HISTORICAL TREE SPOTLIGHT: Ezo spruce

Ezo spruce

Ezo spruce

After a journey that started in Japan and led to the White House, before eventually settling at the Museum, it’s safe to say the Ezo spruce has an amazing history. We spoke with Museum curator Michael James about the small evergreen’s impressive origin story for this month’s historical tree spotlight!

According to James, international bonsai master and philosopher Saburo Kato first presented the tree to the late Japanese Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi in 1998. The prime minister then gifted the spruce to former President Bill Clinton at a formal state dinner in Tokyo that November.

In December 1998, the tree was flown to Washington, D.C. and placed in quarantine at the National Plant Germplasm Quarantine Center, until it was released to the National Arboretum the following year.

The tree was then displayed in the White House’s blue room in 1999, when Saburo Kato personally introduced President Clinton and Prime Minister Obuchi to the sensational art of bonsai. Kato’s well-respected family was the first to establish a nursery in Omiya, Japan – called  Mansei-en – which earned a reputation as a global bonsai hub.

Tomekichi Kato II, Saburo’s father, was the first to develop the horticultural techniques necessary to cultivate the Ezo spruce as a bonsai: Saburo Kato’s spruce boasts the Formal Upright style, exhibiting the rare and highly prized Japanese concept of “Shin.”

Kato collected the tree in 1939 from Kunashir, a Japanese island with a subarctic climate. It has been in training ever since.

In its native area, which ranges from mountains in central Japan to the China-North Korea border, the spruce can grow to be a large evergreen towering at more than 100 feet tall. The tree is used to cold climates, so although it mostly grows during the four warmer months of the year, it can survive under a protective blanket of snow in winter.

The Ezo is difficult to import, as the spruce hosts a fungus known for infecting species of rhododendron and azalea, but the Museum houses three of the trees in the Japanese Pavilion.

James said one should spray the spruce’s foliage to reduce its temperature on hot days, and that the tree must always be kept moist because it grows surface roots.

“Its beauty is most spectacular in the spring, when its lime green shoots emerge from winter dormancy and contrast the dark green needles from years past,” he said.

After new shoots emerge and begin to elongate, curators carefully pinch the shoots to keep the tree in balance and maintain its good form, James said.

He added that the Ezo’s fibrous surface roots allow the tree to produce healthy and full “nebari,” or root flare, which add to the tree’s visual balance. The spruce’s fine and delicate needles are compact, which creates the impression of a tree that is over 100 feet tall when it actually stands less than four feet tall.

“Its bark has a very fine flakiness that contributes to a look of age that is in proportion to its small size as a bonsai,” James said.

Museum Hosts “Irreverent Bonsai Monk” Michael Hagedorn for World Bonsai Day

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Michael Hagedorn, a potter turned bonsai artist, will hold demonstrations at the Museum on World Bonsai Day, May 11th, 2019.

Hagedorn hails from Oregon, where he works on bonsai, teaches about his craft and keeps a bonsai blog. He said his interest in bonsai remained on the back burner for many years while he explored other disciplines, like drawing, ceramics and sculpture, that prepared him for a future in bonsai.

When he graduated from The New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University with a Master of Fine Arts, Hagedorn wanted to craft something – so he made bonsai containers for ten years. Hagedorn had taken care of bonsai since he was 15, but only late in his potter years did the trees start to become more compelling than the vessels they lived in.

“A full day could go by in the ceramics studio, and I was thinking about trees the whole time. I wasn’t concentrating on the pots,” he said. “There are only so many years that you can do that and know you need a change.”

A Background In Bonsai

Hagedorn said he jump-started his bonsai career under the tutelage of Boon Manakitivipart, an internationally recognized bonsai master.

“He was strict and I was a challenging student, willful and opinionated, but he survived me and also prepared me well for study in Japan,” Hagedorn said.

Another one of Hagedorn’s mentors was Japanese bonsai master Shinji Suzuki, the owner of the Taikan Bonsai Museum in Japan and an artist who Hagedorn said created “bonsai of haunting beauty.”

