Meet the Blogger: A Conversation with Jason from Chicago

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”  ~Victor Hugo


It is time for another blogger interview, and I am excited to bring this blogger to you.  I met Jason@Garden in a City in 2013 as we discussed native plants, especially milkweed, on each others blogs.  I am not sure who found who first, but we have had a mutual garden blog admiration going for the last 5 years. Jason was a fan of my Seasonal Celebrations meme early on, and a frequent contributor to the meme.  He has also been a regular visitor to my blog always leaving a comment. 

And I have learned a lot, from Jason and his blog, about native plant gardens, planning them, and seeing how natives can be used to design amazing gardens.  So let’s take a trip to the midwest, specifically the Chicago area, and meet Jason……..



Jason, for those that don’t know you, please tell the readers about yourself.

Well, I’m 59 years old. I grew up in the New York City suburbs (Long Island) and have lived in Chicago for 35 years. Judy and I will have been married 33 years this June. We have two sons, Daniel and David. No grandchildren but we’re waiting patiently (Daniel is engaged, so that’s a start). My job is Political Action Director for the Illinois Council of a union that represents employees (public and private sector) who work in public services.



1.  Jason why did you start your blog?

I was stressed by my job and depressed by the news (the two things are linked because a lot of my job involves politics). I wanted a good distraction. Plus, I wanted to show off my garden to more people. Finally, I enjoy writing.



2. I really enjoy my visits to your blog.  What is the significance of its title?

“Garden in a City” is a play on “City in a Garden” (Urbs In Horto), which is Chicago’s official motto.



3.  What keeps you blogging, after so many years?

The blog provides me with a lot of pleasure. I do enjoy showing off Judy’s photographs of the garden. It’s very gratifying when people admire our garden, or enjoy my writing. Also, through the blog I’ve become connected to quite a few friends, a connection I would hate to lose at this point.



4.  Jason, I know you have a unique arrangement with your wife Judy regarding the blog?  Judy takes the pictures and you write the posts and take care of the plants.  How did this arrangement come about?

Originally Judy and I worked on the garden together, but gradually I became the hands on gardener, while she consulted and documented the garden’s development with her photographs. She’s a gifted photographer, thanks in part to classes and to years of practice.



5. I love your team approach to your blog.  So tell me, what are some of your other creative endeavors/hobbies?  And what is your creative process?

Not sure I have any creative hobbies other than the garden and blog. I enjoy reading and movies. My creative process consists mainly of wandering around the garden and staring at this or that. Then an idea comes to me. I keep a running list of ideas for posts, or for things to try in the garden.



6. I am a list person too.  What new creative endeavors do you think you might pursue next?

After I retire I would like to learn to play a musical instrument. My three older siblings all had to take music lessons. By the time my parents got to me, though, they no longer had the energy to overcome my resistance. I regret this, though I can hardly blame them. Of course, none of my siblings turned out to have any musical talent whatsoever. I’m sure I don’t either, but I’d like to learn anyhow.



7. One never knows so I applaud you for wanting to try.  I know you enjoy touring gardens around the world.  What are some of your favorite gardens here in the US, and in other countries?  And do you have a special type of garden you love to visit?

Yes! I love visiting gardens. I would say my favorite gardens are Giverny in France, Great Dixter in the UK, and Lurie Garden right here in Chicago. I like abundant, colorful gardens – gardens that feel like a warm hug.



8.  Oh your favorites are all gardens I would love to visit one day.  With your love of travel, what are some of your favorite destinations, and where would you like to travel next?

Favorite destinations include Paris, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Mexico City. I would love to see more of France (especially Brittany), plus the gardens in Holland and Germany. And I’ve never been to Italy or Spain. Of course, there’s so much here in the US. I’d really like to see the bluebonnets in Texas. It’s been years since I’ve seen New England, I’d like to go back some time.



9.   Oh definitely make a trip to Italy, Jason.  Such an amazing place.  So let’s switch it up a bit.  Tell me what famous person or not so famous person would you like to meet?

If we can include people from the past, I’d really like to meet Jens Jensen. He created the Prairie Style of landscape design and was one of the first to work with native Midwestern plants.



10.   Now he would be an amazing person to meet.  Jason, what is or would have been your dream career or job? 

I do wish now that I had realized earlier the intensity of my interest in gardens. In another life I would have been a garden designer or landscape architect.



11.   I can see you in that career.  It is a perfect fit.  Jason, if it is possible to pick a favorite book or song, what would you choose?

I really can’t pick a single book. In terms of gardening-related books, Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy, In a Green Shade by Allan Lacey, and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlebein all made a big impression on me.



12.  Tallamy’s book made a big impression on me too.  Gardening is such a great passion of yours, and I know how much you love cottage gardens.  What intrigues you about cottage gardening? 

I’m attracted to gardens that are full of life, color, and abundance. I dislike austerity and regimentation, in the garden and elsewhere.



