Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS) – RSVP Beginners Class

REBS Club will be hosting a beginners class in May 2018. There are two options to having the beginners class, i.e. two midweek evenings or one weekend day. Locations would be at a senior center or private home of one our club members. Tools, wire and trees will be provided for a small fee. Lead instructor is Ivan Lukrich, a senior club member and long time bonsai instructor.

Details are still TBD. However, we need everyone interested in participating to RSVP at the soonest date. RSVP’s can be made by contacting Ivan directly by phone 707-527-0795 or through email at Lukrich@sonic.net.

The beginners class will cover a brief introduction to bonsai basics, use of tools and creating bonsai. This opportunity comes once a year at REBS. Class size is limited so we will form the class on a first come first served basis.

REBS annual bonsai show is in its 35th year at the Veterans Memorial Building, Santa Rosa, California

Michael Murtaugh & Alan Murakami Demonstration – Trident Maple Repotting

On March 27, 2018, at our monthly meeting and demonstration, Michael Murtaugh and Alan Murakami gave an informative and beautiful slideshow of their travels in Japan. They, Michael, Donna Moriki and Alan went to Japan in November 2017 to see the annual Takkanten Bonsai Show in Kyoto. The slideshow lasted about 15 to 20 minutes and included photographs of the bonsai show, famous temples, gardens and other wonderful and historic sites in Japan.

Upon conclusion of the slideshow, Michael conducted a demonstration on the repotting of a urban collected Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum). The Trident Maple was dug up by Michael about two months ago from the home landscape of the late Frank Bardella of Sebastopol, California. Age was unknown. It was grown in the ground for a long period of time due its trunk and height size. Michael had placed the tree into a plastic nursery container which he made by cutting the container in half and inserting the two halves into one. Michael cut holes and slits in the bottom for water drainage. He also used aluminum rivets to secure the two halves together. The tree was easily lifted from its container. A sizable root ball and large roots were apparent. He combed the surface roots, uncovering the nebari and girth of the trunk. There were actually three trunks, two large trunks of unequal diameter and a small trunk which appeared to be dead. Michael cleaned most if not all of the original soil from the root ball. He proceeded to remove downward growing and large protruding roots which were unwanted for a bonsai. Michael received quite a bit of suggestions from the members in attendance on the front view and whether or not to remove a large root growing from the lower trunk. He decided to leave the large root alone for the time being. Once the root ball was cleaned and large roots removed, Michael was ready to fill the container with a drainage layer of Akadama, lava rock and pumice. This layer was larger in size than the other bonsai mix on hand to completely fill up the container. The drainage layer is functional for bonsai in that the larger particles allow for water flow and more oxygen for the root growth.  Michael then inserted the root ball into the container and played with various angles of the trunk. Finally, he decided to have the trunk in a formal upright position. Of course, tie down wires were added to the bottom of the container which are so important to securing the root ball in the container. He added more bonsai soil mix. Chris Ross assisted at this point and the two gently poked the bonsai soil mix with chopsticks to remove any air pockets in the soil mix. The next step was for Michael to prune some of the foliage. He carefully removed cross branches, multiple branches, weak and unwanted branches by cutting them away from the trunk. Michael said he wanted to keep a balance of foliage to roots, and so it was important not to remove too much branches and foliage. The repotting only needed water to flush out any fines and give the roots a fair amount of hydration.

The repotted Trident Maple was raffled at the conclusion of the demonstration. Chris Garrett won his first demonstration tree.

The photo depicts a large Trident Maple dug up from the landscape of the later Frank Bardella (“Mr. Maple”).

Here, Michael discusses his repotting plans for the demonstration tree.

The Trident Maple is sized to fit the container.

Chris and Michael share in the delight of winning the demonstration tree.

Randall Lee – Demo Hawthorn Group Planting

Randall Lee returned to the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS) for the meeting/demonstration evening of February 27, 2018 to perform a group planting of nine Hawthorn saplings and some older trees. Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) is a species of hawthorn commonly known as Washington hawthorn or Washington thorn. The hawthorn is grown as an ornamental plant and can reach 10 meters in height. The small red berry-like fruit grow closely together in large clusters and are food for squirrels and birds. The flowers are showy and leaves are good fall color.

