Tag Archives: allium

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 – 5/23/17

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

 

And still drawing in the critters.

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

 

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ is in flower.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

A post shared by john markowski (@jmarkowski0) on

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour of my garden – 5/11/17

BLOOMING

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

ABOUT TO BLOOM

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

 

A comparison of Amsonias:

First we have ‘tabernaemontana’.

 

And then ‘Hubrichtii’

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

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

 

FOLIAGE

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

OH SHIT

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

Another reminder: Northern Sea Oats = bad

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.

 

 

Dynamic

My wife and I managed to score a few free hours this past Saturday morning before the never ending softball cycle kicked into high gear. We spent it touring a few gardens as part of an organized local garden tour. It was warm and sunny and I was ready to get my booty inspired and steal some ideas from these extravagant and lush gardens.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen.

I won’t go into any specifics and call out any particular gardens, but I left the tour completely uninspired. We didn’t spend more than 10 minutes at any of the gardens we visited. I wanted to see “gardens” and all we really saw were exquisitely landscaped properties.

I appreciate a nice bed line as much as the next guy and understand the importance of mulch, but when they become the star attraction, color me bored and uninterested. Listen, I have my share of what is often considered to be a “boring” and landscaper friendly shrub like a spirea, but when they dominate the garden, I’m out. A garden needs a certain level of messiness and a “Wow, what is that plant?” feel in order to pull me in and none of these gardens provided that vibe.

If I had to sum it up in one word, I want my garden to be dynamic. It needs to feel like it has a life of its own, that it changes on a daily basis, that while one perennial is putting on its last flush of blooms, another is ready to take its place. I want movement with the wind. I want flower petals on the ground next to a shrub with flowers that are about to pop. I want to sense that the gardener struggled to pull all it all together and still has work to do.

While I have light years to go to achieve a level of dynamic that is most likely impossible in this lifetime, it is what makes me most proud of my garden today. It is what drives all of my garden design decisions. It is what keeps me up at night. It is the reason I tour the garden each and every morning knowing I’ve going to witness something new. All the mulch in the world can’t compete with two perennials that entwine in a perfect match of contrast and similarity.

With that in mind, my garden as it stands today and how it is acting all dynamic and shit.

The ‘Bowl of Beauty’ peony is still putting out fresh blooms each morning.

peony 2

But time is quickly running out with these daily reminders.

peony 3

 

peony

 

Even after the blooms have disappeared or faded, the Allium are still lending an incredible visual in tune with the rest of the garden in its path.

allium

 

allium 2

 

front bed 2

 

It is always around this time each year when the ornamental grasses subtly announce their presence. And when they do, it seems to tie the entire garden together.

driveway garden

 

miscanthus variegatus

 

Some of the grasses have even begun to reveal their multi colored highlights, even more pronounced covered in raindrops.

panicum rots

 

My Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ are blooming and while we all know they dominate the most in autumn with their garnet fall color, I still think the blooms are underrated.

itea

Back to another question of the day and thank you to all of you who have responded to date. You are providing great info for all of us.

QOTD – What would you consider to be the most dynamic plant in your garden today and why?

Leave a comment with your response.

Grats.

 

 

 

 

 

Eye Candy

As we come out of the long Memorial Day weekend and into the work week, I’m going to keep the positive vibes rolling and share some of my favorite garden pics from the weekend. With all of the rain we’ve had this spring and now with the hot temps, everything seemed to explode and this guy ain’t complaining one bit. This is why we bust our asses in the fall/winter/spring planning and planting and prepping and moving things around until they are in that perfect location; for these types of displays of color and all around awesomeness.

Enjoy.

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’ kicks ass year after year and the blooms rarely fall over like so many other peonies. I have more impending blooms this year than I’ve had in years. Go me.

peony

 

peony 2

 

peony 3

 

Still not sure which white cultivar this is but who cares when they look this good.

white peony

 

My Baptisia are in full bloom and I have to forcibly stop myself from taking any more photos.

baptisia

 

baptisia 2

 

baptisia 3

 

clematis

 

baptisia 4

 

Even after the Allium are spent and technically no longer in bloom, they still look phenomenal and lend so much to the garden view from so many angles.

front

 

front 3

 

front 2

 

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moon’ in full bloom and standing tall among the other soon to be blooming perennials and exceedingly fast growing ornamental grasses.

baptisia back

 

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ adding so more color to this vignette of daylillies and Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’.

amsonia blue ice

 

I honestly have no idea how this Siberian iris showed up underneath this Nepeta (Catmint) but hot damn if it doesn’t work. I should have lied and told you I planned it, but my street garden cred is too important to me.

iris catmint

 

Carex grayi has become a fantastic edging plant for me, loving the constant moisture, and when the seed heads emerge, it takes them to the next level. And by the way, that next level is called “Ass kicking” if you weren’t already aware.

carex grayii

 

Ho hum, Amsonia still blooming. Quick note – If you haven’t been here before, that “ho hum” was sarcastic. Just enter “amsonia” in the search box and you’ll see why.

amsonia

Question of the day – What newly blooming plant in your garden has you the most impressed this spring? Please leave your response as a comment and let’s chat things up!

 

 

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

An update on my garden

Some quick thoughts on some of the plants in my garden:

Loving the deep red color of Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ right now but can do without the blooms. I usually cut them off early in hopes of preserving the foliage color into summer. Will do so again this year.

salix penstemon

 

It may be time to give up on Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ as it declines rapidly by summer and as you can see here, never displays that dark foliage color as promised. It gets the necessary afternoon shade and moisture is never an issue.

