Category: Winter interest

Garden tour – 11/29/17

At first glance, my garden looks like it has called it a year, as it slowly collapses on itself.

But upon a closer look, that may not be true.

Here’s what’s going on as we head into December:


Time for the evergreens to shine

As subtle as they may be, the white-tipped stems on Tsuga canadensis (White Canadian Hemlock) ‘Moon Frost’ allow this conifer to stand out, especially right now when everything else around it is brown and dying. The deer do nip it but I have been fighting them off with spray.


Here’s another conifer – Chamaecyparis pisifera (False Cypress) ‘Golden Pincushion’ – that remains hidden through most of the year but is now on full display. This plant may only grow a few inches per year, but I’m doing my best to remain patient and to enjoy the contrast with all of the surrounding perennials. The deer have yet to discover this one. Yes, I just jinxed it.


Another slow growing evergreen that is now standing out in the garden is the Korean boxwood, ‘Wedding Ring’. And yes, the deer ignore it.


I have had this Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae)’Rheingold’ for 10+ years and I love how it transforms from light green/chartreuse in spring/summer to the more buff color it exhibits right now. The deer have never touched this, but honestly, I don’t know why other than the fact that it is close to the garage door.


I don’t know which evergreen shrub this is because I’ve misplaced the tag and I’ve yet to update my plant spreadsheet. Bad me. Here’s hoping this anchors this spot in the garden for years to come.


Yes, Dwarf Alberta Spruce bores me too, but it has persevered for more than a decade and I appreciate the green throughout the fall/winter.


Have I mentioned that I like grasses?

What more is there left to say?

These are mainly Panicum (Switch Grasses).


Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) ‘Northwind’


Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass) ‘Morning Light’


Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass) ‘Variegatus’


Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) ‘Heavy Metal’


Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama Grass) ‘Blonde Ambition’


Looking good, even while dying

Monarda (Bee Balm) for days. They look even better when covered in frost.


A Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) bloom.


Maybe a bit of a stretch, but aren’t the spent flowers of Amsonia (Bluestar) still pretty cool looking?


Monarda (Bee Balm), Amsonia (Bluestar) and some grass.


Allium (ornamental onion) slowly yellowing.



Staying green

Packera aurea (Golden Ragwort) has been a phenomenal addition to the garden the past two years, even beyond the high flower count in spring. They remain evergreen for most of the winter and you guessed it, the deer haven’t chowed down too much on them.

The only concern is that they might grow out of control over time. I’ll deal with that when it comes.


Another subtle change, but one I am enjoying: Phlox stoloniferous (Creeping Phlox) turning yellow and remaining evergreen all winter. I like.


A closer look

A weed and a powerful one at that, but ain’t this Thistle kind of pretty?



Sucky weather but a “Hell Yeah” moment

Hello everyone.

It has been a while since I last posted here so my apologies for that.

The truth is I have been hammering away on the book and I’m proud to report that it is completely written and I am now in edit mode. While I’ve known all along what I wanted to convey in this book, it didn’t fully gel until I had pulled in these three photos for one of the chapters.

They perfectly encapsulated the purpose of the book and my feelings on gardening. It was the “A Ha” moment and that moment felt real frickin good. I cannot wait to deliver this to you all and thank you again for your constructive feedback. That feedback has been sitting on my shoulders throughout the writing process.

On the actual garden front, I’ve got nothing.

We had such a mild winter here in the Northeast U.S. and I thought I would have been out in the garden by now, cutting down ornamental grasses, removing weeds and cleaning up the messy perennials.

But then March threw us a curve and we ended up with this.

And this.

And now that the foot of snow has started to melt, we have this.

I may have no choice but to throw on my waterproof shitkickers and start cutting and pruning.

Look for that in the next post.


I like it

I felt an itch today.

An itch to garden, whatever that means.

I walked my grounds in flip flops and a t-shirt because it was a pleasant 60 degrees outside.

I desperately wanted to weed. Or dig. Or snip.

But that opportunity didn’t exist.

The birds were raising hell throughout the backyard and I decided maybe running around and trying to photograph them might scratch the itch.

It sort of did.



Damn it is difficult to get them to sit still. Oh well.

When I was done I took one last pic before I walked through the front door.

Pat on back time.

My garden looks so much better in winter than it has before.

I actually stopped and let it all soak in.

I like gardens.

And gardening.

Even in winter.


