Discussion in 'Maples' started by mr.shep, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    For many years Mr. Donald Kleim whom purchased Henderson Experimental Gardens in Fresno
    was considered to be a rough guy to deal with at times, somewhat eccentric to others most of the
    time but one thing that few people ever understood or tried to understand was that he would give
    you the shirt off of his back if he felt you needed it. To this day I've not met a person that had
    such command in his knowledge of plants. I originally met Don while I was collecting Camellias,
    predominately Sasanqua varieties and was told he was the guy I needed to see if I wanted any more.
    So, on a foggy day in December in 30° weather I went to his nursery and arrived about 10 am and
    ended up staying there until closing. I was there for the next 4 days from 8 am to 5 pm. We "hit"
    it off real quick I guess, all I know is that I was asked a ton of questions about plants and I must
    have answered them well as I felt I was enduring my orals for my Masters degree in Agricultural
    Plant Science all over again and way beyond. I knew by the questions that Don was asking me
    about ornamental plants that he was seeking a common ground for us to further explore and then
    when he asked about my areas of plant expertise at that time is when he must have felt I was the
    right guy to take under his wing and teach. Well, he did and I was essentially a student of his for
    a long time but I became someone he could talk to at any time and would seldom tell him what
    he wanted to hear but would tell him what I felt he should or needed to hear. Don was not a glory
    hound in plants seeking accolades from his peers, he was the epitome of a plants man in that it was
    the plants themselves that mattered to him. Mr. Don Kleim was a Pacific Coast Nurseryman of the
    Year several years ago.

    Originally Don bought the nursery and the name Henderson from William Henderson back in the
    late 50's soon after Bill became ill. Don had worked at the nursery for several summers while
    he was working on a degree in Botany. After he received his degree he went back into the nursery
    to work full time for Bill. Mr. Henderson was a direct descendant of Luther Burbank and felt he had
    to carry on the torch for some of his plant studies. Bills claim to fame was his lifelong work in Summer
    Hibiscus, his growing, propagating and his breeding to take one color (white with a yellow center) and produced a variety of colors for us through his many years of devotion to plants.

    Don became more than interested in Maples back in the 50's. For him they became a lifelong obsession
    as well as Deciduous Magnolias and Conifers, mainly dwarf varieties of Pines. Don's first love in plants were Camellias. When I saw all of the varieties of Sasanqua's he had, most all of them in bloom when I
    first saw them, it blew my mind. I thought I was "hot stuff" having 40 varieties that I went all over the
    place to find and thought I had a respectable collection until I saw 80+ varieties more that were different than what I had.

    In the 50's even before Don owned the nursery he had made 3 trips to Japan just to look at plants and meet and talk to people that were well versed in plants but Don really went there to study Maples and Conifer gardens. On Don's second visit to Japan what was to be a scheduled 2 week stay ended up being a 7 month plant exploration for him. He was like a kid in a candy store seeing Maples in their natural settings and talking plants with certain well-known plant men. He just could not bring himself back to the US until he had taken enough photographs of plants, mainly Maples, to whet his appetite until the next excursion to Japan.

    It was not long after Don bought the nursery that he started to import in Maples from Japan. There was or still is a nursery in British Columbia that served as the staging center for the imported Maples to be held for Don until he could come up there and pick them up himself to "bootleg" into the states. At that time the experimental station in Chico, California, was where all of the imported and new introduction plants into the Pacific Rim had to be monitored and in most cases grown under quarantine for no less than 6 months but generally a year or two. At Chico today is the very large Pinus bungeana, the first one ever introduced into the US, right in front of the field station that to a pine enthusiast will take your breath away. In a field right behind the main building are the original Colorado Blue Spruce seedlings that were grown from seed as even seed was also under quarantine to prevent unwanted pests and diseases from entering any of the western states as well as British Columbia but most importantly California. So to bypass Chico, Don would have to drive the plants in himself all the way in and somehow risk slipping through the Plant Inspection station at Hornbrook, California, to the north otherwise the plants were going to Chico if Don got caught. Well, Don drove through Nevada instead and brought the plants in through Tioga Pass in Yosemite where there was no state Plant Inspection station at that time, for delivery to their new home in Fresno.

