‘Unpaid hobby breeding’

Kelly D. Norris

Kelly D. Norris

“I feel there are two kinds of plant breeders entering the market today. There are those coming of out graduate school looking for jobs in the industry, which aren’t plentiful. They end up toiling away with petunias and commodity crops. I feel for them”, answers Kelly Norris on questions of Greenhouse Grower editor Laura Drotleff. This US trade magazine publishes a series of interviews with ‘young breeders’.
The second group of plant breeders who are entering the market are according to Norris those in private practice or working for public institutions “that don’t have to live by the rules.”
When he talks about private practice he adds the words: also known as unpaid hobby breeding. “We take risks, run into road blocks like lack of funding or time, and fail more than we succeed. But we are passionate and believe in what we encounter in the public – an earnest desire to be fascinated by plants and to want something different than what they so often encounter.” Norris calls this the class of breeders that stand the chance of advancing the cause of plant breeding because they are champions of new genera. “Think, who knew what a heuchera was twenty years ago and who knew what an angelonia was fifteen 15 years ago?”
Special interest in miniatures, space-age iris’ and rebloomers
He considers himself as an ‘unabashedly passionate plantsman’. He is Horticulture Manager of Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, he writes his own blog and he runs with his family for over ten years Rainbow Iris Farm, a seven-acre specialty nursery where nearly 1200 cultivars of bearded iris in all classes are grown. The nursery aims to offer only the best cultivars each year. “Those that we feel are truly the star performers for your garden. Our specialty interests include miniature dwarfs, space-age iris, and rebloomers.”