My Introduction to Plumerias by Bud Guillot

In 1950, Vi and I bought our first house. It was a tract house. The entire tract was sold before they poured the foundation of the first house. The landscape agreement was that they would landscape the front yard and the owner was responsible to landscape the back yard. When we moved in the contractor had spent about $35 landscaping the front yard. I decided to re-landscape the front yard with desert plants and the back yard in tropical plants. One day I was in a war surplus store that was full of surplus military supplies that were left over from WWII. Most of this stuff came from the islands in the Pacific. I was surprised to see one table piled high with what looked like Japanese cucumbers. They had been dipped in green paraffin and were completely coated with about 1/8 inch of paraffin.

They were all single canes. No sign of a fork. There was a sign above them that read “Plumeria from the Philippines, beautiful tropical blossoms” with a note to plant big end down. The price was 99 cents. I purchased one and when I got home, I reasoned that because it was a tropical plant it should be planted in dense shade. I planted it in dense shade. Five years later it had grown a little and forked several times but looked sickly and had never bloomed. I dug it up and took it to my front yard and planted it in a mound cactus bed. This was the hottest place in my front yard. As I planted it I said, “bloom or scorch to death”. The plant loved the spot, sprang to life, and was covered with blooms later that year. For the first 10 years, I did not know of another plumeria grower. I am sure there were Plumeria growers in California but I just never saw one. I had assumed, for many years, there was only one color blossom, a tri color that was blooming in my front yard.

In 1965, I was transferred to Downey, California, to work on the Apollo Space Program and was going to move to Huntington Beach to be a little closer to where I would be working. I dug up my one Plumeria plant and planted it in my father-in-law’s yard before we put our house up for sale. After we bought our house in Huntington Beach, I dug up my Plumeria from my father-in-law’s yard and planted it in my new front yard. That Plumeria cutting is now 58 years old and has never spent a day of its life in a pot. Over the years I have taken thousands of cuttings from that tree to keep it under control, I have given cuttings to all of my friends whether they wanted them or not. Any neighbor, who will let me, has one growing in his/her yard. I have even give cuttings to people I do not like. Over the years, I have taken vanloads of Plumeria cuttings to Marilynn Cohen of Marilynn’s Garden and she has shipped them all over the world. Boxes and boxes of cuttings from that one tree have traveled highway 10 across the desert to Houston, Texas and beyond. After all, the trimmings taken from that tree over the years it is 16 feet tall, canopy of 20 feet and 12 inch diameter trunk.

In 1983, I was visiting relatives in Houston, Texas and stopped by Tees Nursery to see if anyone in the Houston area was growing Plumerias. The clerk I was talking to pointed at a tall gentleman at the counter and said, “that’s the man you should talk to”. When I introduced myself to the man, he said his name was Richard Eggenberger. Richard told me about Elizabeth Thornton, the Plumeria Society of America and the work they were doing. I later met several Houston Plumeria Society members and started trading Plumerias with them. They encouraged me to name and register the Guillot’s Sunset. The Guillot’s Sunset was registered in 1996. In 2001, I registered California Sally and since then I have registered San Miguel, Saigon Moon, and Makaha Sunn

What a smart investment: That one 99-cent purchase in 1950 has brought me more enjoyment than one can imagine and introduced me to a whole new world of great friends and wonderful people. So– be careful when you spend your next $.99 cents, it might change your whole world.  

Bud Guillot, loyal custodian of Guillot’s Sunset + several others.