‘Tree in a tray’: Peters Township resident starts business for bonsai enthusiasts | Living in Washington County

‘Tree in a tray’: Peters Township resident starts business for bonsai enthusiasts | Living in Washington County

F.or those who have wondered why people grow miniature trees, Ian Evans can fix them.

The resident of Peters Township established the Bebop Bonsai Garden as a source for anyone interested in an art form that goes back thousands of years.

Its range includes special bonsai accessories, starter trees and lots of information on how to cultivate plants effectively. And for those whose knowledge of bonsai is sketchy at best, Evans fills in the gaps about its history, purpose, and art.

“It started in China and became known as penjing,” he said. “They took a fully grown tree and tried to bring it into its natural environment. And these elements, in addition to the tree, would include some kind of rock features and some kind of undergrowth. “

Legend has it that a visiting monk brought the concept with him to Japan, where it was repurposed and renamed after the word that means “tree in a tray”. The complementary small rocks are called suiseki and undergrowth plantings are called shitakusa.

Bonsai are often displayed in Japanese homes with accompanying scrolls depicting seasonal changes.

“The tree is presented at its peak, be it blooming, fruiting, blooming, depending on the season,” said Evans.

“Since it is a living being and it changes over time, there is some kind of natural struggle,” he said. “So sometimes we incorporate a broken branch or a stripped piece of bark into the design, and that helps show the relentlessness of nature and the forces a tree would encounter in the wild.”

As is generally the case in Far Eastern culture, Americans knew little about bonsai until World War II, when the Nisei were observed in internment camps continuing the practice, and soldiers in Japan came across the presentations.

“They saw these trees and, ‘Wow! That’s really neat. ‘ So they kind of brought that idea back, ”said Evans.

He had a similar reaction when he watched “The Karate Kid” by director John G. Avildsen, which featured culturally significant scenes of Pat Morita’s character Hideo Miyagi with his bonsai.

Evans later came across a few copies of Bonsai Today magazine and decided to give it a try as a continuation of his artistic life, including professional drumming.

“As a child, I liked to draw and paint and things like that, and I was also very interested in LEGO, the sculptural, three-dimensional element,” he recalls. “Music is a little different. I think there were parts of it that weren’t really satisfied with my music career. “

Through bonsai, “I was able to find something that scratched that itch,” he said.

Evans’ path to founding the Bebop Bonsai Garden – named for its jazz style, not the anime series “Cowboy Bebop” – began about a year ago when he had amassed a sizeable collection of trees by that time.

“I was worried that winter was coming and what should I do with all that stuff?” He said.

He expressed his concern to Tim Chapon, co-owner of Chapon’s Greenhouse and Supply in Baldwin Borough, which sells some bonsai-related products.

“I said, ‘I would like to bring some of my bonsai trees over here. Christmas is still a few months away and I need a place to keep them. ‘ He’s like, ‘Great!’ ”Said Evans. “I just started taking over trees and they started selling. I brought more and ran out of the smaller ones I had. “

In the spring, Evans and his wife Victoria Kurczyn had similar agreements with other companies, including Shadyside Nursery and Meders Home & Garden Showplace in West Mifflin.

“We had trees on the air there and people asked about our soil. So I just took more of the soil and sifted and mixed everything and we started adding that to the trees, ”said Evans. “We also started offering our fertilizer and I wanted to do a little more to help people interested in bonsai.”

And so the Bebop Bonsai Garden was created with its offers, educational workshops and related services, which are aimed at ensuring the continuation of a millennia-old endeavor.

Miyagi-san would be proud.