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


Days 1 - 10
Days 21 - 30 +

13  1944 -- Count Yorinaga Matsudaira died at age 70.  (Born in 1874, he was Sometime Speaker of the Upper House/House of Peers in Japan.  His interest in bonsai began after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 [see Sep 1 above], and he became one of the most well-known growers and collectors of miniature bonsai.  He is credited with naming very small bonsai as shohin.  His collection eventually reached a thousand specimens of excellent quality which he and his wife, Akiko the Countess, tended with great enthusiasm.  Whenever he was on a trip, he used to carry some of his favorite bonsai with him in a basket specially designed and made for the purpose.  In 1934 he was named the first president of the newly-formed Kokufu Bonsai Association.  [After he died during the war, many of his miniature bonsai would be destroyed by the bombings.  Some of them would be carried away from Tokyo to the country, to escape the dangers of war, but these would suffer because his widow was short of help, and some of the bonsai would die.  About two hundred would survive and be brought to Atami.  The Countess would write a short chapter about the collection for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's 1953 Handbook on Dwarf Potted Trees.  In 1975 a 208 page commemorative book, Matsudaira Mame Bonsai Collection Album, would be published in Japanese which would include over 230 photos of the trees, viewing stones, garden, and the couple.  The Countess would die the following year.]

Yorinaga Matsudaira

(Personal e-mail from Yukio Murata to RJB, 22 Apr 2006; personal e-mail from William N. Valavanis to RJB, 6 Sep 2011; "The Matsudaira Collection of Miniature Bonsai" by Akiko Matsudaira in Handbook on Dwarfed Potted Trees, edited by Kan Yashiroda (Brooklyn, NY; BBG; 1959 revised edition, Twenty-second printing, Oct. 1974), pp. 53-55; Hasegawa, Atsushi  "An Invitation to Explore the World of Miniature Bonsai" in "Proc. XXVI IHC - The Colloquia Presentations," Edited by N.E. Looney, Acta Hort. 642, ISHS 2004 Publication supported by Can. Int. Dev. Agency (CIDA), copy e-mailed to RJB by John Romano; Bonsai Masterpieces (Nippon Bonsai Taikan), compiled by the Japan Bonsai Society (Tokyo: Seibundō Shinkōsha Publishing Co., Ltd.; 1972, English booklet), per pg. 74, the Matsudaira's experience with and collection of bonsai began at least shortly before the '23 earthquake; image from May 1934 issue of Bonsai magazine, per William N. Valavanis in e-mails to RJB, 1 Aug and 4 Aug 2008)   SEE ALSO:  Feb 19, Dec 10
14  1986 -- California teacher Bob Kato died of cancer.  (He had been teaching formal lessons in bonsai since at least 1972.  Sei Boku Bonsai Kai was "born" on April 27, 1983 at Bob's home in Belmont, California.  This was a gathering of about 15 or so founding enthusiasts, including Shizue Baney, and pupils of Kato-sensei.  The group then met at the San Mateo Garden Center on the 4th Wednesday afterwards.  Bob conducted most of the meetings during the next three and a half years or so.  Bob is credited with developing the Golden State Bonsai Federation logo concept, and he was one of the teachers at the GSBF Sacramento Convention in November 1980.)  [A couple of years after Bob died, his widow would decide to start selling some of the bonsai and pots.  Many of his students would jump at the opportunity to own a legacy.  A Satsuki azalea 'Osakazuki' (Rhododendron indicum cv. 'Osakazuki') would be donated to the Golden State Bonsai Federation Collection North Garden in the Lake Meritt Garden Center, Oakland, CA in memory of Rose and Bob Kato.]

