Gardening – it’s a Family Affair; A Tribute to Mark Govan

Our world was rocked this week by some very tragic news. One of our local gardening legends, Mark Govan, has passed away. In the wake of this terrible loss, and in his honor, I am going to depart from my usual article format to bring you something a little more personal and heartfelt.

A Tribute to Mark Govan

Mark Govan and Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply have a long history. He’s been promoting us for many years, we’ve been paying advertisers on his radio show for a long time, and we have referred people to back to him for years. You could say we are “superfans” of Mark’s.

Our store had just resumed advertising on the Florida Gardening Radio show in the last few months. We wanted to support Mark somehow after the media conglomerate cancelled his show right near the 25 year mark, but we weren’t sure how to do it. After David Graham of Graham Capital Advisors purchased the show (thank you David! Mark was SO thrilled!), we knew we could be on the air with Mark again. We were so excited, and to celebrate I made a whole new ad campaign around it (see image below).

Part of our awesome ad campaign for our support of Mark’s 25-years-and-running show, Florida Gardening Radio.

In fact, Mark and I had just corresponded last week about upcoming shows, and now he’s just…gone. Just like that.

This sad turn of events has made me pause from many of my normal marketing duties for Shell’s Feed. Mr. Shell and I are both pretty shaken up, and honestly, it has made us both realize that sometimes the stuff we get all uptight about around the store doesn’t actually matter. It doesn’t matter at all.

Further, Mark’s passing has made me think: “If I were to be gone tomorrow, what would I want my legacy to be?” I’m not sure if most people even think about that. Maybe you do. If you have thoughts about your legacy, or what you feel Mark’s legacy is to all of us, I’d love to hear it, please feel free to leave a comment on this article.

You see, we here at Shell’s are a family business, just like Mark’s business at ABC Pest Control and Just this Spring I purchased two beautiful plumerias from Mark at the USF Spring Plant Sale at the Botanical Gardens. And just a couple weeks ago, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mark’s daughter as she was having fun being the in-studio guest on his show. It was great listening to their relationship play out on the air.

Families Find Strength in Each Other

So, now I am thinking about how a family finds the strength to carry on when the Patriarch (or when a Matriarch) has moved into the next phase of existence. How does a family keep going after losing someone so dear, who is missed so much?

I’m sure it’s different for everyone. But for me, it’s the memories.

Mark will continue to be present in every life that he touched through his companies, and through his 25 years giving great garden advice and providing great educational content on the radio. Many people have ‘garden hacks’ they learned from Mark. Many more have learned to troubleshoot their garden issues from his advice. He lives on through these lessons, and the knowledge he freely and happily shared with others.

Mark Govan at the helm during his 25-year run as host of the Florida Gardening Show.

I had a Gardening Dad, Too

This sad event also makes me think of my biggest influence in gardening, my Dad, who passed away when I was a teenager. If you’ve heard me speak, or even read some of my early blog entries, I talk about my Dad being a ‘subsistence farmer’. He didn’t think of it that way, he called it survival. He grew food to eat, because food is expensive.

My Daddy, before he went to Vietnam.

I still do some things today the way Dad did them back then…it’s been nearly 3 decades since he was around to share his knowledge. I still have his books on gardening. I still have all the memories of digging in the dirt, of eating tomatoes before they made it into the house, with the raised eyebrow of my Mema when she would catch me. In my mind’s eye I can still see the way the garden was set up, and the layout of his whole homestead property.

So, I carry on what I learned from my Dad just by continuing to garden. It’s how I remember him. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me.

I don’t have very many pictures of my Dad, but when I was a kid this was often how we spent our time, nestled in a recliner with our Dachsund keeping us warm. I still remember it.

Looking to the Future

I know that ABC Pest Control is going strong, and they will continue helping people in his tradition, because I know that is what Mark would have wanted. And I know that Mark’s family will continue helping people and providing great service just like Mark did all those years. It’s all in the family, this practice of helping people.

I would imagine Mark would have wanted for us to remember him by making our little corners of the world more beautiful through gardening.

So, Mark, this is our fond farewell. Sunday mornings won’t ever be the same without you.

Thank you for all you did for the gardening community here in Tampa Bay, and in Florida. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

We’re all still learning from you. May it always be so.



P.S. This Saturday’s Monthly Community Seed Swap is 9am-10:30am and if anyone would like to come and talk about Mark and share advice he’s given you over the years through his show I’m happy to do so.

11 responses to “Gardening – it’s a Family Affair; A Tribute to Mark Govan”

  1. Greg Shell says:

    I’m still a little shaken by the news of Mark’s passing. I was so excited when Graham Capital Advisors purchased the show because Mark was in charge of the advertising instead of the radio conglomerate. Advertising then became more affordable and effective because Mark new what was best and how to run it. You will be forever missed Mark.

  2. Bruce Wehrman says:

    A true giant!! Helpful to all he came in contact with…a big loss…..see you on the other side of the hedge!!!

  3. I did not know…Just tuned in this Sunday A.M. and did not hear his voice.
    SO sad…so very sad.
    Best of luck to his family and to his daughter…

  4. Kathleen Smith says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Marissa.

    It is still touching me hard enough to be in tears right now that Mark is gone. It is ONLY because of him that my yard went from a barren dry patch with only a few trees and lots of weeds, to a garden pretty enough that the neighbors stop to tell me how much they have enjoyed the changes I made over the last 5 years. I was out in my yard as I was listening, almost every Sunday morning, to Mark’s show. Being a senior citizen, I was afraid to try to garden, but Mark changed me, as I became a home gardener. I tried to call in to the show the Sunday after he passed, not realizing it was a recording, and he was gone. I’m thankful for his telephone calls with me, and for all of his callers who kept the show going.

