Over my career I have had the good fortune of meeting many plantsmen and plantswomen who have made invaluable and innumerable contributions to horticulture. This morning I had the good fortune of spending an hour with two of them in the SC Botanic Garden in Clemson, SC. Dr. Donglin Zhang is the Michael A. Dirr Endowed Chair Professor for Woody Plant Instruction and Introduction at the University of Georgia in Athens. My friend, Kevin Parris, is the Horticulture Instructor/ Arboretum Director at Spartanburg Community College. Kevin is an internationally recognized magnolia breeder who has introduced a number of plants to the industry, namely Kay Parris southern magnolia, which he fondly wrote about in a Journal of the Magnolia Society International article in 2010. Here’s an excerpt:
“As time has gone by I have been pleased that “Kay” has taken a place alongside the other M.
grandiflora matriarchs such as ‘Claudia Wanna- maker’, ‘Edith Bogue’, ‘Phyllis Barrow’, and ‘Margaret Davis’. Knowing that there are real people behind the inspiration and existence of cultivated plants makes the hope of future discoveries and honorary tributes a noble endeavor in my mind. It is very difficult to describe the reward of seeing a whimsical notion come alive and make its way across the waters of this earth. In North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, Australia, Belgium, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Colombia, and elsewhere, people may be saying, “Who in the world is Kay Parris?” Now you know.”
We toured the Garden and admired a wide array of plants, especially the deciduous and evergreen magnolias. Gentlemen, it was an amazing experience for me. Thank you.