Washington’s giant coniferous trees, towering over the Olympic Peninsula, are impressive individuals figuring the lush forest ecosystems that epitomize “The Evergreen State.” These “Champions” are among the largest living trees on the planet. However, the popularity of our country’s biggest, oldest trees can become their biggest threat, putting them in danger of being loved to death. We don’t know what the climatic future will hold for our State’s largest trees and their habitats. Poignantly, a future in which bonsai—with their extreme level of human care and devotion—could be the last living examples of these species is a real possibility. In his lifetime, legendary Western Washington bonsai artist Dan Robinson has witnessed the decline and disappearance of habitats where trees once grew so plentiful that he could collect a few; he now preserves the legacy of those places in his Elandan Gardens in Bremerton.
Pacific Bonsai Museum hopes to inspire wide appreciation for ancient-yet-fragile Champions and the ecosystems that support them. Five, Washington-native coniferous bonsai from the Museum’s collection will be on view at Amazon’s Seattle Spheres where their grandeur can be taken in on a small scale. Accompanying these five bonsai will be several small kusamono (commonly translated from Japanese as “weed thing”), in this case, the ferns and grasses that are the typical understory of these tree’s environment. Presented together, bonsai and kusamono suggest a distillation of a larger landscape in miniature. Visitors will have the opportunity to admire Washington’s Champion tree species without tromping through fragile ecosystems.
The following five Washington Champion tree species bonsai on display for the “Little Chamions” exhibit:
- Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla); estimated year of germination from seed 1930; in training as a bonsai since 1965; originally created by bonsai artists James and Marsha Nakahara.
- Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa); age, time in training, and original artist unknown.
- Shore Pine (Pinus contorta var. Contorta), estimated year of germination from seed 1740 to 1760; originally created by bonsai artist Jack Sullivan.
- Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii); estimated year of germination from seed 1890 to 1900; in training as a bonsai since 1978; originally created by bonsai artist Ron Yasenchak.
- Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis), estimated year of germination from seed 1955; in training as a bonsai since 1964; originally created by bonsai artist George Schenk.
Little Champions bonsai exhibit in Amazon Seattle Spheres
- Where: Amazon Spheres, 2111 7th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121 on the 3rd floor of the Seattle Spheres and on the 4th floor “Sky Deck”
- When: Reservation required, public viewing hours are 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
- More info: The Spheres weekend public visits (seattlespheres.com)