Thursday morning brought us to see Chase Rosade at Rosade Bonsai Studio. Like Suthin, Chase has also pared down his collection, but it was a pleasure to see his garden, studio, and trees nonetheless. He was kind enough to show us the tropicals on display in his clean and spotless home, filling all of the sun lighted space near windows; species such as Jaboticaba that were unfamiliar to my Japanese companions were especially interesting! They remarked that it was like Himeshara(Stewartia) but with better, smaller leaves. Chase is a real character and has a way with words, it was a real pleasure meeting him.
That afternoon we drove to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. If you are a bonsai enthusiast and dont know where this is going, you must be living under a rock! We were there to visit The Kennett Collection, the private garden and Bonsai of Doug Paul. Well….wow. The gardens are impressively situated on a slope leading downward to the greenhouse area, with Bonsai arranged on plinths and benches, raised shelves and lovely stones, inside arbors and topping the very walls! Some of the wood used to build a few of the benches cost more than all my bonsai! River stone walkways meander through the Bonsai, Sculpture, Koi pond and waterfall, and excellent Niwaki(larger garden trees sculpted and trained like Bonsai). It takes over a half hour just to walk the paths without stopping to appreciate anything! Fortunately, we had time! The Kennett Collection has an impressive variety of species, a good mix of Deciduous and Coniferous trees, in a wide range of styles; American, European, and Japanese species are all well represented. If you ever get the chance, do whatever it takes to see it, I didn’t want to leave!
Doug has a wide variety of both Western and Eastern containers holding the bonsai at the Kennett Collection, though American potters take the lions share, and Toriumi and Endo were quite impressed with some of the pieces. They left the Kennett Collection with a real desire to see more American containers and meet some American potters.
Another Lovely Shimpaku
Seriously, one may spend days at The Kennett Collection and not get a good grasp of everything that’s there. I could spend all night uploading photos to the blog and it wouldn’t come close to what you see when you’re there. It’s a truly majestic experience, well worth the time of the trip in its own right, for any enthusiast, no matter their level. I can’t say it enough, this is a must see!
Chase Rosade pointed us in the direction of the Pennsylvania Bonsai Society and a special meeting and demonstration by retired curator of the Montreal Botancal Garden’s bonsai collection, larch master extraordinaire, and friendly Quebecian David Easterbrook. David’s lecture was a very informative talk on Bunjin-ji, and the demonstration was a far northern collected Larch. The material was fantastic, the lecture informative, and the finished Bonsai: very nice Bunjin Bonsai. My Japanese friends were quite surprised that Americans knew much about Bunjin, much less the amount and quality of information presented by Mr. Easterbrook, and were quite taken with his styling and demonstration skills. I was very surprised when Toriumi told me that very few Japanese know the sources of Bunjin-Ji, while, I think, here in America, most enthusiasts know of the Chinese paintings that inspired the form.
Friday morning brought us to Nature’s Way Nursery, and the soft spoken and very hospitable Jim Doyle. I’d timed the trip to coincide with the first day of Nature’s Way’s annual weekend open house, so my Japanese friends could see an American style bonsai workshop, with collected Larch, and, you guessed it…David Easterbrook. Again, the material was great, and my traveling companions were very interested in the American workshop style, which goes a long way towards showing differences in Bonsai culture(the social kind, not the growing kind) between America and Japan, with amateurs and hobbyists wiring and styling their own trees under the supervision and guidance of a master, as opposed to a master wiring and styling a customers’ tree under the plan and permission of the owner.
The Walter Pall collected trees at Nature’s Way are exceptional, as were trees on the benches styled by Mauro Stemberger, Marco Invernizzi, and Jim Doyle. My friends were pretty amazed at the quality of the yamadori we saw, with Endo San remarking at one point that he would really love to style the 1000+ year old Rocky Mountain Juniper below, and Toriumi stating as we drove away that he’s not so sure anymore, maybe bigger bonsai can be better! He left saying he was going to work with more Chuhin! Bold words for a shohin professional!
While the Yamadori and Walter Pall trees at Nature’s Way were tough to ignore, there were many other bonsai, old and young, that made the day a simply awesome experience.do not pass Natures Way up! Thank god most of these species don’t thrive in the Mississippi heat, or I would’ve blown every cent I have!
David Easterbrook, Toriumi,and Endo
Saturday I sent my friends on their way back to Japan, after they invited me to take them next year to Oregon and California, to see the Artisan’s Cup, meet American Bonsaists from all over the country, American Potters at the Vendors area, and see some local bonsai nurseries either before or after the exhibit. I look forward to hanging out with them again wholeheartedly, and can’t wait to see some of the friends we made on this trip again next year.
Toriumi and Endo in front of the main display area at International Bonsai Arboretum
Later Saturday morning, I returned to the International Bonsai Arboretum to enjoy the trees without the pressure of a schedule, and wasn’t disappointed. Bill had a beginners workshop going on, and gave a great presentation and lecture on Shohin Bonsai(and kindly put up with my chiming in about containers, as I’m wont to do). I got to meet some of Bill’s senior crew(it was especially nice talking with Jon Robbins and Mark Arpag), watch Mr. Carapella change the front(again)on an awesome yamadori thuja, and had a great time rummaging through Bill’s container collection, with every pile turning up new gems: pre-Pine Garden-Delaware Pottery Bravermans, awesome Hagedorns, middle crossing Chinese antiques, and the most expansive collection of old and cool Tokoname I’ve seen. I was mocked! Mocked I tell you! When I couldn’t tear myself away from the containers to watch more critique and setup of a shohin bonsai display for Bill’s upcoming book, celebrating his 50 years of creating Bonsai. Laugh all you want, Mark and Jon!
This was a fantastic journey and a great time was had by all 3 of us. If you get the time, and are anywhere near the northeast, I’d recommend stopping in to see any of these places; they are all great and truly represent the spirit and quality of American Bonsai.