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


Days 1 - 10
Days 21 - 31 +

11 2005 -- Yee-Sun Wu died at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital.  (Wu had been born in 1905 in Shunde City, Guangdong Province, China.  His fascination with penjing began when he was a small boy.  His father, Wu York-Yu, and grandfather, Wu Yee-Hong, were both enthusiastic practitioners of the "grow and clip" method of training penjing, which came to be known as the "Lingnan School" -- established by Yee-Hong.  [This method, inspired by the contorted trees shown in early Chinese paintings, seeks to give strength and an ancient appearance to a dwarfed tree by allowing its branches to grow and gain caliper and then cutting them back.  The method requires great patience, dedication, careful attention to detail, and a lighter, more natural approach to the caring of these plants.  The grow and clip technique contrasts with the technique associated with Japanese bonsai of wrapping branches with wire to bend them to the desired shape.]  The family suffered through a number of disasters and, as the oldest son, Yee-Sun left Guandong Province to seek work in Hong Kong to help support his family.  In the midst of the depression in 1933 he began the Wing Lung Money Exchange.  By 1949 Wu' s family had moved to what was then the British colony of Hong Kong, safe from the destruction that would result in the mid-1960s during the Chinese [Mainland] Cultural Revolution.  As surviving members of the aristocratic society Wu and some friends were the repository of the original aristocratic penjing.  Wu's small bank grew into the highly respected Wing Lung Bank with multi-story buildings in Central Hong Kong and Kowloon.  When his health suddenly declined, he was forced to rest and he rekindled his love of penjing.  He called himself "Man Lung" which means "scholar-farmer."
     In 1967, he and his friends established Man Lung Garden as a place to meet, to discuss, study, and exhibit.  Two years later, he published and distributed Man Lung Garden Artistic Pot Plants, the definitive book on Chinese penjing of the Lingnan style, "fearing that the Chinese art of training pot plants might [otherwise] someday be lost."   In 1974 the book was enlarged as Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants with the addition of the history and evolution of artistic pot plants, notes from presentations, and over 100 additional photographs.  Some 10,000 copies were donated to leading libraries, universities, and bonsai lovers all over the world to commemorate Wu's retirement from the chairmanship of Wing Lung Bank.  (Son Michael Po-Ko, who took over the reins of the company, had studied in New Brunswick and lived in Toronto with his wife and their two children who were born there.  Yee-sun himself had previously visited Canada in 1950 and 1967.)  Dr. Wu continued the family tradition and was the foremost proponent of the Lingnan School.  Over the years, his personal collection in Hong Kong grew to nearly 400 penjing.  Many of these he donated to public institutions in Europe and North America, including the Seventh University of Paris (France, 5 trees, c.1982), Montreal Botanical Garden (Canada, 30 trees, 1985, +20 more in 1987), and the Sun Yat Sen Park in Vancouver (Canada).  Other trees have gone to the Botanical Park of the Nanjing Institute of the Chinese Academy of Science, the Hong Kong Baptist College (2000) and the Former Governor House of the Hong Kong Government.  All of these penjing exhibitions are open to the public.  (Ironically, in the 1970s Wu had offered the U.S. 50 of his penjing on the condition that the usual importation procedure of bare-rooting and fumigation be foregone, as this would have been fatal to these very old trees.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture refused to make an exception to its rule even for such a unique offer -- even though the Bicentennial trees from Japan had been excepted earlier.  Those trees, however, did yield 23 identifiable pests, so who could say what exotics might lurk in Wu's tropical plants?  After a few years of negotiation, the Canadian Department of Agriculture did issue a special phyosanitary certificate for Wu's trees, although two of his magnificent Japanese black pines were refused to be imported.  The U.S would receive 24 of Wu's trees in 1986 to begin a two-year quarantine before being put on exhibit.)  In addition, Wu would occasionally host individuals and groups from around the world who travelled to see his garden on the beautifully raised terrace fronting his house, which itself was built on a steep mountainside overlooking Hong Kong harbor.  Three full-time gardeners were employed at his home.  The original Man Lung Garden was forced to close in 1978 when the land was required for a railway station.
     In 1990, Wu was honored with a Fuku-Bonsai International Honor Roll award.  By at least the mid-1990s, he was an inpatient at the hospital where he received constant medical care.  He no longer enjoyed the retired life of a scholar-farmer working with his penjing in his garden each day.  A new Man Lung Garden was opened at Hong Kong Baptist University in the year 2000 and penjing lovers can gather to discuss and exhibit and the public can enjoy beautiful miniature trees.  A website ( has begun to put online his fine works, as well as those of other individuals with the objective of continuing the tradition of discussion and exchange of information.  Wu instructed his son Norman Po-Man (one of 13 offspring) to take color photographs and publish a hardcover volume as a souvenir for friends who share the same interest and who have loved and supported him.  Thus, in 2002, a comprehensive collection of penjing in full color called Man Lung Penjing was published.  It serves as a commemorative album celebrating over seventy years of study and as a record of his creative style.  The presence of the Wu Chinese Garden Pavilion (1996) at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum testifies to both Dr. Wu's wish to preserve China's seminal role in developing the art form called penjing by the Chinese and bonsai by the Japanese and to his vision that in the 21st century the leading country in the art of penjing and bonsai will be neither China nor Japan but the United States.  Because of his great contribution towards the art of Penjing, Dr. Wu is acclaimed internationally as 'Pen Sheng' -- the Sage in the art of Penjing.)

