Drive-by bonsai

An Kin

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

An Kin loves his little trees. And it’s a good thing, too—because they don’t grow quickly. For the past few weeks, he and his brother have set up shop in Chico. Kin’s truck can be found parked at the corner of The Esplanade and Cohasset, in the Dairy Queen lot. His brother is over at Home Depot. Originally from Korea, Kin owns a bonsai farm in Southern California. He’s been traveling throughout the state—most recently selling the plants in Redding—for the holidays. He explained that because the miniature plants grow so slowly, historically they became known for their artistic beauty. They don’t come with a small price tag, either. A 2-year-old, 4-inch-tall bonsai will set you back $20, and for the bigger ones, you could be looking at a couple hundred bucks. Act fast, though—he’ll only be in Chico through Sunday (Dec. 17).

How long have you sold bonsai trees?

For 20 years. We have a farm in Los Angeles.

What brings you to Chico?

For the past two weeks we have sold trees in Chico and in Redding. We are here for the holidays, because it’s almost Christmas and many people like bonsai.

What is special about bonsai?

Bonsai is an Oriental art tree. They are very little and they do not grow fast. They grow two inches in one year. Every three years you transport them into a bigger pot.

What’s the oldest tree you have here?

This is a Chinese lantern tree. Forty years old. It is 250 bucks.

I always thought bonsai trees were Japanese. Are they also popular in China and Korea?

Yes—in all of the Oriental countries. They are a popular art plant.