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“Cut here,” he said. I was working in the family business, a nursery for sale in Alameda, California. It was 1993. A man who had not known before I was offering pruning tips, and advice was good. “Cut here,” he said again, pointing to another branch.
The man had a long name – Boonyarat Manakitivipart. I knew him as Boon. Boon often found me in the back of the nursery, pruning trees or unwell nursing back to health. Originally from Thailand, Boon was a pruner of trees that had recently moved to the area of San Francisco.
One day he pointed to a bonsai neglected in the nursery, a Japanese black pine, and offered to stylize the tree. “The style of the tree?” Asked my father. “Wire and prune the tree, make it pretty,” Boon said. That did not at all clear, but my father said it was okay.
A week later Boon returned with the tree. He had dropped dramatically and wired the remaining branches in a curious way. I can not say I liked the tree, but something about it intrigued me.
Over time I came to know Boon. His passion was bonsai. Would you be interested in coming with him to a meeting of bonsai club? I had not thought that there were clubs for these things. I said yes, out of curiosity, and next week we visited Merritt Bonsai Club.
Not what I expected. We showed up late and walked into a heated argument. More than a diatribe, really. A member of the club was taking the club president task for not doing more to involve the bonsai community. Meanwhile, the club members sat at tables quietly working on their trees. Boon and I found an open table and joined.
Around that time, Kathy Shaner began teaching a class in the backyard of Boon. He could not afford to class and lacked trees to work, but I attended every month to help and learn what I could. It was in these workshops, I started to learn about bonsai in Japan.
Five years later, I had the opportunity to visit Japan with Boon, Morten Wellhaven and Randall Lee. It was an amazing trip and trees were beautiful.
This is how I “got into bonsai,” but it is not the whole story. It may have started earlier.
Before date, when my parents were still in school, my father gave my mother a bonsai, a Japanese plum.
was surrounded by bonsai garden in my parents before I knew what they were. Most sat on the floor in wooden containers built by my father. At the time I was old enough to realize just plum remained. The tree was in the backyard throughout my childhood so I grew up knowing what it was like bonsai, but did not attach much importance to it until I saw the pine Boon had wrought.
winter of 1994, I found myself in planting seeds of pine kitchen table Boon. By then I joined a club and browsed some magazines bonsai, but most of my bonsai knowledge was limited to plant the attention he had learned in the nursery. Boon, too, was fairly new in the development of bonsai from seed. Our main guide was a couple of items in Bonsai Today -. That was a good starting point
I spent that summer in Greece and Turkey. I cut my primary roots of seedlings before leaving and worried that he could not. I remember calling home and asking about pine seedlings. My mother had offered to water while he was away. They were doing well.
My collection grew as matured pines. I learned about wiring and transplantation, cut and screen. I visited local events and return to Japan. On the way I sold some pine trees to friends.
I am lucky to have grown up in a family nursery and have learned so much from my father. I am fortunate and grateful for having received guidance from Boon, Morten and Kathy from the beginning. Without these starting points, I would not be writing this.
And then there are the pines. I owe much to plant them when I did. From them, I learned to appreciate the subtle characteristics of growth vary from tree to tree. I learned how present actions affect future growth and have enjoyed watching the trees develop over time. I have been able to experiment with different approaches to common problems, and I have learned to see friends working in similar trees that have developed themselves.
I took a writing class with Maxine Hong Kingston in college. After suffering heavy losses in a fire, he said that all he had were the items she had given. The feeling has stayed with me, and to this day, I really enjoy seeing the trees that helped start in the collections of friends. I like I do not know exactly how trees have taken their present form, and I like I do not know what will happen next.
Japanese plum 1976
Displays Bonsai Boon Manakitivipart and Morten Wellhaven mid-1990
Boon in the garden of Takeyama in Omiya
with Yosuke Omizu in the Green Club, Tokyo, 1999
Meeting Daisaku Nomoto in Kihachi-in in Anjo
My first batch of pines, in the late 1990s
One of the pines above as displayed in 2010
One of the pines above as displayed in 2014
Another pine same batch – developed in the collection of a friend during the last 10 years
the next batch – 1 year pine seedlings, 2005
This article was originally published on bonsaitonight.com