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Finding Minnesota: The Art Of Bonsai At The Como Conservatory

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Logically, we think that every beginning has an end, and that a time consuming task will eventually see its conclusion.

Yet, at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul, Ken Ellis and Mike Porcaro find beauty in the undone.

"If there's a take away, patience is a big part of it," said Ellis, a bonsai (BONE-sai) volunteer at the conservatory.

Every Tuesday, Ellis and Porcaro pick up their pruning shears to shape the bonsai collection at the conservatory.

To understand this ancient hobby, you have to look past the obvious.

Bonsai, by definition, is the miniaturization of trees and shrubs. But to Ellis and Porcaro, there's a lot more to it.

"We're talking about the real styling of a tree," Ellis said.

Ellis and Porcaro have learned through years of painstaking precision a life lesson: Some hobbies have a greater purpose.

"You know, we're so rushed, rushed, all the time," Porcaro said. "I don't have time to do anything, but when I come to bonsai, I calm down. I concentrate on what I'm doing. I don't have any cares. I don't have any worries."

It may be why both men have cut and pruned at Como for years.

Both started in the '90s with just 11 plants, when it was hardly a collection at all. Today, it's grown to more than 100 plants.

"We've taken care of some plants for so long they're like our babies," Porcaro said.

Over the years, a friendship formed as the men honed their expertise.

They spend hours grooming the plants to look beyond their years, but with a living canvas the work is endless.

"You don't ever finish a bonsai completely," Ellis said.

Rooted in these tiny trees is a revelation. For these men, the hobby isn't about the beginning or the end; it's about the passion that grows in between.

"There are some things worth waiting for and bonsai falls into that sort of thing," Ellis said.

The bonsai collection has grown so much during Ellis and Porcaro's tenure that Como has brought in two extra volunteers to help with the upkeep.

If you want to see their work for yourself, the conservatory is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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