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


Days 1 - 10
Days 11 - 20

21 2008 -- H. Ismail Saleh passed away at age 82 in a hospital in Jakarta.  [The funeral would take place in his family cemetary in his hometown, Cirebon, West Java.]  (Saleh was the founder of the Asia Pacific Bonsai & Suiseki Convention & Exhibition, adviser of the Indonesian Bonsai Society (PPBI), special member of the Nippon Bonsai Association (NBA), President Emeritus of the Asia-Pacific Bonsai Friendship Federation (ABFF), and Director of WBFF, Asia Pacific Region.  He started the ABFF International Bonsai Photo Contest, aka the Ismail Saleh Trophy.)  ("Mr. H. Ismail Saleh SH" obituary, The Bonsai Blog of Robert Steven,, accessed 02/14/2009)   SEE ALSO: A Tribute to Ismail Saleh
22 2000 -- Connie Addenbrooke Hinds died in a retirement complex in Palo Alto, California.  (Born on April 13, 1913 in Winettka, Illinois, she married Horace Hinds, Jr. and resided in Glen Ellyn, IL for a number of years.  They became interested in the art of bonsai, relatively new to Westerners, but freezing weather took its toll on their small collection.  Moving to Mountain View, California in the early 1950s they began to study bonsai in earnest -- pausing for a brief residency in Venezuela where Horace, a dairy executive, set up powdered milk processing plants.  The couple returned to Mountain View in 1957 and then joined the Kusamura Bonsai Club in Palo Alto, once an all-Japanese group whose doors were opened to non-Japanese by Tosh Saburomaru.  Connie studied under Tosh and his new teacher Yuji Yoshimura as early as 1960 and 1961.  While Connie was the bonsai artist in the family, Horace was the CEO.  He became Bonsai Clubs Association President in 1964, and editor of the BCA Newsletter the following year.  The couple began to enlarge both the scope and subscribership, adding paid advertisements and photographs to the six pages and 200 copies per issue.  The magazine came to life in 1966 as Bonsai, Magazine of Bonsai, Japanese Gardens & Suiseki.  In two years 1,200 people were receiving the 15 page issues.  For many years the couple became worldwide organizers, promoting bonsai and helping to establish satellite groups over the globe.  In 1972 Horace became BCI Executive Secretary.  The couple's darkest hour came in November 1974 when Horace had lung surgery (from which he would recover slowly); Connie continued to put together the 26 page issues for 2,600 members.  At the height of their bonsai adventure their personal garden held over 800 trees and 50 suiseki.  In 1977, Connie and Horace stepped back to become Editors Emeriti.  Horace died in late 1991, and Connie, growing outdoor terrace bonsai, continued to attend meetings of both the Kusamura and Midori Clubs, the latter also dating from those early days.)

Horace and Connie Hinds, July 1974, receiving a proclamation honoring them by BCI president Beverly Oliver.
(Juyne M. Tayson, M.D. (ed), International Bonsai Digest Bonsai Gems, Fall 1974, pg. 89)

("BCI's Mom and Pop: Connie & Horace Hinds" by Mike Halle and John Planting, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, March/April 2001, pp. 33-34; "Leaders From The Sixties Into The Nineties," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, November/December 1993, Vol. XXXII, No. 6, pp. 23-24; "Hindsight On BCI" by Tom Heitkamp, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, January/February 1978, p. 4-5) 

