What Happened On This Date in "Recent" Bonsai History?
1973 -- Dorothy Young, President of the American Bonsai Society, and
Beverly Oliver, President of Bonsai Clubs International, signed a resolution
extending wholehearted support for the establishment of a National Bonsai
Collection at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. This was
during the joint Bonsai Congress in Atlanta, Georgia. There Dr. John
Creech, the Third Director of the Arboretum, put forth the concept of a
National Bonsai Center to house trees to be gifted to this country by the
Japanese as part of the U.S. Bicentennial three years hence. The
concept had initially been discussed at the 1973 spring show of the Potomac
Bonsai Association. Its acceptance now by these two principal bonsai
organizations -- and master Yuji Yoshimura, who was in attendance and who
had expressed earlier his dream that the richest nation in the world should
have a National Bonsai Collection -- helped persuade the Japanese people
that America was earnest about participation in this gardening art.
"Beverly Oliver, President of Bonsai Clubs International, reading a proclamation honoring the Hindses."( The Bonsai Saga by Dr. John Creech, pg.17) SEE ALSO: Feb 19, Mar 1, Jul 9
(International Bonsai Digest Presents Bonsai Gems, Fall 1974, pg. 89)
1982 -- The two-day "Art of Bonsai Exhibition" began at the Royal
West of England Academy of Art in Bristol. This exhibit was the
first to be held in an art gallery in the United Kingdom. The
excellent facilities and lighting proved to be the perfect setting for
the finest display yet sponsored by the Bristol Bonsai Society.
Visitors attended from across the country to view predominantly British
trained trees. Sixty percent of the bonsai were British, while
forty percent were developed from imported stock. Educational
displays, including an audiovisual presentation, were popular with the general public.
("The Art of Bonsai Exhibition,"
International Bonsai, IBA, 1983/No. 1, pp. 24-25 with 8 b&w photos) SEE ALSO: Jan 4
2015 - Harry Hirao, aka "Mr. California Juniper" and founding president of the Kofu Bonsai Kai, passed away this evening at the age of 98 years. Harry was at home in Huntington Beach with family by his side. He had retired from actively teaching bonsai four years earlier, but still woke up at dawn on most days to putter around and take care of his personal bonsai. (email to Phoenix club president from Manny22816 of Kofu Kai, Jul 24, 2015; McNatt, Cindy, "Bonsai master Harry Hirao," The Orange County Register, Dec. 7, 2013) SEE ALSO: Jan 1, Mar 12, May 9, Nov 3, Nov 6, Dec 28
2010 -- Ruth Stafford-Jones died today at about age 89. Many who knew Ruth will remember a lady who
made a large contribution to the British bonsai scene at a time when few bonsai societies existed.
(She saw her first bonsai in 1959 in a Japanese hotel near Mount Fuji. "They had them in the garden.
I had always known bonsai existed, but when I saw them, I said, 'They're for me'." There was plenty of time
to indulge this new-found interest because, over the next quarter-century, she spent six weeks of every year in
Japan, accompanying her husband, Kenneth, who exported cloth for the fashion industry. Not long afterwards she
made plans to study there. She first studied under Isaburo Nishiyama in whose nursery all conversation had to
be in Japanese. Nishiyama-san was a very gifted careful and traditional grower. His trees were much
sought after by the top nurseries in Omiya to finish off before selling.
Ruth later studied under Susumu Nakamura (b. 1932, Yokohama), she being one of the first westerners to study in Japan under him. At his Shonan School of Bonsai (est. 1976) she obtained a proficiency certificate -- the only non-Japanese to possess one at that time. Apparently when he taught at various organisations Nakamura-san took her along as "a teacher from England," which embarrassed her terribly as she felt she was neither a teacher nor fluent in Japanese. He wanted her to become a teacher so that she could pass on what she had learned. This was something that she was able to do in her own country without embarrassment. During her prolonged periods in Japan she made many bonsai connections and got to know the principal growers in Nagoya and Kyoto, as well as Omiya, and was thus able to bring a number of Japanese bonsai specialists to England where they gave lectures and demonstrations which did much to raise enthusiasm for the art in the UK. During those early years she acquired the bulk of her imported collection of interesting high-quality trees, many of them mature, and they all now bear the imprint of forty years of Ruth's care and devotion. She would buy a few more bonsai in Japan and have them sent back to London. "I would meet the tree at the airport and wait for it to clear quarantine," she said. Later, she started collecting seed in Japan. "If we went to visit a temple, everyone would be looking up, oohing and aahing -- and I would be looking down for seed."
