PITTSTON — As Sue Lauer was making her way around the Midway Garden Center in Pittston, she recalled her first experience with bonsai plants.
“We got into it because my husband had an interest,” she said. “We saw our first one at Disney in 1985.”
By 1988, the Northeast Pennsylvania Bonsai Society was born.
The society held its 26th annual open house at the garden center Sept. 10, with almost 130 different types of bonsai plants attracting people to the site throughout the day.
Lauer is both society’s president and owner of the garden center. She said the group holds various demonstrations, workshops and trips throughout the year, as well as hosting guest speakers to talk about the art of bonsai.
Originating over a thousand years ago, bonsai is an art form of miniaturizing and visually aging tress and plants that dates back to the Chinese Empire. The trend later traveled throughout Asia and Europe, earning its name before landing in North America in the 1960s.
“Bonsai is taking younger trees and making them look older,” said society member and Shavertown resident Bob Gruner.
He and Lauer explained that bonsai plants are regular plants — taken from the wild, a nursery or from seed — that are cared for in such a way that over time it stunts their growth. Many different factors go into bonsai, including how the plant is potted, watered and pruned.
Almost any kind of plant can be transformed into a bonsai, although caring for the plant depends on its personal type — much like general gardening.
“You have to give the plant what the plant wants,” Lauer said.
The society accepts anyone that has a general interest in the art. The group can help teach beginners and assist them in choosing their first plant and what will work best for their personal environment.
“We fit the plant to the person,” Lauer said, adding that someone who works in an office will do best with a plant that can survive without a lot of natural sunlight.
Gruner said that he thinks bonsai is similar to painting, adding that both can take years until they’re “complete”.
Outside, society member and longtime bonsai lover Carl Achhammer walked around the exhibit, speaking with other members and assisting interested patrons.
Achhammer said he has been growing the plants for nearly 20 years. Recently, he has taken the art of growing into the classroom, teaching a bonsai class at Misericordia University in Dallas Township.