On October 23, 2018, our club enjoyed an outstanding demonstration by Ivan Lukrich for styling a Hornbeam (Carpinus). Ivan is a senior club bonsai instructor. There are 30–40 species occurring across much of the temperate of the Northern Hemisphere.
The demonstration tree was won by the club in a past “Ironman” competition between the Marin Bonsai Club and REBS a number of years ago. Ivan has been caring for the tree ever since.
The demonstration Hornbeam tree was not showing much fall colors, but the leaves were in the process of drying out and falling off. Ivan proceeded with removing a majority of the leaves to show more of the movement in the trunk and branches. The demonstration tree was in an informal upright style with nice movement of the trunk and slight tapering.
There were several branches removed earlier and wounds required some follow-on treatment to heal over. This required scrapping the sides of the wound with a knife to expose some of the green cambium and sealing with a cut paste.
Ivan said the previous wiring and work on primary branches were complete. And so, he would be wiring the branch tips at this point. Ivan used copper wire on the demonstration tree because he is most comfortable using copper wire on his bonsai. The copper wire has more strength and holding power with smaller gauges than aluminum wire.
Upon completion of the demonstration, a raffle was held and club member Diane Matzen won the Hornbeam bonsai.
On September 25, 2018, between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., at the Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center, Santa Rosa, California, Jonas Dupuich conducted a demonstration on Satsuki Azalea bonsai imported from Japan. Jonas is a professional bonsai grower, artist, instructor, and vendor. He has been growing azaleas for about 20 years.
Satsuki Azalea (Rhododendron indicum) is native to Japan. Satsuki is a Japanese term that refers to the bloom period, May or early June. There are thousands of different varieties. Satsuki azaleas are popular bonsai plants for many reasons. It can take a hard pruning, the flowers are amazing, and they can be developed fast. Since azaleas prefer to be slightly acidic, a popular soil to grow them in is Kanuma.
Jonas brought with him a number of Satsuki Azalea bonsai for showing different varieties, leaf sizes and shapes, and styles. He mentioned that Satsuki Azalea can be styled in numerous ways. He chose as his demonstration bonsai a cascading Satsuki Azalea with multiple trunks, at least four primary trunks. In choosing the front view, Jonas preferred in bonsai to show the trunks. However, since it was Satsuki Azalea it would be better to show off the most flowers.
He started to cut and thin out the leaves and tiny branches on the demonstration bonsai. He said general guidelines for cutting and thinning applied here. Cutting the tips, lower leaves leaving two leaves per branch or stem, removing vertical and downward growing branches and stems. Jonas said when cutting branches he will leave a small stub or convex cut. After cutting branches, he would seal the wound with a cut paste and wound seal. (Top Jin Cut Paste and Wound Seal, yellow in color, stops bleeding and helps to protect from fungal infection). Sometimes branches are found to be in clusters of three or more. These should be cut back to two branches.
Jonas said he uses 100% Kanuma for soil. Repotting should take place when watering appears to slow in draining, a sign that the Kanuma has been compacted and roots have filled the pot. Jonas mentioned the function of watering bonsai plants. Watering pushes out any old residues and pulls in oxygen vital to the health of the plant.
Some things to avoid with Satsuki Azalea bonsai are wind, salt and cold. An environment close to the coast would be challenging for growing Satsuki Azaleas.
Popular times to wire Satsuki Azaleas is after the bloom and in the summer. Besides wiring, the clip and grow method can be useful.
Jonas led an interesting discussion on how commercial growers produce Satsuki Azalea bonsai in Japan. There are various levels of growers for each phase of developing the Satsuki Azalea bonsai. One level may grow whips, another for wiring and creating movement in the whips, other levels to transfer to and from the ground for growing large trunks.
Jonas uses 30% shade cloth when the temperatures are 75 degrees in Alameda and recommended 40% shade cloth when temperatures reach 85 degrees elsewhere.
In discussing wiring Satsuki Azalea bonsai, Jonas said he looks for beauty and function. The discussion led to the degrees in the angle of wiring. Where 45 degrees was the standard for wrapping wire around branches, the trend today is somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees. Again, the most important factors are beauty and function of the wiring.
Fungus is a problem. It can be root or leaf fungus. Root fungus can first show up by having black leaf tips.
