Category: Spring

Garden optimism

A break from all of the baseball posts today.

Our trip down south unfortunately has come to an end. I now turn my attention from photographing athletes throwing a ball to photographing all signs of green that are popping up all over my garden.

And for the sake of a smooth transition, I like to think that I went from the promise of a new baseball season where all teams still think they can win it all, to the promise of a new season in my garden.

No weeds to deal with yet.

I like to think every plant in my garden will have survived the winter and will perform better than last year.

Optimism still exists.

So far, all of the Sedum plants appear to be intact.

 

And an endless number of daffodils have announced their presence.

 

 

The new irises I added last year (‘Wow Factor’) are ready to go and I cannot wait to share these killer blooms with you all.

 

But the plant I am most excited to see return is Allium ‘Globemaster’.

This is the first year, knock on wood, that it has returned for a repeat performance and that has me all sorts of giddy.

One last note:

Thank you all for your feedback/comments on the book I have in the works. I am putting all of your comments in motion and hope to share a sample chapter or two with you in the very near future.

 

 

Allium love, a new holiday and introducing “Question of the Day”

Here is the latest and greatest in my garden on this, dare I say, warm and beautiful May afternoon.

It’s all about the Allium right now, as the fruits of my fall labor are being realized this spring. I’ve got at least 25 Allium bulbs in bloom right now and they are kicking ass and taking names.

They look good up close.

allium 2

And as we pan back …

allium

… and back even further.

full 2

 

Baptisia blooms have arrived this week and I’m thinking this day should be declared a holiday each year. That is how festive it makes me feel. At a minimum, I’m going to push for #NationalBaptisiaDay on Twitter leading up to this day in 2017.

baptisia

baptisia yellow

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’

 

Siberian iris ‘Snow Queen’ is blooming but I’m only giving you a macros shot because they actually look kind of lousy because this lazy gardener has refused to divide them for four years running now.

iris

 

Amsonia tabernaemontana is blooming and that’s all I will say here because I’ve raved about this plant enough already.

amsonia

 

All of my peonies will be blooming within the next week or so and until then, I’ll enjoy the ridiculously delicious scent of the lilac in the background.

peony lilac

 

Another day, another sigh from me regarding the awesomeness of Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’.

ninebark

 

And finally, it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching the garden fill in while all empty spaces disappear.

full

full 3

Thank you again for stopping by.

I am going to try something new today. A “Question of The Day”. Here it is:

What perennial do you find to be the most underrated?

Leave your answer in the comments so we can all discuss and get educated.

Grats

Foliage over flowers

It was Portland outside here today or at least how I imagine Portland to be most of the year. I’ve only visited the city twice in my life and both times it bucked the trend of typical northwest weather. It was sunny and dry but still an incredible city and one I’m anxious to revisit. While I may prefer the sun and the extreme warmth of summer here in the northeast, there is no comparison when it comes to the perfect garden conditions of the northwest.

Today was overcast with a relentless mist and a layer of fog that slowly looked to envelope the entire town. But hot damn if it didn’t perfectly highlight and saturate the colors of the garden and aid in it looking healthier than it’s ever been. I’m no professional photographer but I have to assume this was close to the ideal day for capturing the great outdoors in all her glory.

So this amateur shutterbug made it a point to not miss this golden opportunity before the bright sun returns and washes out all of the color. As soon as I walked through the front door and into Seattle, my eye was immediately drawn towards the soon to be blooming mass of Trollius (Globeflowers). The orange buds were radiant and glistening after being misted for like 51 hours straight.

As I settled into my plant-photo-taking-stance, I surveyed this little section of the garden and realized how much it was being taken over by the bee balm I had planted there only last year.

orange flower bee balm

The best part of the quick takeover? The crowding out of any weeds. Not one could be found and that is all sorts of awesome. But not my point, at least for today.

I snapped a ton of pics of this section of the garden and after reviewing them and trying to determine which were blog worthy, I noticed something that only affirms what I’ve always known.

Here is one of the soon to be blooming Trollius flowers captured as the dominant element with the bee balm stems more faded in the background.

orange flower

Nice shot, right? But I prefer this next one, where the bee balm takes the lead.

orange flower bee balm 2

Give me foliage over flowers any day of the week. In this case, I love the reddish/purple outlining of each bee balm leaf, the texture of the leaves covered in moisture and even the shape of the square stems. Flowers are great and special and all because of their usually short stay, but it is the foliage that makes the statement. It is the foliage that works hard to look good all year round. It is the foliage that defines your garden and your style.