Hagedorn said his three-year apprenticeship at Suzuki’s large nursery was filled with challenging work from the beginning: he wired trees, watered half of Suzuki’s bonsai collection, welcomed clients, prepared the nursery for typhoons in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter.

His book, “Post-Dated: The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk,” details his journey through the bonsai world, which was filled with obstacles, learning moments and failures that all led to eventual triumph.

“It’s all in there,” he said. “But what was intended as ironic is the ‘monk’ part. My sempai and I were the opposite of monks – we were survivalists.”

Bonsai As Emblems Of Peace

Suzuki used to tell Hagedorn he should embrace that one of the central themes of bonsai is “peace.” Hagedorn said he watched people connect with bonsai as therapy or use the tree to forge friendships across national boundaries, and understands now why Japan has sought to equate peace and bonsai after two catastrophic world wars.

“In many ways, bonsai both offers peace and is created by it, and perishes in its absence,” he said.

These sentiments are the roots of World Bonsai Day, an internationally celebrated day of appreciation for the ancient art of bonsai as a path to peace.

Hagedorn said he used to sell pots at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum as a potter long ago, and he is looking forward to visiting the Museum again for his demonstration for World Bonsai Day next month.

Hagedorn added that he has enjoyed studying the Museum’s vast array of bonsai, as its collection is one of the most significant in the United States.

“The entire idea of a museum for small trees is a truly important thing for Westerners,” he said. “There’s an otherworldly quality about bonsai that can be riveting to people.”

Advice To Bonsai Hobbyists

Hagedorn said those looking to delve into the world of bonsai can use books for inspiration, clarification and memorization. But they should also branch out – no pun intended – and take advantage of the hundreds of easily-accessible blogs and videos that comment on recent and specific bonsai techniques.

A hobbyist’s next step is to find a trustworthy teacher who can guide them through their bonsai journey with examples, contrasts and comparisons, as the art is complex and transcends any rulebook one might try to follow.  

“Being a student is a brave act, for one will fail if you’re being at all serious about it,” he said. “Being a physical art, one needs the full quiver of experience, which is only offered in person.”

Hagedorn suggests the budding enthusiast be wary of the amount of plants they own when developing their hobby. For example, caring for five plants tends to draw too much attention to each one, but keeping too many trees will ensure that they will each remain “mediocre.” The ideal number for most hobbyists falls in the range of 20 to 30 trained bonsai, he said.

He added that hobbyists shouldn’t let maintaining bonsai become a burden – keep it fun.

“Bonsai should be a release from the pressures of life, not another cog in that wheel,” Hagedorn said. “Find people to share bonsai with that you enjoy and respect, and that will bring the same energy to the bonsai you work on.”


Learn more from Michael when he speaks at the Museum on World Bonsai Day! Learn more about the day of events here.

HISTORICAL TREE SPOTLIGHT: The Ponderosa Pine

Dan Robinson carves the dead wood on the ponderosa pine.

Dan Robinson carves the dead wood on the ponderosa pine.

While visiting the North American collection, you might notice one bonsai that stands out from the rest – but hardly like a sore thumb. Museum curator Michael James sat down with us to talk about the pine’s history and defining features.

Towering sometimes two whole feet taller than its neighboring bonsai, the ponderosa pine stands at about 56 inches tall and almost as wide. The pine tends to hold its own as a large bonsai because of its large needle size, but careful fertilization and pruning efforts may be employed to reduce its leaves, James said.

This particular pine has been in training since 1966, when U.S. Forest Service employee Dan Robinson collected the tree from a rocky region of Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington. The pine is believed to have been about 150 years old when Robinson first brought the pine home and began to train its bristly branches, James said.

“It was an extraordinary feat to get this out of the ground,” he said.

