The sounds of Japanese koto music drifted across the garden spaces at Matthaei as dozens of bonsai enthusiasts, visitors, and members congregated outside the gates to the new Bonsai & Penjing Garden in the minutes leading up to the official ribbon-cutting.

Left to right: Jerry and Rhona Meislik, Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese, and local bonsai artist Jack Wikle officially open the bonsai garden.

As soon as Matthaei-Nichols director Bob Grese, donors Jerry and Rhona Meislik, and bonsai artist Jack Wikle cut the ribbon, hundreds of people poured into the bonsai garden to get a closer look at the garden’s hand-crafted benches, pavilion, and display stands, along with the dozens of trees on display.

Hundreds of visitors poured into the bonsai garden last Sunday, May 19.

Jerry Meislik, who together with his wife Rhona donated funds to begin the endowment for the garden, spoke at a private event in the bonsai garden space before the public opening. Many of us seek a connection to the natural world, whether through gardening or other pursuits. Bonsai, Meislik said, is “my most direct link to nature.” Life can deal us good news and bad news, and “we have our ups and downs,” Meislik observed, “but we keep in contact with nature.”

A plaque lists the names of the garden’s founding donors.

Matthaei-Nichols director Bob Grese spoke about the way the new bonsai garden connects us to the University community and its efforts to reach out to the world through teaching, education, and art, and about how the contemporary scope of bonsai makes it a truly international art form.

Left to right: The Consul General of Japan, in Detroit, Mr. Kuninori Matsuda; president of the Japan News Club  Noriko Masada; Matthaei-Nichols Director Bob Grese; donor Jerry Meislik.

Arb and Gardens horticulturist Connie Crancer, who has long worked with the bonsai collection here and with the Ann Arbor Bonsai Society, touched on the changing nature of all things when she said that bonsai “is a very fluid art form, constantly under development.” There’s never a moment when a particular bonsai tree as a living thing is “done,” and visitors to the garden 20 years from now will appreciate how the trees have changed over two decades.

A crowd of visitors estimated at upwards of 400 turned out for the opening of the Bonsai & Penjing Garden at Matthaei under perfect, sunny mid-May skies. If you missed the event, the bonsai garden is open through Labor Day 2013 from 10 am-8 pm daily. Admission is free. Visit the Matthaei-Nichols website to learn more about the Bonsai & Penjing Garden and other programming and events scheduled for this summer and the rest of the year.

A view of several trees on display in the garden on May 19, 2013.