every year to date. Success.

I will admit defeat to the deer. Yeah right. I assume this meant to only plant truly deer resistant plants. I’m still dumb. Fail.

I will do my best to stop and “smell the roses” more often. Huh? Fail.


2012
Expand, expand, expand -I want to add more paths and “destinations” that will encourage you to want to explore more. Very little has changed since then. I’m really disappointed in myself retroactively. Fail. 

Foliage, foliage, foliage – The key is to focus on foliage with contrasting colors, shape and textures. Hmmmm. I’m still a foliage gardener but I know what I truly intended here. More exciting and dramatic foliage. There have been some attempts but not to the level I intended. Fail.

Take advantage of raised beds – This is a simple one. Raised beds eliminate the poor drainage issue and allow me to grow herbs and vegetables I normally could not. I still have only the original one and have added exactly zero since. Fail.

Give up on the plants I know will not thrive – It is all about survival of the fittest and if you can’t keep up, you’re gone. Good bye Phlox paniculata, Good bye daylillies, Good bye Geranium ‘Brookside’. I still have all three. Fail.

Visit more gardens and get my ass inspired. The aforementioned ass has not been inspired at all. Fail.


2013

Soil test – as soon as the soil is workable in spring, I will get my samples out for testing and I cannot wait to see the results. Enough of the speculation and guesswork, time to get scientific. Didn’t happen. Fail.

Compost – it will take some time to get the production going, but thanks to that wonderfully inspiring GGW episode from last night, I now know where I can purchase compost in bulk. Didn’t happen. Fail.

Education – this is more of a keep reading, visit local gardens, talk to other gardeners, look into becoming a Master Gardener and simply get in the dirt kind of thing. I am now crying. Fail.


2014I tried reverse psychology heading into 2014. You’ll see, very little changed.

Growing your own food really is a waste of time. I would much rather just buy our produce from a big old supermarket and pay more for it. So let’s make a promise to grow less fruits and vegetables this year. See prior resolution and prior fail. Fail.

I love having to move large shrubs once they outgrow their location. The pain of digging it out and trying not to destroy all of the plants in its path once it is unearthed is the frickin best. I vow to ignore proper spacing rules in 2014. I have not gained any patience over the years with spacing. Fail.  

I love taking my chances on a plant that deer love to chow down on. Those plants that are not deer friendly, like Allium, are so boring. Again, see prior resolution and subsequent fail. Fail.  

I find berries on shrubs/trees to be such a distraction and an unnecessary mess. Plus all those annoying birds come and devour them. No more plants with berries in 2014. Does it count if berry producing plants have been erratically relocated and/or have been nibbled by deer? I didn’t think so. Fail.  

One of my favorite moments in summer is when we go on vacation and I fail to line someone up to help water the containers. I love the mystery of returning home to see if any of the flowers or even the plants survived. Pure adrenaline. I am going to do more of the same in 2014 and even try to plan our vacation for the hottest and driest part of summer. Beyond epic fail. I fried my containers so badly this year and we didn’t even take a long vacation. Fail.  

The wear and tear, cost and effort of cutting the grass is so worth it. It is so rewarding to spend most of my free time sitting on a lawn tractor. So let’s remove more of those garden beds and add more lawn. While it hasn’t been on a large scale, I have continued to chop away at the lawn. Well look at that. Success.

Native plants are so uninteresting and do not add a lot to the garden. In 2014 we eradicate them all and add more yuccas and hostas. This is hard to fathom, two successes in a row. Success. 

Ignore what my daughter has to say and do my best to fail to live up to her expectations. I have no clue what this was about, but safe to say I’ve failed. Fail.

Remove all blue foliage plants from my garden. I have added some “blue” the past few years. Yeah me. Success.

Keep ignoring my conditions and try to fit a square peg in a round hole. I refuse to attempt to grow a bog garden. This pisses me off. My garden is ripe for a bog or rain garden. Why I haven’t tried is beyond me. Fail. 


2015 – None made. I’m sure I failed with many unwritten resolutions as well.


2016Even the year I try non-gardening resolutions, well, read on.

Stop drinking coffee at night. I managed to stay away for 4 days last week. Before that, not pretty. Fail. 

Make my kids watch the original “Star Wars” movie. Not even close. And they have no interest in “Rogue One” either. Fail.

Floss every night. Does every other week count? Fail.

Read one book a month. I think I managed 3 in 2016. Fail.

