January 2014


January 2014, Vol. 40, Issue 1


  • President’s message
  • JT’s Tree Tips
  • 2014 Meeting Schedule
  • December Meeting Recap
  • January Meeting Topics & Club Calendar

Presidents Message

JT PictureI hope everyone has had a great holiday.  Now that you are all rested up and chomping at the bit, here we go with another great year in bonsai.  The board has put together a nice slate of programs for you, starting with Jim Gremel in January, a repotting workshop in February and a grafting demo and lecture with Boon in March.  Try to pick out the important processes in all the programs, take notes or pictures, and apply them to your own trees.  This is how we all grow in bonsai.  I’d like to invite any of our members to come to the board meeting on the third Thursday meeting each month so that you can see how the club operates and how you may help it operate in the future.  Step up and be active and you will be surprised how much your trees will improve as well.  Put yourself in the way of success in bonsai.

As you know, the storage shed at the Hall was broken into and many items were taken including the coffee making equipment and supplies.  we are trying to get some space in the larger storage sheds to house our library and supplies.  We need to have anyone who currently has keys to St. Edwards to turn them in so the church can get better control of those who have access.  Thanks for your cooperation.

J T’S Tree Tips

Here we are again.  The perfect beginning for the bonsai year – Transplanting!  Start it now and you will have fewer problems throughout the year.

We in the Bay Area are very fortunate with our mild climate.  Don’t wait for the buds to swell on the deciduous trees – start now.  If you wait , you will never catch up with it.  Our third thursday meeting in January and both meetings in February will be devoted to transplanting your trees so get prepared, bring in you trees and supplies and let’s have at it.

Each time we transplant gives us another opportunity to improve our nabari and excelerate the growth and development of our trees.

We want healthy and vigorous radial root systems for our trees and we all know that if we accomplish this we will have better bonsai.  The root system affects everything above it.  Repotting our tree accomplishes many things. It rejuvenates the tree by freshening the soil. It initiates the taper of the trunk for which we all strive.  It can correct problems in the root system and may solve problems in the upper tree.    By cutting back the roots, it makes the tree generate new absorbing root tips closer to the trunk making a more efficient plumbing system and allowing us to put the tree into a shallower and more appropriate pot. So, let’s get to it.

One caveat;  We do not completely bare root conifers. To do so might kill the tree!!  We do need to get the field soil out of the mix, but not all at once.  Taking out all the soil of a third or half way around the trunk will insure leaving enough undisturbed roots to keep the tree alive while the bare rooted section builds up a new healthy set of roots.  Two years down the line you can clean out the other part while leaving the new roots alone to maintain the tree.

REMOVE TREE FROM POT.  If in bonsai pot, cut tie-down wires from beneath pot and loosen screen  clips from drainage holes.  If the tree will not come easily from the pot, use a sickle or knife to cut a wedge (higher at surface) between roots and pots along two short sides and one long side of the pot.  From the cut long side of the pot , hold down the pot with one hand while your other hand pushes the upper trunk up to release the root ball.  Don’t grab the trunk where valuable bark can flake or rub off.  Hold a Jin or sturdy upper branch. Take your time and do it right. Lift the tree and root-ball from the pot and put aside in the shade while you clean and prepare the pot.

PREPARE THE POT.   Clean off the grunge, with natural fiber brushes, lime away and a good water scrubbing.  Then put screens in the drainage holes and wires through the holes for tying the tree down later.  If there are two holes in the pot put two wires in each hole.  If you have four holes, use two wires, with one end through each hole.  We’ll discuss what to do with them later.

PREPARE THE SOIL.   Pre mix your soil components into a large batch so you don’t have to scramble later.  Have sufficient larger sized pumice or decomposed granite for a bottom drainage layer. Don’t worry about stratifying water in the layers.  When you put a tree in the pot it alters the layers and creates a different dynamic for drainage.   I have good success using more of the imported clay material, akadama.  Japanese pumice, called hyuga, is another additive I like but domestic pumice would be just fine. The clay (akadama) should hold nutrients in the soil better and the hyuga should lighten the mix and improve drainage.  Here is a basic, fast draining conifer mix: 1 part akadama; 1 part pumice (hyuga);  1 part brown lava or decomposed granite.  For deciduous and broad leaf evergreens you might add an additional  more parts akadama . For every 5 gal. bucket add in ½ cup charcoal and ½ cup super phosphate to the mix.  The size of soil used for your tree will depend on its stage in the bonsai process.  Freshly collected and nursery container transplants will need coarser (larger) sized particles. Sickly or weak trees should have this coarser soil as well. Medium / large akadama would work well here.  For developed trees I use a smaller sized mix of akadama, pumice and lava.  This will create finer roots and top growth.  For top dressing I use a slightly smaller, sifted mix of this smaller soil.  Even if you don’t start transplanting right away, assemble the soil components you need now.

