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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. 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.


 

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