Robinson trained and cared for the pine for about 15 years and affectionately nicknamed it “Jackie Gleason Dancing” for its weaving and curving trunkline, James said. Jackie Gleason was a famous TV comedian in the 1950s and 60s who was known for a swivel-hip motion!

“It has a very strong jin that goes up into the middle of the tree, and then the trunkline drops down and curves back up over the top of that jin,” James said. “It’s kind of like a swinging look to it.”

In October 1980 the U.S. Forest Service held a special donation ceremony for the pine at the Museum in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the service, he said.

James added that when the pine first arrived, Robinson had situated the tree in a non-traditional container created from rigid styrofoam insulation Robinson had carved into the form of a stone slab and then covered with fiberglass. Robinson’s container was so buoyant that he once placed it in the water and floated the tree around the pond surrounding the National Arboretum’s Visitor Center.

Jim Barrett, a popular potter based in California, made the ceramic container that it currently resides in.

James said Museum curators need to be mindful not to overwater the tree, which is an arid and slow-growing pine. He added that the pine is well adapted to cold weather, so it can remain outside during winter in Washington, D.C. without suffering damaged cells from ice and freezing.

“A lot of care has to be given to this tree, and when a tree is this large it takes more than one person to repot it,” James said. “It would be an honor to re-pot this with Dan Robinson someday.”

FIRST CURATOR'S BLOG: Get Your Bonsai Ready, Spring is Here!

The buzzing of bees and the sweet scent of flowers fill the air at the Museum as the spring weather continues to bring us warm sunny days and refreshing rains. The buds on the trees are beginning to break and fresh tender leaves fill out what was a beautiful winter silhouette. Spring is an exciting time of year for everyone who enjoys the outdoors, although hardly anyone looks  forward to this season more than a bonsai enthusiast.

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After a long, cold winter of contemplating our many bonsai endeavors – like re-styling, keeping trees healthy and implementing new horticultural techniques – the bonsai enthusiast is eager for the last frost and the abundance of work ahead. Now that repotting season has started to wind down there are many tasks ahead.

Here at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum we have been bringing trees out of their winter protection and filling up our pavilions for the enjoyment of our visitors. This task is strenuous, but very rewarding, as the various areas of the Museum are revitalized.

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With the wonderful spring weather and new growth rapidly expanding, bonsai caretakers must carefully execute the task of watering. Fertilizing is also very important; one must start out with a humic acid and fish emulsion when the trees show signs of awakening from dormancy, then inorganic fertilizers can be used alternating with organic fertilizer.

These actions are both crucial to maintain the bonsais’ health and ensure exponential growth during the spring and the rest of the growing season.

Another very important spring task is managing the growth distribution of deciduous trees. As the new shoots expand outside of the silhouette of the intended design, they must be cut back to maintain the shape of the tree. However, one should avoid cutting back too much of the new growth, as that will drastically slow the tree’s future maturation. Instead, cutting the outer shoots and leaving interior branches to grow stronger will increase the strength within the foliage pad. This step is crucial when attempting to maintain the health of the interior branches and creating the smallest tree possible.


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As we move further into the spring season, make sure to keep up with work on your bonsai and your trees will continue to develop in the right direction. Although bonsai tasks might seem daunting and time-consuming this time of year, don’t forget to get outside enjoy the rest of the beauty that spring brings with your friends and families!


Andy Bello has been selected as the Museum’s 2019 First Curator’s Apprentice.  The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum's First Curator's Apprenticeship  for 2019 is funded by generous grants to the National Bonsai Foundation from Toyota North America and The Hill Foundation. More on Andy here.


INSIDE THE MUSEUM: A Look Into The Design of the Upper and Lower Courtyards

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Stepping into The National Bonsai Museum is an experience unlike any other. If you get the sense you’re entering into a new and whimsical world where the calming influence of nature overtakes your soul, you are not alone. In fact, it was designed to feel that way...

We sat down with Jack Sustic, a former Museum curator who served for 13 years, to learn the history behind the decades-old courtyards.