She was for many years a member of the Japan Society of London, part of which evolved into Bonsai Kai. In 1964 she joined the Bonsai Kai and was soon a committee member. She became a Royal Horticultural Society judge at the Chelsea Flower Show -- a duty she carried out for 27 years. She ran courses in bonsai at her home and gave talks. She showed her large collection of slides of top Japanese trees to clubs and societies throughout the country for many years. Throughout these years she generously lent trees for Chelsea and other national exhibitions and events. Her special affection for and extensive knowledge of maples was widely known. For a large part of her life, she lived with her husband in Surrey. It became apparent a decade ago that her collection had become so large that it was beginning to be a burden, so she decided she should find it a good home where people could still see it. Her trees were donated to the Kew Gardens in 2001. Her bequeathed collection were the first bonsai Kew had and those 50, some more than 200 years old, reside now with others in the Bonsai House there. Sometime after that she moved down to Cornwall to be close to her family, still caring for some bonsai.
Following the establishment of the Association of British Bonsai Artists, Ruth was to become the first ever recipient of that organisation's "Most Prestigious Award," presented to her for her lifetime contribution to bonsai at the 4th ABBA Symposium on Sunday, 16th June, 2002. Those who were privileged to know Ruth will recognise a person very dedicated to bonsai and who engendered motivation and enthusiasm to many, particularly during the 1970's and 1980's when bonsai was emerging as an ever more popular hobby. The UK bonsai scene will be forever in her debt.)
2004 -- Jerome "Jerry" Meyer died. (Born on March 20, 1909, he
would be a president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York before
founding the Yama Ki Bonsai Society in 1973. He authored
The Bonsai Book of Practical Facts
("Bonsai News & Notes,"
Bonsai Magazine, BCI, October/November/December 2004, pg. 5) SEE ALSO: Jun 16.
1957 -- Sam Adina was born in the Philippines. [He would come to the U.S. in 1982 and eventually be based in Stockton, California.
Sam would began working with bonsai around the year 2000, originally in search of nothing more than a hobby. He would start that search
by raising orchids. "After watering, I saw there's nothing to do," he would say. Bored, he would get rid of his orchids and try
raising koi, but a technical power glitch would cause his koi to die. So a friend would suggest bonsai.]
["I was looking for something to do that is not going out, just staying home," Sam would say. So about the year 2000 he would join the Modesto Club, which would have been formed in 1977. When their sensei George Fujita would retire around 2004, having observed Sam's gift for seeing unique qualities in each tree, he would pass on the "scissors" to Sam as sensei of the Modesto Club. George would recommend that Sam also study under Boon Manakitivipart, an award-winning bonsai master from the Bay Area, and under Johnny Uchida. (George Fujita would pass away at the age of 86 in January 2014.) Sam would also belong to the Yamato Bonsai Kai (of which Johnny Uchida would be the sensei), San Jose Betsuin Bonsai Club, Sacramento Bonsai Club, and the American Bonsai Association of Sacramento, among several other groups. Sam would be highly respected for his remarkable abilities and design talent, and would do demonstrations at many of the area clubs -- and eventually also for the Phoenix, Arizona club. During the 2008 Golden State Federation Convention in Modesto, Sam and three other teachers would help Harry Hirao style a monster California juniper for the entrance of GSBF Collection South. (That tree would unfortunately die during the repotting from grow box to bonsai pot.) In Sacramento at the 2014 GSBF Convention, highly-respected artist Sam would conduct a workshop on his own. He would also win the Best Broad-leaved Evergreen award that year for his impressive olive. Meanwhile, another of his trees would stand in the foyer of the