I visited the captivating garden of Robert Stoll. Originally from Brooklyn he came to California in 1951. Robert and his wife, Therese, have worked together transforming their all but barren plot, into a pleasurable piece of paradise. Now retired, they are able to benefit from their labors by purely enjoying their garden which is adorned with stained glass and picassiette art created by the talented, Therese.
The only living thing on the property when they first moved in was a Satsuma Plum tree (Prunus Salicina Satsuma) thought to have been there since 1939. Robert has always been fascinated with Japanese culture, and this ancient tree seems the perfect backdrop for his Bonsai. Upon entering his garden, one is amazed by the enormous arbor of Kiwi vine (Actinidia Chinensis) growing on an overhead trellis extending around a corner about twenty feet or more.
Beyond Robert’s work shed (a charming replica of a Japanese Tea House) is a small forest. Literally.
“To maintain, simply do the work as it needs to be done. It’s not so much”, Robert says. Some people think that Bonsai are small because they are not well-fed and have stunted growth, which is not a true understanding of Bonsai. Robert fertilizes regularly every 2 weeks with fish emulsion one time and miracle grow, next time.
Robert has an interesting assortment of tools used for trimming, shaping, sanding, carving and caring for his trees. Nippers, and cutters and pliers and special benders and anodized copper wire of all sorts are at hand. But among his collection of tools Robert has found most useful, his chopsticks.
As a member of the Santa Cruz Bonsai club, KAI, Robert trades off with other members to tend the garden when he is out of town. They meet monthly at the Live Oak Grange Hall. Because it is a training club, experts are brought in to teach and demonstrate techniques. "Robert will do a demonstration on carving bonsai at the August meeting".
Robert is recognized for his accumulated knowledge. He has spent over 40 years, developing his abilities and learning Bonsai techniques. He is a member of two bonsai clubs; the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai and the Midori Bonsai Club in San Jose. He is past president of the Santa Cruz Club and presently the Editor of the Santa Cruz Club's Newsletter.
Originally published: May 30, 2004
Monterey Bay Master Gardeners Newsletter
Story and Photos By Elizabeth Munroz
Note: Photos were taken at a Bonsai exhibition at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, Watsonville, California and are not Mr. Stoll's Bonsai