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Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai is a non-profit bonsai club whose objectives are to promote interest in, and expand knowledge of, the art of bonsai through continuous study and education.

Our Saturday General Meetings feature an individual with a particular bonsai expertise, teaching and demonstrating methods and techniques that increase our appreciation and awareness of this ancient art. Rather than just one individual (sensei), our club has many teachers, broadening our knowledge and increasing our understanding.



Roy Hubbard ran the following ad in the Santa Cruz Sentinel garden section on November 12, 1987; “The Santa Cruz Bonsai Club is attempting to be formed. Those interested in forming a local bonsai club can call Ron Hubbard at 476-8504. No first meeting date or meeting place has yet been found.” Roy had applied in 1984, ’85 & ’86 for admittance into the Watsonville Bonsai Club, the only bonsai club in the area at that time. Their membership was limited due to their small over-the-garage meeting room, and the list of people waiting to get into their club was growing. Roy, tired of waiting, made the decision to try to form a Santa Cruz club. He placed the above ad in the newspaper and posted notices at nurseries and rock yards in the Santa Cruz and Watsonville areas. Roy also obtained a copy of the list of people waiting for an opening in the Watsonville Bonsai Club.

Roy set a meeting date at the Soquel Glen Mobile Home Park clubhouse in late 1987, and he sent out letters to those who had expressed an interest in forming a Santa Cruz bonsai club. Around 12 people showed up for this preliminary meeting. Among those present were Roy Hubbard, Harold (Gus) Land, Gareth Shepherd, Gode Apon, and Kathy Shaner.

In January 1988, the first official meeting took place, at which time officers were elected and the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai was born. Among the first year members were: Roy & Fran Hubbard, Frank Wright, Bill Potter, Jack Vaughn, Alex & Kathy Shaner, Gode Apon, Gareth Shepherd, Virginia Kay, Ed & Betty Richard, and Jack Simpson. Roy Hubbard was elected as the first President. Kathy Shaner, who had studied bonsai with many of the well known bonsai artists in California, became the club’s sensei.

The Live Oak Grange Hall was secured for a regular meeting place, and, as word spread about the new bonsai club, membership grew. By the end of the first year, By-Laws had been adopted, Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai had joined the Golden State Bonsai Federation, and Bonsai Clubs International; the club had also contributed to the John Naka Pavilion at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., and participated in the Santa Cruz County Fair.  The following year, 1989, Kathy Shaner departed in June to begin her apprenticeship in Japan, returning at the end of October 1989, in time to orchestrate Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai’s First Annual Bonsai Exhibit in November of that year. This exhibit was complicated due to the Loma Pieta earthquake that hit on October 17, 1989, devastating downtown Santa Cruz. The damage caused closure of major roads into and out of Santa Cruz requiring many detours. Many member trees and pots were also damaged. The exhibit went well in spite of the earthquake damage and the fact that it was the club’s first attempt at putting on a show.

At the end of the year 2000, membership had grown to around 55. By 2015, membership had stabilized at around 80 members. We continue to meet the third Saturday of each month in the Live Oak Grange Hall, and have held our annual show, usually in March or April of each year, since 1989. 


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