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.

Privet Tree Bonsai

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 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 bonsai pot in which it has resided to this day, however I am planning to repot it in Spring 2022.  Over the last 3+ years I have been styling the canopy to create a light and airy slanting bonsai.  It still needs a few more seasons of work before it reaches its full potential.

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.

Jeff Sczechowski

Informal Upright Shimpaku Juniper

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.

Wally Kunimoto

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

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.

Joe Olson

 

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

 

Live Oak BonsaiInformal Upright Coast Live Oak

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 also 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 a old coast live oak you might on a hillside while driving through the Santa Ynez Valley.

Jeff Sczechowski