Tree/Plant Biology by Ryan Nichols

January 20, 2017 @ 7pm

Ryan Nichols will discuss plant biology explaining how plants grow. This will include a discussion of the xylem and phloem vascular systems, an overview of plant nutrient requirements and if time permits touch a bit on plant diseases.

Bio: Ryan earned degrees in Ornamental Horticulture and then Plant Biology at Cal Poly in 2010 and 2013. During his graduate studies, Ryan started landscape consulting. He began teaching in the Plant Science Department at Cal Poly Pomona. When not working as a turf and landscape consultant Ryan gives seminars on horticultural aspects of the art of bonsai, doing tree styling demonstrations and teaching a series of lectures at the Bonsai School at Lake Merritt in Oakland and throughout the West Coast. Ryan has also studied with Ryan Neil and was awarded first place in the 2014 Joshua Roth New Talent Competition.

Contact Alison if you have any questions.

Pertinent Articles in the Library

Articles that might be interest as they pertain to the January program include:

  • International Bonsai – 2014/No.1 article
    Horticultural Charcoal (Biochar) Benefits for Bonsai
  • International Bonsai – 2013/No. 2 article
    Pruning & Techniques to Stop Internal Branches from Weakening & Dying
  • International Bonsai – 2010/No. 1 article
    Foliage Size Reduction for Pine Bonsai
  • International Bonsai - 1984/No. 4 article
    Pine Buds and Botany
  • Bonsai Today #102 2006 issue 2 article
    Improving a Nebari

Club News

Next Potting Party on Sunday, January 29

Preparation for our 2017 annual show got off to a good start on November 20 as seventeen club members and two guests participated in the event. This was an especially good turnout considering we had rain throughout the day.

Our potting party will be from 10 AM to 4 PM at the Planting's home. We will work on trees that are best repotted in the winter with an emphasis on deciduous trees.

If you are new to bonsai or a newer member of the club, the potting parties are a great way to meet other members of the club and kick start your learning curve of the techniques for styling, pruning, wiring, and potting/repotting a bonsai.
We ask each member of Kusamura to donate trees or bonsai related items for sale at our 2017 annual show. First year members are asked to donate at least one tree and longer-term members are asked to donate three trees. By bringing trees you’ll donate to the potting party you can get assistance with styling as well as use club provided pots, soil and wire.

Also, bring in any club owned trees you are babysitting that need to be worked on during the winter. Note that if you are donating cash or other items vs. trees the club still needs your help with the club owned trees.

For those of you who can come early and help with setup or stay late and help with breakdown, your assistance with those tasks will be greatly appreciated too. Remember you don't have to stay for the entire day. Some people prefer to come early while others start midday. Help make this a success by coming by and lending a hand.
The club thanks John and Sandy for making their home available.

Doughnuts will be provided but also consider bringing a bag lunch.

The final potting party will be March 19.

Thank You to Nora Morton for Her Generous Donation

In November, Kusamura received a very generous donation of over three hundred bonsai pots along with other items from long-term club member Nora Morton. Up until recent years, Nora has participated in numerous club activities since the 1970s. When Nora decided she was no longer able to participate in the more physical aspects of the hobby, she told her daughter she wanted to donate her collection of bonsai pots and bonsai tools to Kusamura. Working with her daughter Diane, the club moved the donated items to the home of Lynne O’Dell in late November. A number of the tools and a few of the pots were used in the silent auction at the club’s December holiday party. The club plans to offer the majority of the remaining items for sale at a special sale in early 2017. Details will be announced once they are finalized. Items that don’t sale at that time will be offered for sale at our upcoming annual bonsai show and sale in June.

The club extends a big THANK YOU to Nora for her very generous donation. I was fortunate to be able to visit Nora in November and was reminded of her upbeat spirits and cheerfulness. I look forward to visiting her again and telling her how the club was able to make use of her very generous donation.

Beginner Class: “Four Seasons of Bonsai”

by Jerry Carpenter

This is a class for beginners who are interested in the cultivation of bonsai. We cover history, styles, horticulture and wiring. We try to meet three times during the winter/spring timeframe and two times during the other seasons. Classes meet on a second Saturday of a month. Classes for the next session start on January 14. A nominal fee of $10 is charged per class to cover the cost of materials used in the class. The class instructor volunteers their time and receive no compensation. Students are asked to bring material from a nursery or an in-progress bonsai to the classes that we can work on through the year. We recommend getting a copy of, "Bonsai: Techniques, Styles, Display Ideas" by Peter Warren. Our club library has two copies of the book that members may check out.

Members may repeat this training but preference will be given to new members first and then to returning students who want to repeat the class.

Contact Jerry Carpenter to register for this class.

GSBF Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt Update

We sometimes forget how wonderful bonsai are in California. But if you've visited shows in other states or countries you know that some of the best outside Japan are in California. The Golden State Bonsai Federation operates three gardens where some of the best are on display. Many visitors to the Bonsai Garden talk about how they've come to Oakland just to visit the garden - based on it's reputation for fine bonsai.

Of course, a lot of locals out for a walk stumble upon the garden. Often these visitors have no idea about bonsai and are fascinated to see them for the first time. These visitors usually ask a few questions, but sometimes much longer discussions about the creation and care of bonsai ensues.

