The first weeks of the new year are a good time to reflect, and a good place to reflect might be the Morikami's gardens -- 200 acres of trails, koi-filled ponds, and bonsai trees ready for meditation. Bonsai, in reference to those delicate, laboriously pruned miniature trees, literally means "plant in pot." Their cultivation is an art, especially as demonstrated by bonsai master Ben Oki, who will lead a New Year's workshop on how to create the little tree sculptures. Oki curates the bonsai collection at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. How big is he in the bonsai world? Well, the American Bonsai Society named its annual "Ben Oki Excellence in Advancing Bonsai Award" after him. Do you need more credentials? OK... he designed Cybil Shepherd's Tennessee garden, so there.
After attending Oki's demonstration, there's one more thing you should know before getting started on your home chop shop. Each bonsai tree is an original, unique, and sometimes valuable work of living art. That's why the American Bonsai Society decided to come out of the shadows to discuss the unpleasant phenomenon of... bonsai theft. Says the society's website: "Bonsai theft is not a popular subject, and is not widely discussed, but like many other societal problems is a reality. It is frustrating when your bonsai is stolen, and it doesn't help not being able to do anything about it. "
So the society decided to act. It created the online Stolen Bonsai Registry -- an electronic milk carton for abducted shrubbery -- where photos are posted along with notes pleading, "If you have seen or know of this tree, please contact..." To keep your bonsai safe and secure in such a troubled world, the society suggests installing alarms, remote sensors, lights, trip wires, and LoJack systems, as well as heeding wise admonitions like "Do have someone watch when away" and "Don't brag so much."