What Happened On This Date in "Recent" Bonsai History?
1908 -- Paul Bourne was born in Seattle, Washington. [He would
be exposed during his youth to the art of bonsai through a Japanese neighbor
and on his subsequent trips to China and Japan in the 1930s. In 1948
he would take up residence at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers,
Georgia. Fifteen years later he would begin puttering around making
bonsai. Thus would begin a pioneering journey that strongly influenced
the growth of bonsai throughout the southeastern U.S. and elsewhere.]
("Eulogy To A Bonsai Friend" by Jorge Lucero, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, September/October 1995, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, pg. 51; Bonsai by the Monastery website: http://www.bonsaimonk.com/frpaul.html ) SEE ALSO: Jul 10
1996 -- The National Bonsai Foundation dedicated The Mary E. Mrose International Pavilion and the Dr. Yee-Sun Wu Chinese Garden Pavilion, marking the completion of the major pavilions of The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. The 4,900 square foot Chinese Pavilion and Garden has a removable roof which will permit year-round exhibits and eliminate the need to move plants indoors during winter months. The traditional tiled formal entrance gate was fashioned in China and installed by seven artisans from Shanghai. The 4,391 square foot International Pavilion includes a traditional Japanese tokonoma, a Chinese Scholar's Studio, and a special place of honor as might be found in a typical American home. Additional features include a research center and information gallery, glass display cases for the National Collection of Viewing Stones, and a Special Exhibits Wing with an atrium for the formal display of bonsai and other related artefacts. The two new pavilions increase by 50 percent the formal bonsai and display area at the Arboretum. ("From the President..." by Martin Klein, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Summer 1996, pg. 47; "National Bonsai and Penjing Museum Now Complete," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, July/August 1996, pp. 18-23) SEE ALSO: Mar 21, Mar 27, May 17, Jun 9, Aug 26, Sep 30, Oct 1, Oct 15
2003 -- Marion Gyllenswan of Nanuet, New York died. (As a friend and student of
Yuji Yoshimura for over fifteen years,
her talents as a bonsai instructor were in great demand. She had been
an organizer, officer and director of both the Bonsai Society of Greater
New York and the American Bonsai Society. She was the latter's treasurer
from its founding in 1967 for two years, then the Business/Advertising
Manager of its
through 1971. She was very active in
promoting the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum
in Washington, D.C. She was the Chairman and first president of the
National Bonsai Foundation, a very hard worker for this institution.
And Volume 3, Tape #6 of the
Masters Bonsai Techniques
videotape series featured Marion demonstrating three styles of Rock Planting Bonsai.)
Marion Gyllenswan(Internet Bonsai Club-posted e-mail from William N. Valavanis, May 2, 2003; Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 3, No. 2, pg. 2; "Minutes of First Meeting of Board of Directors of the National Bonsai Foundation, Incorporated, November 27, 1982," photocopy given by Felix Laughlin to RJB May 2002; http://torontobonsai.org/Journal/Journal.2001/jun.2001/review.video5_6.htm ) SEE ALSO: Sep 24
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, May/June 1986, pg. 14)
1935 -- Boh Chit Hee was born in Hainan, China, an island off the southern
coast of China. [His family would move to Singapore when he was 4
years old (because of the Japanese occupation of Hainan?).
He would grow up in a very poor family and would have to sell fruits on the streets and wash military tanks as a child in the
early 1940s. This would prompt him to
find solace in bonsai cultivation in 1953. His first tree was a plant that grew out of a wall. He would pluck it
out and grow and nurture it. (He would still have it decades later.) As bonsai were yet almost unheard of in
Singapore when he started, he would only learn from a couple of books he'd manage to get at that time. The rest would
be about trial and error, patience and very religious observation of daily growth, some of the very basic requirements of the
Lingnan style/technique from southeast China. He would start off with only a pair of gardening scissors, a pot, and
some earth. Almost all of his bonsai would emphasize the trunk and root structure, very similar to the Lingnan style.
