Tag Archives: blog inspiration

The end of ONG

I am in a bind.

I love writing, I NEED writing, but I am struggling with how to effectively package my writing.

Garden writing has sustained me for 5 years + but now I feel like the well is running dry. My interest and passion for gardening hasn’t waned and the same goes for the act of writing.  I just don’t know if I can carry the torch for ONG much longer.


Yes, I’ve been known to make declarations in the past only to refute them the next day. And the fact that it is now November and most of the leaves have fallen off the trees isn’t helping. Dark gardening days lie ahead.

But this time it feels different.

I’ve always maintained that my garden writing was simply a diary of what was going on in my own garden. Good and often bad. Sure, from time to time I featured a particular plant or a “best of” list and tried to write in an SEO friendly manner. And yes there were attempts to try and align with certain garden products with a pie in the sky notion about … ahem … making some money with this thing.

But I could never sustain that mindset.

It isn’t who I am as I get very little fulfillment writing in that manner. If I wanted to write a post about my beloved Mets or my love of The Walking Dead or what the family did over the weekend I did so but admittedly was concerned about being “off topic”. I kept telling myself that it was still a gardening blog in the sense that gardening was the predominant topic even if I allowed myself to sprinkle in some outside thoughts along the way.

Now I think I’m ready to flip the switch.

The sprinkling of non-gardening thoughts now becomes the norm. Or maybe a better way to put it is that I want to write about whatever I want, whenever I want. And in doing so, I think I want to put ONG to bed.

My all time favorite website, Grantland, was just killed by ESPN. The site was the perfect mix of sports, pop culture,etc. The stories were typically written in long form, a no-no in today’s short attention span world. An article about the World Series could contain a reference to “The Bachelor” and a Fall TV preview could liken a show to baseball’s Spring Training. Hell, even if I didn’t always get the reference, I respected the writer’s mash-up ability. It was different and refreshing and I’ve been hooked for years.

And that is where I envision this blog heading as I look to the future. A dash of sports and how it infiltrates our daily lives. A dash of the pipeline. A sprinkling of some garden pics. Then a pipeline/garden mash-up rant. I’ll even bore you about what I ate at Wegmans for lunch. And now that I have my GoPro camera, I’m hoping to get wicked creative.

I sincerely apologize in advance for those of you come here just for the gardening. I know I’ll maintain some sort of garden writing presence moving forward but nowhere near where it was in the past. Thank you for all of your days/months/years of support. It was a blast and knowing people actually cared about what I had to say spurred me to keep going.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have no idea on how to package this new direction. I know the ONG title/moniker will be changed to something else but I have no clue yet as to what it will be. I know that johnmarkowski.com has already been snapped up so I’ll have to get creative.

I hope you stick around …




Am I actually evolving?

