Category: My garden

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.

 

 

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’.

 

 

Tour of the garden – 6/6/17

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

Enjoy

I jumped the gun

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

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

 

That is what I’m talking about!

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

I’m a sucker

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t “bare” to show you

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

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

A lot of bare branches …

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

But … there may be happiness on the horizon.

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

Close but no cigar

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

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

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

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

The “original” ‘Husker Red’.

Hmmm, interesting.

My apple tree knowledge is rusty

Oh shit.

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

That was fast

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

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

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

Lazy

This hurts. How did we get here?

 

Always thinking and planning

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

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

More is good

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

The supply is running out

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

Unfortunately, that supply is dwindling.

Do I have to?

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

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

Understanding my priorities

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

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

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

I know my priorities.

She’ll bounce back.

The grass that is.

That’s not what I ordered

Where’s my white?

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

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

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

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

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

Attractive, but not what I had hoped for.

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

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

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

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

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

Where are my purple-black leaves?

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

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

Leaves may acquire some green tones as they age.

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

Come again?

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

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

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

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

You can open up now flowers

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

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

But no.

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

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

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

Conclusion

This shit is unpredictable.

Have a great long weekend.

 

Tour of the garden – 5/23/17

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

 

And still drawing in the critters.

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

 

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ is in flower.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

A post shared by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour of my garden – 5/11/17

BLOOMING

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

ABOUT TO BLOOM

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

 

A comparison of Amsonias:

First we have ‘tabernaemontana’.

 

And then ‘Hubrichtii’

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

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

 

FOLIAGE

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

OH SHIT

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

Another reminder: Northern Sea Oats = bad

My book – “Perennials Through The Seasons” – is out

After weeks of editing it is finally here.

The first edition of the book was 188 pages (8.5″ x 11″ paper) but I soon realized that at that length, it would be too expensive to print. As painful and excruciating as it was, I ultimately cut it down to under 100 pages.

Who knew that the actual writing of the book would end up being the easiest part of this project?

But it is done. And I am super excited.

A quick synopsis of the book:

There are 20 chapters, each a different perennial that resides in my garden today. The chapters commence with a personal story that is tied to that particular plant. It then takes you through a photographic journey, spring through winter of that perennial with 1,000+ photos in all. While the flowering of each perennial is happily celebrated, I also include other aspects that too often go underappreciated: new spring foliage, spent blooms, seed heads and fall color.

For all of you who have been loyal readers over the years, please know that this is all new material and not a copy of old blog posts.

You can purchase the book here through Amazon.

Thank you all for your support over the years as this book wouldn’t have been written without you.

I am forever grateful.

Volume 2 will be out later this year.

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.


 

In and around the November garden

What have I been up to of late?

Glad you asked.


I finally got around to installing my Screech Owl house. Fine, I didn’t physically install it so much as I was an active gofer for my handy brother-in-law who fortunately lives two houses away.

You all know me too well.

owl-house

The owl house was installed during the day on Saturday at a temperature close to 70 degrees and got its first test that night when we had gusting winds and almost 2 inches of snow.

Yay, November.


Who can resist a good late season plant sale? How about this monster bargain:

carex-lowes50 cents x 3 is so worth the risk of getting these through the winter. They are all Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’.

I consider it research for my ornamental grasses book.

A tax write-off.

Wish me luck.


Some times you just have a feeling.

Some times your gut tells you to just do it.

Some times you need it.

As silly as that all sounds, it all added up to me attempting to grow tulips successfully for the first time ever (not including in containers).

tulips

There is a deeper meaning at play here and one I’ll never talk about.

I need this to work and I’m confident that it will.

Tulips don’t dig the wet winter soil and that has been my problem for decades.

Until 2017 that is.

bulbs

We now wait until spring where my blind faith will hopefully pay huge dividends.


Beyond all that, I’ve been doing my best to soak in what is left in terms of color out in the garden.

spirea-fall

Spirea nipponica ‘Snowmound’

heuchara-fall

Heuchera

rhamnus-fall

Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’

mountain-mint-fall-2

Pycnanthemum incanum (Hoary mountain mint)


And you know, ornamental grasses.

grasses-fall-2

 

grasses-fall

 

grasses-fall-3

 

miscanthus-fall