Category: Plant shopping

Plant shopping at Bluestone Perennials

It’s that time again.

It’s time to do some plant shopping.

First stop is at Bluestone Perennials. I’ve been a customer for decades now and have never been disappointed with the quality of the plants. They are my first go-to for online plant shopping.

For today, I used their “Shop by Gardening Solution” functionality and focused on plants that are wet site tolerant. As many of you know, that is the biggest struggle in my garden. But that doesn’t stop me, that doesn’t slow me down. I’ve learned to embrace it.

I also filtered my search to include “deer resistant” knowing that isn’t always accurate but it’s a good start.

My search efforts resulted in 82 options. A good majority of these plants already reside in my garden but there were enough new options to get my gardening juices flowing.

Here are the top 5 plants I discovered, all now residing in my virtual cart on the Bluestone Perennials website.

Click on the photos to get specifics for each at the BP website.


Filipendula Flore Pena (Meadowsweet)

I have two different pink-flowering Meadowsweet in my garden already and was pulled in not only by the white blooms, but the fern-like foliage.

I like the 2-3′ size as it would appear to work in most gardens.

It blooms in June and appears to thrive with afternoon shade.


Eupatorium fortunei ‘Pink Frost’ (Joe Pye Weed)

A variegated Joe Pye Weed was all I needed to hear. I’ll take 5 please.


Tradescantia andersonia ‘Blushing Bride’ (Spiderwort)

This is a new addition to BP this spring and color me way intrigued.

The foliage is way different than the typical Spiderwort and check out those unique markings on the leaves.

Throw in the flower color and I’m sold.


Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine Gold’ (Ninebark)

I am a Ninebark fan and this is a sweet addition to my ever expanding collection.

While not deer resistant, I’ll do my best to find a good hiding spot. Or I’ll plant it in a container on my deck.

The effort is worth it for that leaf color IMHO.

PSST … it’s on sale right now. Half off. Jump on it.


Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Northern Lights’ (Tufted Hair Grass)

I was sold as soon as I saw the foliage colors in the photos.

This is a cool season grass (growth starts in early spring when the soil is still cool) which is on the smaller side 16″.

I see it kicking some booty planted in mass as a groundcover of sorts.

Coupon codes for my book and Santa Rosa Gardens

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Head over to Santa Rosa Gardens now and save 40% on their in-stock inventory by using the coupon code “40foryou” at checkout. The deal expires on 6/8 so stock up now. I’m scouring the site as I type this.

And if you head here and use the coupon code “8KQUT6K5” you can get 25% off of the purchase price of my new book “Perennials Through the Seasons”.

You won’t regret it.

But if you do, don’t let me know.















Golden ragwort

During the winter of 2015-2016, I ordered 25 tiny plugs of Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) from my favorite online native plant nursery, Izel Plants. I knew nothing of this perennial before I found it there, but if the terms “likes moist”, “deer resistant” and “native to the northeast U.S” are part of any plant description, I’m in.

The Golden Ragwort were planted last April and a year later, well, wow.

Golden Ragwort

That didn’t take long.

An insane amount of blooms on almost all of the plants. I had been seeking a big time early spring bloomer and this appears to fit the bill perfectly.

To date they are thriving in wet locations in both full and partial sun. No creatures have as much as looked at them funny, let alone nibble them, and the blooms have looked divine for over a week now.

Ding, ding, we have a winner.

But I couldn’t leave it at that. Not this over-analytical gardener.

In bloom, the Golden Ragwort is about 2 feet tall. Once the blooms are spent and showing signs of wear, I plan on diligently cutting off all of the flowers to prevent any reseeding (they are known to be aggressive re-seeders). Once the stems are cut down to the low-lying basal foliage, they’ll be closer to 6 to 12 inches tall.

Golden Ragwort

With that in mind, I question my best use of these “groundcovers” from a design perspective. Right now in flower, they’re taller than all of the slow growing perennials and shrubs behind them. It looks a bit off and I can’t stop analyzing it.

But once the stems and flowers are removed, the appropriate “ascending in size order” look will be there.

