Tributes to Wells Knierim

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Two weeks ago I chatted with Jerry Landerholm, President of the ADS (that would be the American Dahlia Society). Jerry is often at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and he and his wife stopped in at our Convention last month, just as Mary and I visited the convention of that other ADS here last year.
In our more recent visit, Jerry told me that he and his wife had once gone on a horticultural tour of Australia and New Zealand and had met a wonderful daffodil enthusiast, Wells Knierim. Jerry was pleased to learn that this ADS honors Wells with our new photography award.
Last weekend I made a daffodil presentation to a regional meeting of the Rhododendron Society at the home of Jill Griesse, who is very active with that group and who chose to give a program of “cross fertilization” to that group. In separate instances three rhody fans mentioned their acquaintance with Wells and of his enthusiasm for our favorite flower. One man from Pittsburgh related that after a conversation at a convention, he had received from Wells a package of 18 cultivars, 12 bulbs each! Though Wells was from Cleveland, he was the host for the 1973 American Rhododendron Society convention in Pittsburgh.
I didn’t know Wells Knierim, but with four such glowing tributes in less than two weeks, I wish I had known him.
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7 comments for “Tributes to Wells Knierim

  1. For those of you who didn’t know Wells Knierim, he was quite a guy. I don’t know whether he is one of the original ADS members, but if not, he must have joined soon after. He served as President and was Treasurer for many years. He is a Silver Medal recipient. He was Chairman of an ADS National Show in Portland, before there was an Oregon Daffodil Society. He shipped his containers from Cleveland to Portland. I think he may have been the first American to travel to Northern Ireland. And he was always taking photos and sharing them in slide presentations to others. There are still over 500 of Wells’s photos in DaffSeek.
    Wells is responsible for many of those of us who lived in the Columbus, Ohio, area in the late 60s, early 70s, becoming thoroughly infected with “yellow fever” and joining the ADS. There was a large spring flower show in the area, the Norwest Show, and one of the show judges, Mary Elizabeth Blue, said she knew a “guy in Cleveland, and she could probably get him to come and talk to us about daffodils.” So, Wells came. At the end of his presentation, he said he’d give us a $5 bulb from his garden for each blue ribbon we won at his show, if we’d come. You understand that in the late 60s, a $5 bulb was something!! So we went to Cleveland, won lots of blues (Wells probably put his flowers in collections), and the rest, as they say, is history.
    Mary Lou

  2. Mary Lou,
    Do I remember correctly that, after Wells’ wife Mary died, he would often make several different entries of twelve stems of white daffodils, because
    the whites were Mary’s favorites, and he just wanted people to see what was possible and available out there? Maybe just displays, not entries.
    According to the little booklet which is one of my closely guarded Historian’s documents, Wells was a member by 1954 but was not a charter
    I used to trail around after him at my first conventions, taking pictures of him taking pictures of daffodils. And at many conventions, he’d host an informal
    slide show after one of the night speeches==a well-attended occasion.
    He was  also the instigator of color in the Journal, wasn’t he?
    Loyce McKenzie


