Gardening is seldom seen as a form of art. Yet, to cultivate a bonsai tree one must borrow skills from gardeners and artists alike to create a miniature masterpiece. Bonsai is the ancient art of cultivating miniaturized trees that originated in ancient China and Japan. Literally translating to “tree in a pot” the art form is focused around carefully adjusting a tree’s growth to appear identical to a regularly sized tree.
Dennis Chuchel, a founding member of the Fox Valley Bonsai Society, has been growing bonsai trees for more than 40 years and has cultivated dozens of bonsais in his lifetime. For him, it was a matter of being amazed by the bonsais the first time he saw them at a bonsai competition in Chicago. Soon after, he and a few friends started the Fox Valley Bonsai Society which has been holding regular meetings ever since. Each year, members of the Bonsai Society showcase their work at the Bergstrom-Mahler Art Festival and travel to Chicago for the Mid-America Bonsai Show and Sale at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
“To be interested in bonsai you have to have two things. First, you need to have a little bit of a green thumb, because they are tricky to keep alive. Second, you have to be a bit of an artist. You’ve got to be able to see something in a rough form. The artist definitely comes out in you,” says Chuchel. For Chuchel, the process begins by envisioning how a small shrub can be designed to look like a small tree. From there, it’s a matter of trimming, pruning and wiring the shrub to conform to bonsai aesthetics. Bonsai trees grow slowly, and require attention to detail. With time, bonsai trees can be cultivated into unique, natural works of art.
Society meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 7p.m at the Old Iron Works building at 609 E. Hancock St., Appleton. Meetings are for members to display their works, share knowledge and help newcomers. For more information, contact the
Fox Valley Bonsai at [email protected] or Chuchel at 739-9791.