Six tiny trees, one huge loss for Japanese Friendship Garden - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Six tiny trees, one huge loss for Japanese Friendship Garden

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The tranquility of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park has been broken by thieves who stole bonsai trees. Six of the garden's 19 bonsai trees were taken when someone broke in during the middle of the night.

For more than a decade, the bonsai trees at the Japanese Friendship Garden have added to the peaceful aura that surrounds this place.

But in the middle of the night, with only the koi looking on, something very fishy happened.

"At first I was just sweeping the gravel below here and I was looking down, so I wasn't really looking at the plants," worker Paul Johnson said. "And then I went off and came back to see if these needed watering, and I saw many gaps."

Paul says it happened just a few days after Christmas.

Seven trees were gone, and others clearly disturbed.

"The bougainvillea and that big pine there, they tried to move these. You could see they were moved toward the edge and it's too heavy. Those take three to four people to lift those," he said.

Paul thinks it was two thieves who probably got in by climbing the fence. He's also pretty sure they didn't really know what they were doing. The stolen bonsai range in value from $75 to about $225. Others they left behind are worth much more, including one that they stole but then left behind near a dumpster.

"Luckily it wasn't damaged, a little bit of soil missing. We fixed that pretty easily," Paul said.

Paul's guessing the stolen trees probably ended up at a flea market, and are now long gone, if not dead. Taking proper care of bonsais is a lot of work. But if they are still alive, Paul has a message for the thieves.

"You can just leave them here and we'll take them. Leave them by the back gate or somewhere, we'll take them, because we'd live to have them back," he said.

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