Richard Haubrich founded the American Bamboo Society (ABS) in 1979, in association with a few other bamboo enthusiasts (Shor, Betty N., Aug. 1993, How ABS Began, American Bamboo Society Newsletter, vol. 14, no. 4, p. 1-3.) Haubrich was then a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, and became interested in bamboo just by enjoying the “graceful look and its year-round green leaves” of Phyllostachys aurea in the garden of the house he and his family were renting. Because he liked plants, he agreed to serve on the board of directors of Quail Gardens, and he urged that park (then owned and operated by the County of San Diego) to let him plant bamboo plants there. (In 1979 only two bamboo plants were in the ground at Quail: one Bambusa oldhamii, not very big, and a clump of Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’.) The group agreed. Haubrich also obtained a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to import bamboos. He, Bill Teague, Gilbert Voss (then botanist for the county at Quail Gardens), and Gerald Bol (northern California) collected bamboo plants in Mexico and Costa Rica on different trips.
Haubrich became acquainted with others who enjoyed bamboo, and this led to the formation of chapters of ABS elsewhere in the country. The Northern California chapter was founded in January 1982, the Caribbean (now the Florida/Caribbean) chapter was founded in October 1983, and the Northeast Chapter was founded in May 1989. Haubrich moved to Springville (central California) in late 1988, and it suddenly dawned on ABS members in southern California that they were orphans. Ken Brennecke (a computer programmer who is especially keen on bamboo), who had been one of the founders of ABS with Haubrich, called a meeting for October 1989. Eight people attended (number given in newsletter of Dec. 1990, but not names), and the Southern California Chapter was established the next month. (Other chapters have followed; there are now 10 chapters in the U.S. and two more trying to obtain enough members to be official.) The first officers were: Ken Brennecke, Chairman; Ron Kloetzli, Vice-Chairman; Shirley Yarnell, Secretary/Treasurer; George Shor, Newsletter Editor. Kloetzli enjoyed bamboo plants in his garden; he moved away from the area after a few years, but has returned. Shirley Yarnell was another backyard gardener who had a number of different bamboos, some quite large, in her property in Olivenhain; she moved away a few years later. George Shor was a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, whose son Don had a full retail nursery in Davis and began looking for bamboo suppliers, and so George and Betty got interested in bamboo. Shirley Yarnell asked to drop the treasurer commitment in February 1990, and George Shor agreed to do it. By March 1990, after a plant sale, the chapter had 39 members. At the end of its first year the chapter boasted 74 paid members, many of whom resulted from a feature article in the Los Angeles Times during the year. The chapter was incorporated in 1991, as a non-profit organization. Sometimes abbreviated to SCC for Southern California Chapter, the group more often calls itself ABS SoCal.
Sale of bamboo plants was a feature of the chapter right away. It promptly participated in the semi-annual plant sale of Quail Gardens on December 3, which ABS had been doing for several years. The March 10, 1990 sale was announced as “The first ABS/SCC bamboo sale and auction,” but it was actually a continuation of sales held by ABS alone earlier. Money received by the chapter from these sales was kept in a bamboo account at Quail Gardens. Sales were held in March (changed to April in 1996 because rain disrupted some March sales) and in September, and were often very well attended. At the chapter sales 70% of the sale price (after deduction of sales tax) is paid to the grower, the rest to the chapter.
From the beginning the chapter worked fairly closely with Quail Gardens, which was operated by the Quail Botanical Gardens Foundation from 1993, when county funds were discontinued. The board of Quail over the years allowed the chapter to use some space in the propagation house, agreed to let the chapter preempt the former tennis court for a reference collection of bamboos, and let the chapter build two small quarantine houses below the Ecke Building. The two organizations — ABS SoCal and Quail BGF — planned and planted the present bamboo garden in 1996, in an area that was previously nearly vacant. Quail receives income from the sale of bamboos that have been derived from plants belonging to the Foundation and from a percentage of all sales at the two annual chapter sales. Quail provides the water for all the plants there, including the bamboo reference collection, and they have provided potting soil at times. At various times a member of the bamboo group has been designated a liaison to Quail, and sometimes that person has been invited to attend Quail’s board meetings. (Note: the Quail board chose to change its meeting times to a weekday evening some years ago, and, although open to Quail members, the meetings are rarely attended by any people other than the board.)