As exciting as it is to witness the first Geranium bloom (‘Espresso’) of the spring.

espresso

Nothing compares to the statement made by Lady’s Mantle on a cool and wet spring morning.

lady's mantle

 

Embrace the dandelions

An open letter to my obsessive lawn loving friends and family:

I love you all, I really do. But you have to chill the hell out. There is nothing you can do about it and in fact, I’m writing this letter today with the goal of not only talking you off the ledge, but to also tell you why you in fact need to embrace them. “Them” being those delightful little pops of yellow spring flowers known as the dandelion. Please take notice that I used the term “flower” and not “weed”, because that is your first step in coming to terms with your unnecessary lawn stress.

Listen, I’m not here to patronize you, that is not the intention at all. I was once like you, wickedly concerned with the perfect looking lawn. I too shared the weekly dream of a pristine sheet of green with nothing else present but those lawnmower lines. I subscribed to the Scott’s 137 step plan and cheered on the idea of killing everything in the lawn’s path. I cut my lawn diligently each week scooping up all of the clippings along the way because any visible clump represented laziness. I’d too then trim the shit out of the lawn for like and hour or so and then grab my painfully loud blower and blow the loose clippings on the driveway into my neighbor’s lawn. I may have even grunted a bit when it was all done.

I don’t remember specifically when it all changed, but it started when we moved into our new home 12 years ago. I went from a tiny suburban lot to a 2+ acre country lot. At first, I tried to keep up with the lawn in the same manner as at the old homestead, but it became evident early on that it wasn’t going to work, I could never sustain it. From that realization forward, I slowly evolved to who I am today. I educated myself through exhaustive online research. I read all of the opinion pieces on safe and organic “turf management”. And honestly more than anything else, I came to the realization that I cared a hell of a lot more about my garden and my plants than I did about the lawn. I wanted to spend as little time tending to the grass so as not to take away from my garden time.    

Having said all that, here are some key tenets I’ve come to live by when it comes to the almighty lawn:

  • Stop all fertilization – it is expensive, requires too much effort and if you dig around a bit, you’ll see that it wreaks havoc on our environment.
  • Stop with the watering – yes I know things can look bleak in the dead of summer, but just deal with it. You’re probably not watering the right way any way. Water is a precious resource and your lawn will recover in time when it finally rains again.
  • Keep the lawn clippings on the lawn – they will break down over time and that is your lawn’s only feeding which replaces the aforementioned fertilization. 
  • Cut the lawn at its highest setting – this lessens the stress of cutting back those blades so severely each week and helps shield those weeds and weed seeds from seeing the light of day.

And now one last one – Don’t fight the dandelions.

I know it kills your lawn aesthetics dream, but maybe if you knew that it can literally save the bees, you can come to terms with it. Seriously, the dandelion flower is their first source of nectar in spring. For those bees that managed to survive the winter, it is their best chance to make it so don’t you want to be part of rewarding those feisty creatures? You do know if there were no bees, well, we’d be in big trouble?

So learn to embrace the yellow flowers as a rite of spring. Sell yourself on the color they bring to the spring landscape. If that doesn’t work for you, know that the long taproot of the dandelion actually aids in bringing more nutrients to the lawn’s soil by breaking up that soil and making it easier for absorption.

Once you come to terms with the presence of dandelions, imagine all of the newly found time you’ll have now that you’re not trying to pull them one by one or god forbid if you were spraying them (we’ll discuss that a later date).

You can’t tell me that the quick-to-emerge-again dandelion flowers don’t look cool after a recent lawn cut.

lawn

It has such a natural spring time look doesn’t it?   

And when the dandelions are blooming at their peak, well it looks a hell of a lot better than just that boring green grid so many of you love.

dandelions

You are most welcome.

John

 

 

 

This post is boring and you’ve been warned

After six years of willfully displaying my immature excitement at new spring plant growth on this blog, it’s time to slow things down a bit. A never ending supply of minuscule pops of green is not very entertaining. In fact, those types of posts are a turn off to the non hardcore gardener. And if I’m here to do anything, it is to convert the non-obsessive to the obsessive.

So with that in mind, forget everything I just said. I’m a happily immature 43 year old who still gets down on his hands and knees and pulls back the mulch/soil for signs that perennials survived the winter. I use my left hand to hold back dead branches while the right hand barely balances the camera and some how manages to capture the rosettes of newly emerging sedum.

