What Happened On This Day in "Recent" Bonsai History?


Days 1 - 10
Days 11 - 20

22 1918 -- Toshio T. Saburomaru was born in Hollister, CA, about 100 miles southeast of San Francisco and 40 miles east of Monterey.  [He would raised in California and Japan.  Returning to the States, he would later serve in the Army during World War II.  ]   (; "Deaths," paloaltoonline, Apr 24, 1996,   SEE ALSO: Apr 16
23 1989 -- Australian teacher Leonard "Lenny" Webber died at age 80.  (He became interested in bonsai while stationed as a soldier in the Occupying Forces in Japan after World War II, was one of the first Australians to take up bonsai after being exposed to it, and developed an extensive collection at his Sydney area home.  He opened the Silver Bell Nursery in 1951.  (The first Vita Koreshoff nursery was also opened that year.)  Lenny eventually became a sensei at the Ryde Horticultural School in the late 1960s and awarded completing students two different TAFE certificates. His specialty was Ficus bonsai.  He developed the Rainforest style, designed to emulate the tall, slender trees which grow in the rainforests as they reach for the available light at the top of the rainforest canopy.  In 1969 at Ryde, Lenny presented, for the first time, a bonsai exhibition consisting solely of native Australian trees.  About seventeen percent of the plants were Ficus species.)
        (In 1985, his Bonsai For the Home and Garden was published.  Also that year, some of his collection was acquired by Ithaca College of TAFE in Brisbane for use as a teaching aid and was later moved to Grovely TAFE.)
        [While under the curatorship of TAFE, the staff and students would add a number of plants to the collection.  In 1992 his From Rainforest to Bonsai: Bonsai in Australian Native Plants would be [re?-]published.  The Brisbane Botanic Gardens - Mt Coot-tha The Bonsai House would be opened in November 1999 and be situated next to the Japanese Garden, an inspiring addition to the Gardens plant collections.  The bonsai collection would be comprised of three separate groups which rotate on show.  Unfortunately, many of Lenny's original trees would have died due to the change of climate but the collection would be built up over the years with the aid of local bonsai enthusiasts to further illustrate different bonsai styles and to display a range of suitable species of plants for bonsai.  The decision to move the collection to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha would ensure that Queensland residents and visitors had greater access to a large established collection of bonsai.]  (Posting in by Grant Bowie, 23 Mar 2010; "Brisbane Botanic Gardens-Bonsai House Collection,"; Webber, Leonard C.  "Bonsai Group Research Exhibition," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XV, No. 1, pp. 21-22; "Dennis McDermott, 2009 Ideas Summit Demonstrators,; "The Brisbane Botanic Gardens - Mt Coot-tha,"; Australian Plants as Bonsai Study Group Newsletter, No. 4, June 2003, pg. 2; article with b&w photo of Webber here:   SEE ALSO: Jan 28, Nov Also, Dec 16.

1998 -- Kai Kawahara, long-time sensei of the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society (and Denver Bonsai Club before that) died a couple of weeks short of his 79th birthday.  ("Persons born 05 January 1920 in the Social Security Death Master File,"   SEE ALSO: Jan 5, FebAlso, Mar 18.
24 1997 -- Second generation bonsai artist and master, Yuji Yoshimura, "the father of bonsai in the non-Oriental world," died in Boston, Massachusetts at age 76.  (Profile of an Artist" by William N. Valavanis, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Spring 1998, pp. 8-9)   SEE ALSO: Jan 12, Feb 27, Apr 23, Jul 17

