Minnesota's Lily Hybridizers
Richard Prochaska
New Prague, Minnesota

Dick was a humble man and a respected hybridizer. His garden included lilies, daylilies and hosta and he enjoyed growing different and unusual plants. But, lilies were his favorite.

in 1952, Dick and his wife, Delores, married and then raised 4 children in New Prague, Minnesota. They started gardening with a 50 x 75 foot vegetable garden to help feed the family. In 1974, after a 27 year career with New Prague Creamery, Dick retired after a work-related back injury. At that time, the children were grown and moving from home. Not needing as many vegetables, and to keep busy, Dick started growing peonies and lilacs from seed. He was able to purchase some lily bulbs from the Rex Bulb Farm and they made him curious to learn more about lilium. In 1974, he joined the North American Lily Society and through that group he learned about Minnesota's North Star Lily Society. They joined the NSLS in 1975 and received an invitation from Julius Wadekamper to come to the fall bulb sale. Dick and Delores enjoyed spending time with new found friends in the NSLS. They attended their first lily show in 1976 and there met Louise Koehler. She invited them to visit her garden and the Prochaskas left with 8 blooming lilies that Louise dug for them from her lily bed.

Dick was impressed with how easy Asiatics are to grow in Minnesota. He started hybridizing in 1977 and quickly ran out of space so he sent his seedlings to Hartle-Gilman Gardens. Dick registered L 'Pink Richard' himself and named L. 'Iowa Rose' which Hartle-Gilman registered and introduced under his name. Hartle-Gilman also registered other hybrids bred by Dick: L. 'Red Rooster' and 'Pink Moire.' By 1988, Dick had more than 800 seedlings and reported that his gardens were quite crowded with more than 10,000 bulbs. But that didn't stop him from adding a few more. That fall, Ervin Doerr shared 10 bulbs of his Patterson hybrids and Dick was thrilled to include them in his collection.

As reported in 1994 by NSLS historian Paul Olson, "Dick took on the best traits of his fellow NSLS members with his friendly outlook and Louise Koehler's habit of giving plants, pollen and even his own seedlings away."

Dick was not just a gardener with a passion for lilies. He and his wife Delores were very active members of the NSLS. He served as treasurer and historian and she was a hands-on volunteer at lily shows and bulb sales. While they are no longer with us, their legacy of friendship and beautiful lilies lives on.