I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. David L. Andrews for over 40 years when we were both directors of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York. Dr. Andrews, retired prominent New York City orthopedic surgeon, was an early student of Yuji Yoshimura for over 40 years. He loved bonsai studied intensively and soon became skilled and knowledgeable in many aspects of bonsai. Rock plantings and pines interested him and he became an expert in their creation and propagation. Dr. Andrews freely shares his knowledge and artistry and has often presented programs with Mr. Yoshimura. When visiting nurseries he always selected the largest specimens for training into spectacular large size bonsai. As a past president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York, Dr. Andrews frequently presented programs at meetings and conventions around the country because he loved the art and wanted to share with others. I believe he was the first non-Californian to be invited to demonstrate at a Golden State Bonsai Convention, several decades ago.
Dr. Andrews has not been actively involved with the bonsai community recently and planted all his bonsai into his large garden landscape. A few weeks ago Dr. Andrews told me he was going to move to New Hampshire and wanted to give all his bonsai containers to Chase Rosade and me. What a surprise and generous offer! Chase, Dr. Andrews and I coordinated our schedules and on Tuesday we met at his home in New Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge.
Blanket pads from U-Haul were used to carefully pack the containers
My son Chris drove six hours each way to New Jersey from Rochester to pick up the containers in my suburban and trailer. Bob Pfromm and Alan Adair joined us to help carefully load the heavy containers. The day before the trip I went to U-Haul and rented 24 packing blankets to protect the containers. These heavy blanket pads are excellent and a great deal too. They come six blankets in a bag for only $5 a day. Using the blankets we were able to carefully pack all the containers and stones and all arrived in Rochester unbroken or chipped.
Dr. Andrews neatly stacked over 400 empty bonsai in small piles for Chase and me to select from. They ranged from two inches to over three feet in size. We quickly took turns picking out piles of containers and flipped a coin for a few choice large or unusual containers. Most of the containers were old and showed great patina from the decades of use.
After cleaning two of the containers they look to be antique Chinese and photos are being identified in Japan as well as in the United States. There were two unusually long narrow containers and Chase and I each selected one. I have an idea for a different design group planting and am searching for the right plant material. Some of the containers had huge drainage holes while one small container had many small holes in a rosette pattern rather than the common size holes. Drainage screen is not necessary for this type of container. Most of the containers were old Japanese from famous Tokoname kilns. Some of the containers even had old price tags from California nurseries which have gone out of business 30 years ago. Some were originally priced at $3.
Since Dr. Andrews loves large rock planting bonsai he frequently traveled to Colorado to collect flat and curved granite slabs. Behind his home, near a gardening shed he had several piles of stones. I selected several of the smaller stones and Chase will pick up the larger rocks at a later date. We needed a shovel to unearth the flat stones which were still frozen to the ground. When selecting flat stones for bonsai it is best to make certain they are not broken, solid and thin. Ideally irregular interesting edges are preferred to create rock-planting bonsai. Avoid stones which have straight edges, or position them in the back of the planting where they will not be easily noticed. Sometimes flat edges can be carefully chipped to create a more irregular edge. The best stones are not completely flat, but rather are curved to hold the soil and tree. Of course size and weight is a consideration, that’s why Chase got the largest stones.
Next to the piles of flat planting stones Dr. Andrews showed us two Trident maples and a few European hornbeam bonsai he planted in the garden a few decades ago. They were large bonsai all pruned and trimmed, ready for huge containers. I selected the smallest Trident maple and since Chase lives closer to Dr. Andrews than I do, he will return at a later date when the ground is not frozen to dig the remaining trees.
The small Trident maple I chose was started from a cutting Dr. Andrews obtained from another long time student of Yuji Yoshimura over 45 years ago. In order to develop a heavy trunk he allowed an escape branch to grow to a long length. Once the desired trunk size was developed, he pruned the escape branch. The basic structure of the bonsai has been developed and now needs to be refined. Next week I might use the Trident maple for my new three day Classical Bonsai MasterClass.
When training bonsai in the ground for trunk development it is also important to think about the final desired size. Remember, the container and soil will also add weight to the bonsai which must be moved into a winter protection area in cold climates.
Included with the containers, Dr. Andrews had 12 boxes of old Japanese and English bonsai and suiseki magazines. Additionally there were boxes of historical notes and archives of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York and the American Bonsai Society. They will be cataloged and added to my bonsai reference library.
While Chris and my buddies were loading the containers and stones, Dr. Andrews asked me to walk through his garden of rare and unusual trees to identify some of the Japanese five-needle pines he had grafted decades ago and planted into the ground. I’ve never seen large sizes of the dwarf cultivars before. There were several four foot tall Nishiki black pines in addition to other rare pines. During our walk I noticed a large ten foot wide Birds nest spruce in his garden and he quickly pointed out that originally it was a 23 tree bonsai forest he planted in the ground. We walked through an orchard of large size apple trees, each pruned to look like a bonsai by Dr. Andrews. I found it interesting that he has transplanted most of the large apple orchard trees to better aesthetic locations. The orchard actually looked like a large forest bonsai, only the trees were approximately ten feet tall and growing in the ground.
This 10 foot Birds nest spruce was a 23 tree bonsai forest years ago
It was very generous of Dr. Andrews to give over 400 quality containers to Chase and me so others can appreciate and make use of the containers he collected and used for nearly five decades. It’s wonderful that Dr. Andrews continues to think about the future of the art and wanting to share his love with others. This gesture is typical of Dr. Andrews who often traveled during the night to bonsai gatherings bringing large demonstration material, teaching and returning to his busy medical practice in New York City. I hope he enjoys his retirement in his new home knowing that the love he has for his bonsai will be shared with others through the use of his containers.