August - No Meeting!
August 21, 2016 - Bonsai Garden Tour / BBQ
On Sunday August 21 we will tour the gardens and see the bonsai collections of five Kusamura club members. The tour will consist of three stops with a potluck and barbecue at our final stop of the day. This event is open to club members only. Members can find further details in the newsletter you received via email or postal mail.
Redwood Empire Bonsai Society Show
The Redwood Empire Bonsai Society show in Santa Rosa is always a highlight of the year for our club. Great trees, great demos, things to buy.
Unfortunately it is the same weekend as our annual garden tour / picnic, so you might have a busy weekend. See the sidebar for details about this show.
2017 Show Dates Announced
Due to renovations at Lucie Stern Community Center, our 2017 show will be held June 23 – 25. This is almost two months later than our normal show time of April. So keep these dates in mind when making vacation plans for next year and choosing and prepping your trees for show.
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
July Meeting Recap Peter Tea did a fabulous job discussing how to work on deciduous bonsai and in particular maple bonsai. Peter said that for deciduous trees such as Japanese maples, you need a lot of patience. Nothing happens instantly. Growing larger branches might require you grow it planted in the ground for two years. Peter provided a handout in which he commented that you should be consistent with the five things that impacts how your bonsai will grow: watering, sun/wind exposure, soil that you use, repotting at the appropriate time for the tree, fertilizing properly and cutting techniques.
Watering and Sun/Wind Exposure
Japanese maples can't take a lot of sun especially full sun. If your maple leaves are turning brown in the center your tree was sunburned. If the leaves are only brown on the edges, one or more of the following things could be occurring:
- The tree may not be getting enough water
- You are watering with hard water
- Wind is drying out the leaves
Placing a 50% shade cloth on the appropriate side of your tree could be all you need to do to protect it from wind damage. Move your maple to a sunnier location if it has long and leggy growth and this growth is drooping. Hard water is not good for deciduous trees. Trident maples are especially vulnerable.
Peter discussed how you could use soil to control the growth of your tree. To get a tree to grow faster, use a soil mixture that holds less water. For example, a tree will grow much faster if you use only pumice vs. 100% Akadama provided the tree is very healthy and you are fertilizing properly.
The first year after a repot your maple won't grow that much. Afterwards, growth gets faster and faster each year until it needs repotting again.
Generally, start fertilizing your maples in May and continue until the tree goes dormant. Peter uses a 5-3-1 organic fertilizer.
Before you style your tree by wiring or pruning, the tree should be bushy (i.e., it has healthy growth), have runners, and any new growth should be hardened off (i.e., the leaves are firm and waxy to the touch).
Peter discussed the differences between defoliating your maple versus cutting (pruning) specific branches. Both these techniques can be used to create and maintain ramification. The biggest misconception people have about defoliation is that it causes back budding. Back budding is not caused by defoliation but rather by the cutting back of branches.
- Gives you back budding (ramification) where you want it
- Weakens just the area you cut back
- Strengthens the area you don't cut back if you remove a large portion of the tree
Peter really got into the details of how you can direct the trees growth by doing terminal and secondary branch cutting. This requires that you understand where the strength will be after you cut.
To thicken a branch, let it grow (don’t prune it). Only after the branch is at the desired thickness at the point where it extends from the trunk of the tree are you ready to consider doing terminal or secondary branch cutting.
In Figure 1, a terminal cut is made on the main branch and two sets of side branches are left. These branches will become longer and larger, and leaves will become small branches. After cutting, keep a watchful eye on your tree and prune it again once you see new growth appear (and harden off) in the desired location. Not doing so will result in the stronger growth only happening at the terminal location of the branch and the desired growth further back will weaken over time and eventually die. In Figure 2, a new set of side branches have appeared up close to the trunk and the original branches have gotten larger and longer. You can now make some secondary cuts along the side branches to encourage another set of side branches to back bud along the longest node of the main branch.
Peter didn’t get a chance to address wiring, but you will also want to wire the branch to create naturalistic curves in the branch.
- Weakens the tree (okay when tree is very healthy)
- Causes leaves to grow back smaller
- Makes the tree easier to wire
- Maintains ramification
Also be aware that “lacy” Japanese maples don't like being defoliated.
Treatment for Fungus and Bacterial Infection
Because we should always be on the lookout for these problems, Peter uses a fungus spray on a monthly basis. He recommended the following three:
- Daconile (liquid) - Available at Home Depot
- Cleary 3336F/or WP (mix with water and spray) - commercial product
- Mancozeb - commercial product
For bacterial problems, the most environmentally friendly product is Zerotol 2.0 (but it only comes in a 2 1/2 gallon size). Use it in the early morning or evening and never when the temperature is > 80 degrees F.
Informative indeed! I know everyone is looking forward to Peter’s next visit.