A hidden gem – the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Collection

Wow! Let me say that again – WOW! Yesterday I went to see the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens‘ bonsai collection, and nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.

I was met at the entrance to the Gardens by Julian Velasco, the curator for the past four years, who would walk me through the BBG’s collection. The tour started in the BBG’s Bonsai Museum – the display area for the collection. The museum houses between 20 and 30 trees at any given moment, and is very well designed.

A traditional three-point display in the BBG Bonsai Museum.

From there, Julian took me to see the rest of the collection, and my jaw just DROPPED. The collection comprises more than 300 trees, virtually each of which has a history going back dozens of years, and many having a history of more than 100 years as a bonsai. The collection is full of unique specimens who played an important part in the history of bonsai. To give a sense of just how unique the trees in the collection are, you enter the display area after paying your respects to Fudo, one of the spiritual pillars of modern bonsai. You can read about the history of this tree – here.

Fudo, as displayed today.

Over the past four years, Julian has been carefully nursing the trees back to perfect health, always preferring the slower and surer path, thinking to the future, and with the utmost respect for the trees and their history. He has been rewarded by a spectacular collection of amazing trees, which are now all ready for styling to resume. The sheer potential of the collection, coupled with the history of each and every tree, make for an exhilarating and exciting experience. I was jumping from one tree to the next, looking, admiring, and more than anything – hungry to get to work!

Julian is a great guy, and through his hard, methodical work, he is sitting on a hidden gem of a collection. If I were living anywhere within a reasonable radius of the BBG, I would, without a doubt, be volunteering to help him. The collection is a masterpiece in waiting, and in two years’ time I expect it will be one of the more important collections on the East Coast. And I would definitely want in on that action.

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