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


Days 1 - 10
Days 21 - 30 +

11  1929 -- James Barrett was born in Los Angeles, CA.  [Attending a number of schools in the LA area, he would finish at the technical school Frank Wiggans having learned mill carpentry.  By age 14 he would have set up his own lath house and was growing vegetables from seed.  By age 23 he would become a fireman in Alhambra, CA, serving 35 years, 17 of them as a Battalion Chief.  Early on he would have seen a "Ming tree" in the home of a friend.  Several years later he would order some elm seed by mail and begin on his own.  By 1955 he would be married, have his own house, and that fall make his first real attempt at bonsai.  His teacher would be the elderly and not very talkative Mr. Kishi at the San Gabriel Nursery.  In the spring of 1959 Jim would meet Khan Komai and initially do some woodwork at the latter's new nursery.  One day when the two of them were at the nursery someone would come in and inquire about bonsai classes.  With the help of Frank Nagata, Komai's father-in-law, a systematic presentation would be worked out and classes take place.  Jim would thus become the first non-Japanese instructor in the country to teach organized bonsai classes.  In a few years the group would form the Santa Anita Bonsai Society and Jim would be its first president.  He would chair the National Bonsai Convention '74 hosted by the California Bonsai Society, in conjunction with BCI and ABS.  Barrett would be the vice-president of BCI from 1973-74, president from 1975-76, and in 1978-79 the first president of the new Golden State Bonsai Federation in California.  He would be an ABS Director in 1983, 88, 91-94.  He would write at least eighteen articles for the BCI Bonsai magazine.  In 1975 he would begin to make bonsai pots, and by 1978 have his own kiln.  He would also become quite proficient with the dwarf mutation of the common Chinese elm ( Ulmus parvifolia ) which he named after its discover, the [John] Catlin elm.]

"Jim Barrett, Past President of BCI
and Golden State Bonsai Federation."
(BCI Bonsai Magazine, September/October 1993, pg. 54)

(Donovan, Earl H. "The Barrett Gate," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XIII, No. 5, June 1974, pp. 10-11; Land, Dorothy  "Looking Toward IBC '94/GSBF XVII," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXII, No. 5, September/October 1993, pp. 53-54; Barrett, James R. “The Catlin elm: Ulmus parvifolia "Catlin," International Bonsai, Autumn 1980, pg. 11.)   SEE ALSO: Jan 1, Feb 25, Apr Also, Jun 19.

1968 -- The Bonsai Court in the Japanese Garden (established in 1912) of the Huntington Botanical Garden was originally opened to the public.  [The court would be completely renovated in 1995 to accomodate a larger collection and to display the trees better.]  (Ann Richardson personal e-mail to RJB, July 18, 2002; "A Day at the Huntington with Ben Oki" by Donna Banting, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, January/February 2001, pp. 21, 23 which stated that the year was 1966.)
13  1901 -- Toichi Tsumura, M.F.S., gave a talk before the Japan Society in London on "Dwarf Trees."  His speech, which was illustrated with at least thirteen lantern slides, would be documented in Japan Society: Transactions, Vol. VI, Part I, pp. 2-15.
15  1899 -- An auction of Japanese dwarf trees started today in Boston.  The four-day event was sponsored by the importers Yamanaka & Co., Leonard & Co. were the auctioneers, and some 450 items were offered.  Of these, 112 were compact hinoki cypress [Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chabo-hiba'], 82 were Japanese white pine [Pinus parviflora], 49 were Podocarpus species, 43 were sago palms [Cycas revoluta], 10 were Chinese junipers [Juniperus chinensis], and 5 were maples [Acer species].  An 86-page catalogue was produced for the event with 32 illustrations of 44 of the specimens.
"In this collection, which represents years of patient labor and toil, are found many rare specimens from the most celebrated gardens of Osaka and Tokio [including at least two from Count Okuma's collection], together with a choice variety of trees skilfully trained by the most renowned masters of Japanese horticulture.  Since their arrival in this country these plants have been carefully guarded by native Japanese gardeners till they have become thoroughly acclimated, and can be grown successfully by any one who will give them an ordinary amount of attention...  As these plants have been kept in our Nursery Department for over three years, they have become thoroughly acclimated, and are in the best possible condition, as may be seen by noticing the new leaves and shoots that appear on the large majority of them."
Some of the trees were listed as being trained in various shapes: Jikkei/open cone (32 each), Mikoshi (24), Kengai/cascade (19), Nakasu/fairly tight rounded (13), Fuji Yama/tight cone (10), and Midara (1).  Some forty-four of the total were [also] said to have exposed roots.  Twenty-one specimens were noted as being grafted.  There were thirty-two compositions with two to eight plants of different or the same species.  The pots listed were Shigaraki (147 each), Seto (70), Ruri (44), Owari (41), Seiji (26), Hibiyaki (25), Awaji (22), Raku (12), Tosa (9), Ofuke (9), Idzumo (8), old Imari (7, at least one dating back to the seventeenth century), Oribe (5), Akahada (3), Namako (2), old Bizen (1, dating back to the sixteenth century), Safu of Kioto (1), and Takatori (1).  Eleven of the compositions contained a tiny bronze summer or tea house ornament.  Five of the compositions were "Camphor Grass (Accor Gramincus)," (Acorus gramineus?), three of which were growing on coral, and eight other items were trained on/over "mountain sponge (root of tree fern)."  Item No. 449 was a 150 year old stone lantern.  A free exhibition began on Monday Nov. 13 and the actual auction commenced two days later at 3:00 p.m. daily with a different lot offered each day.

"425.  Juniperus Chinincis [sic]. Golden variety; also trained by the late
Mr. Takagi; the finest juniper in our collection, and one that would be hard to duplicate
both as to size and training; a magnificent tree; height, 2 feet, 9 inches; width, 4 feet, 6 inches;
age, about 70 years; Ruri pot." (pp. 76, 78)

"450.  Chabo Hiba. Green variety; this remarkable tree was trained
by the great cedar trainer, Genbei of Tokio; this family have had
for more than 300 years the special honor of being gardeners to the
different Lords Kaga, and they own at present the finest gardens in Tokio;
this cedar was secured from these gardens, where it had been carefully trained
for over 120 years; a more magnificent specimen of the Mikoshi shape would be
difficult to find in Japan, and cannot be duplicated in the United States;
without exception the finest specimen ever brought to this country;
height, 4 feet, 6 in.; width, 5 feet, 6 inches; age, 270 to 300 years;
Shigaraki jardiniere." (pp. 84, 86)

("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. 10, 13; we are searching for a contemporary newspaper account of the auction)   SEE ALSO: May 4, May 26, Nov 6

1964 -- The first meeting of the Bonsai Society of the Carolinas was held at E. Felton Jones' newly formed Little Pines Nursery.  At the outdoor studio twelve charter members were present: business men, housewives, doctors, students and others meeting as a study group to expand their horizons in the art of bonsai.  The group's name was meant to be temporary until a more suitable Japanese name could be decided upon.  Some of Felton's bonsai displayed previously at the Charlotte Sears garden center had caught the attention of a Ms. Baker, an Ikebana enthusiast.  A series of introductions followed and Felton was invited by the Ikebana Society to exhibit some of his bonsai in their display at the 1964 South Spring Home and Flower Show.  During the week-long show thousands saw the five "little trees" on display.  A special eight people, one-by-one, then made their way to Felton's nursery, the proprietor having recently returned to his native North Carolina after studying bonsai with John Naka and Frank Nagata in California. The study group developed into a club whose original fifteen-person-limit membership (all that could fit into the nursery at one time) was by current member recommendation only.  [The group, which is still going strong and has more than fifteen members, apparently still hasn't decided on a Japanese name...]  (The society website: )  SEE ALSO: Jan 7, Apr 4, Apr Also, Aug 19

1995 -- The Shanghai Botanical Gardens opened a new penjing display pavilion.  For several centuries the garden has been regarded by the Chinese as the center of the best penjing cultivation.  It was established on the site of the Longhua nursery after 1974 and the garden was opened to the public in April 1978.  The masterpieces therein come from many regions in China although the trees predominantly conform to the Shanghai School of Penjing.  The extensive new outdoor display area has expansive pathways and generous use of space in the staging of the trees, each on its own stone pedestal.  The window and skylight-filled octagonal indoor display building holds many smaller trees.  [The Longhua nursery was established in 1954 to raise ornamentals for planting in and around Shanghai municipality.  Of its 175 acres, 125 were devoted to raising almost two hundred thousand saplings of  more than 240 species of trees.  It had also been a site for long and arduous training in the ancient and highly specialized art of penzai.  Student-gardeners there spent up to ten years learning the theory and practice.  In order to reproduce regional styles they needed to be able to read classical literature and therefore studied language and calligraphy.  They learned to draw and to paint -- Longhua had the services of several visiting artists as well as its own resident treacher of painting -- and the student-gardeners, of course, also acquired the techniques of tree-breeding, grafting, and propagation, in addition to the specialized practices of manipulation.] ("Shanghai Botanical Gardens" by Carl Morrow, Bonsai Magazine, BSI, Jan/Feb 1997, pp. 32-36; Forestry in Communist China by S.D. Richardson; Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press; 1966, pp. 75, 155, which spelled the nursery's name as "Lon Wha"; a photo of a corner of the garden is shown on pp. 136-137 of Yunhua Hu's Penjing, The Chinese Art of Miniature Gardens )

