Mark Wessel is an estate gardener and horticultural consultant who lives and works in southwestern Ohio. His education and lifelong interest and experience in gardening and farming, botany, and wildlife provide wide-ranging knowledge in support of his horticultural business and practices.
Mark grew up on a tobacco and vegetable farm southeast of Cincinnati close to the Ohio River. “My parents taught me a lot about farming, and passed on their knowledge of trees, wildflowers, birds and other wildlife. Most important, they nurtured in me a deep love of gardening and nature.”
It wasn’t always apparent that Mark would find his career in caring for plants. “I was slightly spoiled and a little lazy,” he admits. “Weeding tobacco, hoeing corn and picking tomatoes weren’t my idea of fun. Little did I know how well these farm related chores would serve me later in life.”
After high school, Mark enrolled in the Recreation and Wildlife Technology program at Hocking Technical College. It was a hands-on program that provided training to would-be Foresters and Naturalist, Fish and Wildlife Technicians.
“On weekends during my final year at Hocking, I volunteered at the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati.” The Conservatory provided great mentoring and hands-on experience, and brought numerous opportunities for employment. “In the early years I mostly worked half days at many different gardens and did small designs and installations. Eventually I settled into two estates and began building my consultation services.”
While most of Mark’s work is in the Cincinnati region, he’s gardened and consulted in diverse areas of the United States: the Carolinas, New England, the Southwest, California and Washington. “I’ve even gardened on a private estate in Italy. Currently, as owner /operator of Mark Wessel Horticultural Services, I provide consulting to a range of clients and estate gardening for private residences in Cincinnati.”
Mark maintains his expertise and keeps current with the gardening community through membership and participation in many organizations. “The North American Fruit Explorers, North American Rock Garden Society, Seed Savers Exchange, Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture are just a few of the groups that have provided me with information and inspiration over the years. All of these groups publish journals that are helpful but the real learning comes from the meetings when you are one on one with the folks who have been growing for years.”
“Unfortunately the era of local garden clubs seems to be ending. but opportunities are out there. I’ve recently joined a local group for tree enthusiasts started by a friend. We meet once a month in a garden situation, look at plants, swap stories and share problems. There is no better way to learn.”
In addition to the role of organizations, Mark credits many mentors for contributions to his development as a horticulturalist. “I owe a great deal to my relationship with the late botanist John Thieret. He was my most important botanical influence by far.” Thieret was Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at Northern Kentucky University, Director of the Northern Kentucky University Herbarium, and a member of the editorial committee of the monumental project, Flora of North America North of Mexico.
“John was one of the patriarchs of North American plant taxonomy, and one of the last great field naturalists of the 20th century.” Mark’s relationship with Thieret led to his research and writing of “Agrimonia of Kentucky” published in the Journal of the Kentucky Academy of Science and included in Plant Life of Kentucky: An Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Flora.
Mark’s love of nature, and particularly of botany, supports his knowledge of gardening. “My passion for plants and nature has taken me to nearly all the major ecosystems in the country — from the Boreal forest of the North Woods to the Mangroves of south Florida; from the Alpine regions of the Rockies to the low deserts of the Southwest. Seeing plants in their native habitat helps you gain a better understanding of what those plants need in the garden. While you don’t have to replicate the exact growing conditions for success with most plants, it’s important to address the most critical.”
Mark is excited to share his knowledge and experience as an estate gardener and consultant with his blog on Wessel’s Garden Way. “I don’t focus on one group of plants or a single style of gardening. It’s a gardening free-for-all.”