Michael Jesiolowski – Director of Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens

Jesiolowski has spent most of his career at public garden institutions, most recently as Garden Supervisor at Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. At Chicago Botanic Garden, where he was Senior Horticulturist, he was responsible for the Entrance Gardens, which encompassed the Visitor’s Center, Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden, and the Regenstein Learning Campus. He created the seasonal displays in these areas, spearheaded the creation of gravel garden beds in the Parking Lots, and added hundreds of new taxa to the collection.

Jesiolowski, born in Oak Park, IL, received his formal training through the University of Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture. He also has experience working at The Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL), Bernheim Arboretum (Clermont, KY), Epic Systems (Verona, WI), and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

As Director of Horticulture, Jesiolowski leads horticulture staff and volunteers, where they balance the building of creative display gardens, with the development of sustainable plant collections with diversity.

You can follow Michael on Instagram at @Up_in_my_tree

Email Michael at Michael.Jesiolowski@rotarygardens.org

During a summer 2019 trip the Gardens, Pamela Dittmer McKuen, Freelance Journalist and Author, gathered information for her Spring 2020 article, titled How to Grow a Wellness Garden.”

The article, features both Rotary Botanical Gardens as well as Wellness Garden Design with regard to the process and purpose of a Wellness Garden. Displayed on page 7 is a photo by Volunteer Garden Photographer, Marsha Mood. Director of Horticulture, Michael Jesiolowski is also quoted within the article.

In 2018, Rotary Botanical Gardens unveiled the Wellness Garden, funded by a private donor, Ruth Ann Potts and our local Mercyhealth System

You can learn more about our Wellness Garden, here.

Thank you to the Janesville Area Visitors and Convention Bureau for bringing the Geiger Media Tour to Janesville!

“When guests have vision impairments or mobility issues, they can come to this garden and enjoy it like everyone else.”

– Michael Jesiolowski

Read the full article, here.

As I finish my 21 year journey at Rotary Botanical Gardens, I’d like to thank all the folks that have made this a special place over the 30 year history of the development of the garden. With so many dedicated volunteers and staff (past, present and future), the gardens will continue to excel as it pursues excellence in honoring our mission of providing education and inspiration for our visitors. I’ve enjoyed my time at the gardens and will always look back fondly on my experiences at the gardens and appreciate the opportunity to develop both personally and professionally at this very special garden. I include my last blog photo of a school group below that came to help plant our new Wellness Garden (2018) as inspiration and a reminder for all of us to continue to foster and nurture not only Rotary Botanical Gardens but the children that will be future visitors, volunteers, supporters and our next generation of environmental warriors.

With some recent rain soaking the garden nicely, the summer color is vivid and at peak right now. We’ve had a very busy couple of weeks since our Home Garden Tour almost a month ago! We finished most of our planting out in the gardens and have had some excellent tours come through the gardens quite recently. On Sunday, July 28th, we had over 80 attendees of the Perennial Plant Association national conference (Chicago) swing out to the gardens as part of a tour (two buses). We continue to fine tune the gardens for our summer visitors and our education programs continue to popular as well. Yesterday, we had another successful Horticulture Therapy Symposium with 60 in attendance. The StoryWalk, Story & Stroll and other programs continue to be a hit as well. Our 30th Anniversary continues to be a very successful year at the gardens. Many thanks, of course, to our excellent volunteers, supporters, members and visitors!

The Wellness Garden (above and top photo) is at summer peak for color
Mike Maddox (above in blue) was part of our successful Horticulture Therapy Symposium on Tuesday (60 participants)
the material above was used for Mike’s group activity (very well received)
Dr. Darcie Olson, Mike Maddox and Laura (RBG) – left to right – Horticulture Therapy Symposium
Some VIPs arrived yesterday from the Chicago Botanic Garden (Janice, Richard and Robert) – left to right
‘First Flame Purple’ plume celosia (Celosia plumosa) with ‘Purple Flash’ ornamental hot pepper (Capsicum annuum) – above (annuals)
The pollinator theme in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children’s Garden (above and below) has filled in nicely
‘Lambada’ lemon bergamot (Monarda hybrida) – annual (above)
Great Star™ panicled hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Le Vasterival’) – above
‘Black Magic’ ebony plant (Pseuderanthemum carruthersii) – annual (above)
vivid plantings abound! (above)
Color Flash® false spirea (Astilbe x arendsii ‘Beauty of Ernst’) – perennial (above)

For those that check on my blog regularly, I’m sorry I haven’t been more regular in recent months. This year, in particular, has been quite busy and while I still find time to take a couple photos each day (interesting shift to using primarily the camera on my phone!), I rarely have the time or energy to put together a blog. I do hope to gain more momentum with returning to this format and will post as often as my available time and energy allows! Sharing the daily escapades of our staff and volunteers along with lots of plants continues to be the goal of this blog which was started over 12 years ago!

