January 2016


January 2016, Vol. 42, Issue 1 



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

Presidents Message

As we all know time has a way of marching on, and for me this year it vaporized, but with many wonderful memories to reflect upon.  As we’re approaching a new year now it’s great to see our club growing with many new members.   Because of this, our club leaders see the need to direct their attention toward them and their development.  We all had to start somewhere with our training, and that is why our clubs new program schedule for this year is tailored toward their basic bonsai development.  Specially, the first three months of our schedule will be directed toward programs like repotting, wiring, and learning to identify good bonsai material to get them started.


Thinking back when I first begin, much of my time and purchases were wasted on tree material that had no future.  We all have dealt with such trees in the past, trees that have so many problems inherently that they fall by the wayside over time. Here’s their chance to bypass this early issue, and learn to see the proper characteristics a tree must have to make for a good bonsai with time.  Gordon Deeg will be sharing that material with us in our March program. January will be devoted to learning to repot or transplant our trees with a round robin program with various senior members involved.  February we’ll introduce good wiring technique in a round robin program that will prove to be helpful with members stationed in various room locations. This will allow members to move from location to location and get personal help so they can see the various types of repotting or wiring that catches their attention. But remember new members, all of this takes time, patience, and personal practice!

Now for our long time members, we have invited new speakers this year that will demonstrate a variety of bonsai topics that I’m sure will catch your attention. Check out our yearly program schedule by months in this news letter to see the complete list.  Names like Mike Pistello, Jonas Dupuich, and hopefully Bjorn Bjornholm are names we’ll enjoy as speakers this year. I’m really looking forward to this year’s programs along with our third Thursday side topics that will be introduced, as we see the need.  Our third Thursday workshops is intended to work on trees we bring in. And for our senior members we need to be attentive and reach out and help the newer members with their trees and questions.

I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome aboard and thank those club members that reached out and accepted a new board position this year. With a full staff, everyone will benefit greatly, and the club will function much more smoothly without personal hardships.

This year our Club’s immediately goal is to firm up a new show location, one that will allow greater attendance and get back to having the opportunity for vendors. Presently we feel that the location we have been using for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Cupertino will meet all our needs, but firming up a date is still up in the air.  So maybe other locations still need to be talked about and reviewed as backups.

It’s this time of year I reflect over the various events and highlights that have happened to me personally that I’m thankful for. Certainly our health is a major matter, our families, and the opportunity to enjoy our passion for bonsai. May everyone in our club prosper with new goals and opportunities that come your way and make this year a most rewarding one. The  Holiday Season allows use greater privileges to enjoy our families and fellow friends that we appreciate.  May all of you and your families have a Joyous Holiday together and a prosperous New Year.

Jack Christiansen

J T’s Tree Tips


BRRRR!!  As I write this segment, its pretty chilly outside.  Remember to protect all transplanted trees if there is a chance of frost or freeze.  Non transplanted temperate trees can handle the cold but newly transplanted ones are more tender.  Take inside your garage or dangle a lightbulb near it at night.

Transplanting is the perfect beginning activity for the bonsai year.  Start it now and you will have healthier trees with fewer problems throughout the year.
JT Picture

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 first (Jan 8th because of New Years) and third Thursday meeting in January will be devoted to transplanting your trees so get prepared, bring in you trees and supplies and let’s have at it.  Contact Peter Tea and Ben Willis who have soil and tools available for sale.

Each time we transplant gives us another opportunity to improve our nebari and accelerate 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 caveatWe 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 and a good water scrubbing.  I also apply mineral oil to the pot.  This will start slowly dissolving the mineral deposits on the rims, feet and bottom edge of the pot. 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 or 2 parts akadama; 1 part pumice (hyuga);  1 part brown lava or decomposed granite.  For deciduous and broad leaf evergreens you might add 2 to 4 parts parts akadama, depending on how much water retention you want or if you want slower, finer growth . 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 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, loosen then 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 bent end tweezers 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.  In two years 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 deeper intermediate sized container for the first transplant.  Anderson flats make a good transitional pot.  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.  Get it right now or you will have to live with it til the next transplant.  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 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.

