Special thanks must be given to Alan Walker for the vast number of pictures (all are attributed to him unless noted) and videos he supplied for this tribute, thanks Alan.
Vaughn Banting… my friend, my teacher.
In life, one must consider themselves very fortunate to cross paths with another person who has the ability to change their life, the ability to make not only them a better person, but in turn, those around them. In this day and age, such a trait is rare and almost non existent. It seems everybody has their own agenda. We live in our own micro-sphere and are not typically willing to make new friends or lend a helping hand.
Life is fast …too fast.
If you are lucky and meet that rare individual who takes the time from a busy day to teach you, how do you thank them? Is it even possible to repay the debt?
In my case, not all the tea in china would be enough to repay Vaughn. I am one of the lucky ones whose path crossed Vaughn Banting’s path. We became great friends and I became a life long disciple of the Vaughn Banting Gospel, “A way to live a better life through bonsai.”
He taught me an awareness of Mother Nature and a common respect for all living things on earth. I gained knowledge from him that simply was unobtainable from any other source. He gave it all. He was an expert horticulturist by trade who knew both plant physiology and aesthetics, so he understood Bonsai as an art form.
He had a knack for teaching and an uncanny ability to take confusing, difficult topics and made them easy to comprehend. He was a fun teacher and we laughed a lot. He had many great stories and as a skilled storyteller, he always kept you amused. He mentored and touched many lives in multiple ways ranging from Bonsai to cancer.
Almost everywhere my travels have taken me, people always asked me to say Hi to Vaughn, to send their love to him, or simply pass along thanks to him for helping them to find the line. I guess that is what life is all about, finding the right line in a difficult world.
Vaughn taught through analogies and said many things that I often repeat, such as:
- Find the line
- If you can’t find the front, find the back
- Less is better than more
- The beginning of the story and the end of the story
- Keep it simple
- A confusing design gets worse in time
- Know when to cut your loses
- Know when to bail out
When Vaughn was about 9 years old , his father noticed his love for trees. He regularly witnessed Vaughn taking container plants and, with pruning, made them look like little trees. Vaughn called them little trees. He had a little hut at the nursery where he grew them and it had a sign on the front that simply said “LITTLE TREES.”
His father told him of the art called Bonsai, which thrilled Vaughn. Vaughn was eager for information but to his despair, it was very limited at that time.
So what did Vaughn do?
What else…..He accumulated any available information on bonsai and began writing his own manual for growing bonsai. Pretty impressive for such a young lad, but that was Vaughn. His passion was evident even at that very young age and I guess that explains where his God given talent for teaching came from.
So, how do you thank someone for so much?
I guess I am lucky enough to have at least been able to tell him that …to let him know how dramatically he changed my life. I got to Thank him for all that he taught me, I got to hug him and tell him that I loved him and I’m grateful that he knew.
I think he was proud in knowing that he has many ambassadors from the school of Vaughn Banting carrying out his life’s work, continuing the same direction of classical bonsai, and keeping on the same path he led us to.
If riches are measured or gauged by the number of lives one has touched, then Vaughn was a wealthy man, which in turn made me a very lucky man. If it were not for Vaughn, I would not be me.
I miss Vaughn greatly.
HAIKU for VAUGHN by Dr. Chuck Eschenberg
A BALD CYPRESS WEEPS
A MASTER HAS PASSED ALONG
WITH THE SUMMER GREEN
“How very sad to hear of the passing a Vaughn Banting — a great guy!
I first met Vaughn many years ago at one of the Conventions here in the UK (I think, or was it Hawaii?). He was full of beans and I was particularly stricken by his sense of humour; especially where it came to practical jokes. He showed me a little coin and asked me to take a close look and before I could say anything, I had an eyeful of water. Typical Vaughn humour! The coin was hollow and filled with water, like a water-pistol.
I met Vaughn on several occasions and learned a great deal from him and his ardent ‘Gang of Four’ (The Flat-tops — Guidry, Marchal, Hoerner and of course Vaughn). These were great guys who were always passionate about bonsai and were happy to check out all sorts of innovative ideas. They were not afraid to break the rules. Great times spent together with very warm and hospitable friends who introduced me to raw oysters, gumbo and cray fish. What would life be like without memories!
When I first heard of Vaughn’s first brain tumour I was totally shocked, but Vaughn in his inimitable way fought the disease and soon got on top of it showing a great deal of courage and character. His zest for life was immeasurable. He refused to let go and had many repeat performances coming up tops each time.
I feel so very privileged to have shared some time with Vaughn and shall miss him and his sense of fun.
We had many ‘in-depth’ discussions about bonsai and philosophy and shared our love of haiku. In fact another very good friend of mine (Charlie Duke) sent me his book of poems. I cherish it. So on this note I’ll end my tribute to Vaughn with one of my own haiku poems:
Who sees the tears
Of the lonely Golden Carp?
Golden Carp alone.”
– Dan Barton
BCI Orlando July 1983
BCI Hawaii July 1990
LCBS August 1990
BCI Memphis May 92
ABS Convention, April 2001
National Bonsai Foundation
Of course no tribute to this great artist would be complete without photographs of his bonsai. Our sincerest thanks go out to Vaughn’s family who graciously submitted the following photographs of Vaughn and his work so that his work can be shared with the community.
These photographs and permission to use given by Vaughn’s family