Garden Photo of the Day

Overcoming Tough Conditions

A New Jersey gardener grows perennials that thrive in his conditions

John Markowski shared today’s photos:

I garden in zone 6B in Central New Jersey and battle tough conditions including poor draining clay soil and herds and herds of deer and rabbits. After years of fighting against my conditions, I finally caved and now focus on ornamental grasses and native perennials that are mostly deer resistant and tolerant of wet soil.

I tend to favor foliage over flowers and have a soft spot for any plant that provides multi-seasonal interest. I also love plants that are low maintenance (don’t we all) so I can still make softball games and not have to ignore my family in favor of plant upkeep.

A study in green: Amsonia hubrichtii (Arkansas blue star, Zone 5 – 8) in the front with delicate, willow-like foliage, and behind it a viburnum with contrasting leaf texture and green flower buds that will open to white flowers. Later in the season, the amsonia foliage will turn bright gold for fall. Click here for more ideas on great foliage combinations.

A back bed is full of shades of green, tall red leaved penstemon (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ Zone 3 – 8 ) stands out boldly.

Flower buds on baptisia with clematis flowers glowing behind them.

The beautiful blue flowers of baptisia (Baptisia australis, Zone 3 – 9) are native, drought tolerant, and deer resistant. What’s not to love?

More selections of baptisia blooming in the garden. Learn more about growing these great plants here.

A view of the front bed is packed with plants and color, anchored in the front by blue catmint (Nepeta x faassenii Zone 4 – 10) and framed by a dark leaved selection of ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius, Zone 3 – 7 ). Both are tough, hearty plants that can thrive in most gardens.



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View Comments


  1. Maggieat11 06/25/2018

    Congratulations on not "giving up" and, through trial and error, developed a lovely garden you all can live with! The baptisia and allium are welcome pops of color.

  2. wittyone 06/25/2018

    It's interesting how the "deer's favorites" vary from one place to another, it also makes it difficult to go by listings of deer resistant plants in catalogs and websites. Those gorgeous blue baptisia blooms and clematis would have been gone in a flash after my own personal herd of deer had finished with them.

  3. cheryl_c 06/25/2018

    John, you definitely have shown your mettle against those dratted deer and rabbits! I especially like your last photo, and the one with the corner of your porch: your repetition of the dark red of the ninebark in several other plants (including the coleus), and then using the muted form of it in the tall plant I am not able to identify- maybe astilbe?; then in the porch shot, the blooming weigela against the white rail with (is it another ninebark) coppery foliage in the middle and the baptisia in front. I love your use of less frequently seen plants!

  4. user-7017435 06/25/2018

    Good morning, In your previous posts you highlighted ornamental grasses that were terrific in the fall. Are these perennial gardens blended in with those ? Your plant combinations work well together & I'd like to see more photos in the fall if possible Thank you & good luck, Joe

  5. sheila_schultz 06/25/2018

    The love of gardening is such a gift in life, and you have certainly excelled, John. Your blends of color and texture is delightful. Hoping you are having fun because it certainly seems as if you are!

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