Seeds: Feel the peace of the bonsai

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 - 12:17 pm

While coping with a pressure-cooker work environment, Scott Chadd discovered inner peace while tending little trees.

"I was leading a high-stress, fast-paced life," recalled Chadd, former director of public works and transportation for El Dorado County. "I found bonsai was a wonderful escape from all that stress."

Chadd started work on his first bonsai tree 40 years ago. Today he is an accomplished bonsai teacher and has his own nursery, Lotus Bonsai near Placerville.

This week, he's busy coordinating an exquisite miniature forest in Sacramento's DoubleTree Hotel. Hundreds of artfully manicured and trained trees will be on display during the 35th annual Golden State Bonsai Federation convention.

"Statewide, we have 78 clubs with more than 10,000 members," said Chadd, the show's co-chairman. "We also have affiliates in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona."

With four active clubs, Sacramento has long been an epicenter of American bonsai. The nation's oldest bonsai organization, the Sacramento Bonsai Club, co-hosts the convention with the American Bonsai Association of Sacramento, Bonsai Sekiyu Kai and the Satsuki Aikokai Bonsai Association.

The show will honor Harry Hirao, a 94-year-old bonsai master who still teaches, collects and styles trees. Hirao's specialty is California junipers. His work inspired a major display for this show.

"We'll have a display of all California native trees," Chadd said. "Almost all of them were collected from nature.

"For the first time, we'll have a judged show with $1,500 in prizes," he added. "They do it in Japan, they do it Europe; why not do it here? It's a great stimulant to improve your product."

More than 200 bonsai enthusiasts are expected to attend the four-day convention, which opens Thursday. The event includes 19 workshops and seminars featuring some of the world's most accomplished bonsai experts.

Among them will be British bonsai star Kevin Wilson, who will be making his first U.S. appearance. Ryan Neil and David Nguy, who both studied with Japanese master Masahiko Kimura, will demonstrate their styling techniques.

The public is welcome to attend. Registration is necessary for seminars and workshops, but the show and vendor mall are open for free Friday and Saturday.

"We'll have vendors from throughout the U.S., selling tools, pots and bonsai," Chadd said. "And our artists really are globally renowned. It's all very exciting."

That is, in a calming, peaceful kind of way.

Old roses inspire hunt

About 100 rose experts gathered in Sacramento last weekend to compare research and celebrate a local gem – the historic City Cemetery. A member of the Great Rosarians of the World international hall of fame, the city-owned cemetery garden – which is open free to the public every day but Wednesdays and Thursdays – contains many rare rose varieties, thanks to volunteers.

Angelique Ashby, Sacramento's vice mayor, lauded the preservationists' efforts.

"No matter what's happening with the economy, we have beautiful roses for everyone to enjoy," Ashby said. "(Garden leader) Barbara Oliva embodies the best of Sacramento."

Rose hunters hope they'll find more rarities. Early California breeders produced thousands of varieties that are no longer in commerce and are thought lost. Surviving bushes still may be growing behind old homes, at abandoned foothill farmsteads or in other old cemeteries. But these roses won't last forever.

"There are many times when I didn't take the cutting and two years later, the rose was gone – 'cleaned up' with the weeds or wiped out by development," said botanist and rose hunter Fred Boutin, who contributed many of the roses in the city cemetery's collection.

Said Oliva, "We're on a rescue mission. It's our responsibility to save this genetic material before it's lost forever."

Camellia: Flower Power

The grand dame of local garden clubs, the Camellia Society of Sacramento, is gearing up for its 89th show in March. But first, it needs a button.

Commemorative buttons have been part of Sacramento's camellia celebration for decades. This year's theme: Flower Power. The club is holding a contest for the best design with a $100 first prize. Deadline is Nov. 23.

For rules and details: or (916) 371-2174.

Golden State Bonsai Federation convention and show

Where: DoubleTree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way, Sacramento

When: Thursday-Oct. 28; public show hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and next Saturday.

Admission: Show and vendors are free; seminars, workshops and meals range from $80 (one day) to $279 (full registration)

Details:, (530) 622-9681

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Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

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