Wu Yee-Sun
Wu Yee-Sun.
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XII, No. 5, June 1973, pg. 27)

Wu Yee-Sun with others, photo provided by Wilma Swain
"(L. to R.) Alfred Chui, cargo representative for Canadian Pacific Air in Hong Kong; Chen Ming-lun, Wu Yee-sun's private secretary,
Mr. Wu, donor of 30 Penjings of great value; Pierre Bourque, director of the Montreal Botanical Garden;
and David Esterbrook, Bonsai specialist of the Botanical Garden and President of the Montreal Bonsai Society."
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXIV, No. 1, January/February 1985, pg. 19, photograph provided by Wilma Swain)

("Dr. Yee-Sun Wu Biography" by Felix B. Laughlin, August 1995, Updated June 17, 2001, ; "How the Chinese Collection Was Established" by Frederic L. Ballard, September 1985, Updated October 4, 1999, ;"Contribution of Dr. Wu Yee-sun to the Art of Penjing," , "YEE-SUN WU, THE SPIRIT OF MAN LUNG PENJING!,", which erroneously gives his birthyear as 1904 and the second edition date as 1976); Easterbrook, David "Montreal 1988," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 1987, pp. 9-12; Davis, Rosalie H. "A Gift from the East," Horticulture, August 1987, pp. 48-53; "The Tiny Bonsai Trees of Montreal are the Best in the West -- And That's Certainly Not Going Out on a Limb," People Weekly, Apr. 22, 1985, pp. 85-86)   SEE ALSO: Mar 16, Mar 27, May 2, Jul 7, Dec 14    
12 1916 -- During the three-day spring flower show of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society beginning today, Larz Anderson put his collection of dwarfed trees on public display, apparently for the first time since it arrived in the U.S. from Japan three years earlier.  [The collection would be awarded first prize and a silver medal.]   ("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), pg. 22)  SEE ALSO:  Apr 13, Sep 20

1988 -- The National Bonsai Collection of Scotland formally opened on a sunny day as Provost Eleanor McLaughlan of Edinburgh cut a raffia strand.  In or around 1957, when master butcher Bill Graham of Maybole in the Robert Burns country of Ayrshire retired, he turned his very active mind to a subject which had always fascinated him: the ancient Eastern Art of Bonsai.  Books and advice at the time were in very short supply, but gradually over the next several years he developed his knowledge and collection of a staggering 300 trees, often from first principles and often using essentially native species.  His unique collection had many visitors. When Bill died in 1983, the trees' care and maintenance posed a major dilemma.  Put into the hands of the Local Authority Parks Department of Kyle and Carrick so that some of the trees could continue to be displayed at their Annual Ayr Flower Show (one of the largest horticultural shows in Scotland), the "Graham Trees" were formally and legally gifted by Mrs. Graham in November 1984 to the Scottish Bonsai Association (SBA).  This group was initially led by Craig Coussins, who invited Peter Adams to view the trees and offer advice on their development.  Many of the trees, however, did not survive the necessary re-potting and rescue.  The SBA had begun the process of setting up the first ever National Collection of Bonsai in Britain the year before.  In 1986 the SBA was given license to occupy two areas in the gardens at Malleny House, Balerno on the outskirts of Edinburgh -- the Principal Greenhouse and a Shelter -- and the organization became a Charitable Trust.  The collection of approximately 36 surviving trees plus a few in the National Collection site itself was awarded a Large Gold Medal that year at the annual Ingliston Royal Highland Show.  In early 1988 the first of what would be several pleas went out for additional trees.  Alan Roger contributed a 200-year old Chamaecyparis obtusa "nana" in an equally venerable pot to grace the occasion of the formal opening.  [Additional trees would be chosen to be accepted into the Collection which features pines, beeches, larches, oaks and other species peculiar to Scotland, as well as a few of the more exotic varieities and the handsome gift of a persimmon from Xian, China, Edinburgh's twin city.  In March 2001 the Collection would be the subject of a BBC2tv Programme in the Curious Gardeners' Series.]

Bill Graham, ©2002 Scottish Bonsai Association
Bill Graham  (©2002 Scottish Bonsai Association)

   ("The National Bonsai Collection of Scotland," )   SEE ALSO:  July 15, Nov 22
14 1910 -- The Japan-British Exhibition opened in London.  [By its close on Oct. 29, some 8.3 million people would have toured its grounds and seen one of its most notable exhibits -- the collection of "pigmy trees" presented by the Yokohama Nursery Company.  The 2,000 plants which ranged from age 25 to 300 years included Thuja obtusa, Pinus pentaphylla, P. massoniana, Larix leptolepsis, Juniperus procumbens, J. rigida, Tsuga Sieboldii, Cryptomeria japonica, Acers, Quercus dentata, Styrax japonica, Lagerstömia indica, Punica granatum, Cerasus, Wistaria, Crataegus cuneata, Zelkova keakii, Euonymus alatus, Hedera, and Bambusa.]

