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.

Informal Upright Olive

I purchased this olive (Olea europaea) at the Santa Barbara Bonsai Club and Sale years ago at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. It was in a nursery bucket and in dire need of repotting. I transplanted it into a growing pot, cut the top to reduce the overall height, and pruned it way back. I repotted it into its current shallower pot 3 years ago, which allowed me to show more of the base of the tree and accent the slant style. An interesting aspect of this tree is the single live vein snaking up the front of the tree which all of the foliage emanates from. I estimate this tree to be 30-40 years old.

Ernie Witham

olive bonsai tree

Amy Kakimoto’s Olive

This clump style olive is one of the oldest bonsai in constant cultivation in the United States. Amy Kakimoto, a charter member of the Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara, used to tell the story of how this bonsai belonged to her and her husband Ikey when, in 1942, all people of Japanese ancestry on the west coast were ordered on short notice to be evacuated out of their homes to distant “relocation centers”. Amy and Ikey spent the war years in the camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. They had quickly given the tree to a Caucasian family in California to take care of. After the war when Amy and Ikey had returned home to Santa Barbara, they retrieved the tree from its war-time caretakers. Amy continued to care for it until I acquired it from her in 2000 when she was thinning out her collection.

Amy had a good sense of humor and was loved by all who knew her. She was born in Kobe, Japan and died in Santa Barbara in 2012 at the age of 101.

Joe Olson

Moyogi Shinpaku

The trunk is juniper prostrata, started from a cutting and is now 51 years old. It was in my yard and I dug it up in 2002. The trunk prior to being dug up was touching the soil.

So the shari (dead part of trunk, treated with lime sulfur) was mostly created by termites feeding on the trunk. I did some carving but not much.

The prostrata foliage seemed okay but after several years, I felt that it was too coarse for the size of the bonsai. So about ten years ago I grafted kyushu shinpaku foliage to all of the major branches.

Wally Kunimoto

Cascading style juniper

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.

Ernie Witham


Celtis Korean Hornbeam

Celtis Korean Hornbeam forest was assembled from nursery stock about 7 years ago.

Keith Moore