2011 - The two-day 5th Chinese Bonsai Academic Forum started today at the Green Land Villa in Jiangbei District, Ningbo city (about 120 kilometers to the southeast of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province).  More than one hundred experts and masters from all over the country attended the seminar.  There was an award ceremony for the fourth group of Chinese Bonsai Masters and the second group of Chinese Bonsai Artists, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Hu LeGuo, Pan ZhongNian and He GanSun, respectively, for their contributions to the development of Chinese Bonsai.  There was a Bonsai Creation Show in the Villa in the afternoon.  (The next day, the World Bonsai Cooperation Center would be founded in Green Land Villa.  WBFF Chairman Hu YunHua and the Host of the Villa, Yuan XinYi, participated in the unveiling ceremony.)  ["The 5th Chinese Bonsai academic forum was held in Ningbo,"!pbviewbyid.action?pbcId=185]
26 2001 -- Sona Krishnan died.  (He had been born on the 14th of November 1936 at Madurai in the south of Tamilnadu, towards the southern tip of India.  [Some 420 kilometers to the northeast and on the eastern coast of India is the region's largest city, Chennai (formerly called Madras), India's fourth largest urban center.]  Sona received his education at Madurai and was qualified in Tamil Literature (the region's primary  Indian language).  By the age of fourteen he had mastered the art of writing poems and had won several accolades.  This drew his interest towards learning more, and so he then mastered the Hindi literature (the most widely used Indian Language).  He also was an artist and developed his hand at drawing and painting.  As a small boy, however, he was mostly inclined towards sculptures and wanted to someday be a sculptor.  Sona's interest in gardening and Bonsai started after his regular visits to the flower shows held across the country.  His penchant for fine arts and love for gardening led to the making of his first Bonsai in the year 1977.  There was no looking back in craftsmanship for him from then onwards.  He was the first person to try growing trees in Bricks and Laterite stones.  He also tried growing mame and miniature Bonsai in egg shells.  He was considered a person with a 'Midas touch' for whatever plant he pruned with his hands grew out to be a differently and beautifully styled tree.  He had a special interest for the 'Windswept Style.'  His most sought-after tree was the Banyan ( Ficus benghalensis ) and all his Banyan trees had Prop (aerial) roots on them.  His versatility in designing his trees made people wonder if he possessed magic wands instead of the normal tools!  Such was his style of crafting.  He held many demonstrations on the art of growing Bonsai and there were many students who learned the art from him.  He participated in numerous shows and won several prizes for consecutive years.  He could be presented with a honorarium for having taken the art which was known only to the classes to the masses.  He held shows at both educational institutions and commercial organizations.  The encouragement and support of the people led him to write a book on Bonsai.  His interest and knowledge of Bonsai culture as well as Tamil literature led to the publication of the book Tharaiai Thodatha Tharukkal ( Trees which never touch the earth ) on 5th September 1987.  This book is considered to be the first of its kind in any Indian language.  The book indeed is a blend of art and science.  (An English translation of the book is yet to be published.)  His Bonsai collections were featured on television and radio many times as well as in almost all the regional magazines in Tamilnadu.)  [Personal e-mails to RJB from Navasona Krishnan, Sona's son, 10/17 and 10/20/2002.]

