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May Walking Tour - The Bill Hosokawa Bonsai Pavilion
By Larry Jackel, Bonsai Specialist
The Bill Hosokawa Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden opened on June 20, 2012. Between that date and the present, we have seen the bonsai collection grow and the landscape of the Bonsai Pavilion mature and, in some cases, be replaced by native “character trees” of the Front Range. Currently, we are preparing for the spring display by cleaning the bonsai and their pots after a long winter. This preparation will allow us to present the bonsai at their very best. In addition to showing the Denver Botanic Gardens collection, the Bonsai Pavilion will host our first annual one-man show. This year’s featured artist will be Mr. Harold “Hal” Sasaki. The show may be viewed from May 13 to May 20 with an artist’s talk on May 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Register here for the artist talk.
As you enter the Bonsai Pavilion through the east gate, immediately to your left is the Bonsai Pavilion waterfall and pool. On either side of the waterfall are two newly installed Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) that give a feeling of old, rugged trees that have struggled and survived many years in the mountains. While viewing this area, check out the koi in the pool which is their winter home and shelter.
Directly in front of the Display House are three pedestals featuring bonsai of the Front Range, but these are not your typical bonsai material. Non-traditional bonsai material is being used with the idea to expand our concept of bonsai to include species not usually thought of as bonsai material. The first of these non-traditional bonsai is a bog birch (Betula pumila) in a clump-style, showing a beautiful red bark on its stems. The second is a Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) which is common along the foothills, but difficult to grow in a container. The third is a Wyoming sage (Artemisia sp.) which is very common everywhere in the west but rarely used in the landscape or as bonsai.
Turning to your right is the bronze bust of Bill Hosokawa, the man that the Bonsai Pavilion is named for. We are honored to celebrate the legacy created by Mr. Hosokawa by displaying the art of bonsai, which he admired. During the warmer seasons, a small vegetable garden, which was Mr. Hosokawa’s passion, can be seen growing at the base of his bust.
By turning back to the west, enter the Display House. In the Display House are tropicals and sub-tropicals that may need some protection from the dry winds and intense light of the Rocky Mountain region. Included in the Tropical Collection are willow leaf fig (Ficus cordata ssp. salicifolia), Chinese banyon (Ficus microcarpa), elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) and bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra).
Exiting the Display House from the north door, take an immediate left and enter the courtyard gallery. Surrounded by western red cedar and lodgepole pine fencing, view the core of the Gardens bonsai collection, the Rocky Mountain Collection. In this area are ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), limber pine (Pinus flexilis) and potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa). Many other species seen in the Front Range will be added to the Collection in the future.
Each of the trees on display has a small label with a description of the tree. Some of the most frequently asked questions visitors ask are about the information on these labels. “YEARS OF TRAINING” tells us how long the bonsai artist has worked with the plant to make and maintain it as a bonsai.
The immediate future of the trees in the Bonsai Pavilion includes adding a new display featuring Shohin bonsai. In Japanese, Shohin means “a little art piece” with trees typically under 10 inches in height. These small-sized bonsai can be seen on the east end of the long display table. Long-range plans include continued growth and development of the bonsai collection.
As the seasons change, please stop by and see how the bonsai collection evolves. Observe spring growth, summer maturity, fall color and winter silhouettes.