Sacramento Bonsai Club celebrates 70 years

PROMOTING PATIENCE — (Above left): Sacramento Bonsai Club member Ben Nguyen (far right) shows members Ray Rodriguez (far left), John Schwaner (center, left) and Jean Schwaner (center, right) how to design the Cork Bark Jade plant, the focus plant for the day’s meeting. photo by Heather Ito/Nichi Bei Weekly

PROMOTING PATIENCE — (Above left): Sacramento Bonsai Club member Ben Nguyen (far right) shows members Ray Rodriguez (far left), John Schwaner (center, left) and Jean Schwaner (center, right) how to design the Cork Bark Jade plant, the focus plant for the day’s meeting. photo by Heather Ito/Nichi Bei Weekly

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Believed to be the oldest bonsai club in California, the Sacramento Bonsai Club celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1946, the club’s first meetings were held at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento at its old location on O Street. The meetings moved when Sacramento’s 1958 Redevelopment Plan forced the temple to relocate to its present location on Riverside Boulevard. The club’s annual shows were held at McKinley Park and the Nisei War Memorial Hall until 1965 and continued at the temple.

Today, the club is brimming with activity, with 75 active members and a busy schedule of shows, exhibits and seminars about twice a month through May, as listed on their Website.

“We feel very proud to be members and a part of such an active organization that is now celebrating 70 years and is still going strong,” said Vince and Kathy Owyoung, 25-year members of the Sacramento Bonsai Club.

Ever since the Owyoungs bought a small Japanese Black Pine tree in their first year of marriage, they have been interested in the art of bonsai. Now, after 55 years, the two continue to care for their tree using the bonsai techniques they learned.

“We find that it promotes patience and relaxation when working on the plants,” they said in an e-mail. “In trying to mimic and capture the details of the trees and landscapes in miniature form, it opened our eyes to nature.”
Sacramento Bonsai Club members learn and share bonsai techniques through meetings and workshops held once a month at the Buddhist temple, while also attending and participating in various exhibits. The program also includes workshops given by bonsai professionals throughout California, many having trained in Japan, according to the Owyoungs.

Bonsai instructor Sam Adina said it’s important for bonsai enthusiasts to focus on one technique at a time, not necessarily learning everything at once. He said that people “have something in their heart that they need to be focused on what they’re doing. They can improve because, with bonsai, you cannot do it at one time. It takes time to develop your tree.”

Adina joined the Sacramento Bonsai Club eight years ago, is involved in two other clubs and has been studying bonsai for 16 years. He previously studied agriculture, and used what he learned in that field to study bonsai. Adina served as a guest instructor during their March 14 meeting, demonstrating bonsai techniques and helping several members with suggestions on how to care for their trees.

This year also marks retirement for the club’s president Gary Judd, who led the club for 21 years. Judd is the longest-running president of the Sacramento Bonsai Club since its founding president George Fujimoto, who held the position for 18 years.

Judd and his wife Lucy Sakaishi-Judd have been interested in bonsai since they were married 25 years ago and are now involved with six bonsai clubs. They attended the El Dorado Bonsai School and graduated from the School of Satsuki Azaleas, where Judd earned his instructors certificate.

Judd said he hopes that members leave Sacramento Bonsai Club meetings with “confidence in working with their own bonsai at home.”

During his time as president, Judd established hands-on workshops, honored members through their annual shows, created club shirts and happi (short work coats) with members, contributed new ideas to their meetings, including the idea for a silhouette show and many other things. According to Sakaishi-Judd, his background as a teacher and cross-country coach helped him manage large events.

In addition, Judd established the Capital City Bonsai Association, a collaborative group of the four bonsai clubs in the Sacramento area. According to Sakaishi-Judd, the group was created in order to support the Golden State Bonsai Federation Bonsai Gardens at Lake Merritt, which is based in Oakland, Calif. This collaboration allows BGLM to have more docents to work on maintaining the gardens. According to Sakaishi-Judd, they have donated more than $20,000 toward BGLM garden maintenance through the Capital City Bonsai Association Show, held in October, which Judd created.

The Sacramento Bonsai Club’s 70th Anniversary Bonsai and Suiseki Show will be dedicated to the Judds.

“I have enjoyed every minute of our Sacramento Bonsai Club and its members,” Judd said.

Judd said he will support the club’s leadership next year, whether it be one president or a board of directors.

“I hope that the personality of the club will continue to be supportive,” he said. “I hope for fresh new ideas and support by all members, who will continue to share the art of bonsai.”

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