Bob Kato and John Naka March 1980

Bob Kato assisting John Naka at a club demo, 03/1980.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Page)

("Sei Boku Bonsai Kai," Golden Statements, May/June 2011, pg. 12;; Mike Page post to Internet Bonsai Club, Apr 16, 2010,;; photo from "A Tribute to John Naka from his North American Friends," NABF Newsletter #1, also reprinted at   SEE ALSO: Nov 6

2003 -- Kazuya Morita passed away at the age of 75.  (He had worked for the Mainichi Newspaper Company after his graduation from university. He was asked to work for the Nippon Bonsai Association and started in 1980 as the editor-in-chief for the NBA's magazine Bonsai Shunju (until 1988).  At the same time, he was very active in promoting international exchange and organizing many activities and events when Bonsai was becoming popular internationally.  He played an indispensable role for NBA, particularly for the great success of the 1st World Bonsai Convention in Saitama, Japan in 1989.  He was one of the persons who supported the establishment of WBFF.  A well-known Bonsai hobbyist, he was introduced as a hobbyist 30 years ago in a Bonsai magazine.  He never tried to enter the Kokufu Ten, the world's most prestigious exhibition, but he participated in many bonsai exhibits held by NBA.  He was a man of details and was good at Zoki (deciduous) tree bonsai.  However, for the last 10 years Mr. Morita was more involved in suiseki, especially with those called Hakkai-seki from Niigata.  He and his older and younger brothers all used to go out together for the search of good suiseki.)

Kazuya Morita, 10/2002, Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Kazuya Morita, 10/02.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

("About Kazuya Morita" by Yuji Tamura, translated by Hiromi Nakaoji, World Bonsai Friendship Federation, )
15  1969 -- The Eastern Province Bonsai Society was founded by the well-known Gwen Skinner, based in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  (The society website: )  SEE ALSO:  Mar 27

1973 -- In Tampa, delegates from ten established Florida bonsai societies came to the organizational meeting of the Bonsai Societies of Florida (BSF).  BSF was formed out of necessity because these early clubs wanted to host an International Bonsai Congress and the only way to do it was to get practice.  [So the first Florida State bonsai convention would be organized and held by BSF in 1973.  On July 2-6, 1975 in Miami, BSF would host the International Bonsai Congress '75.  Then Bonsai Clubs International would return twice for their annual convention and in 1993 it would be held in conjunction with the World Bonsai Friendship Federation's World Bonsai Convention in Orlando.  BSF, entering the next century with 28 member societies, study groups and societies at large, was the first statewide bonsai organization in the United States.  When the folks in California and then ten states in the Southeast wanted to form similar organizations, they would look to BSF for help and guidance.]  (The society website: )  SEE ALSO: Feb 25, Apr 29

2008 -- Jane Nelson, a long-time resident of Seattle, Washington, passed away following a long valiant fight with cancer.  (Jane was one of the original founders of the Puget Sound Bonsai Association in 1973, on the ABS Editorial/Publications Committee (1988-2000), ABS President (1993-95), ABS Symposium workshop leader (1998), winner of the ABS Ben Oki National Design Award in 2005, a long-time bonsai teacher and enthusiast, and a wonderful personal friend to many.)  Memorials can be found here, pp. 2-5

Jane Nelson, ABS Bonsai Journal, Fall 1993, pg. 87
Jane Nelson
(ABS Bonsai Journal, Fall 1993, pg. 87)

(Personal e-mail to RJB from Roger Case, 25 Sep 2008; Nelson, Jane "The History of the Puget Sound Bonsai Association,"; "PNBCA Bonsai Instructors,"  SEE ALSO: Mar 8
16  2001 -- A massive forest planting named "New York No Kokoro" was started as a living memorial to those who died in the events of September 11.  Bob Pressler, bonsai artist, teacher and owner of Kimura Bonsai Nursery created this with the help of at least 16 students.  Consisting of an approximately 8' x 4' slab resembling natural stone and roughly shaped like the island of Manhattan, the custom-made base represents the rock solid strength of the people of New York.  Planted on the slab are 110 live, strong, adaptable, and versatile Foemina Junipers varying in size from 4" to 46," along with two hollowed, charred dead trunks 10" and 12" high of very old bonsai.  The number of trees stands for the number of floors of the World Trade Center.  [The final planting would be completed on October 14.  The forest would be on display at Kimura Bonsai Nursery until the spring of 2002 to insure a successful recovery from the transplanting and shaping process before traveling to New York City.  The tax-deductible September 11th Living Memorial Bonsai Fund (c/o Kimura Bonsai Nursery, 17230 Roscoe Blvd., Northridge, CA  91325) was established to raise the necessary funds for the transportation, maintenance of, and construction of a permanent display for the piece.]