The U.S. National Arboretum staff, the National Bonsai Foundation and architecture firm Rhodeside & Harwell, Inc. first designed the courtyards in 1999 to ameliorate calls for compliance with the American with Disabilities Act and to create a more fluid path for Museum visitors to follow, Sustic said. Visitors previously entered the Museum through the cryptomeria walk into a wide open space covered with gravel, but would not know where to continue from there, he said.

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The Maria Vanzant Upper Courtyard, named for a bonsai hobbyist whose husband contributed financially to the courtyard to honor her memory, was completed in 2003.

Sustic said the upper courtyard’s towering wall and water feature were constructed to direct visitors to stop first at the Exhibits Gallery.

A large trellis system runs the length of the gallery, but a solid peaked roof covers the first opening into the gallery to help visitors identify the main entrance. The courtyard itself is flanked by the Japanese Pavilion wall and the Exhibits Gallery, creating a boxy and formal feel consistent with the design of the wall and water feature.

“The sound of the water really helps to continue the feeling of calmness and coolness that the visitor experiences as they walk through the cryptomerias and into the bright, open upper courtyard,” he said. “It really helps to set the stage for the visitor to experience the Museum in a calm, reflective and reverent manner.”

Once the visitor leaves the Chinese Pavilion, a wide stairway between the upper and lower courtyard angles toward the Japanese Pavilion entrance to prompt their next stop.

Deborah Rose, another visitor impacted by the beauty of bonsai, donated money to construct the lower courtyard in memory of her aunt and uncle who introduced her to the captivating trees. The courtyard, christened The Rose Family Garden, was completed in 2005.

“Many people when asked what is penjing will tell you that it’s quite whimsical and brings a smile to your face with freedom of expression that often surprises the visitors and sparks their imagination,” Sustic said.

He added that the team intended to design the lower courtyard to reflect those sentiments.

The Chinese Pavilion’s undulating dragon wall, which lacks the straight lines of a traditional Western wall, and the irregular shape of the planting beds and blue stone pavers create a less formal atmosphere for visitors in the lower courtyard, he said.

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“The dragon wall is unique and a fun surprise for the visitor,” Sustic said. “It has that sense of whimsy and informality that is followed through in the outline of the planting beds and shape of the blue stone.”

Plan your visit now to experience for yourself the calming environment and whimsy one encounters in the Museum’s courtyards here.

An Interview with Mindfulness Workshop Leader, IMCW's Linda Naini

Health and wellness expert emphasizes curiosity and “the power of pausing” in anticipation of upcoming meditation session

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“How often do you get in the shower and you come out and you have no idea what happened in there?”

Let's face it: modern life is frantic. We were promised that the advent of technology would free us up to spend more time doing the things we love, but the opposite often seems to ring true.

Our inboxes are overflowing. We can't keep up with texts. Our social media accounts continuously beep and buzz. We're alerted to breaking news every few minutes, causing us to feel that we’re constantly sprinting to keep up.

Thankfully, health and wellness expert Linda Naini is here to help. Turns out the secret to feeling less crazy is pressing pause on the influx of notifications and paying more attention to our surroundings.

“We are in a place where there is a lot of suffering, and a lot of the suffering is created from our disconnection from our own heart, body and mind and one another in community,” Naini says.

She says people now tend to adopt an automatic “fight, flight or freeze” mode in these troubled times. The struggle is returning to a state in which the parasympathetic nervous system is able to respond when a reaction is needed.

“If there's a car accident I need to react, but then what will happen is we continue to be in that reaction mode,” she says. “When we pause, it allows our nervous system to settle down.”

While our inbox may not be quite as dramatic as a car crash, it can sometimes feel that way.

Naini has been practicing myriad meditation techniques since she was first introduced to the Insight Meditation Community of Washington D.C. when dealing with a family tragedy. World-renowned meditation leader Tara Brach and many other IMCW teachers have served as mentors for her since then in both her personal and professional life.

“They’ve opened me up to the teachings by just their presence and their way of being,” she said. “Their encouragement is what has gotten me to teach.”

