The Amazing Point Lobos and That Other Place

When I was planning this trip of a lifetime I was in contact with many people about the best places to stop to see old growth trees. I managed to see most of them with a few escaping until the next trip of a lifetime. 🙂 One of my pointers was from Ryan Neil who said I HAD to make it to Point Lobos State Park for the Monterrey Cypress. Boy was he right! The Allan Grove in the Park is a magical place to walk and the photos just don’t do the wonder of the place justice. It’s a quiet spot, not to many people there on the paths so at many points you were on your own and able to soak it all in. The trees really tell a story of life on that coast with deadwood and character in abundance. Some amazing wild flowers and coastline as well, a great accent for the trees. Interesting to see the rust  fungus on so many of the Cypress.

Now, the other place, which officially is called ‘the 17 mile drive’, is a, you guessed it, a 17 mile private road around the headland at Monterrey over looking the sea and Pebble Beach Golf Course. You pay $10 for the privilege of taking this drive and getting to see the famous Lone Cypress on the rock and the Ghost tree. As a tree person I found the lone tree a bit disappointing after Point Lobos and the Ghost tree was a dead one nearby. There were literally hundreds of better Cypress across the Bay at Point Lobos and entry to the State Park was also $10. The park also offers up much more in the way of scenery. So there you go, tourist tip of the day. Photos of all below. Some general shots from the park as well showing the coast and the Sealions on the rocks. I’ll put the Lone tree last for you to compare.





Highway One

On our ‘Must See’ list for the West Coast was Highway One. Sadly due to a damaged bridge and a landslide, a major chunk of this iconic route was closed to us. We had stayed in Pismo Beach for a night and the next day we set off up Highway 101 straight to Monterrey with the plan to come back on ourselves down Highway one as far as we could go until we hit the road closed signs. What a good call this was, with some spectacular scenery to be seen. We made it as far as Big Sur before the road block stopped our progress. We stopped there for lunch to support the small local businesses that are struggling due to the road closures. We then turned and headed back towards Monterrey. My wife was keen to see Bixby Bridge and it was worth the trip just for that. Here’s some of the shots I captured along Highway one. The Highlight of this coastline was Point Lobos Sate Park, and the Monterrey Cypress, but more on that in the next post.

Moreton Bay Ficus

After a week in the LA area we started our road trip proper and drove to Santa Barbara. Memorial Day Weekend traffic. Not good!

One of the best meals of our three weeks was at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. I’ve added a few pics here of the beach for prosperity.

One of my Facebook friends advised me to stop and see the Moreton Bay Ficus when we were in Santa Barbara so after a quick google search we popped down the street to visit. A great History to this tree and worthy of a visit just for that alone. I’m not a Fig person when Bonsai is concerned but these big boys impress! I got a parking ticket in the 10 minutes it took to visit the tree. This turned out to be the most expensive tree attraction we visited! It’s free for you if you make it there though.


Last Stop Of The Day

Hard to believe I managed three stops in one day! Huntington Gardens, Fuji Bonsai and finally Kimura Bonsai. I have 3 weeks worth of photos to get through here!

Robert Pressler at Kimura Bonsai is one of the guys I chat to on Facebook over the last few years and you wonder if you’ll ever get to meet. When he heard I was in his general area he was quick to offer up the opportunity to visit his place. I knew I would be pushed for time on the day but I managed to make it. He’d just adopted a new dog, Riley, who I was keen to meet also 🙂

Unlike the first two stops of the day, my time with Robert was mostly spent in his company chatting about all things bonsai. I did get a guided tour of his nursery and a talk through of many of the trees but the camera work was all a bit of a rush to fit everything in. I’ve been conscious during this holiday to take the time to actually look around for myself and soak up the experience and not see everything through a lens. Great to see a few accents for the first time. A good selection of JB Pine nursery stock at various ages as well. Here’s some snaps of our time there. That blasted sun just blows out most of the detail as usual but you’ll still get a feel for the place.



