Bonsai is the art of growing ornamental, artificially cultivated trees and shrubs in pots. This Japanese and Chinese art form has been popular for centuries, inspired by nature’s own bonsais, shaped and dwarfed by harsh winds and poor growing conditions in their natural habitat. Plants are cultivated using various techniques to produce miniature specimens which mimic the shape and form of full-sized trees found in the wild.
The focus of the collection is on species that can be cultivated in a subtropical climate, with a growing collection of trained native and exotic plants, including figs, conifers, camellias, azaleas and subtropical deciduous species. Some specimens are more than 80 years old.
The collection is maintained by botanic gardens staff and volunteers from the Bonsai Society of Queensland and Bimer Bonsai Club.
The Bonsai House at Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha is next to the Japanese Garden. It is open daily between 9am-4pm and entry is free. All abilities access is available.
The original Bonsai House was opened in 1999 with the majority of trees donated from the private collection of the late Len Webber, with some trees dating back to 1941. Len was one of Australia's foremost published authorities on bonsai.
The redesigned Bonsai House was completed and opened in 2022 as part of Brisbane City Council’s commitment to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha Master Plan.
The new facility features one of the largest publicly owned bonsai displays in Australia, with a workshop area for training and education, a contemplation platform for viewing the Japanese Garden, and a gallery-style layout showcasing around 80 plants on display.
The building features locally sourced stone as well as recycled and sustainably sourced native timber, including:
- Recycled Ironbark timber, used for the display benches and seating, was sourced from the demolition of various old buildings across Brisbane, as well as the demolition of the Trinity Inlet Wharf in Cairns. These materials were supplied by The Big Red Shed.
- Recycled Grey Gum for the display wall shelves was sourced from the Brisbane Demolition Shed in Sumner Park.
- Reclaimed Darwin Stringybark timber for the screen walls that surround the building were supplied by Branch95, who had reclaimed the material from old northern Queensland mine sites.
- Leftover drilling material from the Legacy Way Tunnel was also used as fill for the new Bonsai House.
- Brisbane Blue Stone used within the project was quarried from the Mt Coot-tha Quarry.
Brisbane’s Sister City - Kobe
The redevelopment of the Bonsai House also commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Brisbane-Kobe Sister City Agreement on 16 July 1985.
In 2020, Kobe and Brisbane celebrated 35 years of strong ties through friendship, mutual understanding, and assistance - particularly in times of natural disaster experienced by both cities.
In recognition of the longstanding friendship shared between the two cities, the Kobe City Government and Kobe City Assembly Japan-Australia Association generously donated a Japanese Stone Lantern and two Japanese Bonsai Pots.
A plaque has been erected by Brisbane City Council to mark the occasion and can be viewed by the Shishi-odoshi water fountain.