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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Steve Moore styles a bonsai tree during Saturday's show at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Ed Hake talks about a weigela bonsai tree during Saturday’s Spring Bonsai Show.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Scott Yelich, left, and Cheryl Dillman talk about bonsai trees during the Spring Bonsai Show at the Botanical Conservatory on Saturday.

Sunday, May 27, 2018 1:00 am

Bonsai club opens eyes to ancient Japanese art

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Walking into the Spring Bonsai Show at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory on Saturday, visitors were treated to a small forest of tiny trees. 

Hosted every year for more than 24 years by the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club, the event attracts visitors from across the region and is a great way for people to learn this ancient art form, said Darlene Kittle, one of the club's officers.

Bonsai is a Japanese art form that involves growing small potted trees that mimic the shape of full-size trees. Trimming and shaping the tree requires patience and focus, Kittle said. 

The trees are meticulously groomed and tied from the time they are saplings to create the desired appearance. Bonsai sculptors often incorporate moss, stones or other ground cover in the pot to create a natural look and help the tree grow. Bonsai trees can live for generations and are often handed down between family members. The trees often look similar to how they would grow in the wild, but on a smaller scale. 

And bonsai trees can be any plant that creates a woody trunk, Kittle said. Bonsai keepers aren't limited to evergreens. Some types of trees on display Saturday included weigela and a shimpaku juniper tree. 

“People are afraid of bonsai and think it's a lot more complicated than it is,” Kittle said. “If you can grow a houseplant, you can grow a bonsai tree.”

Guests attending the bonsai show got the opportunity to learn about the bonsai style, as well as the different types of trees that can be shaped and molded. 

“It's nice to talk to people and see their fascination,” Kittle said. “Some aren't real familiar with it, some are. Some have been doing it on their own for years but didn't realize there's this much variety, and didn't realize there's a club.”

Kittle said there were a few people who expressed interest in or signed up for the club. More information on the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club can be found at