Darcy Rhodes (left) says his grandfather’s bonsai trees are his ‘babies.’ (Courtesy of Tamara Bond)

Fifty years of carefully nurtured bonsai looted from Saanich grandfather’s garden

Grandson says trees are invaluable to family

  • Mar. 4, 2021 12:00 a.m.

An 85-year-old Saanich grandfather is mourning the loss of several cherished bonsai trees that he spent decades growing and caring for.

“He always says, ‘they’re like my babies,'” explains grandson Darcy Rhodes. “He obviously becomes attached to them.”

Saanich Police says officers are investigating the theft of several bonsai trees, believed to have been taken between Feb. 23 and 26. The stolen trees include evergreen, larch and viburnum trees planted in oval or rectangular pots at the time of the theft. The trees range in size from a foot to 18 inches tall.

Rhodes spoke on his grandpa’s behalf because his grandpa is fearful that the use of his name could make him a target for further theft.

He says the youngest bonsais in his grandpa’s collection – which includes hundreds of trees – are about a decade old, but he’s been growing some of the tiny trees for more than 50 years.

READ ALSO: TIMELAPSE: Making of a bonsai tree

“He’s got cedar trees and fir trees and pines and maples – you name it, he’s got a bonsai version of it,” Rhodes says. “He finds these little immature trees out in the wild, and then puts them in a pot and grows them and, you know, manipulates them to become a shape that he wants and prunes them.”

The bonsais require meticulous care over the course of years, Rhodes says. He estimates the trees to be worth roughly $400 to $500 each. But it’s not the dollar value that makes them important to his grandpa, who is a member of the Vancouver Island Bonsai Society.

“I’ll ask him, ‘Where did you find that one?’ and (he’ll say) ‘Oh up in McKay Creek in Cowichan, it was a snowy day and I saw the tip of it sticking out… each one has its story. He’s got all the memories that go along with it.”

But when snow arrived in February, Rhodes’ grandpa decided not to lock his gate to avoid slipping and falling. He had to move several plants around in order to shelter them from the snow, so it wasn’t until a few days later that he noticed some of them were missing.

The sentimental value is 10 times what the financial value is, Rhodes says. “It’s pretty sad. Even with that many trees, he can still recognize that he’s missing those ones.

“My grandpa is probably one of the most passionate people on Vancouver Island when it comes to bonsais,” Rhodes says. “He definitely wants to get the word out there just because it’s a pretty niche market.”

The family hopes the trees will be turned in. Anyone with information is asked to call Saanich police and reference file #21-4442.

READ ALSO: Ancient art takes root at Saanich garden


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