Bonsai Tree Orange County – Many staff members of the National Bonsai Museum and Penjing have created a great legacy of bonsai for themselves. For this edition of Bonsai Around the World, we profile the Pacific Bonsai Museum through an interview with Aarin Packard, one of our former assistant curators who now leads PBM as curator.
Growing up in Southern California, Packard developed a relationship with nature by gardening with his parents on weekends and watching his father work with bonsai trees in the backyard. He has always had an appreciation for miniatures such as scale models, as well as Asian culture, especially martial arts. However, Packard only became interested in bonsai after several of his friends started practicing.
Bonsai Tree Orange County
He got his start after buying a tree at a swap meet in Orange County and growing it as a hobby while studying anthropology at California State University, Fullerton. Packard read about art and visited local nurseries and club exhibitions. He took up bonsai as a career after moving to D.C. he earned a master’s degree in museum studies from George Washington University and supported the National Museum of Bonsai and Penjing.
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“On my first day as a resident of this neighborhood, I went to the U.S. National Arboretum and stopped by the bonsai museum,” he said. “Michael James was the assistant curator at the time, and I asked him, ‘How do I get your job?’
In February 2006, Packard graduated from GW and was selected as the museum’s assistant curator, a position he held until 2014. A year before Packard left the museum, the Weyerhaeuser Company—one of North America’s largest timber companies—donated all of its bonsai. collection to the new non-profit organization The George Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection or “Pacific Bonsai Museum”.
The nonprofit was looking for a curator, which Packard saw as a great opportunity to return home to the West Coast while managing a privately owned but public collection. He was hired to use his experience in museum studies to prepare exhibits for the new collection and lead tree conservation efforts.
“I was given the opportunity to create a vision of what this museum could be,” he said. “I had a blank slate to do whatever I wanted, so it was exciting to have the creative freedom to evolve in my career and it was really fun.”
A Brief History Of Bonsai
Instead of dividing its trees into different collections, each year the museum displays a museum-wide display of trees that relate to the exhibit’s theme. The current exhibit is “World War Bonsai,” an idea Packard developed from working with bonsai and trees with inherent ties to World War II, such as the Yamaki pine.
“Throughout my career I have collected research on this era, and since last year was the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, I felt it was a good time to explore the stories of the bonsai and people in our collection who relate to that era,” says Packard.
Niche depicting the scene where 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced onto trains to travel to barbed wire internment camps with a Bristlecone pine bonsai originally created by Kelly Hiromo Nishitani
The exhibit focuses primarily on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war and how the years of fighting influenced the art of bonsai in the United States and Japan.
The Bonsai Dilettante: Nurseries
“It was a very well-received exhibit,” Packard said. “The exhibition highlights the cost of war to the art of bonsai and how it provided people in difficult situations with comfort and connection to cultural communities and an extension of themselves.”
The museum’s exhibitions contain works by contemporary artists, which connect the theme of the exhibition with current events. World War Bonsai features an installation by a Seattle-based Japanese American artist that draws parallels from Japanese incarceration to contemporary racial injustice in the United States.
“That’s one thing that bonsai can do — the art isn’t just about cute little trees and someone’s horticultural curiosity,” Packard said. “Bonsai are significant objects that have great resonance and can tell stories that haven’t been there before.”
Although the museum’s trees are displayed in an open-air gallery, the bonsai are still protected in the winter by their own small cube-shaped greenhouses, which are removed in the spring. About 60 trees are on display among the museum’s alcoves and benches at any one time, but Packard moves the bonsai around depending on the annual exhibit. The museum’s tropical trees remain in a special conservatory year-round to protect them from the elements.
Oc Bonsai Society Exhibition
A 9-foot-tall trident maple from the Domoto family is what Packard calls the “crown jewel.” The Domoto maple is one of the oldest bonsai in the United States, imported from Japan for the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1913.
Kaneji Domoto, a Japanese immigrant who ran one of the largest commercial nurseries in California, bought the maple tree after the fair, and it was the only possession the family did not lose during the Great Depression. The tree itself survived World War II in captivity, but when they were released from captivity, Domoto’s son found it and cared for it until 1990, when he loaned it to the Weyerhaeuser Collection. His descendants eventually donated the tree directly to the museum.
“Maple tells the story of bonsai in the United States and the experience of Japanese American immigrants,” Packard said. “Just thinking about the history of this tree and how it survived adversity is kind of the flip side of bonsai at that time and it’s very rare to see.” A low hedge plant that can have deadwood details to rival the best juniper bonsai? Who knows? Boxwood has tiny leaves, naturally thick branches, rough and interesting bark, fine fibrous root systems and very hard wood – in short, everything that makes a world-class bonsai. Even better, old boxwoods with strong trunks and compact root systems are easy to find – just find someone to remove the hedge.
I first suspected that Boxwood had bonsai potential when I was a young lad. The house we had just moved into had a porch flanked by two boxwoods that had been trimmed into vases. Each one was three to four feet long and had probably been there for about twenty years. Dad decided to dig them up and replace them with San Jose Junipers. I said something about how they can make good bonsai. My dad shrugged, said something negative to me, and threw them in the trash.
Amur Maple Seeds W/ 10 Year Bonsai Growing Guide / Acer
I finally got my chance many years later when I bought my first house. In the front yard was a lone boxwood that had once been part of a hedge. I decided to collect it. I took my time and did well. It obtained most of its nutrition from a stilt root that ran under the driveway. I dug it up, filled it with sand and good soil, and watered it regularly for a year. The technique worked and a year later my boxwood was ready to be lifted. He then spent two years growing in a plastic cement mixing container before switching to bonsai.
Buxus is a genus of about 70 species of shrubs and small trees. Maximum heights for different species are from six to 30 feet. Various species are found in western and southern Europe, southern and eastern Asia, Madagascar, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and the northernmost part of South America. European and some Asian species are frost-resistant; most species are tropical, but most are not used for bonsai. Boxwood is in landscaping for hedges and topiaries. The wood is used commercially to make small furniture and parts for musical instruments. Of the 70 species, there are four species and mutations of one of them that are commonly used for bonsai. They are: Buxus Microphylla (Japanese boxwood); Buxus Sinica (Chinese boxwood, also called Korean boxwood); Buxus Harlandii (native to China and sometimes also called Chinese boxwood) and Buxus Sempirvirens (common boxwood or European boxwood). Kingsville Boxwood is a mutation of Buxus Microphylla that is popular for bonsai. Kingsville Boxwood has small, jeweled leaves and extremely slow growth.
Pick one up from the hedge that is removed if you can. This ensures age, one or more strong trunks to work with, and dense, compact growth already established. If not, buy a five-gallon sampler from a nursery. If you want Kingsville Boxwood, it is only available at bonsai nurseries. If you see one and want it, buy it because it may be a long time before you see another one.
If you have a plant or sapling, grow it for several years and make a small bonsai, or use it as part of a group. Better yet, put it in the ground and come back in ten years—maybe twenty. If
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