National Bonsai & Penjing Collection Of Australia
My next stop on my teaching tour throughout the Australia continent was Canberra, the capital city. At the National Arboretum Canberra the local club and Australian Associated Bonsai Clubs (National Federation) helped to establish and support the newly opened “National Bonsai & Penning Collection of Australia,” often called the National Bonsai Collection.
The use of words interests me and I always try to be as accurate and correct as possible. That’s one part of my unusual characteristic which was influenced by my teacher Yuji Yoshimura. At home in the United States we have the “National Bonsai & Penjng Museum” at the United States National Arboretum, often called the “National Bonsai Collection.” Now Australia has a National Bonsai Collection too which is quite good. Perhaps it’s just me, but when someone refers to the “National Bonsai Collection” I wonder which one they are talking about, the one in the United States or Australia. OK, if you are in the US, it’s the one in Washington, DC, and if in Australia the collection in Canberra. However, for some people who are working and promoting bonsai around the world it’s often confusing. That’s why I usually call the collection in Washington, DC, the “US National Bonsai & Penjing Collection” and the one in Canberra the “National Bonsai & Penjing Collection of Australia.” Ok, now that I’ve got that off mind, back to my bonsai journey.
Montezuma cypress or Swamp cypress or Bald cypress
The National Bonsai Collection of Australia was opened in 2008 but had the formal grand opening in February 2013. The site is quite picturesque, high on a hill right next to the new visitors center of the National Arboretum Canberra. The entire bonsai display area is bright and open with plenty of room to enjoy the beauty of the collection. The bench supports are concrete, but covered in wood to prevent excessive heat build up which might dry out the bonsai quickly. Each bonsai has plenty of room around it so the beauty of each specimen can be enjoyed and studied. The entire area is clean and weed free too. Quite a number of the bonsai had a plain light colored background which was excellent for photographing.
Shohin bonsai table
There are approximately 80 bonsai in this world-class collection created by leading Australian bonsai artists. The bonsai are all donated by artists or their families and friends, while many are on loan from artists throughout the country. Each tree is labeled and also includes the name and birth date of the artist. I found the birth and death dates interesting and inquired about it and was told that is how art galleries label their art. I wonder if some individuals are sensitive about their age.
Many of the trees are Australian natives and are strange and unique. Some of them are styled to express their natural growth habit in Australia, but all well designed. The curator Leigh Taafe is doing an excellent job maintaining the bonsai in the artist’s original design as well as in good health. Members of the local Canberra Bonsai Club volunteer to help and have three shifts daily to help Leigh. That’s quite a commitment from a local club.
Blue Atlas cedar with an interesting focal point trunk
In Canberra the weather can get cold in winter so there is a well designed area with a solid clear roof with folding glass doors which are closed during cold weather. Figs and other sub-tropical species are maintained in that section during the winter.
Protected area with solid clear roof and folding glass doors on the right
Ficus which must be protected in winter
In the rear, but clearly visible from the public area, is the workroom. The bonsai in that area are also clean, neat and weed free. Recently redesigned bonsai and those not at their peak of beauty are maintained in this area.
The National Bonsai & Penjing Collection of Australia is open daily, except Christmas and has free admission. I highly recommend a visit to see beautiful Australian bonsai and look forward to a future visit to see how well the collection improves in the future.
A few years ago the Australian Prime Minister made a formal apology to the Aborignal people (original custodians of the land) for taking the land. One person created a rock planting bonsai to commemorate the event. On the bottom left he discretely put a statue of an Aborigine.
Canberra Bonsai Society
Two lectures and a critique were presented to member of the Canberra Bonsai Society where my new book quickly sold out, but orders were collected to be shipped to the club in bulk to save on the expensive shipping charges. There were some interesting questions during my lectures, critique and workshops as well which indicated a deep understanding and appreciation of bonsai by many members.
Ruth working on a Bottlebrush
Chinese elm before improvement
Chinese elm after working
Peter working on a Japanese maple
Glenda redesigned a Chinese elm forest
After redesigning the Chinese elm forestThe next day was spent on two workshops where people brought interesting plant material for advice and improvement. Several forests were created and redesigned. A short program was presented on repotting since the question came up on removing wedges from the root ball to improve air circulation in the soil and renew old roots. After my two workshops I flew across the continent to Perth for my educational programs.