Convention location: a five-foot tall 800 to 900-year-old informal upright Utah juniper that Sam would say he stands on a hydraulic cart to work on. Sam would also do all the bonsai training and design for Blue Oak Nursery in Modesto. As Central and Northern California's largest Bonsai Nursery it would proudly display a collection of over 300 bonsai from world-class artists on the West Coast including Johnny Uchida, Katsumi Kinoshita, Mas Ishii, Boon Manakitivipart, and Roy Nagatoshi, to name just a few.] (email to RJB from Carol Roberts, Phoenix Bonsai Society; "March Meeting Tuesday, March 27th at 7pm," The Bent Twig, March 2012, pg. 1, http://www.abasbonsai.org/newsletters/mar2012.pdf; "Trees of the 2014 GSBF Convention," California Bonsai Art, https://bonsaial.wordpress.com/tag/sam-adina/; "Bonsai, art of the tree world, on display this weekend at Modesto show," The Modesto Bee, April 25, 2014, http://www.modbee.com/living/article3163844.html; "Showtime!," Valley Bonsai Society, Newsletter, Vol. 3 March 1, 2009, pg. 1, http://www.valleybonsaisociety.com/NewsLetters/Newsletter%20Vol%203%20-%20March%201%202009.pdf; "Harry Hirao, aka, The Goat, Mr California Juniper," California Bonsai Art, http://fastproxynetwork.appspot.com/bonsaial.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/r-i-p-harry-hirao/; "Does anyone have photos of the winning trees from the 2014 GSBF Convention?," Ask Bonsai Tonight, Nov. 10, 2014, http://ask.bonsaitonight.com/t/does-anyone-have-photos-of-the-winning-trees-from-the-2014-gsbf-convention/30; http://blueoaknursery.com/) SEE ALSO: Feb 19, Mar 12,
Bunjae Artpia, the Spirited Garden, the world's largest bonsai park was opened after three
years of construction work about 40 km northwest of Jeju (Cheju) City on Jeju Island, southwest of the Korean peninsula. Some 2,000 potted
trees of about 100 species are displayed outdoors and indoors on a 33,000 sq.m. site on the island with strong sunshine and northwesterly seasonal
winds. The pathways consist of five courses. The 53-year-old Mr. Bum Young Sung dedicated 30 years to the planning and construction of
this private park which is opened to tourists. He is assisted by a staff, and his wife, son, and daughter.
(Born in Yongin-gun in Gyeonggi province, South Korea in 1939, and educated in Seoul in the heart of that province (where he first saw bonsai at a flower garden), Sung spent three years in the army. After that in 1963, he first visited the financially-poor but agriculturally-rich island of Jeju, where an army buddy was from. The friend later offered Sung the opportunity to buy some tangerine fields on Jeju, which was accepted. He opened a dress shirt store in 1967 in Seoul, changing locations there until he found an advantageous site. He made custom shirts, kept meticulous records of his clients' needs, and had many foreigners become his customers. He prospered and bought more stores there. He bought more land on Jeju, swapped some land for new pieces, and eventually started to reclaim the land, build stone fences, and plant trees on land the locals claimed would "never be developed even in a hundred years." During the times he spent on Jeju, his wife ran the plant and store in Seoul. Sung moved his residence to the island in 1974. He started to raise pigs and cows for a while, the proceeds from livestock sales going to bonsai materials and bonsai growing in the field. He cut down his tangerine trees (ahead of what turned out to be a correct belief in an eventual oversupply of tangerines in the area) and was totally committed to growing trees. In early 1987, the sub-county chief of the area had, in fact, visited Sung and suggested that he develop his large landscape-tree-planted farm into a tourist attraction. After much doubt and consideration, Sung decided to build a uniquely Korean style presentation making use of Jeju's orum or volcanic hump. Numerous imported trees including many palms were brought in over the next year, and a license was obtained in April 1990. A pond and waterfall was constructed, restaurant and ticket booth set up, and hills were built out of more than 6,000 truckloads of earth and stones.)
