Kelly D. Norris is a 20-something, award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first director of horticulture 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. His current book—Plants with Style—was published in December 2015. 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 career began at age 15 when he talked his parents into buying a nursery (Rainbow Iris Farm), and since then 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 management, after serving as the principal horticulture consultant to the $18 million renovation project completed in 2014. He is also the editorial director for the organization’s award-winning member magazine Bloom and is the artistic director of the popular Spring Garden Festival, a four-day pop-up retail plant sale and garden show.
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 curatorial work at the Botanical Garden 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 holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University.