Do I bite the bullet, enjoy the fine flowers and chill the f out?

Golden Ragwort

Or are you unfortunately like me, and subscribe to the school of over-tinkering and over-thinking?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.





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.

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.


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).


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.


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 nipponica ‘Snowmound’




Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’


Pycnanthemum incanum (Hoary mountain mint)

And you know, ornamental grasses.












Greener Earth Nursery

Today I am thrilled to recommend an online plant retailer for you all.

Say hello to Greener Earth Nursery:


To the shock of no one, I was most interested in their ornamental grass selection.

Color me thrilled.

If you pop over there now, you can save 15% on your order by using the following link:

There is still plenty of time to get those plants in the ground if you are in the Northeast like me.

Here are three personal recommendations for plants currently thriving in my garden. Again, follow the links below to save 15% at checkout:

Desert Plains Fountain Grass

Dwarf Fountain Grass 'Burgundy Bunny'

Acorus 'Oborozuki'


Let me know what you’ve ordered and what you think.



Instagram “stories”

Over the last few months I’ve decided to embrace my inner 13 year old (acne and changing voice not included) and have spent an inordinate amount of time on two younger skewing social media platforms – Instagram and Snapchat. I don’t know if I’m in age denial, trying to hang with the cool kids or if I’m really into making the most of these channels as it applies to my storytelling desires. Whatever it is, I’m all in and having a blast.

I’ve been on Snapchat for 6 months now and I love it because it’s difficult to grasp. I played around with it for weeks and made stupid mistakes like sending pictures of flowers directly to people who could give a shit. But I couldn’t stop trying to master it. Once I understood the basics, I felt like I was a part of a cool secret club. Even at 44 years old, it’s fun.

Once my 10 year old daughter joined (and guess who gets to monitor her activity?) it took her no time to show me Snapchat’s full capabilities. I picked up a lot on my own and I’m proud of my ability to be a practitioner, but these kids just have that intuition and it is fascinating and interesting to watch. Say all that you want about “millenials” and youth culture today, but these kids are creative and persistent and I love it.

snapchat meAnd now this week, Instagram announced the launch of Instagram “stories” which is a direct ripoff of Snapchat. I’ve only had two days to play with it, but here’s my take:

  • It is Snapchat but with a more user friendly interface
  • It is much easier to promote your own stories to a larger audience
  • It lacks the whimsy and fun and youthfulness of Snapchat.
  • The filter function on Snapchat, which is not part of Instagram “stories” is a big difference maker for those who love showing off their travels.

I’m sure you’ll be reading more about it in the weeks to come as the battle between social media platforms intensifies. I see no reason why both can’t exist on their own and I’ll be using both for different storytelling reasons.

I’ve created a few Instagram “stories” so far, including one that documented my trip to my local garden center. I can’t show you the videos here, but if you hurry, you can see it on my Instagram profile but do it quickly, because just like Snapchat, the stories disappear after 24 hours. This “here and gone” theory creates an immediacy not so different from how we communicate when we talk to each other each day. I get it and like it. Your Instagram photos are pretty and nicely filtered and well thought out. Your Instagram “stories” are more off the cuff and raw but more of who you are. It’s nice to have both capabilities within the same platform.

My Instagram “story” from today:


It is a bit incomplete without the videos I included, but you get the point.


I’ll be diving into this more and more and lucky you will be able to view these stories over the next few weeks.

Before I go, have any of you planted Oregano ‘Kent Beauty’? That is what you see in my haul above and I’m curious how it has performed for you?

QOTD – any interest in Snapchat or Instragram? If so, let’s connect and if not, let me know why. I won’t be insulted … easily.


Bluestone Perennials order

After much thought and in depth analysis, I finally settled on the six plants to include in my annual Bluestone Perennials order. Check that, it is my semi-annual order, one for spring and one for fall.

This is a very deliberate process. I use the Bluestone Perennials “Plant Finder” and immediately filter their full plant list to match my conditions:

Wet Site Tolerant


Full Sun

Deer Resistant

Once that is done and the list has been significantly cut down, I go through each plant one by one in order to cut the list down even further. Some are easy to immediately eliminate; those I already have, those I know I’ve killed in the past and those that don’t pass the eye test.

