Volunteering at the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection

So I was emailing back and fourth with Dave Degroot some time ago – he is the curator of the Rim, and told him I’d love to volunteer sometime… he kindly accepted my offer. Today was my first day. I had a GREAT time!!! Fun crew to hang out with, especially our own Dick Benbow who is a SUPER nice guy! David showed us a bunch of stuff that was in need of attention. Between shows and vacations, there were some trees that needed some loving that had been allowed to grow out.

I had a wealth of things to choose from, and David just wanted us to work on whatever we were drawn to. I picked a monster of a Chinese Elm penjing that I’ve always been fond of. Dick hung out with me and gave me a hand getting it mowed down enough so that I could actually get into it before moving on to some other awesome trees. I ended up spending the entire 7 hour shift on this one tree.

Two months of re-growth on a previously defoliated Chinese Elm penjing.

I decided I wanted to open it up a bit and let the light deep into the canopy, so I was somewhat agressive with it, without being disrespectful. We were largely left to work on our own as there were multipul tours at the garden today. When he came back down, I think Dave was a little surprised with how hard I was getting after it… (cuz he sort of skidded to a stop and said WHOA when he saw it…lol) after getting past the surprise, he started getting into detail with me about his vision for the branch structure and the philosophy behind the penjing practiced in the south of China, where this tree would have come from.

I went back at it with a different appreciation of his goal, which was a little different than where I had been heading, but was not out of line… so no harm no foul. I later apologized to him and explained I should have slowed my roll and made sure I was heading in the direction he wanted. He was nothing but gracious and appreciative of the work that had been done. It was fascinating to get an close up explanation of some of the seemingly ‘wild and unorganized’ nature of penjing. What is closer to the truth is that in many ways it is more exacting than many aspects of bonsai practice in foliage arrangement…. as I said, just fascinating!

I only wish I could have had more time, my detail oriented nature felt frustrated by having to leave it incomplete (which you’d notice if you saw the back)…. But the day was done, and it was time to go home.

Chinese Elm after seven hours of pruning.

I must have done alright though… David told me he’d add me to the regular roster, and Scarlett (his beautiful assistant) gave me the compliment of the day…..

“Wow we could almost put that back out on display now!”

Chinese Elm - other view.

What an awesome day! I’ll keep you posted on my adventures there with David, Scarlett, Dick, and the gang. 🙂

Front view. Unfortunately could not get far enough back to get it perfect.

The only thing which would have been more awesome is if David could do what Daniel does… throw it in the back of my truck and send it home with me to finish….lol


Kindest regards,


6 responses to “Volunteering at the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection”

  1. This always sounds funny to me, but it should be a compliment to shoot for, so here goes.
    In the second picture, the far right (dominant big guy) tree really looks like a tree. Big and strong, leans over (even with pictures at what looks like just under the apex level) and gives a scale to the smaller competing grove area. Muy bueno. I think the lighting and contrast of the bark play a part too.

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