This post was originally going to be a straight forward take on how much I love Swamp Milkweed after having planted it for the first time earlier this spring. But after locating and posting the photo below, everything changed:
Allow me to explain …   
When I started this blog just short of four years ago, I really had no plan or concept of who I was as a “gardener”. It was only at that time that I even started taking photos of my plants. I figured the blog would be a diary of sorts; a place where I could upload some pics and maybe share with my friends and family. And if I wasn’t happy with how it all looked, I could stay quiet and never promote it. 
As time passed, and I started posting on a regular basis, I began to find my voice. And it was kind of an annoying complaining voice. While it all came from an honest place, damn did I bitch and moan a lot. Too high maintenance for my liking now and obviously how the title of this blog came about. I wanted to “keep it real” and talk about the not so sexy side of gardening and plants, but this dude needed to chill out a bit.
Now, if you look back over the past year or so, you’ll see that the negatively toned posts have diminished to a large degree (although I’ll never stop mocking myself over bad planting decisions) and I seemed to have relaxed a lot more. Again, this isn’t contrived, just a true reflection of me at the time. Somewhere along the way I gained perspective and may even, dare I say, evolved. Before, I judged my gardening “talents” based on a successful bloom, now I fully enjoy the non-blooms.  
A few months back, Martha f’n Stewart made her infamous comments about bloggers not being “true experts” in their field. You can read more about it here if you are not up to speed on what she had to say. While she may have been specifically referring to lifestyle bloggers, I took her words to apply to all bloggers. Upon hearing her comments, I once again started to reflect upon the purpose/direction of this blog. That’s just how I roll.  
I know I am not close to being an expert on anything garden related. Shit, I downright suck at it at times. I’ll never dole out “advice” or take a definitive stand on garden design because I am still learning/evolving like everyone else. But I’ll be damned if I don’t have the passion and love for this gardening thing. I enjoy simply showing readers what is going on in my garden, warts and all. I also enjoy including my emotions in the mix, be it immature and whiny like in my early blog days, or more reflective and mature as I think I am doing now (even I’m smirking at that one).  And to top it all off, I do my best to incorporate how my family/real life gets in the way intersects with my gardening efforts.   
When I take all of this into account and take a high level view of ONG, I realize it is really the story of one gardener and how he has, and I apologize for the repeated use of the term but it is so accurate, evolved. And I think that “evolvement” (sp?) is something people can relate to. You aren’t coming here to better understand soil compaction or how to root prune. You’re coming here to share in the pain of deer damage or to see if it is possible to have a garden solely composed of ornamental grasses or to see if Amsonia can withstand wet feet or how my experimental pruning of a shrub played out in the long run. Did I mention some pretty sweet photos too? This is my unique voice and one that couldn’t be shared prior to the creation of the “blog”. While I reference hardcore ‘how-to” or “fact filled” websites for garden info, nothing resonates more than reading about a real person and their unique/real garden experiences.    
Which brings me back to that photo at the beginning of this post; that photo of an open seedpod of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed). Not too long ago, I would have complained about the ugliness of that scene and how it was detracting from the beauty of my garden. But as time has elapsed over the years, I’ve come to appreciate exactly what is going on in this pic. I am proud to now fully understand the need to grow more Milkweed to aid in the production of nectar for the monarch butterfly. Actually, I am proud of the fact that I am “seeking” out information on milkweed and the monarch butterfly. Speaking of which, check out this article for a depressing take on the state of the monarch. 
And let’s extend this further. The monarch example lends itself to a discussion on the use of native plants. This was something that I glossed over years ago but now find myself consumed with. Where I fall on the debate of using exclusively native plants vs some or even none is still falling into place. But it now has an impact on my gardening practices and that is a good thing, giving the landscape even deeper meaning. Yet again, I give you a great article on this topic that you can check out here. And be sure to read the comments after the article as well. Good back and forth.
So as we move forward and I write about a particular plant, I am going to shy away from the factual stuff; you can all find that out for yourself through a simple Google search. I am going to focus even more on my personal adventures with said plant and how it has affected me, both positively and negatively.
And f you Martha.
But before I go, a photographic reminder of why you MUST grow more milkweed.

Understanding my purpose

After 3 + years of writing this blog, I think it is safe to say that I have come to terms with what this blog is all about. It isn’t a “how-to” or a discussion of garden trends or a dissertation on all things horticulture. I think it can best be summed up as:

A personal journal of my attempts to take advantage of what little time I have to focus on gardening all while dealing with adverse condtions like wet soil and scores of deer and rabbits. You will see equal amounts of successes and failures and we’ll laugh a bit along the way.  

I think that covers it.

I came to this realization the other day as I was working on one particular section of my garden and was getting pissed off thinking about how many times I had revamped this area. We’re talking version 10.1 or so. This section of “plant town” at the base of my deck is only about five years old and I cannot get it to the point where I am even remotely happy with it.

After I came in for the night and ignored the family while in a huff, I sat down and started scanning old photos of this garden bed. I felt a little better seeing where things began years ago, but still bewildered as to why I couldn’t establish a thing here.

It didn’t take long to come to a conclusion as I analyzed each and every photo. The bottom line? I rushed through the planning process due to lack of time and haven’t been able to catch up since that point.

Want proof? Here is a series of photos, in chronological order, with my comments on what went wrong.               

I am only focusing on one side of the bed at the base of the deck as you’ll see and here it is in its infancy. The original version was way too small and narrow for such a large deck so I needed to expand it:

No problem, out comes the extension cord for shaping purposes. I can already see good things coming at this point:

I am all about manual labor so out comes the shovel and we simply dig up the turf and compost it. Blisters be damned:

It took some time, but I remained patient as the grass removal continued:

By the dead of summer that year (take note of the dead lawn) the shaping was done and plants were added. Did you catch something wrong with that sentence? Plants added in dead of summer = not smart:

Things looked OK as the weeks went by and the rains picked up:

But needless to say, most of the plants eventually crapped the bed. The Rudbeckia shriveled up by late August and never came back the next spring. The Sedums were devoured by the rabbits and deer and despised the poor drainage, as did the Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’.

