Explore San Diego: Bonsai Bonanza in East County

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EL CAJON, Calif. -- Timeless, ageless and mesmerizing, the centuries-old art of bonsai takes root in the backyard of an El Cajon home, known as a hidden gem in East County.

Cindy Reed runs Kuma Bonsai and has been perfecting her craft since the late ‘60s. Her backyard is home to hundreds of bonsais, including a 3-inch tall tree that’s 35 years old, to a mini white cedar tree nicknamed ‘people catnip’ due to its leaves giving off an amazing scent.

The centerpiece is a 25-year-old bonsai dug up from the old KCBQ radio station lot. Cindy calls it “her baby.”

All of the plants are meticulously trimmed and arranged by Reed, whose love of nature has turned into a business. She operates San Diego’s only bonsai nursery, supplying bonsais to several places including Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

To Reed, bonsai is a way of life – a passion she shares through open workshops.

“Oh my gosh, the kids love it...I’ve had kids come back two years later and show me their trees,” Reed said. “I hope they come away with a little bit of peace,” she said, referring to adults who need to unplug.

She’s even met the man who did all the bonsais for the “Karate Kid” movies.

Reed says there’s no such thing as the perfect bonsai and anyone can pick it up. All you need is to open your mind and let the bonsai guide the way.

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