Welcome to my blog
My name is Chris Baker and I will be writing about my experiences as an apprentice at Daijuen Bonsai Nursery, and beyond. I’ll be posting about interesting techniques I learn, bonsai shows and events, selected journal entries and everything that being an apprentice has to offer. I have two weeks left in my first 3 months in Okazaki, Japan and hope to return again to continue my bonsai education later this summer. I am originally from Long Island, NY and before moving to Japan I was living in Baltimore, Maryland with my unbelievably supportive wife Marj, and my dog One Five.
I first got involved in bonsai in 2004, when I purchased a friend a juniper bonsai as a gift. I thought it was a cool tree so I bought myself one…and so it began. I was living in Gainesville, Florida (home of the Mighty Gators) and found that there was a bonsai club in town. I soon joined the club and began learning as much as I could about bonsai. It was a thriving club with a lot of knowledgeable members. The state convention was held in Gainesville a year later and I had a chance to see people like Colin Lewis, Jim Smith, Joe Day and other talented bonsai artist at work. I also got to participate in and watch a number of workshops and demonstrations all week-end. It was an eye-opening experience and served to fuel my fire.
Two years later I moved to Baltimore, Maryland to work at the National Aquarium as a veterinary technician. I promptly joined the Baltimore Bonsai Club and continued learning as much as I could. I soon sought out new avenues for learning and landed a part-time job at Meehan’s Miniatures, a commercial bonsai grower about 70 miles west of Baltimore. On my day off from the Aquarium I would ride out and work. This gave me the opportunity to work on many trees in the same day and get far more hands on experience that I could with my own collection. I learned a lot from Martha and Hugh Meehan and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work at their nursery. Working at Meehan’s also gave me some insight as to how a bonsai nursery is run, and just how much work it was. All information that might come in handy one day.
In the next couple of years I became more and more active in the Baltimore Bonsai Club, holding a board member position, helping out with workshops, demonstrations and many of the outreach events the club put on. I was also attending as many bonsai conventions and events as I could outside the club. I then took a new position at the National Aquarium of Senior Horticulturist of the Rainforest Exhibit, and my horticulture passion continued to grow. It was at this point I realized I needed to make horticulture and bonsai a bigger part of my life. Soon after the Baltimore Bonsai Club was participating in an event at the National Arboretum, Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C.. I introduced myself to the Curator, Jack Sustic. I said “Hi my name is Chris Baker; I have aspirations of working at a bonsai collection one day and would love to volunteer here.” That sentence has altered to course of my life. I started volunteering a few months later and began learning all I could from Jack. One day I was asking Jack if the Arboretum ever took on people for internships or apprenticeships. He said that they did not but if I was serious he might be able to get me an opportunity at a nursery in Japan…..Thanks to Jack; my mentor and friend, 5 months later I arrived at Daijuen in the dark of night and bitter cold knowing my education had reached a whole new level. I hope you follow along in my journey, learn some good tips and enjoy the ride with me.