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


Days 11 - 20
Days 21 - 31 +

2 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.]

Fr. Paul and the Kingsville Boxwood

("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: )   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 Bonsai Journal 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, BCI Bonsai, May/June 1986, pg. 14
Marion Gyllenswan
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, May/June 1986, pg. 14)

(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;; "MARION R GYLLENSWAN" in Persons born on 5 May 1921 gives the erroneous date of her death as 3 May)   SEE ALSO:  May 5, Sep 24

2014 -- The National Bonsai Hall of Fame was established at the National Bonsai Foundation's annual meeting.  (It had been thoroughly discussed with various concerns and parameters addressed at the NBF's Executive Committee meeting the previous January 7.)  The proposal was presented to the full board at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC at the beginning of May and it was approved.  John Y. Naka was selected to be the first inductee.  Subsequent inductees would be Yuji Yoshimura (2015) and William N. Valavanis (2017).
     "A National Bonsai Hall of Fame is an enduring way of honoring and recognizing individuals within the bonsai community of the United States for their valuable contributions to this art.  The National Bonsai Hall of Fame will help the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum recognize people who have dedicated their lives to bonsai.  The Museum, through the Hall of Fame, will identify and celebrate those in the United States who have achieved national excellence in the practice of the art of bonsai and have contributed to the advancement of bonsai within this country.  And, by...attention to these renowned... who help to foster a greater appreciation for bonsai in this nation."
     Induction criteria: If living, must have been a resident of the United States for the last 10 years prior to induction.  If deceased, must have been a resident of the United States for the last 10 years of their life.  Induction is open to professional and non-professional bonsai artists and those who have made significant contributions to the art of bonsai in the United States.  The Hall of Fame Committee will consist of nine (9) members: The Director, Gardens Unit Leader, Supervisory Horticulturist, Museum Curator, and Museum Assistant Curator will serve on the committee and two representatives from the National Bonsai Foundation and two representatives from the Consortium of Bonsai Curators will comprise the balance of the committee.   (Alan Walker on FB Messenger to RJB, 10 Oct, 2017; WNV personal email to RJB 06/25/15 which contained HoF Guidelines; Schoech, Wayne  "Bill Valavanis Inducted into the Bonsai Hall of Fame," BonsaiBark, 10/12/17)   SEE ALSO:  Sep 3
3 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, 1995, Unit 16
Boh Chit Hee
(Arts & Crafts Magazine, 19915, Unit 16)

Boh Chit Hee's trees wrapped for Shanghai Botanical Garden
Boh Chit Hee's trees wrapped for the trip to the Shanghai Botanical Garden.
(Photo courtesy of Mo Zhuang Ze to RJB, 6 Apr 2012)

(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

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,
4 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: " Chabo-hiba [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, and )  SEE ALSO: Jun 4
5 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.]

Frank Okamura, BCI Bonsai, May 1976, pg. 114, photo by Phil Tacktill
"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)

Yuji Yoshimura, Frank Okamura, John Naka, International Bonsai,
                        1998, No. 1, pg. 38
"Three bonsai masters enjoying the banquet at the Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Festival in April
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)

(Obituary by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Jan 18, 2006,; 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.

1921 -- Marion Gyllenswan was born.  (She would become involved in bonsai, working behind-the-scenes in a few major groups.)  ("MARION R GYLLENSWAN" in Persons born on 5 May 1921.)    SEE ALSO: May 2

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
6 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 bonsai 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.)

Keith B. Scott Display Ad, BCI Bonsai, Feb 1971, pg. 11

Display Ad
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. X, No. 1, February 1971, pg. 11)

(, per Dale Cochoy posting to Internet Bonsai Club, 15 May 2011;, notes from Kelley Adkins per Dale Cochoy 23 May 2011; "'An Itinerate Bonsai Man' Remembered...," Columbus Bonsai Society May 2011 Newsletter, pp. 1, 6,;; The Indices 2004, BCI, Jan. 2004)   SEE ALSO: May 5, Jul 10
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,"   SEE ALSO: May 14, Oct Also, Dec 28

Days 11 - 20
Days 21 - 31 +



Home  > Bonsai History  >  Book of Days  > May