Covid-19 Update

Due to the current stay at home restrictions, there are no scheduled meeting/demonstration and workshops for May 2020.

Now that May is here, it’s time to get back to work on our deciduous and broad leaf evergreen Bonsai. Most of our deciduous and broad leaf evergreens’ foliage has now hardened off which is one of the signs we look for before we wire, style and cut our Bonsai.

Do you remember the other three things we look for?

  1. General overall growth of our bonsai (Bonsai getting bushy)
  2. Runners of the terminal ends of branches
  3. Foliage has hardened off

If you plan to wire/style and cut your Bonsai, be sure that they are showing the above three signs.

Getting Busy with Deciduous

From now till November is the busy season for deciduous and broad leaf evergreens. These trees are not necessarily labor intensive but time sensitive. Deciduous or broad leaf evergreen Bonsai can grow fast, you may be working on them several times during the growing season. Fast growing Bonsai also thicken fast, so if wire is applied to the branch, keep an eye out or the branch will grow over the wire. Generally, I never keep wire on a deciduous tree for more than a year and have removed wire as soon as within three weeks of application.

When is the right time you ask? If a branch needs thickening, then let it grow, if the branch is thick enough, then cut them back to create division.

Generally, deciduous and broad leave evergreens can be cut/thin/styled this month. An exception can be cork bark oak. They start to leaf out later in the spring and tend to be worked on more at the end of May or even June.

Fast vs. Slow Growing Bonsai

It’s important to understand that working with Bonsai that grows fast, requires a lot more of our time, whereas Bonsai that grows slow requires less of our time. The benefits of a fast growing tree is that you can develop the tree quickly into Bonsai whereas slower growing trees take much longer to develop into Bonsai.  For example, a Chinese elm can be refined much faster than a beech. Knowing how much time you have to spend on your Bonsai may cause you to select specific species to work with.

Defoliation and Some Misconceptions:

First off, not every deciduous tree needs to be defoliated. There are also species out there that will not take kindly to defoliation at all (e.g. hornbeam, beech, certain varieties of Japanese maple), especially if the defoliation is complete. Defoliation isn’t only done on deciduous trees either. There are other broad leaf evergreens that can take defoliation (oaks, silverberry and ficus are a few examples).

So, what is Defoliation and what does it do for us?

  1. Weakens the defoliated area
  2. New Leaves will be smaller
  3. Easier to wire branches
  4. Maintain (NOT Create) Ramification (We’ll discuss this more at the workshop)

Those are the four main reasons why we choose to defoliate. If your current goals don’t match up with any of the four reasons, then don’t defoliate.

Example: We want a branch to grow out and get stronger. We don’t defoliate that branch because it will slow the growth down.

Misconceptions: Cutting back vs. Defoliation

The biggest misconception to defoliation is that it will give you back budding. Back budding is not caused by defoliation, but by the cutting back of branches. We can cut the tree back without defoliating and back budding will occur. Keep defoliation and cutting back into two separate categories to help ease the understanding of defoliation.

Wiring

If you plan on wiring your trees this month, be sure to bring the proper wire size ranges. Aluminum wire should be used for deciduous and broadleaf evergreens, whereas copper should be used for conifers. Ideally you should have a set of aluminum wire in the following sizes: 1mm, 1.5mm, 2.0mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 3.5mm.

Watering

As always, be aware of how wet or dry your trees are and water accordingly. Recognize which trees like water (deciduous) and which trees don’t like water (high mountain pines). Training your eyes and understanding your tree’s water consumption rate will help you catch any problems that arises. You may notice that a tree that normally takes a lot of water isn’t taking as much anymore. Is there a problem developing or is it because the tree was recently cut back? If you see these things early, you can make adjustments that will help your tree continuing to growth healthy.

…more to be added in the future

The above information and more can be found on the web site established by Peter Tea at https://www.ptbonsai.com/. Peter is a professional bonsai artist and teacher.

Stay healthy and safe.

Demonstration by Jonas Dupuich – Carving Basics

On September 24, 2019, Jonas Dupuich, author of Bonsai Tonight, performed a demonstration on carving basics for the members of the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS), in Santa Rosa, California.

Jin is a bonsai deadwood technique used on branches or the top of the trunk (the “leader”). A jin is meant to show age, or show that the tree has had a struggle to survive. Jins are created in nature when wind, lightning, or other adversity kills the leader or a branch further down the tree.1

A shari is deadwood on the main trunk of the bonsai. A small shari usually runs vertically on or near the front of the trunk – shari have little aesthetic value at the rear of the trunk, where they are rarely viewed and are obscured by branch growth.2

Carving basics for bonsai involves the creation of deadwood features, jin and shari. By incorporating these deadwood features into the design of your bonsai you are creating character, age and interest.

Jonas began his demonstration by showing a slideshow of various images taken of natural deadwood on Bristlecone pines located above 10,000 feet elevation in the California White Mountains and Sierra junipers located above 8,000 feet elevation at California Carson Pass. These trees displayed dramatic deadwood features, the result of many years of adverse weather and environmental conditions. The slideshow also provided images of Japanese bonsai on display at Kokufu Ten Bonsai Exhibition and Taikan Bonsai Exhibition organized by the Nippon Bonsai Association, both being leading bonsai exhibitions in Japan. The bonsai exhibition images depicted natural and carved deadwood features.

Jonas explained there were three elements of good deadwood carving: movement, twists and interest. He talked about natural occurrences in creating deadwood, that is wind direction. The design must take into play the direction or flow caused by the wind or design. Carving deadwood features should have a story or reason. For example, jin at the top of the tree might have been caused by lightning and shari in front of the flow of the tree’s movement caused by wind.

Carving tools may include: root cutters, pliers, jin pliers, knife or box cutters, and wood carving tool chisels.

Jonas said one should start out by cleaning the life line of the tree in order to find where the deadwood is located on the tree. Dead branches or stubs of former branches in a row on the trunk of the tree is a good indication of where to find deadwood on the trunk. Begin by scrapping away the bark attached to the deadwood. Use a tool like a jin loop or jin knife to determine where the deadwood and live wood are located.

Jonas advised to use wood carver’s gloves for safety.

Jin the lower branches on junipers and other species. These are branches located 1/3 to 1/2 up the trunk that when wired downward would be touching the soil.

A jin is started by taking a sharp knife or box cutter and cutting into the bark at the base of the branch and trunk. Cut completely around the branch. This will stop the bark from being pulled into the trunk area when stripping the bark off the branch. Use a pliers or jin pliers to squeeze and crush the bark away from the branch. Then remove the bark. It is best to create jins in the spring when the water flow is present and the bark is easily removed by your fingers. Otherwise, a jin knife or loop must be used to remove the dry bark. Once the bark has been completely removed, then shape the jin to a pointed end in order to eliminate the tool cutting mark. If bark fibers remain on the jin section, these can be removed best with a wire brush or by burning them. Care must be taken not to burn foliage or live wood. After burning the fibers, a wire brush is used to remove the burn marks.

A shari is started by using a Sharpie ink pen to outline the area of bark to be removed from the trunk. A sharp knife or box cutter is then used to cut into the bark. Score the bark along the outlined area. Then, the bark can be removed by pealing back the bark and working with the wood grain. Use a scissors to cut any portion of the bark that does not peal off easily.

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadwood_bonsai_techniques

2 https://en.mimi.hu/bonsai/shari.html