PREPARE THE TREE.   Transplanting should be done when the soil is damp but not soaked.  It is a little messier than when dry but the roots will not dry out as fast if they are moist. After all, healthy trees are our primary concern. (Of course, the new soil we will be adding will be dry, as it’s easier to work into the roots).

When you have it out, gently scrape off the thin layer of surface soil around the tree exposing just the upper surface roots.  Remove the copper hold-down wires from the top of the soil surface if you can,  pulling away from the trunk, not straight up.

Tilt the tree to the side 90º holding the root pad with one hand.   Using a small rake,  cut out the layer of matted bottom roots keeping the root mass an even thickness over the entire surface.  Comb out the roots in this area removing large roots with root cutters and those smaller roots growing directly down from under the trunk of the tree with bonsai shears. The underside should be flat or like a slightly inverted saucer.  Clean out any dead roots or rotted wood you encounter. When you have cleaned out the bottom surface, return the tree to its upright position.

Using a small root hook or chopstick, gently tease the surface roots from trunk to the edge in a radial direction.  If there is old field soil remaining, dig it out.  If you encounter crossing roots straighten them out.  Most healthy deciduous trees can be bare rooted if there is field soil present, but if it has a good draining rootball it does not all have to be removed.  Again, conifers should not be as aggressively combed out.  If you have a lot of old soil that needs to be removed on a conifer, clean out just one side this year and leave the other side intact.  Next year you can clean out the other side to complete the process.

Once you have the roots combed out, cut the roots so that you have about the same amount in the front and rear.  Allow some root tips to extend past the root ball so that they will move easily into the new soil you will put them in.  REMEMBER this is where the new absorbing root tips will form so give them enough room to grow and be sure to make clean cuts

For reduction of nursery containers, first scrape away soil from the base of the tree until you have a good set of surface roots.  Saw or cut off from the bottom at least one third to a half of the remaining root mass.  Tease out the roots as above encouraging radial side growth roots rather than downward ones.  Make clean cuts at all times.  We will reduce the soil ball further next year.

We usually don’t put trees from nursery containers directly into thin bonsai pots.  For the health of the tree, choose a transitional intermediate sized container for the first transplant.  Again, this is not a Race!

REPOT THE TREE.    Put a thin, flat drainage layer of larger particle soil in the bottom of your prepared pot.  Place a mound of soil (like the above-described inverted saucer) where the base of tree will rest.   Place your tree so that the front of the tree and the tree angle are correct.  The soil level should be slightly below the pot rim and the buttress of the trunk should start at the level of the pot and not high above it on a mound.  If you can have someone hold it in position for you and step away to make sure it’s at the proper angle.  Add soil around the edges of the root mass and work in with chopsticks. Don’t just dump it in on top of the roots – let it sift through the roots so they are separated and not matted. Chopsticks can be used to help the dry soil filter around the roots.  Stick the chopsticks in to an area where you need soil and then work them in a back and forth manner to direct the soil where it is needed.  Don’t just jab the chopsticks in and out or you can tear and damage the roots.  Make sure that soil has penetrated into all areas.  We don’t want any air pockets.

TIE DOWN.  If you have four holes in the bottom of the pot, use the wire tie downs in a clockwise or counter clockwise fashion to secure the tree in the pot, tightening them by twisting and pulling with your fingers at each wire intersection.  The  final wire is tightened with wire pliers to pull the whole basket weave together and cinch it into place.  Add more soil and work in well with chopsticks.  While holding the root mass down with one hand, bang down gently on the rim of the pot with your other hand all the way around the pot.  This will settle the soil into cavities you missed with your chopsticks.  Use a small brush to sweep the surface of the soil flat then tamp down with a small spatula.   If you have only two holes on the bottom of the pot, after you have worked the soil into the root area, lay chopsticks down across the root area on either side of the tree and then tighten the back two wires over the chopsticks and then the front wires.  This will help hold down the tree and give added stability even when there is a marginal root system. Sprinkle some shredded sphagnum moss on the surface of deciduous trees.

