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.
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.