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 left, so it looked like a lonely old tree on a windswept mountain ridge in an on-going battle to survive against the harsh elements of its environment.
Informal Upright Shimpaku Juniper
This tree was started as a prostrata juniper cutting that was planted in my yard in 1972. In 2002, it was dug up and planted in a nursery container with a lot of tender loving care so that it would survive. About 2008, two inarch Kishu shimpaku were grafted to the prostrata juniper. The next two years three Kishu scions were grafted onto the prostrata. Serious pruning, wiring and styling started about ten years ago. So this tree is 50 years old.
Inarch grafting is a method of grafting by uniting two plants without separating either plant from its original stem until the graft takes hold. Scions are grafted by making a cut into a branch on the main tree and inserting a piece of foliage from another tree into the cut, wrapping it securely in grafting tape, and leaving it until the scion becomes part of the branch.
Informal Upright Olive
I dug this olive up in 1991 from a yard in Goleta. It was a bushy little plant growing in an unwanted location and had been cut back repeatedly, but it had a nice fat trunk which is desirable for bonsai. Olives are very forgiving and easy to grow, so digging it up and pruning its roots so that it would fit in a 5-gallon nursery container hardly set it back at all. After growing it a nursery container for several years and following the initial styling advice of one of our club’s visiting bonsai masters (Roy Nagatoshi, owner of Fuji Nursery in Sylmar, California, who supplied the bonsai for the Karate Kid movies, is one of the workshop leaders for the Bonsai club of Santa Barbara), I placed it in a bonsai container and have continued to care for it ever since.
Cascading style juniper
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.
Slant Style Juniper
This Prostrata Juniper (Juniperus prostrata) was styled by Mel Ikeda, during a demonstration at the Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara’s annual show and sale in May 2014, held at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Mel Ikeda grew up around bonsai masters Harry Hirao, Khan Komai, John Naka, Kenji Miyata and others who eventually became his teachers. Mel conducts demonstrations throughout the United States and was a headliner at the 2009 Bonsai Ohana II Convention in Hawaii. He is active in many clubs, serving on their boards as well as that of the Golden State Bonsai Federation, where he performs live demonstrations at Bonsai-a-Thon each year, as well as at our annual show in May. Mel generously donates the final results of his demos for raffles that support the various clubs. Mel is also a frequent workshop leader for the Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara. I won the tree in a silent auction at the 2014 show. I put it into a bonsai pot in 2015. I let it grow out to fill in some bare spots and now prune it annually to maintain the slant style shape. Not sure of the age of the tree, but probably about 15 years old.