Pigmy Trees in London 1910
"Pigmy Trees" Exhibited by the Yokohama Nursery Company

Thuja in London 1910
Thuja obtusa, reportedly 125 years old, was awarded a silver cup as the finest example of a pigmy tree.

(Frese, Paul F. "Bonsai Exhibits Come West," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 1982, pg. 1, both photos therefrom)   SEE ALSO: Feb 7, Apr 13

1929 -- Mikio Oshima was born in Okayama, Japan.  [He would become interested in bonsai in 1947 while as an engineer with a construction company.  A dozen years later during a job transfer to Nagoya he would study under the well-known teacher, Saichi Suzuki, who lived nearby.  Like his mentor, Mikio would specialize in pines, his favorite variety also being the "Zuisho," dwarf Japanese five-needle.  (His son would complete a five-year apprenticeship under Saichi's son.)   Mikio would author many articles, promote the art on television in his homeland, and act as a consultant on design and training techiques.  He would teach year round in his Okayama garden studio, having several part-time apprentices assist him with his ongoing series of experiments on his many trees, whether it be to determine the best way to propagate a variety or the best day in the year to bud prune Japanese black pine bonsai.]

Mikio Oshima, International Bonsai, 1983/No. 1, pg. 16
"Mikio Oshima watering Japanese black pine bonsai."
(Photo by W.N. Valavanis)
(International Bonsai, IBA, 1983/No. 1, pg. 16)

("Mikio Oshima" by William N. Valavanis, International Bonsai, IBA, 1983/No. 1, pp. 16-17; Mikio Oshima biography, International Bonsai, IBA, 1986/No. 2, pg. 13)   SEE ALSO: Jan 28

1972 -- The California Bonsai Society held its 15th Annual Exhibition beginning today and running through the 28th.  This was in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Museum of Science and Technology which sponsors the event.  There was a special feature showing of loaned bonsai from the Japanese Imperial Household.  [In conjunction with the show, on May 20 the County of Los Angeles would award John Naka a commendation "for his outstanding contributions to the Japanese-American friendship, by providing the people of Los Angeles and the Nation with the ability to understand and appreciate the beauty and significance of Bonsai Culture."]  (Bonsai Magazine, BCI, December 1971, pg. 4; Bonsai, BCI, July/August 1978, pg. 197)   SEE ALSO Mar 3, Apr 10.

2008 -- Masao (Mas) Takanashi died.  (Born in the southern California suburb of Glendale in 1921, at age 5 his parents sent him to Japan for his education.  He returned to San Diego, CA at age 18, just in time for WWII.  He and his family were confined in the Poston, AZ Relocation Center.  Mas and his wife-to-be, Dawn, had become acquainted before the war and regularly saw each other during the Arizona internment.  They later married in Yuma, AZ.  In 1951 Takanashi Nursery was started.  With the guidance of John Naka, the San Diego Bonsai Club was founded in 1965 by Mas and eight of his confederates.  With his son Marty he created Takanashi Landscape in 1975.  Mas was then involved from conception with the building of the Wild Animal Park Bonsai Pavilion in San Diego. He designed the Japanese-inspired landscape, and donated several of his bonsai to the collection.  Over the years he was always ready, willing, and able to give guidance to any one who declared interest in the arts of bonsai, suiseki, sumie, or Japanese singing.  Mas assembled a fine collection of bonsai, but was known in San Diego as "Mr. Viewing Stone," always on the watch for a good uncut stone or two.  He was awarded the GSBF Circle of Sensei award at the Fall 2007 Convention.  Mas retired from Takanashi Landscape in April 2008.)  [The San Diego Bonsai Club would have a special tribute to their late sensei at their Sept. 2008 show.]  (Sulivan, Cary  "Masao (Mas) Takanashi," Golden Statements, GSBF, September/October 2008, pg. 10)   SEE ALSO: Mar 3, Apr 10, Aug 15.

2011 -- The first celebration of World Bonsai Day was held today.  (In 2010 the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) established the day to be observed annually on the second Saturday of May in celebration of the legacy of bonsai master and WBFF founder Saburo Katō (May 15, 1915 - Feb. 8, 2008).)  The Day offers the opportunity to bring all bonsai people together for one day to promote and further bonsai awareness, appreciation and friendship throughout the world.  The Day is dedicated Saburo Katō's belief that bonsai has the power to unite people by acting as a bridge to international friendship and peace.  [Each subsequent year would see more groups and events participating in the celebration on this Day.]

World Bonsai Day Logo

("World Bonsai Friendship Federation,"; "World Bonsai Day,"; "World Bonsai Day,"    SEE ALSO: May 15.

