On November 28, 2017, the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS) was treated to a wonderful and informative demonstration by our club’s sensei, Kathy Shaner, who worked on a collected California Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). The redwood was collected and containerized about three years ago by Zack and Bob Shimon of Mendocino Coast Bonsai, Point Arena, California.
Almost all the members present for the demonstration have at least one redwood in their personal bonsai collections. The California Coastal Redwood is also the club’s logo bonsai and an inspiration to all.
Kathy began her demonstration with “finding the treasure within the tree.” Of course, this search begins with close examination of the nebari or surface roots at the base of the tree. Then, a look at the base trunk and all of the deadwood features this demonstration redwood tree had to offer. The entire trunk of the tree was hollowed out with open spaces to peer through the deadwood. Next, what is the flow of direction the tree has to show the viewer? Kathy said she likes to follow these features in styling the bonsai. Some bonsai artists use drawings and sketches to style their trees and oftentimes force their ideas on to the tree. She felt it was better for her to follow the natural beauty and growth features offered by the tree, instead.
A redwood bonsai requires a lot of attention in order to keep the tree compact with needles about one quarter of an inch in length as most desirable. Kathy pointed out that the demonstration tree was purchased in August 2017, and that it showed healthy growth in the needles. She said in order to obtain the quality of fine, short needles one has to stay on top of pinching the smallest new growth throughout its growing season. New growth starts in the spring and lasts through the fall. Pinch with your finger nails or a tweezers early to avoid the lengthy needles.
Kathy removed some of the largest branches on the demonstration redwood. About one half inch to one inch of the branch remained on the trunk. She described the lower leaves at the base lie flat for gathering maximum sunlight. The leaves at the tops of redwoods are spiral for maximum sunlight. These top leaves also catch the moisture from fog. She left the bottom branches with some length and wired them to create movement. This movement is more on the inside than on the outer tips. At the top, Kathy wanted to wire the leaves upward, a more natural appearance.
Kathy discussed cleaning the darkened softwood at various locations, using a variety of wire and soft fiber brushes. The darkened softwood would rot if left on the tree. In addition, the brushing and removal of the darkened softwood will expose the beautiful redwood grain.
She noticed a portion of deadwood showing saw marks and so by using the proper cutters or pliers the saw marks were removed leaving a more natural looking jin.
When wiring the smaller branches, Kathy wired between the needles. Otherwise, the branches would be left curled together and making a home for pests. Kathy explained that removing too much foliage from the redwood at one time would stress it too much and risk its healthy growth. She left some branches long to grow out and help strengthen a thin life line on one section of the tree.
Kathy talked about repotting in the spring. Otherwise, one could wait until a year later to place the redwood into a bonsai pot. Note that Bob Shimon said the redwood has been in the same nursery container for the past three years and that it should be placed into a larger container to allow the roots space to grow.
Kurt Kieckhefer won the redwood demonstration in a raffle.