The Greater New Orleans Bonsai Society was founded by noted bonsai authority Vaughn Banting in 1972. Over the years, we’ve developed into one of the most active bonsai clubs in the U.S. GNOBS is proud to have members who have their trees displayed in the National Arboretum and the Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai collection as well as other prestigious sites. Several of our members have received national and international awards, and many have been invited as guest lecturers to other organizations and conventions.
Vaughn Banting… my friend, my teacher.
by Guy Guidry
In life, one must consider themselves very fortunate to cross paths with another person who has the ability to change their life, the ability to make not only them a better person, but in turn, those around them. In this day and age, such a trait is rare and almost non existent. It seems everybody has their own agenda. We live in our own micro-sphere and are not typically willing to make new friends or lend a helping hand.
Life is fast …too fast.
If you are lucky and meet that rare individual who takes the time from a busy day to teach you, how do you thank them? Is it even possible to repay the debt?
In my case, not all the tea in china would be enough to repay Vaughn. I am one of the lucky ones whose path crossed Vaughn Banting’s path. We became great friends and I became a life long disciple of the Vaughn Banting Gospel, “A way to live a better life through bonsai.”
He taught me an awareness of Mother Nature and a common respect for all living things on earth. I gained knowledge from him that simply was unobtainable from any other source. He gave it all. He was an expert horticulturist by trade who knew both plant physiology and aesthetics, so he understood Bonsai as an art form.
He had a knack for teaching and an uncanny ability to take confusing, difficult topics and made them easy to comprehend. He was a fun teacher and we laughed a lot. He had many great stories and as a skilled storyteller, he always kept you amused. He mentored and touched many lives in multiple ways ranging from Bonsai to cancer.
Almost everywhere my travels have taken me, people always asked me to say Hi to Vaughn, to send their love to him, or simply pass along thanks to him for helping them to find the line. I guess that is what life is all about, finding the right line in a difficult world.
Vaughn taught through analogies and said many things that I often repeat, such as:
- Find the line
- If you can’t find the front, find the back
- Less is better than more
- The beginning of the story and the end of the story
- Keep it simple
- A confusing design gets worse in time
- Know when to cut your loses
- Know when to bail out
When Vaughn was about 9 years old , his father noticed his love for trees. He regularly witnessed Vaughn taking container plants and, with pruning, made them look like little trees. Vaughn called them little trees. He had a little hut at the nursery where he grew them and it had a sign on the front that simply said “LITTLE TREES.”
His father told him of the art called Bonsai, which thrilled Vaughn. Vaughn was eager for information but to his despair, it was very limited at that time.
So what did Vaughn do?
What else…..He accumulated any available information on bonsai and began writing his own manual for growing bonsai. Pretty impressive for such a young lad, but that was Vaughn. His passion was evident even at that very young age and I guess that explains where his God given talent for teaching came from.
So, how do you thank someone for so much?
I guess I am lucky enough to have at least been able to tell him that …to let him know how dramatically he changed my life. I got to Thank him for all that he taught me, I got to hug him and tell him that I loved him and I’m grateful that he knew.
I think he was proud in knowing that he has many ambassadors from the school of Vaughn Banting carrying out his life’s work, continuing the same direction of classical bonsai, and keeping on the same path he led us to.
If riches are measured or gauged by the number of lives one has touched, then Vaughn was a wealthy man, which in turn made me a very lucky man. If it were not for Vaughn, I would not be me.
I miss Vaughn greatly.
HAIKU for VAUGHN by Dr. Chuck Eschenberg
A BALD CYPRESS WEEPS
A MASTER HAS PASSED ALONG
WITH THE SUMMER GREEN