15 1915 -- Tomekichi Katō, an outstanding master and second-generation proprietor of the Mansei-En Bonsai Garden, welcomed his firstborn son, Saburō, into the world.  [The child would grow up assisting his father in clearing the forest for the Omiya Bonsai Village in the mid 1920s, help develop the techniques for successful cultivation of Ezo spruce (Picea glehni) as bonsai in the 1930s, and, after the elder's death in 1946, manage the family business as a prelude to his eventual international influence on the art.]   ("Saburo Kato: The Gentle Spirit of International Bonsai and Peace" by David W. Fukumoto, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 22, No. 4, Winter 1988, pg. 6.)   SEE ALSO: Jan 4, Apr 19, May 14, Oct 15, Nov 3, Nov 20

1950 -- Brussel Martin was born.  [When he would be five years old, he'd be instantly captivated by several species of bonsai his father would bring back from a California business trip.  As a teenager, he would begin to seriously study the art of bonsai.  What started as an artistic endeavor in his parents' backyard would quickly grow into a business when, in the 1970s, Brussel would found a small nursery (originally in the Memphis suburb of Germantown), begin selling bonsai through the mail, and travel to shows across the country.  In the early 1980s he would be making annual buying trips to Asia, supplying his larger nursery in Olive Branch, MS.  (This is some twenty minutes south of Memphis, which is in southwestern Tennessee with a Federal Express airport hub.)  Beginning in 1987 he would host a Spring Rendezvous with various national and internaltion teachers conducting the workshops.  Brussel also occasionally would lecture and demonstrate at various club meetings and other bonsai venues.  In 1990 he would donate a Trident maple forest (Acer buergerianum) to the U.S. National Arboretum North America Collection.  Brussel's Bonsai Nursery would become the largest importer and grower of bonsai in America on 18 acres with offices, retail store, bonsai library, display gardens, greenhouses, packing facility and shipping area.  About 90 percent of the nursery's business would be conducted nationally over the Internet and would have very little walk-in business.  Pots, tools and accessories would complement the trees ranging from novice starter material to master specimens.  See also this Art of Bonsai Project Interview.]

Brussel Martin, Photo by Walter Pall, courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Brussel Martin, 061206.
(Photo by Walter Pall, courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

("Brussel's Bonsai Nursery,"; Covington, Jimmie  "Brussel's Nursery is place for bonsai," May 25, 2008,; "The Story of Brussel's Bonsai Nursery," "Product Description,"; "Welcome," "SeaClaire Enterprises,"; Shaw, Jess  "The History of Brussels Bonsai," article cube   SEE ALSO: May 23

1958 -- Salvatore Liporace was born in Belvedere Marittimo (Cosenza), southwest Italy (just above the "toe" of the "boot."  [He would establish a school entirely devoted to bonsai, the Studio Botanico in Milan, in 1986 and it would become well known as a center of excellence in Europe.  His students, devoted to him and to his philosophy of "becoming one" with the tree, would successfully compete in the European Bonsai Association New Talent Contest and the BCI Ben Oki International Design Award competition.  Salvatore would teach bonsai on radio and television, perform demonstrations and hold workshops -- even at the University of Architecture in Milan and the University "La Sapienze" in Rome.  Contributing articles to European and American bonsai publications, he would also be a founding member and board member of the Collegio Nazionale Istruttori Bonsai e Suiseki (IBS).  He would go on to become the first bonsai artist with schools in the USA, Spain, Portugal, France, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Poland, and Italy.]

Salvatore Liporace, 060901
Salvatore Liporace, 06/09/2001.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

(Personal e-mail from Marco Favero to RJB, June 10, 2002; "Bonsai on Board: BCI 2001, The Headliners," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, March/April 2001, pg. 20; Bloch, Farrand  "The French connection," Bonsai Focus, 4/2008, July-August, #116, pg. 59)   SEE ALSO: Apr 12

