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Bonsai--Tricky, Demanding : It Takes a Certain Feeling, Lots of Tending and Infinite Patience

Bonsai is not a hobby for everyone. The art of dwarfing and shaping trees in shallow pots requires a certain feel for each tree’s possibilities, as well as an artistic appreciation of form and, most of all, patience.

Practitioners of bonsai must water and tend to their plants daily, and it may take years for a plant to attain its optimum form and beauty.

Bonsai trees cultivated by masters of the art will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana. The bonsai show will feature a demonstration at 1:30 p.m. Saturday by Miyaji Nakata, a visiting bonsai master from Japan.

If you are interested in trying your hand at the ancient art of bonsai, joining a club is perhaps the easiest way to start.

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There are three clubs in Orange County that belong to the Golden State Bonsai Federation, an educational organization composed of 60 clubs with more than 2,500 members.

The three local bonsai clubs--Kofu Bonsai Kai, the Orange County Bonsai Society and the Orange Empire Bonsai Society--together have an estimated 300 members. All three clubs sponsor events to introduce people to bonsai.

On March 25 at 6 p.m., Kofu Bonsai Kai will hold a free workshop for beginners at Mercury Savings, 7812 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach. Three bonsai teachers will show techniques to beginners and intermediate students. For more information, call Larry Ragle at (714) 497-5626.

The Orange County Bonsai Society, which meets monthly in Costa Mesa or Garden Grove, will present a bonsai show from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 20 and 21 at the Orange County Buddhist Church, 909 S. Dale St., Anaheim. The show will include a plant sale and bonsai demonstrations at 2 p.m. each day. For more information, call Corrine Woods at (213) 596-7922.

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Members of the Orange Empire Bonsai Society, which meets monthly in La Habra, will show their works at “The Green Scene” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 22 and 23 at Cal State Fullerton’s Arboretum. For more information, call Harold Blumberg at (213) 947-4860.

Community colleges also offer courses in bonsai. For example, Cypress College will offer a 10-week bonsai course during the spring quarter beginning March 27. The instructor will be Ernie Kuo, a student of bonsai masters Harry Hirao and John Naka. The class is open to beginning, intermediate and advanced students. For more information, call (714) 995-2771.

If you would like to enjoy the fruits of bonsai, but don’t have the patience to invest years of effort, you might consider buying a bonsai tree. But remember, this is a living art form, and the plants require constant care. Also, bonsai trees usually cannot survive more than a few days indoors.

There are at least three nurseries in Orange County that offer a wide variety of bonsai trees and a colorful selection of bonsai pots from Japan. They are:

Murata Bonsai Gardens, 13631 Beach Blvd., Westminster, which sells only bonsai trees. Owner Jim Murata says many of his customers purchase the trees as gifts for weddings or other holiday occasions. Bonsai specimens in Japanese maple, Chinese elm, Japanese elm, junipers and Japanese black pines are available. Most of the trees sold by Murata are in the $30-to-$100 range, but more expensive bonsai trees are also available. Murata Gardens offers monthly classes in bonsai and, according to Murata, provides individualized instructions to bonsai purchasers on how to care for their plants.

Laguna Hills Nursery, 23002 El Toro Road, El Toro, which offers bonsai trees ranging from small junipers at $30 to Japanese pines at $1,000. The nursery sells books on bonsai care.

Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, which sells bonsai trees ranging from $15.99 to $250. Varieties of junipers, maples, azaleas and even eucalyptus are available. Roger’s Gardens provides written instructions on bonsai care at no charge.


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