[Only about one quarter of the construction was completed by opening day. The Garden would be repaired and expanded every year, with work on the high stone walls ("fence") which offered some protection from the local winds and six stone gates conducted almost every year. A Bonsai Exhibition Center would be added. The large potted trees remain outside most of the year, being moved into the greenhouse only if recently transplanted, extremely sensitive to winter cold, or ahead of approaching typhoons (in August to as late as October). Daily lunch-time guests would average 400 to 500, with busy days of 800 to 1,200 persons. Initially, the attitude of Korean tourists would be deplorable, many behaving boorishly, touching trees and picking their fruits, complaining that bonsai is of Japanese background or that the trees were tortured by binding them with wire or taken recklessly from mountains, not reading the explanation boards throughout the park or listening to the guides. After the financial crisis of 1997, the people would have become quieter, appreciating the trees in silence, and paying more attention to the information boards. A nine-page article in International Bonsai Magazine about the garden following William N. Valavanis' visit in 1996 and a subsequent follow-up visit and workshop with 30 Western enthusiasts would increase appreciation of Korean bonsai in the world. Numerous dignitaries, tourists and enthusiasts from all over the world would visit, including many from North Korea and China. On occasion Sung would continue to go to Japan to attend the Kokufu-Ten (being especially proud of the many native Korean trees in that prestigious competition) and visit the Omiya nurseries. The Asian financial crisis would actually result in two attempted auctions of the property to satisfy bank debts. National press stories about the desperate situation would result in some support and donations from the public and corporations, which ultimately would aid Sung in saving the Garden. Throughout this time and afterwards, Sung would be invited to China to speak on his spirit of pioneering, how a farmer would create a world-class art piece with no support from the government. He would be recommended as a model for the movement to create parks and plant trees for social reform in China, being the subject of numerous interviews and articles. Sung would be invited to go to China at least 26 times, visiting several of the botanical gardens to have a look at the current status of bonsai there. He would sign a mutual partnership agreement in July 2000 with the Hong Yuan Penjingyuan (bonsai park) and become an honorary director of that municipal park in Yangzhou.
[Sung's book about the Garden would be published in 2005 with editions in Korean, Chinese and English.
The website http://www.spiritedgarden.com/ tells the story.] (http://www.icpop-korea.org/second/chejutour.html; Bum-young Sung The Spirited Garden (Kyung-Gi-do, South Korea: Gimm-young books; 2005), pp. 9-10, 65, 102-103, 109, 113-114, 127-129, 144-145, 149, 155-157, 171, 204-214, 222-223, 227-230, 236-240, 249-250, 253, 261-262)
Also this month,
1949 -- John Kiktavi published his How to Grow and Cultivate Miniature Living Trees this month. The 48-page 8-1/2"x11" stapled or spiral bound-format booklet also made mention of "The International Living Miniature Ming Tree League, a national club, open free to all persons that are interested in growing Miniature Ming Trees and who have purchased this instruction book." [His National Nursery Supply in Inglewood, California would place advertisements in various periodicals over the next decade offering "Rare Tree Seeds for Cultivating Living Miniature (Ming) Trees" and the opportunity to make big money with these. See, for example, this ad in the October 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics, pg. 329; another in the April 1953 issue of Popular Science, pg. 71; and this one in Popular Mechanics, February 1955, pg. 48A. Several enthusiasts would later admit that their entry into this hobby/art was due to them ordering and attempting to grow these seeds. No credits are to be found in his book either for any of the many small b&w photos illustrating the work or for the relatively detailed text which gave information not found in any English language article or book to that date. He does state on page 2 that "I've followed this hobby art for years."]
(No other info about John's League has yet been discovered in our researches. A Los Angeles John Kiktavi had a 1/4 page ad on pg. 43 in the Aug. 1949 issue of Popular Science offering information on making money by metalizing baby shoes -- compare this with a full page ad for that business on pg. 50 by a different company. A picture of John was in his full page ad in the June issue. A John Kiktavi who lived from February 1915 to April 1978 and last resided in Inglewood, CA is listed here. THAT record says this John received his Social Security number in Ohio, which then seems to link to this July 1, 1931 reference.)
