Bonsai at GardenScape 2020



GardenScape 2020 is the annual garden show in Rochester, New York, which runs from March 12-15, 2020. It is held at The Dome in Henrietta, New York, a suburb of Rochester only five miles from my garden. Landscape companies from around the area transform the Dome, over one acre in size, into a living garden paradise in 2.5 days. GardenScape 2020 showcases the most unique designs, display, plants and products for the attendees.



This is the 25TH presentation of GardenScape, and the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and I have been fortunate to have displayed bonsai every year and I’m the last of the original exhibitors. This year 12 of my Monday Senior Crew helped design, build and install our bonsai display garden in two long days. The final result came out great after months of planning, building and forcing azaleas for the colorful garden. Unlike other exhibitors who mostly purchased forced plants for their gardens out of state. All of our plants, including the dwarf daffodils, were forced by us.




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This year’s theme was “Passport to Spring.” My garden, “Passport to Spring in Japan” featured two large hand painted murals by noted artist Alan Adair. His first painting mural featured a view of sacred Mt. Fuji, framed by a Scots pine bonsai and flowering cherries. The second mural of pines, inspired by paintings in the Momoyama Period (16th Century Japan,) provided a striking contrast with a massive Dwarf Scots pine bonsai. They were designed to be enjoyed while entering the garden through the torii gate. By the way, the GardenScape committee wanted the award ceremony to be held under the “Red Arch.”


The third mural featured nearly 50 of my entry visas to Japan, China, Australia, Korea, Brazil, Germany, England, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Indonesia where I have traveled to teach and demonstrate classical bonsai as well as leading tours for people from around the globe. Throughout the exhibit Japanese flowering cherries were featured in the garden as well as trained bonsai. Two spectacular fragrant Wisteria bonsai welcomed and drew the public into our garden.






To enhance this year’s garden Exhibit Engineer Joe Lentner designed and built a 12’ tall torii gate for the entrance. This took considerable design and construction which took him many weeks. The torii gate is generally used as an entrance way to a Shinto shrine or other sacred place. Here the torii gate invites visitors to a “Passport to Spring in Japan,” entering a magical world of classical bonsai. Shinto architecture is keeping harmony with nature. All vertical sections are round, as trees grow upright in round forms. Horizontal sections are squared off because they are not in keeping with nature.


There are many different styles of torii gates. Painted wood torii gates are traditionally vermilion. After Joe finished the torii gate construction, Alan Adair primed and painted it using vermilion color. Several sections needed a couple of coats to present the torii gate in perfection. Joe built the torii gate in our garage. Since the garage does not have a 12 foot tall clearance, we were unable to actually test it to see if it would work and see what it would look like. Fortunately, Joe’s design was superb and we were able to raise it on the first try.



Last year Joe Lentner designed and constructed a new gazebo where Harvey Carapella, Marc Arpag, Alan Adair and I presented almost continuous demonstrations from 10am to 9pm for the four day show. Only two people were working on trees at a time, while the others and Diane answered many questions about bonsai and my upcoming Introductory Bonsai Course.



Each year nursery and horticulture professionals from outside the region judge the garden displays. The team consisting of landscapers, garden designers and horticulturists carefully evaluate each garden display and present awards to worthy entries. Unfortunately they are not well versed or understand bonsai, typical.


The GardenScape Competition Mission Statement: To raise the level of horticultural entertainment and education by rewarding imagination, creativity and the highest quality execution at GardenScape.

Our display won the following awards:

Most impressive display of a single forced specimen under the direct supervision of the exhibitor.

Best integration of fragrant flowers in a garden.

Best garden or display with educational value for the gardening public.

Best plant labelling.





The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York also had a good size exhibit next to my display featuring about two dozen trees from members. They won the best non-profit exhibit for education. Their members staffed the exhibit and answered many questions.




In addition to the beautiful gardens, visitors were amazed by the fantastic creations of Stan Munro’s toothpick scale models of some of the world’s most recognizable structures. His “Toothpick World” exhibit consist of only wooden toothpicks and Elmers glue. Over the years he has estimated he’s used some six million toothpicks and more than 65 gallons of glue.



A few photos of a few of the other garden landscape exhibits. Unfortunately, GardenScape 2020 is being held during the Coronavirus pandemic which greatly impacted the number of visitors. But, those who did visit were treated to a breath of spring with beautiful fragrant flowers, gardens and bonsai. Hopefully the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York will add new members and I’ll get new students for my Introductory Bonsai Course and workshops. A big thanks to Diane, my Monday Senior Crew and all of my friends who supported the display.






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