This Week's Podcast: A Replay: A Plantsman with Style -- Kelly Norris
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Many listeners to this show have heard of Kelly Norris who is making his third appearance here. If you have not, you will soon learn about horticulture’s wunderkind. Kelly started out by convincing his parents to buy the contents of an iris nursery in Texas and moving it to his home in Iowa. He was 15. Since then, he’s become the most sought after lecturer representing his generation of 20-somethings and promoting marketing strategies to capture this emerging demographic.
And now he is the first director of horticulture at the revamped 14-acre Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden (bottom, courtesy of the Garden). His curatorial work, there, was recognized by the Chanticleer Foundation with a 2015 Chanticleer Scholar Award that will fund two years of plant collecting across the upper Midwest in support of the garden’s permanent living collections.
Kelly is an award-winning author. His first book, A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts, won the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award. His new publication is Plants with Style.
This book is not going to tell you how to grow plants. Kelly suggests you hold the book in one hand and have Google close by the other. What you will find are personal essays on plants presented in ways that might seem unconventional. Sometimes, he presents related species; other instances tout morphological relationships – like the woody trees. A few plants are featured because they have aesthetic relationships or funny ones like the two-page spread on “umbrella plants” (Syneilesis aconitifolia, left).
Kelly is a good writer, and this is a book that should be bought for its text (although the type is small). Kelly has a seemingly effortless, conversational and very personal style, and he doesn’t hold back. He might call a plant “sassy,” and suggest that it would look good for a “kickass” garden design.
All in all, these are plants with style; and the style is pure Kelly Norris.