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
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.
The fruitless olive was purchased in a gallon nursery container about 30 years ago. Not wanting to water it so often, I planted it into a 5 gallon nursery container. It was neglected with the exception of watering it, but not consistently. It was healthy because roots went into the soil as it exited the drainage holes.
About 15 years ago, I started to train it as a bonsai. If you look at the trunk carefully, you will notice a large scar. The scar is from the sacrificial branch that was cut off. In bonsai, it is common to let branches grow for several years to increase the diameter of the trunk.
When it was ready to be transplanted into a bonsai pot, my teacher said to just saw off the bottom flat so it would fit into the pot I selected. It has been in the same pot for ten years and was transplanted two years ago.
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.
Coast Live Oaks (quercus agrifolia) are found all along the California coast and into northern Baja California. This tree spouted up as a “volunteer” in the back yard of Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara President-Emeritus Joe Olson, who is an exceptional bonsai artist and oak species expert with a variety of oaks in his collection. Joe dug it up in February 1999 and allowed it to grow for 20 years before handing it over to me in January 2019.
This is the first oak I have worked on, so I am still learning how to best take care of it and when are the optimal times of the year to work on it (which usually means sending an email full of questions to Joe). It will take me a few more years to fully refine the tree so it looks more like an old coast live oak you might on a hillside while driving through the Santa Ynez Valley.
Informal Upright Japanese Black Pine
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+3⁄4–4+3⁄4 inches long; female cones are 1+1⁄2–2+3⁄4 in. in length, scaled, with small points on the tips of the scales, taking two years to mature. Male cones are 1⁄2–3⁄4 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.