No Meeting This Month
Members Only - Garden Tour and Picnic, August 26
As is usual at this time of year our club takes a break from formal meetings and instead visit the gardens of a few of our club members to see their trees and then have a picnic.
Next month we'll be back to our regular meeting schedule when we'll have an Olive workshop with Jerry Carpenter and Marsha Mekisich. Get your olive bonsai ready to bring to this meeting and you'll get advice on how to improve them.
Next Beginner Bonsai Class, October 21
Members new to bonsai should mark this on their calendar for Saturday, October 21. The class will run from 9:00 am – 12:00 noon in Palo Alto. A nominal fee of $10 payable to Kusamura will be used for class supplies. Contact Lynne O’Dell to sign up. If you're not a member of the club yet see Join Our Club. You may also contact us for more info.
Timely Work Schedule
Each month there are a number of tasks you need to do to your bonsai - from repotting, to fertilizing to spraying for pests. We have put together a checklist, customized for the San Francisco Bay Area to help you. This checklist is adapted from earlier work by Mitsuo Umehara.
This month: August Tasks
July Meeting Recap
We were treated to an awesome demonstration by bonsai master Kathy Shaner at our July meeting. In addition to a good turnout of club members, we had at least seven visitors that included Ann, Cheri, Kathy, Andrew and Sig. Kathy said “it’s nice to be back again and see old friends”.
The demo tree was a California Juniper with stilted roots collected by Lonnie McCormick on a trip with Harry Hirao. Mark O’Brien has been taking care of the tree for the past three years. Mark repotted the tree, only pruning it when the foliage was too heavy in the interior and brought the tree back to excellent health. Kathy commented that the tree had great movement and Mark had done a fabulous job caring for it.
In collected trees, the beauty is they are not alike - each has its unique characteristics. Kathy said we should pay more intention to these differences and not design all our trees to look alike - like cookie cutters. For this tree, Kathy wanted us to visualize the tree getting hit by the wind on its right side and blowing it toward its left side. Kathy chose a jin sitting above the trunk of the tree as the apex of the tree. To show the age of the tree, Kathy wants the foliage to be tight against the trunk.
Because it grows so slowly a California juniper lays down wood that is very dense and hard. California junipers are roughly seventy-five years old per inch of trunk thickness. So the demo tree is probably 150 years old. In nature they usually don't grow taller than eight feet tall. The demo tree probably came from the Sierra Mojave area between Barstow and Los Angeles just South of Death Valley. The oldest California juniper root systems can live to be 8,000 to 10,000 years old.
Kathy said people tend to create too many sharis on California Junipers but Kathy likes the idea of creating lots of jins. A jin shows the trauma the tree has been through and the beauty it has developed as a result of that trauma. Kathy leaves the spikes on a jin, i.e., she doesn't want the jin to be flat/smooth. The spikes indicate where other branches had previously been growing on that branch that is now a jin and adds to the “age” of the jin.
When making a jin Kathy prefers not to use a Dremel. Instead Kathy used a wood splitter for all her jin work. A small chisel, tip of a knife, etc could also be used. Wet the wood before carving and go with the grain as you carve. Working slowly cut part way through any existing jin or newly lopped off branch and roll/twist it to get it to break naturally. Using the wood splitter on the lopped off branch, Kathy would carefully grab a little piece of wood and slowly pull and roll/twist the wood until the jin tapered down to very fine fibers. Some of the tears were down to a quarter inch in width. So don’t rush when doing jin work. Work on it shred by shred.
Once finished with removing all the bark and shaping the jin, a wire brush could then be used to “sand” or remove all the soft wood leaving only the hard wood (but don’t sand off the spikes). Leaving the soft wood would cause the jin to rot over time.
Treating and Preserving Deadwood
Treat all the wood including the bottom of the deadwood with a wood hardener. Keep soil off the deadwood until the tree goes in a show. For show, cover base of deadwood with soil but remove soil again after show. If soil is left against deadwood it will increase the likelihood the wood will rot especially if it isn't properly sealed on all sides and bottom.
Kathy doesn't like what lime sulfur does to trees, the uniform whiteness of it. In nature, you will see a variation of colors on jins. Kathy uses Minwax but said don't shake it up so you get a variation of colors on the wood when you apply it. Minwax will also preserve the tree better than lime sulfur. Use a chopstick to determine if the oil is only at the top. If it’s only at the top then stir the upper portion of the Minwax with a couple of spins to get the desired color you want the wood to be.
You don't need to use a wood hardener if you are using Minwax. Spray the wood with water first and that will cause the Minwax to absorb better into the wood.
Wire with a long sweeping motion. Leave extra space in between the branch and wire. Extra space allows you to make better bends and leave wire on for longer. Don't want to have wire cuts start happening before wire has done its job and held the branch in place long enough to hold it in place after the wire is removed. Wire young tips up so they don't die back. If left drooping they will die.
Kathy slices rubber tubing so it bends vs. pinching the branch when you use it on wire to do a tie down.
Rooting a Cutting
Use rooting hormone from AM Leonard #3 powder on cuttings taken. Brace the cutting inside a pot using chopsticks, put knife long ways into the base of the branch and plant it deeply in soil. Expect it to take up to a year to develop roots.
The tree should remain in existing pot for a couple more years. Keep tree tipped on bench but wait until two years to repot. Treat any existing bug holes, which are common in collected California junipers.
Congratulations to Steve Jensen and Lynne O’Dell who won the tree. Lynne has informed me that Kathy worked with her and Steve the following day to make additional improvements to the tree. Very nice!
It was a great demo and everyone enjoyed getting to see Kathy again.