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Photo: Bonsai specimen from the U.S. National Arboretum
Bonsai specimen from the U.S. National Arboretum.

In Its 75th Anniversary Year, Arboretum Hosts International Bonsai Symposium

By Alfredo Flores
May 17, 2002

Experts from around the world converged on Washington, D.C., today to attend a three-day International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones at the U.S. National Arboretum, now celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Bonsai is the art of growing dwarfed, ornamentally shaped trees or shrubs in small, shallow pots or trays. It evolved from the Chinese tradition known as penjing.

The symposium is a collaborative effort to gather and exchange in-depth information about the development of the art and science of bonsai, suiseki (viewing stones) and related natural art forms. Arboretum Director Thomas S. Elias, the National Bonsai Foundation, and the Potomac Bonsai Association conceived the idea of hosting the event and attracted world-renowned experts from Japan, China and the United States.

Bonsai styling and gardening is not static, but is continuously evolving, according to Elias, who serves as the historian for Bonsai Magazine, the official journal of Bonsai Clubs International. This symposium will show how the art form has evolved in its 2,000- to 3,000-year history.

The symposium will feature presentations by Hideo Marushima, Japan’s leading authority on both bonsai and suiseki; Arishige Matsuura, chairman of the Nippon Suiseki Association and one of the world’s leading authorities on suiseki; William Valvanis, founder of the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, N.Y., and publisher and editor of International Bonsai Magazine; and other leading experts.

The opening day of the symposium features the dedication of the Kato Stroll Garden, which forms the entryway to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum located on the arboretum’s grounds. The Kato family of Japan includes five generations of master bonsai growers. Saburo Kato, president of the Nippon Bonsai Association, will accept the honor on behalf of his family.

The museum, the world’s first of its kind, showcases more than 150 bonsai, including some given to the museum by the Japanese Imperial Family, along with bonsai presented to Presidents Clinton, Reagan and Nixon. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the arboretum’s bonsai museum, which is currently undergoing a $1.3 million facelift.

The arboretum is operated by the Agricultural Research Service, the chief scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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