Watch one soccer game, I mean match, in its entirety. Why did I care about this again? Doesn’t matter now. Fail.

Eat vegetarian for one week. More like one meal. Fail. 

Cook one meal from scratch each month. Does placing an already prepped meal in the oven and applying the appropriate time count? Fail. 

Call a sports talk radio show. Fail.

More videos on this blog. How many did you see here in 2016? Fail.

Pretend to be a professional photographer for a day. What does this even mean? Fail?

At least finalize the “concept” for a gardening book. Well what do you know, here is one where I can proudly say “Hell yes”. 2017 is the year we see “Ornamental Grasses: A Love Story” come to fruition. Success.    

Write for another blog/publication. Wait, I didn’t see this coming. Another success in the realm of writing? I’m sensing a trend here. Expanding my writing on Medium has already opened some doors and I’m so thrilled to have found my way there. Success.

Stop the PennEast pipeline. The delays have been promising but there is still a long way to go. TBD.


So here is our final tally:

Resolutions made since 2010: 38

Successes: 6

Fails: 31

TBD: 1

Success rate: 22%

With that horrific success rate in mind, it is time to create some resolutions in for 2017 that are just about guarantees. Resolutions that will require little to no effort. Resolutions that are virtual locks.

You are free to remain skeptical based on past numbers.


My 2017 gardening resolutions:

Smile a lot.

Be thankful for each and every moment spent in the garden I’ve weaved for myself.

Remember the stories behind each and every plant.

Never feel pressure to do a thing.

Be aware of the escape the garden provides.

Understand the healing powers of a garden.

Embrace the words that emerge from a summer walk in the garden and enjoy the feeling of typing them.

And most of all, understand how blessed I am to be able to dig out that enormous ornamental grass, chop it up and create 5 more. To be healthy enough and strong enough to still be able to do it. To embrace the patience to watch the new ones mature. To have the resilience to see that grass book become a reality. To never forget the excitement of planting that first grass, a stake in the ground announcing the arrival at our family homestead. Understanding that having family as backbone has allowed me to throw myself into the garden and share its wonders with my readers.

Here’s to 2017 and tossing bullshit resolutions to the side.

Enjoy my friends.

 

The 2016 ONG Gardening Awards

This was a strange gardening year for me. As I look back on spring and summer and early fall, I feel like I didn’t do much.

No marathon overhauls.

Not a lot of plant movement.

Some new plant additions but fewer than in prior years.

And way fewer photos than any time in the past seven years (when I started photographing my garden).

Either I’m losing my mojo, allowing life to get in the way or if the glass is half full, I’m maturing as a gardener.

Let’s agree that it is 25%/50%/25% respectively.

Still, there will always be time to look back and learn and review the gardening season that was.

And what better way to do that than through an awards ceremony. I like dressing up and I’ve already prepared a few rough drafts for victory speeches.

Onwards.


Gardening book of the year:

The Perennial Matchmaker

ondra 10

IMHO, no one does a better job than Nancy Ondra when it comes to the combining of perennials. This book sparked so many ideas and will continue to do so this gardening “off season”. I’ve already worn out a lot of the pages.

That is always a good sign.

It doesn’t hurt that she loves the grasses as much as I do.

ondra 8


“Best riddance of a plant” award:

Finally removing all of my barberry shrubs.

barberry

 

remove barberry 3

As if I needed to be reminded yet again about the invasive nature of this non-native shrub. While it was a bit of a nightmare to eradicate the two remaining dwarf cultivars, it was a long time coming.

Even after I dug both of them up, I still spent all summer and fall pulling roots/branches that were left behind.

I don’t think I’ve seen the last of these.


The “I will not panic and therefore do nothing” award:

Eastern Tent caterpillars.

bag of bugs

While I can’t say that I’ve embraced them, I can say that I have witnessed them on my crabapple tree for three years running now and have done nothing to address them.

And guess what? I haven’t seen any signs of damage as a result of my inaction.

Some times you just let nature take its course.


“My biggest obsession of 2016” award:

Destroying my lawn with cardboard.

cardboard

If I do the math, I should have no lawn by April of 2045.

No lawn = more planting space and less maintenance and prettier stuff.

The jury is still out on the success of using such a method as I haven’t layered it quite as thick as I have in the past. I can say that the cardboard typically fully breaks down after 3 years and then we enter into weed management time.

Fun.


