The Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection
The Larz Anderson Collection of Japanese Dwarfed Trees at the Arnold Arboretum was originally imported into the United States by the Honorable Larz Anderson in 1913, upon his return from serving as ambassador to Japan. The core of the collection consists of seven large specimens of compact hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa‘Chabo-hiba’)—each between 150 and 275 years old—that Anderson purchased from the Yokohama Nursery Company and later donated to the Arboretum. All told, thirty-five masterfully curated specimens comprise the bonsai collection.In much of Japan and milder parts of the United States, bonsai can be left outdoors all winter with only minimal protection from the elements. In New England’s more severe climate, however, plants in containers need to be protected during the cold months. Arboretum bonsai are stored in a concrete-block structure that is maintained at 33 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, and the plants are checked for water once a week. The key to successful winter storage is to make sure that the plants are fully dormant before they go in and that they come out before they show any signs of growth. Generally speaking, our plants go into cold storage in November and come out in mid April, actual dates depending on weather and temperature. Records of the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection [pdf] documents the history and maintenance of this collection. In April 1937, Isabel Anderson donated the majority of her late husband’s bonsai collection (30 plants) to the Arnold Arboretum, along with the funds necessary to build a shade house for their display. The rest of the Anderson bonsai came to the Arboretum following Isabel’s death in 1949.
Rare in its native Japan, nine Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Chabo-hiba’ (hinoki cypress) are centerpieces of the collection. Hiba is the common name for the arborvitae-like conifer that is endemic to Japan, Thujopsis dolobrata. The word literally means “hatchet-shaped” and refers to the scale-like foliage of the plant. The word chabo means bantam or dwarf chicken, and when combined with hiba is translated to mean “compact or dwarf cypress.”
Additional taxa represented in the collection include:
6 – Acer palmatum (includes cultivar ‘Yatsubusa’)
3 – Pinus parviflora
2 - Ginkgo biloba (includes cultivar ‘Chi-Chi’)
2 - Ulmus parvifolia
1 ea. – Acer buergerianum var. trinerve, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’, Chaenomeles speciosa, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Squarrosa’, Corylopsis spicata, Fagus japonica, Juniperus procumbens, Loropetalum chinense, Pinus rigida, Prunus subhirtella, Sageretia thea, Taxodium distichum, Ulmus crassifolia
The collection is displayed adjacent to the Dana Greenhouses, approximately a 10-minute walk from either the Arborway Gate or the Forest Hills Gate, and about a twenty-minute walk from the Bussey Street Gate. Look for the wooden lath house overlooking the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden, just beyond the stone wall running along its southwestern border. Use the stairwell that cuts through the stone wall, or walk behind the Leventritt Pavilion for an accessible path to the Bonsai Collection. If driving, park outside the Centre Street Gate or along the Arborway.
The collection is on view from mid April through mid November, daily from 8:00am to 3:45pm, excluding holidays. A wheelchair-accessible, crushed stone path from the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden leads to a paved path surrounding the wooden structure that houses the collection. Please note that Linden Path, which connects Meadow Road to the north entry of the Leventritt Garden path, may not be accessible to wheelchairs in all weather. There is no entry to the bonsai pavillion itself; the structure is designed to allow visitors to view the collection from the outside.
Labels provide plant names and the year each was first trained as bonsai. Use your cellphone to find out more about this special collection; when you visit, look for signs for our mobile tour and dial 617.895.4085. Or, download our podcast.
How long should I explore?
Most visitors spend between ten and twenty minutes viewing the collection, which may be enjoyed from multiple angles as visitors circulate around the perimeter of the lath house.
Plan your visit to the Arboretum.
- Special Bonsai Issue. 2006. Arnoldia Volume 64(2-3). Dedicated to the restoration of the collection.
- Cook, Robert E. 1993. Why Are Bonsai Leaves Small? Arnoldia 15(1): 19-23. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, Peter. 1989. The Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection. Arnoldia 49(3): 2-37. [pdf]
- Tortorici Derderian, Constance. 1976. Subtropical Bonsai for Indoor Gardening. Arnoldia 36(1): 1-21. [pdf]
- Vining, Donald M. 1971. Bonsai: Nature in Miniature. Arnoldia 31(5): 274-282. [pdf]
- Wyman, Donald. 1964. Bonsai at the Arnold Arboretum. Arnoldia 24(12): 101-104. [pdf]
Search for related articles in Arnoldia, the magazine of the Arnold Arboretum.