16  1991 -- Robert "Bob" Watson, the dean of suiseki collectors in Southern California, died at age 79. ("ROBERTTRU E WATSON," Persons born on 6 February 1912, Social Security Records by Birthdate)   SEE ALSO: Feb 6
17  2002 -- Hirosumi Ichihara, Chairman of the Japan Satsuki Association, died in a car accident.  (A prominent Tokyo businessman, Ichihara was the bonsai leader who organized the gift of the seven outstanding satsuki azaleas to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in March 2002.) ("Museum Notes," NBF Bulletin, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Winter 2002, pg.7)
18  1988 -- Dr. Horace Freestone Clay died in Hawaii.  (Born in 1918, he had received his B.S. in 1950 in Hawaii, M.S. 1952 in Massachusetts and Ph.D. 1958 in Chicago.  In 1928, Albert W. Duvel had discovered several trees of what would be known as Hibiscus clayi that had been damaged by cattle (Bos taurus) and brought the plant species into cultivation.  Isa and Otto Degener named the species after Horace, who had brought the species to their attention (Degener and Degener 1959a).  Horace was Associate Professor of Horticulture, Officer of Special Units for the Cooperative Extension Service from 1962-63 and a horticultural professor at Leeward Community College. His popular radio program "Green & Growing" had a large loyal following and he was at every significant garden or horticultural activity.  He was well-known in Hawaii for his extensive writing, published books, and newspaper column.  Horace was a research associate in botany at Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum.  He helped found and direct Friends of Foster Garden (1961) and the Hawaii Association of Nurserymen.  He hosted a large number of garden tours to all parts of the world, but he had a special love of all things Japanese and made over 40 trips to Japan.  He appreciated the courtesy he received, the honesty and work ethic of the Japanese, and the refined understated aesthetics incorporated into all aspects of the Japanese lifestyle and culture.  Horace was a generalist who knew a lot about everything pertaining to plants.  And when he didn't know enough to answer detailed questions, he knew who to contact and introduced us to the international authority in each specialty.)
        ("Why was he so beloved by many of us from all walks of life?  At a time when Hawaii clearly had a stratified social structure, Horace was able to interact with the social elite as well as those just starting to experience social equality after Hawaii's Statehood in 1959.  This came through loud and clear in his popular radio program and in his weekly newspaper column.  He was a respected 'haole' who did everything he could to encourage the social elite to participate in 'local' community activities including bonsai and arranged for modest people like Haruo 'Papa' Kaneshiro and the older generation to be honored guests and demonstrators at high society events.  Horace was able to tease the overly stuffy matrons as 'the little old ladies in white tennis shoes' and encouraged many of us to take leadership roles that we never dreamed we could.")
        (David Fukumoto became friends with him in the mid-1960's when Horace was invited to participate in bonsai activities.  He had written a few newspaper articles about bonsai, but most of us had never met him.  He was the nicest guy and had a totally different slant on bonsai!  Horace was an invaluable resource to the bonsai community and served as president of the Hawaii Bonsai Association for the first ten years, beginning in 1970.  (The Association received its non-profit corporation status in 1972.)  Horace was a founding director of Fuku-Bonsai and he and David often talked about developing bonsai training strategies to accentuate and feature unique plant characteristics.  He played a strong role in the Fuku-Bonsai / Harold Lyon Arboretum Ficus Research Study titled: "FICUS; An Inspiration for Bonsai for Indoors."  He exposed us to international horticultural standards and taught us to appreciate the special role that Hawaii plays as an isolated mid-Pacific plant laboratory with unlimited micro-environments.  Horace especially enjoyed training plants in a manner that featured the unique characteristics of the plant and his "Walking Mangrove" masterpiece resides at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center.  During the 1970s he introduced several varieties of dwarf and miniature nandinas from Japan.)
        (He was for many years the Hawaii garden consultant for Sunset magazine.  The Hawai'i Garden, Vol. I, Tropical Exotics, and Vol. II, Tropical Shrubs, was co-authored by him and James C. Hubbard, with photographs by Rick Golt (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977 hardbound, 1987).  Other writings included co-authorship for Report of Donald C. McGuire and Horace F. Clay on the Navy's program to promote vegetation and soil conservation at Kwajalein (1954) and The armed forces market for agricultural products in Hawaii (Agricultural Experiment Station, 1967).  He authored Micronesia -- Last Pacific Bastion (Defense Technical Information Center, 1970) and the section "Gardening Here Can Be Very Easy and a Lot of Fun" in Gretchen Fischer Harshbar's McCalls's Garden Book (1968, 1987).  Additionally, in the 1960s he was a Lt. Col. and XO of the Army Reserve's 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade.)
        (When Horace was diagnosed with cancer, he was instrumental in forming the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation in 1986 and accepted a token amount to assure that his collection of twelve bonsai ukiyoe (woodblock prints) would stay in the public domain.  The MPBF co-sponsored the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository (Kurtistown, Hawaii) as the public guardian for the memorial bonsai and Fuku-Bonsai Inc., a Hawaii corporation, underwrites costs.  The Repository also includes significant pottery created by Japan's master bonsai potter Akiji Kataoka and the Horace F. Clay bonsai ukiyoe woodblock collection.)
(University of Hawaii General Catalogue 1963-64, pp. 244, 282; Kansako, Jackson  "Nandina Bonsai in Hawaii," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XIX, No. 5, June 1980, pg. 153; Woodward, Paul W. "The Natural History of Kure Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands," Atoll Research Bulletin, No. 164; Meislik, Jerry  "MAHALO -- New Life For A Ficus"; "Hawaiian Spinning Porpoise!"; McNarie, Alan  "The art of Bonsai lives on after its creators," Dec. 25, 2002, Hawaii Tribune-Herald; 'haole' paragraph per David Fukumoto in personal e-mail to RJB 7 Jan 2011; Federal Register: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 24 Plants From the Island of Kauai, HI)    SEE ALSO: Aug 16, Sep Also, Dec 13
19  1998 -- John Oldland of Perth, Western Australia announced a new website today, the Bonsai in Asia Guide Book, established so that other Bonsai enthusiasts from around the world could use this to find and see Bonsai and Suiseki while traveling throughout Asia.  [By Oct 9, 1999 it would be a page, (, and by Sep 8, 2001 it would be a unique site,  Fifteen nations would ultimately be listed with at least a few links each to local growers, merchants, and collections.]
20  1975 -- Homei Iseyama, one of three early bonsai teachers in the San Francisco Bay area, died at the age of 85 years in Alameda, CA. (    SEE ALSO: Dec 24