2003 -- Teacher Masaharu "Mas" Imazumi of Berkeley, California died at age 86.  (Born in the U.S., he moved with his family to Fukuoka, Japan when he was three months old and lived there until he was thirteen years old.  His father then moved them back to the U.S. where he served in the Army during WWII.  He started gardening right after the war, the only way he could get a job.  That led to interest in landscaping, and when a job in that field came up, Mas took it and started creating gardens, especially Japanese style ones.  In 1955 Homei Iseyama was asked by Mas' year-old Fuji Bonsai Club (the second oldest in California) to teach them bonsai.  (Mas had known and studied under Iseyama shortly before the Fuji club was started.)  One rule Iseyama-san and the club had was that members were not allowed to teach outside the club.  Respecting that rule and his sensei, Mas did not begin teaching bonsai until after Iseyama-san's death towards the end of 1975.  At that time Mas arranged a retrospective show of Iseyama's work in San Francisco at the Miyako Hotel in Japan Town.  Mas then taught all over the country and all over the world.  At least five times he was demonstrator at Golden State Bonsai Federation conventions.  He contributed articles to BCI's Bonsai Magazine and was the one of six persons thanked for advice and specimens photographed for the 1994 third edition of the book Sunset Bonsai.  Mas retired on June 1, 2002 due to declining health during the past couple of years.)

Mas Imazumi critiquing for Alan Walker, 05/14/00, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Mas Imazumi critiquing for Alan Walker, 05/14/2000.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

       (Homei Iseyama, one of three early bonsai teachers in the San Francisco Bay area, was a teacher of Mas Imazumi.  Iseyama, born in Japan in 1890 and a graduate of the Nippon Imperial University in Tokyo in the early 1900s, came to the U.S. as a banker but soon changed his calling to landscaping and bonsai.  During WWII Iseyama was forced to leave his forty-year-old bonsai behind when he was forced by the U.S. government to move to the Abraham/Topaz Internment Camp just west of central Utah.  "When he came back those trees had grown over six feet.  His caucasian friends, who were taking care of them, didn't know how to care of trees, so they let them grow.  When he came back, he saw those trees, and he had to restyle them completely."  "...[Iseyama] was an artist in many fields - students have come from Japan to study under him; his paintings and sculptures are models of perfection.  In Bonsai he specialized in maples, many of which graced his beautiful garden in Oakland.  While in the Topaz Lake Internment camp he made his sculpturing tools from discarded files, etc., to continue creating beauty even under those distressing conditions.  (He also made a teapot and 5 cups and suzuri (inkwells for calligraphy) out of local slate he found in the fields.)  For years he taught Bonsai at the Fuji Bonsai Club in Berkeley and the Shikishima Club in Concord, California.  He shared his vast store of Bonsai knowledge with many of the clubs of Northern California, and was the bonsai judge for the California State Fair for many years.  The Bonsai Issue of the Journal of the California Horticultural Society, XXI #2 for April 1960 has a picture of his garden on the cover and an article which he wrote.  He was the teacher of many of the best Bonsai teachers in Northern California...")
       (The Fuji Bonsai was founded in 1954 by Kusuo "Jimmy" Inatomi.  Born in Honolulu in 1920 and moved to Japan when he was 3 years old, he also spent WWII in the Abraham/Topaz, Utah Internment Camp.  He then settled in Castro Valley in 1950, when he started a nursery dedicated to bonsai.  Inatomi continued to provide technical guidance to East Bay bonsai enthusiasts as late as 2010.)   ("Mas Imazumi" by Boon Manakitivipart, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Jan-March 2004, pg. 11; "Sad news" thread on, with pictures of Mas,, "Napa Valley Bonsai Club Newsletter," July 2002, ; "In Tribute" submitted by Gil. Pitman, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XV, No. 5, June 1976, pg. 158; "Masaharu 'Mas' Imazumi," excerpted from an interview by Jay Capachi on July 19, 1997,; "Individual Record -- Homei Iseyama,"®ion=-1®ionfriendly=&frompage=99; Kennicott, Philip  "'The Art of Gaman': Life behind walls we were too scared to live without," The Washington Post, March 28, 2010,; "Agricultural Society of Japan Honors Bonsai Club Founder," 03-20-2010,; "MILITARY: Japanese Detention Camp (Abraham/Topaz) Higuchi-Ishida; Millard co., Utah,"; )  SEE ALSO: Feb 28, Mar 4, Jun 17, Sep Also, Nov 3, Nov 6, Nov 20
27 1941 -- Mary Holmes Bloomer was born today, also her mother's birthday, in Syracuse, NY.  [She would grow up in Cazenovia, just a few miles south.  After her father's untimely death when she was 13, her mother would go to work for the Episcopal Diocese in Central New York while Mary would live briefly with an aunt in Syracuse.  After high school in Cazenovia she would go to Wells College, Aurora, N.Y., and "home" would move to Annapolis, MD, with her mother's reassignment.  After college, then a few forays into the job market, Mary would go to work at the Library of Congress in the cataloging division.  During a 12-year marriage she would become involved with the art of bonsai (Japanese-styled tray-planted trees).  The marriage would end but bonsai would give her an expansive network of friends and activities.  This would lead to a Bonsai Clubs International Convention in July 1984 where a mutual friend introduced her to photographer Peter Bloomer.  Their mutual interest in bonsai led to collaboration on a book about Timeless Trees, the U.S. National Bonsai Collection in 1986.  In the midst of that project, Peter and Mary would have married in October 1985.  Mary would go on to become president of BCI and a board member of the National Bonsai Foundation.  In Flagstaff, AZ she would continue her library career with the Flagstaff Public Library.  Upon retiring in 2002, Peter and Mary would move to Sedona.]
("Mary Bloomer, unknown [sic] - October 28, 2013" obituary, published in Cazenovia Republican on Nov. 14, 2013,    SEE ALSO:  Oct 28
28 1999 -- A reception to honor Harry Hirao was hosted by Mr. James Folsom, Director of the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA.  Over 100 of Harry's friends were present to honor him on the opening evening of California Aiseki Kai's tenth annual Suiseki and Viewing Stone Exhibition.  Seven of Harry's very large black Eel River Viewing Stones had been donated to the Golden State Bonsai Federation Collection at the Huntington the previous summer.  Each was now displayed on a large marble-like pedestal (plinth) in the entranceway to the recently expanded bonsai display area.  Touching of the viewing stones is permitted.

