Tag Archives: Books

Book excerpt – looking for your feedback

Here is an excerpt of a first version of my book that I’ve been pounding away on for weeks now. I so cherish all of your feedback and have taken all of your comments into account to this point.

When in doubt, why not ask?     

I would love your feedback on the following:

Book title – any creative ideas after reading through below? I’ll handsomely award the winner of the one I like best.

Content – more or less info based on the excerpt below? Less “sentences” and more boxes/bullets/etc?

Layout – this snippet isn’t an exact replica of the layout but it is as close as I can get. What do you think?

Tone – is it me?

Thank you all in advance for taking the time to assist me here.

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle)

I remember the exact day back in the fall of 2003 when I decided to purchase some Lady’s Mantle for the first time. Up until that point, all I thought about was flowers in my garden. Foliage was nice, but an afterthought.

My obsession with plants and gardening was gaining steam and I was reading books relentlessly. Books you ask? Those are pages of printed words and photos that are held together with binding. Your grandfather can tell you all about them.

I don’t recall the exact book, but it was all about design and one photo grabbed my attention and changed the course of my garden fanaticism. A beautiful and haunting garden photographed in the early morning was lined with Lady’s Mantle that was covered in dew droplets. My tongue dropped to the floor and I knew I had to try it.

Fast forward a few months and I planted a whole bunch myself in my tiny front bed at our old Cape Cod home in Somerville, NJ. I was so proud of it and sensed that my love of plants was going to exponentially increase now that foliage was part of the game.

Sadly, we moved out of that home by the end of that year and I never got to grow with my new favorite edging plant. I did drive by the home periodically for a good 2 to 3 years after that just so I could watch my babies mature into full adult plants. They ended up looking beautiful even if the new homeowners let everything fall to shit in the garden around them. The day they pulled them out of the ground, I almost got out of my car and approached the house in a fit of rage.

Luckily I thought better of it and drove away and spared myself jail time.

Instead, I bought a bunch and put them in my newly developing garden where they still reside today.

Alchemilla mollis rarely steals the show in the garden. Instead, it is that steady performing groundcover or edging plant that makes the garden whole.

From the moment those leaves start to unfurl in spring, you know old reliable is back for another season.

Let me correct myself for one moment. There is a time when this perennial does truly “shine”. That is when Lady’s Mantle captures the rain droplets in spring. It is a photographer’s dream.

Beyond that, this plant provides a nice contrasting leaf shape to other perennials and shrubs from spring through fall.

The chartreuse blooms, typically arriving in June, are a nice understated feature as well.




I have found it is best to trim off the spent flowers as soon as possible to keep this plant looking its best as summer approaches.




• Survives in zones 3 – 8
• Size typically maxes out at 1.5 ‘ x 2.5’
• Can handle full sun to almost full shade
• Blooms in June here in zone 6B
• Prefers a consistently moist soil
• Has been reliably deer and rabbit resistant over the years
• Non US native
• Flowers brown quickly and can become an eyesore (see more below)
• Leaves are scalloped and fuzzy to the touch

I currently have these as a groundcover in my back bed along the deck.

In full bloom in June and backed by the light of the afternoon sun.






As you can see below, Lady’s Mantle comes along pretty quickly in spring as evidenced by the “still no signs of life” ornamental grass sitting behind them.

**NEGATIVE ALERT** The one negative/higher maintenance aspect of Lady’s Mantle is that it does require constant moisture. If not, this is what you may see.

Luckily for me, constant moisture isn’t much of a problem unless we have a real dry summer but keep that in mind before purchasing Lady’s Mantle.

This perennial has been labeled as “invasive” but I can say that has not been a problem for me at all. In fact, I’ve never seen a single seedling since I’ve had these. This may be due to the fact that I am pretty diligent in cutting off the spent blooms and therefore there is no opportunity for reseeding.

I must also add that my deadheading has never resulted in any re-blooming later in the season.


My Road to Gardening Obsession – “The Home Depot book”

Someone recently asked me, “How did you get this into gardening”? Most have an easy answer like, “My parents or grandparents were gardeners” or “I had an interest in plants from a young age”. For me, there  was no simple answer. 

With that in mind, I started to analyze where my passion for plants originated. And I realized it came from a series of events over the past 17 years.

