In 1976, when then U.S. National Arboretum Director, Dr. John Creech, learned the Arboretum would be receiving a gift of 53 bonsai from Japan, one of the people he called for advice was Chase Rosade. It was Rosade who did the demonstration for the media at the dedication of the National Bonsai & Pening Museum, which was attended by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Later, he became a founding board member of the National Bonsai Foundation (NBF), which supports the internationally known Museum. He’s been involved ever since.
It’s a bonsai journey that grew out of a childhood love of plants. When Rosade saw his first bonsai at the Philadelphia Flower and Garden Show, it was love at first sight. From then on, he read everything he could get his hands on, which, in those days wasn’t much more than the encyclopedia. (Fun fact: he still has the first tree he grew from seed – a Japanese maple.)
Rosade studied ornamental horticulture at Delaware Valley University, where he would “play with plants in pots,” he says, adding, “I never knew what I was doing.”
After graduating, he traveled the world before landing in Nara, Japan, where he studied with Kyozo Yoshida, a bonsai tree developer and grower. In 1970, Rosade decided to make bonsai his career, opening the Rosade Bonsai Studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His home, studio, greenhouse and display gardens have a Japanese sensibility and welcome many U.S. and international visitors by appointment. He’s been teaching, lecturing and judging around the world for nearly 50 years. At 80, he continues to do bonsai seven days a week.
“The most satisfying things about bonsai,” he says, “are, first, that I’m always learning new things and progressing in my art, and, second, I love seeing my students progress as instructors and lecturers on the art of bonsai.” He boasts of having bonsai students on five continents.
His partner in life and bonsai, Solita Rosade, shares his passion. A native of Colombia, her love of nature and her hobby of painting and gardening gave way to the world of bonsai. She is the co-author of a bonsai manual in Spanish titled, “The Essential in Bonsai,” is Chairman Emeritus of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF), is a Past President of Bonsai Clubs International (BCI) and currently serves as President of the North American Bonsai Federation.
The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum “is a mecca, attracting visitors from around the world to the Arboretum” says Chase Rosade. Under the guidance of curator Jack Sustic, the Museum is also a training ground for the next generation, Rosade says, pointing out that Museum staff and interns have gone on to oversee the Pacific Bonsai Museum and the Chicago Botanic Gardens.
After a recent visit to the Museum, Rosade said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the trees looking better – not an easy thing when you’re dealing with living trees.” That, he adds, is a tribute to Jack Sustic, and to all those who continue to support the Museum – whether as volunteers or by giving much-needed financial donations. “Everybody’s asking for your dollar,” he continues. “For those who care about bonsai, this is the best investment.”