1985 -- The Bonsai Museum in Heidelberg, south-western Germany, opened in the city's northwest district of Wieblingen.  Over many years, Paul Lesniewicz, a pioneer in the German bonsai interest, founder and creator of the museum, had collected rare, extraordinary, beautiful and very old bonsai trees from all over the world.  His large nursery, Bonsai-Centrum, had been opened at least seven years and was the meeting place of European bonsai enthusiasts.  The nursery was now joined by its crown jewel, the Museum.  The Museum contained 80-100 examples of the small trees, often only a few centimetres high, including coniferous and deciduous trees, outdoor and indoor plants.  Visitors could see unusual specimens, trees and tree groups that are almost 100 years old, as well as miniature versions of rock garden, forest and individual trees from different countries.  The art of bonsai trimming made an impressive feature of the Museum and a video helped explain the details.  Visitors could purchase specimens of their favourite bonsai from the adjacent nursery.  [Many great bonsai masters would visit this Museum and conduct workshops there.  Seminars would be held on Saturdays and Sundays.  Potter Peter Krebs, who Paul mentored, would become curator for Paul's very large collection of antique Chinese pots, as well as for three years the curator of the famous Bonsai Museum.  Then Marc Noelanders would be custodian of the Museum in the early 2000s (and also of the collection of the Queen of Belgium].
     (Paul had been born in Heidelberg in 1941.  Working with bonsai by the mid-1960s, he then authored eighteen titles and translations beginning in 1980 (and two more co-authored).  Probably his most remarkable book was the large format Die Welt des Bonsai (The World of Bonsai, 1990) which Paul edited in 1982 with photographs by Eberhard Grames.)
     (At the Expo '70 Osaka World Fair, the Nippon Bonsai Association had hosted an outstanding bonsai exhibit that introduced the world to the beauty of bonsai.  Bonsai was only a small part of the world fair but because the exhibition was open for many months, more international visitors were exposed to bonsai than ever before.  International interest in bonsai surged.  Expo '70 brought Saburō Katō and the Japanese bonsai community together with Hawaii's Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro, California's John Naka, Germany's Paul Lesniewicz, India's Nikunj Parehk, and many others who became a unique generation of international bonsai leaders.  In 1982, at the invitation of Paul, representatives of bonsai clubs from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Belgium came together during the 1st European Bonsai Convention at Heidelberg with a view to informally discuss the possibility of founding a European Bonsai Association.  At the occasion of the 2nd British Bonsai Convention the following year a general concept for the future association was accepted and a rough outline of a constitution was drafted.  The first Annual General Meeting of the EBA at Mannheim in 1984 decided to appoint a Committee (Peter Brown as President) with the aim to take care of EBA's formal constitution and by-laws.  One year more and the EBA Joined the Nippon Bonsai Association in discussing NBA's intention to organise a World Bonsai Convention, to be held in Japan in April 1989, as well as the founding of a World Bonsai Friendship Federation which had been proposed already in 1980.  At the 1987 International Bonsai & Suiseki Exhibition at the Expo '70 Osaka Memorial Park, a steering committee for the establishment of a world bonsai organization met for two days.  The committee included John Naka (California Bonsai Society), Ted Tsukiyama (Hawaii Bonsai Association), Peter Brown (European Bonsai Association), and Paul (German Bonsai Club).  Representing the Nippon Bonsai Association were its chairman Saburo Kato and seven directors.  Then in 1989 in Omiya, Japan, the inaugural WBFF meeting was held on the first day of the first World Bonsai Convention there.  The meeting was chaired by the WBFF legal consultant Ted Tsukiyama, who was also the president of the Hawaii Bonsai Association.  Representatives of seven member regions participated: Peter Brown (Europe), Frank Hocking (Australia/New Zealand), Saburo Kato (Japan), Lee Chul-ho (Asia-Pacific), John Naka (North America), Nikunj Parekh (India) and Su Xue Hen (China).  Sigmund Dreilinger, the president of Bonsai Clubs International, and Paul, the president of the German Bonsai Club, were named consultants and also participated along with other observers.  The By-Laws and Charter prepared by the Steering Committee were unanimously adopted and signed.  Saburo Kato (Nippon Bonsai Association chairman) was elected WBFF chairman and John Naka (North America Bonsai Federation president) was elected WBFF vice-chairman.)
     [The Bonsai-Centrum Museum would have a web site from 1997 through 2008.  Paul would leave Germany, and emigrate to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, severing all contact with his friends and associates.  A new owner would take over the center a few years ago, the collections there would be "scattered to the winds," and the once international reputation would need to be re-established.]

Paul Lesniewicz
(photo from Peter Krebs' tribute page)

(Personal e-mails to RJB from Peter Krebs, 16 and 17 Jan 2011; "Bonsai News of Houston," September 2002, pg. 42; "Paul Lesniewicz,"; "Gallery: The Bonsai Pottery of Peter Krebs,";; "The History of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF),"; "European Bonsai Association History,"    SEE ALSO:  Apr 9, Sep Also, Dec 13, Dec 29

2009 -- Jean Carroll Smith died at the age of 83.  (Jean was a founding member of the Ft. Walton Beach Bonsai Society (1972) and Bonsai Societies of Florida (1973).  She held many offices in her home club and was the second president of BSF.  She was president of Bonsai Clubs International, and editor of its magazine from 1986 through 1996.  The National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. dedicated the Chinese Scholar's Studio at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in the name of Jean C. Smith.  She received numerous honors and accolades over the years for her tireless efforts in the bonsai community.)

Donna S. Banting and Jean C. Smith, BCI Bonsai, November/December 1986, pg. 19
"Incoming BCI President Donna S. Banting.
Outgoing President, Jean C. Smith"
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXV, No. 6, November/December 1986, pg. 19)

Jean Smith, 070502, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Jean Smith, 07/05/2002.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

(Fabian, Lynn  "Jean Carroll Smith 1925 - 2009", Bonsai Societies of Florida, May 18, 2009,   SEE ALSO:  Dec 17