The “bad parenting” award:

mia 2

Next.


“The impossible to combine with other plants” award:

Trollius (Globe Flower)

orange flower

orange flower bee balm

Maybe it isn’t so much this particular flower as much as it is working with the color orange.

On its own, I like it. But in my rural and mostly native and mostly grass infested garden, it doesn’t really fit in. I tried combining them with spring blooming Allium …

trollius blooms

… and well, yuck.


The “one can never have enough of this bulb in spring” award:

Allium.

allium

What focal points and what fun and what a hoot to watch them tower over the lower lying perennials.

full 2


The “I’m shocked at how much I love this plant” award:

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’.

baptisia back

I don’t know if these bloom at a time when there is a lull in the garden or if I just like Baptisia so much that even yellow blooms are a stunner. Regardless, I am so thrilled with this plant and hope to add a few more in the not so distant future.


The “I can’t believe it took me this long to embrace a flowering vine” award:

Clematis ‘Scented Clem’ Sugar-Sweet.

clematis

 

clematis 2


The “Well, that didn’t work out quite like I hoped it would” award:

My robotic lawnmower.

husqvarna 2

I wrote an initial review here. And at first, it was a lot of fun to watch this guy run 24/7 without a care in the world, even in the pouring rain.

husqvarna

But eventually I ran into issues with the automower being able to locate its charging station. As a result, I had to carry it to the charger every few hours and it just became too much.

I think these work well within small properties and not large lots like mine. I had to have this running only in my front yard and while it was fun and a great conversation starter, it ultimately became a gimmick and so I moved back to good old standard mowing.


The “best performing week in my own garden” award: 

The week of June 19th, 2016.

front bed

 

front bed

 

front bed 2

 

veronica pink

 

planter bed


My “favorite public garden” award:

No spoiler alert required here, you all know that it is the High Line in New York City.

DSC_0887

 

DSC_0872

 

DSC_0881


The “2nd best performing week in my own garden” award:

The week of August 7th, 2016.

joe pye butterfly

 

white coneflower

 

side bed 2


The most often asked “What is that plant?” award:

Variegated diervilla ‘Cool Splash’.

diervilla


“My favorite newly added plant to my garden in 2016” award:

Pennisetum ‘Burgundy Bunny’

burgundy bunny 2


The award for “Most out of my comfort zone plant decision”:

Adding, gulp, Yuccas to containers. You can read about them here.

yucca-container

Yes, they are both still there.


Photo of the year:

No words necessary.

jack graduate


“The most f’n frustrating plant, three years running” award:

Cimicifuga, all cultivars. This is the best shot I could find.

cimici 3

The potential is so exciting and they start off like gangbusters but then the blooms emerge and it all falls to shit. I’ve tried everything to date and may just need to throw in the trowel (God I love typing that).


“Favorite new native plant finally added to my garden after ogling it at the High Line for so long” award:

Vernonia (Ironweed).

ironweed

 

All six of these should dominate in 2017. I hope.


“Instagram photo that will hopefully be bringing in a little bit of cash this holiday season” award:

instag

More to excitedly come on this.


“The most magical early morning where thankfully I was awake and conscious and the camera battery was charged” award:

fog-front-bed-flame

 

front-bed-fall

 

spider-web

 

fog-flame-grass

That is why I garden.


 

I require your advice

I may or may not have mentioned to you all that I am in the early stages of piecing together book ideas. These ideas range from straight forward gardening to a mash-up of gardening/personal anecdotes.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize what the first (yeah I said “first”) book should cover but I think I’ve determined the topic.

Care to guess?

I know you know it.

It’s a part of almost every post that I write, especially from early summer and into the fall and winter.

Yep, you nailed it.

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES.

Was there ever any other choice? Of course not.

Deep down I’ve always known but it wasn’t until I started taking photos before I left for work recently that it all came together.

grass-fb-2

I do this every single day.

Stare out at my grasses and thank my lucky stars that they exist.

I photograph them as if they were my kids.

We chat and I praise them when deserved and scold them when they aren’t putting in a full effort.

A big ups to whomever invented them or should I say, introduced them to the world as a garden option.

grass-fb

My garden would be next to nothing without them. They are the backbone and they helped me form my identity as a gardener.

