We get to visit so many wonderful places while we are shooting A Growing Passion. People welcome us into their gardens and businesses with open arms. One of the really interesting stories we’ve explored is that of Bonsai Sensei, Phil Tacktill.
Phil grew up in New York, in the city where everything was urbanized and there was no room for a garden. As a young man, however, he was fascinated by growing and decided to try his hand at growing “those little trees.”
Soon, Phil was consumed by Bonsai, the Japanese art of creating miniature trees and shrubs in containers. Bonsai plants are beautiful and fascinating in that they are carefully shaped to replicate their full sized counterparts in nature.
For Phil, Bonsai was a hobby that became an obsession. In fact, before he and wife Janet Wanerka retired to Solana Beach, Phil had a well-known Bonsai nursery in Long Island where he sold plants and taught classes.
The day we interviewed Phil in his Bonsai collection, he was dressed in the classic Bonsai smock with a cap on his head. As he explained Bonsai to us, Phil made it clear that Bonsai is an art, not a craft. And, as an art form, it is important to learn the rules, then to push those rules.
That approach is evident in Phil’s collection which includes many traditional Bonsai plants and some very non-traditional Bonsai plants like succulents. Phil’s succulents are beautiful and sculptural, if a bit unconventional. And Phil is so eloquent that its a pleasure to listen to his explanations of how he creates Bonsai, why he creates Bonsai, how to care for Bonsai, and so on.
Don’t miss this segment, which we feature in our episode on container plants.
And by the way, Phil is active in Bonsai & Beyond, which meets at San Diego Botanical Gardens in Encinitas on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6pm. Meetings include potluck dinner, plants and materials, a raffle, and classes in Bonsai art form.
Additional meetings with hands-on workshops are the first Sunday of every other month in Room 104 at Casa del Prado in Balboa Park. Phil also speaks and lectures across Southern California.
Watch for him at the County Fair, at Master Gardener seminars, and at other plant events.