2012 -- The prestigious Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize was unanimously awarded to Australian National University PhD candidate Thorhammer Beowulf.  His artwork, "The Carbon Credit Machine," collected the $10,000 acquisitive award.  The piece consists of an living upright Ficus bonsai tree, metal tubing, gauges and other instruments, which leads the viewer "on a circuitous journey through the labyrinthine apparatus, only to realise they end up where they began.  Nature is the only thing that remains.  The process is entirely redundant."  In the artist's statement to the judges, Beowulf stated that this is a commentary on environmental science.  "With growing concerns about environmental despoliation, climate change and the fragile interdependence between humans with their natural environment, this living bonsai sculpture reveals the absurd hubris of human science and technology in their belief they can replicate or improve upon nature's own perfectly functioning carbon storage and conversion machine, a tree."
     Forty-two sculptures were chosen out of a total of 494 entries by the preselection judges Guido Belgiorno-Nettis AM (Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and Director of the Transfield Foundation) and Natalie Wilson (Assistant Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of NSW).  Joining the judging for the final round was Professor Janice Reid AM (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney and Trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW).  The finalists' works were exhibited over a 16 day period at the historic 'Redleaf' Woollahra Council Chambers in Double Bay, Sydney, Australia.  None of the three judges for the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize had any particular vested interest in bonsai and their impartial decision was therefore even more significant with regards to getting bonsai (in whatever form) introduced and accepted as a legitimate art medium in the mainstream art world.
     This is the first time in Australia that a bonsai-inspired work has been accepted and then gone on to win a major public art prize in open competition against other general sculpture in Australia.  (It may also possibly be the first such occurrence internationally.)  "Of course, not everyone in the bonsai world will appreciate my non-traditional work, but those who don't will have missed the whole point, which is my attempt to break through the barriers of the hegemonic Western art establishment in order to gain recognition for any and all styles of bonsai as legitimate forms of creative artistic expression in the West.  Like many others, I believe that bonsai can and should be exhibited in Western art galleries alongside other forms of art.  It is the entrenched conservatism of the non-bonsai world towards bonsai which I am challenging and I hope others in the international bonsai community might be inspired to take this further to advance our collective interests."
     (Thor's family had kept bonsai gardens in Shanghai, China, before World War II, with his mother leaving there after the war when Mao Zedong ordered all Westerners to depart.  She then met his Scandanavian father, also an immigrant in Australia who was involved in manufacturing in Sydney.  Thor thus inherited a long tradition of bonsai knowledge, growing the trees most of his life.  As a teenager, he was further schooled in the art of bonsai by the then-Principal of the Sydney Japanese School, Mr. Yoshida, who had an abiding interest in promoting Japanese arts and culture in Australia.  In 2003 Thor curated the first bonsai exhibition of professional bonsai artists at the Art Gallery of New South Wales which was specifically a showcase exhibition of classically-styled trees and not in a competition against other non-bonsai art.  With Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Social Studies (B.Soc.Stud.) degrees from the University of Sydney, he brings an academic discipline to his ongoing pursuit of knowledge about art theory, aesthetics and bonsai.  Following the first limited commercial release of Wollemi Pines on October 2005 through an exclusive Sotheby's auction held at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, Thor created the world's first authenticated Wollemi Pine bonsai from one of these "Collectors Edition" trees.  Since the beginning of 2008, he has been enrolled as a PhD candidate at Australia's leading research university, the Australian National University (ANU), in Canberra.  The working title of his doctoral research thesis, "Nature as Art: a Comparative Cross-Cultural Discourse on the Art and Aesthetics of Bonsai", establishes a new benchmark of inquiry into the art and science of bonsai.  His eldest son, Thorsten, is a student at the University of Sydney, enrolled in a Bachelor of Horticultural Science degree, and brings horticultural and cutting-edge science to the family business, Bonsai Exotique.  Thor's other four sons have also all assisted in this family business, which is the only professional bonsai nursery in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.  Much of Bonsai Exotique's stock is grown at their bonsai farm in Canberra (some 150 miles or about 241 km to the southwest), but they only exhibit and retail trees at the Woollahra nursery in the heart of Sydney's famous established art and antique street.  They also source select trees from other bonsai growers and trade in trees and pots from bonsai collectors.  A range of bonsai is also occasionally provided for use in advertising and on film sets.  All five sons were brought up with bonsai, particularly the endless work of watering, weeding and re-potting, and still assist their father in the nursery from time to time; however, they are actually all on their separate career/lifestyle journeys.  Three are at university, one is a tradesman, and the fifth is still in high school.  Their mother, Melissa Beowulf (B.A., Dip.Ed (Syd), MArt (COFA, UNSW), is the director of the Beowulf Galleries which specialises in contemporary, Asian and Asian-inspired fine art, sculpture, ceramics and objects d'art with botanical, naturalist or ethnographic themes.  The gallery since July 2000 has actively supported and exhibited the works of emerging artists alongside established artists.  The gallery hosts Bonsai Exotique.)
     (Thor's website is Thor Beowulf, Environmental Artist.  In 2015, Bonsai Exotique was transformed into the entirely web-based Bonsai Design Studio.  The five sons took over the running of the business by July.)

Thorhammer Beowulf and RJB at the ABS/BCI Convention in Denver, CO, June 23, 2012
(Photo by Kenny Asher; we only later found out that that day was Thor's birthday)

(Personal emails to RJB from Beowulf, 03 and 05 Nov, 2012; Strachan, Julieanne  "Sculpture with living bonsai wins prestigious art prize, Canberra Times, Oct. 27, 2012.)   SEE ALSO: Aug 6
27 1994 -- The First Bonsai Symposium was held (through the 29th) in the Hotel Royal Pedregal in Mexico City.   It was organized by an established business, "Bazar de Plantas."  That organization was based on the idea, starting in 1991, of a group of bonsai enthusiasts in Mexico who put together a directory with the names of all the people that were dedicated to the art of bonsai in Mexico, be it as a hobby or commercial business.  [At the end of the Symposium, the idea of founding the Asociacion Mexicana de Bonsai would come up and it would formally be constituted one year later, in October 1995, together with the First Bonsai Exhibition in the Museum Del Carmen in Mexico City.]  ("Mexico," by Solita D. Tafur Rosade, President of FELAB , WBFF Director of Latin America Region, Latin America Region, World Bonsai Friendship Federation,, accessed 01/09/05.)

