Winter Care : National Bonsai – Penjing Museum

First let me say that I apologize for such the long time of no posts. I believe it has been slightly over a month since my last post and trust me, its been killing me not to write. This time of year is extremely busy at work, the children are back in school and loading up almost every night with after school activities, and top that with everything else in life that makes time disappear. However, this period of time has not been bonsai free, which is good. Its been really cold here recently with temps in the teens and lots of wind. With that said, I have been working on and have finally completed all winter care preparations for my trees. Speaking of winter care for my trees, that is exactly what this post will be about. 

A couple of weekends ago I traveled to our nations capital, Washington D.C., for a bonsai lecture at our National Bonsai – Penjing Museum. The museums assistant curator Aarin Packard gave a great lecture on over-wintering bonsai and general winter bonsai care. After about an hour-long discussion, the group (about 12 of us) were given a tour of the museum and a behind-the-scenes look of their work areas. I took a bunch of photos of the trees in their winter silhouettes and will share in another post later. We walked through a couple of the pavilions to look at trees, we looked at their winter cold frame, temp controlled greenhouses, supply room for soils – pots – tools etc, and an outdoor holding area. 

The first area we walked through was the supply room. This is where they keep all their supplies such as tools, carts, soil amendments, a secured cage for all pots/containers, fertilizers, insecticides and so on. All the pots were locked in a secured cage, which is to be expected since they have some extremely old and extremely expensive pots. It wasn’t a big room, however, it was sufficient to keep all the supplies organized. 

We then  toured a temp controlled greenhouse. This area only had a few bonsai in it at the time. They had a camellia placed in the greenhouse to protect it from the upcoming severe weather.  It was getting covered in flower buds since camellias bloom in winter, however we were expecting some extremely quick temp changes and the tree was placed in there to protect the flower buds from dying. There were a ton of buds on this tree and I can only imagine how amazing it will look in a couple of weeks when it is in full bloom. 

After the greenhouse we walked to the outside multi-use holding area. This is where any overflow/extra bonsai stay, unhealthy weak bonsai, bonsai in training, the containment house, hoop house and extras. There were some amazing bonsai in this area that if museum felt they didn’t need because it was “extra”… I would gladly take any they don’t want ;). They had many azaleas holding here and other bonsai that were in training, such as 2 very large bald cypress. They use the hoop house to bury bonsai in mulch for winter protection. They also have a containment shelter for any bonsai they receive from other countries. These foreign bonsai must stay in this shelter for extend periods of time (possibly several years) to ensure they did not bring over any unwanted pests or disease that could wreak havoc in the museum or our country’s eco system. After they get the “all clear” signal, they get displayed with the rest of the trees. 

Just off to the back of the holding area was a cold frame built into the ground. It was a large cold frame (almost like a bomb shelter/bunker) and could hold many trees/plants over the winter. Any bonsai that could not fit in the above described areas would then be placed in the Chinese Pavilion. They place a removable roof over the pavilion and control the temperature by using several thermometer controlled exhaust vans to suck out warm air or pump in cold air depending on the pavilions ambient temps. 

Please enjoy the photos in the gallery below! I will give captions to each one to help explain what you are viewing. 

Aarin Packard (assistant curator) also has a great blog he writes called Capital Bonsai. Please visit his site by clicking here if you would like to see some great photos of the National Bonsai-Penjing Museum. I would like to extend my thanks to the National Bonsai-Penjing Museum for offering its facilities for this lecture and also to Aarin Packard for his time and excellent info. 

Thanks for reading and folllowing 

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