So, settle in, this is going to be a long one!
I mentioned in my next to last post that I was taking two Shohin Bonsai professionals from Japan on a tour of American Bonsai nurseries in the Northeast for an upcoming piece in the Japanese publication “Bonsai Sekai”, and here’s the rundown!
I’d planned the trip a couple weeks earlier than normal peak times for Autumnal color(because of the very early spring), and wasn’t remiss. We hit each nursery, moving from north to southeast, at just about peak autumn color(sure made the drive around New England easy on the eyes too!).
Autumn leaves compliment and contrast with the beautiful Koi at The Kennett Collection
I’d like to thank everyone at each nursery and collection for their generosity and hospitality, for myself and my friends: Toriumi San and Endo San. Everyone was truly kind and commendably willing to showcase some of the best that American Bonsai has to offer. Thank you all.
We began Tuesday morning in Rochester, NY, with Bill Valavanis and The International Bonsai Arboretum. We’re all familiar with Bill’s work by now(if you’re not, where have you been for the last 50! Years?), but, as with any and all Bonsai, pictures don’t do any justice to the majesty of Bill’s collection. If you haven’t been to the Arboretum, make it a priority! Bill’s enthusiasm for Bonsai is absolutely contagious, and you’d be hard pressed to find the variety and quality present at Bill’s.
In addition to the wonderful trees and containers and tables at the IBA, Bill’s library is something really special: nearly all the Kokufu-ten albums, back issues of Japanese Bonsai magazines to the first issue, American and Japanese rarities, and historically significant books that are nearly ancient. I, for one, could’ve spent a week just perusing Bill’s library!
My favorite Shohin Bonsai in Bill’s collection: A yamamomiji originally from the collection of Count Masudaira, father of Shohin Bonsai in Japan(if you’re interested in more information about Count Matsudaira, John Romano wrote a great treatise on the history of Shohin Bonsai in International Bonsai number 3, 2011, with some great history on Count Matsudaira).
In Bill’s office, I saw this tucked behind some papers and pulled it out for a photo: A little piece of both American and Japanese Bonsai history! For those who don’t know, Yuji Yoshimura was Bill’s teacher, and one of the founders of American Bonsai; his family nursery was Kofu-en in Japan
After The International Bonsai Arboretum, Bill was kind enough to arrange a visit with Harvey Carapella. Mr. Carapella, with his background in fine art, has a wonderful personal collection of Bonsai lovingly worked and maintained for more than 30 years. He wanted me to be sure that my friends knew that he was just a hobbyist, but we agreed that his trees were NOT those of the average hobbyist, here or in Japan, and often better than the work of some professionals. I’d like to thank Harvey again for allowing us into his home.
After seeing Harvey’s wonderful collection, we drove to Niagra Falls.
Wednesday brought us to Massachusetts, and New England Bonsai Gardens. Hitoshi and Teddi were very kind in allowing us to visit, as they’re closed Wednesdays. Jun Imabashi, a bonsai artist from Japan, was working there as well, and took us on a great tour of the nursery and greenhouses. It was a great visit.
That afternoon we arrived at Royal Bonsai Garden, Nursery of Suthin Sukosolvisit. When I called to arrange a visit, Suthin had told me that the nursery had been closed for over a year, and he didn’t have too much left, that the bulk of his trees were sold, and he didn’t want us to be disappointed…..I quickly discovered his incredible humility and self effacing humor when we saw what “not much left” meant! Suthin and his wife Donna were incredibly kind and fun, and his trees were something else! The shohin were easily the best we saw on the trip, and my friends were incredibly impressed.
Still More Impressive Bonsai at Suthins! Seriously, it would take days to upload all of the wonderful trees we photographed at Suthins, I hope these highlights suffice!
From there it was on to Bonsai West, a more commercial operation in northern Massachusetts. There are many excellent trees there from well known California bonsai artists of previous generations, many great Bald Cypresses from my neck of the woods, and a nice selection of imports and collected trees. It was a pleasure to see them in person.
Stay tuned! In part two of Bonsai Gardens of the Northeast, Toriumi, Endo, and I visit with Chase Rosade, check out the wonderful Kennett Collection, watch David Easterbrook do wonders with Collected Larch, and visit with Jim Doyle at Nature’s Way!