Clark Bonsai Collection

In 2014 when the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford closed, its outstanding collection of over 100 bonsai was donated by Bill and Libby Clark to the Golden State Bonsai Federation for the placement at Shinzen. Bob Hilvers, the Clark Center bonsai curator for over 13 years, agreed to continue the daunting task of overseeing the collection in the new. Thanks to Bob Boro, the landscape architect who designed the Clark Center Garden and Sid Mukai, the design build contractor, and the Fresno Bonsai Society, the site was cleared, irrigation installed, construction and landscaping completed, and the original bonsai garden structures were preserved and moved to Shinzen. The Fresno Bonsai Society continues to contribute volunteer hours to the Clark Bonsai Collection at Shinzen.


One unique feature of the Clark Bonsai Collection is the Legacy Collection, which features bonsai created by Japanese immigrant and Japanese-American bonsai artists of California. Because of their cultural and historical importance, the curatorial team try to maintain the aesthetic style of the original artists so future generations can view their artistry as it was originally produced.


Bonsai is not a species of plant, it is an art form. Bonsai are living sculptures, the harmonious blend of horticultural and aesthetic techniques to create the image of a tree in miniature. Practically any species of woody plant can be used to create a bonsai. However, some plant species lend themselves to the art better than others.


The common perception is that all bonsai are of extreme old age. Although there are fully documented bonsai that are extremely old, the truth is that most bonsai are less than 50 years old. We do have a bonsai in the Clark Collection that is about 1000 years old. However this is the estimated age of the plant, not how long it has been a bonsai. For the most part, we simply do not know exactly how old a bonsai is because we weren’t around when it sprouted. The important thing is how old the bonsai looks. The creation of the appearance of extreme age is part of the aesthetic process of the art of bonsai.


Bonsai are kept small through a combination of aesthetic pruning techniques, removing them from their pots and trimming the roots before replacing them in their pots with new soil, and the fact that they are planted in containers with a limited amount of space.


You will see wire or string on a number of the bonsai on display. The wire is used to direct the growth of branches in the most aesthetic position for the particular design of the bonsai. It works much the same way as orthodontia for teeth. The wire is used to bend and the string to hold a branch in position until the tree adds a growth ring. The wire and/or string is then removed and the branch will remain in position.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 16178, Fresno, CA 93755-6178

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