On May 22, 2018, our monthly general meeting and demonstration featured Eric Schrader of the Bonsai Society of San Francisco (BSSF). Eric demonstrated on Zelkova (Zelkova serrata), or Japanese Zelkova. This Zelkova, originally from Japan and China, is related to the Ulmus genus, which is the genus of the European and American elms. 1
Eric gave a brief bio of his interest in bonsai, starting with a visit to the bonsai displayed at the San Francisco Cow Palace Flower Show in 2001.
Eric brought to the demonstration a Zelkova bonsai, broom style, about 10 inches in height, for an example. He said Zelkova is a deciduous, known for its fall color and ramification or twigginess. Broom style is the most common bonsai style for the Zelkova due to its ability to create ramification. Eric also brought in a wooden box containing about 50 or more Zelkova plants from seed. In addition, he brought in a tall, broom style Zelkova to demo and raffle off upon completion of his demonstration.
Fig 1 depicts a single Zelkova sapling from the wooden box of plantings from seed. By cutting the trunk, branches form as well as secondary branches. Fig 4 shows budding from the cutting of the trunk. Eric said to tape around the trunk just below the buddings to prevent callus roll. The soft tissue that forms over the cut plant surface, leading to healing. Select from the buds the primary branch development desired. Fig 3 depicts how the demo tree was developed with primary branches and secondary branches. Eric said wiring Zelkova is avoided due to the ramification and twigginess nature of the secondary branching. Fig 2 shows an alternative wiring technique of wrapping the wire with a number of secondary branches in an upward direction.
Shaping is done by cutting the terminal tips of the secondary branches. The cutting should take on the broom style.
1 Bonsai Empire
Fig 1 thru 4
Eric holding up his Zelkova bonsai
Eric shaping Zelkova saplings
Eric’s Zelkova bonsai example
Here, Eric is working on the Zelkova demo tree
Eric applies some loosely fitting wire as depicted in Fig 2 above
Eric is calling off the winning raffle ticket number for the Zelkova demo tree
On April 24, 2018, our monthly general meeting and demonstration featured Club Sensei Kathy Shaner. Kathy demonstrated on a Prostrata juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) (also known as a creeping juniper).
She started the demo with the question everyone of us should ask ourselves before working on a tree, and that is “What is interesting about this tree?” Kathy then described the movement of the trunk and potential flow or direction of the foliage. The trunk was somewhat narrow with a slight taper towards the top of the tree. The direction was clear and the foliage would be styled to flow in the that direction. This, of course, meant some of the foliage at the top would have to be removed as it appeared to flow in two and opposite directions. Kathy said the juniper lend itself to the bunjin or literati style of bonsai.
By nature, this style of tree can be located in dense forests where competition is restricting and the tree can only struggle to survive by growing upward and taller than the other trees. The trunk is bent and without branches due to the sun reaching only the very top of the tree. The style of bonsai is to demonstrate its struggle to survive.
Kathy pointed out that the demo tree had too much foliage and it covered the trunk and obstructed the view of the trunk’s movement. She would remove the lower foliage and branches. When cutting the branches, she left only small stubs for jins. She described jins as deadwood and cautioned about making jins too long. When dead branches occur in nature they can be long at first, but eventually in time the deadwood breaks off. So, short jins show age.
She moved quickly to cut off and eliminate the foliage and branches at the top of the tree that were in the opposite flow or direction of the trunk. She wasn’t concerned about selecting a front view until this point where sufficient unwanted foliage and branches were eliminated and the trunk was fully exposed to the viewer. In selecting the front view, Kathy turned the tree around several times to view the complete trunk and its movement. There were some exposed roots at the base of the trunk and Kathy said these roots can be worked on a later time. She was interested in finding a front view where the movement of the trunk was most interesting.
Kathy having decided on the front view of the tree proceeded on wiring the first branch and other major branches. She explained that her wiring was loose so that as the tree grew the wire would not cut into the bark. Wiring too tight would require removing the wire before the branches had time to set in place. She would next have to bend the branches slightly upward at first and then down. Placing movement side to side in the branches gave it more interest. Kathy would make small, slight bends first. She said to massage the branch in order to make it more flexible and less of a chance of breaking under the stress of bending. Kathy cautioned about wire spacing and suggested wiring not in close or tight wraps but rather elongated wraps for better control. Note that some bonsai books suggest wiring in 45-degree wraps around the branch, but this and tighter wraps only acts like a spring. It is better to elongate to 55 to 60-degree wraps.
A major branch cracked during the bending process. Kathy used Parafilm product to wrap the slightly broken branch. Parafilm® M film for lab, floral, produce and nursery applications and Floratape® stem wrap for florists. The Parafilm tape will seal in moisture and help the healing process.
Kathy created some jins on branches removed from the top of the tree and again stated that the jins should be short and not long and dangling deadwood. Jins shouldn’t be rounded off and pointed but rather broken off for the appearance of age.
She cut the terminal tips of the foliage to green up close in to the trunk. This would cause back budding near the interior of the foliage.
The demonstration tree was transformed into a bunjin or literati style bonsai. The movement of the trunk was clearly in view and the foliage was mostly at the top and flowing in the same direction as the trunk.
Kathy said shari or deadwood feature could eventually be carved narrowly along the trunk to give the juniper even more age appearance. She suggested an oval or round bonsai pot for the styled tree. The bunjin or literati styled bonsai should give the viewer the feeling of being off balance and on the verge of tipping over.
A raffle for the demonstration tree was taken and longtime member Ivan Lukrich won the tree.
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 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.
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.