The winter garden is the best, or it isn’t.

How shall I deliver this post today?

We can go one of three ways:

A. Be authentic and real

B. Lie my ass off

C. Rely on sarcasm to hedge between the two

Authentic and real is generally the right thing to do. But today is the exception.

Lying one’s ass off, I’ve been told, is not nice. Even if the lie is to protect someone or something or to make you the reader feel good out of the endless goodness that resides in my heart, it will ultimately destroy or erode my credibility. We can’t have that.

When all is said and done, sarcasm is the right answer. As it usually is.

So I choose “C“.

There is nothing better than the feeling of nose hairs freezing and intertwining within 2 seconds of setting foot outside.

It reminds me that the joy of feeling painfully cold is back.

It reminds me of the fun challenge of trying to not face plant when your insane dog pulls you viciously down the icy front stairs at 5:48 A.M.

Winter is flat awesome.

There is nothing quite like the sight of frozen and dead and brown.


It is not uncommon to hear me joyfully humming “Winter Wonderland” as the earth crunches underneath my feet.


Even as my ears form icicles and my tears freeze and shatter before hitting the ground, I stand and ponder the circle of life that is my garden. Life, like wow.


Falling down repeatedly on the frozen earth is so worth it, just to see the frozen individual grass strands.


That frozen what-was-once-a-Joe-Pye-Weed-bloom is just as beautiful as when the monarch butterflies graced its presence months back. It’s like fine china gifted from the gods of the winter garden and I am so blessed to have been provided with this rare gift.


You know what is underrated in terms of fun? When you can’t feel your fingers while taking a photo. The challenge of pushing that little button is so cool.


See that owl house in the background? It is going to be a hoot trying to get back there without stepping in 10 inch deep puddles of frigid water.


The excitement generated by hoping the frozen tree branches don’t break off and deform the shape of the tree is palpable.


Why I don’t cut down my grasses for winter reason #1,453. Something to look at from inside the warm house. Wait, that wasn’t sarcastic. Sorry.

God I love the magic of the winter garden.

Much better.


You know those people who love winter and the snow and the cold? They’re great aren’t they?


OK so I added this photo solely for the purpose of showing off our new columns on the front porch and the fact that we disposed of our old rusted railings which I’ve had to cut out of photos since the beginning of this blog.

A new beginning.


I so wanted to help this grass get back to its original shape but I got distracted from all of the other fun winter events.


How exciting, you haven’t seen this photo a hundred times over.


Heuchera on ice. Riveting.


I can’t even …


We have arrived at the initial stages of the the time of year when I get pissed off at a lot of my gardening brethren. When I say brethren, I mean anyone who has personally planted at least 19 plants within the past 3 years. I didn’t just make up those numbers, they have been carefully curated over time.

Plus I only work in odd numbers as all gardeners should.

My data shows me that this ratio properly identifies what I’ll call the “kind-of-into-it-gardener”. Anything less than that and the term gardener cannot be attached to those fools people. This is a crucial distinction and one I suggest you borrow/steal moving forward.

Here is why I get all sorts of perturbed:

We are nearing the end of summer and with it, the end of the line for so many perennials. They’ve worked their asses off for weeks/months on end. They’ve given us nothing but joy all spring/summer and now they are ready to take a seat, drop their petals and enjoy some much needed down time. All well deserved.

But by no means does that require us to cut them down, clean them up and remove all signs of their existence. I liken that nonsense to those people who chuck their Christmas trees on December 26th or put away the holiday decorations the day after. Take a breath, relax and allow nature to do its thing. If you look at it through the appropriate lens, it is a wondrous thing.

Yes, I openly embrace the fact that I can be a bit obsessive and compulsive and neurotic in my own garden and hypocritical from time to time.

True story interlude: I announced my distaste for sedums earlier this week because they weren’t native enough and didn’t fit into my garden aesthetic here in the Northeast U.S. This afternoon I just bought two Yucca plants for containers on my deck. Hypocrite much?

