Theft of treasured bonsai trees a shock for grandfather

A Saanich grandfather whose passion for bonsai trees spans more than six decades is devastated after someone swiped several of his outdoor treasures late last month.

“He feels violated. These little trees to him are pieces of art … some he’s worked on for 40 years,” said grandson Darcy Rhodes.

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His 84-year-old grandfather doesn’t want his name used over fears more thieves could target his property in the Wilkinson Road/Interurban area.

Saanich police are investigating the theft of 10 bonsai trees sometime between Feb. 23 and 26.

The missing trees include mountain hemlocks, larch and viburnum and range from about a foot to a foot and a half high.

The little trees were planted in oval and rectangular boxes at the time of the theft.

Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing trees in small containers and using meticulous pruning methods to keep them miniature. The hobby has grown in popularity across the world since the Second World War — a Vancouver Island Bonsai Society based in Victoria at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific holds competitions and workshops.

Rhodes said his grandfather has been practising bonsai methods for about 60 years, since shortly after arriving in Canada from France.

“It’s more than a hobby to him. It’s a passion, a real labour of love,” said Rhodes. “He also builds a lot of the pots himself and sets them on rocks that he’s collected in the woods.

“He’s spent hundreds of hours on each tree. They’re his babies — some he’s had for over 40 years. He can take me around the yard and tell me a story about each one, where he got it or who he got it from.”

Rhodes says his grandfather has dozens of the trees scattered over the property, and raised and manicured most from seed or clippings.

“He gets the ‘why’ of the theft — someone probably needs money, but he just wants his trees back.”

The family is hoping whoever stole the treasured trees will have a change of heart and return them to the property, no questions asked.

A reward is being offered by the family. Anyone with information can contact Saanich police and refer to file No. 21-4442.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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