The number of questions I receive in regards to grasses via email, in the hallway at work or at the holidays is phenomenal and I’m always thrilled to chat. And if I may forego my humble nature for a moment here, the “you da grass man” comments are another reason why I believe a book is the calling. One recent comment that a put a big ass smile on my face:

Hi John, late post here just to compliment you on your beautiful photos. Since following your blog, I find myself craving more grasses in our landscape and I’m gradually winning my husband and fellow gardener over to my side since they are relatively deer proof.

Swoon.


On to the book.

I have a general feel for the direction and for the content but I’ll keep that as a surprise for now. I have a lot of research to complete and a lot of experts to track down and a lot of gardens to visit. It may sound a bit overwhelming but I got this.

And remember that each of you promised to buy ten copies when it is released.

You’re so awesome.

Seriously, I would pay you handsomely for your feedback on what you would want from a book centered around ornamental grasses.

What intrigues you?

What doesn’t?

Is design as important as understanding all that exists in the grass world?

Do you desire maintenance advice?

Does the history of grasses, both in the US and across the globe tickle your fancy?

Human interest or get to the point already John?

A comment to this post would be great or an email (ongardener@yahoo.com) would work as well.

I’ll be flexing my writing muscle heavily this winter and your feedback would be an incredible means for better understanding what the people want, what the people demand.


While I hopefully still have your attention (and thank you for that by the way) I’m going to self promote just a smidge more.

You may have noticed a while back that I returned to the Obsessive Neurotic Gardener blog name. I struggled with the desire to remain focused on gardening versus the desire to write about other stuff.

Once I discovered the medium that is Medium.com it all became obvious. Keep this blog as ONG and use Medium as an outlet for my other writing desires. One helps feed the other.

So far so good and I’m loving the path I’ve chosen.

If it wouldn’t be a bother, I’d love for you to check out the stories below that I’ve written over at Medium.

Late night walks with Mia

Rick Springfield analysis

Writing formula

How I don’t write

Time to move on

While I think the style of writing is still all me, I’ve discovered that I love to write about writing more than I ever imagined.

And 80’s icons …

And my wacky ass dog …

Discovering Gary Vaynerchuk

I’m feeling all sorts of salty and fired up today so enjoy the ride because even I don’t know where it’s going.

I despise so called “gurus” and “life coaches” and the like. I see right through their bullshit and know it is all about them cashing in on your weakness and their “special empowerment package now on sale for only $99.99”. While I’m entertained by their ability to sell their spiel passionately, I can’t buy in. You can tell me again and again that I need to believe in myself but it is only me who can do a damn thing about it. I already know that and don’t require the reminder thank you.

But then I discovered Gary Vaynerchuk. Dude … wow.

Check that, I didn’t discover him, my wife pushed me to give him a listen. That woman is ahead of the curve like no one else I know. She was on to Pinterest before all of you, she knew that The Weekend was going to hit it big before I even knew who they were and of course she married this prize before all the other ladies even had a shot. Big ups to her.

Like everything else on my to-do list in life, I procrastinated and put off giving him a shot for another day and then another day. Rinse and repeat. But on my way home from work last week, I was in a shitty mood and desperate for someone to smack me upside the head so I could wake up and get my head on straight. I never speak of my “day job” here and don’t plan to now, but just know I’m in a bit of a work midlife crisis. It’s no one’s fault but my own, but some times I need to be reminded of that.

I kid you not, within 1 minute of listening to this podcast …

Gary Vaynerchuk works harder than you do

… I was completely smitten with this guy. It was immediate and it was really f’n powerful. It’s as if he was talking directly to me through Bluetooth and had some serious intel on my backstory. There was no BS and he was as direct as humanly possible. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a Jersey guy, right around my age and curses like a sailor. I could relate to all he was spewing and he had me. I was like a red-bulled 13 year old when I got home from work that night.

“Gary said this and then he said this and I’m totally like, amen brother and then he described this kind of person who is me to a tee and I’m like I can do that and I’m ready to change and work harder and be awesome and I need to go on Instagram more and never sleep too.”

Since last Friday, I’ve consumed endless YouTube videos of his daily show, talks at conferences,etc. I listen to him on my headphones while weeding. And you know what, I’ve never weeded with more passion. The energy is palpable as is his way of looking at the world. I feel inspired and angry at the same time. Angry in a good way. Angry at myself for not pushing harder in life. Angry for not being more passionate in what I believe in and not taking more chances.

