In Memory of Greg Speichert - Plantsman and Friend

I am sad to say that my dear friend Greg Speichert died Thursday night in Philadelphia while attending the Independent Plant Breeders Conference at Longwood Gardens. I just got back from the conference and heard the news from Dan Heims via Facebook.  I am in shock right now as I just spoke with him Wednesday evening. I know that many of you knew Greg and would want to know the news. He was an internationally known plant expert and had many friends around the world.

I can't tell you when I first met Greg, but I can tell you it was a was a great day when I did. We talked for hours about all types of plants, plant breeding, gardening and friends that we had in common. We laughed and talked like old friends that had known each other for years. I knew that I had met someone very special. He was so genuine and honest. He was so much more than just a plantsman - even though he was one of the most knowledgeable horticulturists I had ever met. He was full of joy. He loved plants. He loved learning about plants, so much so, that it was an for him obsession. It was his life calling and he took it very seriously. It was who he was.
Let me tell you a little bit about Greg and his passion for plants:
In his youth, Greg became interested in daffodils so he joined the daffodil society. Utilizing  plant  sales, friends, auctions, and mail order he acquired every species and  daffodil cultivar available. He grew them, documented them, photographed them, studied them and took notes on them. Once he learned everything possible about daffodils he stopped, quit the daffodil society and then joined the Iris Society and began again. This is how he lived. He just continued to learn new plant groups until he knew it all and then moved on. During his ornamental grass phase he corresponded with all of the foremost experts and breeders of ornamental grasses in Germany and translated what he had learned into English. He was a pioneer in ornamental grasses, water plants and perennials. 

He was perhaps best known as a water plant expert. He and his wife Sue owned and operated a nursery that specialized water garden plants. Together they wrote the Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants (Timber Press) and published a water gardening magazine. It is said that he introduced over 300 new hardy and tropical marginals and over 100 new native water plants to the water gardening industry.

I have never met anyone else like Greg and I doubt I ever will.

Beyond his crazy knowledge of plants, Greg was a gentle soul. Genuine, thoughtful, helpful and interested in other people. I remember him telling me about a plant hunting trip he made to China. He wanted so badly to share this experience with me that he later planned a trip to take me there. 
When I saw him this week at Longwood Gardens, he was the same enthusiastic, happy guy I had known and loved. He told me he was getting into Iris breeding. With a smile he told me all the old iris breeders were gone and that it was the perfect time to pick up where they had left off. Unfortunately for us - he too is gone. So suddenly, so unexpectedly he is gone. While I am very sad, I also feel so blessed to have seen him one last time. To have seen his smile. He was among friends, he was learning about plants, and he was happy.   


  1. I was saddened to hear of his passing. I am a Master Gardener in Bloomington, IN where Greg was director at Hilltop Gardens at IU. I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Speichert speak this past spring at a luncheon and his enthusiasm for his profession was truly evident. He will be missed.

  2. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Long time friend of Greg. Used to hunt for aquatic plants with him. Built plant beds in October at 10pm with him...crazy fun times with a dear one. Such a shock to hear of his passing. Heart felt prayers for his family.

  3. I'm so sorry! A great loss to all who knew him and my condolences to them.

  4. I'm sorry for your loss. Life throws us some curve balls, doesn't it? But what a mark he has left behind...and that is what it's all about. Hang in there.

  5. Anonymous7:42 AM

    I had the privilege of taking a course with Greg at Hilltop on the cultivation of heirloom tomatoes. His enthusiasm was infectious. His knowledge of the subject matter was vast. What a terrible loss for Hilltop and the Bloomington, IN gardening community. Rest in Peace Greg

  6. I am very sorry to read of his death. I was impressed with his innovation at Hilltop and the experiences and knowledge he brought to the center.

  7. Anonymous1:09 PM

    I knew Greg through work. I work with Community Corrections in Bloomington. I spoke to him on a weekly basis, often daily throughout the week. Unfortunately I didnt get to speak with him before his trip. He was always willing to work with the folks who had to do community service. He'd put them to work mulching around the gardens or working on certain projects Greg had planned. He would always give them a full lunch and tell them stories about his life. He was a great guy. He really helped us out alot. I will surely miss him.

  8. Lynn and Steve7:27 AM

    To say we are deeply shaken by Greg's death is an understatement. We met Greg when he applied for the position at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center. His intelligence and expertise were astounding as was his ensuing love of Hilltop. His creativity and enthusiasm and willingness to work with all types of gardening interests was contagious. We also appreciated his love for his wife Susan and their teamwork as they worked together to expand Bloomington area gardening interests. We will miss him greatly--there are no shoes that can fill his.

  9. Anonymous1:01 PM

    Susan, I am so sorry to hear about Greg's passing. His smile made everyone smile. We know you have lost your best friend and send our deepest sympathy. May the fond memories and pictures help you through this difficult time. Hilltop will miss him dearly. Jody, School of HPER

  10. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Susan, we have never met, but I knew your husband through work and our mutual interest in Hilltop, plants and butterflies and moths. What a wonderful, brilliant, kind person Greg was. Although is gone too soon, he left quite a legacy. My deepest sympathy for your considerable loss.

  11. Greg was an awesome plantsman and mentor. He will be surely missed by all members of the International Waterlily & Water Gardening Society (IWGS). At our annual meeting in September down in San Angelo Texas, many of those in attendance spoke very fondly of Greg & his contributions to the water garden industry. I expect he will be honored into the IWGS Hall of Fame posthumously among other water gardening greats. All of us who regard the Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants as the "bible" of ornamental aquatic plants will be thinking about Greg & Sue every time it is opened.

  12. Anonymous4:48 PM

    Certainly an amazing spirit....hoping the fond memories will, in time ease your sadness....

  13. Anonymous10:24 AM

    What a shocker to hear the news about Greg! Please accept our deepest sympathy to Sue, his family and friends. He shared with us some of the first Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Ogon' that came to the USA. We did 5 or more Chicago Flower and Garden Shows with him and have many fond memories of his beautiful smile and gentle nature. What a loss to all of us in the horticultural community. He was a special man and friend.
    With love, Susan and Rich Eyre
    Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery

  14. Anonymous7:28 PM

    I was very saddened to hear of Greg's passing. Please accept my deepest sympathy. My prayers are with you.

    Irene Vass
    Midwest Daffodil Society
    Chicago, IL

  15. Mary Meyer10:10 AM

    I just learned of Greg's death today, Dec 3, 2010. How sad and tragic. The world of horticulture has lost a great friend and plantsman. Greg and I shared a love of ornamental grasses. We will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Mary Meyer, Professor, University of Minnesota


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