Fuji Bonsai

After visiting Huntington Gardens I made the short trip over to Fuji Bonsai, Roy Nagatoshi’s place. There was a Saturday morning workshop in full flow but I was still made very welcome by Roy and the folk taking part. Below is my usual gallery. Hard to make out individual trees in most of them. The sun was shining strongly and the trees were really packed in there. An abundance of California Junipers many of which had been grafted. A stand out Pomegranate with a hollow trunk too.

How anyone grows trees in this heat and amount of UV light is beyond me. You’ll see many trees with the soil covered to help keep the heat off the roots. Species variety is limited here to what can stick the conditions. The guys were great, chatting away to me about conditions in this area, pretty much the opposite of what I have here at home! A great selection of starter trees as well as you’ll see in the photos. At this point I was starting to dream of Juniper deadwood at night 🙂

Down and Out in Beverly Hills

You often think of LA as a concrete Jungle but I did find a few nice trees on my travels. Most of them in Beverly Hills where each street in the main residential area has a specific tree planted on it.

Some great Ficus nebari in there and I just love the purple flowering tree, an Australian native I believe. Anybody get the movie reference?

Huntington Gardens – The Bonsai Exhibit

I felt some excitement as I approached the exhibit. The set up was excellent and showed the trees well. I took in the first area thinking that was it only to find another courtyard full of trees. Quality was varied as you’d expect when trees are donated but I was thrilled to see my first California Junipers and a few trees created by the pioneers of American bonsai. Condition and heath was generally good with only a few showing signs of stress. I fell in love with the Cali Junipers and a few of the olives. Also nice to see shohin getting a display in there even if a few of them were below par with the rest. Perhaps accents would have added to the whole display but again, this might be hard to maintain in an exhibit like this. Well done to all those who donated to make an exhibit like this possible for the public. I can only dream of something like this being possible in Ireland someday.

I was also lucky enough to visit another exhibit by the GSBF at Lake Merritt, but more on that later in the week.

Huntington Gardens – Japanese Garden

Walking on from the Chinese Garden at Huntington, you could feel the change transitioning to Japan. The Tea House was special and there were some beautiful paths that always left you wandering what was around the next corner. The general landscaping was well manicured and full use of the grass areas was being made by the public. Here’s the gallery. Next up the trees from the bonsai display.

Huntington Gardens – Chinese Garden

With so many photos to share, I’m going to break them down a little as I go. My visit, although brief, to Huntington Gardens, was a fantastic experience. Design wise the gardens are one of the best I’ve seen and everything looked in top condition. I got to visit both the Chinese and Japanese Gardens within Huntington as well as the Bonsai Exhibit, but more on that later. First up is the Chinese Garden. It was early in the morning and as the cloud cleared as I snapped away. Beautiful water features surrounded by bridges, buildings and great landscaping including some quality rock features. The detail in the paths alone impressed me.

There was a small display of bonsai/penjing , pretty much an after thought tucked away at the side of a path. A missed opportunity to create a Penjing display worthy of the garden. The Chinese Garden in in for a massive extension in the next few years. Perhaps a chance to rectify this? Here’s a gallery of what was on offer. The toad is real 🙂

Jet Lagged!

Well, I’m home safe and have been trying to get get over my jet lag, worst I’ve ever had. I think I may have overdone just about everything on this trip. Nearly 3000 miles covered.

A holiday to remember and I plan to share all the photos here once I wade through the 3000+ images and edit what’s worth keeping. A massive thank you to all those who I met on my travels and took the time to show me trees. Here’s a few of them.


The biggest thanks however goes to my wife Allison for making it such an enjoyable trip. It would have been a fraction of the fun without you.

I’ll share my bonsai visits, those above and more, and also my visits to old growth trees in the wild. Some inspiring stuff. Stick with me while I get things in order.