Harry Hirao, 10/12/02, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Harry Hirao, 10/12/2002.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

("A Tribute to Harry Hirao" by Bill Hutchinson, Bonsai Today, 2000-5, No. 69, pp. 56-57)   SEE ALSO: Jan 1, Mar 12, May 9, Jul 23, Nov 3, Nov 6
29 1960 -- Marc Noelanders was born in Eastern Belgium.  [He would be influenced by eastern mysticism that would drive him at an early age of 13 years to Karate.  He would train for several years up to the international level when his Master would want him to learn Bonsai to balance the ying and yang of his personality.  Marc would never look back.  He would stay for a long time in Japan, initially only watering, fertilizing and pruning trees in a standard program until he would be allowed to work on trees.  He would work under Japanese masters like Masahiko Kimura.  He would be recognized by many, including the late John Naka, for his comprehensive knowledge of the trees he works with, and for his ability to capture perfection and yet maintain the ruggedness of his subject.  Marc would teach throughout Europe and in Russia, India, Canada, and the United States.  He would demonstrate at conventions for the European Bonsai Association (1992, 1995, 1999), Bonsai Clubs International (1997), International Bonsai Arboretum (1997), and Golden State Bonsai Federation (1999).  He would take care of the gardens of the Queen of Belgium, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore, among others.  His book Bonsai Art would be published in 1998 with forewords by John Y. Naka and Paul Lesniewicz.  Marc would pass on his knowledge and skill to small groups of pupils during the weekends.  His initiative would start the Noelanders Trophy in 2000 by organizing a contest show for quality bonsai in a Japanese setting.  A suitable venue would be found in the Convention Centre of the Belgium town of Heusden-Zolder.  The first show would be very modest, however with every year that followed it would be expanded both in space and quality of bonsai.]  

