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From Temple to Terrace The Remarkable Journey of the Oldest Bonsai in America Peter Del Tredici T he Larz Anderson Collection of Japanese Dwarfed Trees at the Arnold Arboretum was originally imported into the United States by the Honorable Larz Anderson in 1913 upon his return from serving as ambassador to Japan The core of the collection consists of seven large specimens of compact hinoki cypress Chamaecyparis obtusa Chabo hiba between 270 and 145 years old that Anderson had purchased from the Yokohama Nursery Company Figure 1 While these are certainly not the oldest Japanese dwarfed trees in the United States they have been under cultivation longer than any other plants currently growing Figure 1 Portrait of Chabo hiba 881 37 started in 1862 It stands 110 centimeters tall by 140 centimeters wide Photographed in 2002 by Colin Lewis From Temple to Terrace in North America To be sure dwarfed trees had been imported into the United States from Japan prior to 1913 but none of these plants are alive as far as I have been able to determine The fact that the Larz Anderson Collection has survived the ravages of both time and occasional neglect for the past ninety plus years is not only a testament to the care it has received but also to the incredible durability of the plants themselves In a very real sense the Chabo hiba hinoki cypresses in the Larz Anderson Collection provide a direct link to the early 1900s when the wealthy Americans and Europeans infatuated with all things oriental were passionately collecting cultural artifacts from Japan and the Japanese in their headlong rush to modernize were only too willing to oblige this passion The purpose of this book then is two fold to document the spirit of the early twentieth century as it relates to the importation of ancient bonsai plants from Japan into North America and to show how this spirit has been miraculously preserved in the ancient Chabo hiba specimens that today make up the Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum The Yokohama Nursery Company The story of the Larz Anderson Collection really begins with events that took place in July 1853 and February 1854 when Commodore Matthew C Perry led two separate armadas of American black ships into Edo Bay and forced the Japanese government to open its ports to trade with the United States This initial opening eventually led to establishment of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 which marked the end of the Tokugawa dynasty that had ruled Japan since 1603 The Meiji government moved quickly to established new political boundaries instituted a new land tax system and actively encouraged the development of an economy based on manufacturing and heavy industry In an effort to speed up this modernization process the government paid some three thousand foreign technical experts to come to Japan to start new businesses and train Japanese citizens to run them One of these foreign experts was Louis Boehmer a German citizen who had immi 3 Figure 2 A Chabo hiba wood cut from the 1892 Yokohama Nursery catalogue Illustration courtesy of the United States National Arboretum grated to America around 1866 and become a successful gardener in Rochester New York He next moved to Japan in 1872 to head a government owned farm that was operated by American agricultural officials After the break up of this farm Boehmer established his own nursery in 1882 which specialized in exporting Japanese plants to Europe and the United States In 1890 Boehmer sold his company to his German partner Albert Unger who operated it with his American wife Mary until 1908 Creech 1988 At roughly the same time that Boehmer sold his nursery to Unger in 1890 a group of four Japanese nurserymen established the Yokohama Gardeners Association with the purpose of exporting Japanese plants to the west One of these original founders of this cooperative was Uhei Suzuki who had worked for Boehmer for seven years previously In 1892 the Yokohama Gardeners Association issued their rst English catalogue that offered both green and gold 4 Arnoldia 64 2 3 leadership of Uhei Suzuki and his son Hamakichi Elias 2005 The Yokohama Nursery Company catalogues from the mid 1890s through the mid 1920s are impressive documents written in English and beautifully illustrated with colored plates line drawings and photographs of classic Japanese garden plants see back and inside covers Many of the colorful wood block prints were created by Tokejiro Hasegawa one of the premier artists of his day The 1901 catalogue contains a beautiful woodcut of three specimens of Thuja obtusa var Figure 3 Thuja Obtusa var Chabo hiba Specimens of the famous Chabo hiba with the label the Japanese minimized tree above 100 years in pots Woodcut from the famous Japanese minimized tree 1901 Yokohama Nursery catalogue over 100 years in pots Figure 3 The 1905 and subsequent catalogues feature a photograph of a magnificent 400 year old Chabo hiba specimen that was labeled A relic of the Tokugawa Era Figure 4 The Yokohama Nursery Company s listings of Dwarfed Trees Growing in Jardini res featured a wide variety of both conifers and flowering trees in a range of sizes and included remarkably detailed instructions written in flawless English on how to care for these dwarfed trees once they arrived at the customer s home see page 63 Interestingly none of the Yokohama Nursery catalogues used word bonsai to describe the plants they offered for sale The section on dwarfed plants was typically only a small part of the catalogue which often ran over eighty pages long Figure 4 A rare specimen of dwarfed Thuja obtusa 400 years old A relic of the Tokugawa Era Illustration from the 1905 Yokohama Nursery and featured an incredible array of plants seeds and bulbs They sold catalogue Note the same type of concrete container in Figure 7 both wild species and horticultural Chabo hibas for sale and was illustrated with varieties along with an amazing selection of a woodcut of a spectacular 120 year old potpots and other decorative objects for the garden ted Chabo hiba specimen Figure 2 At some and greenhouse Numerous photographs of the point between 1893 and 1894 the Yokohama nursery operation were published in the cataGardeners Association was re organized into logues Figure 5 which portray a prosperous the Yokohama Nursery Company under the well organized business Many famous horti From Temple to Terrace Figure 5 Photographs of main of ce and grounds of the Yokohama Nursery Company from the 1908

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