Ligularia britt marie crawford

 

I cannot get enough of Juniper ‘Gold Cone’, especially when the new growth emerges and really brightens up the shrub/tree in spring. No deer issues, doesn’t seem to be bothered by the poor draining soil and has retained it’s great color through two full years now.

juniper gold cone

 

For some reason I get more pumped for the return of Joe Pye Weed than I do for any other perennial. I have so many different cultivars and have lost track of what I have planted where. Such a reliable performer and stand-out in all ways possible.

joe pye

 

I wish peonies remained forever in bud. The anticipation blows away the actual blooms which say goodbye way too soon each year.

peony

 

I finally added a trellis to the garden so my one Clematis can climb aboard. The only blooms so far are along the ground so hopefully I’ll get a shot of the vine actually climbing the trellis with blooms aplenty. Then I’ll be awesome.

clematis

 

The Allium are coming. And I added a lot this year. Sigh …

allium

Plants I’m bullish on this year

Here are 9 plants I’m hoping show big improvement this spring/summer over how they performed in my garden last year. 8 are relative newcomers, 1-3 years in the ground, so time alone should aid their jump in prominence. And 1 has been around my parts forever but only last year managed to avoid the wrath of the deer herd. Here’s hoping this is a new trend.

Coneflower ‘Sunrise’: Full disclosure – I’ve moved this three times in three years. And to the shock of no one, it finally bloomed last summer after a full year in its current spot. The flowers arrived later than all of the other coneflowers (late July) but that is OK. I expect taller and fuller plants this year, assuming the itch to move them is fought off successfully.

h

sunshine-cone-flower

 

Abelia ‘Bronze Anniversary’ – Another oft moved shrub but one where I’m happy with its current destination. I love the golden leaf color, especially in partial shade and especially in spring as the foliage emerges, but I can do without the clashing white blooms. In fact, the plan is to immediately remove the flowers for fear of ridicule from the neighbors.

d5

abelia

 

Daylily ‘Little Grapette’ – This is the oldie I referenced above that always suffered at the hands of the deer in summer. For whatever reason (my intimidation factor?), they were ignored last year. While I’m not a big daylily guy, I do like how these combine with other dark leaved plants (As seen with Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’) below.

d17

c9

c10

 

Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’ – No, not an exotic dancer or My Little Pony character, but the best foliage color of any plant I own. But as you can see in the second photo below, the deer get it each winter and in effect, prune it back hard for me which ultimately compromises the size of this shrub. If I can remember to defend her better this year, the sky is the limit. Remember though, “remembering” is not a strong suit of mine.

ninebark amber jubilee 2

ninebark amber jubilee

 

Allium azureum – I blew it with this one. I mistook these for wild onions and yanked them out without much thought last spring. This is the only one that actually bloomed. Luckily for me I was lazy when pulling them so the bulbs remained in tact. No such error will be made this spring.

allium blue

 

Peony ‘unknown other than it is white’ – This is as good of a lock as any. First flowers appeared last spring after two years in the ground and we all know that the peony is indestructible once established.

white peony

peony white

 

Baptisia ‘ Carolina Moon’ – Based on the success I’ve had with my other Baptisia plants, I’m counting on this one to fall right in line. Big, big things this year from this one. I cannot wait to photograph it and share it with you all.

baptisia carolina moon

baptisia lilac

baptisia carolina moon

 

Clematis – This appeared out of nowhere last year after I stuck it in the ground and completely forgot about it. There appears to be new growth this spring so I remain optimistic for a repeat showing. And this time, I’ll even use a real trellis to maximize the show.

clematis

clematis 2

 

And last but not least, the fickle …

Cimicifuga ‘Brunette’ – For three consecutive years, this perennial has looked great in spring only to fall apart when the weather really heats up and when it attempts to bloom. I’ve stayed on top of the watering and it, along with its 7 other siblings (I’m way invested at this point) get plenty of afternoon shade. The pessimist in me says, “wrong plant for you John” while the optimist says, “give it time to get established”.

Cheers to optimism.

bugbane

 

 

 

Allium Drumsticks (Ornamental Onion)

I may have been late to the Allium party, but I am definitely making up for lost time. Over the past 3 years, I’ve added at least 6 new Allium (ornamental onion) species/cultivars/varieties to my garden. The deer never touch them and they add a sweet pop of color throughout the spring and summer months. For today’s purposes, let’s chat a bit about Allium Drumsticks.

allium drumsticks

I added this bulb in fall of 2014 and within one year it is already kicking some major ass. I planted a lot of 15 of these in close proximity to each other and could not have been more thrilled with the results.

Starting in early summer, Allium Drumsticks buds started to transform from a green to a reddish purple color.

allium drumsticks

017

As the first wave of blooms on the bee balm (in the background) started to fade, Allium Drumsticks took over as seen below.

048

And the bees waste no time locating the blooms.

c14

Within a week or two, they were in full egg-like bloom.

allium drumsticks

I’d estimate the blooms stayed at peak form for two weeks before the inevitable fade.

034

Together with the spent bee balm buds, they formed the ultimate in the late summer fading garden, which I still enjoy.

038

Some more Allium Drumsticks info:

  • Prefers full sun
  • Viable in zones 4A – 10B
  • 1 to 3 feet in height
  • Blooms in mid-summer
  • Deer resistant
  • Best planted in the fall like most spring/summer bulbs
  • Best planted in drifts for the greatest garden impact
  • Naturalizes freely (will see if that is so with my conditions)
  • A great “peek through” plant (see bee balm combo above)
  • Susceptible to rotting in wet conditions

Because of that last note, I decided to craft this post sooner rather than later since there is a good chance my bulbs will have rotted come summer.

Fingers crossed.