Ever since I got into bonsai, one of the most asked questions about my trips was: “Have you ever been to The Monastery?”  Until last July, 2017, the answer was always no. 

When the Atlanta club invited me to do a demo for them, a trip there was definitely on the itinerary. I actually made it a point to leave early from Orlando in order to have enough time to go before they closed that day. Father Paul, or, Brother Paul as he was known, was a monk that very interested in horticulture and, especially bonsai (The inhabitants are what are known as Trappist Monks. There forty-eight monks with several generations represented. who live there. Founded from the Abbey of Gethsemani, Trappist, Kentucky in the spring of 1944. Trappist are an order who, amongst other things, like the spiritual importance of silence, believe that the community must be self supporting by there own works.  The Monastery does this through The Abbey Store, a bonsai garden plant and supply business, and a stained glass manufacturing business. They also take donations, and offer spiritual retreats) 

Brother Paul is most known for his work with the variant of buxus microphylla called “kingsville”. Brother Paul passed away several years ago and the day to day work for the trees is done by the monks,  but the curator is Rodney Clemons, from AllGood Bonsai in Atlanta. 

Rodney is doing an exceptional job, keeping true to Brother Paul’s vision but practicing the modern techniques we use today. 

This pine had just been thinned for the summer. 

There are many varied species, from false cypress to Chinese hackberry to beech….Japanese maple….…..hornbeam……..which is an amazingly developed full 360 degree tree. 

White pine. And the oldest pyracantha I’d seen. 

But the star is, of course, the kingsville boxwood. 

Rodney has said that he will never, as long as he’s curator, change the style of the tree. There’s a quiet, tree like quality to this bonsai that many bonsai just don’t have. It helps that it’s more than a hundred years old, in cultivation. 

If you’re in the area, stop in and do a little contemplating of your own. The silence is golden. 

7 thoughts

  1. I live nearby. Discovered it a few years ago. Your words and photos captured the spirit of the place nicely. Rodney Clemons is an awesome artist and a cool guy. His love of bonsai pours out of him every day.


  2. Were you supervised on your tour of the collection or left alone to wander and ponder in relaxing silence?👍😎❤️🙏


  3. Great supplies in their bonsai store also. Huge assortment of tools,wire,pots, and bonsai soils. Rodney does a great job.


  4. I visited there in early 70s while there I was given some small cuttings of the kingsville Boxwood rooted them still have all of them.They are 40 plus yrs old Beautiful trees . Hope to visit again soon


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