This blog features a lot of recent color at the gardens. With heat finally settling in this month, plants are really taking off out in the gardens – including the weeds! At the time of typing this blog, we are about 93% done with installing our annuals which was an amazing record of seven solid weeks of hardcore planting with our excellent volunteers. A recent shift to some very necessary weed control efforts has slowed down planting a bit but we still have some “filler” annuals and quite a few perennials to install over the coming week or two. Our volunteers and excellent grounds staff continue to be paramount in the success of having the gardens look the best they have in 30 years. A big part of celebrating the 30th Anniversary is to proudly say we’ve created another masterpiece and peak summer color is still yet to come (2 weeks?). We’ve had many visitors recently and I’m excited that we have two bus loads of attendees to the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) Annual Conference (Chicago, IL) coming to the gardens in a couple weeks and we’re excited to share the garden with many first time visitors (and green industry VIPs!). More to follow. Get down to the gardens!

entrance garden annuals (above)
‘Becky’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) – perennial (above)
fun ruler in the prairie for kids to see how tall plants get! (above)
bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) – woody shrub (above) – thicketing!
Incrediball® smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’) – woody shrub (above)
‘Mighty Pip’ false spirea (Astilbe chinensis) – perennial (above)
queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’) – above
‘Visions’ false spirea (Astilbe chinensis) – perennial (above)
‘Rooguchi’ clematis (Clematis sp.) – semi-woody vine (above)
speckled elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Pulverulenta’) – woody shrub (above)
‘Little Rocket’ ligularia (Ligularia stenocephala) – perennial (above)
container plantings like the one above are filling in finally!
‘Young Lady’ European smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) – large woody shrub (above)
this colorful border in the sunken garden offers some “hot” colors! (above)
the Wellness Garden plantings are filling in nicely with the recent heat (above)

I had a great day in Madison, WI today although the weather went from very rainy to a bit muggy! I was on Larry Meiller’s Garden Talk program (Wisconsin Public Radio) which is always fun. Larry is a great guy and the show certainly allows me to shamelessly promote the gardens to a wide listening audience. After checking in with our Friday grounds staff (Larry, Cindy, Chuck, Brian and Sean) at work, I drove through a typhoon to get up to Madison where I visited the Botany Garden and Allen Centennial Garden on the UW-Madison campus before the radio program. The rain had abated after the program finished so I headed over to Olbrich Botanical Garden and enjoyed a tour around one of my favorite garden (photos below). It was a nice day to get my “horticultural fix” in a different city although we’re looking forward to more momentum next week as staff and volunteers continue to refine, plant and beautify our 20 acre garden in Janesville for our 30th Anniversary year!

Allen Centennial Garden (UW-Madison) – don’t miss this 2.5 acre gem! (above)
the rock and crevice gardens (above and below) at Allen Centennial Garden are excellent
fun containers (above and below) at Allen Centennial Garden
I’ve always admired this smoketree (Cotinus sp.) near Allen Centennial Garden…might be ‘Royal Purple’ or the hybrid ‘Grace’
the conservatory (above) at Olbrich Botanical Garden (OBG) in Madison, WI
Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) – perennial (above)
‘Sun Power’ hosta (Hosta) – perennial (above)
Clematis ‘Arabella’ mixing with yellow fumitory (Corydalis lutea) – above
cute little guy
awesome demo area for edible container arrangements in the herb garden (super cool!)
Clematis ‘Prince Charles’ (above)
fun containers and engaging areas abound at OBG (above and below)

I’m finding that I’m transitioning to using my smart phone camera almost exclusively for photography in the gardens. After about 15 years of carrying around my Canon PowerShot camera (small, “point and shoot” style…), the convenience of having the phone ready to go has been nice. I wont totally abandon the old-fashioned camera approach but the resolution of modern phone cameras is equal or superior to what I was using previously. Regardless, there is no shortage of color out in the gardens as evidenced in these recent photos. Our volunteers continue to be exceptional in every way. We are over 70% done with planting and have even had some extra planting “episodes” (including last Wednesday and this past Saturday) to continue the great progress in filling the gardens with fun plants. I think our 30th Anniversary “look” out in the gardens will be exceptional although we are quickly trying to address some significant weed issues as the heat finally settles in after a cool spring and slow progression to summer temperatures.

‘Prairie Gypsy’ bee balm (Monarda hybrida) – perennial (above)
‘Sunny Delight’ Hakone grass (Hakonechola macra) – perennial grass (above)
welcoming pergola section above
‘Blue Beauty’ Siberian catmint (Nepeta sibirica) – perennial (above)
‘Hair’ ornamental onion (Allium vineale) – perennial bulb (spreads!)
Gentle Hermione® David Austin rose (Rosa ‘Ausrumba’) – woody plant (above) – fragrant!
CHINA SNOW™ Peking lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘Morton’) – woody plant (above)
New Guinea impatiens SunPatiens® Compact Deep Rose (Impatiens x hybrida ‘SAKIMP017’) – annual (above)
‘Dark Towers’ beardtongue (Penstemon hybrida) – perennial (above)
ATLANTIS™ stonecrop (Sedum takesimense ‘Nonsitnal’) – perennial (above)
Pink Drift® rose (Rosa ‘Meijocos’) – woody plant (above)
variegated cattails (Typha latifolia ‘Variegata’) – perennial (above)
‘Pure Silver’ speedwell (Veronica spicata subsp. incana) – perennial (above)

