Mark Dwyer

mark dwyer

Mark’s love of gardening was certainly a gift from his parents. His mother continues to be an active gardener and included him in much of the family’s gardening activity from a very early age. His father, an urban forester, shared his love of trees and outdoor adventures. With degrees in landscape architecture and urban forestry, Mark found his true passion not only in gardening at home but in trying to inspire others to enjoy plants in both personal and public settings.

His career started in residential landscape design, and he has now returned to that occupation with his business, Landscape Prescriptions by MD. He finds that guiding people in creating beautiful and livable garden spaces and engaging landscapes is very rewarding. However, he also worked in public horticulture at Fernwood Botanic Garden and Nature Preserve (Niles, Michigan) and as director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens (Janesville, Wisconsin) for 21 years. Currently, he is the garden manager for the Edgerton, Wisconsin Hospital Healing Garden. He particularly enjoys providing educational opportunities related to plants and horticulture in a wide range of formats. His true passion is growing, observing, photographing, promoting, and enjoying all manner of plants! You can follow him on Facebook here, follow him on Instagram @markcdwyer, and read 14 years of his archived gardening blogs for Rotary Botanical Gardens.

 

What do you like most about gardening in your region?

I will never leave the Midwest. I love the four seasons, although seasonal extremes and fluctuations have made for some challenging years. We are able to grow such a wide range of plants in this climate, and I find the colors of spring and autumn particularly engaging. I do enjoy winter interest in the garden, but having the time to prepare for the upcoming season is welcome!

 

What’s the biggest challenge to gardening in your region?

A couple of years ago I would have answered this question with one word: deer. However, as much as I like the seasonality of the Midwest, severe seasonal extremes have become the primary challenge over the last decade. We’ve had unseasonably warm winters, damaging polar vortices, and both droughty and overly cool and wet summers. Our spring and fall seasons are frequently abbreviated, and along with some of these seasonal variances, the impacts of some diseases and damaging insect populations are becoming more prevalent too. As gardeners, we simply must adjust.

 

What plant are you jazzed about in your garden right now?

That is a loaded question! I always subscribe to the adage that “not all new plants are good and not all good plants are new.” Having said that, I do like to see what is being offered to the consumer, and it’s so exciting to see significant breeding and improvement efforts out there for so many products. However, some of our best garden plants have a proven track record and long history of success in a wide range of garden situations. I’m a huge fan of ferns, particularly Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8) and their hybrids. The ‘Crested Surf’ painted fern from Proven Winners is just fabulous, with so much color and texture. When you consider the value of foliage in the shade, painted ferns like ‘Crested Surf’ offer both pops of color and texture. Yes, please!

‘Crested Surf’ crested Japanese painted fern
‘Crested Surf’ crested Japanese painted fern. Photo: Mark Dwyer

 

What was the last plant you killed?

I’ve been killing plants consistently since my earliest days of gardening. The reasons for it now usually are a result of not respecting the hardiness zone of the plant and optimistically hoping for the best with a plant that “just might make it” in that “microclimate” next to the house. That is the exact scenario for my recent approach last year in planting a sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana, Zones 5–10) along the house. It was turned into crisp toast this spring! Oh well, that at least opens a spot for something else.


 

  • Fragrant Annuals
    Midwest Regional Reports

    Add These Fragrant Annual Flowers to Your Garden in the Midwest

    Enjoying fragrance in the garden is an experience most gardeners appreciate and strive for. Our woody plants, such as lilac (Syringa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8) and Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum…

  • Buttonbush
    Midwest Regional Reports

    Growing Buttonbush: A Great Native Shrub for Wet Areas in the Garden

    A shrub that I continue to promote and utilize in the Midwest is our native buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis and cvs., Zones 4–10). Native to a wide range of the eastern…

  • best phlox
    Midwest Regional Reports

    Growing Creeping Phlox and Annual Phlox in the Midwest

    Most gardeners are familiar with garden phlox (Phlox paniculata and cvs., Zones 4–8), woodland phlox (P. divaricata and cvs., Zones 3–8), and the two common species referred to as creeping…

  • Midwest Regional Reports

    Yellow, Chartreuse, and Golden Shrubs and Trees for Big Garden Impact

    I’m a huge fan of golden foliage in the garden. Yellow flowers, of course, have their own appeal in offering color and warmth, but the lengthy contribution of chartreuse to…

  • ghost lady fern
    Midwest Regional Reports

    How to Grow ‘Ghost’ Lady Fern

    I’ve grown many ferns over the years, and I’m constantly enthralled anew every time I see ‘Ghost’ lady fern (Athyrium ‘Ghost’, Zones 3–8) in the shade garden. Described as well-mannered,…

  • bulb lawn
    Midwest Regional Reports

    Grow a Beautiful Spring Bulb Lawn

    As we head into the spring months after a cold and snowy winter, most of us in the Midwest are looking at drab expanses of turf that are still coming…

  • Mustard greens in a container
    Midwest Regional Reports

    How to Grow Mustard Greens for an Easy, Early Harvest

    As gardeners, we long for the summer months and picking our first cucumber, zucchini, or tomato. However, you don't have to wait that long if you grow mustard greens (Brassica…

  • cool-season annual
    Midwest Regional Reports

    Cool-Season Annuals for the Midwest

    In the Midwest, the frequently unpredictable weather patterns in spring present myriad challenges related to garden preparations and planting times. Daytime temperatures fluctuate greatly over the early spring months, with…

  • perennial grasses
    Midwest Regional Reports

    Dividing Perennial Grasses

    As we head into early spring weather and our perennial, ornamental grasses start to show new growth, this is the ideal time to divide these plants. Division of grasses, and…

  • bulb that blooms in late winter
    Midwest Regional Reports

    A Delightful Bulb to Brighten the Late-Winter Garden

    I remember my first experience seeing winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis, Zones 3–7) in bloom at Fernwood Botanical Garden (Niles, Michigan) over 25 years ago. It was late March when I…