A response to me from 42 hours and 23 minutes in the past

Dear John From What was Originally 3 Hours Ago – 

This is a response to your open letter from two days ago.

First off, the name makes no sense any longer. I can’t keep track of who is who, are you now “John from 42 hours ago”or are we back to being one again? I friggin hate time travel so let’s agree to stop f’n with the universe, OK?

Back to the task at hand.

By now you know that I/we moved that Viburnum.

I’m sorry to disappoint you but it was going to happen even with your efforts to go all Doc Brown on me. You knew this was going to be the outcome all along but I respect your perseverance. What I don’t respect is the cheap shot you took when bringing up “The Azalea Incident”. That was low and I’m still shocked that you went right for the jugular like that.

Need I remind you the success we had moving this Redtwig Dogwood back in the summer of 2012?

            

or this Ninebark back in 2015?


They look rather awesome now, do they not? 

I could go on and on but I won’t.

What happened to your sense of adventure and recklessness? This is us. Don’t listen to all those logical gardener wanna-be’s on Facebook. If we didn’t constantly tinker we’d get nowhere.

By the way, did you happen to notice that it’s been raining since yesterday afternoon? And that it’s been in the low 70’s and overcast all day today? Did you not think I looked ahead at the weather?

Let’s let all of the readers see how she looks right now?

Great right? You know we’ll baby her as much as necessary to get her through the summer. That’s what we do buddy.

So next time you think you want to call me out in front of an audience like this, try sending an email first. I’m not sure how that will work with time travel and all but you get the point.

I hope we can now move on and work together as one again. Let’s use that collective energy to eradicate all of the thistle that is threatening to destroy our 13 years of work.

 

 

All the best

John From Some Other Time or Whatever

An open letter to me, 3 hours from now

Dear John Three Hours From Now –                                                               July 12, 2017 3:37 PM

I know what you have planned. 

Don’t do it. 

Seriously, you know how this is going to play out. You’ve been here before many times and if you really look at the metrics from the past 20 years, has it ever panned out in a positive way? 

Look, I get it. When you have that itch, you need to scratch it. Don’t forget, I am also you. We’re cut from the exact same cloth. I respect your/our passion and your/our ingenuity and your/our borderline pathological need to tinker.

But that time is not now. You know this.

Logic has to win out here. Science will tell you that this doesn’t make any sense.

So I’m begging you, don’t do it. I will type it out bold and in all caps so you understand just how much I want you to not do this.

FOR THE LOVE OF PLANTS IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES, DO NOT MOVE THAT VIBURNUM BRACTEATUM ‘ALL THAT GLITTERS’ FROM ITS CURRENT LOCATION.

We are in the heart of summer.

It’s 90+ degrees outside today.

There is nothing but sun beating down on the garden right now.

You won’t be around very much the next few days and won’t be able to give it the necessary water.

The poor thing won’t survive. 

I didn’t want to go there, but remember the “Azalea Incident” from 2010?

I know, it’s a sensitive topic but you need to hear it. You need to remember how that made you feel. 

Let’s not suffer together again.

I have a deal for you. Let’s not touch the Viburnum just for today. We’ll take it one day at a time if that helps.

What do you say?

Can you hold off?

I think you can.

 

 

Sincerely,

John From Three Hours Ago  

              

 

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’.

 

 

California Vacation

It’s been a while, eh?

This has been the longest stretch between posts since I started this tiny venture back in 2010.

Why the 3-week lull you ask? Great question. Here’s a detailed break-out of the causes:

41% – Life getting in the way

19% – Writing malaise

17% – My laptop has issues with uploading photos

15% – Garden malaise

08% – A one week vacation in California

Don’t bother doing the math, it adds up. I’m a stickler for math … and odd numbers.

Thank you to those of you who reached out with concern. Your emails put a big smile on this new-to-45-year old’s face. They are without question the most rewarding aspect of this writing gig. People actually missing my writing is all I could ever ask for. Seriously.

For today, I want to share our recent California vacation with you all and fortunately I’m able to load photos from my phone while the laptop is still under construction.

Enjoy.