Some 80% of his bonsai would be the Wrightia religiosa (shui mei) species.
Boh Chit Hee would become a famous Chinese conductor, composer, and music teacher in the late 1950s to 1970s. A several-day
early February 1977 solo bonsai exhibition at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce building would be a breakthrough for him
as it would cause quite a sensation in Singapore's arts circle. At the time he would have a thousand tree collection behind
his home in Changi, the eastern site near what would become
Singapore's main airport. The trees would take two
hours to water, twice a day. The Singapore Bonsai Society (since renamed as
Singapore Penjing & Stone Appreciation Society) would be founded
at year end, with Boh as its first President the following year. As bonsai cultivation was still quite new to the rest of
Southeast Asia, many from the area (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.) would come to Singapore to learn this art from him and
most of them would go back to their respective countries to set up bonsai societies there. The Singapore group's first
exhibition would be held in December 1982 at the auditorium of the National Library. A total of 54 persons would
participate in the show. The group would also participate in the June 1991 Asia-Pacific Bonsai & Suiseki Exhibition
and Convention in Bali and the May 1995 event which would be held in Singapore. Boh, meanwhile, would be a judge for
various bonsai competitions which were held throughout Southeast Asia. He would hold the post of president of the Singapore
club until the late 1990s when he would be diagnosed with a disease and have to seek treatment
in Shanghai, China. The Singapore Botanic Gardens would turn down an offer for a large group
of his trees, noting the Gardens' limited resources for caring for just a few of the bonsai they could take. This would be
even with the offer by Boh and his friends to care for the plants and train the staff at the Gardens. A subsequent offer
by the Shanghai Botanical Gardens would cause Boh to decide to donate 51 of
his large-size bonsai to that Chinese organization (some 3800 km or over 2300 miles distant) in June of 2002. (There would be
some furor in Singapore over the government there not assisting with keeping this native collection of art.)]
Boh Chit Hee
(Arts & Crafts Magazine, 19915, Unit 16)
Boh Chit Hee's trees wrapped for the trip to the Shanghai Botanical Garden.(E-mails to RJB from Mo Zhuang Ze on 2 and 6 Apr 2012; Chan, Gloria "Each of bonsai expert's dwarf plants has story to tell," Straits Times, 5 Feb 1977; "Bonsai," MPH Living Magazine, June 1977, pp. 5, 27, 32; "Singapore Bonsai Society, 5th Exhibition 1991" pamphlet, pp. 13-15, 17; Sim, Julie "Big trouble over little trees," Straits Times, 21 Oct 2002, pg. 3) SEE ALSO: Jan 23
(Photo courtesy of Mo Zhuang Ze to RJB, 6 Apr 2012)
1963 -- The Pennsylvania Bonsai Society was founded. [One of the oldest such clubs in the U.S., it would have active members from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. It would maintain a close working relationship with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and, because of this relationship, the Philadelphia area would have its first bonsai exhibit in 1964. The club would continue to have a presence at the well-known Philadelphia Flower Show. Early members of PBS would be instrumental in forming the national group, The American Bonsai Society (ABS), in 1967. PBS would host two ABS national symposia in Philadelphia, in 1969 and 1976.] ("Who We Are: PBS History, http://www.pabonsai.org/History.html)
1904 -- Some 560 plants, all imported from Japan, were put on the auction
block over a three day period starting on this date. The sale was
sponsored by the S.M. Japanese Nursery Co. of West Orange, New Jersey and
took place in New York City. A 55-page catalogue was produced for the event
and included captioned illustrations for such trees as Item #340: "
[Chamaecyparis obtusa, hinoki cypress]
. One of the most imposing-looking
specimens in this collection. This grand tree once belonged to the
famous temple Hongauji, Kyoto, the ancient Capitol of the Japanese Empire.
It has been said that owing to its most attractive shape, this specimen
was admired by almost a million people, who made the pilgrimage to this
noted temple of Buddha. It was trained by the several master gardeners
who gave their services to the temple. Trained in the standard Jikka
style. Note: its most graceful branches extended into both sides.
