A little tree grows in High Point: Brownlee Currey talks bonsai


If you’ve toured the Currey & Company showroom at a market, you’ve probably noticed the ornamental trees and shrubs strategically positioned around the accent tables and the occasional seating.

But what you may not realize is that what you are walking through is essentially President Brownlee Currey’s personal garden.

Currey is an avid bonsai hobbyist and has been tending his own personal collection of more than 100 miniature trees since he was 12 years old. The bonsai trees that decorate the showroom at nearly every market are Brownlee’s trees.

All of the bonsai in the Currey & Company showroom belong to President Brownlee Currey.

“That’s taking a very personal thing and putting it in a very public space,” Currey acknowledged, but he believes the green oasis in a busy showroom gives the eye a place to rest for a moment and serves as a great conversation starter. “Most gardening people recognize it as something special,” he said. And when people in conversation start pulling out their Latin names for different plants, that’s when he knows he’s met a fellow plant lover.

Currey will share the history of the art form and his love for it, along with tips and advice for growing bonsai, in a special talk this Friday, Oct. 21, at 3 p.m. in the Currey & Company showroom, IHFC M 110.

Bonsai with Brownlee Currey takes place Friday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. in the Currey & Company showroom

Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing and training miniature trees in shallow dishes or pots. Bonsai trees, when cultivated carefully, can look like fully mature trees and can live to be 100 years old or more.

Bonsai peaked Currey’s interest when he was 12 years old, so his mother sent him to a 6-week course at a local nursery, while his father, who is a gardener, helped him care for them. “My father did an excellent job of keeping these plants alive while I was in college,” said Currey. “He’s a plant savant.”

After college, Currey moved to Chicago — “terrible for bonsai,” said Currey, an Atlanta native. But his plants survived.

Later, in 2010, Currey visited Japan for the first time. It was a lightning bolt moment in terms of his understanding of the art, he said. “With my own eyes, I got to see what was possible.” There he saw perfectly realized plants where the horticultural discipline was evident on every leaf, branch and twig. And he has learned the calendar-based techniques needed to maintain bonsai: repotting in late winter, cutting back and pruning in mid-spring, fertilizing in early summer, and wiring and bending conifers in late summer.

Currey & Company bonsai

Strategically placed bonsai in the Currey & Company showroom give the eye a chance to rest in a busy space.

“This hobby is in its infancy in the U.S.,” said Currey, who is president of the Atlanta Bonsai Society, where he lives. Clubs are important for people interested in knowing more about bonsai and needing fundamental instruction, he said, and intensive learning events are available around the country.

In the meantime, there is an opportunity to learn more from Currey himself later this week. And considering that Currey & Company was first known as The Garden Source, it seems the most fitting place to learn.


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