Opening Keynote and Session Speaker Kelly D. Norris
Kelly is one of the leading horticulturists of his generation. As a planting designer in public and private spaces, he explores the intersections of people, plants, and place through ecological, site-specific design, and art. An award-winning author and plantsman, Kelly’s work in gardens has been featured in The New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Fine Gardening, and Garden Design; and in numerous television, radio, and digital media appearances. His most recent book New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden (Cool Springs Press) debuted in January 2021.
In addition to this latest volume, Kelly has authored three other books: Iowa Gardener’s Travel Guide (2008); A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts (2012 [winner of the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award]), and Plants With Style (2015). Kelly has earned recognition from a variety of organizations, including early career and young professional awards from the Perennial Plant Association (2011); GardenComm (2018); the American Horticultural Society (2018); a Zone Horticulture Commendation from the Garden Club of America (2018); the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing (2013 [the youngest Iowan to be recognized in the history of the awards program]); and a fellowship from the Chanticleer Foundation (2015) for his curatorial and plant exploration work at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
As the former director of horticulture and education at the Greater De Moines Botanical Garden for eight years, Kelly guided efforts in design, curation, programming, garden and facility management. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in horticulture from Iowa State University.
Opening Keynote – New Naturalism: Lessons from Wild Plant Communities
An in-depth talk that applies elements of plant ecology and real-world examples from wild plant communities to the built landscape reveals Kelly’s love for native plants and his experiences with wild plant communities that have shaped his career in profound ways. As a so-called hort-ecologist, Kelly strives to interpret native ecosystems into beautiful, functional landscapes in the urban context. Too often, professional horticulturists appropriate plants as if they were inanimate objects, instead of truly understanding how plants interact and function within the landscape environment.
Session topic – Plants with Style
This is Kelly’s signature presentation that correlates to his book Plants With Style. Gardeners need chic, sustainable, thriving plants for modern lifestyles. Why settle for lackluster gardens filled with dull, ho-hum plants? Plants, after all, are the very essence of fashionable gardening. In this spirited, provocative lecture, plantsman Kelly calls for a garden revolution: out with boring plants and in with stylish alternatives that captivate and enthrall. A passionate horticulturist and lifelong gardener, Kelly is the ideal guide to the botanical riches available to today’s gardeners. In chapters on environment, structure, seasonal standouts, and plant combinations he shines a spotlight on A-list plants in every category – plants that will thrive, not merely survive. Along the way, he shows you how to forge a personal style in harmony with your garden’s setting and local environment. As Kelly puts it, “A garden is the best way to savor life on earth.” Let Plants with Style guide you to the plants that will provide a richer, more fulfilling connection between you and your own patch of soil.