Remembering Polly: Spotlight: Polly Kinsman (Pollyk)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on April 23, 2015

*** We lost a beautiful friend this week, we knew her as PollyK. She left us with lovely memories and beautiful images of plants she loved most. If you ever had a question about Irises or Lilies, she was the one to ask. I thought it would be appropriate if we published her Spotlight article again. *** Getting to know new people is fun and exciting. Getting one of your best friends to be in the Spotlight is somewhat interesting. Not that there was any bribery involved, but she knew very well I could have told her story without her help. But that's my friend Polly, low key, cordial, very helpful, and very, very knowledgeable. I want you to get to know her, too, because she is the one to go to if you want to learn more about Irises and Lilies. Let's meet Polly Kinsman . . .

*When I was very small my mother had a lovely flower garden, and the very first flower she allowed me to plant in that garden was a wild iris that grew in the mountains of southeast Kentucky. I had to wait more than 60 years and ask someone in New York before I learned the name of that iris: 'Iris virginica', and it was Polly who told me. I asked her how she became interested in irises. This is what she said:

Polly:  My love of irises started with bearded irises. My beloved Aunt Helen would take me on a yearly trip to a local iris garden to pick out the very best one to be chosen as iris of the year for her yard. We did that trip from the time I was four until I was a teenager. 2010-04-11/Sharran/3b0bc5

Then college, marriage, a daughter, and work happened and I got away from doing any gardening other than a small vegetable garden. 

About 20 years ago, we bought a large piece of property, and I began gardening again. I opened a small nursery, mainly selling ornamental grasses. It was just something to do as a sideline. We are on sand here in New York, and I was told I could not grow a lot of things, such as siberian or Japanese iris. So of course, I had to try them. They did surprisingly well. When the first siberian bloomed, I was hooked. 

I added to my collection of siberians, Japanese and species iris on a yearly basis, just for the love of them. 

In 2007 I retired from my state job after 37 years service, and began really gardening with a passion, adding more and more beardless irises. 

Then in 2008 my husband, Russ, su2010-04-11/Sharran/2f4b0aggested I open a business selling beardless irises, since they grow so vigorously here. I opened the business in 2009. I now have 320 Japanese cultivars, 260 siberian cultivars, and 60 species. I have pretty much phased out selling ornamental grasses for the iris sales. My first year in business exceeded all my expectations, and I am now in my second year selling beardless irises. Sales have increased this year, and I am very hopeful about the business in general. 

My grandchildren, Jamie and Jenna, love to help dig and divide the irises, so I get some quality time with them, and Russ helps me in the iris fields, so it's something we enjoy doing together. It seems a good, healthy, happy business to be in, and I'm looking forward to many more great years selling beardless iris. 

Q: Since your iris business has grown so rapidly, and I already know you have lilies, do you grow anything else in your gardens? 

Polly: Besides irises and lilies, I also have collections of lilacs, sedums and mints. But I love all plants. We have 63 acres, so I can indulge my passion. I have ornamental trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, and all sorts of perennials. We also grow a small veggie garden, and have apples, cherries, pears, grapes,2010-04-11/Sharran/4e3651 blueberries and asparagus. But the irises are my true love. 

Q: You can't garden all year round up there, Polly, what do you do with your time when you aren't gardening?

Polly: I essentially garden all year round, just not physically. Due to our unusual weather patterns here by Lake Ontario we can pretty much garden outside until December. As our ground does not normally freeze under the snow, I can divide irises right until snowfall. Then I catalogue all my irises, and start working on the website. In February I open the website, and begin ordering irises from other growers. I'm pretty much doing something iris related year round. I also dream about irises on a nightly basis. 

But other than gardening I enjoy reading mysteries, and of course, spending time with my grandchildren. They are active in karate, and I take them there on Mondays. I also work two days a week for my daughter in her dental office. In nice weather we enjoy walking and hiking.

Q: You garden till snowfall, then you start again in February, Wow! By February, I'm only dreaming of gardens yet you are working on them. During growing season, how many hours a day do you spend in your garden?

Polly: During the growing season, I'll spend about 10-12 hours a day in the garden. In addition I am doing shipping then, too, so it's a pretty time consuming passion, but not one that requires my time to the exclusion of all else. 

Q: You mention that you like to read. Do you also have any collections or other hobbies you'd like to tell us about?

Polly: I'm not much of a collector, but I do have a lot of books. Dad always said you would never be poor if you had books, and I feel cozy having them around. 

My parents were Christmas tree farmers, and I've always loved old ornaments; I do have a small collection of those. 

Q: Polly, thank you so much. You are truly a busy woman. Did you ever want to live anywhere else?2010-04-11/Sharran/f7346a

Polly: I would love to be someplace where the winters are warmer. Although I must admit the snow we get does give me a break from the physical work, so it's probably a good thing. 


*You must visit Polly in her Irises and Lilies Cubits. She shares the Iris Cubit with irisloverdee and the Lilies Cubit with magnolialover. Even those of you who can't grow these plants in your area need to take a look. The photos are amazing, and the knowledge of those who frequent the threads is incredible. 

Polly's Irises Cubit was featured recently in Heritage Irises, a blogspot out of New Zealand, which goes to show us just how far Cubits has come in such a short time and just how informative the Irises Cubit is. It's a wonderful article, and I hope you click the link and check it out. 

Even more lovely than her two Cubits, though, is Polly's website. Please don't get tired of clicking before you take a look at Siberian Iris Gardens!  I have never in my life seen irises as beautiful as those she provides in her pictures. Just glancing through the website does wonders for the soul. 

Before I leave you, I have to share this little tidbit. I mentioned earlier that I know Polly well, and we share our little quirks as friends often do. O2010-04-11/Sharran/11506fne evening recently we were talking about high maintenance people. I mentioned that it's a good thing I'm not high maintenance because living alone, I have no one available to provide maintenance, certainly not that of a high level. And I asked Polly if she thought she was high maintenance. This is what she said: 

"No. I have one of those little rubber things that you put on the top of jars and it grips the lids and you turn them and they open. The fire department gave them out. So with that little rubber gadget, I'm very low maintenance."

That same low maintenance friend also "dreams of irises on a nightly basis." I can think of nothing more beautiful than iris dreams and nothing more practical than little rubber things that grip lids. So now you know my friend Polly, beautiful and practical. 

Thank you, Polly, for being in our Spotlight this week, and for making this article so easy and fun to write.

Please be sure to share your comments with Polly in the threads that follow this article. You can also hover over the photos to see the names of the irises.  

***This article was previously published in 2010.  My sincere sympathy goes to her husband, her daughter and her two grandchildren; her love for them was always evident in her words.  Polly, you will forever be in my heart.

Related articles:
garden, gardening, gardens, interview, iris, irises, lilies, lily, Polly Kinsman, spotlight

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Five years Zanymuse Apr 27, 2015 8:12 PM 18
Getting to know Polly Hemophobic Apr 27, 2010 7:36 PM 1
What a wonderful interview!! boojum Apr 20, 2010 7:12 AM 21
Enjoyed the interview kaglic Apr 14, 2010 10:50 AM 3
How nice to get to know you better! Trish Apr 13, 2010 8:04 PM 6
Is polly a person or an Iris? coconut Apr 13, 2010 7:34 PM 7
Love The Article! nap Apr 12, 2010 4:36 PM 1
Hello Polly Zanymuse Apr 12, 2010 4:33 PM 23

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