    I am especially thankful for David Graham and the fact he kept Mark on the air, and is still keeping Mark on the air. I am listening right now. The song at the beginning and the “Remember, without plants we wouldn’t be here” will live on in my heart as a reminder of Mark.

    Thank you also for telling us about your Dad, and how he got you gardening. The photo of the two of you with your dog in the chair is just precious. I’m glad you have him in your heart, and that everyone you touch with gardening advice receives his legacy through you.

    We can all help someone else get started, one person at work has been given about 25 of my “babies” over the last year, and now she is transforming her back yard into a safe haven for spending time outside: another gardener was born. I have never been to your store, because I rarely go to Tampa, but I did go to ABC Pest Control and purchased a plumeria that is growing well in my yard.

    Plants are a good legacy to leave behind. Best wishes always to everyone who misses Mark. He touched so many lives.

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hello Kathleen,
      I was happy to write a post in tribute to Mark. He was such an influence on so many about the joys of gardening and to not be afraid to try. While the show reorganizes they are playing re-runs of old shows, and I love that I can still hear his voice over the radio. They have many many recordings of Mark and they’re all available to the public, I’ll be downloading them all to listen to in the future. From what I understand his daughter and the ABC Pest Control Operations Manager will be taking over the show, as soon as they’re ready. I’m very excited that family and someone so close to Mark will be carrying on his legacy for the foreseeable future. I, too, am very happy that David Graham bought the show, he is a believer in the value of Florida Gardening Radio and preserved it for all of us to enjoy. One of the missions of Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply is to teach people of all ages the joy of gardening, and one of the people I aspire to emulate is Mark Govan.
      I purchased two plumerias from Mark at the USF Plant Show this past Spring. I hope to keep them alive and growing happily in his memory. They are so beautiful when they flower!
      Thank you for the kind words about my Dad, too, I miss him and his garden guidance every single day I have my hands dirty or have a watering hose in my hand. I still hear his voice in my head sometimes when I’m wondering what to do next, and I cherish those memories bubbling up to the surface when I need him the most.
      I love teaching new gardeners about growing plants and answering all their questions – and if they hit me with one I don’t know, I get to learn something new when I research it for them. It’s one of the reasons I have a free seed/plant swap every month from August through May – to get together with other gardeners, share the bounty, talk about plants, and just get inspired by others. It’s a wonderful feeling!
      I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog article, and to comment on it as well. Take care of yourself, your garden “student”, and remember that all the things you learned from Mark are the way to keep his memory alive for all of us.
      Thank you for sharing your plants with your coworker and fostering a new gardener. I hope to do the same with the people I meet…in fact, I’m working on my neighbor a bit right now!

  5. Ann Wells says:

    I remember just before mt husband died he purchased a plant and later found out it was poisonous. When he found out be called Mark. MARK said to bring it to his ABC on Massachuettes and ne would plant it and he did right on the corner of the building. Larry was so proud. He loved Mark and talked to him almost every Sunday morning to talk about his plants. Larry passed away last December and I feel like Mark and Larry are in Heaven talking about beautiful flowers. May you both RIP

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Ann,
      Mark was just that kind of guy, wasn’t he? Helpful, funny, excited about gardening, and a walking encyclopedia too. I am quite sure their spirits are doing just as you say. Thank you for sharing those memories 🙂

  6. Kathleen Smith says:

    Thank you for your response, Marissa. I came back here in memory of Mark, while listening to the show this morning, and noticed that you wrote back to me. I do hope that the Florida Gardening show will somehow continue, and that the recordings will continue to be available also. I agree that if each of us can spread the love of growing to someone who is scared to try, we can continue the legacy of past gardeners like your father, Mark and all others who like to help “newbies” get planting. I am grateful that Shell’s is sponsoring your writing too!

  7. Kenneth Sanderson says:

    Mark was and still is Truely the best. His advice and guidance will be Heaven sent. In our memories and joy will we still see and feel his comforting laughter in his speak and character as we enjoyed a great man down here on Earth. Only temporary as soon enough we shall see Mark again.
    Your tribute brought tears to my eyes. As driving home from work every Sunday morning Mark’s show would just be airing as I drove into driveway. I’d never open door to leave car until I heard Mark laugh. That never took long. Open front door and grab Alexa charging at entrance. “Alexa, play 970 WFLA”. 2 minute delay. Never missed a word. Called in often. I bragged ABC and Shell’s up often. Mark is dearly missed. And your right, reevaluate what is Truely, true and dear to our hearts. Thanks for the tears.
    Ken Sanderson

  8. Charles Weddel says:

    We purchased a plumeria which he had propagating for each of his children. They are we planted in our yard and they are beautiful.

    We have a daily reminder as we admire their blooms of how neat a person Mark was.

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Charles, I, too, have a couple of plumerias that we purchased from him. It was the last time I saw him in person, the USF Botanical Gardens Spring Plant Sale in 2019. He was truly one of a kind, and he is sorely missed.

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