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Russ O'Harra 


Our society is named for Russ O’Harra.  Russ was the garden editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine for many years. He had an early introduction to the genus Hosta, by his mother in Kansas. In his garden near downtown Des Moines, Iowa, there were no water features and few changes in grade, yet it oozed with personality, class, and, above all, a love of plants.


Russ O’Harra was our most prominent central Iowa hosta enthusiast and hybridizer. He once said that he never met a hosta that he did not like. There are approximately 34 hosta cultivars originated by Russ.


In 1987, Russ and his garden hosted the Midwest Regional Hosta Society.  The Midwestern hosta lovers had plenty to look at even when they were just glancing at the cracks in the driveway.

“Oh, those are nothing special. Just some seeds that washed in there,” he said, casually examining some tiny hostas growing amid the concrete. Then, true hosta fan that he was, he started nudging at one with the toe of his shoe and wound up remarking, “That one looks kind of interesting.”

The finishing touches to his garden were the annuals, summer bulbs and container plants placed each year by Russ. As Rosanne O’Harra once commented, “It is so Russ.”


Russ O'Harra (1924-1997) graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in horticulture and landscape design.  He spent most of his career in Des Moines as a garden editor, starting in 1961.  He was instrumental in the development of The Hosta Journal.  Russ received the Alex J. Summers Distinguished Merit Award from the American Hosta Society in 1995.


The 2023 American Hosta Society national convention, based in Ames, toured the O'Harra garden.  Joan Burke, Russ's daughter, now lives there.  A photo of Russ is on the table.

Oharra garden crop.jpeg
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