Maybe next year I’ll spare you the pain of my spring excitement. If you have had enough of these types of posts, photos or have seen all you need to see in your own garden, you are now free to leave. For those who stay, I’m sorry.

The ultimate rite of spring, the emergence of the peony. Still fun.

peony

 

In the not too distant future, we will have carpets of moss phlox blooms.

moss phlox

 

I’ve struggled to grow lilacs of any sort but things are looking up already this spring.

lilac

 

lilac 2

 

Allium ‘Globemaster’ returning for another year. No flower garners more attention than this one.

allium

 

Rhamnus ‘Fine Line’ (Buckthorn) is going to really take off this year and I’ll be there every step along the way.

buckthorn 2

 

buckthorn

 

A rosette of Ajuga peeking through the dead foliage. Tells me it is time to strap on my shit kicking boots and get my gardening on.

ajuga

An early spring garden tour

Even with temperatures dipping into the 40’s here in Central New Jersey and wind gusts of up to 40 mph, I still managed to spend a good deal of time in the great outdoors garden on Sunday. There was still dead perennial foliage to be removed, a first wave of weeds to eradicate and the never ending task of cutting down all of the ornamental grasses. When there is an available window of time for garden chores, you take it, no questions asked.

After the “tasks” were completed for the day, I grabbed the camera and did my best to capture what’s going on. Things seem to have slowed down a bit in the garden after the colder weather arrived this past week but there are still signs that we are in fact moving forward. And that is a good thing.

Bud break on the Viburnum ‘Amber Jubilee’ promises stellar foliage is coming in the very near future.

viburnum emerging

 

Same goes for the Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’ which lived comfortably in a container last season but has now made the jump to the big leagues and is in a very prominent spot in the garden.

emerging foliage

 

Variegated Siberian Iris will enjoy it’s first spring in my garden and here’s hoping it enjoys it’s stay.

emerging iris

 

Bee Balm rosettes threaten to take over all other perennials and I’m OK with sitting back and watching how it will all play out.

emerging bee balm

 

Daylilies … um … are green or whatever.

daylily emerging

 

The cool season ornamental grasses are showing signs of life as seen here with Calamagrostis ‘El Dorado’.

grass emerging

 

The buds on Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’ have turned to their usual pre-blooming pinkish hue and it won’t be long before that killer scent is wafting in my front windows and carrying me away to my happy place.

viburnum bud

 

I couldn’t bring myself to cut down the Panicum ‘Northwind’ yet. With nothing but cold temps and wind on the horizon, I still need to watch them dance a bit more before I can bid them goodbye.

northwind blowing

 

And on to the bulbs.

Daffodils, not the most original and unique of blooms but it is still color and they come back without fail year after year after year. An underrated attribute I do not take for granted.

daffodil

 

More Narcissus not too far away.

daffodil buds

 

daffodil buds 2

 

Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake) is starting to bloom and is one of the few bulbs that can withstand wet soil conditions over the winter. Hence, I have got a lot of it. Loved how the back lit sun was captured here.

leucojum

 

leucojum 2

 

The Hyacinth blooms are mini in stature but I’m just psyched that they came back at all again this year. It is the first time I’ve had repeat bloomers. It’s the little things that make me happy.

hyacinth

 

The garden “trumps” all else

Chaos reigns right now.

Every other day there is a heinous act of terrorism that no longer shocks but has become background music. The sight of people running for their lives on CNN doesn’t even faze us.

After a waiting period of approximately 51 seconds, both sides of the political aisle provide their expected take on the attacks and our existing division just grows larger and larger.

Did he really just say “I alone can solve”?

Donald Trump has managed to make this presidential race both fascinating and utterly embarrassing. The optimist hopes this is the necessary low point in order to course correct our political system. The pessimist says “dude we’re a fucking disaster”. I’m leaning towards the latter after watching Trump on CNN last night, where pictures of wives on Twitter was the topic for the first ten minutes.

And guns, oh those guns. Guns are the sole cause of all our issues. Take them all away. Never mind the impact of the mental state of these shooters or those who handle them responsibly.

