Mark has been the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI for the last 14 years. Along with dedicated staff and volunteers, Mark coordinates the development and improvement of this 20-acre botanical showcase. Mark’s background is in landscape architecture and urban forestry although his true passion is obtaining, growing, observing and photographing all manner of plants.


‘Jack Frost’ Brunnera for Impact
by Mark Dwyer - posted 11/27/14



This blog is a tribute to one of my favorite perennials for part shade that has always performed well for me at home and at work.  The 'Jack Frost' false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla) is tough as nails, deer resistant and offers early spring flowers followed immediately by showy silver foliage (15" tall).  The foliage is rarely bothered by insects or disease.  This clumping perennial is a nice accent piece in the part shade garden and also looks good in a "collective mass" as a groundcover.  There are many varieties of false forget-me-nots including those with different silver patterns, amounts of silver, leaf size and even a golden-leaved form.  I keep returning to this variety though and these pictures will show you why.  The flowers are only 2-3 weeks of the show but the foliage for us looks good in late April well in to November!  The silvering offered by the foliage gives a nice "pop" of illumination in the partly shaded garden and these photos are evidence of how nice this perennial does for us in the Midwest.















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Green Bay Botanical Garden
by Mark Dwyer - posted 10/05/14


On my way back from Marquette, MI yesterday, I took a stretch break in Green Bay and enjoyed the Green Bay Botanical Garden.  While it was rainy and about 44 degrees F outside, I enjoyed the gardens immensely.  There were few other guests with the exception of a bridal party and guests having an outdoor wedding and probably wishing they had caught the 80 degrees F weather last weekend!  All these photos were taken yesterday and while signs of Autumn were everywhere, the gardens look great in their October glory which should be compromised shortly with frost.  Glad I made the stop and I always make the time when I'm up that way.  Don't hesitate to visit this botanical gem as I've seen this garden develop since the beginning and it's always exciting to visit.  They have a big holiday lights show coming up this winter as well!  All these photos were taken yesterday, October 4th.












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Garden Seating Is A Must!
by Mark Dwyer - posted 09/28/14


While some gardeners never take the time to sit down and enjoy their hard work, I certainly do (more and more often as I age!).  I appreciate the value of a well placed bench or chair out in the garden that offers not only respite but a garden experience.  That experience might include enjoying a view, appreciating fragrance, proximity to wildlife (i.e. butterflies), auditory enjoyment (i.e. water feature), etc.  Above is a bench and some Adirondack chairs in the North Point garden at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI.  Note that this bench style and the chair colors offer interest as part of the entire garden scheme.  While the placement of comfortable seating is important, keep in mind that the features of that unit (color, style, etc.) can also be features in the garden.  I've included some examples in this blog which barely scratch the surface of this topic.  There are so many types and styles of seating, not to mention materials.  At RBG, we have over 100 benches and 10 Adirondack chairs placed around the garden for visitors to rest and enjoy the view.  Furniture can be relatively permanent if an ideal location is found.  However, movable furniture allows for grouping as needed and possible relocation to sun or shade as desired.  Every garden should have outdoor seating for enjoyment but also functionality in those spaces where we grill out, entertain, etc.  


a simple two person bench with a great view (Schmeeckle Reserve, UW-Stevens Point)

an instant, mobile bench (we're building some!) - photo not mine (from internet)

one of our custom cedar benches built by the Grumpies

note secluded seating nook (Butchart Gardens)

an immersive experience with this seat!

who wouldn't swing on this one (also positioned for a view)

seating options as part of an outdoor entertaining area

outdoor entertaining area (Lake Geneva, WI)

outdoor entertainment with cool fireplace

private seating circle in woodland setting

360 degree potential view! (not great for group chatting though...)

a shady respite

take time to catch some rays

Adirondack chairs at RBG (unfortunately we have to chain them down...)

a painted chair can become a focal point and add color as well as any plant

movable furniture has plenty of value and is appropriate on turf

movable chairs near pond at Chanticleer (Wayne, PA)

weather resistant padding goes a long way for comfort as seen above

this is a colorful spot to observe butterflies and hummingbirds on the adjacent bee balm (Monarda)

a nice sunny spot for chatting (Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI)

Note this bench in the distance is a focal point along with the tricolor European beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-Marginata') behind the bench. This arrangement, with the informal flagstone path, encourages travel to the bench (same location below at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI).  The sedges (Carex) soften the walkway and make for a "soft approach".



The images directly above and directly below are the same location at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI.  Note the container between the two seats and the nice use of variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) behind the seats for interest in this setting.  The approach is shaded with the seating patio in more light.  As with the images further above at Olbrich, this arrangement encourages travel to this destination.



The blue color of these seats (nicely shaded) encourages enjoyment of the view in this gravel garden (Olbrich Botanical Garden, Madison, WI)

the pillows and birdhouse offer the accent along with the furniture color


what a nice setting for cocktails near the stream!

the fountain adds some interest (and sound) as well (Chicago Botanic Garden)

tea time for two?

take time to enjoy the garden!

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