2011 -- Daizo Iwasaki passed away at age 94.  (He spent his life sharing his love and passion of bonsai with the entire bonsai community.  A native of Shikoku Island in southern Japan, he grew up surrounded by trees and plants cared for by his grandparents.  He often collected seedlings for future bonsai.  Upon his return from Mainland China after being drafted for the Pacific War, Iwasaki decided to grow bonsai to comfort his uneasy state of mind during the war.  Over a two year period he sowed 12.8 million Japanese five-needle pine seed from nearby Mt. Ishizuchi in a watermelon field he owned.  Less than half germinated -- but he still had some 5 million to be cultivated for bonsai in his fairly simple unnamed nursery.  In July 1993 Takasago-An Bonsai Garden at his home in Niihama on the north-central coast of Shikoku Island was formally named and opened.  This was truly the most spectacular garden in the world of bonsai, a paradise of masterpiece bonsai and beautifully trained garden trees (many imported) in the Japanese garden with collected antique stone lanterns, stepping stones and basins which surround the reception house.  A mountain stroll garden was built up; several garden areas devoted to roses, peonies, chrysanthemums, and other flowers were added; a large Koi pond was dug and enlargened a year later; a famous old tea house was restored on the property.  On the grounds Iwasaki had collected 30,000 specimens, 100 of them of high quality and 20 deemed "important masterpieces" by the Nippon Bonsai Association.  He employed over 20 people to care for all of this, including artist and skilled grafter Yuji Hoshikawa.  Iwasaki's favorite trees included Seidai, a 300-year-old Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii) collected during the Taisho era (1912-26) and exhibited nationally in 1970.  The "Takasago-An Dry Landscape Garden" was created to express the deep traditional Japanese culture with the lush mountain green of the magnificent Shikoku Mountain Range region (opposite the Inland Sea) as a background.  In this garden there are numerous famous old trees such as the Shimpaku (Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii), Pine (Pinus spp.), Ichii (Taxus cuspidata), Maki (Podocarpus macrophylla), Tosho (Juniperus rigida), Hiragi (Osmanthus heterophyllus), and Gaya as well as stone lanterns which are about 300-1000 years old.  In addition, there are 500 trees which are 150-200 years of age and arranged to evoke the "53 stages of the Tokaido road" paintings drawn by the famous Edo-era artist, Hiroshige.  The dry landscape garden was arranged with rocks and sand to express the flow of the water in a river.  Iwasaki's wife Naemi is a bonsai connoiseur and was also a Vice-President of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation.  Iwasaki was chairman and chief executive of Nangoku Sangyo, which owns and manages leisure and real estate properties in Japan, Hawaii, Guam, and other locales.  In 1995 he published a limited-edition book Japanese and English in which he wrote that he had collected "items according to my preference and not according to the value of the bonsai."  Although Iwasaki was elderly he was still active with bonsai activities and traveled throughout the world promoting and supporting the hobby he was so passionate about.  At the time of his death he was the Organizing Committee Honorary Chairman of the 11th Asia-Pacific Conference, scheduled to take place 18 - 21 Nov 2011 some 50 miles to the east at Takamatsu.  A visit to his garden was scheduled to happen on the last day of this ASPAC.  A Danish interview with English subtitles can be seen here.)

Daizo Iwasaki, 071205, by Morten Albek, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Daizo Iwasaki, 07/12/05, by Morten Albek.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

("Sad News For the Bonsai World," Internet Bonsai Club forum posting by William N. Valavanis, May 19, 2011,; Lambert, Emily with Kiyoe Minami  "Bonsai!" Forbes Asia Life, 13 Feb, 2006,;Valavanis, William N.  "A visit to the Takasago-An Bonsai Garden of Daizo Iwasaki," International Bonsai, 2011/No. 1, pp. 20-25; "A message from the Honorary Chairman of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation," Feb 7, 2011,   SEE ALSO: 
16 2004 -- Wilma Swain died.  (She was from Washington state where she graduated with a Masters in Science in Botany.  She married a Canadian biochemist, Lyle A. Swain, and lived in Prince Rupert and later Vancouver.  Wilma loved to travel and studied bonsai for a year in Japan and China.  She became active in the Toronto Bonsai Society and taught bonsai at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto.  She was employed as a junior high school librarian  She was elected to the board of directors of Bonsai Clubs International in the 1970s.  Wilma then served as its recording secretary, 3rd vice-president (1977-78), 2nd v-p (1979-80), 1st v-p (1981) and president (1982-83).)

Wilma Swain, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, January/February 1984, pg. 19
Wilma Swain (Bonsai Magazine, BCI, January/February 1984, pg. 19)

Wilma Swain, John Naka, Marion Gyllenswann, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, May/June 1984, pg. 27
NBF Reception to Honor John Y. Naka, March 7, 1984,
front row L to R: Wilma Swain, John Naka, Marion Gyllenswann
Bonsai Magazine, BCI, May/June 1984, pg. 27)