But one thing I’ve done, or not done I should say, since gardening stole my heart back in the late 90’s, is cut down my perennials. I’ve always left them standing even when my OCD tendencies were telling me to cut, cut, cut. I enjoy them around all fall and winter and implore all of the “make it nice and neat” crowd to do the same. You want reasons why? Here are just some off the top of my head:

  1. Enjoy the life cycle – from emergence in spring, to peak in summer, to the slow death in fall and dormancy in winter, I love it all. It is how it works in the wild and the way it is supposed to be. Embrace it.
  2. You’ll remember what is planted where – this is very underrated. No more issues with mistaking a newly emerging perennial as a weed or digging one up accidentally when planting in spring.
  3. The birds and bugs need it – a place of respite or food source for so many. I like nothing more than watching the finches hit up my coneflowers in winter.
  4. They look good covered in ice and snow – I’ll take any additional winter interest I can get. And bare garden space is not attractive.

So friends, family, some time acquaintances and strangers, accept the demise of your plants.

Do a lot by doing nothing.

Clean the pruners and stow them away.

Accept a bit of chaos.

Give the bees one last chance to enjoy the Agastache.



Remember how that vivid orange color excited you in mid summer.



Don’t forget that brown is a color.



And thank your Bee Balm for the endless entertainment they provided all summer drawing in all of those bees and butterflies.


QOTD: What perennial do you enjoy most in fall/winter?




Winter garden appreciation

I despise the cold weather and it is getting worse and worse as I get older.

I hate the snow and I do not find it to be the least bit “cozy”. It physically hurts my eyes to even glance at it.

I don’t ski and find sledding to be way overrated.

But even after having said all that, I have come to appreciate the winter garden. It is a reminder of what was, a chance to rest and recharge and at the same time, a promise of what is to come.

I recently put on my big boy pants and a warm jacket, and set out to capture just some of the plants in the winter garden. After reviewing all of the photos I had taken, I realized that I had similar shots of those same plants during the spring and summer. So as a means of contrast, I’ve included the most current pic and then one from earlier when it warm and delicious outdoors.


Tropical milkweed, which is an annual and one that reseeded for me this past year.

milkweed winter



Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ which looks like the annual Ageratum but is truly a perennial.

winter garden



A combo of Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed and Clethra ‘Hummingbird’.

winter garden



Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’, Bee Balm and Panicum ‘Rots’.

winter garden



Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ (Dappled Willow) with its awesome stem colors.

salix winter stems



Amsonia tabernaemontana looking cool and curly. Still a personal favorite of mine during all seasons.

amsonia winter



I love the dried seed capsules of Baptisia and admittedly have yet to explore how to save the seeds. That is what winter is all about, research and reading.

baptisia seed capsules 2

moth baptisia


Sedum ‘Red Carpet’ peeking through what little snow we have right now.

red carpet winter



And old reliable, the Purple Coneflower. I always enjoy watching the finches pay a visit and feast on the seedheads.

coneflower winter



ONG is back

ONG is back for one day that is.

I may have changed focus on this blog (for better or worse, discuss) but the ONG will always be chilling in my DNA. The love of gardening and even the love of garden writing never waned, I just wanted to open myself up to other writing possibilities … blah blah blah … I’ll stop there. You are all very busy and most likely skipped over this paragraph any way because the photos to follow are so damn enticing and invigorating when there is very little color out there in our El Nino inspired abnormally warm landscape that my kids tell me is ruining the Christmas feel but I’m all like, this rules, especially when you have to take a new puppy out in the middle of the night to do her business when it’s difficult to focus, let alone carry a dog and put on warm clothes before heading out into the wildlife filled night which threatens to devour your now 4.6 lb mutt.

So here’s a chance to escape for a few minutes as I compiled all of my favorite photos of my garden (narcissistic much?) from this past year with a quick blurb as to why I enjoy each pic so much.

Time for you to now enjoy:

It took me a while to jump on the Baptisia bandwagon but the deer have ignored them, they’ve bloomed like mad for two years running and that color is potent as all hell, in a great way.

moth on baptisia


A little yellow Baptisia as well and love the way they peek above the slowly emerging grass in the foreground.

baptisia carolina moon


My first white peony bloom on this plant. Hopefully many more to come in the years that follow.

peony white


An early season view of my favorite part of the garden when the sun sets each afternoon and provides incredible back lighting of the plants. More of these same views to follow.



I picked up a Clematis at a trade show (Mr. Important that I am) and planted it just to keep it alive before I figured out what to do with it. Month later it bloomed hammering home the point that it is better to be lucky than good.



A spring bulb combo, I’m like a garden designer or something. Normally I’m just happy to see one Daffodil on a plant. Go me!

daffodil and hyacinth


I’m easily excited, so seeing an actual hummingbird was a big deal to me.