I haven’t blogged in a bit as I’ve been swamped with keeping up with the progress of our spring planting. The 63.5% estimate (regarding percentage of spring planting complete) is quite arbitrary but we are moving quickly to install our annuals and perennials over the coming weeks and have been going non-stop since mid-May. The photo above shows five tough souls planting in the rain tonight out in the Wellness Garden let by Tina B. Our volunteers continue to be exceptional and we’ve had some great assistance with planting from not only our veteran volunteers but additional help from the Bower City Garden Club members, Mercyhealth employees and many others. We continue to see more visitors daily and the gardens have already hosted some early outdoor weddings. The weeds are catching up to us as we juggle planting and other duties but we’re doing our best to make our 30th Anniversary year the best it can be in terms of colorful, engaging and educational displays.

ornamental onion (Allium azureum) – perennial (above) – spreads!
valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – perennial (fragrant but spreads!)
‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta faasenii) – perennial (above)
‘Brownie Points’ false indigo (Baptisia hybrida) – perennial (above)
golden Southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’) – woody tree (above)
‘Forever Pink’ phlox (Phlox hybrida) – perennial (above)
golden wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea’) – woody tree (above)
‘Fireball’ French marigold (Tagetes patula) – annual (above)
goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) above with some morning light – perennial (above)
The photo above and two below feature some new volunteers helping plant the raised beds in the Wellness Garden
Bev F. (above) was instrumental in laying out our raised bed “sensory scheme” in the Wellness Garden (which Bev will use to engage participants at our Horticultural Therapy Symposium on August 6th)

While I haven’t been blogging as frequently as usual due to spring exhaustion issues, the wonderful color out in the gardens hasn’t taken any time off! We’ve seen lots of visitors this week and the garden continues to progress in terms of planting, tidying and the progression of late spring color as we head towards summer. Our volunteers continue to be exceptional and the addition of our three new grounds staff members (Brian, Chuck and Sean) has helped immensely as well. We continue to improve the gardens daily and feel our 30th Anniversary year may be one of our best in terms of color and impact.

Tina B. (above) cranking in some plants yesterday
Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) – unknown variety – perennial (above)
white meadowrue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium ‘Alba’) – perennial (above)
‘Bee Bold’ beggarticks (Bidens sp.) – annual (above)
Decadence® ‘Cherries Jubilee’ false indigo (Baptisia hybrida) – perennial (above)
one of our many peonies (Paeonia sp.) in bloom – this is an interspecific hybrid (perennial)
goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)- is starting to bloom! – perennial (above)
‘Globemaster’ ornamental onion (Allium) – perennial (above0
Barb, Marleen and Sandi (left to right) have been awesome in preparing the 2019 StoryWalk program (note the photo bomb by Bobby K. and Laura P. in the back!
Flannery and Dylan (above) last night during one of their planting escapades

This morning was darn right chilly at about 45 degrees F. That reminds me more of May than June but the day did warm up after some late morning rain. We had a very productive day both inside and outside. Our grounds crew of Big John, Terry, Cindy, Sean, Larry and I all had lots of different duties and shifted inside easily for some indoor projects during the hour or so of rainfall (not unwelcome). Our volunteers today included Kathy, Eva, Tim, Stan, Kristin, Kath, Marleen, Barb, Terri, Sandi, Cora, Jane, Dr. Gredler, Bill, Urban, Rollie, Mary Kay, Janice, Art and many others. It was another busy and productive day with LOTS of kids out in the gardens enjoying tours and programs by our wonderful education volunteers.

‘Roseomarginata’ European beech (tricolor beech) – (Fagus sylvatica) – woody (above)
‘E.A. Bowles’ mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius) – woody (above) – fragrant!!!
‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) – woody (above)
‘Mount Everest’ ornamental onion (Allium sp.) – perennial (above)
‘Blue Ice’ hybrid bluestar (Amsonia hybrida) – perennial (above)
‘Twilite’ false indigo (Baptisia x variicolor) – perennial (above)
Decadence® ‘Lemon Meringue’ false indigo (Baptisia hybrida) – perennial (above)
‘Starlite’ false indigo (Baptisia x bicolor) – perennial (above)
‘Princeton Gold’ Norway maple (Acer platanoides) – woody (above)
‘Sun King’ golden Japanese spikenard (Aralia cordata) – perennial (above)
golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) – perennial (above)
‘Spring Ghost’ Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) – woody (above)
‘Rick’s White Tip’ Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) – woody (above)
‘Ivory Queen’ Turkestan onion (Allium karataviense) – perennial (above)
variegated horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) – woody (above)
Black Lace® elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’) – woody (above)
‘Rikugi Sakura’ Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) – perennial (above)
‘Shaker’s Prayer’ Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) – perennial (above)
wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) – perennial (above)