A look at one the most famous bonsai collections

In the world of bonsai, one of the most famous collections in the world is the Larz Anderson collection, that is now 100 years old. At a recent event celebrating this collection which epitomises everything that is good about bonsia, the curator and senior research scientist for the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, Peter Del Tredici, shared his thoughts on the immortality of bonsai and how he was lucky to witness the bonsai process on a daily basis at the Arnold Arboretum.

Weaving his way through the collection Del Tredici pointed at certain examples that if these trees were cared for properly there was no reason why they shouldn’t live forever. To honour the centenary of the Larz Anderson collection, the Arnold Arboretum hosted a special lecture on these tiny trees with Del Tredici, being one of the curators of the collection, one of the invited speakers.

Approximately 50 people, including a a number of staff members from the arboretum, crammed into the lecture hall in the Hunnewell Building to learn all about the collections history and the experiences of Del Tredici and his team in maintaining these fragile trees.

Lanz Anderson, on completing his term as the US ambassador to Japan back in 1913, imported several bonsai’s from Japan. After a journey of 72 day, Larz and his wife Isabel had the dilemma of not knowing how to care for these trees and looked to their butler for help. Rainosuke Yori Awano had minimal knowledge of how to care for bonsai’s but taught himself to care for the collection which kept growing and the rest, as they say, is history.

After Larz’ death in 1937, Isabel donated most of the bonsai collection to the Arnold Arboretum along with enough funds to build a special shade house for them to make a permanent display. After she passed away in 1949, as per the instructions in her will, the rest of collection came to the arboretum.