Remembrance: Jim Clark
Jim Clark of Fallbrook, CA (in San Diego’s north county) was a very famous and much respected plumeria enthusiast and a dear friend of mine. He passed away in 2011. From the hard work of Jim’s earlier days of prospecting and long hours working in the hot sun of Fallbrook in his beautiful plumeria grove, Jim was tall, slim, rugged, and his skin resembled an old well-worn leather boot. Jim was 98 years young when he died.
Jim was the only plumeria grower I ever met who had been growing plumerias longer than I. I would like to, braggingly, think Jim was the only man who knew more about raising plumerias than I. Jim’s theory on growing plumerias:
They are a tough resilient plant so keep it simple.
He also introduced me to a wonderful variety called Tropic World. When I visited Jim Clark many years ago, I turned on to a narrow dirt road that leads to Jim’s house. As I pull up to the south side of Jim’s house I see a large plumeria tree covered with white blossoms as large as my hand. They were a beautiful creamy white with a yellow throat and pink edgings. The blossoms are the size of Daisy Wilcox but the petals stand more erect, are a thicker texture and not “flop eared” like a Daisy Wilcox.
I was so excited seeing that large beautiful plumeria I almost ran over one of Jim’s big friendly watch dogs.
Jim Clark tells me this story of Tropic World:
There is a Tropic World nursery up on Interstate 15 that was owned and managed by Paul Hutchinson. Paul had retired as the Professor of Horticulture at Berkley. He purchased a flat of plumeria seedlings to sell at his nursery . As people purchased the plumeria seedlings they would always pick and choose the largest and strongest. After a while all the plumeria seedlings were sold except one scrawny little seedling. The tray had been neglected. The owner came by and picked up the tray to throw that decrepit little plant in the trash. As he was walking toward the trash container, he passed by a plant container that had planting soil in it. He stops and scoops a hand full of planter mix out of the pot and plants the little plumeria seedling in it, with the comment I will give you one last chance. The little plant thrived and grew in to a large beautiful specimen.
For several years Jim kept trying to get the Tropic World nursery owner to sell him a cutting but the owner would not do it. One day the nursery owner phoned Jim and asked if he still wanted that big white plumeria plant. Jim says,”Are you finally going to sell me a cutting of that plant? The owner says, ” No —– I am going to give you the tree. So bring your truck!”
The nursery owner died a few months later; he must have known he didn’t have much time left and wanted to find a good home for that special plant. Jim named that plant Tropic World. That is the plumeria I saw growing on the south side of Jim’s house. When I went home that day I had made a plumeria friend and I had a nice multi tip cutting of Tropic World, from the parent tree. About 6 or 7 years ago there was an unusual cold spell in Fallbrook and it killed the parent tree to its root tips.
The Tropic World nursery is still in business under different management.