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CSULB Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden Bonsai Collection

Published December 8, 2020

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By: Travis Nagaoka

Witness the serenity of the bonsai. The CSULB Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden collection was made possible by David “Butch” Frattalone, a CSULB Alumni and professor of Horticulture at Long Beach City College. He was a service award nominee by the Alumni Association and an avid supporter of the Japanese Garden. He often brought his horticulture students to interact with different aspects of the garden, including a pruning workshop. He would also partake in special programs like repotting water lilies. With a generous donation of $100,000 to the garden, we were able to add the bonsai collection and have continued maintenance and upgrades. After his passing in 2017, his protégé Jorge Ochoa now runs the horticulture program at Long Beach City College.

The Bonsai collection Professor David Frattalone’s donations went to:

The Japanese Red Maple: Around 5-10 years old, this tree is still undergoing the styling process, which is the process of how the bonsai tree is planted in its pot. A bonsai tree may only be classified as such when it is planted in a pot. The process of styling may take several years to complete, and every style is meant to portray different ways trees will grow in their natural environment.

Liquidambar: Around 30 years old, this tree has been styled in the Yose-ue, or Group/Forest style. This style is made by planting several trees in a large, shallow pot with the largest, most developed tree in the center. This is meant to represent how trees appear along the roadside, in a grove, or forest. The trees tend to not grow straight up, but slightly staggered to appear more natural.

Camellia japonica: The age of this tree is uncertain but is known to be at least 15 years old. The Camellia japonica has been planted using Moyagi, or the Informal Upright style. Moyagi style is commonly found in nature and a commonly used planting style for bonsai. This style is made with a single trunk that has been well balanced and imbued with wholesome curves that appear to be less pronounced towards the top of the tree. Generally, the curves will resemble an “S” and branches will be protruding at every curve.

Juniper prostrata: We have two Juniper prostrata that are planted in different styles. Around 60 years of age, the youngest of the two Juniper prostrata has been planted in the Yose-ue style. The other Juniper prostrata is around 70 years old and variegated. It has been planted using the Kenagi or Cascade style. The tree is planted is a deep pot to provide balance for the tree as it grows downward. This occurs in nature when a tree resides on the edge of a cliff and a natural phenomenon such as heavy snow or a rockslide causes the tree to grow downward. The problem with this grown however, is that it is difficult to maintain due to a tree’s natural tendency to grow upright.

Juniper foemina: We have two Juniper foemina trees planted in different styles. One of the Juniper foemina is around 50 years old and has been planted in the Youse-ue style. The other Juniper foemina is also around 50 years old as well, but it is planted using Ikadabuki, or Raft style. Ikadabuki style is seen in nature when a tree has cracked or fallen over, and the branches grow vertically making them appear to have several tree trunks. The entire system looks like a raft. This is done by planting the tree sideways and arranging the branches manually so they will grow upwards.

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis): Around  40 years old, this tree has been planted in the Shakan or Slanting style. Shakan style has the tree grow at a slanting angle, typically between 60-80 degrees relative to the ground, where the size of the trunk does not matter. In nature, this occurs when there is a strong wind that only blows in one direction or when the tree needs to reach sunlight from growing behind a prevailing shadow.

Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica): Around 60 years old, this tree uses the Chokkan, or Formal Upright style. Chokkan style is common in nature when there is plenty of sunlight and little to no competition from other trees. This style has a single, upright trunk that tapers towards the top. The branches must be symmetrically balanced and spread to form a pyramid shape.

References: Bonsai Empire - Bonsai Styles