Wednesday, September 17, 2014

North Carolina Arboretum (Part one): Bonsai Garden

Gates open, come on in!
  • It's hard to believe it was less than a month ago I spent a few magical days in the Asheville area of North Carolina. I shared a visit to a private rock garden there with you a few posts ago, but there was much more of interest in the area. I first visited Asheville 30 years ago: the transformation of the region is almost shocking: fortunately, much of it is rather tastefully done (we can ignore the inevitable strip malls that mar so much of the American landscape)...

I knew there was a "North Carolina Arboretum" because one of my heroes and mentors, John Creech, retired in that area to help get it off its feet: when John died, I feared for the worst. Although it's apparent that the glory years of the beginning (when John was working alongside Richard Bir and Allen Bush) have perhaps passed, the staff there now is maintaining what was created with skill and a lot of effort: it's a huge site hundreds of acres in extent, (although much of it is kept as pristine woodland). The developed areas are nevertheless extensive and demanding.

None more so, of course, than the Bonsai. I was stunned at the quantity of bonsai, the drama of the garden setting. No cost was spared in building it. I know just enough to be dangerous. I took a spate of pictures, thinking of Larry Jackel, my colleague in charge of bonsai at Denver bonsai collection: then I thought, " who doesn't like bonsai?: We shall find out I fear.

The Bonsai garden is built on a hill, and consequently has many levels and niches for plantings of all kinds throughout: it makes it mysterious and intriguing to walk through.

Lots of wordy interpretation--the sort that bothers the generic marketeers (the ones who think everything should be aimed at mentally challenged two year olds with A.D.D.). I confess, I don't read everything, but glad it's there for those who do (like my girlfriend)...

You are kept a respectful distance from the gems. I love the gray backdrop.

Swiss Mountain pine on the left and a Mission Olive on the right (there are benefits to photographing with 10 mg resolution).

A closeup of the Swiss Mountain Pine.

This is a Trident Maple (Acer buegerianum)

A Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis)

A wonderful combo of Juniperus x Shimpaku and Rhododendron kiusianum: it would be wonderful to see this when the azalea was in bloom!

Delightful islands interrupt the pavement. There's way to much pavement on this planet.

A hydrangea lurking in the corner makes for a nice palette cleanser.

As I said, the garden is on a slope, with much architectural interest and variety.

More bonsai!

Another cloud-pruned Shimpaku juniper.

Miniature Japanese gardens are tucked here and there..

The variety of bonsai and the clever ways they are displayed was delightful.

One could spend a long time contemplating these gems.

Here is an amazing miniature elm.

A mass planting of Allen P. McDonnell Hosta also breaks the rhythm of just little trees.

And extravaganza with American Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), Rhododendron 'Chinzan' and a bluett underplanting (Hedyotis michauxii)

Another mini garden with groundcovering juniper.

And one last gallery of bonsai...

A closeup of the plaque in the first image I started with. Not everyone has the patience or talent to create bonsai, but I think it would take a very stingy or narrow minded person not to appreciate the enormous effort and vision it takes to create such perfect specimens. I applaud the artists who did, and the botanic garden that shows them off so beautifully.


  1. Something about the bonasi garden is so very tragic. There is no color. It reminds me of a cemetery.


  2. I love it. It's an art that isn't appreciated by everyone.

  3. Those juniper/hornbeam/rhododendron combos are amazing. They're like gardens for a dollhouse without the silly fairies!
    What an artful display with such a nice mix of stone, concrete, metal and plantings. I'm kind of hoping for a few semps on top of the wall to soften it a bit, but it looks great!

  4. This is the most contemporary Japanese garden I've seen - getting used to it for sheer display, and am open. Plus, hipsters might like this more than what I usually see off Japanese gardens?

    Asheville seems like the right climate to pull off many Japanese plants or even themes so well - not too hot, dry, cold, sunny...

    Thanks for the tour PK.


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