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Happy New Year to all Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara members. While we all still face many COVID-19 related challenges at the start of 2021, I hope that in the latter half of the year the outlook for both the club and the country will gradually look a little more “normal.”   

My “running mate,” VP Allan Hemmy, and I are honored to serve the club in our new leadership roles.  We will be working together closely, tearing a page out of the playbook of Joe Olson and the late Tom Post who together fearlessly led the club for many, many years. While Joe thinks he’ll be waltzing off into the club-officer-retirement-sunset, I know where he lives. Therefore, Allan and I plan on squeezing every ounce of information out of Joe that we can to maintain the club’s legacy and combine it with some new ideas and initiatives to keep the club strong for the future. We will be ably assisted by the officers who are staying on in 2021: Carol Hicks (transitioning from VP to Treasurer), Steve Gibson (Workshop Chair), Ann Erb (Show Chair), and Ernie Witham (Newsletter Editor), with Wally Kunimoto, coming back on board as Secretary. We also want to thank outgoing officers Tina Hammond (Treasurer) and John Bleck (Secretary) as they are helping with the transition process. 

For new ideas, we are going to pilot holding a virtual BCSB meeting on Tuesday, January 12th 2021 during our regular meeting time. See next page for details.   

For insight on one of the new initiatives for the club, please read Ernie’s exciting article in this newsletter about our recent visit to Lotusland and what the bonsai future might look like there.

In the meantime, my friends, “Bonsai hard, water soft.”      Jeff


The first meeting of 2021 will be hosted on Zoom. Fear not, Zoom info and instructions will be sent to club members via email a few days before the meeting. If you can access the internet with an internet browser, you should be able to attend. If you have never “Zoomed” before, we will arrange for 1 on 1 training sessions in advance over the phone for those who need it (Jeff 720-413-2375 cell, Allan 785-917–0870 cell). 

Once we get everyone connected online at meeting time, we’ll go over some general information and announcements, then try working through a short educational program on basic bonsai design elements developed by Ryan Neil at Bonsai Mirai. Afterward, we will collect feedback on how to make future virtual meetings better so that we can hold our regular BCSB monthly meetings in 2021 over Zoom (until we can safely meet in person), with new presentations, demonstrations, and Q & A sessions from bonsai professionals around the country, and even around the world (thanks to the “magic” of Zoom).   Jeff


With great success, I followed Wally Kunimoto’s advice on how to get nice fall color on this Trident Maple. In the middle of August, Wally defoliated his tree that was featured in last month’s newsletter and it had nice color in time for the newsletter. I didn’t get around to defoliating mine until the end of August and my tree was still bright green when the December newsletter was published. The color was spectacular but short lived. It started to show fall color about December 7, was in full color by the 10th, and had shed many of its leaves by the 15th. Like Wally, I used only rainwater after defoliating the tree until it turned color. I was getting low on rainwater and praying for more, but fortunately I still had almost two gallons left when the leaves changed color.    Joe



On December 19th, Jeff, Allan, my wife Pat (a docent), and I met with Terri Clay in the Japanese Garden at Lotusland to view the potential site for a bonsai garden. After initially mentioning, some months ago, that Lotusland was interested in adding a small bonsai display area to the Japanese Garden and wanted to partner with us on the project, several issues were instantly raised by Club members. Watering was the most important. Most of the automatic watering systems in the 20 different gardens at Lotusland are set to water once a week, twice at the most. This, of course, would not work for trees in small pots. Potential cost to the Club to put in a watering system was the second most important item. 

Terri Clay, who has been working in the Japanese Garden for more than 30 years, and who has been training me and others in the art of pruning Niwakis for a number of years, took these issues up with the Director and other key members of the Lotusland staff. Now, a benefactor has donated enough money to put in a dedicated, battery-operated timer and drip lines. The timer will be professionally installed and will be set to drip on a daily basis. Terri and I, along with fellow volunteers, will run the drip lines. Mike Furner, who has been a gardener at Lotusland for more than 40 years, will build stands out of cypress that came from a 150-year-old Monterey Cypress tree that was at the end of its lifespan and had to be felled for safety reasons. Jeff and Allan offered some valuable input and we are all anxious to proceed to the next stage of development of the plan. One of the main considerations will be selecting trees. Initially, we may only need 3-4 trees. If successful, the number of trees could increase in the future. We are weighing either rotating interested Club member trees or calling for donations. Look for updates in future Club newsletters.   Ernie

Top Left: Terri, Allan, Jeff and Ernie in front of the Tori Gate. Top Right: The pavilion from across the pond. Middle: Jeff  gives scale to the initial space.  Right: Terri Clay stands in what could become the expanded bonsai garden. Bottom: Looking back on the initial garden space.


The first Bonsai-a-Thon I ever attended at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, was in February of 2007. I was fairly new to bonsai and was amazed at the show trees, the demos, and, of course, the sales area. Though I was planning on just looking, being a newbie and all, I knew the minute I bought a bag of rocks that I had become “a lifer.” Purchasing the four-dollar stick just confirmed it. “Remind me what the stick is for,” my wife said as we left the Huntington and headed for the car. “Root work,” I said. “Do you think the roots will know that they are being dug at with a professional stick, versus, say, a stick stick?” I swapped hands, moving a large gnarled succulent in a plastic bucket to the left hand and the bag of rocks to the right. “Yes,” I said with conviction. 

The large gnarled succulent I referred to in the story I wrote about that fateful day was the portulacaria afra on the left. I took it to Ann Erb’s bonsai class and she helped me initially shape it. Then, in May of that year, I went to the Bonsai Club’s annual show and sale at the Bontanic Garden and Ann suggested buying the small round pot that it now resides in. “No way is that ever going to fit,” I told her. But she helped me cut off way more roots that I thought possible and it fit perfectly. The portulacaria has now grown into a nice broom style and I have repotted it several times, though getting it out of that pot is a bit challenging!   Ernie