  3. I met Wells Knierim after I joined the Columbus daffodil club in 1976 .  Everyone was going to Cleveland to his show and I had met him at an after show party at Ruth Pardue’s home.  I was eager to see his show because it was the first one, outside Columbus, that I attended.  We were always greeted by Wells and his wife, Mary, and they had coffee and doughnuts for us to start the day.  The show was held in the Garden Center of Cleveland and was sponsored by the Western Reserve Daffodil Society even though there were really only two members, Wells and Mary.  We had a great time at his show and anyone who showed up and was a judge had to judge the show.  I enjoyed doing that after I became a judge.  After each show, Wells would take us to his favorite restaurant and treat all of us, exhibitors and judges alike, to lunch.  I won my first Quinn at his show and he came up to me and joked about having to buy a medal for me and said that he should just give me his medal, but he had his name engraved on the back.  I have often wished that I had taken him up on his offer.
    At the last show he hosted, there were only three judges there – me, Tag Bourne and Naomi Liggett.  We got one last judges gift from Wells.  He told us to go to the gift shop and pick out whatever we liked.   I got a lovely pin with daffodils on it and then bought the matching earrings.  I remember Wells when I wear them or look at them.
    Wells was an interesting person.  There were some who didn’t care for him because he sometimes came across as brusque and gruff, but that was a bluff to cover a really kind heart under it all.  He loved it when he could engage in some repartee with someone and liked them even more if they could  get the better of him.  I did manage to do that once, in Akron, when we picked one of Dr. Throckmorton’s toned flowers, shown by a youth exhibitor, John Bellinger, as Best In Show.  He stormed over to me and said ” What makes you think that that insipid flower is the best flower?”  I shrugged my shoulders and smiled sweetly and told him “It is, because I say it is”  He laughed and said, “Well, all right then.”  Incidentally, Wells and Dr. Tom had a respectfully differing relationship with each other.  Wells only picked on people he liked, so I’m glad he picked on me.  I frequently judged with Wells, and he would pronounce me the best judge in the place, especially when I agreed with him.
    The ADS is always expanded when people like Wells come into our group and diminished slightly when they leave us.  …only slightly since all the memories remain.
    I liked Wells – “Curmudgeon Extraordinaire”.
    Donna Dietsch
    Columbus Ohio
  4. I’m not positive, but I think the Midwest Region still offers the Mary Knierim Award for a class of 12 white daffodils.  Or maybe I’m thinking of the Columbus show.
    Yes, Wells paid for the first color layout in the Journal, in March of 1983.  After seeing how much the color added to Journal, we couldn’t go back to all black and white.
    Mary Lou

  5. MARY KNIERIM MEMORIAL AWARD is the CODS show award for 12 daffodils, the Wells and Mary Knierim Award is for the best vase of 3 at our show. And yes Wells did enter the 12 whites to show folks. I still like to enter that class at our show when I have the flowers to do so.
    My Wells story is when I entered a Quinn for the first time at his show; the flowers were good enough to win the medal; however one of the judges did not think a flower was named correctly so I was not awarded the Quinn. Wells put his arm around me and told me if he had been the judge I would have won, as a new exhibitor that was very comforting.
    Oh yes, he was a big old Teddy bear who liked everyone to think he was tough, my Grandpa was the same way so Wells never fooled me for a moment. He was a great person and did so much for his community and for the ADS community as well.
    We miss him here in the Midwest Region.
    For years, until it was changed by the ADS, we all donated our Memorial Fund monies to the fund for color in the Journal and remembered Wells as well when we did so.
    Phyllis Hess

  6. We toured Tasmania with a small group of American visitors after the World Convention in 1988. Wells travelled with and was obviously a great friend of Dr Bill Bender. As Wells boarded the bus on one occasion he said loudly ‘I’m 81 years old. I’m allowed to be cantankerous.” He had probably been cantankerous for years so I guess he knew himself well. However, as others have said, he was very generous and kind underneath the persona. He was very generous to our then 12yr old son Lane on that trip.
    David Adams

  7. Hello Everyone,

    There is a record 61degree frost over our province this morning.  Locals are referring to it as a Chiefly Frost brought about by two Hurricane hits.  It has been followed by a deep depression even though there is not a cloud in the sky.  We need a Crusade of some kind to get us out of our Blues.  If this does not work we will be calling on the Scots to help although they haven’t been very helpful this year..

    I am sure that David Adams and John McLennan will explain all this gobbledegook with some pleasure!!!

    I am really writing about Wells and Mary Knieram.  They were great friends of the late Phil Phillips who often referred in glowing terms oo the pioneering work that Wells was doing in photographing daffodils. They visited NZ several times including the World Convention. Many New Zealanders would have had the opportunity of seeing his slide programmes which were always accompanied by helpful and often blunt  assessments of the flowers.  Wells was larger than life and Mary was charming.  The tributes paid are a reminder of what we owe to our older generations.  I have this year started what I hope will be  a series  of tributes in the NZ Daffodil Annual to our daffodil pioneers beginning with Jim O’More written by Reg Cull, John Hunter, Max Hamilton and myself..

    By the way in addition to the above the Annual will contain its usual mix of articles on daffodil breeding, cultural items (including natural remedies for BR and digging and drying systems),  daffodil people and amusing anecdotes.  Overseas people can obtain copies as well as other NDSNZ publications by joining the Society.  Just send a cheque for the equivalent of $NZ30.00 to our Treasurer Kevin Kerr, 12 Chartwell Place, Richmond, Nelson,7020, NZ

    The Sun continues to shine brightly but the depression remains.

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