Here is the story of one of those events:  

When I wrote about Shuttergate last week, I mentioned how soon after I had made a trip to my local nursery and picked up a shrub and read a plant label for the very first time. That kickstarted a new interest in “landscaping”, not to mention a small criminal enterprise that involved stealing plant tags. You can read about those high stakes adventures here.

Today, we pick things back up in spring of 1998. The world is Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,  Titanic continues to dominate the box office, major league baseball season is upon us, I’m continuing my plant label thievery and my new found liking of “landscaping” hasn’t waned over the winter.

You’ll notice I’ve used the term “landscaping” multiple times rather than “gardening”. That is exactly how I referred to my interest in plants at the time.

Like so many uninformed people today, I associated the “gardener” with an older woman snipping daisies while wearing a large brimmed hat. That could never be me. I like “landscaping” which is like totally masculine and shit. I like cutting lawns, firing up a gas powered trimmer, using a backpacked leaf blower unnecessarily on my postage stamp sized lawn and maybe planting some “green bushes”. There was no room for flowers or anything the least bit “feminine”.

While still armed with that ogre-like mentality, I made a trip to Home Depot to pick up, um, something. While impatiently waiting on the never ending checkout line, I spotted this.


Without much thought, I scooped it up and added it to my cart. Perhaps a little light reading to accompany my breakfast.

A quick aside – my breakfast did not include coffee at that time. Believe it or not, my discovery of coffee a year later will be the topic of a future post as the story weaves in beautifully with my discovery of what a true garden is all about.

Damn I am deep.   

I ended up never putting the damn book down. It was the ideal bathroom read, the ideal book to leaf through while watching bad TV and the ideal book to bring outdoors as the weather warmed up that spring. Eventually and fortunately, it became my gateway book into “real gardening books” (another story for another day).

Around that same time, with the greatest of intentions, I had picked up another book.


Don’t laugh. This wasn’t a gag gift from my family. The internet hadn’t truly blown up yet, so this was THE reference guide.

I managed to follow some of the directions (translation – the real easy stuff) but diagrams like this made me run for the hills.


I’ve managed to comprehend things like plumbing and electrical in my later and wiser years (no comments family) just so you are aware that I am not a complete dolt. But items like this overwhelmed me to no end in my mid 20’s. I realized then that I really was missing the spatial relations gene.

As a result, I would seek refuge and take comfort in my precious landscaping book. I couldn’t do too much damage while digging a hole and throwing a plant in there.

After many hours studying and memorizing my Home Depot book, I actually started to map out a plan for my own yard. It mainly revolved around adding/replacing shrubs since my property at the time had sufficient mature trees. I had identified the shrubs I was interested in purchasing without a concern as to where they would be situated. Just a minor detail missed.

The very first shrub acquired was a ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea. I was pulled in by the fantastic blue blooms (the move to “gardener” was initiated?) and bright green foliage. I figured I could just plant it and see the same results witnessed in my beloved book. Plus my wife was a big hydrangea fan and I needed to show that she in fact a part of the master plan.

It is difficult to see and I really had to dig through the archives to find it, but if you look closely enough, you can see the hydrangea to the right of my front porch stoop.


Nothing like dumping it in there without a thought around design. If my memory serves me correctly, the blooms were pink when I purchased it in late spring but I had plans to “make them blue” based on my new found knowledge of soil PH in the HD book. How you like me now?

By the way, how great is my shearing job on those shrubs along the foundation? I want to go back in time and punch myself in the face for that ridiculous display of lollipop-ness. Luckily, I eventually developed a plan to replace those hideous things.

But what I hadn’t included in that wonderful plan was how to account for the arrival of a shady looking stranger who pulled his car into my driveway as I was replacing the aforementioned shrubs.

The man slowly emerged from his vehicle, gazed at me creepily and asked “Are you John Markowski?”

To be continued …


Book giveaway from Timber Press – “Seeing Trees”

Timber Press is running another contest with a book giveaway and this one is for a photography heavy book that takes a unique look at trees:

Seeing Trees, photographed by Robert Llewellyn, focuses on close-up shots (macros) of trees and gives the reader a new perspective on how we view the trees we pass by each day.

Want to win an autographed copy of this book and a signed, 16″×20″ print of a Robert Llewellyn photograph from Seeing Trees, custom matted and framed? Well head over and enter by clicking on this link:

Seeing Trees book giveaway

The contest runs through September 9th, so head over now and simply provide your email address. It really is that easy.