1976 -- A display was held at the Museum of Modern Art in Caracas, Venezuela, put on by the Club Venezolano de Bonsai.  John Naka helped arrange the exhibit.  Over three thousand people visited that first day.  The display was also covered by live television.

"John Naka arranging a Bonsai display at the show... Behind John at the right is Mercedes de Cuenca (Vice President).
The two center people are unidentified. Left is Carmencita de Rodriquez (Treasurer).  Photo courtesy of Club Ven. de Bonsai."
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XVI, No. 7, September 1977, pg. 228)

("Bonsai in South America," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Sept 1977, pg. 228)

1997 -- Max Mendel, the "Guru of Central Indiana Bonsai" for over 40 years, died at age 90.  (SSN Master File by Number; Turley, Michael "Looking Back on a Decade," pg. 1,   SEE ALSO: Sep 30

1999 -- At the JAL World Bonsai Fair held at the Miyako Messe, Kyoto, Saburō Katō was given a Gold Medal Award from Rosade Bonsai Gardens by Mrs. Solita Rosade, President of Bonsai Clubs International.  The award is given to the person who has contributed for promoting Bonsai culture worldwide. (At the Fair there were 100 photographs of the contest winners' trees along with 300 Japanese bonsai and shopping at the market during this Taikanten bonsai exhibition.)   ("JAL World Bonsai Fair '99, East Meets West,", accessed 08/23/01)  SEE ALSO:  Apr 19, May 15, Oct 15, Nov 3

Days 1 - 10
Days 21 - 30 +



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