Everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask!
From memory, Al Keppler: “I started bonsai in 1984 on my honeymoon. My new bride and I started out from Reno Nevada after getting married and shot off to the coast. We started our honeymoon in Santa Cruz, California. My new bride has always been into flowering plants and we soon were to find ourselves at San Lorenzo Lumber and nursery in Santa Cruz. It was here I first seen the small trees. I had to have one. I picked out an atlas cedar as my first tree and bought it. $40.00 later it would find itself on a whirlwind tour of the California coast. As we travelled north on Hiway 1, the plant went with us. All the way to the Oregon border. Along the way we stayed in Bed and Breakfasts and did some camping. I bought a small book, which I still have, and read it from cover to cover while we were away. My new wife was probably starting to wonder what she had gotten into since I had my nose in the book at every moment.”
“This is that first bonsai. I looked high and low for a photo of this tree, and finally found it and made a scan. This photo is the small patio of my wife and I’s first apartment. I brought that boulder down from the foothills and put it in the back area. I left it there when we moved out. The tree ended up in the dumpster since it dies when the first summer came. We were married in January so it made it about 7 months. You have to water these everyday? I thought they were like houseplants? What a rookie!”
As the year went by I found out about a club in my home town of Fresno CA. I soon joined that club and still try to make as many meetings as possible. I joined in 1984 and have been a member ever since. I befreinded Ray Theime, who had a bonsai nursery at the time. I bought many nice Japanese pots from him and bought some pretty unusual plants along the way. I still have the first junipers I bought after getting home from the honeymoon from Ray. Through the years bonsai has reached highs and some lows. It is during the highs when I am most enthused, yet I have retained many of my trees during the lows. In about 1994 I took an interest in Shohin bonsai. It has remained with me to this day and I love the smaller trees. I think a really good shohin can convey much more power than its larger counterparts.
As the years passed, the children grew up and started families of their own. I was able to spend more time with my trees and spend more money on them without all the family obligations. It was during this time that I culled alot of material away that was never going to be good and started buying larger and better material with which to work. The better material payed off. Around 1996 I joined the first bonsai discussion forum. The list server page at gardenweb. I then found bonsaiPAGE and posted there for 5 years untill the server was lost on 9-11-01. It was at this time I had joined bonsaiTALK. I stayed there until it went bust. I joined bonsainut in 2005 and have been there untill this month when I started this blog. I started this blog to keep all my archive of work in one place, easy accessability, and no constant chatter to read thru. I feel this is my contribution to the bonsai world in place of a book which I could never write.
I am currently the President of Akatsuki Bonsai in Fresno and belong to the Hanford group and the Fresno group. I spent 5 years on the Board of Trustees for the Golden State Bonsai Federation, and 3 years as the chairman of the Grants and Scholarship Program. I helped set up the First National Kazari at the Clark Center for Japanese Art. I have entered each of the three display contests and have placed second twice. My current Sensai is Katsumi Kinoshita of Monterey California. I have worked with Kathy Shaner, Ted Matson, Jim Gremel, Harry Hirao and Kenji Miyata.