Naini now serves as an affiliate teacher at ICMW and holds a health and wellness certification through the Maryland University of Integrated Health.

Some might spite meditation, deeming it too time consuming or boring, but Naini says life only becomes boring when one is not curious. She believes that infusing mundane tasks, like washing the dishes or taking a shower, with curiosity is a simple way to involve oneself in meditation.

“How often do you get in the shower and you come out and you have no idea what happened in there?” Naini says. “But the smell of the shampoo and the feeling of the water hitting my face – that can kind of be exciting.”

Mindfulness can still be a helpful practice to those whose schedules are packed to the minute. Naini personally believes there are two overarching forms of meditation practice: formal and informal.

Formal practice is when someone specifically blocks out a chunk of time for a certain type of mediation, like concentration meditation or awareness meditation.

Informal practice can be a saving grace for people who are busy indefinitely: one can bring mindful awareness to activities like brushing their teeth or waiting to pick up their child at school by taking a few moments to notice their breathing pattern or acknowledge the smells and sensations surrounding them.

“I find that when people start doing informal practice they start bringing in more and more time to do a little bit more of a formal practice,” Naini says.

Naini notes that everyone’s meditation experience differs, but most often meditators realize how powerful taking two minutes to notice their breathing pattern is on their level of awareness of their surroundings. She said often meditators will form a connection during the session, either with others in the class or with their own beating hearts

Naini says mindfulness meditation aims to fully engage meditators in what's happening despite their surroundings, but some locations can be more conducive to taking a pause than others.

She says hosting a session outdoors and among greenery at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum can allow one to be more receptive to mindfulness teachings. Placing the class in nature facilitates a deeper alignment with other organisms, like bonsai trees, on a cellular level, Naini says.

“If we actually pause and take some time gazing at the bonsai, you might see, "Oh wow, I really am connected to this other living being," she says.

Technology creates a disconnect from others and keeps us in contact with only people who are like-minded, Naini adds.

“At the end of the day we are all humans, we all have the heart, mind and body,” she says. “These practices really help us to see that humanity in each other that can otherwise be very difficult to hone in on.”


Learn more and register for Linda’s class April 14th and/or June 9th here.

So What is Forest Bathing, Anyway!?

“When you forest bathe in the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, you can sense the extraordinary magic of these tiny trees that have been lovingly tended by so many generations of human hands in Asia, and now here,” she said.

One might be caught off guard when they hear the term “forest bathing.” Someone who participates in forest bathing does indeed cleanse themselves amid trees and plants, but the practice doesn’t require a bathtub. We sat down with certified nature and forest therapy guide and acclaimed author (The Joy of Forest Bathing—Reconnect with Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life), Melanie Choukas-Bradley, who will lead the upcoming Forest Bathing Amongst the Bonsai classes at the Museum (April 18th and May 2nd, October 3rd) to learn more about the the practice and what participants can look forward to.

Melanie leads a class at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. (Photo By: Ana Ka'ahanui)

Melanie leads a class at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. (Photo By: Ana Ka'ahanui)

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a therapeutic experience during which one bathes in the forest atmosphere by immersing their senses in the natural world.

Certified nature and forest therapy guide Melanie Choukas-Bradley spent much of her childhood roaming Vermont’s vast woods and fields. So when she first read about forest bathing in a 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, the concept of full sensory immersion in the beauty and wonder of nature immediately resonated with her.

“Forest bathing simply gives a name to an experience I've always valued: quiet time surrounded by natural beauty,” she said.

The article inspired Choukas-Bradley to travel to California and walk with Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Her time with Clifford led her to train as a forest therapy guide, and she received her certification from ANFT in 2016.

As a naturalist and nature book author, Choukas-Bradley has led nature walks for many years. She said every guide who has led forest bathing walks she participated in, both in North America and in Japan, has bolstered love for nature.

“I'm inspired by everyone who shares their love of nature,” Choukas-Bradley said. “I’m especially inspired by the beauty and wonder of nature itself.”

