Bonsai specimen from the U.S. National
to Bonsai Museum Under Way
By Lupe Chavez
November 8, 2001
The National Bonsai and Penjing
Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum in
Washington, D.C., is officially closed while undergoing a $1.3-million
renovation. Bonsai enthusiasts will find the collections setting nicely
enhanced when it reopens in the spring of 2002.
Arboretum Director Thomas S. Elias explained that renovations to the
courtyard area will make it handicapped-accessible. The current narrow, gravel
pathways will be replaced with hard, wheel-friendly surfaces. Crews will
install an automated irrigation system and lighting for nighttime events, and
will repair grading and drainage problems. The improvements are funded by the
Agricultural Research Service, the
federal agency that administers the Arboretum, and the
National Bonsai Foundation, which
donated more than $250,000 to enhance the collection. ARS is the chief
scientific research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Bonsai is an ancient horticultural technique that dwarfs trees by
manipulating limbs and cutting branches to keep the tree from growing to a full
size. Trimming of the trees roots every two to three years restricts its
size, but does not harm the trees health. Despite their miniature status,
bonsai produce full-size flowers and fruit. One of the specimens in the
Arboretum collection, a California redwood, is only about two feet tall,
although in nature these trees normally grow to more than 300 feet.
The Arboretums bonsai collection began in 1976 with a bicentennial
celebration gift from the people of Japan and now includes about 150 plants.
Since the inception of the collection, the Arboretum has become the conservator
of bonsai gifts made to U.S. presidents, beginning with one presented to
Richard M. Nixon. The oldest tree in the collection, a Japanese white pine, is
375 years old and survived the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan more than 50
years ago. It was tended by a single family for six generations before it
became part of the collection. The exhibit also features younger bonsai of
American trees such as spruce and maple.
Although the bonsai collection will not be available for viewing until the
spring, visitors to the Arboretum can still enjoy the facilitys 446 acres
of national and international plant specimens.