On the other side we hear that guns solve all issues. If only those dining in Paris were properly armed. Take my gun away and I promise more gun violence. Is a background check unreasonable? This may be my favorite Onion article of all time:

Emotional Wayne LaPierre Honors Victims Of Background Checks

Don’t even think about breathing a word about politics or religion on social media because the concept of “gray” no longer exists. I’ve witnessed many long time friends become non-friends within one Facebook post. People are angry and while it may be justified, I’ve seen plenty of angry rhetoric based in not even one tangible fact. The number of garbage websites dedicated solely to feeding the insanity of those blindly following both the left and right is out of control. They make the Onion look like hard hitting news.

I’m not one to voice my political or religious opinions but I will say this: As this nonsense unfolds my “Independent” thinking only gets stronger. And I’m doing my best to pass that type of thinking on to my children. Take each issue on its own merit and feel comfortable mixing and matching your beliefs. But really take the time to understand the issue, grasp both sides of the argument and feel free to sometimes not have a strong opinion one way or another.

And above it all, treat everyone equally and don’t fall for the conveniently categorized stereotypes. Everyone should enjoy the right to marry. Everyone has the right to be themselves. Respect all religious beliefs and those without religious beliefs. Seems easy to me and hope they agree.

That my friends is why I love my garden.

I’m incapable of thought when in her presence.

The ultimate escape.

I enjoy the control I have there and have to come accept what little control I really have.

Patience is rewarded and some times it’s fun to tell patience to suck it.

My garden is my laboratory and my garden is not mine at all.

I hate the deer but cherish the challenge in trying to fool them.

Success is overrated, failure is underrated.

I am more than willing right now to take the dog out just so I can savor the emergence of the early spring garden.

front bed

Bulbs are revealing themselves, perennial foliage appears overnight and buds on the trees and shrubs promise a greater tomorrow. The need to go, go, go dissipates and I’m comfortable sitting and staring and taking it all in for minutes on end. It’s the closest I can get to meditation.

And nothing is better for temporarily forgetting about the chaos.

 

 

 

Good times

This is a great time of year, even if there is a threat of snow this weekend here in New Jersey. A few bulbs have quietly bloomed, baseball is inching closer to meaningful games and that little juggernaut known as March Madness has arrived.

This past week, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a telephoto lens for my Nikon 5200 (this one). I’ve been threatening to do so for a long time so I could capture the kids in action during baseball/softball and so I could also grab some better pics of the wildlife in my backyard (like this guy who is aiding in our fight against PennEast). I am very excited to experiment and up my photography cred.

I’m not a “read the instructions guy” so there will be a lot of trial and error with this new lens in my arsenal. And that trial and error began yesterday with the few aforementioned blooms in the Markowski garden. I’ve always relied on the macro lens for my garden pics and it’s done me well. But now I’m ready to expand my horizons to see what the telephoto lens has to offer.

So first we took a photo of some Crocus blooms using the macro lens:

crocus

And then from a greater distance using the telephoto lens:

crocus 3

On to the newly emerging Daffodil blooms. First the macro lens:

daffodil 2

And then further away with the telephoto lens:

daffodil

I’ve got a lot to learn, but a lot to experiment with over the next few months and I look forward to blowing all of your minds with my new found camera skills. Feel free to critique at will.

Beyond the new blooms from the Crocus and Daffodil bulbs, there are other signs that spring has arrived. Here is one of the few Viburnum buds that the deer left alone this winter:

viburnum bud

And an Allium that arrived just yesterday:

allium emerging

And finally the arrival of the Summer Snowflake bulbs:

bulbs

Good times indeed.

One final note. While I may skip out on the college basketball season November through February, I make up for it with my excitement during NCAA March Madness. I’ve been known to fill out a bracket or eight and this year the entire family is in on it. If by chance the University of Virginia manages to win the entire thing, just know there will be a big bash and you are all invited.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

Garden update

A few quick notes before we check out the latest and greatest in my world renowned garden today.

My mother-in-law has come and gone, we had great family time, ate like champions and most importantly, had some serious plant discussions. I should also add that she lives outside of Portland so I couldn’t be more jealous of her gardening climate and conditions.

My wife and I had a “day date” on Sunday (thanks dad-in-law) and spent the day out in neighboring Lambertville, NJ. I love my kids to pieces, but I can’t say that I missed them too much that day.

left bank

I’ve talked about my love of baseball on numerous occasions, but my number one sports love is hockey, specifically the New York Rangers. They will be playing in a game 7 this Friday night to determine who goes to the Stanley Cup finals. Please remember them in your prayers because if they lose, I may not be able to write another blog post.