But forest bathing is more than just a walk in the park, she said. The phenomenon allows one to slow down, turn off your phone, breathe deeply and absorb nature’s beauty.

Choukas-Bradley said the “remarkably enjoyable and restorative” natural therapy can be likened to meditation, tai chi, yoga and other mindfulness practices, but additionally helps one to form a close relationship with nature.

“We are all stressed by the constant barrage of news flowing from our electronic devices and our lengthy personal to do lists,” she said. “This brings joy and well-being.”

A class cups their ears to heighten the sound of the water fountain at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. (Photo By: Ana Ka'ahanui)

A class cups their ears to heighten the sound of the water fountain at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. (Photo By: Ana Ka'ahanui)

Forest bathing has led Choukas-Bradley across the United States, from D.C. to Texas to Colorado. But she said bathing fully revolves around appreciating each moment and taking the time to connect with your surroundings, no matter where you are.

”If you're able to be fully present in nature, you can forest bathe anywhere, including in your own backyard,” she said.

Choukas-Bradley added that offering forest bathing walks among bonsai trees fuses two classic Japanese nature practices: appreciation for bonsai trees themselves, but also shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing.

“When you forest bathe in the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, you can sense the extraordinary magic of these tiny trees that have been lovingly tended by so many generations of human hands in Asia, and now here,” she said.

Choukas-Bradley’s forest bathing sessions will be held at the Museum April 18, May 2 and Oct. 3. Click here to buy tickets now for one or more dates.

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Museum Appoints Andy Bello as Curation Intern

Andy Bello, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum’s 2019 First Curator’s Apprentice. (Stephen Voss)

Andy Bello, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum’s 2019 First Curator’s Apprentice. (Stephen Voss)

Andy Bello has been selected as the Museum’s 2019 First Curator’s Apprentice.  The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum's First Curator's Apprenticeship  for 2019 is funded by generous grants to the National Bonsai Foundation from Toyota North America and The Hill Foundation.

Bello, a 24-year-old Illinois native, earned a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Conservation and Management from the University of Arizona in 2016. He then moved to Eugene, Oregon where he designed and built ornamental ponds, propagated pond plants and bred koi and goldfish at a local store.

His fascination with bonsai catalyzed after he stumbled across Peter Chan’s “Bonsai: The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees” in 2016.

“I took this book home, and the second I opened it I could not put it down,” Bello said. “Everything from the history of the art, the horticulture aspects, and the design techniques amazed and intrigued me deeply.”

His readings prompted him to join the Eugene Bonsai Society, a group of Oregon bonsai enthusiasts. Bello said he felt welcome in the society, but after spending a year in the group he wanted to delve deeper into the bonsai realm and craved hands-on experience.

His big break occurred on a trip to the Oregon Coast, when he inadvertently stopped at Driftwood Nursery in Bandon, Oregon. Bello befriended nursery owner Tom Roberts and soon began a monthly apprenticeship at Driftwood, where he learned basic bonsai skills and developed his passion for the trees.

Bello said he and his girlfriend soon began to discuss moving east to solidify their careers and settle down close to family. In preparation, he explored available permaculture and organic farming jobs on the East Coast – eventually discovering the Museum’s curator apprenticeship – and immediately sent in his application.

In his newly-appointed position, Bello aims to deepen his understanding of different species’ needs in all seasons, and looks forward to improving his horticulture skills and bonsai designs.

His year-long internship will consist of performing various bonsai care-taking duties, from repotting and wiring to pruning, and spreading the joy and wonder of bonsai to Museum visitors.

“I am extremely excited to be part of a new community of fellow bonsai artists and create new connections from all different parts of the world,” he said. “I hope to learn and grow as much as possible in the world of bonsai.”


The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum's First Curator's Apprenticeship for 2019 is funded by generous grants to the National Bonsai Foundation from Toyota North America and The Hill Foundation. If you’d like to help fund these types of programs, please consider becoming a member of the National Bonsai Foundation. More information here.