("Bonsai News & Notes," submitted by June Campbell of Canada, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 43, No. 3, July/August/September 2004, pg. 46; "BCI'S Canadian Vice President," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XVI, No. 8, October 1977, pg. 240)
17 1961 -- This year's Chelsea Flower Show opened to the public today (to Fellows and Associates of the Royal Horticultural Society yesterday) and ran until the 19th.  Six bonsai trees were imported especially from Japan for the purpose of being exhibited for the first time at this famous event in London.  [The general public would be so interested in the trees that Ian Melville Clark, who organized the exhibit, would arrange a meeting for all interested parties.  As a result of this meeting, the Bonsai Group -- later renamed Bonsai Kai -- of the Japan Society of London would be formed.  From that beginning, the group would exhibit at the Chelsea Show every year.  At the 1973 and 1974 shows the group's displays would win the top award of a gold medal.]  ("Bonsai at the Chelsea Show," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 9, No. 3, Fall 1975, pp. 64-65 with three b&w photos from 1974 Show; private e-mail to RJB from Clare Greene of the RHS, Sept. 19, 2003)   SEE ALSO:  Nov 6

2002 -- The Katō Stroll Garden was officially dedicated as part of the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, which would run through the 19th at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at Washington, D.C.'s National Arboretum.  The garden, most prominently colored by maples and blooming azaleas, honored the five generations of bonsai enthusiasts of the Katō family in Japan who have done so much to promote the art throughout the world.  [Some 161 persons from the U.S., Japan, Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands would participate in the Symposium, which would be rescheduled from the end of Oct. 2001 due to the events of September 11.  The Symposium was generously underwritten by Mary E. Mrose.]   (RJB and program page from the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, May 18, 2002, Washington, D.C.)   SEE ALSO:  Mar 27, May 2, Jun 9, Aug 26, Sep 30, Oct 1, Oct 15

19 1993 -- Katherine (Kathy) Shaner of San Jose, CA became the first non-Japanese citizen and the first woman to be awarded a certificate of Bonsai Master (sensei) by the Nihon Bonsai Kyodo Kumiai.  Kathy received one of only three certificates awarded that year.  (She originally had wanted to improve her home landscape and, not finding a course on Japanese Gardens, registered in 1983 for a local adult education course in bonsai.  Through those sessions she located the Midori Bonsai Club.  She and her husband Alex went on to join ten California clubs to learn under a variety of masters and teachers.  The Golden State Bonsai Federation's then fledging intern education program made it possible for Kathy, beginning on June 26, 1989, to apprentice with Yasuo Mitsuya, one of Japan's outstanding artists and highly regarded there as a master of Gendai (contemporary form) bonsai training.  Mitsuya-san had been the very first student of Toshinori Suzuki -- and thus Toshinori's father and teacher Saichi also was involved in his education.  Excerpts from the diary Kathy kept while at the Toyohashi-City, Aichi Prefecture nursery, Tokai-en, were published in issues of the GSBF Golden Statements and ABS Bonsai Journal (Eight parts from Spring 1991 through Winter 1992).  Toyohashi is about 148 miles (239 km) west-southwest of Tokyo and 94 miles (152 km) east-southeast of Kyoto.  Activities would include yard work, tree work on mostly conifers (especially black pines and needle junipers, tosho, sensei's favorite) and varying with the season, going to clients to work on trees, moving trees before approaching typhoons, prepping trees and stands for shows and taking same to shows, sightseeing, studying old books and magazines; some cooking, housework, puppies, and various persons' health issues.)
     [Returning to the U.S., she would become a sought-after speaker and demonstrator.  She would use her knowledge and ability to find the "soul of the tree" (as Mr. Mitsuya would put it) to teach her students in a clear and understandable way.  In her own words, to "be able to read the storyline of the tree," and if you understand the story [of how nature shapes the tree], you can get the tree to develop along the lines of that story.  Her many bonsai activities would include conducting seminars, full-day workshops, critiques, lecturing on-site and working on private collections throughout the United States.  Kathy would be the resident bonsai master at the El Dorado Bonsai School which would open in early 1999.  Sitting among the trees on a beautiful 52-acre campus in Placerville, California, this would be the first bonsai school in the United States to feature Japanese-accredited bonsai master instructors.  She would also be the curator of the 150-tree Golden State Bonsai Collection-North at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California which would open in the fall of 1999.  She would be a featured speaker at the 2004 BCI Convention, the 5th World Bonsai Convention in 2005, the 1st U.S. National Exhibition in 2008, and a guest artist each year at the annual Rendezvous held by Brussel's Bonsai Nursery.  Internationally-renown bonsai master Yasuo Mitsuya, teacher to many students in California and other states such as Kenji Miyata, Dennis Makishima, Cheryl Manning, Boon Manakitivipart, David DeGroot, and Gordon Deeg, would occasionally teach in the Golden State alongside Kathy.]