AFTER CARE.   Water in well from over head until the water runs clear from the bottom of the pot.  Keep the soil moist but don’t let it get too wet or you can develop root rot.   It can’t process as much water as an established tree until it forms new absorbing root tips.  Protect the tree from drying winds and frosts and excessive Sun. To be doubly safe you might use something like Cloud Cover, which is an anti-transpirant.

If we have a burst of freezing cold, which would figure, the transplanted trees and others that have young, tender shoots will need to be protected from damage.      However this should not deter us from transplanting everything we can get our hands on starting with fruiting, flowering and other deciduous trees.  Follow then with the evergreens. To give it an extra boost or if you have excessive cold after transplanting; you might use a heating mat under the plant.  This bottom heat will stimulate the roots without the extra stress of supporting top growth.    Don’t fertilize except as noted above, until you see strong new growth.

If you are pruning and styling your trees, remember that the closer we get to the growing season the closer you can cut back to the last bud.  If you still think there might be frosts, leave a little stub at the end.  You can trim it later in the year.

2014 Meeting Schedule

Month 1st Thursday 3rd Thursday
  January   Atlas Cedars with Jim Gremel   Photo Shoot with Danny and Jim:
  Winter Silhouettes
  February   Transplant Workshop   Tool Sharpening with JT
  March   Grafting Techniques with Boon   (Currently Open)
  April   Tree Improvement with Gerry   Cascade Junipers with Jack
  May   Soil, Fertilizer, and Water with JT   Soil Mixing Workshop
  June   Annual Silent Auction   Photo Shoot with Danny and Jim
  July   Choosing Nursery Material with Jim   (Currently Open)
  August   Wind Swept Bonsai with Mehrdad   (Currently Open)
  September   Shohin with Juan Cruz   Annual Midori Bonsai Show Tree Prep
  October   Boxwood to Oak with Larry   (Currently Open)
  November   Extreme Bending with Peter Tea   (Currently Open)
  December   Annual Holiday Party and Auction   Pork chop workshop

December Meeting Recap

December is of course our Annual Holiday Party, Election of Officers, and Auction. Here’s a few pictures from the festivities.


THIS MONTH Meeting Topics & Club Calendar

January 2nd – Cedars with Jim Gremel

This month’s general meeting will be Jim Gremel doing a a talk and demo on small cedars.  Young trees are bendable and can be trained somewhat like junipers.  If you have any cedars to show as part of the show and tell table or would like some advice on pleas bring them in.  Good advice at this early stage of the year will be very helpful in the development of your tree.  We will also have a raffle, so bring in some books, trees, tools, and other donatable bonsai items.

January 16th – Photo Shoot: Winter Silhouettes

For our 3rd Thursday meeting this month, we’ll be having another club photo shoot. Please bring in a couple of trees. You can bring in the trees you brought in previously, and continue to document its development, or any other trees you fancy. It will be a great time to bring in you deciduous trees, and show off that winter silhouette! Pines and junipers look great this time of year also.

Northern California Bonsai Events

January 18 – 19, 2014, Oakland, California

Bay Island Bonsai: 15th anniversary show “Born in the USA!”, Lakeside Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave. Hours: 10AM – 4PM Auction Saturday, at 1 PM, preview Noon auction. Only trees started in the US displayed. Bonsai demonstration by Boon on Sunday at 1PM. Guided tours of the exhibit Saturday and Sunday. Vendor, Club, and Educational bonsai material for sale. Entry to exhibit is free, donations accepted. For more information: (510) 919-5042 or www.bayislandbonsai.com

January 31February 2, 2014, Santa Nella, California

California Shohin Seminar at the Hotel Mission de Oro, Santa Nella California.
Friday (Jan 31): Registration, Demonstrations, and Exhibit and Vendor areas Set Up.
Everyone is invited to share their treasured Shohin Bonsai in the Exhibit
Saturday (Feb 1): Exhibit Opens for Viewing, Vendor Sales Critiques, Workshops, Bazaar & Benefit Drawing Sunday (Feb 2): Exhibit Open 10:30-Noon. Critique and Demonstration, Business Meeting Registration Forms available on the website on November 1st 2013
For general information email: calshohin@yahoo.com, website: http://www.calshohin.org/ or phone: Randi Keppeler 650-598-0127





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