1968 -- Nine bonsai growers attended an organizational meeting set up by John Robert Flynn and the Bonsai Society of Greater Kansas City was formed. (The Kansas City bonsai movement started in the early 1960's with small groups gathering on patios for pruning and potting sessions. Progress continued at a steady pace as the interest developed, but not without much effort by some individuals. Flynn was instrumental in kindling the early enthusiasm, and Dr. John Philip Baumgardt used his influence as director of the Garden Center to include two classes for bonsai in the 1964 annual summer flower show. Six exhibitors displayed two dozen trees in the lobby and drew interest from unexpected enthusiasts. The bonsai growers, numbering about 20, staged their own show in 1965. Bonsai and saikei were exhibited in the Fall of 1966, and repeated the following Spring. The group brought George Fukuma from Denver in the Fall of 1967 to demonstrate and lecture. A television appearance by Marian Gault, Herbert Brawner, and Flynn in October uncovered many new friends -- some had handsome collections and a strong interest in forming a bonsai society.) [A letter would be sent to local enthusiasts and result in a charter membership during the Fall of 1968 of 45 members. It would be resolved to limit the group's membership to 50 members. Three years later the limit would be raised to 75. The Kansas City club would unite "in brotherhood" with the Bonsai clubs of Denver in 1971, and the group would host the joint BCI-ABS Bonsai Congress '72 in Kansas City in July.] (Brawner, Herb "Kansas City Has Plans For You," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Mar 1972, Vol. XI, No. 2, pg. 18.) SEE ALSO: Mar 18, Jul 13.
1969 -- The first edition of Wu Yee-sun's book, Man Lung Garden Artistic Pot Plants, was published in Chinese with English text. Ten thousand green-cloth-cover hardbound copies being distributed worldwide. Over two hundred selected penzai and penjing trained by Wu himself were included in the 227 mostly b&w photos. [For much of the West this would be the introduction to the original Chinese miniature landscapes, previously known only as nebulous Japanese-bonsai-predecessors.] (Fukumoto, David "Yee-Sun Wu: The Spirit of Man Lung Penjing!," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 41, No. 4, July/August 2002, pg. 33) SEE ALSO: Mar 16, Mar 27, May 11, Jun Also, Jul 7, Sep 30, Dec 14.
1971 -- Excavations began on the tomb of Prince Zhang Huai, one of the seventeen attendant tombs in the vast double Qianling Mausoleum complex at Qianxian [Chienhsien] county, Shaanxi province, to the northwest of the capital city of Xian. Zhang was the posthumous name for Li Xian [Li Hsien] (655-684), the second son of Empress Wu Zetian (r.690-705) and the sixth son of the third Tang emperor, Gaozong (r.650-683). The tomb dates from c.706. [It would be found to consist of a walled compound and an earthern pyramid above ground and a tunnel that slopes down about forty-five feet below the surface to a level passageway and two vaulted chambers. Aligned along a north-south axis, the underground complex would measure about 70 meters in length, with the passage being 71 meters long, 3.3 meters wide and 7 meters deep. The tomb would also have four skylights, four passages, six niches, a brick corridor, an ante-chamber and a burial chamber. Although the tomb was once robbed, over 600 articles would be unearthed. They would include various ceramic figurines, tri-colored ceramic figurines, articles for daily use and other burial objects. There would be seen more than 50 basically intact murals in the tomb, occupying some 400 square meters. The excavations would continue through February 1972.]
Why this is important to us: The earliest-known graphic portrayal of penjing would be found here. On the eastern wall in the middle of the passage to the tomb is the ink-and-color-on-plaster mural known as Courtiers and Guests, aka Courtiers and Foreign Envoys. It vividly reproduces the scene of Tang officials greeting foreign envoys. In the foreground are two enthusiastic court officials, and behind them are three foreign envoys. This mural reflects the active exchange of friendly and diplomatic visits between China and foreign countries during the Tang Dynasty.
Two of the servants in court attire hold with both hands penjing, artistic pot plants with miniature rockeries and fruit trees. (There appears to be a non-essential piece of the mural missing between the two, evidence of surface degradation.) The left-hand servant, male, carries a yellowish oval bowl, perhaps equivalent to nine inches long by an inch deep. Two, possibly three, small pyramidal stones are in the dish. The rightmost stone has a touch or two of aqua pigment. On two of the stones is a small plant with a few frond-like leaves; the left-hand plant is topped with a red flower, the right with a green bud. The servant to the right, female, carries a pot in the form of a lotus flower. This contains a perhaps foot-tall thin-stemmed flowering plant or tree with leaves and fruits. The gesture of these courtiers presenting the gifts suggest that these landscapes were very desirable and occupied honored positions in the mansions of the nobility of the time.