— Interview with Mr. Danny Use, owner of Ginkgo Bonsai Center, Belgium

They say, good things in life will not come easily. I think this phrase is true about my trip. It took me a while to organise a meeting – flight, train and bus – with Mr Use, but finally we have managed to meet. I was in Brussels and his nursery in Laarne. There were distance and connection difficulties, but finally we have managed to meet. I did not regret the time I have spent on this trip. Mr. Danny Use’s nursery is like the “Disney Land of bonsai”. I have spent about 2 hours just walking between the trees and see the wonderful specimen. I had the honor and possibility to freely move and take pictures around the nursery. The view and experience was indescribable, but the biggest experience was yet to come, when I have started the interview – or more likely a friendly discussion with Mr. Use.

Mr. Danny Use, taught me some great lessons not about bonsai, but about life. Follow your dreams and passion. He was 17 years old when we started his bonsai nursery. It was interesting to hear how a young boy was fascinated by this art and decided to dedicate his future career to learn to master this art. We should not forget that the bonsai culture in Europe is still an evolving art. 20-30 years ago there were no major nurseries, online shops, tools or even a widely spread literature. As a young person, who had botanic knowledge and a family background with a tree nursery business, he decided to travel to China, the birthplace of bonsai. But the months Mr. Use has spent there did not fulfil his expectations, but the real “experience boom” came from Japan. Meeting, doing business and learning from the great bonsai masters. The influences he received abroad helped him to take a big step, and establish the footstep of bonsai in Europe. We are in the 90’s. Although bonsai as an art was not unknown, there were only local/regional communities. Many people heard about the word “bonsai”, but did not really know or saw a tree. There were no Europe wide bonsai conventions or awards, but the most famous one, was the Crespi Bonsai Cup, in Italy. During this event most of the participants were Italians, but Mr. Use decided to participate on it, with a great success. He was able to take 1st, 3rd and 5th place. This success and the need for an European award motivated him to start the Ginkgo Award. Mr. Use invested a lot of time and money to travel across Europe to talk in person with owners of bonsai nurseries and inviting them to this event. This allowed him to gain contacts and a lot of quality mature bonsai trees on these events. The Ginkgo Award, was held every 2 year between 1997 and 2007 (6 times in total) – with the requirement, only mature trees. The reason why every 2 years it held is because only with new mature specimen could participants join the Award. Mr. Use told me, the reason lately there are no such events. It is because he do not want this to be average, he wants it to be a quality event and when there will be enough new quality and mature bonsai trees there will be a new Gingko Award.

Of course, we talked not only about the stunning career life of Mr. Use, but also bit about the nursery. The nursery is located in Laarne on a land almost 4 hectares. It has different parts – customer area, where the shop is located for equipment and care, green houses, office and warehouse, open areas and a workshop. The nursery offers workshops for beginners and experts, who want to learn how to take care and cultivate a tree. There are lot of workshops during week with currently about 170 students who are learning from Mr. Use. 

I could really talk a lot about my experiences, but instead of talking, I recommend you to visit it. If you have enough of the everyday rush and stress, just step out of it, and enjoy the peace and beauty the place can offer. You can argue that if you want to see a bonsai, you do not need to go this far, but in fact it is not true. It is very easy to acquire a bonsai, wether online or in shops. But most of them are just “mass production” with minimum care. Many tree nurseries, just making bonsai to grow them quickly and sell them for profit, without any professional knowledge or passion. If you acquire a tree from a bonsai nursery, it might be more expensive, but you can be sure that it is a quality specimen and you will get all the necessary information to take care of your bonsai. He is a Mr. Danny Use, truly deserves the title to be the founding father of the bonsai culture in Europe. The talk with him was inspiring and very helpful to understand how the bonsai culture evolved in Europe. I would like to thank the Ginkgo Nursery for the openness and friendliness they have welcomed me. They made this trip to me, more than just an experience. And finally I would like to quote a small sentence from Mr. Use to all who want to do a bonsai: “You do not make a tree, you build up a tree”.