While he may be an entrepreneur and smart as a whip businessman, his themes extend to all parts of life. Self evaluation and awareness trump all else. Empathy is the key to life. Run with your strengths and don’t worry about your weaknesses. Bet on yourself. And my personal favorite, work harder than everyone else and once you get to where you want to go, exhibit endless amounts of patience. Others may have shared these same tenets, but some how his delivery makes it seem more authentic. He’s done it and can back it up. No BS pictures of yachts and Dom on Instagram. I implore you to try him out if you haven’t already.

Can I sustain this? Who knows. Maybe it is just a temporary jolt. Either way, I’m enjoying the ride and desperate for it to manifest itself into my life in all sorts of ways. I don’t even know if I used the word “manifest” right in that last sentence but guess what, I don’t friggin care, I went for it and I’m proud of even attempting to use the word “manifest”. Thanks Gary Vee.

Where is this going today? Am I angling to suddenly become an entrepreneur? Am I quitting my day job to join the hustle? Do I have a killer business idea? I don’t have the answer to any of these questions yet but I feel inspired, inspired in a way I’ve never felt before. I want to push my limits. I want to try things and fail and learn from them. I want to set ridiculous goals. I want to be more angry as a means to be more real.

But more than anything else, I want to push this blog/venture further than it has gone before. Do I know what that means yet? A bit. I’ve been doing this for over six years. Other than with my marriage, I’ve never been this committed and able to sustain anything this long in my life. That tells me something. I love writing, taking photos, playing in the dirt, making you laugh, being all high brow and low brow at the same time. Now we see if we can push it even further. Again, exploit the strengths and ignore the weaknesses.

With all that in mind, allow me to tell you why this photo sparked something as I was uploading it to my laptop today.

daffodil 4

A pretty flower, right? Surely. But you know what, I have given this and its brethren very little notice since they bloomed a few days ago. Because this is what I really see when I walk out my front door right now.

daffodil 5

All of the blooms face away from view and truthfully, the ten or so blooms don’t really make that much of an impact. Give it another few days and their inevitable decline will commence. And guess what? I’ll leave the foliage up all spring since it feeds the bulbs for what I hope will be an even bigger flower show next spring. But I won’t show you that foliage because it isn’t pretty. Amazing how the camera will avoid that area and keep it out of view. I can’t help but feel like I’m not keeping it real.

The point here? Gardening is f’n hard. It really is and I’m finding it harder and harder to sell others on how to make it easy. I can enjoy these daffodils for their brief show but ultimately, I envision them multiplying in years to come and me coming up with a combo that makes them truly pop. But that will take time and tinkering and you know what, I will love every second of it. That is where the fun comes in, that is where the payoff comes from. Then I can take a killer photo of that combo and really feel proud of what I’ve accomplished. Full effort and patience.

You will never see me push “5 low maintenance plants” or “ten steps for the perfect garden” because they don’t exist. That is horseshit marketing of the finest degree. More than ever, I want to stress the necessary work and time and effort that is required. I want to tell you to ignore those fleeting blooms on a plant that only last one week (contrary to what you are sold) and enjoy the texture that same plant has to offer for 20+ weeks following. I want to show you what failed and do my best to determine why. I’m in the planning stage (yes, planning) of how to utilize my Go Pro camera for near daily (a bit of a hedge) videos of the grind. I think you will like it.

One last one …

Sure the blooms on my Serviceberry are a welcome sign right now.

serviceberry

serviceberry 3

But if I ‘m keeping it real, the more important and honest question here is where did I go wrong or how do I determine why the shrub/tree truly looks like this.

serviceberry 2

Those bare branches are hard to hide each year.

More of that to come …

 

My bad

Can I get one retroactive resolution please? Thanks.

Here it is:

I will not play around with the “technical settings” on this blog ever again unless proper consultation has been secured from a professional.

In case you didn’t notice (and BTW, why didn’t you notice?), my blog had been “down” since Monday and wasn’t back up and running until Saturday afternoon. I can’t even begin to explain what went wrong other than one back end URL change kicked off a series of unfortunate events that resulted in hours of chats with Google/Godaddy/Bluehost. While the blog is back, I now have to deal with being blacklisted by a spam database (from a 2007 event, before the blog existed) which is causing me issues from accessing the blog at home. Fun.

Your next logical question should be, what URL change were you making dummy? Glad you asked, allow me to explain.