Large branch bending – it is not really possible to bend large branches with wire wrapping. Instead, use guy wires to lower or raise large branches.
Finally, removing the flowers after bloom will send energy to the leaves.
Jonas worked on the demonstration tree during the discussions above. He removed unwanted weak branches, cut and thinned out the leaves, wrapped wire on small branches to lower and show movement, and used guy wires to lower the larger branches. The result was a well shaped cascading Satsuki Azalea bonsai.
A raffle was conducted for the demonstration bonsai and Jim Gallagher was holding the winning ticket.
On August 28, 2018, our Club Sensei Kathy Shaner performed a demonstration on a collected California Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). The demonstration redwood tree was collected about three years ago by Bob Shimon of Mendocino Coast Bonsai. The redwood was at the smaller end of the classification of Chiu or Chumono, two-handed bonsai, 16 to 36 inches in height. Its trunk was thick and somewhat slanted with top heavy healthy green foliage.
Let me digress for a moment and explain more details about the demonstration tree. There were two trees offered for demonstration. In addition to the redwood, there was a Procumbens Nana Juniper (also known as common juniper or Japanese Garden juniper). The club members voted to have the redwood serve as the demonstration tree for the evening.
Kathy started the demonstration by pointing out what we should be looking for in a bonsai. That being the best focal point or item of interest within the tree. She believed that the redwood demonstration tree could be developed into a multiple trunk bonsai. She began by working the surface soil, removing the soil to expose surface roots and discover what was the extension of the trunk base, referred to as the nebari. The widest part of the trunk base or nebari is oftentimes used for the front view. The nebari is found under the surface.
There were pieces of deadwood near the trunk base that showed tool cut marks. Kathy worked on eliminating the tool cut marks by using pliers and branch cutters to “cut and tear” the straight tool mark edges. Some of these pieces of deadwood became jins. A jin is a branch that is deadwood or created as deadwood and can appear almost anywhere on the tree. Jins are short since deadwood rots and breaks off over time in nature.
Kathy then discussed styling the redwood tree. She wanted to angle the tree by tilting it upward and forward towards the viewer looking at the front. She said perception is very important here. With the redwood tilted towards the viewer the tree appeared and felt like the tallness of redwood trees in nature.
Kathy explained the difference of jins versus shari. A jin was described above. Shari is deadwood created in nature or by the bonsai artist along the trunk of the tree. She reduced the thickness of several deadwood trunks by stripping the bark using the “cut and tear” method. By doing so, this strengthened the primary trunk in size and appearance. She said the styling of the demonstration redwood would have multiple tops by wiring three branches upward, each having its own height, one being the apex or taller than the others.
She used copper wire for its strength and holding power. Kathy’s wiring was loosely wrapped around the branches to create movement and hold them in place. She would wrap the wire in an elongated manner and not close together like a spring. She chose to have three apexes, each wired closely together and which would have similar growth patterns. By wiring loosely, she would avoid having the copper cut into the bark of the branches. The wire could stay on for about one year and would set the branches in the desired position. Wire cuts are ugly and require vigil to avoid them.
New growth on redwoods should be popped off at the very tips of the branches in order to prevent them from becoming long and leggy. Using you fingers, you pop off the tiny middle section of the new growth tips. This should be done throughout the growing season.
Kathy advised that the demonstration redwood tree should be placed in the shade until it becomes adjusted to its new location. Light morning sun and afternoon shade is the best condition for the young branches.
Upon completion of the demonstration, Peter Naughton won the raffle for the redwood bonsai.
During the recent Redwood Empire Bonsai Society’s 35th Annual Bonsai Show, August 25 and 26, 2018, held at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, Master Bonsai Artist and Club Sensei Kathy Shaner performed two demonstrations – a collected Sierra juniper on Saturday and a Procumbens juniper on Sunday, from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
Let’s look more closely at the Sunday’s performance on the Procumbens juniper (also known as Japanese Garden juniper or Common juniper).
The demo tree was a healthy green and full of foliage. There were several primary branches. Kathy first dug into the surface soil to discover the nebari girth (strength of the surface roots and trunk base). She removed some of the length in the foliage to give a better look at the movement of the trunk.
