June Meeting: The Collection at Chicago Botanic Gardens with Chris Baker


Our June 22nd meeting will take place in a hybrid format. The presentation will be broadcast online. Attend in-person at Matthaei Botanical Gardens to view the video live stream with other members or choose to watch online via Zoom. The Zoom meeting link will be sent out to members prior to the event. As always, the meeting will begin at 6:30 pm and the program will start at 7:00 pm. Chris Baker, Curator of Bonsai at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, will share photos and information about the collection at Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Chris Baker has been studying and working on bonsai for more than 16 years. Like so many, he started out and as an enthusiast with a true love of horticulture, nature and natural trees. Baker was an active member of the Baltimore Bonsai Society when a chance encounter at an open house event with bonsai curator Jack Sustic at the U.S. National Arboretum, Bonsai and Penjing Museum happened in 2010. In that meeting, Baker inquired about a volunteer position- That conversation altered the path of his life. He began volunteering in 2011 and did so on and off until 2014. Thanks to an introduction by Sustic, Baker spend six months in 2012 studying with bonsai master Torho Susuki at the Diajuen Nursery in Japan. Returning to the U.S. in late 2012 Baker was awarded the “First Curators” Internship at the U.S. National Arboretum in early 2013. In 2014 Baker was hired as the first full time curator of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Baker is the President of the North American Bonsai Federation and a board member of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation. Since his arrival in Chicago the collection has more than doubled its display quality trees, increased display times and location in the Garden as well as promoting bonsai in the in the Midwest. Despite his training in a more formal bonsai style, Baker was drawn to more natural looking bonsai, North American species and American potters. This lead Baker to visiting other bonsai curators, professionals and ceramicists around the country to study this approach. Though the Chicago Botanic Garden has a history of displaying traditional bonsai style, Baker has added another dimension adding more native tree species, American potters and a more naturalistic style to the collection.