Even 50 years ago, as a little girl I was captivated by what a queen would wear and as you can see from my drawing back on Jan. 1, 1962, I was enchanted by the fancy dresses and of course the crown. So, it is no surprise to me that I eventually became a queen, albeit the “Clematis Queen”. My coronation ceremony was not held on any particular day, but more or less happened over time after I started pursuing this passion and founded the American Clematis Society.
Even though I am now a queen, I am self-appointed and do come from humble beginnings, growing up in a couple of small homes in Southern California. So, I would like to introduce my pre-royal self to you. My Mummy (that is what queens call their mothers) always had a garden that was filled with lots of pretty flowers and while growing up, I was continuously mesmerized by their beauty. I can still recall the fragrance of various blossoms, especially those of sweet peas, freesias and irises. I never had any experiences with clematis in my mother’s garden as a child because, at that time, Southern California’s locale was believed to be unsuitable for growing them.
Later on in life in I took my admiration for flowers to the next level by majoring in horticulture in college where I received my Associates degree in that field. I became the first female gardener for the Irvine Company, which owns Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California and was the only woman in a crew with 88 men. Our responsibilities included maintaining the planters, fishpond and landscaped areas of that property. Over the years, I worked as a salesperson as well as managed several different nurseries and received my Advanced Certificate as a California Certified Nursery Professional. I also did some landscape designs. In the 80’s I ran a floral design business where I had a chance to “paint” with flowers by designing arrangements for corporate and gala events as well as weddings. My favorite part of doing weddings was creating the bridal bouquet and my dream of designing and creating a clematis bridal bouquet for my daughter, Emily, came to fruition in May of 2009.
The first time I ever came face-to-face with a clematis was in April 1994 while I was managing a small nursery in Irvine. The sales rep for El Modeno Nursery had several varieties of clematis on her truck that I could order along with the usual beautiful flowering perennials. Needless to say, I immediately fell head over heels for them. I guess you could say this was my “Princess” period. I continued in 1995 on the road to my coronation by completely immersing myself in reading everything I could about the genus which would prepare me for the royal responsibilities ahead. Finally, in 1996, after discovering that there was no clematis society in the U.S. available for me to join and at the suggestion and guidance of a local rose society president, Gloria Leinbach, I founded the American Clematis Society of which I was the president for over 15 years. During that time period I had the privilege of meeting, corresponding with and publically speak to countless American clematis gardeners.
Although I am the Clematis Queen, I do not reside in a castle but rather a nice tract home in Irvine, California. When I am off duty, I enjoy taking photographs (especially of clematis), making jewelry and keeping active by walking and swimming. I like to cook with a creative flair for my husband, decorate, entertain occasionally, and strive to live life to the fullest.
What will I do in the future? I see myself continuing on as the “Clematis Queen”. My royal duties will remain the same as a clematis cheerleader and crusader. If all goes according to plan it will be a long time before I relinquish my throne. So, I hope you will join me as I continue to fill the role as H.R.H. of clematis.