The gardens created by Mike Donnally reflect his decades of commitment to plant care and to the land. He began gardening in West Virginia when he was six years old, inspired by his maternal and paternal grandparents' mountainside gardens and encouraged by his parents' love for their suburban garden in Saint Albans.
Donnally received his education in botany (1968-1972) and ornamental horticuture (1975-1977) at the University of Maryland, College Park campus. In 1975, he was hired by Dr. Marc Cathey to maintain plants at the United States Department of Agriculture Research Center in Beltsville, MD. Dr. Cathey, who became the Director of the National Arboretum, was an active mentor to Donnally until Cathey's death in 2008.
Moving to Manhattan in 1978, Donnally had the good fortune to meet the noted garden designer Pamela Berdan, who created the Sheridan Square Garden in Greenwich Village. Ms. Berdan stewarded his gardening talents until 1983.
From 1983 to 1988, he worked independently in Manhattan. His clients included the composer Charles Wuorinen and musicologist Joan Peyser. During this period, Donnally was also a corporate partner in The Botanic Garden Seed Company. As the botanist for the firm, he worked with Helen Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson, who together founded the National Wildflower Research Center.
As a garden maintenance volunteer at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, from 1984 to 1988, Donnally worked in the Native Flora Garden, under the guidance of Jackie Fazio, who went on to become the Director of Horticulture at BBG.
In 1987, he was asked to work in Connecticut with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn and with Raymond Hagel. To be closer to their gardens, Donnally moved to Fairfield in 1988.
In 1995, following The Westport Historical Society's recognition of his landscape design work, the opportunity arose to create other private gardens in Fairfield County, CT. In 2003, he was recommended by Albert Hadley, of Parish-Hadley, to design a coastal garden for a residence in Fairfield, CT. The full development of the property's garden was realized over the next decade.
The Smithsonian Institution Archive of American Gardens includes his landscape designs for Raymond Hagel and for Judith and Charles Kiernan.
Donnally's longest term project is his personal garden. Unlike the larger acreage of his clients' landscapes, the garden is 0.08 acres. This website's blog is about his experiences in his garden.