A VISIT WITH A 389 YEAR OLD BONSAI TREE

On our recent trip to Washington, DC for Christmas, the ancient art of Bonsai horticulture managed to infiltrate our holiday.  Whoda thunk?  It all started when, in early December, we asked our son, Taylor, what he would like for Christmas.  In response he sent the following group email to the entire family:

Hi All,

I thought you all would like to know that I have thought of one thing I would like for Christmas — a Bonsai tree like this one.

Bonsai Tree Kit,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

 
That’s all really.
 
Thanks!

The Bonsai Kit he requested had a whopping price tag of $16.00, and he sent this to the entire family!  Lot of help that was in providing some clue as to what to buy our humble and uncomplicated Taylor for Christmas. Furthermore, my son, Nathan, and his wife jumped right on that and replied immediately that they would be getting Taylor his one requested item for Christmas.  So, come Christmas day, Taylor’s wish came true……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

when his elder brother presented him with not one……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

but two Bonsai Trees, along with a Bonsai Tree Kit containing a grow-from-seed Bonsai Tree.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As you can see, Taylor was very pleased.  However, little did he know he was never going to be allowed to live this down.  So, thus began the barrage of Bonsai jokes and Bonsais soon became the bane of Taylor’s existence. We all proclaimed that it was a darn good thing Taylor already had himself a girlfriend, because we didn’t think dorm-room Bonsai horticulture would bode well with the coeds of Duke University.

US National Arboretum and A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Furthermore, it was decided that a family field trip to the U.S. National Arboretum was in order……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

because they just happened to have one of the largest collections of Bonsai plants on the planet!

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

In the Arboretum’s National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, you can visit these timeless trees up close and personal!  How fitting! So, off we went to give Taylor a real education in the ancient art of dwarfing trees and plants. As it turned out, the exhibit was really quite fascinating!

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

There were Bald Cyprus trees like this one that was a mere 27 years old…..

DSC_0687

and another Bald Cypress that was 42 years old……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and a Hinoki Cypress tree that was 139 years old!  That’s older than any human ever lived!  We learned that because Bonsai trees often outlive their owners, they are passed down from generation to generation.  So, knowing my son, I can safely assume that his Bonsai trees will become family heirlooms, surely to outlive him, and like it or not, become the property of one of his heirs.

Continuing our tour of these horticulture masterpieces, we viewed this 29 year old Trident Maple tree……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this stately 39 year old Trident Maple……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this 96 year old Trident Maple tree-in-training.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

If you look closely, you can see that the branches on this tree are encircled with wire.  As we learned, Bonsai trees are not “hybrid dwarf trees” but, rather they are, full-size trees that are shaped by pruning and training them into the desired shape.  Wires are used to hold branches into a selected location and form.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.comA Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This stately, 119 year old Trident Maple tree, must have endured a lot of wiring in its day.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And then, there were the Juniper trees.  I particularly liked this 25 year old California Juniper that reminded me of trees that line the coast of Northern California.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This is a 39 year old Chinese Juniper tree……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this is a 39 year old Japanese Garden Juniper……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this is a 44 year old Chinese Juniper……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this is a 109 year old Sargent Juniper tree.  Who knew there were so many types of Juniper trees?

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

We viewed this 44 year old Chinese Elm……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this Chinese Elm tree of unknown age……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and this amazing leaning Chinese Elm, also of unknown age.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This, about-to-bloom Higo Camellia tree, is a whopping 138 years old……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

while this 64 year old Winter Camellia was already in full regalia!  An amazing site in the dead of winter!

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Can you believe this is a 51 year old Pomegranate tree?

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And, have you ever heard of a “Stewartia” tree?  Well, now you have.  This one is 88 years old!

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

During our visit to this Bonsai paradise, we learned that Bonsai trees were first introduced in China over one thousand years ago.  The art was later taken up in Japan as part of Zen Buddhism practices, where it eventually became a symbol of prestige and aristocracy.  So I am sure the original owner of this 155 year old Japanese White Pine tree was very aristocratic indeed!

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And the owner of this 109 year old Japanese Cedar must have been a very proud fellow……

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And I bet the owner of this 68 year old Japanese Beech tree wasn’t doing so bad himself.

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

But, can you imagine the preeminent place in Japanese society the proud owner of this 389 year old Japanese White Pine tree would have held?!!  He must have been positively at the pinnacle of prominence!

A Visit with a 388 Year Old Bonsai Tree,www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

So, to my Bonsai Boy Taylor, may your 3 little Bonsai babies bring you much fulfillment, may they live long and healthy lives, and may they bring many happy memories of you to future generations of our family.

Love,  Mom

So there you have it: A VISIT WITH A 389 YEAR OLD BONSAI TREE

Thanks for dropping in!  Do please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!
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All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.

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