I had renamed the blog “Master of None” in celebration of my many interests and self aware knowledge that I kind of am no more than decent in any of them. I loved the title and was ready to forge ahead with it. But then I was contacted by the people of Anzi Ansari who had already created a show of the same name, “Master of None”. In a rather intimidating manner, they told me to shut it down and all would be OK. If I refused, the lawyers would get involved and I wouldn’t have the financial backing to put up a fight.

So I just made that story up. Like it? The truth is I love Ansari’s show and just couldn’t let this blog share the same title, no matter how small time I may be.

But I couldn’t give up the blog title completely. So I got creative.

While my last name, Markowski, would clearly indicate that I am of Polish descent, I am actually closer to like 75% Dutch. I grew up in a very Dutch town of Midland Park, NJ. My grandparents last name was Van Veen.

dutch

One of the most memorable traditions of my childhood was my elderly aunt – Aunt Agnes – yelling something in Dutch on Christmas Eve and then throwing a whole bunch of cookies on the floor. I believe these were ‘kruidnoten’ which according to legend were thrown into the corner to ward off evil spirits. Now realizing that we just picked them up and ate them makes me wonder about her intentions.

I could tell Aunt Agnes stories all day – she kept doll heads in her refrigerator, re-gifted perfume and creams to my sisters for Christmas and gave us chocolate letters, never matching our first initial. The good old days.

In honor of my Dutch heritage, I decided to change the blog name to “Master of Geen”, with “geen” meaning “none” in Dutch. I even purchased the domain www.masterofgeen.com and that is the URL I played around with on the blog and caused the near disaster this past week.

Goofy name but I like it.

I’ve got a bunch of resolutions, a lemon update and oh so much more coming up in the next few days so be on the look out for actual blog content. Until then, I need to work on my blacklist removal.

Happy New Year.

The end of ONG

I am in a bind.

I love writing, I NEED writing, but I am struggling with how to effectively package my writing.

Garden writing has sustained me for 5 years + but now I feel like the well is running dry. My interest and passion for gardening hasn’t waned and the same goes for the act of writing.  I just don’t know if I can carry the torch for ONG much longer.

me

Yes, I’ve been known to make declarations in the past only to refute them the next day. And the fact that it is now November and most of the leaves have fallen off the trees isn’t helping. Dark gardening days lie ahead.

But this time it feels different.

I’ve always maintained that my garden writing was simply a diary of what was going on in my own garden. Good and often bad. Sure, from time to time I featured a particular plant or a “best of” list and tried to write in an SEO friendly manner. And yes there were attempts to try and align with certain garden products with a pie in the sky notion about … ahem … making some money with this thing.

But I could never sustain that mindset.

It isn’t who I am as I get very little fulfillment writing in that manner. If I wanted to write a post about my beloved Mets or my love of The Walking Dead or what the family did over the weekend I did so but admittedly was concerned about being “off topic”. I kept telling myself that it was still a gardening blog in the sense that gardening was the predominant topic even if I allowed myself to sprinkle in some outside thoughts along the way.

Now I think I’m ready to flip the switch.

The sprinkling of non-gardening thoughts now becomes the norm. Or maybe a better way to put it is that I want to write about whatever I want, whenever I want. And in doing so, I think I want to put ONG to bed.

My all time favorite website, Grantland, was just killed by ESPN. The site was the perfect mix of sports, pop culture,etc. The stories were typically written in long form, a no-no in today’s short attention span world. An article about the World Series could contain a reference to “The Bachelor” and a Fall TV preview could liken a show to baseball’s Spring Training. Hell, even if I didn’t always get the reference, I respected the writer’s mash-up ability. It was different and refreshing and I’ve been hooked for years.

And that is where I envision this blog heading as I look to the future. A dash of sports and how it infiltrates our daily lives. A dash of the pipeline. A sprinkling of some garden pics. Then a pipeline/garden mash-up rant. I’ll even bore you about what I ate at Wegmans for lunch. And now that I have my GoPro camera, I’m hoping to get wicked creative.

I sincerely apologize in advance for those of you come here just for the gardening. I know I’ll maintain some sort of garden writing presence moving forward but nowhere near where it was in the past. Thank you for all of your days/months/years of support. It was a blast and knowing people actually cared about what I had to say spurred me to keep going.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have no idea on how to package this new direction. I know the ONG title/moniker will be changed to something else but I have no clue yet as to what it will be. I know that johnmarkowski.com has already been snapped up so I’ll have to get creative.

I hope you stick around …