It all started at Newark Airport in NJ where we willingly paid a premium to order and pay for lunch from an iPad. Kind of pathetic now that I think about it with a clear mind and not in vacation mode.

We arrived in San Francisco late that first night but made sure to find time to scope out a local “In-N-Out Burger”. It was our first trek there and I have to admit, it was just “good”. I can do without the half hour waits and chaotic parking lots. Shake Shack is still the king of the burger. Sorry left-coasters.

Still, the moment wasn’t lost on us as we took the ever important selfie to commemorate the occasion. Notice my son is missing from the pic. He is down on selfies these days.

The next day was a busy one. First up was an attempt to drive through the campus of Stanford University. That kind of bombed as there was a local high school graduation being held on campus and we got caught in the parade of traffic and over anxious parents and grandparents.

The next stop was much more successful. We took the 1-mile hike through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to consume the giant redwood trees. While the park and trees were visually stunning, I’m still consumed with the scent. I may have a deviated septum with little use of my olfactory sense, but this smell punched right through that damaged septum.

A redwood candle order has been placed via Amazon Prime.

From there we made our way to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. The contrast in mood and vibe with the aforementioned redwoods wasn’t lost on us. It was chaotic and loud and sensory overload.

Also a lot of fun in that deliciously cheesy summer boardwalk way.

My son still has no idea that the photo above was taken. Dad for the win.

After a few hours riding roller coasters and eating Thai chicken wraps, we drove the world-famous “17-Mile Drive” along the coast.

Wow. Gorgeous x 10.

We stepped out of the car at least 7 times with only one of those requiring sneaking around a golf course so I could empty my ever shrinking bladder.

The first full day ended with dinner in Carmel and the inevitable collective crash in our hotel room that night in Monterey.

The next two days were spent in Yosemite National Park. I won’t bore you with the written word because words and even photos will never do it justice. It was overwhelming in a good way. I’ve never experienced anything like it. That either means I need to get out more or Yosemite is all that it’s cracked up to be.

My crippling fear of heights was tested over and over not only within the park, but the drive to and from each day. My wife had to console me with gentle words and warnings to not look right or left. I’m thinking guard rails might be a nice addition to some of these harrowing roads.

The last 3-4 days were spent in the city of San Francisco. I was thrilled to get rid of the car and be at the mercy of buses, trains, trolleys and Uber rides.

Here are a few pics from out and about.

I can’t get enough of the Haight-Ashbury district and some day hope to spend some significant time here even if it is a shell of what it used to be.

My daughter is obsessed with the show “Full House” so we had to get a shot of her in front of “The Painted Ladies” which are included in the intro song for the show. By the way, the show is terrible other than the fact that it has the nostalgia of terribly written dialogue and laugh tracks. I hope she doesn’t read this.

When in San Fran, one must ride a trolley. It’s a lot easier when you have a pretty lady on your arm.

Plenty of interaction with that little bridge known as Golden Gate.

 

Alcatraz, that foreboding island that once housed some of the world’s worst criminals. While the history is fascinating and the tour is engaging, I didn’t need to see it again after having been there back in 2000.

So in a brutally selfish way, I ignored everyone and focused on the gardens of Alcatraz Island instead.

And finally, it wouldn’t be a Markowski trip without baseball playing some role so we capped our trip with a Friday night game at AT&T Park (my now personal favorite ballpark) watching the San Francsico Giants play … you guessed it … our New York Mets.

The Mets won easily and broke our streak of, witnessing in person, ten straight Mets losses.

It sucks to be back on the East Coast again and it’s great to be home.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ornamental grasses have arrived

Ornamental grasses are typically referenced as making an impact in mid to late summer and even more so in the fall. There is no denying their influence during these seasons and that is when my garden truly shines (self pat on back).

But I also see them as a great foil to all of the perennials and shrubs that are kicking ass in the late spring and summer. The perfect back drop to all of that color. The perfect contrast in texture.

They may not have reached their peak color or form, but this OG obsessive says they still play a big part in the spring/summer garden.

What do you think?

Here is where they stand in my garden today. Even their subtle emergence makes me happy. I literally can’t take a photo in the garden without at least one photo bombing the pic.         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.