Intermediate Workshop, Thursday, September 21, 2017

On September 21, 2017, I went looking for the REBS Intermediate Workshop held at the Bennett Valley Senior Center, 704 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA. I parked my truck at the rear parking lot and entered the building. Several groups were conducting meetings at the Senior Center but it was easy to find the room where the REBS members were working on their own bonsai. Senior Instructor Ivan Lukrich was there working with each individual member. Michael Murtaugh was assisting Ivan. There were six members with several bonsai each to work on. I arrived about 7:45 pm to observe their work.

Kurt and Sally Kieckhefer were assessing an old cedar (Cedrus sp.) that appeared to be a collected specimen. It had two primary branches forming a big “Y” and interesting deadwood features. With Ivan’s help, they tried to angle the tree in a manner that would best show off the trunk and branches and foliage. It was difficult finding the right angle to set the tree. Another approach was to separate one live branch from the deadwood and twist the live branch towards the center to fill a large gap. This was the approach taken and Ivan skillfully separated the live branch using a large root cutter. A guy wire was used to hold the live branch in place. Now, the big “Y” was less apparent.

Suzanne Waxman had several bonsai at the workshop. I stopped by when she was working with a small Junperius chinensis procumbens nana or garden juniper that she was cleaning and thinning. A dozen years ago we would be pinching the foliage tips. Now we use a sharp scissors to cut and remove the center foliage tips and leave two prongs in the thinning process. It is tedious work but it so much improves the growth of new foliage and helps in the overall styling of the bonsai.

Jim Gallagher was working on his tall, cork bark elm (cultivar Ulmus parvifolia ‘Cork Bark’). Jim was thinning the foliage and cleaning the bonsai.

Michael was helping Mike Nelson work on his newly acquired cork bark elm (cultivar Ulmus parvifolia ‘Cork Bark’), which he purchased from Lone Pine Bonsai Nursery. A little soft wiring was applied to some of the branches.

Jim Scholz was observed wiring his Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii). Jim said he has worked on this black pine for over 20 years. The bonsai was wide open with lots of negative spaces between branches. Michael was helping with the wiring. One section of wiring was complete and other branches still required some wiring.

Finally, new member Chris Garrett had two bonsai, a small, oak (Quercus sp.) and redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), which he purchased from the member sales at the REBS annual show in August 2017. Ivan worked with Chris, showing him how to cut and shape the raw materials. Slight wiring was done on the redwood to put movement in the young branches.

The Intermediate Workshop is scheduled for every third Thursday of the month. A small fee covers rent of the room. Members are required to bring their own tools, wire and bonsai. The workshop is from 7 to 10 pm. Everyone seemed to get a lot done on their bonsai. It was rewarding to observe the ongoing bonsai work and training.

— George Haas

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