Branching Out

Bonsai club president keeps sharing tradition alive

By Jessica Laskey
April 2022

When people see a bonsai plant, they’re amazed and want to touch it to see if it’s real,” Lucy Sakaishi-Judd says. “They’re flabbergasted by how small it is. The viewing of it is to see the beauty.”

Sakaishi-Judd is president of the Sacramento and Sierra bonsai clubs and a member of the American Bonsai Association, Sacramento. She is also a member of Bonsai Sekiyukai and Satsuki Aikokai, which specialize in Japanese Azaleas. She oversees one of the most impressive bonsai collections in California. Her Rocklin property is a labyrinth of greenery, with hundreds of bonsai plants crowded on workbenches, shelves and swiveling displays.

She learned the artform from her parents, devoted bonsai practitioners in Lincoln. But the second-generation bonsai artist credits her late husband Gary with sparking the couple’s passion for the cultivation of diminutive potted plants.

“Before we were married, we saw a bonsai display by the Sierra Bonsai Club at the Penryn food festival,” Sakaishi-Judd recalls. “When Gary saw the beauty of the trees, he said, ‘Someday I’ll do that.’ We were married in 1991 and my mother was doing bonsai at the time, so we started doing bonsai. At one time, we were involved in seven clubs—some in the Bay Area and four local ones.”

Gary Judd led the Sacramento Bonsai Club—oldest in California, established in 1946—for 25 years. He established the Capital City Bonsai Association to bring the four Sacramento clubs together in support of the nonprofit Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt. When he died in 2019, his wife took over the presidency.

“Even though people come from all over, bonsai is a small world of friends and people,” says Sakaishi-Judd, who travels to conventions around the country and teaches workshops at bonsai clubs, in her home studio and on YouTube and Zoom. “People are all so kind in the bonsai world. Everybody shares.”

Sakaishi-Judd’s love of sharing information follows a career in education. She taught science, home economics and aerobics, and coached tennis, volleyball, and track and field in the Roseville Joint Union High School District for 25 years. She had an aerobics TV show on Roseville’s Channel 8 and taught disco dance.

She and Gary were well matched. He was a teacher and coach who started bonsai clubs at high schools where he worked. The couple created team apparel for the Sacramento Bonsai Club. Other bonsai groups copied the idea.

The pair cultivated the enormous collection of plants Sakaishi-Judd tends today. Some trees date back decades, including specimens from the 1960s nurtured by Sakaishi-Judd’s parents. A few “pre-war” trees come from a family in Penryn whose neighbor looked after the plants when Japanese Americans were interned under the notorious Executive Order 9066.

The Judds were asked by the family’s son to take care of the surviving plants. They are now displayed with plaques amid hundreds of other beautiful and meaningful specimens.

In addition to maintaining and propagating plants in her garden, Sakaishi-Judd explores new hobbies, including fly-fishing. She recruits club members to ensure the next generation of bonsai aficionados is ready.

“We don’t own bonsai. We are the caretakers,” she says.

The American Bonsai Association, Sacramento’s 62nd Annual Spring Show will be April 9–10 at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center, 3330 McKinley Blvd. For information, visit For information about the Sacramento Bonsai Club, visit

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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