Randall was well prepared to demonstrate the grouping of nine trees in a large blue glazed, shallow bonsai pot, which was pre-wired to tie down the trees. At first, Randall displayed a more mature hawthorn bonsai in a four-inch pot that he had been working on for a number of years. Then he started by removing soil and root materials from each of the nine trees. He was cautious not to remove all of the root ball, but at the same time determined to have each tree fit into the shallow bonsai pot. He had previously selected the largest of the hawthorn trees to be up front and the focus point of the group. Randall wired this tree with aluminum wire and styled it as an informal upright bonsai. Once he had the trees’ root ball resized to his liking, Randall was ready to place them in the bonsai pot. He started with the largest tree, placing it in front view. He then placed large trees to the back and sides. The smaller trees or saplings were arranged around the outside with a slight angle away from the center.

With the trees in place, Randall added some bonsai soil mix of pumice, lava rock and Akadama. He then used the tie down wires to secure all the trees to the bonsai pot. Randall added more bonsai soil mix and used a chopstick and fingers to eliminate any air pockets in the soil mix. Once this was complete, Randall misted the entire surface with water. He was now ready to add a thin layer of shredded sphagnum moss covering the bonsai soil mix area. Randall sprayed water over the sphagnum moss. Afterwards, he added pieces of live moss, covering the entire sphagnum moss and its under layer of bonsai soil mix. Bob Shimon stepped in to assist in the moss covering task. When finished with the moss, Randall again sprayed water over the entire area.

Randall pruned some of the branches of each hawthorn tree giving it an overall shape and design.

A raffle drawing was held and member Michael Murtaugh won the group planting of hawthorn trees to add to his personal collection.

Randall displayed a mature hawthorn bonsai in a four-inch pot.
The largest hawthorn tree was pre-wired and shaped as an informal upright style, which would be placed in front view.
Each hawthorn tree was positioned in the large blue glazed bonsai pot.
After positioning each of the nine hawthorn trees, tie down wires were used to secure them in the pot, and then bonsai soil mix was added and misted with a water sprayer. Here, Randall is spreading shredded sphagnum moss over the entire planting.
Bob Shimon joined in to assist Randall in placing pieces of live moss over the entire planting.
Randall completed the moss covering and then made some final touches to the shape and sizes of the hawthorn trees.
Randall and Michael Murtaugh pose for the camera with the finish nine-tree hawthorn group planting.

Kathy Shaner – Repotting Your Bonsai

On January 23, 2018, we conducted our first meeting and demonstration of the new year, featuring club sensei Kathy Shaner. Kathy arranged for an exciting and fun hands-on repotting workshop, where four club members were given the opportunity to repot their own bonsai under her guidance and instruction. Kathy approached the demonstration like her advanced workshops, moving from one club member to the next, giving her expert instruction to each and ensuring the proper steps were taken.

Repotting bonsai at regular intervals is critical to the health of your bonsai. Each step taken ensures the repotting is done correctly. In general, you determine if the bonsai requires repotting. By examining the roots, you can assess whether the roots are circling themselves which will eventually grow thick enough to displace the soil and water causing the tree to starve and die. The usual season for repotting in Northern California is December through March. This is the time for less activity and growth and the bonsai is impacted by less shock. Some bonsai, for example the tropical ficus, like early spring. Remove the old soil. Deciduous can be bare rooted. However, never bare root a conifer all at once. Comb the surface roots using a chopstick, root hook or rack to radiate from the trunk. Gently disentangle the roots if they have grown thick and in to each other. Remove some of the bonsai’s roots. Remove long roots and downward growing roots. Use a sharp root scissors and cut away any damaged or dead roots. After cutting away the proper portion of roots, position the bonsai in its pot. There should be a layer of soil mix in the bottom of the pot. A common bonsai soil mix contains Akadama from Japan, lava rock and pumice. Ensure the pot holes have been covered with plastic screens and have tie down wires BEFORE placing any soil mix in the pot. Work the soil mix gently around the bonsai roots and make sure the trunk and roots are secured with tie down wires. Add additional soil mix and work it in to be sure to eliminate any air pockets. Water the repotted bonsai. This will clean out any fines and settle the soil mix and hydrate the bonsai as well.


Repotting your bonsai will keep it from being root bound and starving to death. It won’t keep bonsai small, but fresh soil mix will help feed it new nutrients and allow it to grow and be healthy.