Class Notes & Profiles

Timeless Growth

By Ashley Wilkins '03

Brian Corll '74 has made a hobby out of patience and the passing of time. Instead of latching onto the adrenaline-fueled pursuits of recent years, Corll has turned his path towards the ancient art of bonsai, the process of dwarfing trees or plants by pruning and training them into an aesthetically appealing shape.

For Corll, bonsai is not only a connection with nature, but a connection to the past. “Bonsai gives me the opportunity to create a miniature living thing, a tree or even a landscape of trees and moss that I can hold in my hands and which evokes a scene from my memory.”

Corll initially began his years with bonsai with a book he bought at the Vassar Coop Bookstore in his senior year, though he didn't begin to grow trees until 1976. After housing indoor species in various apartments for years, he married Donna Landis and moved into a house in 1988. In 1993 Corll started his own commercial bonsai nursery and sold pottery, tools, and trees until 1998. During this time he was also member of the Susquehanna Bonsai club where he acted as president for a year, and in 1996 served as the chairman of the American Bonsai Society's annual symposium. He now has around 150 trees which is no small task considering that Corll says he “can spend hours or even days styling a single tree.”

To any beginners who wish to start, he offers some advice. “There is no such thing as 'instant bonsai.' Development of bonsai material takes years. Don't be discouraged by that fact. Years are going to pass anyway. You might as well be growing a potential masterpiece in the meantime!”