Kathy Shaner with a Boxwood, 061804, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Kathy Shaner with a Boxwood, 06/18/2004.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

(Bonsai Today, No. 27, pg. 4; "Profiles Of The Stars At IBC '94, Part II," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, July/August 1994, pg. 16; Shaner, Kathy  "Diary From Japan," "Editor's Note" and "About the Author," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 1991, pp. 18, 21; conversation with Kathy by RJB 06/19/2010, Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society show; "Kathy Shaner," 5th World Bonsai Convention,; "GSBF Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt,"; "Special Educational Programs," "Carolina Bonsai Expo,"    SEE ALSO: Jan 28, May 20, May 23, Oct 11, Nov 6

2004 -- Grandmaster John Yoshio Naka died at the age of 89.
20 1916 -- Miyagawa (Makuzu) Kōzan died in Dangozaka, Tokyo.  (He had been born in Kyoto into a potter's family as the 4th son of Nagaheiei (Makuzu Chōzō) on Jan. 6, 1842.  He came from a long line of potters based in Kyoto and took over the family business in 1860, at the age of eighteen when both his father and older brother died within a short period.  In 1870 Kōzan moved to Yokohama and the following year he opened the Majuzu Kiln for his workshop.  At the time, china and porcelain were leading export items.  Products designed for export were being created in areas throughout Japan in keeping with the national policy of "enriching the nation and strengthening the army" to transform Japan from an isolated feudal state to a modern nation by the acquisition of modern industrial technology from the West, the promotion of Japanese culture abroad, and the encouragement of international commerce.  Kōzan seems to have arrived at his artistic height during the 1880s.  In the earlier days he managed successfully to cater to new foreign tastes using largely traditional methods, and then when export figures plummetted by the early 1880s he turned back to the domestic market and took advantage of newly imported Western technology to create novel styles of high-fired, glazed porcelain designed to appeal to the changing tastes of the Western market.  He transferred his Makuzu Kiln to Hannosuke in 1888.  In 1896 he was appointed as an Imperial Artist.  Kōzan received many awards throughout the Meiji Period.  At the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition he participated for the first time on the international arena and he received a bronze medal.  At the 1878 in Paris International Exposition, he was given the gold; 1879 Sydney, Australia, the silver; 1880 Melbourne, the bronze; 1883 Amsterdam, the silver; 1888 Barcelona, the silver; 1889 Paris, the gold; 1893 Chicago, the gold; 1894 San Francisco, the gold; 1900 Paris, grand prix ; and the 1904 St. Louis, the honorary grand prize.  He also exhibited at the 1905 Liège; the 1909 Seattle; the 1910 Japan-British; and the 1915 San Francisco.  [cf. Expositions known to have had bonsai present]  Plus he participated at a dozen major exhibitions in Japan and served on a number of societies and associations to further various arts.  He was one of the few Japanese potters to escape the first-time-ever criticism in 1900 Paris, which was a watershed for Japanese ceramics.  Art Nouveau was then the new influential design movement in Europe which advocated singleness of design and unity of vessel shape and decoration.  This stimulated calls for improvement in design quality within the Japanese ceramic industry and an intense internal debate over the role and function of ceramics.  A pioneer in the field of ceramic design, Kōzan was stimulated by the Paris Exposition to extend the creative boundaries of his ware even further.  He continued to produce works of art until his death.  Pieces signed "Makuzu Kōzan" in various hands seem to have been made right up until the first decades of the 20th century.  In the world of pottery, Kōzan led the field from the start of the Meiji Period to the very end (1868 - 1912).)
     [Hanzan (Kōzan's stepson and nephew, born Hannosuke) would take charge of the studio in 1917, although he had much influenced the output from circa 1895.  Hanzan would have two sons: Katsunosuke (aka Kōzan III), who would do little to drive the studio forward between 1940 and his death during the bombing raid on Yokohama in 1945 (which would also destroy his kiln and showroom and kill his family and employees), and Tomonosuke (aka Kōzan IV, younger brother to Kōzan III), who would revive the kiln and head the studio until his death in 1959.  At that time the Makuzu workshop would close forever.]

Miyagawa Kozan

     Why this is important to us: One of the greatest potters of the Meiji Era, Kōzan was also renowned in certain circles for his bonsai pots, but he sold them under very special conditions.  He only made these pots on order, and only if the buyer promised not to keep any bonsai in them.  As a result there were very few bonsai pots made by this remarkable potter, and only a very few exist today.
(Bonsai Today, No. 20, pg. 64 which lists name as Shinkatsu Kazan; correction in Bonsai Today, No. 22, pg. 4; "Japanese 'Makuzu Kozan' piece", ;  Kazuo Seki and Kazuo Yoshida "An Outline of Miyagawa Kozan and his Works," ; Pollard, Clare  Master Potter of Meiji Japan, Makuzu Kōzan (1842-1916) and his Workshop (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 4, 77, 80, 87, 116, 146-150; image from pg. 2)

1984 -- The first episode of a 13-part series "The Art of Chinese Bonsai in Taiwan" was broadcast on public television there.  The narration was provided by Prof. Amy Liang and the series was originally shown over a four month period.  Part of a government sponsored national plant-beautification project, the series was re-telecast due to an overwhelming viewer response. (The Living Art of Bonsai by Amy Liang, Sterling, 1992, pg. 106)  SEE ALSO: Mar 4, Jun 1

1991 -- Bonsai master Saichi Suzuki died in Okazaki, Japan at age 89.  He was one of the foremost authorities on pine bonsai and introduced the "Zuisho" Japanese five-needle pine. (Valavanis, William N.  "Through the Pine Needles," International Bonsai, IBA, 1991/No. 3, pg. 3)   SEE ALSO: Jan 28, Jan Also, May 14

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