Allium ‘Drumsticks’ are seriously the cats’s meow. This was my first experience with them and pray they come back even stronger next spring.



The beauty of rainy and foggy weather and the power and beauty of the ornamental grass.



Repetition is pleasing to the eye.



And the winner of the foliage color of the year goes to Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’, which is also the name of an exotic dancer and a My Little Pony character.

ninebark amber jubilee 2


The colors clash a bit, but all of these blooms create quite the buzz when the bees flock to them in summer.



This represents the peak of the garden, when all of the Joe Pye Weed are in bloom. Oh how I miss it.



I love how the coneflower blooms are reaching towards the sun and how the Astilbe in the background have granted them the OK to take center stage.



Remember that favorite view I mentioned a few photos back? Here it is again in the sweetheart of summer.



A color combo I love and only got to enjoy this summer since the deer left the daylillies alone for the first time in years. Thank you deer.



My garden will be completely taken over by Bee Balm in 2021 and I’ll love it. The humming moth agrees with me as well.



Yes, purple coneflowers are everywhere, but how can we complain when something like this happens?



Remember that view? Yes, here it is again.

joe pye 2


Fly milkweed seed, fly.

pe 2


Yes, again.

indian panicum sage


The frost in fall is beyond magical.

frost 2


Brown, as a color, is way underrated.

fall planter bed



Dreaming of spring bulbs

Back in New Jersey and this is me in a nutshell.

Since November

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on


My likeness right? I worked long and hard on that design.

Dude is kind of ripped by the way.

We had 8 more inches of snow today, are in the single digits tonight and tomorrow and it literally feels like we will not thaw out until June.      

Spring not far off right? Right? A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on


Photos of the snow have gotten old.

Looks cool … still hate winter. #winter #garden

A photo posted by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on


So I’ll just dream of what is lurking under all of that the snow instead. I have never longed for spring bulbs this much in my friggin life.

Enjoy and you’re welcome.














If you like winter, don’t read this

This is the best representation of how it has looked outside for weeks running now.

winter lawn

Hurts the eyes doesn’t it? That is what my entire yard looks like right now.

It’s so icy that the deer are all like “No dude, a bite out of that Holly isn’t worth the risk of breaking an ankle.”

The New York Rangers called and wanted to lease the space for an upcoming practice.

I am not a fan of it or winter, just in case you didn’t know that already.

Our winter routine has become:

  • Wake up and say “Good morning wife.”
  • Walk downstairs, look out window, become blinded.
  • Pop advil like they are Tic Tac’s.
  • Mumble angrily to myself while making coffee.
  • Glance in mirror and wonder who that old man is.
  • Drink first cup of coffee, slide down the back of front door and pray for the strength to make it through.
  • Wake up the kids and blame them for my winter malaise.
  • Speak with said wife while getting dressed and after we are both properly caffeinated, about moving away from this ASAP.
  • Realize we are both late for work and agree to discuss at a later date.
  • Drive bobsled to bus stop and see kids off to school.
  • Walk on crunchy driveway, sprain ankle a bit and get in cold car.
  • Listen to Howard Stern on ride to work and wish I had his job.
  • Complete work day.
  • Drive home and dream big about “getting out”.
  • Freeze ass off walking from car to house.
  • Sit down at dinner together, repeat nightly lecture as to why no TV will be on, talk about our days and say “One more day closer to spring.”
  • Homework, next day prep.
  • Escape it all briefly through some web surfing and a little TV.
  • Turn on heated mattress pad in preparation for bed.
  • Go to bed and say “I love this heated mattress pad”.
  • Repeat.

Please, no lectures about the wonders of winter and enjoying each day. I get it. I really do. It’s just not for me. Maybe one day I’ll mature and look back and scold my middle aged self.

Speaking of maturity, what else is there to do in order to cope? For starters, stomping on the ice to break up the glare and to let off some steam is kind of awesome.

winter foot steps

Incredibly liberating. Mature? Not so much.

Maybe take some photos of plants in winter and pretend to embrace it? OK, I’m in.

plants in winter


plants in winter 2


plants in winter 6


plants in winter 4


plants in winter 5

That was … temporarily nice.

The real cure? Head to Florida for MLB spring training.

Later this week, be on the lookout for live action shots of fields of green, the pops of ball hitting glove and the cracks of angry bats. We are looking at temps in the 70’s.

The boys of summer have returned and I am fired up.