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My wife, Pam, and I have been in bonsai since the late '70s. Living in the hinterlands we had no resident master to teach us. Over the years we would personally work with masters who were visiting our club. The extended private instruction worked out very well. We were able to learn from John Naka, Toshio Saburomaru, Ben Oki, Chase Rosade, Dan Robinson, and many of the other great names.

Naturally, we went through a lot of raw stock. The only way to continue at the level we wanted was to collect or buy in bulk. One time we got a real deal on nasty looking 5 gallon junipers. We ended up with 200 of the darned things for less than a buck apiece. What do you do with 200 trees sitting in your driveway? We found four friends who weren't home and dropped off 25 trees apiece. That got us down to a manageable level. It's amazing what you can learn with that much to practice on.

We started to collect ponderosa pines early on and went on doing so for 20 years until the old knees went out. We had some wonderful old trees as a result. We did the same for white cedar and larch. Along the way we ended up with many other collected varieties.

As things grew, people wanted to see our collection. We ended up on HGTV twice, Discovery Channel, PBS, plus several books and magazines. We made a bonsai how-to video for the American Garden Club. We opened our garden for charitable events; groups like the Children's Cancer Fund, Victims of Torture, and other social causes. It's always rewarding to do so.  We had to come up with a descriptive name, since we lived in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, the obvious choice was White Bear Bonsai Garden. The name stuck even after we moved to North Carolina.

We don't really want to part with our art, but, we've reached that time of life when unlike fine wine I don't get better with age (I'm more like cabbage). Naturally, we'll keep our favorites, but, the bulk has to go. We miss the visitors to our garden, too.


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