With the list that now remains, I do some cursory research on those plants I am not all that familiar with and if I think the plant is a viable option, it gets added to the shopping cart. From there I know which remaining plants are on the wish list and they get added to the cart as well.

When that process is completed, we review the cart and start to compare plants against each other with the goal of not exceeding the predetermined $100 budget. Sort of my own version of a plant shopping reality show.

“Honey, I really love that new Aster but that pushes us over our budget.”

“I know. And we can’t forget to factor the kids in here. How will they feel about living with that Aster?”

“Screw them, they won’t even know it exists. They never even set foot out in the garden.”

“Good point. Let’s take a risk and do it. I love you.”

(A great big hug follows and then collective smiles as we both click the “submit” button together).

After the list has been finalized within the shopping cart, I excitedly hit “submit” and immediately add all of the plants to my master plant spreadsheet. I also then start to map out where the plants will be located in the spring.

One hell of a good time.

So without further ado, here are the 6 different plants I ordered from Bluestone Perennials. If you click the photo for each, it will take you to the plant description on the Bluestone Perennials website.

You’re welcome.


Bluestone Perennials

  • Love it for the height 3-4′
  • Love it for the larger flowerheads
  • I’ve grown the annual Rudbeckia and it still reseeds ten years later. A little bit worried about it being invasive.







Bluestone Perennials

  • Another tall plant – 4′
  • Not really deer resistant but I don’t care. I’ll hide it well.
  • Will definitely be added among some ornamental grasses.







Bluestone Perennials

  • Had me at those black stems
  • Tall 3-4′ (sensing a theme here)
  • A no-brainer for those of us with soggy soil








Bluestone Perennials

  • A smaller Buttonbush. Why the hell not?
  • “Loves a boggy wet spot”
  • Multi season interest with blooms, berries and ever changing foliage color








Bluestone Perennials

  • An ornamental grass I don’t have. Some times that is enough.
  • Already imagining the breezes with this one.
  • Another Kurt Bluemel creation, say no more.








Bluestone Perennials

  • I think I tried this one before and somewhere it got lost in the shuffle.
  • I like grasses, like a lot
  • Those blooms are killer




There you have it. What do you think? Solid choices? Do you want to ruin my bliss with any negative feedback?

Have at it.

Working through my Bluestone Perennials order

The reflection of the snow has been giving me a brutal headache these past few days so to remedy that I decided I will now stare at a computer screen uninterrupted for the foreseeable future.

The goal is to finalize my online purchases at Bluestone Perennials and use the gift certificate that has been staring at me since Christmas.


So let’s work through this live and see where we end up. As I write this post I am listening to Radiohead and slowly drifting off into a world of birds chirping, bees buzzing, callouses forming and me placing winter on a cruise ship and waving goodbye to it and all of the other passengers as they head out to sea.

Bon Voyage you f’er.

If you aren’t a Radiohead hater, play this as you move through this post. You can thank me later.

Before narrowing down my search on to find plants that suit my conditions, I need to take a look at some shrubs and dream of a non-deer world.

Viburnum ‘Red Wing’

Sucked in by the foliage color, realize that it is fleeting since only on new growth each spring, have too many other young Viburnums  already that I’m hiding from the deer. Pass.

Cornus ‘Golden Shadows’

Love the leaf shape and color, I’ve killed a few Cornus in my lifetime, only option may be in a container where I can control the drainage and protect from the deer, seems to need shade which I don’t really have. Pass.

Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’   
sambucus lemony

I love the foliage of this shrub, appears to like a moist soil, claims to be deer resistant (hmm …). I can envision a container this would look great in, good discussion piece, peeps will want to touch its leaves. Sold.

Clethra ‘Vanilla Spice’
clethra vanilla

You had me at Clethra … these have ALWAYS thrived for me so let’s try another one. Sold.

Clethra ‘Sugartina Crystalina’
clethra sugartina

Name sounds like a My Little Pony or an exotic dancer but again, me likey Clethra. Sold.

