When Mark Dwyer was Rotary Gardens horticulture director, his volunteers looked upon him as a kind of botanical high priest.
He understood the mysteries of plant pairings, what plant would thrive in that weird spot next to the garage overhang, how to make a dull border pop with life and color or why this perennial or that evergreen was failing to thrive.
On work days, volunteers would assail him with questions. He’d listen, ask questions and then dispense advice, like a physician writing a prescription.
Four months after leaving Rotary Gardens, Dwyer has created a new career. He’s a regular speaker on gardening topics, is teaching continuing education classes at Blackhawk Technical College and UW-Whitewater at Rock County, lecturing for free at the Garden Expo in Madison and at Basics in Janesville and has established his own business, Landscape Prescriptions by MD.
It’s a significant shift from being the hort director of a 20-acre garden, but he said his work now captures everything he loves: design, education and the pleasure of a garden “walk and talk.”
Dwyer said his new business is a specialized niche in the landscape design field.
“The design work can range from ‘I need a landscape design for my yard’—and I’ve been doing those for 30 years—to informal landscape sketches to ‘how do I maintain this, what can I remove,’” Dwyer said. “It’s prescriptions, on site.”
For example, Dwyer recently created a formal landscape plan for a new home. It included exact measurements of the yard and assessments of the site, soil condition and other factors that go into traditional landscape design.
He also recently help create a flower-cutting garden with an informal sketch and recommendations for the number of plants and the best varieties. Another project involved assessing borders and landscaping with suggestions for additions and for subtractions for plants that weren’t working.
Dwyer calls the process of assessing landscapes and gardens with homeowners “walk and talk,” and it’s one of his favorite parts of the job.
Sometimes people just need a second pair of eyes to see what’s possible.
“I offer a fresh perspective,” Dwyer said. “It’s certainly done with the homeowner’s input. I can offer options based on my years of experience.”
Dwyer was at Rotary Botanical Gardens for 20 years and has a bachelor’s degree in landscape design and a master’s in urban forestry.
Along with Landscape Prescriptions, Dwyer also has been teaching a number of classes and speaking on garden topics at locations such as Basics in Janesville and the Wisconsin Garden Expo, which runs this year from Feb. 7 to 9.
At Expo, he’ll be speaking on ornamental grasses, wellness in the garden, perennials to know and grow, amazing annuals and gardening as you age, a session that will be filmed by Wisconsin Public Television.