One of the most unique collections of bonsai trees in the United States now has an equally impressive display space. The North Carolina Arboretum’s new Bonsai Exhibition Garden opened October 8, 2005 during the 10th Annual Carolina Bonsai Expo. Bonsai is the horticultural art form that recreates nature in miniature through special pruning and training of plants in pots.
The Bonsai Exhibition Garden, located adjacent to the Entrance Plaza of the Arboretum’s Visitor Education Center, will provide a permanent display area for the Arboretum’s nationally known bonsai collection. The collection has been housed in temporary quarters since the first trees were donated to the Arboretum in 1992, by the George Staples family of Butner, NC. The Bonsai Exhibition Garden will be open Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Total construction costs for the project was $1.8 million.
The Bonsai Exhibition Garden includes the following features:
• An upper courtyard with decorative wrought iron gates, stonework, plantings, and a water feature. The entrance and lower courtyard provide an area for gathering, seating and instruction.
• An open-air pavilion, constructed of Douglas fir timbers native to the American Pacific Northwest. The pavilion will be used for demonstrations, classes, and interpretive exhibits and includes restrooms.
• Display areas that showcase a variety of bonsai pieces throughout the year, except during times of extreme cold.
• An expansive deck made of Ipe, a tropical hardwood grown on plantations in South America.
• A lighted, fully accessible boardwalk path and handcrafted benches.
• A “dry stream" comprised of 100 tons of native stone that adds interest in all seasons.
• Interpretive signs that inform visitors about the art and process of bonsai.
The Arboretum’s bonsai collection, considered by experts to be one of the finest public collections in the country, is well known for its diverse plant species, use of native plants and interpretations of familiar Southern Appalachian landscapes. The collection has been housed in the Arboretum’s working Greenhouse and Production Facility and has not been easily accessible to visitors.
“The Bonsai Garden has been a long time coming,” said Arboretum Bonsai Curator Arthur Joura. “Plans for this exhibit began more than five years ago with extensive research and design. The final design represents the work of many people, and when visitors see the result of the work, they will appreciate all the planning and effort that has been invested in this project.”
A team of more than a dozen Western North Carolina designers and artists played a major role in the garden’s development. Under Joura’s leadership, the Arboretum’s bonsai collection has grown through specimen donations, mostly from bonsai enthusiasts in North Carolina, as well as new bonsai created at the Arboretum from seedlings, cuttings, nursery stock and collected plants. Joura is especially well known for his innovative work using species not found in other collections, including plants native to the Southern Appalachians. Joura was an invited speaker to the 5th World Bonsai Convention held in Washington, D.C. this past May because of his noted work in this area.