2010 -- Hiroshi Suzuki, one of the first bonsai teachers in the Bay Area and a respected suiseki artist, passed away today.  (He was born in 1928 in Fukushima, Japan where his family operated a successful orchard farm.  Hiroshi came to the U.S. in 1957 to work in the Watsonville, California area, utilizing his orchard farm experiences.  In 1960, he married Miyuki, with whom he raised two sons.  He started bonsai as a hobby on his own because of his memory of the family's bonsai in Japan.  A few years later, he joined the San Francisco Bonsai Club under the instruction of the late Bob Kato.  Soon Hiroshi and few other members became obsessed with yamadori shimpaku and went every week to the Sierras until the snow kept them out.  He also enjoyed experimenting with soil and the study of bonsai display.  At this time, the early 1970's, no one else in the bonsai community was paying any attention to these matters.  So in a pursuit of excellence and to move on to the next level in bonsai art, Hiroshi formed a new study group called Golden Gate Bonsai Club, where he was the leader and instructor.  He worked as the bonsai curator at Kyoto Koi in Santa Rosa until it closed in the mid-1980s.  He was a member of the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS), where he gave demonstrations and led workshops along with Mas Imazumi, and also the Bay Area Bonsai Associates (BABA).  Many of the Bay Area's fine sensei went to study with Hiroshi.  He gave generously of his time and expertise, leading workshops and demonstrations for GSBF conventions as well as many local clubs.  GSBF recognized him with The Circle of Sensei Award in 2004.  In addition to his bonsai work, he was also a fine suiseki collector and artist.  He joined San Francisco Suiseki Kai in 1982, during its first year.  He continued to go stone hunting and carve daiza into his final months and showed some of his best suiseki at the club's annual exhibit in August, 2010.  Hiroshi was humble, sincere and generous, donating many beautiful Sierra Junipers for Japanese Master's demonstrations, and giving generously to club members who were not able to go for yamadori.  He was also a kind, patient, and sound instructor.  In his subtle way, Hiroshi never allowed any compromise that might lower the standard of bonsai.  He was preceded in death by his wife Miyuki.  He is survived by his son Henry of San Francisco, and his son Alan, daughter-in-law Tina, and grandson Nolan of Portland.)  ("Hiroshi Suzuki, 1928 - 2010," by Janet Roth, Golden Statements, March/April 2011, pg. 9,    SEE ALSO: Nov 3, Dec 24
28 1956 -- One of John Y. Naka's first California junipers was dug today.  [Seventeen years later it would stand 27"H in a round Tokoname pot and have a trunk diameter of 7-1/2 inches.  Although the tree would be exhibited at the 4th Annual Exhibit of the California Bonsai Society (1961), it would not be pictured until it graced the first color cover of Bonsai Club International's Bonsai magazine in December 1973.]  ("Cover Story," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XII, No. 10, December 1973, pg. 3.)

1980 -- A 150-year old Ponderosa Pine ( Pinus ponderosa ), styled for seven years by Dan Robinson, was the first tree included in the new American bonsai collection.  It was unveiled at the U.S. National Arboretum on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Forest Service.  (Both the Arboretum and Forest Service are part of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture family.)  Collected from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, the tree stands 58" tall and has a 14" diameter trunk.  High altitude and lack of rainfall naturally dwarfed this presentation specimen in a region where its cousins sometimes grow over 200 feet tall and occasionally have trunks eight feet thick.  It can be expected to live for at least another century.  ( "First American Bonsai," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 14, No. 4, Winter 1980-81, pg. 80)   SEE ALSO: Jan 26, Nov 5