Marc Noelanders with Taxus, 11/17/02, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Marc Noelanders working on a Taxus, 11/17/2002.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

(Balbir, Shyama "An Unforgettable Visit by Marc Noelanders," Indian Bonsai Association, 2007 Bulletin Board, pg. 9; "Marc Noelanders To Be In Houston," Houston Bonsai Society, Inc., August 2005 The Bonsai News of Houston, pg. 1; "Anniversary of the Noelanders Trophy," Bonsai Focus, 2/2009, March/April, #120, pg. 44)

30 1942 -- Thomas S. Elias was born in Cairo, Illinois.  [He would attend Southern Illinois University where he would receive undergraduate and graduate degrees in Botany.  In 1969 he would complete a Ph.D. in Biology from St. Louis University with a dissertation on the taxonomic study of the genus of plants in the coffee family.  After completing his graduate work, he would become the Assistant Curator of the Arnold Arboretum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  During the years between 1971 and 1984, he would work as Dendrologist and Assistant Director of the Cary Arboretum at the New York Botanical Garden, and hold the position of Adjunct Professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry of Syracuse University.  In 1984 he would be appointed the Director of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in California and, at the same time, serve as Chairman of the Department of Botany at the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California.  Dr. Tom would continue in both of these positions until he assumed his duties as the fifth Director of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 1993.]
        [There, in addition to his many other duties, he would play a key role in the development and oversight of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.  During his tenure as Director, the Museum would undergo considerable expansion of its physical plant and extensive expansion of its living collections, library, and museum artifacts.  Dr. Tom would be instrumental in obtaining hundreds of rare and out-of-print books and serial publications, particularly from Japan, for the Museum's collections.  He would serve since 2000 as the historian for Bonsai Clubs International's Bonsai Magazine, contributing nearly a dozen articles including the important two-part series "Mansei-en and The Kato Family" (2001).  He would also serve as International Consultant to the World Bonsai Friendship Federation.  A detailed History of the Introduction and Establishment of Bonsai in the Western World would be presented by him at the 2002 International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones and then be expanded for the 2005 WWBF Convention, also in Washington, D.C.]
        [Dr. Tom would study the plants of Asia and North America for many years and be the author of at least seven books and over 130 scientific and popular papers and articles on wild plants, trees, and threatened species in America.  He would win several awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow (2003) for his direction, over a period of more than 20 years, of a botanical exchange program between the United States and Russia (Soviet Union)]
        [Retiring from the National Arboretum at the end of 2009, Dr. Elias and his wife, Dr. Hiromi Nakaoji, would move to Claremont, CA.  Their book, Chrysanthemum Stones: The Story of Stone Flowers would be published at the end of 2010.  With Dr. Nakaoji, Dr. Tom would then start growing the awesome Viewing Stone Association of North America web site, developed in response to the growing interest in Asian and, especially, Chinese stone appreciation among English speaking audiences.]

(Winter 2009 Newsletter of the National Bonsai Foundation,; image from
31 1961 -- The Midori Bonsai Club of San Jose, CA was founded.  ("Who's Who in North American Bonsai," )

Also this month,

1988 -- Richard "Dick" B. Shaner died unexpectedly at his new home in southeast Missouri at age 71.  (Born in England, he had moved with his family to Hawthorne, CA when he was only three years old.  Until very recently, Southern California had been his home.  He and his wife Dixie had helped found both the Santa Anita Bonsai Society (1965) and the Golden State Bonsai Federation (1978).  Dick had been Executive Director of the Bonsai Clubs International, guiding and on hand at all of the conventions until about 1982.  He and Dixie had been co-editors of BCI's Bonsai Magazine from the fall of 1976 until the fall of 1982.  Dick's interests included bonsai, photography, stamp collecting, computers, and general gardening.  He had retired as an Engineer in Chip Design from Kim Lighting, and had moved to Missouri just this past fall.) 
Dick Shaner, International Bonsai Digest Presents Bonsai Gems, pg. 88

