C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum


Brooklyn Botanic Garden's extensive bonsai collection is one of the finest in the world. The collection of approximately 350 trees is the second oldest in the country and one of the largest on public display outside Japan, with as many as 30 specimens on exhibit at any given time. Cold-temperate trees form the core of the collection, but tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean, and warm-temperate species are also represented.

The C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum was renovated in 2005 to include a stylized verandah complete with a tokonoma, or alcove, that looks out onto the entire exhibit. Text panels introduce the history of bonsai and explain the plants' culture and care.

Be sure to check out the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum during the cherry blossom season (April–May) and the Garden's famed Sakura Matsuri.

Julian Velasco

Julian Velasco

 

Julian Velasco is the curator of the bonsai collection and C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum. He began his bonsai studies with Chase Rosade of Rosade Bonsai Studio, then apprenticed with BBG bonsai curator Robert Mahler. Julian was appointed to the position of curator in the spring of 2006. His main interests are the philosophical and spiritual aspects of bonsai.

Online Articles

Fall Color for Bonsai
Bonsai: Small Tree, Big Heart

Contributions to BBG Handbooks

Growing Bonsai Indoors

BBG’s bonsai collection began in 1925 with 32 potted trees—a gift from Ernest F. Coe. Today, the collection consists of approximately 350 temperate and tropical bonsai trained in classic modes such as the windswept, slanted trunk, rock clinging, and forest styles. Some of the trees in this world-class collection are well over a century old, with many still cultivated in their original containers. One of the most remarkable specimens is the Japanese white pine that was brought from a mountainside in Japan more than 90 years ago. There are also younger bonsai being trained into their iconic shapes.

The Garden's first bonsai master was Frank Okamura, who came to New York City as a gardener after his release from a wartime internment camp in California. Over the years, Mr. Okamura contributed enormously to the spread of Japanese cultural influences in America, especially the spread of bonsai knowledge. He worked at Brooklyn Botanic Garden from 1947 until 1981, and soon after his arrival at BBG began his influential artistry with the Garden's few bonsai trees, eventually becoming responsible for their care as they became part of a large and important collection.

The C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum holds a world-class collection of over 350 bonsai and is home to the oldest trees in BBG. Highlights include the wisterias, which flower in the spring; others include lilacs, azaleas, flowering cherry, and quince. One Japanese white pine bonsai that is over 300 years old is generally on display during the winter.

A successful bonsai is designed so that visitors not only see the tree form or architecture, but also get a sense of the surrounding environment in which the tree might be found in nature. "A bonsai that grows in a dense forest would look very different than one perched on the edge of a cliff," curator Julian Velasco points out. "And when I design each individual tree, a primary goal I have is to communicate the spirit of that tree—and in this way to hopefully evoke the imagery of a special, natural environment."

Visiting Bonsai Master Jim Doyle from Pennsylvania with Bonsai curator Julian Velasco
BBG Bonsai curator Julian Velasco with visiting Bonsai Master Jim Doyle from Pennsylvania.
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    • The C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum in autumn.The C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum in autumn.
    • C.V. Starr Bonsai MuseumC.V. Starr Bonsai Museum
    • C.V. Starr Bonsai MuseumC.V. Starr Bonsai Museum
    • Acer buergerianum in root over rock style. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.Acer buergerianum in root over rock style. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
    • Very old Juniperus chinensis.Very old Juniperus chinensis.
    • Acer palmatumAcer palmatum
    • Blue atlas cedar in cascade style. Photo by Julian Velasco.Blue atlas cedar in cascade style. Photo by Julian Velasco.
    • Chamaecyparis pisifera 'squarrosa' in the Bonsai Museum. Photo by Julian Velasco.Chamaecyparis pisifera 'squarrosa' in the Bonsai Museum. Photo by Julian Velasco.
    • Bonsai Master Seiji Morima paying his respect to the Bonsai Fudo during his visit to BBG.Bonsai Master Seiji Morima paying his respect to the Bonsai Fudo during his visit to BBG.
    • Acer buergerianum in Clump styleAcer buergerianum in Clump style
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      • Lilac in the slant style flowering in Spring. Photo by Medi Blum. Lilac in the slant style flowering in Spring. Photo by Medi Blum.
      • Pinus parviflora group planting in summer.Pinus parviflora group planting in summer.
      • Acer palmatum in forest style. Photo by Medi Blum.Acer palmatum in forest style. Photo by Medi Blum.
      • Corylopsis spicata flower detailCorylopsis spicata flower detail
      • Chamaecyparis pisifera "Squarrosa" in the bonsai museum's Tokanoma (alcove).Chamaecyparis pisifera "Squarrosa" in the bonsai museum's Tokanoma (alcove).
      • Pinus rigida in the mother daughter or double trunk style. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.Pinus rigida in the mother daughter or double trunk style. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
      • Ulmus parvifloria trained in the broom style.Ulmus parvifloria trained in the broom style.
      • Pinus densiflora  Style Informal Upright Pinus densiflora Style Informal Upright
      • Acer buergerianum in root over rock style. Photo by Julian Velasco.Acer buergerianum in root over rock style. Photo by Julian Velasco.
      • Ampelopsis brevipedunculata berry detailAmpelopsis brevipedunculata berry detail
      • Ampelopsis brevipedunculata  Cascade Style in flowerAmpelopsis brevipedunculata Cascade Style in flower
      • Quercus dentata almost 200 years old imported in 1910 with Fall colors part of BBG's collection since 1925. Quercus dentata almost 200 years old imported in 1910 with Fall colors part of BBG's collection since 1925.
      • Prunus x subhirtella in weeping style. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.Prunus x subhirtella in weeping style. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
      • Malas  flower detailMalas flower detail
      • Malus  Slant Style in SpringMalus Slant Style in Spring
      • Ulmus parviflora broom style in FallUlmus parviflora broom style in Fall
      • Bonsai soil detailBonsai soil detail
      • A Japanese Apricot blooms in the Bonsai Museum of the Steinhardt Conservatory. There are many ways of styling or forming Bonsai, this Apricot shows the Bunjin or Literati form.A Japanese Apricot blooms in the Bonsai Museum of the Steinhardt Conservatory. There are many ways of styling or forming Bonsai, this Apricot shows the Bunjin or Literati form.
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      Saturday & Sunday:
      10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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      Closed on Thanksgiving

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      Adults $10
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      150 Eastern Parkway
      990 Washington Avenue
      Brooklyn, NY 11225

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