Get to Know Garden Glow: Richmond Bonsai Society



Richmond Bonsai Society

An enchanting new experience will brighten nights at Maymont this fall as the Japanese Garden becomes a mesmerizing, illuminated landscape for “Garden Glow.” Get to know some of the events’ entertainers in this mini blog series!

The following post is by Randi Heise, President of the Richmond Bonsai Society.

Tell us about Richmond Bonsai Society.

The Richmond Bonsai Society (RBS) was founded in 1970. We are engaged in learning, preserving, promoting, creating and maintaining the art form that is bonsai. Our membership is comprised of people representing the full range of expertise, from recent beginner to trained professional bonsai artist. We meet monthly, enjoying demonstrations and workshops with bonsai experts and members helping members.

Describe bonsai – what exactly is it?

Bonsai (pronounced bone-sigh) is an ancient oriental horticultural art form. The word “bonsai” literally means, in both Chinese and Japanese language, “tree-in-a-pot”. Shape-harmony-proportion-scale are all weighed carefully as art, and the human hand combines this in a common cause with nature. The purpose of growing a bonsai tree is to create, in miniature, what appears to be a mature, full-size tree.

When and where did bonsai originate?

Chinese legend proclaims that 2,300 years ago, during the Han Dynasty, the emperor had an entire courtyard made into a miniature landscape of his empire. The Chinese developed the creation of miniature potted landscapes. Buddhist monks brought the art of bonsai to Japan about 700 years ago and the Japanese added refinements and rules to the practice, focusing on individual trees. Following World War II, soldiers returning to America and elsewhere brought home bonsai trees and spread the art form worldwide.

What is the cultural significance of Bonsai?

Over 2,300 years ago, the Chinese Five Agents Theory promoted the idea of the strength of miniature replicas for their earth, fire, metal, water, and wood theories. One aspect included the creation of miniature landscapes and, eventually, individual trees. The practice of bonsai was initially confined to the society’s elite, but began to spread as an element of Zen Buddhism. Today this art form is practiced worldwide. Bonsai that create the appearance of old age are prized and may live for hundreds of years. The living bonsai will change from season to season and year to year, requiring pruning and training throughout its lifetime.

What’s the biggest takeaway you’d like for people to know about Bonsai?

Bonsai is a great art form for those who enjoy plants. Bonsai trees are not a special type of tree, but are typically developed from those commonly found in nurseries. A tree planted in a small pot is not a bonsai until it has been pruned, shaped and trained into the desired appearance. Trees are kept small by careful control of the plant’s growing conditions. Only branches important to the overall design are allowed to remain, and unwanted growth is pruned away. Roots are confined to a pot and are periodically clipped. Bonsai may have a stylized or exaggerated form, but should reflect forms found in nature.

How have you and/or your organization been involved at Maymont before this event?

A RBS member helped create the Zen Garden area just inside the entrance of the Japanese Garden. The Society has, on a few occasions, displayed bonsai trees in both the Maymont Nature Center and in the Japanese Garden, most recently in 2011 during the 100th year anniversary of the Garden. Had a booth and sold starter bonsai trees at the 2018 Maymont Herbs Galore Event. RBS also had a display for many years at the Maymont Flower & Garden Show.

Get your tickets to Garden Glow to see the Japanese Garden in lights and enjoy Japanese cultural activities and entertainment. The event runs nightly from 6-10pm, October 27 – November 11 (closed on Halloween night, October 31).

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