GSBF Clark Bonsai Collection

in Shinzen Friendship Garden

at Woodward Park


The Three Ages of a Bonsai

July 17 - October 17, 2022


Curator: Bob Hilvers

“How old is it?” may be the most frequently asked question by visitors to the Clark Bonsai Collection in Shinzen Friendship Garden. The answer is much more complex than it may seem. Bonsai actually have three ages: their true age, that is how old the plant is; its apparent age, that is how old the artist has made it look; and how long a particular plant has been a bonsai. Adding complexity to the question of age is that some bonsai have a true age of just a few years, while others have a true age that can be a thousand years or older!

One concept that must be understood in the discussion of age in bonsai is not how old the plant is, but how old it appears. The truth being, that most bonsai are just a few years old. Asking “How old is it?” is to disregard the talents and skills of the bonsai artist. The essence of bonsai is to create the image of a miniature tree. An important aspect of that image is to impart the impression of “age.” If the artist has been successful, the bonsai appears to have the age appropriate for the given image. Some bonsai may offer the image of a young tree just beginning to contend with its environment.



The Clark Bonsai Collection

When the world renowned Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture ceased operations,  its impressive collection of bonsai was transferred to the Golden State Bonsai Federation. GSBF accepted this gift with the express intention of partnering with the Shinzen Friendship Gardens (SFG) to keep the Clark Bonsai Collection in Central California and honor  the legacy of Bill and Libby Clark.  That partnership resulted in the construction of an entirely new bonsai maintenance and exhibit facility in the beautiful  Shinzen  Japanese gardens.  Serenely inviting pathways beckon visitors to stroll past waterfalls, over an iconic double moon bridge to be greeted by scores of resident koi and then on to the Clark Bonsai Collection. As visitors enter the bonsai exhibit they are instantly aware of being in a special place. They discover a hide and reveal garden that, at once, presents stunning examples of the art of bonsai and yet hints that more hidden beauty is only steps beyond a bend in the path.

In keeping with its museum heritage, the Clark Bonsai Collection is presented in “Themed Exhibitions” quarterly. These ever- changing presentations are designed to provide a new interpretive experience with the art of bonsai upon each visit.  Bob Hilvers, who, along with Bill Clark, was a co-founder of the Clark Bonsai Collection and long-time Curator of Bonsai at the Clark Center, continues in the role of Curator of the GSBF Clark Bonsai Collection in Shinzen Friendship Gardens.

GSBF and the Shinzen Gardens invite you to visit and experience for yourself the beauty and wonders of bonsai and a North American Style Japanese Garden.


The Golden State Bonsai Federation’s Clark Bonsai Collection at Shinzen is a living museum encompassing the history of the art of bonsai in California and an educational center for the appreciation and practice of the art form.


  • To continue the legacy of the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture to promote and preserve the Japanese aesthetic and cultural values expressed by the beauty of this art.
  • To preserve and maintain a collection of bonsai representing the historical spectrum of styles.
  • To be an educational center for the art of bonsai in keeping with the mission of Golden State Bonsai Federation
  • To provide continuing education for bonsai practitioners by recognized bonsai masters.
  • To provide bonsai classes/workshops for local schools and other interested groups
  • To provide our visitors with a serene experience and an introduction to this art through thematic bonsai displays.
  • To insure the sustainability of the Collection and its programs by attracting and developing the support of donors and volunteers.
  • To maintain a mutually beneficial partnership between the Golden State Bonsai Federation, the Fresno Bonsai Society, the Clark Bonsai Collection, and Shinzen Friendship Garden in furtherance of our common goals.


GSBF Clark Bonsai Collection

P.O. Box 5382

Fresno, CA 93755

© COPYRIGHT 2019. Golden State Bonsai Federation

© 2014-2019 Clark Bonsai Collection. All Rights Reserved. Registered 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization