Green Mountain Bonsai Society (GMBS) was founded in 1981, and has since grown from five to over sixty members. Our mission is to provide our members with a forum to exchange information, learn, teach and promote the art of bonsai through lectures, classes, workshops, demonstrations, field trips and monthly emailed newsletters.
Our meetings are generally held on the 3rd Sunday of every month (except January), members and experts share their expertise in the care and maintenance of Bonsai. The topics and formats vary from lectures to hands-on workshops. Visitors are always welcome. We regularly host bonsai artists, with national and international reputations, for lectures, demonstrations and workshops.
Most meetings are held at Gardener’s Supply at their Interval location, 128 Intervale Road, Burlington (NOT the Williston location). Please enter through the retail store. At the rear of the store is a door that leads to a staircase to the second floor meeting space. There is an elevator at the rear of the building. There is plenty of parking. Gardener’s only asks that we do not park directly in front of the store. Generally, there will be a member at the front entrance to guide people.
We thank Gardener’s Supply for their generous support of GMBS.
While there has been much discussion and some disagreement about the exact date of the founding of Green Mountain Bonsai Society, certain facts are known. In 1980 a gentleman named Gil Kline advertised in a local newspaper inviting interested people to meet and form a Bonsai club in Vermont. We met at the Astro Bowl Sports Center in Barre, VT amid the clatter of falling pins. We were a diverse crew… not many of us but we formed a nucleus. There were 6 of us to be exact and these were the original Charter Members of what was to become the society.
• Charter member #1 is Trudy Anderson
• Charter member #2 is Sandy Anderson
• Charter member #3 was Karin Ware
• Charter member #4 was Nicki Buck
• Charter member #5 is Greg Williams
• Charter member #6 was Gil Kline
Greg, Trudy and Sandy are still active members… Greg is the owner of Kate Brook Nursery and is one of the most renowned conifer experts in the US. Over the years his generosity in supporting the club with trees, advice and knowledge has gone a long way to ensuring the continuation of the club.
Our organizational meeting a month after the Astro Bowl determined the name of the club and the beginnings of our structure. That meeting ended with Gil Kline, now recognized as our “Guru”, pruning and shaping a young Juniper as a bonsai. Most of us were gasping as branches and roots went into the compost bin. Gil continued to enthusiastically prod us into expanding our horizons by sharing his knowledge, his vision and lots of reading material. It was our misfortune to lose him after only about six months to a heart attack. We were quite lost without him for a time but began to add new members and ultimately a new guru… Eric Schalk of Waterbury, VT. Eric had a wealth of experience and was a great help in ensuring that the club didn’t just fade away. For a time we held our meetings in the Waterbury Firehouse to make it more convenient for Eric and Eric became Charter member #7. You may be aware that the award for the Best Mame at the annual exhibition at the Champlain Valley Fair is named for Eric; the award for Best in Show is named the Gil Kline Award.
Our annual exhibition at the Champlain Valley Fair came to us thanks to Eric. Eric had for some years displayed his bonsai at the Fair personally covering the entire time period of the Fair by himself with some help from family members. By 1982 Eric had turned the fair event over to the Society and we have run it ever since as our single biggest fundraising event. Some of you will be familiar with Trudy’s Blue Moss Cypress which was in the 2014 National Show… below are photographs showing the tree as it was displayed at the Fair in 1983 and how it looked in 2014. As Trudy says, “Look how small it was!” We had met David Easterbrook by then and he was to become a mentor, friend and supporter of GMBS. David created the Blue Moss Cypress as a bonsai in 1981 from nursery stock selected by Rod Larrow, a longtime member. At the end of Davids demonstration, we raffled the tree off and Trudy won it. She has taken care and improved the tree since 1981… 33 years!
It was in 1984 that the club took an opportunity to visit David Easterbrook who was then the Curator of the Bonsai and Penjing collection at the Montreal Botanical Garden. At that time, the collection of Penjing that had been donated to Montreal and were still in quarantine. We were among those most fortunate to get a look at these trees before they were displayed to the public. Below is an article from People Magazine describing briefly the origin of these trees. Also below are photographs of David and a few of our club members from that time period. See if you can find David… also Rod Larrow and Greg Williams. This is a little like find Waldo!
It was after this particular visit that I think the Green Mountain Bonsai Society members realized that we had a great deal to learn and that our trees were not quite “up to snuff”. It was time to get more serious. As a result over the next years we began to more regularly invite guest artists even though we continued to rely heavily on David Easterbrook. Our Display at the Champlain Valley Fair took on a new look as well. Thanks to the volunteers who participated at the time and with the help of local sponsors such as Cleary Stone Company, we built and outstanding display in the Ware Building that consisted of a Stone Garden (sometimes referred to as a Zen Garden) as well as a small Japanese Garden. Huge stones, lots of stone gravel, lots of volunteers… David Grimm, then General Manager of The Fair, remarked when he entered the building, “Incredible. An island of serenity in the middle of my Fair”. In subsequent years we changed the display to include water features, gardens, benching that was built by the club members… still in use by CVE to this day! Each year we tried to do something a little different. Also during this period we hosted a “Youth Workshop” at the Fair. Youngsters from 12 to 16 were invited to join us to create a bonsai made from small Junipers… workshops lasted only a few hours and it seemed that most of the attendees were from the Fair 4-H community. Lots of cow and horse people were introduced to bonsai as a result. Our trees continued to improve during the 1990’s and newer members began taking over the reins of the club… and winning more of the ribbons from The Fair. Here are some photos of the 2000 Champlain Valley Fair exhibit where your club organized the Japanese Garden, a Stone Garden as well as the Bonsai display itself.
This takes us in brief up to the year 2000; the club had grown from the original members to more than 60! And quite a few volunteers to get the heavy work done…
By 2000 the Anderson’s had opened Mill Brook Bonsai and the majority of meetings were held either in the greenhouses there or, in more recent time, the small workshop. The club had become pretty self-reliant and with income from the Champlain Valley Fair and dues from about 60 members, we were in a position to invite guest artists from a wider area. Previously most of our advanced information came from David Easterbrook, a long term supporter and mentor to the club. We were fortunate have speakers such as Suthin Sukolsovisit (Mass. & Thailand), Marty Schmallenberg (NJ), Mike Sullivan (FL), Chase Rosade (PA), Mary Miller (FL), Randy Clark (NC), David of course from Montreal, Lo Min from China spent a day with us providing a different approach to bonsai than we had been used to as well as Michael Andolfo from Italy. Generally, we were able to have guest speakers at least once or twice a year and more often three to four times. Demonstrations, workshops and critiques all helped us grow in the art of bonsai. Our Annual Members Show continued to grow in quality and in quality of our guest artists… and of course, many thanks to the Workman Family who have catered a dynamite lunch at the members show each year. 2015 will be the last Members Show at Mill Brook and the Workman Family has promised an even better than usual lunch.
As the years progressed, so did our trees; just like people, they get better with age.