In his first post, Kew's resident bonsai specialist, Richard Kernick, introduces the bonsai collection at Kew Gardens. Find out more about the history of this unique collection, learn how the trees arrived at Kew and take a look behind the scenes.
Hi, my name is Richard Kernick and I am Kew’s bonsai specialist. I’ve been working at Kew Gardens for seven years, caring for Kew’s bonsai collection and also working part-time in the Alpine unit. In this first blog, I’ll introduce the Kew bonsai collection and provide a short history of how the trees ended up here.
Bonsai trees in the public display house showing autumn colour. Acer palmatum (approx 100 years old) in the foreground.
In the great scheme of things, bonsai have been a relatively recent venture for Kew. We currently hold about sixty mature trees, ten of which are on display at a time in a glasshouse situated near to the School of Horticulture and the student vegetable plots. I aim to display whichever bonsai are looking at their seasonal best, and those which have flowers, fruit or autumn colour might only be on show for a few weeks each year. The bonsai display house is open all year round with conifers and evergreens being shown in winter, alongside their leafless deciduous cousins. I work on the rest of the collection “behind the scenes” throughout the year, preparing them for their moment of glory!
A view of some of the bonsai trees kept "behind the scenes". Rhododendron 'Haka tahaku' in the foreground.
The core of the Kew collection of bonsai trees is based around the kind donation of Ruth Stafford-Jones. Ruth initially loaned a group of her trees to Kew during the 2001 Japan festival, and afterwards decided that she wanted them to be housed somewhere where they would be regularly seen by the public. In 2002 she donated fifty bonsai trees to Kew which were initially cared for by the Alpine unit. Sadly, Ruth passed away last year.
Since Ruth’s initial donation, other trees have been added to the collection. In 2005, three historic bonsai once owned by the famous iris grower Gwendolyn Anley were added to the collection. I'll talk more about this in a future blog post! Following Kew’s assistance with the Japan Car exhibition at the Science Museum 2008/09, we received a gift of a camellia bonsai, and were able to purchase four other bonsai trees from Windybank bonsai.
Thanks for your interest. In my next blog I’ll introduce the “tools of the trade”.
- Richard -
About Richard Kernick
Richard Kernick is the Bonsai specialist at Kew Gardens. He has worked at Kew since 2004, caring for and improving the bonsai collection while also working part time for the Alpine unit, helping to maintain their collection of woodland plants.
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