Bob Pressler by Walter Pall Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07
Bob Pressler with "New York No Kokoro" by Walter Pall, 03/04/05
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

("New York No Kokoro (The Heart of New York)" by Bob Pressler, Golden Statements, GSBF, Vol. XXV, No. 1, January/February 2002, pp. 28-29)
17  1990 -- The Fuku-Bonsai Center opened for business on a beautiful 17-acre site on the island of Hawaii.  Founded by David Fukumoto, the center features nine themed gardens, including the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository, whose first tree would be put into place on Sept. 21, 1990  After a year-long shake down period a two-day grand opening celebration would be held Sept. 21-22, 1991.  [A fungus problem which had begun about 1987 would be exascerbated in the early 1990s when defective fungticide would kill off most of the nursery plants.  The Kona location would be closed and a new facility would be started in Kurtistown by the end of 1995.] ("Big Bonsai News from The Big Island," ABStracts, ABS, November 1990, pp. 1-2; "Fuku-Bonsai Center" by David Fukumoto, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Fall 1991, pp. 8-11; "Fuku-Bonsai Recovering!" by David Fukumoto, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, September/October 1995, pg. 46)  SEE ALSO: Nov 18

1997 -- Actor and clown Red Skelton died in a California hospital after a long illness at the age of 84.  (A very talented composer, writer, painter, and collector, he also was an avid gardener specializing in bonsai trees.  Some 300 specimens would be trucked from his large Palm Springs home (Sunset Zone 13, Low Desert Areas) to the one in Bel-Air (Sunset Zone 23, Thermal Belts of Southern California's Coastal Climate) when the former's weather got too hot.  When the weather cooled off, the trees were moved back.)  ("Ask the Televisionary," TV Guide Online, May 11, 2004, ;  "Goodnight, Red Skelton And May God Bless...", ;  "Red Skelton and Indepak," )

2005 -- Arthur Douglas "Doug" Hall died at age 89.  (Doug and his wife Steph were largely responsible for introducing bonsai to South Africa.  In the late 1950's, a floral exhibition was held in Johannesburg City Hall with a first-in-South Africa Ikebana exhibition.  By late Friday afternoon, only a few Ikabana exhibitors had pitched up and Bert Lacey, the then Secretary of the Transvaal Horticulture Society, phoned Doug in a panic, asking for a few bonsai to fill the space.  This event even led to a radio interview and, as a direct result, a branch of the Bonsai Society of South Africa was formed.  Doug was a founding member of the Eastern Bonsai Society in January 1972 and started holding informal meetings in Primrose, Germiston.  Initially the club insisted on running on a limited membership, but this soon had to be abolished.  Doug co-wrote with Don Black The South African Bonsai Book in 1976 (which was translated into Afrikaans the following year).  Growing Bonsai in South Africa was first published in 1988.  Doug stepped down as Secretary the next year due to ill health.  When Doug's health deteriorated to the extent that he could not look after his trees, he gave them all away.  But at some stage, the club arranged to have a "Tribute to Doug Hall" and invited everyone who had owned one of his trees to participate.  In 1996 Doug was invited to become the "Patron of the East Rand Bonsai Kai" -- which he accepted.  He had a wonderfully easy way about him.  Of Doug, people had said that he led by example and freely shared his knowledge of horticulture and bonsai alike.  He continued to help structure club meetings and handled workshops.  He played an instrumental role in the club's financial situation by coming up with excellent sought-after raffle material.  In 2002, Doug signed a copyright agreement with John Haw of Jo-Da Bonsai Distributors, who are also the sponsors, for a revision of his 1988 book.  Unfortunately Doug could not attend the launch of his book, by far the best manual for beginners in bonsai and by which students in the southern hemisphere would be allowed to reap the benefits of his acute knowledge of trees.)