13.  I know we share a love for native plants and wildlife.  Can you tell us how you came to learn about native plants and how they inspire you ?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I like gardens that are full of life – and that includes birds, bees, butterflies, and other forms of wildlife (two big exceptions: skunks and Japanese beetles – no thanks!). Native plants are key to having a wildlife-friendly garden. There are exotics that are good for pollinators, but you really need natives to provide insects with host plants. And without insects, you can’t have birds. My brother Richard, also an avid gardener, introduced me to native plants. Books like Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein also got me started in this direction.



14. I love your thoughts about native plants and wildlife and how they are inextricably tied together.  What are some gardening projects that are close to your heart that you are working on?

Hmm. Nothing really big at the moment. I’m trying to fill in some of the borders in the shady back garden – still experimenting with different plants to see what really thrives. And I’m trying to add a few more butterfly host plants to the sunny front garden as well.



15. I agree, not being afraid to experiment is key to gardening.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you Jason?

Retirement – in a couple of years. I’m planning to start a garden coaching and small-scale design/install business. I’m also looking forward to spending more time in my own garden and travelling with Judy.


I wish Jason well when he retires in a couple of years.  I know I have enjoyed my new journey since retiring.  His plans sound exciting.  And I love seeing what Jason is up to, and where he is traveling.  What fun it would be to stow away with him as he travels the world taking in the gardens and culture of so many new places.  Jason has always inspired me with how he uses native plants in his cottage garden designs, and I look forward to what he has in store with his garden.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know Jason a bit more….I know I did!  


Please make sure you visit Jason on his amazing blog:  Garden in a City.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella@Gardens Eye View, 2010-2018.  Photos are the sole property of Jason and Judy@Garden in a City, and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

30 Replies to “Meet the Blogger: A Conversation with Jason from Chicago”

  1. A very enjoyable post Donna. I have also been following Jason’s blog for some years now and he introduced me to those gorgeous summer Tithonias and several grasses I didn’t know too. 🙂

    1. Oh thank you my friend….I do enjoy these conversations and connections. I feel I am giving back to the blogging community with this series so I hope he is inundated. I hope you enjoy his blog.

    1. Thanks Kris….he has such an amazing array of topics. No vase this week but I’ll be popping over to see yours!

  2. Thanks for the interview Donna. I’m a fan of Jason’s blog and Judy’s photos. Had the pleasure of meeting them at last year’s garden fling.

  3. I’ve met Jason and Judy twice now at the Fling. They’re both nice, interesting folks, and I enjoy reading their blog. This was a great interview!

  4. A wonderful post, Donna!
    I think interviews to gardeners are always interesting, but yours was truly enjoyable and well written. And just look at the photos!
    I have had very little time for blogging recently. I hope to come back soon for more interviews!
    Happy May! xx

  5. Donna, thank you so much for featuring our blog! A very skillful interview, and I hope you continue to interview other garden bloggers.

    1. Always a pleasure my friend….and I hope you have many new readers! I plan to continue the interviews….they are fun and so interesting for me!!

  6. Great interview Donna, and thank you for introducing us to Jason. I am going to check out his blog right after I send you this. I loved these photos. Thanks so much for visiting and enjoy the rest of your week.

  7. Thanks for the blogger interviews you are doing. I enjoyed learning more about Jason! I have followed his blog for years, so this was very interesting. I loved his comment about “abundant, colorful gardens – gardens that feel like a warm hug.” I also appreciate the lovely photos.

  8. Dear Donna!
    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. This interview was interesting, now I know more about Jason and his plans and desires. Jason didn’t mentioned that he visited my city of Saint Petersburg, where his son studied. He told me about his visit, parks, gardens and the city. I always read with interest Jason’s posts and watch lovely Judy’s photos.

    1. Always a pleasure to visit your blog Nadezda….I hope to visit more often now that my shoulder is holding up to gardening and writing. I have been slowly coming back to reading blogs after being away for a while. And how lovely and how lucky for Jason to have visited your city…..he is quite the traveler.

  9. Very interesting! I especially liked the answer #5. I often do the same: ‘wandering around the garden and staring at this or that. Then an idea comes to me’.
    Thank you, Donna, Jason and Judy!

  10. Thanks for this great interview, Donna! I don’t remember when I first started reading Jason’s blog, but I’ve always been impressed by his dedication to blogging and Judy’s excellent photographs. Living in Illinois myself–but downstate, I can always find relevant plant info on his blog, plus I enjoy and can relate to his occasional witty political comments:) I was fortunate to meet Jason and Judy at the Portland Fling in 2013, and since then a small group of us in the Illinois/Wisconsin area have gotten together every summer. Last year Jason and Judy hosted, and I was able to see his amazing garden–it truly is a sanctuary for wildlife, especially butterflies!

    1. Oh how very lucky you are to have met them and seen their garden. And wow I love that you all still get together each summer.

  11. Thanks for the interview of Jason, whose blog I have been following for several years. He is a most interesting gardener and writer, and you did well to feature him in your post.

  12. Another excellent interview, Donna. I’ll be in Chicago in August for the GWA conference. It would be awesome if Jason attended too and I could meet him! I’ll be sure to check out his blog. P x

    1. Thanks Pam….I wish I were going to GWA in Chicago this year. Hopefully we will meet there one day of perhaps even the Bloggers Fling which I hope to attend in the next couple of years. Hope you connect with Jason.

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