My Bonsai Show

By Jim Scholz

I invited my two brothers and two sisters to this year’s Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS) Bonsai Show. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, our annual show was cancelled. I was very disappointed because my trees were in good shape and I was looking forward to getting together with my brothers and sisters. So, I decided that I was going to have my own bonsai show.

(L to R) Shohin: Black Pine, Oak, Black Pine, Shimpaku Juniper;
San Jose Juniper, Root Over Rock Elm
(L to R) Juniper, Sierra Juniper, Austrian Black Pine

I rented a room with an outdoor patio at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa, California for August 23, 2020, the same date our cancelled show was scheduled. When Susanne and I arrived at the hotel I requested two 6-foot tables to be placed on our outdoor patio. I covered them with a couple of white sheets and arranged my stands and trees on the tables.

My family was impressed with the display. I said a few words about the history and style of the trees, and they decided they would vote for their favorites. Best of Show went to my root over rock elm, second was my large Austrian black pine that I have owned for over 30 years. Third was my Sierra juniper that was collected by Ned Lycett from the California Sierras. Then they asked which was my favorite and I seriously had to admit that I love them all. We had a good time and I felt like I had a successful bonsai show.

Root Over Rock Elm – First Place (3 years in training)
Austrian Black Pine – Second Place (6 years in training)
Sierra Juniper – Third Place (3 years in training)

2020 REBS (Virtual) Show

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on in person gatherings, the REBS annual August 2020 Show was cancelled. The following back yard images are member bonsai. These bonsai are representative of the trees that would have been shown in the annual show.

Tiger Bark Ficus
Ficus microcarpa 
In training: 15 years
Olea europaea
In training: 5 years
Korean Hornbeam
Carpinus coreana
In training: 25 years
Ginkgo biloba 
10 years in training
10 years in training
California pepper
Schinus molle
60 years in training
Corkbark Elm
Ulmus parvifolia ‘Cork Bark’
20 years in training
5 years in training
Garden Juniper
Juniperus procumbens nana
20 years in training
Japanese Maple
Acer palmatum
20 years in training
5 years in training
Coastal Redwood Grove
Sequoia sempervirens
20 Years in training

Trident maple
Acer buergerianum
12 years in training
Crab Apple
Kusamono Accent Plant

Trident Maple
Acer buergeranum
22 years in training
Dwarf Pomegranate
Punica granatum nana
5 years in training
Coastal Redwood
Sequoia sempervirens
25 years in training
Contorted Hawthorn
Crataegus monogyna ‘Snakethorn’
4 years in training
Fern Accent Plant
Chinese Elm
Ulmus chinensis parvifolia
9 years in training
San Jose Juniper
Juniperus chinensis ‘San Jose’
25 years in training
Pygmy Cypress
Cupressus pygmaea
10 years in training
Cork Bark Oak
Quercus suber
In training for 36 years
San Jose Juniper
Juniperus chinensis ‘San Jose’
In training 27 years
In training 32 years
Utah Juniper
Juniperus osteosperma
In training 36 years
Japanese Maple
Acer palmatum
In training 47 years
Sierra Juniper
Juniperus occidentalis
In training 31 years
Grass Accent Plant
Japanese Black Pine
Pinus thunbergiana
40 years
Japanese Maple Kiyo Hime
Acer palmatum ‘Kiyo Hime’
40 years
Olea europaea
8 years in training
California Coast Live Oak
Quercus agrifolia
Burning Bush
10 years in training
Japanese Maple Laceleaf
Acer palmatum var. dissectum
12 years in training

A special thank you to the REBS members who contributed their bonsai images above.

Craig Thompson
Michael Murtaugh
Bob Shimon
Gene Lynch
Garth Gordon Hoka
Nancy Schramm
Ivan Luckrich
Alan Murakami
George Haas

Next year’s annual show hopefully will be the fourth weekend, 28 & 29 August 2021 at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, Santa Rosa, California.

REBS Virtual Show

Since our annual August show was cancelled due to Covid-19 outbreak and current stay at home restrictions, REBS members are encouraged to share their work on preparing to show trees during the medical crisis.

Here are some examples of bonsai that may have been shown if the August show took place:

Once a number of show trees are submitted, there will be a slideshow posted to the REBS web site.

REBS members should submit their show tree images as jpeg, high resolution 300 ppi, to the Web Site Manager at Identify the species and list the number of years in training.

Preparation for De-candling of Your Japanese Black Pine By Michael Murtaugh

These are some notes for you to think about before you get to the de-candling of your Japanese Black Pines. I have found if I de-candle between June 1 and June 10, I get good sized needles that match my size trees. These are Chyhin size trees, say 8” to 18” tall.

These first photos show typical candles on my pines. The left one is actually a stunted candle which came out normal in the spring, but because of a lack of water actually shut down and stopped growing. I am trying to revive it. The right hand one is more normal growth for a vigorous candle.

De-candling is a refinement technique on multiple flush pines only. JBP and Japanese Red Pines are the only pines we can do this on because they are so vigorous. Shore pines, Limber pines, Ponderosa and most other pines are single flush pines and are not vigorous enough to withstand this kind of treatment and respond in the same way.

Taking off the candles, in a sense, re-sets the tree back to the beginning of the growing season. If you cut candles earlier than June 1 the new set of candles have longer to grow through the summer and will be bigger and longer. If you wait and cut the candles off in July or later the new candles will have less time to grow in the summer and will be shorter when they mature.

De-candling is only used when you are trying to grow shorter needles and produce tighter and denser foliage. If you want bigger trunks or longer branches – don’t cut the candles!

These are candles on a pine in development. I will not be cutting these.

This exposed root pine was weak last year and was transplanted this spring. There are no new growth that has come out this year, but the yellow color is now a barker green. I will not do anything except water and fertilize this the rest of the growing season.

This exposed root pine has grown well and normal this spring. It has been fertilized well up until a few weeks ago when I stopped all fertilizer. No more fertilizer until mid-Fall. I will cut the candles on this the first week of June. The needles have opened up and begun to harden off. There is no further growth or extension of the candle going to happen. If left alone the needles will continue to lengthen but the candle will not lengthen much if at all.

I will cut all candles on the same day and each will be cut to about 2 mm into this year’s growth.

This is the typical technique of cutting candles. Within a few weeks there will be small rice-like buds happening at each cut site. If there is enough vigor there may even be needle buds activated further back on each stem or smaller buds further back in will begin to grow.

This is one of two times during the year you can add some wire as needed and reposition your shoots. Just be careful not to damage any interior buds.

This tree has long candles at the top of the tree and very little growth on the lower branches. In this case it is alright to de-candle the top and not cut the lower branches. This will begin to balance the growth throughout the tree and it will be more uniform top to bottom next year. Cutting the top this year will encourage growth on the bottom for the tree this year.

Cutting back vigorous growth on Black Pines at this time of year is a way to use that vigorous growth to start a second round of growth that will be smaller and denser. When that density and compactness grows out for the rest of the year without any further pinching or cut back it will be necessary to thin out that growth when the end of the growing season has passed. The next major work will be about October or November.

Pines look best when shown in mid-winter when all growth is fresh and healthy from the late season growth.

I hope this gets you to thinking about working on your pines in the next few weeks. If you have any questions I am available to talk. If you want to post photos of your trees I am sure we would all like to see what you are doing.

Stay safe and stay sane. Michael

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.


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.


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 Peter is a professional bonsai artist and teacher.

Stay healthy and safe.