"Dwarfed Trees" by Vincent Van Marter Beede
from The Chautauquan

      "A Bit of Japan in America" by Vincent Van Marter Beede (1900):

Copyright by Arthur Hewitt, East Orange, N.J.

       "A TABLET legend in a tea-garden at Omori, Japan, declares that 'the sight of the plum-blossom causes the ink to flow in the writing-room,' and one is inclined to endorse the words when the delicate, blended sweetness of unnamable flowers greets him before he has put foot across the entrance of a Japanese tea-garden situate [sic] half an hour's railway journey from New York, and all but on the side of Orange Mountain, New Jersey...  [570]...
       "This is July.  In three months four acres of crude American landscape-gardening have been converted into a tea-garden by Japanese who learned their art in such marvelous gardens as those of the famous Count Okuma, the one-legged statesman who bids fair to be Japan's next premier.  The gardens of this nobleman at Waseda, on the outskirts of Tokio, are valued at millions of dollars.  Every morning when he is at his villa the count [sic] is borne through his shrubbery, for gardening is with him a passionate hobby.  Many of the choicest flora in this American garden are tokens of his generosity and of his desire to awaken in us commercial westerners a little of the disinterested aestheticism of the east.
       "...Words failed us when we moved along

Copyright by Arthur Hewitt, East Orange, N.J.


Copyright by Arthur Hewitt, East Orange, N.J.
arbor paths hemmed in by dwarfed trees and shrubs.  If it had not been for our friend the gardener, we would have passed by with a modicum of interest the rarest dwarfed tree outside of Japan, and one of the rarest in the Land of the Cherry-Blossom itself.  This oddly symmetrical, pine-like pygmy of a tree is a hibo-shibe (thaya obertesa nana [sic]), which ceased to grow these ten centuries [sic] back and would be difficult to purchase at ten thousand dollars.  Its gnarled branches -- gnarled for a distinct artistic reason by the hand of a Buddhist priest -- are laden with invisible burdens of religious lore, the accumulation of a thousand years.  Many a priest in the ancient temple brought himself into rapt contemplation of Infinite Bliss by gazing long at this tree, the symbol of eternity.
       "Tiny trees as perfect in their dwarfhood as though they had attained full stature, grow sturdily -- rather, stopped growing -- in shallow porcelain dishes.  A two-foot maple aged seventy-five years had leaved as greenly as the fifty-foot cousin on our lawn at home.  These diminutive growths reminded us of Stevenson's verses concerning 'The Little Land.'  One needs but to bring his eyes on a level with a miniature magnolia to find himself among the elves.  Some of these trees are dwarfs among dwarfs.  A hornbeam six inches high clung to a three-inch 'boulder,' and a juniper of the same size was the center of attraction in a tiny garden where a lakelet bathed the foot of a rocky bluff.  A winding path, strewn with carefully-chosen stepping-stones, led to the water, in which a porcelain coolie was watching a porcelain horse in the act of drinking.  An atmosphere genuinely eastern surrounded the three-foot landscape."


1    Beede, Vincent Van Marter  "A Bit of Japan in America," The Chautauquan, a monthly magazine for self-education, Vol. XXXI, No. 6, September 1900, pp. 569-573.   The entrance to the tea-garden is shown because it appears that there are bonsai in the center of the photo.  There is no identification given for the gentleman in front of the large dwarfed conifer in the third photo.  Does anyone have any more details about this wonderful large specimen, its age, provenance, whatever became of it?

Beede also authored the book Mary A. Lathbury: her life and lyrics (published by the Chautauquan in 1899) in addition to several other articles and poems in that and other periodicals up until at least 1910.

The value in the year 2008 of the "ten thousand dollars" mentioned above in 1900 would be at least $264,500, per Samuel H. Williamson, "Six Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1790 to Present," MeasuringWorth, 2008. URL http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/.

Home  >  Bonsai History  >  Pre1945 Biblio  >  Chautauquan