Since its modest beginnings in 1977, the bonsai collection at Matthaei Botanical Gardens has embarked on a remarkable journey of expansion and refinement. The collection gradually grew in size and stature, blossoming into a distinguished entity that serves as a testament to the passion and expertise that has nurtured it over the years.
Now, thanks to the vision and generosity of University of Michigan Alumnus, Dr. Melvyn Goldstein, the collection has grown to become one of the most distinguished in North America. Driven by his commitment to promoting the appreciation of bonsai, Dr. Goldstein made an extraordinary donation of approximately 125 world-class trees to Matthaei Botanical Gardens. This generous gift has transformed the garden into one of the nation’s premier bonsai collections.
With this gift, the bonsai garden has been renamed the Melvyn C. Goldstein Bonsai Garden. This donation establishes the University of Michigan as a hub for bonsai enthusiasts, offering free and public access to one of the finest collections in North America.
Preserving the Legacy
Dr. Melvyn Goldstein’s passion for bonsai began almost half a century ago. Over the years, he honed his skills and expertise in the art form, specializing in Sutsuki and Shohin varieties. Driven by his love for bonsai and his deep appreciation for the patience and artistry required to cultivate these living sculptures, he amassed one of the finest collections in the hemisphere. As he reached his 70s, Dr. Goldstein realized the time had come to ensure the continued care and preservation of his cherished bonsai trees. He shared, “I’m at a point in my life where it makes sense for me to turn over the care of my bonsai to others. I’m excited about this collaboration as it gives me great satisfaction to be able to combine helping my alma mater, fostering knowledge and appreciation of the bonsai art form I love, and also knowing I have a wonderful home for my trees.” Goldstein adds that his Japanese azalea teacher always emphasized that we don’t own trees. Rather “we are just ‘leasing’ them until we pass them on to others who will continue looking after them.”
For Dr. Goldstein, the decision to collaborate with his alma mater, the University of Michigan, held profound significance. Beyond the practical considerations, he saw an opportunity to give back and support the institution that played a formative role in his life. The collaboration also aligned with his desire to foster knowledge and appreciation of the bonsai art form. By entrusting his bonsai collection to Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Dr. Goldstein found great satisfaction in knowing that his trees would find a nurturing home while furthering the understanding and practice of bonsai.
A Lasting Impact
Dr. Melvyn Goldstein’s remarkable donation to Matthaei Botanical Gardens cements the institution’s status as a premier destination for bonsai enthusiasts and novices alike. His decision to entrust his exceptional collection to Matthaei Botanical Gardens is a testament to his love for the art form and his dedication to its preservation.
Dr. Goldstein’s collaboration with the university, his commitment to the art of bonsai, and his desire to ensure the care of his collection have created a lasting impact on the bonsai community and the University of Michigan. The Melvyn C. Goldstein Bonsai Garden stands as a living legacy, offering visitors an opportunity to appreciate the beauty, history, and cultural significance of bonsai.