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Ugly Ducking: Thinking outside the boxwood

Boxwood bonsai from nursery stock, in training 5 years. Denver Botanic Gardens collection. Caretaker Larry Jackel

By Mike Horine, RMBS Member

Many years ago I was prowling around a nursery in Parker, Co. just looking which is something I am pretty much an expert at and I found this really odd Buxus Boxwood sitting all by itself. It was very tall and had big branches from the bottom up to the top and the branches were scattered all over the trunk. The canopy of the tree was open and a bird could easily fly through it. It already looked like a Bonsai tree and nobody had touched it. Did I mention it had nebari to? Nice older looking bark on the trunk/roots certainly did not hurt either. Nobody was going to buy this old ugly looking Boxwood for their homes would they?

Apparently no was the answer. A rather old gentlemen with a knack for finding good nursery stock for Bonsai bought the tree and took it home. A few days latter the tree was donated as is to the Denver Botanic Gardens Bonsai collection. Over the next 5 years or so International Bonsai Master Larry Jackel, curator of the DBG Bonsai collection, had the tree worked on. The tree just kept getting better and better with the passing years. Some years it had wire added to it and others mostly clip/grow techniques were used on it. Larry surprised me one year when the tree was suddenly in a Bonsai pot! Looks really good in it.

The big old gnarly Boxwood that no one wanted was now taller, wider, filled out, filled in and showing dark green leaves and flowers in the spring. The tree is now ready to be out on display showing its stuff off with all of the other great Bonsai trees in the DBG collection. What a tale this old Boxwood has to offer, an older International Bonsai Master taking great care of it, some fool of a Bonsai artist finding it and recognizing the beauty and potential of it and donating it to a public institution to be loved and adored by thousands of visitors. The ugly duckling is now a beautiful swan. Long may it grace the Bonsai Pavilion with its mighty presence long after its care givers have gone home.

--Mike Horine April 2021

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Thanks for sharing this tree's provenance, Mike. One would assume it was many, many years in intentional development & not at this stage mostly by Nature's design. What a great tree & a wonderful tale from one of the society's most accomplished bonsai artists.

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