Visitors are fascinated to see the Daimyo oak - one of the most historically important bonsai in the United States. In 1863 during Lincoln’s presidency, Mr. Burlingame was envoy to China. As he was returning to the United States he passed thru Japan and was given this bonsai.

The garden wouldn't be possible without the volunteer docents who are there to greet these visitors, answer their questions and keep an eye on things. The garden keeps track of club affiliation of the volunteers and we're pleased to report that once again Kusamura was near the top in terms of hours contributed. A lot of those hours are contributed by just a few people. John Mekisich, our club's vice president is the Docent Schedule Coordinator - and always looking for a few more people to serve as docents. If you're interested in learning more about the graden and what it might mean to be a docent talk to John.

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: January Tasks

Importance of Watering and Repotting in Cold Temps

With nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 30s right now, it’s important to keep your trees well watered. Pot-bound trees are especially at risk. If the roots are not well watered and freeze, the tree will die. Watered roots and soil expand when frozen. If a pot has cracked you can hold it together with wire, tape, whatever until warmer weather. But if too much of the roots are exposed you might need to move your tree to a larger pop (aka “up potting”). If the roots seem to be frozen you need to thaw them out before repotting. You can put them in a warm location for a few hours or immerse the roots in lukewarm water for an hour or two. Soaking also helps loosen the soil you need to remove before repotting.

In Time for Potting Season

As we enter repotting season you might want to know about the importance of Mycorrhiza (fungus) and how it extends your tree'srroots to provide water and nutrients to your trees. See Mycorrhiza Basics

December Holiday Party “Thanks”

Almost fifty people attended our holiday party and it was a really fun event. A big THANK YOU goes to Alison Williams for handling the pre-event prep work for this event with assistance from Lynne and Donna. And thanks to Alison, Charlene, Chris W., Hal, Lynne, Marsha and Rita who each decorated a bonsai in a holiday theme. Chris even wired two trees in holiday lights for the party! And thanks to all the chefs! We had an amazing variety of food including Kim Dang’s clam chowder, Sandy Planting’s Asian salad, Kathy Shaner’s mushroom dish and Steve Kreiling’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!

In addition to the bonsai-themed gift exchange by those who brought a wrapped gift to participate, we had a record number of items on our special benefit drawing at the party. Thanks to all of you in attendance who brought items and donated to that drawing as well as Nora Morton who made a number of those items possible.

And I think everyone in attendance will agree that our silent auction was quite a hit. Everyone who ended up being the highest bidder seemed to be a happy camper. And for the club it was certainly a financial success. In addition to offering a few items that had been purchased by the club at a discount such as the 8-piece Masakuni tool kit and the Masakuni turntable, most of the bonsai pots and other tools were items recently donated by Nora Morton. So again a big THANK YOU to Nora Morton for her very generous donation to the club in November.

Of course, when you have a party, there are always plenty of things to clean up at the end. But what teamwork! Kudos to all of you, and there were many, who made that happen so quickly and smoothly at the end.

Lastly, HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!!!

Announcing winning bids at Silent Auction
Figure 1 – Announcing winning bids at Silent Auction

Club Calendar

January: Beginner’s class on January 14 at the Curbow’s house.
Next bonsai potting party is January 29 at the Planting’s.
March: Bonsai potting party on March 19.
June: Our annual show is June 24-25, 2017.

Other Events

January 28-29, 2017, Oakland
Bay Island Bonsai: Annual Bonsai Exhibit at the Lakeside Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave. Show hours are 10 AM – 4 PM, both days. Saturday: Auction preview starts at Noon with auction at 1 PM. Sunday: Workshop open to the bonsai community. Guided tours of the exhibit Saturday and Sunday. Vendor sales, club sales, educational bonsai material for sale and a special pot sale this year. Entry to the exhibit is free, donations accepted. Learn more and register for the workshop by calling (510) 919-5042 or visit

February 18-19, 2017 Oakland
GSBF Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt: The annual Mammoth Auction and Sale Fund Raiser will be held at 666 Bellevue Ave. (Garden Center Building). Saturday: Auction preview at noon with Auction starting at 1 PM. Sunday: Vendor Sales start at 9 AM, Plant Sales start at 10 AM, and demonstrations at 1 PM. The date for this year’s event is a week earlier than in the past to let attendees and vendors participate in both the Mammoth and the Bonsai-a-Thon. You are encouraged to submit your bonsai for consideration to be included in the Mammoth Auction as soon as possible. Items will be considered on a first-come-first-considered basis. The Bonsai Garden will be open 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday and Noon to 4 PM on Sunday, so you can check out the many changes that have been made this year. For more information or to sell trees, email and visit


See GSBF Calendar for additional items

We Accept Donations

As a non-profit, we happily take charitable donations to sustain our club. In exchange, we will will get you a receipt to include when filing your taxes. .

For more info see Donations

Articles We Recommend

Intro to Bonsai
About Your New Tree
Pine Pests

Other Sites We Recommend

Michael Hagedorn's blog
Bonsai Tonight
Peter Tea's blog

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