Tree Museum

They took all the trees

Put ’em in a tree museum

And they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

When winter gets cold, damp and dreary what is a tree hugger to do?  I grab my coat and head to the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C.  There you will find more than a dozen superb gardens and collections, with the crown jewel being the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. This museum has three pavilions (Japanese, Chinese and North American) that collectively house about 150 trees. During winter all the trees are moved to the Chinese pavilion for protection from snow, ice and extreme cold temperatures.  This is a great time to see the trees buck naked without their clothes (leaves). When the trees are in full leaf the trunks are mostly hidden. Now that the trees are dormant without their leaves we can focus on the beauty of their trunk and branch shapes, the texture of their bark and the intricacy of ramifications.

Stanley Chinn created the tree at the top of this post. Stanley, a Chinese-American designed this Trident Maple to look like a dragon. Can you see the head on the right and tail on the left? It was once popular in China to create trees to look like the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. At first glance most people would call this a root over rock style bonsai, however this tree seems to fall into a category of it’s own. Penjing is much more accepting of unusual or even bizarre styles. Do you like this tree? Add a comment below.

I have posted several photos of the museum’s trees below. All are deciduous except one that is rarely seen from this perspective.

This is the rarely seen backside of John Naka’s masterpiece ‘Goshin’

You can take a virtual tour of the National and Penjing Museum at

You can see photos of most of the current museum trees (deciduous and evergreen) at

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

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