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From city dump to urban oasis, one family's dream comes to life outside Bremerton

At Elandan Gardens, you'll find a collection of 200 bonsai trees and so much more! #k5evening

GORST, Wash. — Disclaimer: This episode is an encore presentation of KING 5's Evening.

About 25 years ago, the Robinson family bought an old garbage dump outside Bremerton and began transforming it into a kind of oasis.

“There was really nothing here,” says Will Robinson. “Just blackberries and garbage. You’d dig a few feet and find old cans.”

Today Elandan Gardens is a six-acre urban oasis. It’s what happens when a family when a family of four join forces to create something of beauty.

“We travel together, we work together and we create together,” says Shanna Piliaris.

Here we first meet the patriarch of the family at work with a power drill. Dan Robinson’s gnarly take on the art of bonsai has been clashing with traditionalists for more than 50 years.

Credit: KING 5
Dan Robinson, the father of American Bonsai at work in Elandan Gardens

“A really healthy tree that's flawless to me looks like a child,” says Robinson. “Show me something that's had to withstand the adversities of life, and is still hanging in there, that's the thing that is magical to me.”

Robinson’s collection of gnarly trees numbers in the hundreds. Some are barely alive.

“This is all dead wood in here,” says Robinson pointing to one of his bonsai trees. “The only live part of the tree is this bark strip right here which find its way gnarling finally down to the root system”.

Robinson is also a landscape artist so most of his trees are set among a lagoon filled with water lilies, or against a backdrop of Bremerton. Herons can be spotted hunting in Sinclair Inlet.

Credit: KING 5
One of Robinson's ancient looking bonsai trees

Some trees are as ancient as they look. One dates back to 300 B.C.

“I just achieved 80 years myself,” says Robinson. “I went through a heart thing a few years ago, and I've got these gnarly hands and so I ought to have gnarly trees. They just give me a good company.”

Credit: KING 5
Will Robinson works on his sculptures at Elandan Gardens

In another part of the garden, we meet Robinson's son,  sculptor Will Robinson. Like his dad, Will also refuses to let rules limit his artistic expression.

“To me, rules are just something that we've made up,” he says. 

Finally, we visit the museum store where Diane Robinson and daughter Shanna Piliaris sell antiques and treasures from around the world.

Credit: KING 5
Diane Robinson and her daughter Shannon Piliaris inside the museum store.

“We travel and when we travel we find and we bring it home,” says Robinson. “Right now we have kind of almost an obsession with India and the fabrics and the textiles from there and so that's reflected in bedspreads and scarves and clothing.”

Elandan Gardens is a family affair finding beauty in a most unexpected place. 

Elandan Gardens is open Tuesday through Sunday. It's located at 3050 West State Hwy 16, Bremerton, WA 98312.

Disclaimer: This episode is an encore presentation of KING 5's Evening.

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.