By removing the dense foliage, one could see the strength and interesting movement of the trunk.
Kathy cautioned about removing too much of the foliage in the initial styling. Here the apex appears as a rounded mass of foliage at the top. The primary side branch is left alone for the time being to protect the health of the tree.
After a bit more styling, it is time to raffle the tree. Kathy and Raffle Chair Wayne Culp build on the excitement in selecting the winning raffle ticket.
Club member Jim Scholz was rewarded for buying the raffle tickets by adding the Procumbens juniper to his bonsai collection.
Our latest meeting and demonstration occurred on June 26, 2018, Tuesday evening, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center, Santa Rosa, California, featuring Bill Castellon. Bill is a landscaper and aesthetic tree pruner by profession, and bonsai artist and instructor as well. He brought with him four Japanese black pine (JBP) trees, one Shohin just recently worked on by cutting the candles and removing some of the old needles, one demonstration Bunjin JBP and two other JBP starter trees. Bill first passed out a couple of articles published by International Bonsai describing Bunjin or Literati bonsai and depicting a number of examples of trees styled in the form of Bunjin (Literati).
What is Bunjin or Literati bonsai? “Bunjin or Literati bonsai is an “approach” or “interpretation” within bonsai and not a specific style in and of itself. It is somewhat difficult to describe.”1
Bill pointed out that his Bunjin JBP demonstration tree has a slim trunk, slow taper, small branches of foliage, and apex. There is a lot of movement in the trunk and shape of the branches. The Bunjin bonsai invokes emotions in the viewer of wind, awkwardness, unbalance, and struggle. The design is a deliberate effort to move away from other bonsai styles, such as the usual JBP triangular style. The Bunjin or Literati bonsai is interesting by itself or displayed with other bonsai styles and accent plants.
Bill would demonstrate work required for the JBP Bunjin bonsai in this region from June 15 through July 1. He cut at the base every candle grown this season. This is done to maintain balance in the needles and keep the needles and internodes small. The trunk is slim and the tree on the small size, and so having small needles appear in proper proportion. Bill described several techniques for cutting and removing the new candles. However, he practices cutting at the base, all in one day, and then removing last year’s needles. This is done only if the tree is strong and healthy. Only seven or eight needle pairs at the top are left alone at the cut candle site. More needles can be left on at the bottom of the tree, which is weaker than the top of the tree. In cooler weather conditions, the candle cutting is done earlier than the above dates. Waiting too long to cut the candles can be hard and stressful for the tree. After about four to six weeks, new candle buds will begin to show. New candle buds will appear in two, three or four at the base or cut site. In the fall (October) a decision must be made to reduce these new candle buds to two. At this time, the older needles are removed.
Bill discussed the type of pot for use with Bunjin or Literati bonsai. The pot should be small and rustic as found in the Nanban styled pots. He believed a deeper pot than the one used with the demonstration tree would be better suited for the JBP tree’s roots. The small pot lends to the appearance and display of Bunjin bonsai. It appears awkward and almost ready to fall over.
After cutting the candles, Bill moved on to wiring the branches of the demonstration tree. He reduced some of the branches and foliage where it appeared too dense or full. Bill said he preferred to use the smaller size branches over the large ones. Some small branches would need to grow stronger for wiring and for taking over in place of the larger branches. But, for now he left some of the larger branches alone. Bill wired the branches and set them in place. He created movement in the wired branches and created an apex branch. When he was finished, the demonstration JBP tree was slim, slow tapered and with plenty of branches. He estimated the age of the demonstration tree at 15 years based on the start of some barking at the base of the trunk.
Bill then moved on to the two other JBP trees in four-inch nursery containers. These trees were being grown from seed for Shohin, bonsai with a maximum height of eight inches. The trees have large new seasonal growth and branches for growing a large trunk base similar to Bill’s Shohin JBP example. He cut some of the large candles but left alone one or two largest candles to be used for growing the trunk base diameter. He suggested placing the two JBP trees in terra cotta pots slightly larger than the plastic four-inch nursery containers and using a bonsai soil mix.
All three JBP demonstration trees were raffled and won by club members – Mike Nelson, Wayne Culp and Paul Wycoff.
1 – Literati or Bunjin Bonsai, by Bonsai Learning Center, February 24, 2016.