Spirea ‘Blue Kazoo’ 
spirea blue kazoo

I’ve been slowly phasing out Spireas over the years, but this has that blue foliage I am a sucker for, they are almost always care free. I want to say “no” but can’t move on. Fine, let’s give it a whirl. Sold.

Daylily ‘Christmas Carol’

How did this squeeze in there? I’ve bitched and moaned about the daylily for years now. No can do. Pass.

So now let’s narrow our search to wet site, deer resistant and mostly sunny since that is what I am targeting.


Damn I love this feature.

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

All signs point to this being a must considering my soil conditions but I have failed with these for too long to try again. Pass.

Monarda ‘Claire Grace’
monarda grace

Similar to Clethra, if you say Monarda I say “yes please”. I do however have a ton of these I can just divide. But I’m digging what appears to be dark stems. Cannot resist. Sold.

Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’

I failed once with this one as it didn’t appear to like all the sun it received. But damn it is sweet. Although it is not deer resistant and I have nowhere to hide it from the wandering herd. Playing it smart here. Pass.

You know what? I’m good. I’m going to finally show some restraint and end it here. I’m pretty sure these purchases will be covered by my gift card and wasn’t I the one who talked about spending little dinero this year and taking advantage of divisions?

So there you have it. Time to check out and move on to other things. Oh wait, we are covered in snow and ice and it is 15 degrees outside. Never mind, I’ll just continue to navigate the information superhighway.


A very special delivery

You want to know what is awesome?

Beyond a fried egg on a pizza or cheeseburger.

And beyond the current version of my Excel document that lists every plant I own. That thing is closer to “really awesome”.

And beyond the fact that I have planted over 100 bulbs the past two days … as the sun was rising each morning. No, that screams “utter determination”.

Today’s “awesome” story is shockingly about … ornamental grasses. But we’re not talking about another endless photo shoot from yours truly. Nope.

I wanted to share the fact that I recently received close to 75 new grasses in the mail from my friends over at Hoffman Nursery (full disclosure, they were provided free of charge).

Upon opening the box, I fainted and had to be revived by my daughter. She is used to this type of reaction by now so it was no biggie for her. I like her ability to handle herself under pressure.

After coming to, I actually found myself pumped up and a nervous wreck at the same time. I couldn’t wait to find a place to plant them all. And I was terrified thinking about finding a place to plant them all. We all garden to relax, right?

After I carefully removed my skirt and put my big boy pants on, I came up with a plan for just about all of the grasses. Although I will ask you for the right to change my mind within the next 24 to 48 hours.

I won’t bore you (as if that has ever stopped me before) with all of the details since the grasses are still only little pups,  but I have to show you some of what I did. If only to use as the “once upon time” portion of a future post that shows just how damn awesome these grasses really are.

For true visual impact and knowing that they would be planted in a “moist” area, I planted 10 Carex grayi as a ground cover along one of the beds in my backyard.



This is my first exposure to this sedge and I am most excited about the unusual looking seed heads that are produced. To see a good shot of those seed heads, click here.

Staying with the groundcover and sedge theme, next up are the ten Carex appalachica I planted underneath a River Birch tree.



These sedges prefer a much drier soil and based on what I had researched, can withstand root competition with trees. I’ve struggled to keep anything alive under my Birch trees so I’m hoping I’ve finally found the solution.

The next two pics are of Sorghastrum ‘Indian Steel’ (you can read more about it here). I found a few locations for these natives and look forward to the their upright and deliciously blue stems.



This spring, I planted a Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama Grass) and I’m just now seeing the horizontal seed heads it is known for.



And guess who now is the proud owner of 7 more of these? I added a bunch of them around my existing grass, hoping the massing will make quite a splash for summers to come.


OK, technically I haven’t planted all of the grasses yet, but I am doing my best to keep them watered until I can find them a semi-permanent home.


I would love to hear from you if you have had any experiences with any of these grasses mentioned above.

I also planted Panicum ‘Squaw’, Panicum ‘Thundercloud’ and Calamagrostis brachytricha.

And yes, I rule.