    We owe a lot of gratitude to the likes of Mr. Donald Kleim, Mr. J.D. Vertress, Mr. Toichi Domoto and Mr. Koto Matsubara. In my mind these men did as much for perpetuating Maples of anyone currently alive today and that includes, as far as I am concerned the current members of the Maple Society. These 4 men
    were plant magicians in how to grow and perpetuate Maples, dealing mainly with importations from Japan and seemingly no one really has given them their just due credit. Without them most of us would have very little now for varieties of Maples. Talk about Seriyu and I know when it came here to the US. Deshojo, Bonfire, Akaji nishiki, Asahi zuru, even and I will now fill in two blanks for you, Tokonatsu uchiwa (within bark) nagashi. That Maple was brought in by Koto Matsubara from the island of Hachijo and was cutting grown by him like every one of his Maples were. Ao ito shidare came into the US by Don in 1974 and looks just like Mr. William Goddard's Red Filigree Lace but is green leafed instead. By the way, Ruby Lace that was also sent to Mr. Goddard is vastly different than Red Filigree Lace. Don Kleim grew Ruby Lace for many years.

    Here the growing game is changed considerably due to the fact that we have verticillium in the soil and most areas generally do not. We get hit with two forms of Phytophthora (one form is very much similar to how Fireblight acts on Apples, Pears and Cherries). I've seen a leading grower in Oregon lose all of his 20 stock plants of Beni shidare due to Phytophthora and I was the guy called in by the state of Oregon to tell the grower what caused the death of those plants. It was not easy either to try to explain to that grower that he could not have done much to prevent his losing all of his most favorite variety of Maple no matter what he did. We've had people well versed in growing Maples come in here and lose much of their stock because what they learned from other experts did not apply too well here. They did not want our advice but we surely heard and saw them when they were in tears telling us of their hardships and it is not easy to hear about and see it. It is not the glory from growing plants that matters or the accolades from our friends, it is the plants themselves that matter most and to witness 100 or more specimen Maples deaths hurts and I mean it really hurts. When you feel the pain of others is when you realize just how lucky we are to be able to grow a Maple here in full sun under our conditions.

    Read the books from the great Maple authors as it is their content and expertise that needs to be well known to you. They deserve our respect at all times and it is up to you to show them that you do care about the information that they have provided for you. It is now time for me to take a much less active role in this forum as all I am is a guy with a teeny amount of practical experience that can surely cause trouble in certain areas of the Maple world. Sure I can help people identify their Maples and I can help people with information in how to grow them but I am not so sure anyone really wants to know what I am thinking. I will stay in tune as an interested observer to this and other UBC forums but my writings days are over for a while. I may respond to E-Mails sent within the UBC host and I may not so I am giving you fair warning it may not be a good idea to "pump" me for information that I no longer feel at liberty to give.

    Good luck to all of you in Maples.

  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    A quick addendum:

    I have no problems with anyone in the Maple Society or in the great
    Forums hosted by the UBC. Personally, I have not been more
    impressed anywhere with the actions and the comments by all of the
    members so far of the UBC in the various Forums that I have visited.
    I sense a passion and strong commitment among the UBC to plants
    that is not only quite refreshing to witness but may be unparalleled
    anywhere else online.

    My problem is with me and none of you, pure and simple. I know
    some of the background information in how the first Vertrees book
    came about, who wanted J.D. to write the book and who also warned
    him whom his primary detractors would more than likely be. Of course
    things have changed somewhat from the first edition to now but there
    were petty jealousies that played an integral role in who got credit for
    doing what and who was not even mentioned in the Vertrees books.
    I can help set the record straight regarding certain Maples as to when
    they got here and who initiated their coming in as imports. I can tell
    who let others have examples of several Maples just so they could also
    grow them and evaluate them. In order to do all the above I have to
    paint a picture of what was going on behind the scenes as to the
    reasoning why descriptions on certain and specific Maples was not
    altogether correct in some cases.

    I never have felt comfortable being in the position of telling certain,
    snippets of information that I know and learned as my doing that can
    shed a light on some people that can be good or it can be not so good
    in some ways. Well, I will not downplay the importance of anyone
    but would prefer to build up the people that I once knew and in some
    cases knew well enough and one person in particular was known to me
    quite well.

    I must be getting old in that I feel much of the past information in how
    so many Maples came here initially should be told but that portion of
    the history of some of the Japanese Maples, Full Moon and Trident
    Maples in the US loses a lot of its luster if it means it must come about
    or be told at someone else’s expense.


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