Being John Markowski

By Andy McIndoe

One of the great things about MyGardenSchool is how it brings gardeners and garden lovers together from all over the world. It gives us the opportunity to share our experiences, successes, and failures. It’s amazing how you find other gardeners are having just the same problems as you, and it’s fascinating to see how others are overcoming them.

When I caught up with John Markowski on Twitter @jmarkowski0 I was immediately attracted to his website: - That really appealed to me, especially when I read his introduction:

“A wanna be master gardener who makes up for his lack of skills with unbridled passion. Hopefully you'll enjoy my failures as much as my successes”.

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John gardens in Hunterdon, NJ, United States and is clearly a man after my own heart: a gardener with a passion for plants and for whom gardening is a way of life. Like all gardeners John clearly has his trials and tribulations, among them an occasional deer problem: I certainly sympathize with that. Unfortunately I can’t always deal with mine by throwing snowballs at them like John does!

I was sure that John has his favourite plants; those that know me realize that I talk about tulips a lot; I detect that John is more than a little fond of grasses. Anyway I invited John to share his love of plants and gardening with us, and I’m really delighted to welcome him as a guest to the My Garden School blog:

How did you get into gardening in the first place John and how long have you been hooked?

As a child, my grandfather was so proud of his rose garden and all of his azaleas and he would show them off to me every chance he got. I learned to appreciate the effort involved at an early age and also how rewarding it could be at the same time. When I was able to purchase my first home, I immediately remembered those roses and azaleas from my childhood and I haven’t stopped since.

Is gardening a hobby, or do you garden for a living?

It is a hobby for me, and with two young children and a full time non gardening job, finding time to garden is difficult. My dream is to one day do it for a living.

Are your wife and children also into the garden, and do you let them help?

Not really. I’ve tried to get my children involved but no luck so far. But that’s OK, selfishly it is my escape from the world and I enjoy the solitude.

Tell us a little about your garden and what you grow?

I focus mostly on ornamental grasses and native shrubs and perennials. This was a necessity battling poor draining soil and a lot of deer and rabbits in the area but I’ve learned to appreciate what I am able to grow successfully.

How long is your gardening season? Is the garden still important in winter in New Jersey.

The growing season usually runs from late March until early November. Over the past few years, I have desperately tried to enhance my winter garden, and I am slowly making progress. Besides the usual evergreens, I have come to understand what the dying perennials and grasses can still lend to the winter garden, especially when snow covered.

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If I you had to choose your three “Desert Island Plants” what would they be?

Karl Foerster ornamental grass

Almost any viburnum shrub

Any peony in bloom

Paeonia 'Sarah Bernhardt' 2

Viburnum carlesii 'Diana'

What are the main challenges you face gardening in New Jersey?

Poorly draining clay soil, herds of deer and brutal drying winds in winter.

What are your other guilty pleasures apart from gardening?

I am a huge sports fan – American football, baseball and hockey and I am a bit of a TV junkie, especially shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.

I know you write another blog, which made me smile a lot, tell us about it….

I get inspired to write about my gardens the more I write about anything in general. I started a blog about my daily lunches with my best buddy at work, and also write for a sports oriented, comedic blog. They are all very different but all fulfill my desire to write and be as creative as possible.

My thanks to John for sharing his love of gardening with us - and I wish him a great gardening year in 2013! We would love to hear from other gardeners in the My Garden School, twitter and facebook communities who would like to share their love of gardening. In the meantime check out John’s blog on his website at I’m sure he’d like some advice on controlling those deer. I promise to blog about deer proof plants next week – so watch this space.

Andrew McIndoe

Andy McIndoe

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