A highlight of our Holiday
festivities was the presentation of the Founders Award to John
E. Coulter, received in his absence by his daughter, Karen Coulter.
John is now 95, living in Grants Pass, Oregon, and is reported
to be delighted by the recognition we have given him.
There is much to tell
of someone who has lived 95 years, started his own vegetable
garden while still in grade school, and has been involved in
the horticultural industry all his life.
His first job in 1927
was for Ray Hartman, owner of the Leonard Coates Nurseries originally
located in Morgan Hill. He was very active in the California
Horticultural Society, then helped found the Peninsula Chapter,
Western Horticultural Society, in April 1968. He served as Program
Chair, Vice President and was elected President in 1973. He tracked
members to be sure they received their Pacific Horticultural
Journal. He championed the scholarship program, which Western
Horticulture continues today.
During the period John
owned and ran his own nursery, he received the James H. Wilson
award, which is given to a local nurseryperson who exhibits qualities
of sharing and who furthers the nursery business. Preston Oka
of Yamagami's Nursery, remembers how much John Coulter meant
to the nursery industry in general and to those of the Peninsula
Chapter of the California Association of Nurserymen. Mr. Oka
remembers John Coulter "...as a person with strong arms,
big hands, tossled short cropped hair and a weathered look which
told one that he was an outdoorsman. What I found awesome was
how nice he was. How thoughtful and kind he was and how gentle
and respectful he was of his wife Joyce."
After retirement John
was Superintendent of Saratoga Horticulture Foundation for several
years, and his wife worked with him. He named Ceanothus 'Joyce
Coulter' for her. He was also a founding member of the Santa
Clara Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. After he
moved to Grants Pass, he became active in the Audubon and Native
Plant Societies of Oregon. As recently as 2000 (age 90) he helped
start a WHS-like organization in Oregon. We are proud that he
is still a member of our society that he helped found.
John died in his sleep March 13,2009 in the 98th year of his age.
and Their Cultivars: John Coulter
Neophytes might be
amazed at the level of talent, enthusiasm and achievement in
our horticultural community. Learning more about the field (e.g.
by reading back issues of Pacific Horticulture), you come to
realize these characteristics are indigenous, if not actually
endemic to the West Coast garden scene. A number of Western Horticultural
Society members with curiosity and a discerning eye, have either
named cultivars or had cultivars named after them: Ed Carman,
Barrie Coate, Betsy Clebsch, John Coulter, Dick Dunmire, Frances
Grate, Cheryl Renshaw and Barbara Worl.
John Coulter must hold
the record for lifetime horticultural continuity. It all began
with a vegetable garden while in grade school. He was actively
engaged in developing horticulture in the San Francisco - San
Jose area. John spent most of the fifty-plus
years of his professional life as a nurseryman. He was an early
participant in Western Hort in the 1960's and was involved in
several other horticultural and nursery groups. After moving
with his wife Joyce to Grant's Pass, Oregon, he remains prodigiously
active: He corresponds actively and keeps up with trends in the
field; he has helped set up a local horticultural society, is
writing his memoirs, and in 2005, at 95 years old, he was given
Western Hort's Founders Award.
John discovered and
named two California native plant cultivars that remain popular
in gardens 30-50 years later. In 1956, he noticed an unusual
form of wide, with a 9" diameter trunk. (It later succumbed
to 'gardener watering' syndrome.) The Foundation introduced 'Dr
Hurd' in 1976. John later wrote that "Finding the original
specimen of Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Dr. Hurd' was a high point
in my career with the Foundation. Learning that it is a successful
landscape plant after 25 years is a delight."
More about Coulter's
life and about local nursery history at California Horticultural
Society's Oral History Project "Interview with John Coulter",
May 2, 1997 (unpublished). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
if you would like to help edit the interview for publication.