Landscape Architect Returns to Museum for Second Cherry Blossom Exhibit

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Eight years after his first trip to Japan, Ron Henderson’s exhibit documenting Japanese horticulture and history is back for a second showing at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

Henderson first traveled to Japan as an architectural graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, then frequented the country during his tenure as a landscape architecture professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

He later submitted a proposal for his trip to a Japan-U.S. commission that facilitates a three or four-month artistic fellowship in Japan. After his proposal was selected, he departed for his two-month journey and started to sketch the blossoming sakura orihon.  

But the idea to share his drawings at the Museum was not set in motion until after a preliminary talk about his proposal’s findings at the International House of Japan, where he received “substantial encouragement” to display his sketchbooks.

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Henderson says the most difficult part of designing the sakura orihon exhibit was defining the facets of his journey. His exhibit focuses on three narratives: cherry blossom culture, notable Japanese cherry trees and unique Japanese horticulture techniques.

While horticulture practices in the United States have normalized using discreet cables or hidden devices for trees’ structural support, Henderson says Japanese trees are supported with elegant – but visible – braces, crutches and ropes, as evidence of a reverence for sustaining life.

“Trees are living history around which cultures are viewed,” Henderson says. “The sometimes-extreme lengths taken to revitalize plant specimens that, in many cultures, would be removed, is a reminder of the tenacious spirit in all living things and the responsibility of humankind to steward these life forces.”

Henderson’s current exhibit is on display through April 7, but he hopes the sakura orihon story will return to the Museum for as long as the public demands.

Kathleen Emerson-Dell, the exhibition’s curator, says Henderson’s themes resonate with the U.S. National Arboretum audience and advance the Arboretum’s mission to preserve plants from around the world.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has introduced flowering cherry cultivars and species, from Japan and elsewhere, to American gardens since the beginning of the 20th century. About 50 varieties of flowering cherry trees are planted across the 446-acre Arboretum, and the collection’s diversity permits a much longer flowering display than that of the Tidal Basin.

“Ron’s exhibit adds to our understanding of the genetic sources for ornamental cherry trees from Japan,” Emerson-Dell says.


Sakura Orihon exhibit runs until April 7th. Learn more here and plan your visit today.




Devoted Bonsai Luminary Passes at 98

Ted Tsukiyama (left) at the 2005 World Bonsai Convention in Washington D.C. next to (left to right) Felix Laughlin, Saburo Kato, Yaoi Kato, Fuku Tsukiyama, Daizo Iwasaki and Naemi Iwasaki.

Ted Tsukiyama (left) at the 2005 World Bonsai Convention in Washington D.C. next to (left to right) Felix Laughlin, Saburo Kato, Yaoi Kato, Fuku Tsukiyama, Daizo Iwasaki and Naemi Iwasaki.

We are saddened to hear that Ted Tsukiyama, a World War II veteran and dedicated bonsai devotee, passed away earlier this month.

Tsukiyama’s daughter, Sandy Tsukiyama, said her father suffered a stroke on Martin Luther King Day and had been receiving hospice care at home. She said Tsukiyama, 98, passed at ease and was surrounded by family.

“Everything was taken care of and we couldn’t have asked for better support," she said. “It couldn’t have been more peaceful.”

Tsukiyama, 98, devoted many years of his life to the art of bonsai, personifying the tenet of “bonsai no kokoro,” or “peace through bonsai.” He was a co-founder of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation, and served for many years on the National Bonsai Foundation Board of Directors as well as an honorary director.  

Tsukiyama was a graduate of Yale Law School who practiced as an esteemed labor lawyer in Hawaii. Tsukiyama’s autobiography, "My Life's Journey: A Memoir,” was published in 2017.

“Ted was a gentleman in every sense of that word and he will be dearly missed by all who were enriched by his friendship,” NBF Executive Director Dr. Johann Klodzen said.