2013 -- Mary Holmes Bloomer died at the age of 71 after the long goodbye brought by Alzheimer's.  Her leadership qualities, fondness of people and an endearing laugh were the hallmarks of a life well lived.  She is survived by photographer husband Peter (with whom she wrote the book Timeless Trees, the U.S. National Bonsai Collection in 1986) and her brother, John.
("Mary Bloomer, unknown [sic] - October 28, 2013" obituary, published in Cazenovia Republican on Nov. 14, 2013,    SEE ALSO:  Dec 27
31 1975 -- Australia's First National Bonsai Convention and Show opened today in Sydney.  John Naka was the headliner for the three day event.  ("Australian National Bonsai Convention," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XIV, No. 6, July-August 1975, pg. 194)

2004 -- Former ABS president Leo Cunningham died at his home in Seattle, WA at age 89.  He was preceded in death by his only daughter and survived by his life-long wife Vernette.

Leo and Vernette Cunningham at the Nashville '87 banquet,
(ABStracts, ABS, Vol. 15, No. 3, August 1987, pg. 3)

("In Memorium...Leo Cunningham," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 38, No. 4, Winter 2004, pg. 17.)   SEE ALSO:  Jan 26, Mar 8, Oct 7

Also this month,

1927 -- An exhibition of the masterpieces of the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926 on) eras -- sponsored by  Bonsai magazine -- was held at the newly constructed Asahi Newspaper Hall in Tokyo.  This is said to be the first great public open exhibition ever held.  [These would run annually through 1933 when they would be replaced the following year by the Kokufu Ten at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.]

(Koreshoff, Deborah R.   Bonsai; Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy (Portland, OR: Timber Press, 1997), pg. 10, footnote 31 derived from Kobayashi, Norio, "History of Bonsai" -- excerpted and translated from a series of articles appearing in "Bonsai-Tsu," in Western Suburbs Bonsai Journal, Oct. 1972, pg. 10; "The Best Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibits in Japan: Where to Go and What to See," by Thomas S. Elias, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 41, No. 3, May/June 2002,  pg. 10.  A copy of this article can be found online at; photo from, Copyright ©1995 - shokoan All Rights Reserved, which gives date as September 1927. As Oct 1 was a Saturday, it is conceivable that the show was set-up/started the end of September and when on into October... We are trying to get more details.)

1965 -- The San Diego Bonsai Club was founded by twelve members as a non-profit educational corporation.  It is one of the oldest clubs in the State of California.  (By 1980 there would be eighty SDBC members, and twenty years after that there would be over three hundred members.  The SDBC would encourage its members to participate in bonsai exhibits including those at the Wild Animal Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Del Mar Fair and the annual shows in Balboa Park.)  ("About the San Diego Bonsai Club,"   SEE ALSO: May 9, May 14

1979 -- The First National Penjing Show was held in Beijing.  On display were about 1,100 pieces from 54 units in 11 provinces and municipalities.  Penjing experts from different parts of China gathered, inspecting and learning from each other's work.   (Hu Yun-hua "Bonsai in China," in Tsukiyama, Ted T. (ed.) Bonsai of the World, Book I (Japan: World Bonsai Friendship Federation, 1993), pp. 82-83)

1984 -- The China Institute in America and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden teamed up to present the first Rock Penjing exhibit in the Americas.  It was part of a U.S.-China bicentennial celebration of the opening of trade between the two countries.  There were 150 specimens on display from at least ten Provinces.  They were some of the best Chinese penjing, ranging in size from just a few inches to ten feet in length.

"Luguan stone (sandstone) with Welcoming Pine, stalactite, Saji stone (sandstone).
Extremely rare for its height in Luguan stone; over 6 million years old;
perfect in all perspectives; created by 4 penjing experts; from Guizhou Province."
(pg. 14)

"Rare blue Taihu stone (limestone). This penjing comes from the House of Wu of Hangzhou.
It has been in the Wu family for over five hundred years."
(pg. 15)

("The Art of Penjing Miniature Landscapes From China" by Hal Mahoney, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXVIII, No. 6, November/December 1989, pp. 13-15)

1986 -- The Swedish Bonsai Society (Svenska Bonsaisällskapet) was formed.  [Nineteen years later there would be about 400 members scattered around the whole country and a quarterly paper, Bonsaibladet, would be published.]   ("Information About the Swedish Bonsai Society," )

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