About 100 years old; height, 2 feet, 6 inches. With Chinese pottery
pot on stand." Of the plants auctioned, 135 were these compact hinoki cypress,
59 were maples [Acer species], 38 were Larix kaempferi, 28 were Japanese white pine
[Pinus parviflora], 20 were Chinese junipers [Juniperus chinensis],
9 were Podocarpus species, and 2 were sago palms [Cycas revoluta].
(Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum
by Peter Del Tredici; 1989, pp. 5, 19. Photo of #340 on latter page; the
catalogue's front cover is reproduced as the cover of this book; "From Temple to Terrace,
The Remarkable Journey of the Oldest Bonsai in America" by Peter Del Tredici (Jamaica, MA:
Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University: Arnoldia 64/2-3, 2006), pp. 13, 30. The catalogue's
front cover is in color on pg. 12) SEE ALSO: May 26, Nov 6, Nov 15
1987 -- Shimpaku collector Tetsuya Nakamura died in a fall on Mt. Myouji. (He had been leader of the Itoigawa Collectors' Union which was formed in 1979, and began to emphasize safety as a priority. This organization paid a fee for permission to enter the mountains to the Kotaki Production and Forest Union and its dozen or so members were allowed to enter between April 12 and June 15. Nakamura was a sensible and cautious man who took great care to see that collectors were not injured. He had retired once in 1983. Four years later, after praying at his household shrine as usual, he went to the mountain with his Eisen, a device with claws to put over boots to prevent slipping on ice.) There was still snow in the sunken areas of the rocks. He probably fell because he had changed to a new Eisen with which he was unaccustomed. Naturally dwarfed shimpaku junipers (Juniperus chinensis sargentii) were found growing in the mountains in Niigata Prefecture near the western coast of Honshu. Called Itoigawa Shimpaku in reference to the town there where they were bought and sold after being collected, these specimens have been highly prized by bonsai enthusiasts for a century. ("The Shimpaku Juniper: Its Secret History, Chapter VIII: Supply Diminished, Dangers Increased" and "Chapter IV: Famous Collector, Tahei Suzuki" by Kazuki Yamanaka, Kindai Bonsai Magazine, June 2003, translated by Ikuyo Shisaka for World Bonsai Friendship Federation, http://www.bonsai-wbff.org/shimpaku/shim8.shtml and http://www.bonsai-wbff.org/shimpaku/shim4.shtml ) SEE ALSO: Jun 4
1911 -- Frank Masao Okamura was born in Hiroshima. [He would move to California as a
13-year-old to join his father, who had gone there in search of work. Frank would then
live with a British family while attending high school and go back to Japan briefly to marry.
He and his wife, Toshimi Nishikubo, would return to America to set up a small gardening business
in the Los Angeles area. The business would be lost in 1942 when he, his wife and their two
young daughters, Mihoko and Reiko, would be sent sent to the Manzanar Relocation Camp in the California desert.
The family would live there for three years and eight months, until the war ended. Eager to
leave California after their release, the family would move to New York, where Frank would first take jobs
waiting tables and setting pins in a bowling alley. He would finally be hired by the Brooklyn
Botanic Garden in 1947 to tend its Hill and Pond Japanese garden, which had been vandalized during the war and was in poor
shape. Frank would slowly nurse it back to health. He also would become involved with
the garden's small bonsai collection, which had been in existence for 20 years but had never been
fully appreciated by the staff until American soldiers began returning from Japan with souvenir trees.
Many of the veterans would come to the garden for advice on caring for their bonsai, and their questions
would often be directed to Frank. Eventually, the garden would arrange for him to begin teaching
classes. Though never formally trained in the art of bonsai, Frank would be knowledgeable and
skilled. He taught his many thousands of students that practicing bonsai required patience, sensitivity to nature
and five fundamental qualities: humanity, justice, courtesy, wisdom, and fidelity. Fearlessness might
be added to the list: he would be remembered virtually hanging off precipices in the
Catskills Mountains to get saplings he thought would make good bonsai trees. Frank created countless
examples of bonsai, both at his home and at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, on whose staff he would be until 1981.
