In the 1970s, Santa Barbara City College adult education classes were held on City College property located diagonally across from the current Santa Barbara Historical Museum. The classes were held in quansett huts. Long benches with stools were provided and Ben Suzuki from Los Angeles would drive up to teach. Ben was an early bonsai teacher as well as a Japanese American who specialized in Asian style landscaping of the day. He was a contemporary of John Naka. The first hour of the class was spent out in the parking lot with Ben selling nursery stock suitable for bonsai to the class members. This was our only source of junipers back then because we couldn’t find them in the local nurseries. This is where I met Ann Bebee. I sat in her seat and she said that’s my seat so you need to move. Then we became great friends. I was 15 at the time. Early class members who were also Bonsai Club members included Sally Gilmore, Edna Hesthel, Jean Sharp, Laura Dunn and Amy Kakimoto. I traveled to the California desert with Ann and her family one year to one of their friend’s ranch to dig California junipers. I showed up at her house around four in the morning for the long trek. I still have one of those junipers.
President’s Message: Trees, Trees, Trees
If I had any sense, I would have reduced the size of my bonsai collection long ago. Even though I have been staying at home almost all day every day since March and have spent more time fussing over my trees than ever before, whenever I walk past them I see trees that desperately want to be pruned, pinched, wired, sprayed, repotted, rotated, moved to a sunnier or shadier location, or at least watered. If I had fewer trees, maybe I’d have nicer trees. But I’ll never know, because instead of getting rid of trees I keep adding to my collection. To date this year, I’ve got a dozen or so new oaks started, some from acorns I collected and some that scrub jays planted for me, and I also have three new Italian Stone Pines that are being recycled from Christmas trees to budding bonsai. On the bright side, it means that I’m never bored.
I was saddened to learn of the death of Ann Beebe recently at 96. She was a member of the club for many years. I particularly remember that she was always an enthusiastic participant in our Saturday workshops. She gave up her bonsai collection when she moved to Vista del Monte a few years ago. I have one of her olives which is developing into a very nice tree.
I hope we can resume in-person meetings before too much more time passes. In the meantime, stay safe and stay well.
Member’s Trees: Stephen Yee
Mel Ikeda created this raft style juniper as a demonstration during a Tuesday night meeting on October 14, 2008. I won it in the Club December potluck raffle that same year. I trimmed it a few times each year, watered and fertilized it regularly (if I remembered) and that’s pretty much all I did to it.
It was finally re-potted in 2016 and later was put in the Club’s Annual Bonsai show in 2019. Mel also happened to be one of the demo speakers in the 2019 show that year and it was kind of a bonsai reunion after 12 years.
Member’s Trees: Joe Olson
For quite a few years we have used small Italian Stone Pines (Pinus pinea) as Christmas trees. Stone pines are native around the Mediterranean and are planted fairly commonly locally, most notably along East Anapamu Street between Milpas and Olive Streets. I’ve always admired the spreading umbrella shape of full-size stone pines, so I decided to see if I could turn several old and neglected Christmas trees into bonsai versions of their larger relatives. Picture 1 shows last year’s Christmas tree as it looked on a recent afternoon, densely branched and kinda scraggly with a few dead branches and mostly short blue-green juvenile foliage mixed with a few longer and greener adult needles. Picture 2 shows the same tree as it looked later that same afternoon – much shorter and now really scraggly. The growing tips of all the remaining branches have been clipped off to promote back-budding along the inner stems. The final shape of the tree will depend on how the new buds develop. Unlike Japanese Black Pines, stone pines back-bud readily on older growth. Growth is not controlled by candle pruning, but rather by repeated trimming of the current year’s growth tips.
The arrows in Picture 3 point to small buds emerging from the branches of a different but equally scraggly tree a couple of weeks after it underwent its initial pruning. Each of those buds is a potential future branch. Pictures 4, 5, and 6 show how this year’s growing tips are cut to stimulate ramification. Picture 7 shows a tip that was cut about two weeks earlier. There are now two buds at the tip and two or three buds below the tip. Picture 8 shows the first tree in my experiment. It was created 2 or 3 years ago using the techniques described above. I plan to put it in its first bonsai pot next spring. The foliage is still primarily juvenile foliage. Most of the few longer adult needles have either been plucked out or cut very short. One unknown is whether I will be able to maintain a preponderance of short juvenile needles over the long term. On trees grown in the ground, the longer adult needles eventually replace the juvenile ones. I’m hoping continual trimming will preserve the short needles, but only time will tell.
Member’s Trees: Allan Hemmy
I haven’t been very bonsai productive this month, but I did finally just get these shohin olives into pots reduced from one gallon nursery cans (pics attached). I picked these up from Kimura Bonsai Nursery in early 2017 and cut them back hard. They are now potted in 100% akadama. The oval is a subtle yellow-cream color by Jim Barrett and the textured round is by Victor Shelton. I’m hoping to get some leaf reduction and shorter internodes for fine ramification.
Member’s Trees: Wally Kunimoto
This prostrata juniper nursery stock was purchased at a local nursery about 45 years ago in a 5 gallon container. One of our early bonsai teachers helped me in creating it as a double trunk style bonsai. Today it is 27 inches in height and 31 inches wide. (re: including the pot) The first photo was taken in 1981. It is one of the only bonsai from my early collection. I lost just about all of my bonsai in 1990. So most of my bonsai today were started since 2002.