So by next spring a new plan was in motion. An ugly yellow Arborvitae was added (don’t ask) as was a Norther Sea Oats, a few dwarf bee balms and some Spiderwort ‘Sweet Kate’: 

Looked alright I guess, but I wasn’t thrilled with it. And it looked real boring in winter:

So we start again the following spring. Northern Sea Oats gone because of the reseeding which didn’t work in this area of the garden. The bee balms were nibbled by rabbits so they never had a chance to grow. The Arborvitae was banished to the side yard until I could decide my next move with it. The W&R Weigela also was moved but to a container to see how that would end up. The Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ was literally sitting in “waterer” so it died a slow death.

Back to square friggin one.

But things only looked worse as we progressed into summer that year. Seriously, check out this horror show:

I don’t even want to discuss it.

Fast foward to te another spring (2013 in fact) and you have this:

Lady’s Mantle has been added as an edger (mirroring the other side of the deck), some divided Siberian irises have been relocated, a Caryopteris ‘Sunshine blue’ was added and a Boxwood, Euonymus and Dwarf Alberta Spruce were thrown in the mix for some winter color. Not to mention a Feather Reed Grass, why I’m not sure.
So that was April of this year and guess what, another mini overhaul a month later:
In is a new hydrangea and some new bee balms and an ‘El dorado’ Feather Reed Grass. It seemed to make sense at the time but I am starting to regret a lot of it as I type this.
So there you have it. This was a public service announcement for the benefits of PLANNING. 
I promise you other areas of the yard look much better and are thriving. But this seems to capture what this blog is really about in a nutshell. And as much as it pains me to expose my warts, it is a hell of a lot of fun to write about.
You’re welcome.

Two year blog anniversary for ONG

It has been two years since I started this blog and I thought now would be a good time to look back and reflect on all that I’ve learned (or not learned or even unlearned) since it’s inception.

  • When in doubt, leave it out. I’ve become much better at self editing but maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll include the deleted scenes on the DVD release.
  • It is impossible to take too many photos of your garden as many of my favorites have been rediscovered at a later date.
  • Ignore your neighbors when taking photos. They will eventually catch you in a compromising position and there is nothing you can do about it.
  • There is no more precious resource than time.
  • I enjoy bulbs and understand their impact more than ever.
  • What I say on this blog and what I actually do is not one in the same (see “pruning”).
  • I have become pretty damn good at making my garden appear a lot nicer than it truly is. The power of the photograph is beyond whatever I ever imagined. 
  • There is no better editor than my wife.
  • I’m too old to use the word “awesome” so much but I do need to use the word “friggin” more often.  
  • It IS possible to take too many photos of emerging spring foliage. Looking back, I even put myself to sleep.
  • I’ve learned more from your comments than I have surfing the ‘net in search of information and education.
  • You’re never as funny as you think you are.  
  • This gardening passion ain’t slowing down so get ready for another year my friends.

Thank you all for reading throughout the past two years! I never thought I’d make it this far.


Did I really say that?

Yes, we are coming up on that time of year.

ESPN will show their top ten plays of the year. VH1 will have their top ten craziest acts of the year committed by a former child actor who is now a wanna-be reality star. Nancy Grace will have her top ten moments of acting as judge and jury on some poor sap on her TV show. Jon Stewart could have his top ten moments of having his finger on the pulse more than our own government.

But I digress …  

It’s looking back on 2010 time and I’m ready to play too. Today, it’s ten things I still can’t believe I actually said in 2010:

  • “I can’t make it to your house for the opening weekend in the NFL, I’ll be in Dallas for the Garden Writer’s conference.”
  • “When is Oprah’s ‘Favorite Things’ going to air?”
  • “I’ll be right back, don’t let the kids know I am going to pee on the compost”
  • “I really like using this Yucca as a focal point in my front bed”
  • “I really need to focus more on SEO and use more keywords in the anchor text but not forgetting the value of backlinks.”
  • “I’ll be right back, I’m going to head out to the back deck and cut us some lettuce for our salad”
  • “I find Twitter very difficult to use, I don’t see myself using it very often.”
  • “I really think this is the year the Mets put it all together”
  • “I can’t imagine I’ll have the time or patience to take photos of any wildlife out in the yard.” 

  • “It’s a garden blog. I’m just going to dabble in it a bit and maybe take a few pictures here and there. I can’t imagine I’ll work real hard on it or obsess over it.”     
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