("Bonsai Loses Good Friend," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, March/April 1989, pg. 33; photo from "The Patio," International Bonsai Digest Presents Bonsai Gems, Fall 1974, pg. 88, with the caption "Richard Shaner, the hard working photographic editor of Bonsai Gems, is caught without his camera.")  SEE ALSO: Jan 1, Feb 25

2013 - The George Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection was spun off as a separate nonprofit corporation and supporting organization of The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.  (The bonsai collection had first opened in 1989, in conjunction with the Washington state centennial celebration.  It features outstanding bonsai trees from Pacific Rim nations and is praised as one of the top bonsai collections in the country.  Closed due to the depressed world economy from April 2009 through the summer of 2010, the collection was reopened at the basic services level (no money was being spent on extra lectures, advertising, or off-site displays).  Weyerhaeuser in 2013 thought that the collection of 100 miniature potted trees -- 60 on display at any given time -- could be run better by someone else.  The collection was a department of the timber company, but would transition to an independent entity with a non-profit status.  Other organizations were designed to promote and market and really highlight a collection like that in a way that Weyerhaeuser was not.  In addition, the collection was costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain.  Weyerhaeuser had sent out requests for proposals to determine where to donate the collection.  Responses were due in September 2013, and the timber company would also consider an endowment for further financial support.)
        At year end, the donation was made and "allows for the collection's storied history with the Weyerhaeuser Company and the South Sound community to continue, and ensures the protection of this significant collection for decades to come."  As a supporting organization, the bonsai collection is a separate legal entity and eligible to be qualified as a section 501(c)(3) organization with its own governing instruments and its own board of directors, the majority of whom the foundation will appoint.  The Bonsai Collection joins Lakewold Gardens and the Western Forest Industry Museum as the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation's third supporting organization.
        [The bonsai collection would remain at Weyerhaeuser's corporate headquarters in Federal Way, WA.  Currently, the bonsai collection attracts more than 30,000 visitors annually.  In addition to support from Weyerhaeuser, the foundation was awarded a $142,000 grant from the Donald R. and Mary E. Williams Horticulture Fund to assist the bonsai collection in achieving self-sufficiency.  The collection would be renamed The Pacific Bonsai Museum (PBM) and the original curator, David DeGroot, would retire in the Fall of 2014.  Aarin Packard, the assistant curator of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC would be appointed the first curator of the reborn Pacific collection of over 100 trees.  The Museum's Facebook page would date to October of that year.]
        [In August 2014, the Weyerhaeuser Company would announce their intent to sell their corporate headquarters to move to Seattle.  On February 9, 2016, the PBM would receive word that the campus had been sold to Industrial Realty Group, LLC (IRG), which would allow the collection to remain.  Dedicated to being the preeminent bonsai museum in the world, PBM would aim to grow their premiere collections in surprising directions, present groundbreaking exhibitions and offer engaging opportunities to experience and explore this ancient art form.  They would plan to dramatically increase their impact by growing and diversifying the Museum's collections; by educating people about bonsai art, culture and traditions; and by creating community.  They would envision expanding facilities, offering rich, diverse education and outreach programming and investing in technology to further their commitment to access for all.]   (Hobbs, Andy "Weyerhaeuser wants to donate Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection," Federal Way, Sep 16, 2013,; "Weyerhaeuser donates Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection to Tacoma foundation," Federal Way, Feb 19, 2014,; "The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection" Internet Bonsai Club post by Victrinia Ridgeway on Wed Jun 16, 2010; Curator Position Opening -- Pacific Bonsai Museum (formerly Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection)" Internet Bonsai Club post by Roger S Case on Mon Jul 14, 2014; "Transition FAQs", Pacific Bonsai Museum)    SEE ALSO: Jan 26, Mar 8, Apr 2, Oct 7

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