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Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’) in the root over rock style. 24 inches. Developed by Kimura Masahiko. (Courtesy of Longwood Gardens/Hank Davis.)

Longwood Gardens today announced that Doug Paul, the founder of The Kennett Collection — the finest and largest private collection of bonsai and bonsai-related objects outside of Asia — has made a transformative gift and bequest. Received in two parts, an initial gift will include 50 bonsai given to Longwood over the course of the next two years, as well as a yearly cash gift to support their maintenance. The second part of the gift is a bequest, which will gift 100 additional specimens—including kicho bonsai or Important Bonsai Masterpieces because of their beauty or rarity—and $1 million for an endowment for the continued care of the collection, as well as additional acquisitions. The bequest will more than double the size of Longwood’s collection. Most significantly, it will add important examples of rare Japanese tree species, making Longwood the leading collection of bonsai trained in Japan on public view in the United States.

“These important bonsai trees, which have been so lovingly and carefully trained, will elevate Longwood’s collection to one of the most significant in the country,” said Paul B. Redman, president and CEO of Longwood Gardens.

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’) in situ at The Kennett Collection. (Courtesy of Longwood Gardens/Phil Bradshaw.)

“The initial 50 specimens will expand the breadth and depth of our existing collection of 78 bonsai, best known for the diversity of our flowering species and for four notable trees developed by artist Yuri Yoshimura. We are extraordinarily grateful to Doug Paul for this transformative gift and the faith he shows in our bonsai program by entrusting us with these important living works of art.”

The Kennett Collection, which was started in 1999, now comprises 1,200 specimens that span the spectrum of bonsai in terms of sizes, styles, and species. The world’s leading bonsai experts have tended to the collection, which is also notable for the number of trees that have been invited for display in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition and the number of trees that are “Registered Masterpiece Bonsai” by the Nippon Bonsai Association.

The initial 50 trees that will enter the Longwood Collection over the next two years are especially notable for their lineage, including examples from many of Japan’s most famous nurseries, including the Chinsho-en nursery run by the Nakanishi family in Takamatsu, as well as from world-renowned bonsai artists, including Kimura Masahiko, who is known as "The Magician;" Suzuki Shinji of Japan; and Suthin Sukosolvisit of Boston. The gift will also include breathtaking Omono or “Very Large” bonsai, measuring three to four feet in height and weighing a few hundred pounds each.

Seven of these bonsai will go on view immediately in Longwood’s Conservatory, where they can be seen until November 13, 2022. Particularly notable specimens include:

  • a trident maple (Acer buergerianum) in the root over rock style, which was popularized more than 100 years ago in the Nagoya area of Japan. This specimen was developed by the Boston-based bonsai artist Suthin Sukosolvisit, who is considered by many as the best non-Japanese trained artist in the western world. The balance and movement of the roots over and down the rock is close to ideal, and the tree has achieved a superb level of maturity with an incredibly dense canopy of well-ramified twigs and branches.
  • a Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’), which was styled by the celebrated bonsai artist Kimura Masahiko. Over many years, he reshaped the branches and developed growth to complement how the roots grip the rocks. Following the specimen’s difficult journey to the United States, Mr. Kimura's first foreign apprentice, Marco Invernizzi, returned the tree to health.
  • a Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii), considered one of the most important species in Japan and revered for its vigor and longevity. This specimen, which is 20 inches tall and in the upright style, was initially trained under the care of the internationally renowned Suzuki Shinji.
  • a Satsuki hybrid azalea (Rhododendron ‘kinsai’) of the kinsai variety, which is known for its flowers’ resemblance to a firecracker—a distinctive red flower with tassels. This superb specimen, originally from the garden of Kunio Kobayashi founder of the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum in Japan, has been trained in the informal upright style and is notable for its distinctive branching structure and muscular trunk with sinuous veins.
Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Kotobuki’) in the slant style. 28 inches. Developed by the Chinsho-en nursery in Takamatsu, Japan. (Courtesy of Longwood Gardens/Hank Davis.)

“I am delighted to give specimens from The Kennett Collection to Longwood,” said donor Doug Paul. “I have spent many happy years stewarding these bonsai and sharing them with other bonsai connoisseurs at the Kokufu exhibition — the Westminster Dog Show of the bonsai world. I am now looking forward to a wider public getting to enjoy their beauty and splendor at Longwood.”

“Mr. Paul has been able to do what nobody else has done in the U.S. and that is to import, maintain, and improve specimens from Japan of the highest quality,” said Peter Warren, the U.K.’s leading bonsai professional. “Once The Kennett Collection trees are situated at Longwood, it will be without doubt one of the top three collections in the U.S. All of the trees in the collection have a unique and prestigious place in bonsai history, many spanning generations.”

The gift will also include bonsai-related objects, notably the containers in which the bonsai are trained. In the initial gift of 50 bonsai, there are notable examples by American bonsai ceramists Sara Rayner and Nick Lenz, who was also a celebrated bonsai artist. Together, the bonsai and the containers form a harmonious tableau.

The majority of the 50 bonsai from The Kennett Collection gift will go on long-term view during the grand opening of Longwood Reimagined in late 2024, a sweeping yet deeply sensitive transformation of 17 acres of the Gardens’ central visitor area. As part of this expansion, a new outdoor Bonsai Courtyard will be built alongside the new West Conservatory. Hedges and charred wood walls will create an intimate, gallery-like space, where dozens of bonsai will be displayed on free-standing pedestals against dark backdrops that highlight their forms, foliage, and seasonal bloom.

The gift is one of the most comprehensive and generous Longwood has received as part of the Gardens’ Pierre S. and Alice du Pont Founder’s Circle, which recognizes and honors individuals who make the thoughtful decision to include Longwood Gardens as part of their estate plans.

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