To My Bonsai Bud

Senior, teacher share hobby of tending to Japanese trees


Ava McGuire, Editor-in-Chief

Throughout the chaos of high school years, some students may find themselves picking up personal hobbies to take their minds off the strain and stress of everyday life. Through the mentorship of Spanish teacher Steven Dean, senior Nick Herzog found his passion in the art of Bonsai trees.

“I started the hobby because Señor Dean talked about them in his class, and he quite literally told me ‘Oh, yeah, I just bought them from Lowe’s or Home Depot,’” Herzog said. “So that day I went and grabbed one and I was like, ‘OK, what do I do?’ I brought it into his class one day, and we cut it and trimmed it out.”

However, Herzog’s Bonsai journey started out a little rockier than he initially described it. 

“I guess Nick took my comments or pictures or whatever and decided this was super cool — he started by [buying] a kit that had seeds where he could plant them,” Dean said. “I said, ‘That’s great, but you need to know that you won’t be able to do anything with those for about seven years because it takes seeds forever [to grow].’ I told him where he could get some plants that he could work on that would look decent much quicker.”

Photos submitted by Nick Herzog










After learning how to properly maintain care of the trees — and in a much timelier manner — Dean taught Herzog the true art behind tending to them. Dean himself learned the craft from someone directly connected to the culture from which Bonsai originated.

“When I was 16 years old, we had a Japanese foreign exchange student live in my house for the summer,” Dean said. “It was at that time that I got interested in Japanese culture, and so I have several hobbies that are Japanese, the Bonsai trees is one of them.”

Herzog and Dean’s practice of growing Bonsai trees is certainly a unique one, but the connection they have built through it will leave a lasting impact, especially as Herzog turns over a new chapter of his life as he heads to college in the fall.

“I’ll miss hanging out with Señor Dean — he is super fun,” Herzog said. “He’s probably one of my favorite teachers in Blue Valley, so that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

As for Dean, he will continue to find discrete ways to immerse his students in the way of Bonsai. 

“Sometimes I’ll use a program to look for graphics in some of my presentations, and I can’t find something that works very well, so I just stick up a picture of a Bonsai tree,” Dean said.

Although he isn’t planning to carry on the tradition of helping students with the fostering of these tiny trees, Dean isn’t opposed to aiding the appreciation of them.

“If somebody said, ‘Hey, let’s start a club,’ then I would, of course, jump right in to help them,” Dean said. “Otherwise I stay pretty busy as is, but if somebody started something I would be there to help.”

Despite his leaving for college, Herzog’s progress with the trees will not be jilted.

“My mom is the one who is going to have to take care of them because I’m probably not taking them to college,” Herzog said. “So, unless Miss Herzog — the lady up in the front office — kills them, hopefully, I’ll keep doing it.”