Doug and Steph Hall, photo courtesy of Pam Norquay
Doug and Steph Hall
(Photo by Pam Norquay, "Doug Hall," Bonsai in South Africa, June/July 2011, pg. 8)

("News" by Don and Pam Norquoy,, accessed 10/23/2005; "Doug Hall," Bonsai in South Africa, June/July 2011 issue, pg. 8, which also has this "Picture kindly supplied by Pam Norquay")  SEE ALSO:   Mar 9
18  1910 -- Ann Kimball Pipe was born.  [Her claim to fame in the bonsai world would be a book published in 1964 by Appleton-Century entitled Bonsai, The Art of Dwarfing Trees.  A short contemporary review of her book is here, and another is here.  Her article "Shaping dwarfed trees" appeared in the Missouri Botanical Garden Bulletin, Mar-Apr 1969, pp. 24-29.  A more recent review of the book can be found here.  (This happened to be the first bonsai book RJB read back in late 1969.)
     [Also, Ann would write Reproducing Furniture in Miniature (1976) and Mastercrafting Miniature Rooms and Furniture: techniques for the serious beginner (1979).  The Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis exhibited eight 3/4"=1' scale roomboxes created by Ann in the 1970s, illustrated here.  The Nutshell News Magazine, For the Complete Miniature Hobbyist, January 1984 issue, would have her article "Innovating in Unique Scales."  Fay Zerbolio would write the article "Ann Kimball Pipe's Rooms in St. Louis" in the Dec. 2005 issue of Miniature Collector Magazine.]

("Ann K. Pipe - Death Record,"
19  1917 -- Alice Toshiko Mizunaga was born.  [She would go on to meet a young man named John Naka in 1935, marry him and be his companion for 69 years.]  (Manning, Cheryl  "Alice Naka, September 19, 1917-August 1, 2011," National Bonsai Foundation, Fall/Winter 2011 newsletter, pg. 1.)
20  1988 -- Constance Tortorici Derderian died.  (She had taken the first bonsai course the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ever offered in 1954 and became one of the country's leading proponents of subtropical bonsai.  She was guest editor of the BBG's Bonsai For Indoors Handbook (1976).  Connie was a founding member of the American Bonsai Society in 1967 and served as a director for many years.  From 1969 to 1984 she served as honorary curator of the Arnold Arboretum's Larz Anderson bonsai collection.  For her dedicated work in bonsai, in 1979 she received the Gold Medal of The Massachusetts Horticultural Society.  A highlight of Connie's tenure as curator came in the fall of 1982, when three plants from the Larz Anderson Collection were put on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate the opening of its newly renovated Asian wing.  In June 1987 the newly renovated bonsai house at the Arnold Arboretum, with an improved security system added to a structurally sound Douglas fir building whose new doors provided visitors with an unobstructed view of the collection, was dedicated to her.)

Connie Derderian 1970, from the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum
"Connie Derderian working on one of the Larz
Anderson 'Chabo-hibas' in 1970. From the Archives of the
Arnold Arboretum."
(Del Tredici, Peter  "From Temple To Terrace," Arnoldia, Vol. 64, Numbers 2-3, 2006, pg. 26)

Constance Derderian 1978 Workshop
"Constance R. Derderian points out the unique
qualities of Sea-grape for bonsai."
("Bonsai Workshops," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 12, No. 4, Winter 1979, pg. 90)

( Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum by Peter Del Tredici, (Jamaica, MA: Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, 1989), pp. 12-13; "In Memory," ABStracts, ABS, Vol. 16, No. 4, November 1988; "From Temple to Terrace, The Remarkable Journey of the Oldest Bonsai in America" by Del Tredici (Jamaica, MA: Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University: Arnoldia 64/2-3, 2006), pg. 26; McGourty, Jr., Frederick  "Letter From the Brooklyn Botanic Garden," pg. 3, Bonsai For Indoors Handbook) )   SEE ALSO: Apr 13, May 12, Aug 3

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