Don Hollingsworth

In a photo taken in 2002, Don Hollingsworth poses with some of his peonies. He will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday at a reception at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art.

At 94 years old, floral artist Don Hollingsworth still loves what he does.

Working mainly with peonies, Hollingsworth loves making places more beautiful with them, as well as creating new breeds of the flower.

After working with the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, the museum’s board thought it was about time the St. Joseph native receives local recognition for his work.

“He’s involved across town, and you can see in many different places small plaques dedicated to him because of the work that he’s done in the botany field,” said Jill Carlson, the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art’s marketing manager.

The museum will hold a Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for Hollingsworth from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at the museum at 2818 Frederick Ave.

“I appreciate it very much. I’m 94 years old. I’ve accumulated a lot of experiences in (those years). I don’t mind the publicity or the attention at all,” he said laughing.

For decades, Hollingsworth has had a passion for peonies. While studying agriculture at the University of Missouri, there was something about the way the flower grows that he enjoyed.

“Peonies are slow, and not many people work with them for that reason,” Hollingworth told the St. Joseph News-Press in 2002. “It takes quite a few years to make the seed grow, and it may be another six years before it’s available to the public.”

In 1993, he opened in Hollingsworth Peonies. Twenty years later, he sold the business but continues to cultivate and crossbreed the flower.

“That’s what I’m working on now ... We’re spending hours outdoors right now with our hybridizing and cross-pollinating. We’re having a good flowering year, so we’re getting a lot done, but it’s taken a lot of time,” he said.

At the suggestion of his friend Mitch Jameson, some of Hollingsworth’s peonies were planted at the Albrecht-Kemper to help beautify its exterior. When he came to view them, he was blown away.

“Don was able to come here and see them. And he said, ‘Oh, this is wonderful. There should be more.’ And so he very generously also donated peonies to us,” Carlson said.

Wanting to give recognition to all types of art, Carlson said featuring Hollingsworth and paying homage to his legacy is a privilege.

“Art can be so many different things. So the art of botanical sciences and biology is very closely related with the aesthetic value that the museum has. Sort of connecting all of these different fields together is just part of our mission,” she said.

A member of the Kansas City Peony Society who’s received international acclaim, Hollingsworth said he’s honored to have the ceremony and loves playing part in the museum’s mission.

“We’re going to continue contributing peonies the garden at the museum. I really appreciate the museum director’s interest not only in the display hall that he’s got but also having a little artistic stuff outside,” he said.

The ceremony is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug

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