Local Obituaries

Wichita’s gardening guru ‘wanted people to always have fun’ outdoors

Norman Warminski gives a demonstration to master gardeners on container plants at Tree Top Nursery.
Norman Warminski gives a demonstration to master gardeners on container plants at Tree Top Nursery. The Wichita Eagle

For decades, Norman Warminski was the go-to person on anything that had to do with plants.

Known as The Plant Doctor, he served as a Sedgwick County Horticulture agent for nearly three decades and was responsible for founding the Master Gardener Program and helping spark interest in Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, and the Wichita Garden Show.

“Everybody loved how he never made anyone feel stupid, his advice was always something to remember,” said Annie Calovich, former garden columnist for The Eagle. “He wanted you to have an experience in nature. His advice to me was if you are going to have a statue of the Virgin Mary, don’t just stick the statue in the yard. Have it in an enclosure or space where it is just you and her and you can have a one-on-one experience.”

Mr. Warminski died Thursday. He was 75 years years old.

A funeral mass is at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Wichita. A visitation will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday with Prayer Service at 4 p.m., followed by graveside service at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in White Deer, Texas.

Mr. Warminski was born April 4, 1942 in White Deer, Texas, a predominately Polish community located in the Texas Panhandle. He grew up on his family’s farm and went to Oklahoma State University where he received his bachelor's degree, and later earned his master's from Texas A&M in landscape horticulture.

Growing up, Mr. Warminski was an avid 4-Her and won almost every ribbon and show there was — which, in turn, often meant he got to travel, said Bob Neier, retired Sedgwick County extension agent. “He was always judging horticulture and I don’t know how many 4-H horticulture judging teams he took to national conference.”

His emphasis, Neier said, was to “always have fun.”

“He inspired a lot of us,” Neier said. “It was an honor to know him.”

Mr. Warminski began his career in Kansas Extension in 1968 as County Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. In 1969, he moved to Harvey County as County Extension 4-H Agent. He became County Extension Horticulture Agent, Sedgwick County in 1970. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1999.

When Mr. Warminski first began working at the extension office in Sedgwick County, Neier said, there wasn’t much interest in gardening.

“There weren’t many calls,” Neier said. “He went and had a kiosk made at the Wichita Mall and sat there in the summers, regularly talking with people about gardening. Soon, Twin Lakes wanted a kiosk so he had to go up there one day a week. He built the department up so he was getting close to 200 calls a day at the office.”

Mr. Warminiski sought beauty. He was a certified International Flower Show judge. For 32 years, he hosted a morning radio call-in show and for four years hosted the Sunflower Gardener show on public television and was a regular on the noon news show at KWCH Channel 12 where he was known as “The Plant Doctor.”

As an extension agent in the 1970s, Mr. Warminski gathered the garden clubs into the Wichita Area Garden Council and together they approached the city about building a meeting place that eventually became Botanica. The garden council organized tours to raise the first money for the endeavor.

“He was very artistic and very well respected in the industry,” said Marty Johnson, owner of Johnson's Garden Centers. “He was passionate about plants. If you had a question, he could answer it and brought horticulture to everyday life.”

Mr. Warminski is survived by partner, Jerry Martin; daughter, Christy Bieker; sister, Joanna Acker (Bernard); brothers, Stephen (Bonnye) and Randy (Beverly); grandchildren, Emerson and Blaze; and many nieces and nephews.