Promise of Spring Lecture honors Kevin Nicolay
The Promise of Spring Lecture honors Kevin Nicolay, one of the founding members of the Northwest Perennial Alliance. This lecture features a celebrity speaker and is always a popular event with our members. Past speakers include Penelope Hobhouse, Graham Rice, and Carol Klein.
About Kevin Nicolay
“We are just waking up to the fact that the Pacific Northwest is a horticultural paradise. We have all this opportunity to create beautiful gardens here, but we won’t develop a true regional gardening style or tradition until we really get to know our plants and learn how to grow them well.” - Kevin Nicolay
Kevin Nicolay was one of the founders of the Northwest Perennial Alliance in 1984. A noted plantsman, teacher, and botanical artist, he introduced hundreds of new plants to American gardens. He imported seeds and cuttings of rare and unusual plants from gardens in England, Europe and New Zealand, and generously shared the most promising ones with nurseries to preserve little-known cultivars and to encourage the wider use of unusual plants. Kevin was an Ohio native who lived in New York, London and Victoria before settling in Seattle in 1983. His extraordinary life was cut short in 1990, when he died at the age of 33.
Nicolay was one of the best contemporary American Botanical Illustrators of his time. He was a self-taught artist, who developed his famed technique from studying medieval flower paintings. Although many Northwest illustrators chose to draw native plants, Kevin favored older cultivars that had fallen out of favor and sentimental favorites that would remind people of their childhoods. His minutely-detailed drawings and watercolors appeared in museums and art galleries, and were a regular feature in the pages of Horticulture magazine. He taught occasional classes at the Center for Urban Horticulture and returned to New York annually to teach classes at the New York Botanical Gardens. Many of the plants Kevin drew were taken from his own garden on Queen Anne Hill, which featured masses of old rambler roses, rare perennials and small flowering shrubs. The late Rosemary Verey, a famous British gardener and writer, called it “the best small garden I’ve seen in America.” She dedicated her book, “The American Man’s Garden”, to Kevin.
Kevin donated several black and white illustrations to NPA, which proudly uses them to this day.