Bonsai Collection

The Dr. Ron and Arlene Kessler Walk invites you to experience our premier bonsai collection with a new perspective. Dr. Ron and Arlene Kessler’s gift is both monetary and in-kind; in addition to their endowment, the Kesslers have donated more than three dozen bonsai from their personal collection.

The updated walk features bamboo accents, Japanese roof tile borders, state of the art irrigation and a gathering area, encouraging visitors to stop and truly appreciate each individual bonsai.  In the gathering area interpretive signage offers a glimpse into the art and technique of training and sculpting a bonsai.

The World Bonsai Friendship Federation was formed in 1989 in Japan by bonsai masters Saburo Kato and John Naka to promote peace and goodwill throughout the world through the art of bonsai. The WBFF recently initiated a new program, identifying the best public bonsai exhibits around the world, designating them “WBFF Cooperation Centers.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony, held on Monday, January 7, 2013, celebrated the official designation of Morikami’s bonsai collection as a WBFF Cooperation Center. Morikami board of trustee member and Chairman Emeritus of WBFF, Felix Laughlin, designated the Morikami bonsai exhibition as the 3rd WBFF Cooperation Center in the United States.

As bonsai master Saburo Kato said, “From bonsai we receive peace of mind, health, and life’s pursuit. We can also learn generosity, patience and even a philosophy about life.”

We hope to inspire, educate, and share our appreciation for this art with all who visit to experience Morikami’s bonsai collection as we continue to develop this integral piece of Roji-en.

Bonsai, pronounced “bone sigh,” is a tree in a container. As old as the pyramids, the art of sustaining a tree in a container was propagated by travelers from west to east. The Paris World Exhibition in 1900 opened the world’s eyes up to bonsai. The end of World War II in 1945 saw the beginning of bonsai being imported from Japan to the U.S. From there it has spread to Great Britain and throughout Europe, Greenland to South America, South Africa to Australia.

The art of bonsai design is to shape a tree through various techniques so that it represents, but does not duplicate, trees in nature. An aged effect is desirable, using shape, color and texture in ways that evoke a sense of how such a tree would have formed over years of growth in nature. The tree must be healthy, sturdy, and displayed to maximize its visual impact. The pots are likewise selected to proportionately and artistically enhance the tree without drawing attention away from it. Branch and leaf density, size, and location, as well as the trunk proportions, color, size, and texture are shaped to be in harmony with the tree as a whole. The use of mass and space and the relative location of the parts is critical.

The Art of Bonsai – Beginner and Intermediate Classes

The art of Bonsai creates the illusion of age and maturity of a tree that has developed and sustained the effects of nature for many years. Students of bonsai learn to artfully trim and train a tree in a container. In the intermediate class, students further explore new techniques to train and trim their own trees.

Bonsai Classes

Bonsai Exhibit Volunteers

We invite you to work in our bonsai exhibit with other volunteers. This position requires volunteers to spend a lot of time on their feet and is outdoors year-round. Some experience working with bonsai is preferred. This shift is every Friday morning from 8am to 12pm.

Bonsai Volunteers