Under his care the BBG's collection of bonsai would grow in size and importance. He would lecture nationwide,
often exchanging his services with a local club for a tour of the neighboring areas. He would participate in such
conventions as BCI Cleveland, OH 1971; ABS Norfolk, VA 1971; ABS Kansas City, MO 1975; and the joint ABS-BCI New York
City 1979, where he would headline with John Naka and Yuji Yoshimura. He would write articles on the subject
for the World Book Encyclopedia and Kodansha's Encyclopedia of Japan, and do the ten drawings in the chapter
"Illustrated Guide to Styles" in the BBG's Bonsai For Indoors (1976). (He would even be a guest on the TV
program "What's My Line" in the mid-1960s.) Japanese Emperor Hirohito would award
Frank an Order of the Sacred Treasure medal in 1981 for his work in furthering knowledge of bonsai. Frank's
wife would die in 1987, and he would die nineteen years later, being survived by their two daughters, Reiko and Mihoko.]
"Indoor Bonsai with Frank Okamura at the show
by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, NY (photo by Phil Tacktill, NY)"
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, May 1976, pg. 114)
"Three bonsai masters enjoying the banquet at the Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Festival in April(Obituary by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Jan 18, 2006, http://www.bgci.org/worldwide/news/0157/; Designing Dwarfs in the Desert by Robert J. Baran, pg. 32; Outstanding American Bonsai by Randy Clark, pg. 34) SEE ALSO: Jan 26, May 26, May 29, Jul 10, Jul 16, Aug 3.
1983 in North Bergen, New Jersey. Left to right -- Yuji Yoshimura, Frank Okamura,
Japanese gardener & bonsai curator at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and John Y. Naka
from Los Angeles, California"
(International Bonsai, IBA, 1998, No. 1,pg. 38)
2007 -- This was the start of the two-day first bonsai convention in Kastela, Croatia with a small exhibit of trees from Croatia and Slovenia at the site of the Castle Vitturi. Hosted by the Dalmatian Bonsai Club, the event included Walter Pall holding demonstrations. (Hajdic, Marija "The first bonsai convention in Croatia," Bonsai Focus, 4/2007, July/August, pg. 9) SEE ALSO: Jul 20
1991 -- Grenada Grenadines (northern portion of Grenada) issued a set
of 8 postage stamps plus four souvenir sheets to commemorate Phila Nippon
'91. Walt Disney characters demonstrate Japanese arts, crafts and
industries. One of the souvenir stamps, which shows Mickey Mouse
as a tea ceremony master, has a small, low and wide
as a decoration just below and to the left of the center of the souvenir sheet.
SEE ALSO: Jan 23, Jan 29, Feb 3, Feb 16, Mar 1, Mar 27, Mar 31, Apr 3, Apr 6, Apr 18, May 29, Jun
16, Jul 20, Aug 20, Aug 22, Sep 22, Oct 1, Oct 4, Dec 9.
