Understanding Our Bonsai Collection

Jerry and Rhona Meislik Bonsai Fund

Our stunning collection of over 60 bonsai and penjing trees requires time-intensive care, literally 365 days per year. Your donation helps maintain the health and beauty of this unique living collection.

Bonsai and penjing are a living art form to be viewed, contemplated, and enjoyed. Bonsai and penjing specimens are trained primarily with a front view, but all sides should convey the spirit of a realistic tree or landscape. Appreciation is enriched by understanding the intent of the style as well as the meticulous attention given to care and training. The pot or tray is carefully selected to complete the composition: in penjing, figurines and landscape elements may also be introduced. The trees, front, style, training, and pot/tray can change through the years: plants grow, branches die, artistic intent changes, and the trees easily outlive their original artists.

Our bonsai and penjing specimens represent seven styles. Our collection comprises very traditional materials, such as the Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora), a range of North American species, such as the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and exotic non-hardy materials, such as the Benjamin fig (Ficus benjamina). The collection reflects contemporary plant selections and artistic interpretation as well as some iconic traditional materials treated in classic form. Our goal is to develop a high-quality collection focused on the rich diversity present in bonsai and penjing as it evolves in American culture. To this end, we are experimenting with a wide selection of native North American plants, rather than restricting ourselves only to traditional Japanese and Chinese materials.

A grouping of three trees is always on display in the temperate house of the Conservatory. The specimens are changed each week. Since the hardy materials must spend their winters in dormancy they are not always available to be displayed. Instead, our non-hardy specimens are featured in the conservatory display during the winter months. During the summer our outdoor Bonsai & Penjing Garden displays many more trees at any one time. No matter when you visit, you’ll find bonsai and/or penjing on display.

An american hornbeam bonsai

An American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana). Our collection consists of traditional materials, North American natives, and exotic non-hardy specimens.