Bonsai Talk at Smithsonian Craft Show

Smithsonian Craft Show 2018, Asian Influences, American Design


Cherry Blossom season 2018 was a whirlwind, literally. The unusually windy weather made the news. Now I’m looking forward to the Smithsonian Craft Show, an inside event, opening to the public on April 26. As one of the show’s “conversations,” I will be speaking about bonsai — Tiny Trees, Big Stories, Living Arts — on Friday, April 27 at 3 pm at the National Building Museum. Please join me!

Spring Excitement!

This year, I am thrilled to be participating in a Willard Intercontinental Hotel History Happy Hour with the renowned Jim Hewes. The full description is included below. Make your reservation to join us on Friday, April 13 at 6 pm!

Cherry Blossoms at peak bloom in 2014. This year’s peak in DC is expected March 17-20.

Flowers of Friendship: Unearthing the History of the National Cherry Blossoms
April 13, 2018 | 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | The Willard Room at the Willard InterContinental

What began as an idea to beautify Potomac Park, evolved into a complex initiative spearheaded by First Lady Helen Taft. Expressing her desire to have Japanese cherry trees planted along the Tidal Basin in an effort to create a public space where visitors and locals alike could enjoy the outdoors, she worked to bring the first cherry trees to Washington from a nursery in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until 1910 when the Japanese became aware of First Lady Taft’s efforts that they choose to gift the United States with 2,000 Yoshino cherry trees, as a way to commemorate the lasting friendship between the two nations. However, after inspection upon arrival to the U.S., this shipment of trees had to be destroyed due to disease. The city of Tokyo would go on to send an additional 3,000 cherry trees to Washington in 1912. Today, drawing over 1 million visitors a year, the national cherry blossom trees in Washington, DC are Helen Taft’s greatest legacy and one of the city’s most cherished gifts.

Join Jim Hewes and Ann McClellan for History Happy Hour: Flowers of Friendship, for a fascinating and informative look at the history of the national cherry blossom trees, as well as the friendship between the United States and Japan, a relationship that blossomed at The Willard nearly 157 years ago.
In Conversation with:
Jim Hewes, Bartender, Round Robin Bar
Throughout his 30 years of working at the famed Round Robin Bar at the Willard InterContinental, Jim has established an internationally acclaimed reputation for not only his cocktails but for the history lessons he provides to patrons of the bar. “Jim Hewes is a walking DC History Channel and he makes a great Mint Julep,” says a frequent bar-goer. “Come for the drinks, stay for the history lesson.” Google Jim Hewes, Round Robin Bar, and nearly 11k search results appear. 90% of those search results speak to the famed mixologist that he is and the strong command of U.S. history that he possesses. A winner of DC Craft Bartender’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2017 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, Jim has become as synonymous with the Round Robin Bar as the bar is with the Willard InterContinental.

Ann McClellan, Author of Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival & The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration
A longtime Washingtonian, is the author of two books about the capital city’s cherry blossom trees and their Japanese heritage. The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration, and Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Her life-long love affair with trees began in childhood, when she enjoyed growing up on a New Jersey campus laid out as an arboretum by Frederick Law Olmsted. Her earlier career included executive positions at prestigious organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution, World Wildlife Fund, and the American Alliance of Museums. Her newest book, Bonsai and Penjing: Ambassadors of Peace & Beauty, is about the bonsai at the National Arboretum, furthering her deep and abiding interest in trees of all kinds. A sought-after speaker and avid traveler, she is thrilled to have experienced cherry blossoms falling in Tokyo.

Happy New Year!

Bonsai inspired a billboard near Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

Last year at this time, I was getting ready to travel to Japan for the World Bonsai Convention in Saitama City/Omiya. I stayed near Shinjuku Station, where this photo was taken. This year, I’m looking forward to giving bonsai talks at the Smithsonian Craft Show at 3 pm on April 27 and two at the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon at 1 pm and 4 pm on May 24, in addition to some private presentations.

Cherry Blossom activities are ongoing too, including a fun evening from 6 to 8 pm at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel on April 13. It may only be mid-January as I write, but spring is on its way in my world!

News from Washington, DC!

Two views of Mount Monadnock by Abbott Handerson Thayer on view at the Freer Gallery of Art. This is the mountain I think of when I look at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum’s bonsai #5, an Ezo Spruce.

I was lucky enough to attend a preview event at the Freer Gallery of Art on September 23rd. It and its sister gallery, the Sackler, have been closed for several months while the interior spaces were renovated and improved. Both will reopen during the weekend of October 14 and 15 and I, for one, can’t wait!

Other exciting events for me this fall are the dedication of the new Japanese Pavilion at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum on October 6 with a book signing at the National Arboretum for the Ikebana celebration on October 7, followed by the Aki Matsuri and moon viewing at the Arboretum on November 4. Hope to see you there!

The Ezo Spruce (Picea glehnii), #5 in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum collections, which I call “Little Mountain.”

Tiny Trees, Big Stories in New Hampshire!

Delighted to present Tiny Trees, Big Stories at RiverMead in Peterborough, NH

Stanley Chinn’s windswept Chinese Elm is as beautiful on the screen as it is in person

Phil McFarland brought his Japanese Maple to share hands-on bonsai experience

Save the Date! Amos Fortune Forum, July 28, 2017!

Info panel from flyer!


From my earliest years, spending summers in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire, I paid attention to who was speaking at Jaffrey’s Amos Fortune Forum on Friday nights. I was thrilled and honored to join the ranks of those amazing speakers when I gave a cherry blossom talk at a Forum about ten years ago and it is just as exciting to look forward to giving a bonsai talk this year on July 28 at 8 pm in the Jaffrey Center Meeting House. See you there!

Bonsai in Japan

World Bonsai Convention Display at Omiya Train Station


It was thrilling to be in Japan for the World Bonsai Convention at the end of April 2017 at Saitama City/Omiya, north of Tokyo. This convention happens once every four years and draws bonsai enthusiasts from around the world. The displays are amazing! The next one will be in 2021 in Perth, Australia.

A Juniper at the train station.

Even though I was in Japan to look at bonsai, I found cherry blossoms too. Here they are on a sake barrel at a shrine in Omiya.

A gorgeous bonsai from the Imperial Household.

The multitude of bonsai was almost overwhelming.

Bonsai inspired a billboard near Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

Kusamono Enhance Bonsai Experience

With Sandra Moore and Young Choe at National Bonsai & Penjing Museum


Kusamono artist Young Choe’s work can be enjoyed at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum where it complements the bonsai on view, providing a seasonal accent. Sandra Moore is the author of The Peace Tree from Hiroshima, a lovely book for children about the bonsai that survived the atomic bomb. We three met up by chance at the museum on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Lucky us!

Bonsai on formal display with kusamono