Kelly D. Norris is a 20-something, award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first horticulture manager at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized 14-acre public garden in Des Moines, Iowa. He’s popularly known for his book A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts from Timber Press, which won the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award, and is at work on his next project tentatively titled Dig This: Stylish Gardening with Kickass Plants.
As a speaker, he has garnered acclaim for his high-energy, zealous presentations on the national stage, leading many to call him one of the rising stars of American horticulture. Kelly’s unique 10 years of experience in the industry began at age 15 when he talked his parents into buying a nursery (Rainbow Iris Farm), and in that time he’s become one of the few gurus on marketing horticulture to emerging demographics.
At the Botanical Garden, Kelly directs and manages a team of horticultural professionals in all aspects of design, curation, programming, and garden maintenance and has a principal leadership role in the $12 million renovation and expansion currently underway. He is also the editorial director for the organization’s member magazine Bloom, leads several programming initiatives aimed at fulfilling the Garden’s mission of “exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants,” and is the artistic director of the newly minted Spring Garden Festival which will debut in May 2014.
Kelly is the youngest person to receive the Iowa State Horticultural Society’s Presidential Citation, Award of Merit and Honor Award in the organization’s 150 year history, awards that exemplify service and contributions to horticulture in Iowa. In 2011, he was also honored by the Perennial Plant Association with the Young Professional Award, recognizing early contributions to the advancement of herbaceous perennials in American horticulture. In 2013, he won the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing, the youngest Iowan to be recognized in the history of the awards program.
His love for exploration has taken him to the wilds of southern and central Texas, the Ozarks, the Black Hills, and all over the Midwest in search of new plants for gardens. Kelly holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University.