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About

Mimosa Nurs­ery in East Los Ange­les! The trop­i­cal fruit nurs­ery, founded in 1982, is on 3 acres near Garfield and Whittier Blvd..

Our Vision

Hidden in the middle of East LA is our nursery which specializes in exotic fruit trees. An ideal location for a large immigrant clientele who seeks plants that remind them of their homeland. We have specialty plants and trees which include sapodilla, lychee, longan, soursop, sugar apple, mango, persimmon and varieties of avocados.

GILBERT GUYENNE

The founder, Gilbert Guyenne (Nguyen Dung Tien).

 

At Mimosa Nursery, where the wide, hot sky of East L.A. is etched with power lines and the silhouettes of pink Spanish-style apartments, Gilbert Guyenne has painted scenes from his Southeast Asian home. Papaya, mango, guava and jackfruit trees stand in orderly rows; birds whistle from bamboo cages; and water lilies--the kind Guyenne once peeled and ate as a soldier in the Mekong River Delta--float placidly in ponds. As you wait to pay for your ylang-ylang, you might find books for sale beside the register one of Guyenne's own novels, about the world he left back in 1975, the year Saigon fell.

Ex-soldier, ex-husband, father of five and purveyor of rare fruit that is sweetly familiar to other Vietnamese Americans, Guyenne (nee Nguyen Dung Tien) understands the sorrow of exiles. "We have a lot of things deeply inside," he says, "a lot we cannot express by talking."

Which is why Vietnam-born customers flock to his business and why, if they come looking for nam doc ma i (a type of mango), they might leave with a shamu thrush, a bird whose baritone jungle calls rise abruptly, midsong, to a haunted, soprano wail. Guyenne himself began writing for the same reason, to find a voice for his visions, to free the spirits from his past.

Born in 1951 in the rural province of Nha Trang, he remembers a green landscape that unfurled beside the sea and a slow-paced life in which people were close and even the poorest gave food and shelter to a stranger. One of six children of a small-time grocery wholesaler, Guyenne worked hard and wound up at a university in Dalat, studying economics and political science as war-torn South Vietnam collapsed around him.

After Saigon fell, Guyenne fled the rule of his former enemies, settling first in New Caledonia, where he acquired his new name, and later in Anaheim, but he continued to brood about his country's ruin.

By the early 1980s, he and his Vietnam-born wife, Silvie, had children to feed. Guyenne needed work. He observed the success of a Vietnamese couple who imported Southeast Asian plants for fellow homesick immigrants. Homesick himself, and longing especially for fruit he'd eaten as a child, Guyenne decided to start a nursery with his savings.

He wasn't a complete novice. In New Caledonia he had grown lettuce as a tenant farmer. Still, he says, his early years were very painful. "I did not know the weather in California. With winter coming, I ordered tropical plants. I displayed them all around, and in one night, the whole nursery turned black because of frost. I said, 'What is this?' In our country, we did not know what frost is."

He worked 12-hour days, struggling to understand the climate and how to tend trees that, like him, were far from their native soil. And over time, as the local Vietnamese community grew, Mimosa, which opened in Garden Grove in 1982, grew too. As it did, Guyenne discovered an even wider clientele, people with roots in Guatemala, Mexico and South America who were just as keen to taste the fruit of home--their home.

By the early '90s, he had three more Mimosa nurseries--in Riverside, Anaheim and East L.A.--and his five daughters were growing up as Americans. But then his marriage foundered, and he once again reexamined his life. His anguish about the past resurfaced. He had fresh visions of the war.

During what he calls the worst four years of his life, fighting the ground war in the Mekong, Guyenne watched close friends lose their moral compass. He witnessed widespread corruption, including Vietnamese army generals trafficking in drugs. "The war turned our life upside down. It affected the morals of the country. Prostitutes made more money than anyone. Drugs and crime were everywhere."

In 1994, he was introduced by a friend to Nha Ca, the editor of Viet Bao, a Vietnamese-language newspaper based in Westminster. Ca encouraged Guyenne to write his memories down, to work his thoughts into stories for her fiction page. Inspired, Guyenne wrote a few, then a few more, and finally, he wrote a novel that Viet Bao published as a daily serial.

** Credit of LA Times News Article