2011 -- Keith B. Scott died from pneumonia. (Born around 1926, he grew up in Salem, Ohio where his father worked in one of the potteries common to that area at the time. His father had also done missionary work in Japan and often described to him the miniature trees he had seen there. Keith became addicted to bonsai in 1938. (He would also later do pottery during winters, having learned how to from his father.) Keith's first contact with bonsai came while serving in the military in Japan during the Korean conflict. There he had the opportunity to see these trees first hand and to develop his lasting appreciation for Japanese aesthetics and traditions as well as providing a basic understanding of the language. Upon returning to the U.S., Keith attended Purdue University and obtained a Masters Degree in English Literature. He taught English and and was an adjunct professor of English at Youngstown State University in Ohio. He eventually settled on a teaching position in the Shaker Heights School system at a time when it was considered one of the 10 best public school systems in the country. In 1961 Keith joined the Cleveland Bonsai Club and began a serious pursuit of the art of bonsai. He would eventually start a nursery and import business in Chagrin Falls, OH in the 1960's and 70's that established him as one of the very first Americans to deal in bonsai stock, pots and tools. He traveled to Japan and to China fifteen or more times. Keith later wrote "...that is the point: I learned early that if I was going to succeed in this infinitely difficult hobby, I'd have to travel, seek out the people who knew more than I did, which was everyone." He studied with many bonsai masters in the U.S. and Japan, including Yuji Yoshimura, Frank Okamura, John Naka, Toshio Nakamura, Tom Yamamoto, and Toshio Saburumaru. He then moved to Pittsburg, PA and became the curator of the bonsai collection at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. He was the Bonsai Clubs International president ('71-'72), director ('76-'78 and '84-'86), and convention chairman. Keith shared an extensive treasure trove of bonsai knowledge and trivia with the skill of an accomplished wordsmith. He contributed numerous articles to the bonsai publications being established during this period. There were in BCI Bonsai Magazine 21 "Tree of the Month" columns between 1969 and '73, and 37 other articles between 1966 and '84. The ABS Bonsai Journal saw three articles from 1968 to '86. And to International Bonsai Magazine he supplied 24 "Tricks the books never told us" pages from 1979 to '85. The Columbus Bonsai Society Club logo tree came from his nursery. (Keith's first visit to that club included a hornbeam grove planting demo and a workshop in March of 1974.) Dawes Arboretum has a Scotts pine that also came from his nursery at the same time. A Smooth leaf Elm (Ulmus minor) that Keith trained and donated is on display at the North American Collection at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum. He was a frequent teacher and lecturer at and strong supporter of Ohio and Pennsylvania clubs. He conducted many workshops for them, again, with his strong sense of humor. Keith was a long-time driving force in the bonsai world particularly in the northeast U.S., and an ABS and BCI symposium/convention speaker on many occasions -- between 1971 and '94 he was at 5 ABS, 2 BCI, and 3 joint conventions. Plus the first four International Arboretum seminars. Keith's sleeping quarters were very nice and Japanese with tatami mats, wood flooring and a tokonoma. He slept on a futon and began to have terrible aching in the winter when it was very cold in his bedroom, which was attached to his work area in a barn away from the house. He did not live in the house. During the late 1980's he briefly slept on a waterbed which he kept unheated, but gave that up to return to a futon. For the last few years he had been living in the SE Ohio area. He was a serious and accomplished potter, a knife and tool maker, a wood worker, a gardener and always a lover of great literature. Keith was a uniquely talented and intellectually gifted man who touched the lives of many people and who leaves this world a much richer place.)
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. X, No. 1, February 1971, pg. 11)
|9||1987 -- The Bonsai Pavilion opened in the Kupanda Falls Botanical Center section of the 1,800-acre San Diego Wild Animal Park. This coincided with the Park's 15th Anniversary. Master John Y. Naka cut the ribbon and the first and largest display facility for bonsai in the Western United States was opened to a crowd of more than 200 bonsai lovers. (The first tree donated at the beginning of the Pavilion development was the "Wild Dragon" California Juniper by John and Alice Naka. John later made suggestions and recommendations about the Pavilion which was constructed over a period of two years through the joint efforts of the Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Bonsai Club, and the San Pu Kai Club.) [For the 10-year anniversary John and Alice would visit the Park and rededicate the tree. This would be on the special "John Naka Day" celebration for which the master was presented with a certificate and a medal. Most of the trees would be donated. By 2004 there would be approximately sixty trees in the collection, fifty on display. The rest would be in a growing area and rotated with the seasons. Some ninety volunteers from the two clubs would work and care for the trees. Viewing stones (suiseki) would be donated by Harry Hirao.] ("The Bonsai Pavilion at the Wild Animal Park, San Diego County, California," www.sandiegobonsaiclub.com/web/events/sdwapbp/NABFarticle.pdf) SEE ALSO: May 14, Oct Also, Dec 28|