BCSB Bonsai Display at Lotusland

The bonsai display in Lotusland’s Japanese Garden is a collaboration between Lotusland and the Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara. All trees in the display belong to Club members and are maintained and rotated by the Club on a regular basis. Below is a description of the trees currently on display.

Slanting New Mexico Privet – Jeff Sczechowski

The New Mexican Privet, forestiera pubescens, has many additional common names such as stretchberry, desert olive, tanglewood, devil’s elbow, spring goldenglow, spring herald, and Texas forsythia. It is a small deciduous tree native to the southwestern US.

This tree was purchased along with several of its kin from a Loveland, Colorado landscape nursery in 2011 for a workshop at the 2012 American Bonsai Society/Bonsai Clubs International Symposium in Denver, Colorado. None of the workshop attendees picked it as the tree they wanted to work on, so I bought this lonely little tree from the symposium organizers.

In the following 5 years I only did a minimal amount of pruning and shaping and mostly let it grow and thicken its trunk.  In 2018 it was placed in its first simple bonsai pot and this year it was repotted into a beautiful Satori Bonsai ceramic vessel.  Over the last 3+ years I have been styling the canopy to create a light and airy slanting bonsai.

This tree looks interesting year-round, whether it’s showing bright green foliage in spring and summer, its stunning aspen-like yellow autumn color, or simply just in its winter silhouette form.  It hasn’t bloomed for me, but in general the species blooms in early spring before new leaves appear. Its fruit is a round to oblong berry that matures to a dark blue to black color from June to September.

Cascading style juniperCascading style juniper – Ernie Witham

I purchased this cascading Juniper from someone thinning out their collection in 2017. It is one of the many trees originally grown and styled by Sumi Arimura of Camarillo, head sensei at the Oxnard Bonsai Club. Sumi moved here from Kagoshima Japan in the 1950s. As a kid he would watch his grandfather work on trees at his bonsai nursery across the street from their house in Kagoshima. He has a unique flavor of classic styling and growing techniques inspired by his grandfather and the many bonsai nurseries he would routinely visit in Japan in search of secrets. Sumi also smuggled seeds and cuttings of unique species/cultivars in his son’s diapers – the perfect deterrent for airport security unwilling to risk inspecting them. Sumi ran a flower business with 80-100 employees over 500 acres and would work on trees all night after work and every other available hour. He also designed & built Japanese gardens and provided annual maintenance for his clients up until just a few years ago. Many of Sumi’s bonsai (easily in the 10’s of thousands), Japanese gardens and niwaki are spread across Ventura, Santa Barbara, LA, San Diego, Northern CA and beyond. I potted it in 2018 and after wiring, pruning branches, and creating some additional deadwood, I have been letting it grow to develop a larger crown, a style popular in older cascades. I repotted it into a smaller pot in July 2021. The tree is approximately 30 years old.

Windswept San Jose Juniper Spring 2024San Jose Juniper – Jeff Sczechowski

This is a San Jose Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘San Jose’), which a domesticated variety of Chinese Juniper, frequently used in landscaping. I bought the tree on consignment through a vendor in 2018 but know nothing of its history. Based on its size it is probably 15 – 20 years old and has been in training as a bonsai for the last 5 – 10 years.

It was originally designed and styled as a very symmetric “informal upright” bonsai, so it looked like a Christmas tree with an S-curved trunk. To make the tree look older and wiser, the previous owner pulled the branches downward, but in doing so had partially torn 2 branches off the trunk. They subsequently tried to repair the damage with wood glue.  The repair did not go well as the glued branches were very weak and the work was sloppy with excess glue and poor alignment where the separated hardwood was rejoined.

My design was based on removing these damaged branches to expose the underlying deadwood and then creating asymmetry by pushing the tree’s sparser foliage to the right, so it looked like lonely old tree on a windswept mountain ridge in an on-going battle to survive against the harsh elements of its environment.

Informal Upright Japanese Black Pine – Keith Moore

I purchased the pine 20 years ago in a half barrel at La Sumida nursery as a landscape tree. It was field grown from there and I eventually worked ti down into a bonsai pot. Mark Britton did the recent styling you see here.

Pinus thunbergii (syn: Pinus thunbergiana), the black pine, Japanese black pine, or Japanese pine, is a pine tree native to coastal areas of Japan (Kyūshū, Shikoku and Honshū) and South Korea.  Black pines can reach the height of 130 feet, but rarely achieves this size outside its natural range. The needles are in fascicles of two with a white sheath at the base, (2+344+34 inches long; female cones are 1+122+34 in. in length, scaled, with small points on the tips of the scales, taking two years to mature. Male cones are 1234 in long borne in clumps of 12–20 on the tips of the spring growth. The bark is gray on young trees and small branches, changing to black and plated on larger branches and the trunk; becoming quite thick on older trunks. It is a widely adapted plant with attractive dark green foliage.