Nearly five decades ago, Emerald Heights resident, Jack Fleming, discovered a unique interest – working with bonsai trees. After visiting a Japanese temple that was hosting a bonsai show, Jack decided to give it a try himself and found a passion for it.
He discovered working with the bonsai trees allowed him to relieve some stress from his daily life as have many others who have taken up this hobby. After many years of practicing the art of bonsai, Jack brought his passion to Emerald Heights.
In June of 2021, the Bonsai Group of Emerald Heights was started. Now, with 29 members, the group provides guided workshops by instructors Bob Stack and Jack Fleming, who have over 70 years of combined experience working with bonsai trees. The group also hosts guest speakers, takes field trips to the Pacific Bonsai Museum, shop for trees at two wholesale nurseries, and participate in special projects for Emerald Heights’ residents.
In addition to working on bonsai trees, the leaders of the group have also introduced similar disciplines such as topics like saikei: the art of miniature landscapes, kusamono: a variation of Japanese botanical art, and suiseki: decorative stones. The latter two can be their own works of art or can complement a bonsai specimen.
The works of art created in the Bonsai Group are one of a kind and their creations are featured throughout the Emerald Heights community. The group also hosted their first annual bonsai show this year on the Emerald Heights patio. The two-day event featured 45 bonsai pieces and was positively received by the community.
Jack says, “I have been told by a number of residents that the displays of bonsai and saikei materials around campus have a calming effect – both for the creator of these pieces as well as the viewers of these works.”
Throughout the remainder of the year, the Bonsai Group will be hosting a variety of meetings featuring demonstrations by bonsai experts and other exciting projects.
In July, the Bonsai Group sponsored a lecture by the woman who created the beautiful Moss Wall at Emerald Heights. In January 2024, the group will be featuring this same person, Rebecca Sheedy, who will be giving a tutorial to the residents on making their own small moss art pieces with materials and frames supplied by the group.
The group has worked on making many of their own bonsai pots, some in clay, others with hyper tufa, and others by modifying ceramics from places like Goodwill. Bonsai pots bought on the marketplace can be very expensive so the group is always looking for ways to be practical in creating their pieces.
The Bonsai Group is always welcoming new members and now is a good time to get involved. For those residents interested in gardening, this is a wonderful optional activity that offers a similar, yet entirely unique experience. The Bonsai Group this year hosted a “Back to the Basics Challenge” meeting where participating members were supplied with all the materials and were turned loose to fashion a simple, basic style of bonsai. This was a great introductory meeting for residents who wanted to give bonsai a try. Since our membership continues to grow, this exercise was very useful. Many of these projects were then shown at the bonsai show. If you are interested in meeting with a community of creative individuals and learning about one of the oldest art forms, contact Jack Fleming or your director of resident services for information on the next Bonsai Group meeting at Emerald Heights.
Featured Image: Emerald Heights Resident, Jack Fleming, 2023