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SHARING GARDENS REPORT: "It's Not Hoarding If It's Plants" - Kyle Icke, Bonsai Enthusiast

By Karen England, for Let's Talk Plants! November 2023.

On a beautiful October day, Kyle Icke happily shared his bonsai plants with SDHS members for several hours at his beautiful SD county park home.

Kyle giving his presentation in June 2023.
At the June 2023 San Diego Horticultural Society general meeting, Kyle Icke, who is not only the VP of the San Diego Bonsai Club but is also a SD County Park Ranger who resides at Oakoasis Park (near Barona Casino), invited the members of the SDHS to come one Sunday in October to his personal garden at his park home to meet all of his Bonsai trees, not just the trees that he brought with him to CBI!
Kyle showing how he cares for some of his bonsai trees to the in-person members at the June SDHS general meeting. Did you miss this hybrid general meeting with Kyle Icke in June 2023 or wish to see it again? The Zoom recording is on our YouTube channel.

In October he invited the membership to his home garden to meet the rest of his trees and here's the report:

"It's not hoarding if it's plants" - Kyle Icke

Kyle had so much fun introducing us to all of his bonsai trees at his home that he sent me (Karen) an email the next day thanking us for coming! He beat me to the thank you punch... I personally had the best time and learned so much. I took dozens of photos and made pages of notes on my phone while he patiently talked and walked us through his entire bonsai collection, but if you have questions about any of these pictures, please contact Kyle, not me, because I am not the best at shorthand and the notes that I made that day mostly read as gobbledygook when I got home. He knows the varieties, history, style and in many cases costs and more about every plant in his care. It's amazing. Contact - San Diego Bonsai Club

A very old (100 years) Bromeliad.

Immature, "young forever looking" variety of Juniper.

In his garage he is working to turn cuttings from a rescued bouganvillea from his old North Park home, that he originally planted there from a one gallon size pot over twenty years ago into beautiful bonsai.

Hollywood Juniper, Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa', tanuki. Tanuki means "fake out" in Japanese.

The following picture and accompanying information about Tanuki are excerpted from the SS CurtainBonsi - San Diego Bonsai Club - author uncredited (possibly Kyle? If I find out who

wrote this, I will update, but I believe we saw this exact bonsai at his home, but I have no clear picture of it to share).

"What is Tanuki?
The Japanese Tanuki is a shape-shifting mythical animal known as a trickster. Its name is applied to this interesting bonsai technique. This is my wisteria. But does that trunk look like a wisteria? In fact, it is not. This pot contains two dead rosemary trunks. A wisteria is also planted in the pot and then wired and tied to the rosemary. Over time, the wisteria will become attached to the point where the wire and string can be removed. At that point this will be a Tanuki, a bonsai that plays a delightful trick on the eye. I won this pot in the raffle at a bonsai show in LA. Minutes afterward someone offered me $200 for it. I really considered it for a moment because I had no immediate use for such a pot. In the end I declined and that turned out to be a great decision because it really displays my Tanuki well."
Pomegranate "Halloween tree." See the spooky eyes on the scary dead branch?

Black pine.

This was a costly Eugenia originally. It is even more costly now that it's a beautiful bonsai.

Vitex with "bones" that Kyle carved in the deadwood. Look closely. Do you see the digits?

This pine bonsai was made using a trunk splitting technique (the tool used looks a little like an ice block picker...) and wired rock weights to keep the shape.


Oak (seated), Boxwood (holding).

Yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria.

Using a $15 olive tree trained in the sumo style by back-budding.

"Sumo bonsai is a style of bonsai tree. It is categorized as having a thick wide trunk near the topsoil with a gradual taper the higher the trunk grows. Sumo bonsai also have low hanging branches and a wide triangle-shaped leaf canopy. Most deciduous plant species work well for this style."
50 years old (the plant), 30 years of which have been with Kyle, that reside sheltered under an oak tree, are these banyan style Scheffleras.

Creative beginnings: the lava rock was a gift from Kyle's mom and is now home to a Juniper nana tree. A mentor of Kyle's named Abe, said on seeing this bonsai, “Kyle that is a nice bush, but it's not a tree.”

Needleleaf Ficus set in a tray of playground sand.

The back garden was a lush fruit, herb and vegetable patch complete with a rescued rooster that roams the verdant garden freely. A garden that also houses more bonsai such as myoporum, portulaca jade (old looking trunk on young plant), little fruiting mulberry, bougainvillea that did what Kyle calls the "bougie dance" which means the arrival of deadwood that Kyle will carve later and more.

Deer defoliated the elm then it quickly back-budded like crazy so, of course, the deer defoliated it again. Six months after the second defoliated go round, it back-budded again and finally Kyle had his desert island bonsai - The Sea Serpent.

Kyle's secrets to bonsai success; use bigger pots and cactus mix.

Karen England, San Diego Horticultural Society President, and newsletter editor.

Watch past meeting presentations on the SDHS YouTube channel.

(Here’s Karen and friends from September 2020


Join or renew your membership with the San Diego Horticultural Society now to attend



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