Kim Larsen


2014 Alex J. Summers
Distinguished Merit Award

Kim Larsen

Hosta Minnesota Mafia

2014 Alex J. Summers
Distinguished Merit Hosta

H. 'Minnesota Mafia'


Thank you very much for this honor. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. When I received the call from Mike, I was sure he was calling to see if I would chair a committee or something. When he told me that I was the Alex J Summers Award winner for this year, my first thought was "What have I done to deserve that?" I'm not a hybridizer. Even though I've registered and introduced a few plants, I've not made huge in-roads into developing a thoughtful breeding program. I'm not a hosta scholar. I read a bit, maybe even more than a bit on the subject, and I have a good memory, but that doesn't make me an expert. I'm a hosta judge, something I'm passionate about, but there are others who have been at it longer and just as passionate. I've been the AHS treasurer for a good long time, but I liked that job and most of the time, I didn't consider it a chore. I'm a gardener and hosta collector, but everyone in this room is the same. All this time, I've done what I like doing, so how is that award-worthy? When I expressed my confusion to my husband, Jim, he said that I should just accept gracefully as my FRIENDS have set me apart as someone worthy. When he said FRIENDS, I knew that that was the heart of the matter. My FRIENDS have seen all these "little things" and made them special, when I didn't notice them at all, and for that I thank you all, everyone of you, all my FRIENDS.

So now that I had that all figured out, I need to select a Hosta of Destinction to go along with this honor and that has me as consternated as with the whole, "I'm not worthy" thing. I'm a criteria person and the plant I select has to be garden worthy, readily available, memorable, and something that included my FRIENDS. Hosta FRIENDS...

My first hosta FRIEND is Lisa Putnam. The first Convention that I attended was a Midwest Regional in Des Moines around 1996. My name was on a list of attendees and a week after the event, I received a phone call from Lisa (whom I had not actually met even though she was at the same convention), and we talked for over an hour about plants. I didn't hear from her again until the next spring and the MN Hosta Society's first meeting of the year. She asked if I'd like to ride with her to the meeting. We hit a couple nurseries after the event and thus set the standard for many, many more MN Hosta Society meetings to come. She was the first person to share a hosta with me (Hosta ‘Hi Ho Silver’). She bought it, split it, and left it on my doorstep, without me knowing for quite a while who my benefactor was (although I had a good idea). Through her, I was encouraged to attend national conventions, and I attended my first one in 2000. I jumped in with both feet and volunteered to be a bus captain, to help with hostatality, to help with the hosta show (the first time I clerked), and mine was an alternate garden for tour on Sunday. I rubbed elbows with local luminaries: Bob Olson, Don Dean, Nancy Minks, Arlene and Dennis Savory, and fatefully, Connie Linder and Mary Schwartzbauer. I met national luminaries, too: Nancy and Bob Solberg, Mark Zilis, CH Falstad, Sandy and Jim Wilkins, Shirley and Van Wade, and even had Warren Pollock on my bus! Years later, folks would come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed me as a bus captain at that convention, and I have to be honest; I don't remember anyone but Warren. But cut me some slack, there were over 50 of you on that bus, and I've slept a lot since then. I witnessed there, for the first time the inner workings of the MN Consortium at the auction, but more about that later.

After that first Convention, I just had to go to more; since then I have been to every Convention except 2003, the year I was voted in as treasurer. Let that be a warning to you. If you don't go to Convention, they just might find a job for you and vote you in! As a result of my involvement in the 2000 Convention, I got more active in the Minnesota Hosta Society and served as vice president and secretary, which just exposed me to more future FRIENDS. National Conventions weren't enough; I attended many Midwest Regional Hosta Society Conventions and made more FRIENDS through bus tours, hosta shows, and auctions. One thing was becoming apparent, that as my interest in hostas grew, evolved, expanded, and blossomed, so did my circle of hosta FRIENDS. I joined Hallson's Hosta Forum and a whole group of FRIENDS emerged from that experience. I hung out at the vendors' booths longer and longer and even made pilgrimages to their nurseries and developed another group of hosta FRIENDS. Probably the most fun were the FRIENDS I have made as a result of auctions as a buyer, donator, and auctioneer.

Which brings me to my selection for the 2014 Hosta of Distinction: I have had the privilege of being a part of several auction consortiums, but the most memorable and enduring is the one made up of Mary Schwartzbauer, Connie Linder, and me. Many years ago (I can't remember exactly when, but nearly 10 years ago), Mary, Connie, and I were the successful bidders on a H. 'Ming Jade' seedling that Jack and Gary (The Naylor Creek Boys) had donated. It was a large plant, many eyes, obviously a good grower. We were to get the whole plant, the one and only plant. I don't remember how much we paid, but I don't think it was a huge amount of money. We split it, and each of us planted it in our respective gardens. I'm not sure if Mary or Connie know where their piece of the plant is, but I do. In 2008, I brought a nice big clump of it to the National Convention to auction off again. I was going to register it and thought about calling it 'Mary Connie Kim', like 'Mary Marie Ann'. After discussing it with Mary and Connie, they were amenable to the idea but as the evening progressed and more adult beverages consumed, 'better' names evolved. Now, around this time, there had been some lively discussions about the fact that the AHS Board seemed to be unevenly weighted with members from Minnesota. At that time, Mary, Connie, and I were all on the Board, as well as Bob Olson and Cindy Tomashek. Since Tom Micheletti hung out with us, he was lumped in, too. As part of these discussions, we were collectively referred to as The Minnesota Mafia. So one of the 'better' names bandied about for this new hosta was 'The Minnesota Mafia', which I have selected as the 2014 Alex J Summer Hosta of Destinction.

Footnote: I mentioned that I thought the Hosta of Distinction should be garden worthy, readily available, memorable, and includes my FRIENDS. Hosta 'The Minnesota Mafia' is very garden worthy, grows quite well, is not fussy, multiplies quickly (I gave pieces of this away for several auctions and still have the mother plant); it's not that readily available, as it is my intention for the plant to be available at auction, only (I need to run this by Mary and Connie, but I think they'll agree); the plant is bright yellow in the spring, and it has a cool name (I think) so that it's pretty memorable, and it definitely includes some of my best FRIENDS, anybody from Minnesota and anybody who consorts with the Consortium.

Images on this website are copyright protected. They are not in the public domain!
Contact us before attempting to reuse. Copyright ©2015 American Hosta Society