On to the latest and greatest out in my garden.

Finally, the Iris versicolor (Blue Flag) are blooming, but the blooms are somewhat hidden by the foliage so it has little impact unless viewed up close.

iris 2

The Siberian irises ‘Snow Queen’ are also blooming and damn, they look handsome.

iris

 

I’ve discussed pruning Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ in the past and I am sad to report that 2 of my 3 W&R have perished over the past few winters. The one surviving shrub has never been pruned, 6 years and counting, and she still looks OK.

weigela

weigela

weigela juniper wichita

 

My mother-in-law witnessed my weekday plant shopping as she saw my large noggin surrounded by plants as I pulled my car into the driveway one day last week. Said plants were Meadow Rues I excitedly discovered at my favorite local nursery, Ambleside Gardens.  The two below are ‘Black Stockings’ and their incredible black stems. I am hooked.

weigela meadow rue

meadow rue

 

Baptisia in full effect.

baptisia

baptisia 2

baptisia

 

 

I cannot say enough good things about Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’. My current collection of 13 will only get larger over the years.

amsonia blue ice

 

My big plan of an impactful blue and orange combo never really panned out with Trollius and Salvia. This is the best there ever was. John’s grade: C-

salvia trollius

 

My absolute favorite time in the garden is early evening as the sun is setting. Still need things to fill in a bit more, but we are getting there.

garden

 

And finally, I am sad to report that I lost two Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ over this past winter. I have no idea why, but it is interesting that the bark was exposed as seen below. Any ideas? They’ve been replaced by two Panicum ‘Dallas Blues’, but they will be missed.

dead itea 2

 

 

 

An early May garden update

The latest and greatest in my garden this first week of May:

10 days in and these ‘Double Beauty’ daffodils show no signs of slowing down. If I had to guess, they have tripled in count since I planted them three years ago.

daffodil blooms

Daffodil ‘Double Beauty’

 

The ‘Mt Hood’ daffodils are reliable year after year with this being their latest bloom time ever (and yes I know this for a fact based on my spreadsheet entries over the years. You’re jealous.)

daffodil white

Daffodil ‘Mt Hood’

 

I am happy to report that my Hyacinth ‘Blue Spike’ planted last fall have bloomed and withstood the leaf nibbling from the rabbits.

daffodil and hyacinth

Hyacinth ‘Blue Spike’ and Daffodil ‘Mt Hood’

I planted them in small bunches in between the Catmint ‘Nepeta’ along my front walkway and I am digging the punch of color they provide while everything else is slowly emerging.

front walkway

 

The Summer Snowflakes are all in full bloom and I can vouch for the fact that they withstand the saturated soil year after year.

leucojum blooms

Summer Snowflake

 

While many of the daffodils are starting to fade, I am most pleased with myself and the successful attempt to plant varieties that bloom in succession to each other. These are just emerging now.

daffodil

 

While the deer nipped off a good 50% of these buds over the winter, the Viburnum carlesii still packs a floriferous punch with the blooms that survived the feast.

viburnum carlesii bloom

Viburnum carlesii

 

Phlox ‘Emerald Blue’ (Moss phlox) and Geranium ‘Espresso’ make a handsome couple don’t they?

geranium and phlox

Geranium ‘Espresso’ and Phlox ‘Emerald Blue’

 

The first blooms on the Forthergilla ‘Mt Airy’ have arrived and like so many others, they were nipped by the deer. It really is their world and we are just living in it.

fothergilla bloom

Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’

 

Trollius ‘Golden Queen’ will be blooming soon and I will be on high alert to ensure they come to fruition, deer and rabbits be damned.

trollium buds

Trollius ‘Golden Queen’

 

I admittedly get a little too excited when the peonies emerge each spring. I know they are a given and tough sons o bitches, but they represent spring like no other.

peony emerging

Emerging peony

 

Great color on the emerging leaves of this Viburnum and I’m livid that I can’t remember the name Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’. I’ve failed my spreadsheet and I’ve failed you all.

viburnum foliage

 

The severely cut back Salix (Dappled Willow) looked like this 46 days ago.

pruning salix 3

And now looks like this.

salix hakuro nishiki

Holy recovery Batman. Looks like this will be an every other year necessity from here on out.

On the other hand, very few signs of life with the heavily pruned Redtwig Dogwood.

redtwig dogwood

Will continue to keep you all updated on this as we proceed through spring and into summer. Yes, it is that important.