Emergent Communicator Award
Emergent Communicator Award recognizes a member under the age of 40 who has demonstrated exceptionally high degrees of skill, professional ethics and dedication to the GWA mission and values. Self-nominations are welcome. Only one award winner may be named each year. Self-nominations are welcome.
Kelly D. Norris is an award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized public garden in Des Moines, Iowa. Throughout his career, his work has been featured in The New York Times, Organic Gardening, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Garden Design and in numerous local and regional media appearances.
At the Botanical Garden, Kelly is responsible for leading and directing a team of horticulturists and educators 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 the artistic director of the popular Spring Garden Festival, a four-day pop-up retail plant sale and garden show. From 2013-2017, he was the editorial director for the organization’s award-winning member magazine Bloom.
As a writer and photographer, he regularly contributes to popular gardening magazines like Country Gardens, Fine Gardening and The American Gardener and is a contributing editor to Greenhouse Grower, an industry trade magazine. 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 most recent book—Plants With Style—debuted 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.
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 funded fieldwork in support of the garden’s permanent living collections. He recently was honored by the American Horticultural Society with the 2018 Emerging Horticultural Professional Award.
Kelly holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture from Iowa State University.
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