This is also a time to apply dormant sprays to head off problems.   A new one I’m trying is Zero-tol a fungicide and bactericide used as a spray or drench.  Available on line, get the pre mixed as the expensive concentrate can be toxic.  Bordeaux mixture is another dormant spray and has been around for years.  Lime sulfur spray may be used but is difficult to come by in California as it was pulled two years ago.  Oils can be used on deciduous trees but keep away from junipers and some other conifers.  In the early spring, you can put down some Cleary’s 3336 granules as a Fungicide and some Merit granules to go after insects.  Both of these (big bags) I got at Sierra Pacific Turf , 510 Salmar in Campbell.(near Fry’s).

If you have questions, call me at (408) 371-7737

John Thompson

Editor’s Note

Hi Folks,

Given that we’re right in the middle of repotting season in the bay, here’s a great new step by step video from Boon about how he transplants and how he teaches transplanting.  Don’t let the title fool you, it really is about transplanting.

December Meeting Recap

This past month we had our annual holiday party and auction.  New board members were elected and we had a really good turn out.  Our workshop meeting was our annual final workshop which was a great workshop.  Sorry we unfortunately didn’t get any photos this time.

January Meeting Topics & Club Calendar

January 8th – Transplanting Workshop

The main meeting will be held on Thursday January 8th because the 1st Thursday is New Years.  This will be devoted to learning to repot or transplant our trees with a round robin program with various senior members involved.

January 15th – Transplanting Workshop continued

Our third Thursday workshop meeting will again focus on transplanting as this is the perfect time of year to get this done.

2016 Meeting Schedule

Month 1st Thursday 3rd Thursday
January Round Robin Repotting w/Sr. Members Repotting workshop
February Round Robin Wiring w/Sr. Members Photo Shoot with Danny and Jim & wiring workshop
March Selecting good bonsai material w/Gordon Deegs Open workshop
April Tree Improvement Program w/Gerry Fields Open workshop
May Redwood Demo w/Larry White Redwood workshop
June Annual Silent Auction Open workshop
July Mike Pistello / TBD Photo Shoot with Danny and Jim
August Progressive Pine Development w/Jonas Dupuich Show prep workshop
September How to apply moss Show organization program and show prep workshop
October TBD Show review and workshop
November TBD Open workshop
December Annual Holiday Party, Election, and Auction Open workshop

Set-up & Refreshments and Formal Tree Display

Month Formal Tree Display Set-up & Refreshments
January JT Jack Callon & Tim Rostege
February Juan Cruz David Butt & Mehrdad Chavosh
March Ray Stagner Juan Cruz & Tung Dao
April Larry White Carolyn Davis & Gerry Fields
May Jack Christiansen Bill Obrien & JT
June June Auction, no formal display Roger Geerts & Don Lintz
July Gerry Fields Alec Maclean & Danny Powell
August Mehrdad Charosh Lewis Comba & Kent Bell
September Jeff Escallier Carol Fairchild & Seiji Shiba
October Seiji Shiba George Shoptaw & Kathy Sloan
November Danny Powell Jim Wallace & Larry White
December Holiday Party, no formal display Everyone!

Notice about Set-up & Refreshment Duty

Hello Everyone, it’s Ray Stagner, in charge of facilities. For our club meetings to be successful, it is important our members participate and share in some of the responsibilities. We ask our members to help in the monthly duties of setting up and tearing down for both first and third Thursday meetings. Members who attend meetings regularly, are asked to help. Please arrive 1/2 hour before the meeting starts. I will be there to direct you. It’s very important, if you are unable to help on the days you are assigned to please contact me (408-209-5654). As well as helping with set up, we would like you to bring snacks of your choice to both meetings. If everyone participates, our meetings will start on time so we all can enjoy the activities planned for that evening.

Northern California Bonsai Events

January 23 – 24, 2016  Oakland, California
Bay Island Bonsai: Annual Bonsai Exhibit at the Lakeside Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave. Hours 10 AM – 4 PM, Saturday and Sunday. Auction at 1 PM on Saturday, with preview at Noon. Workshop on Sunday 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 http://bayislandbonsai.com/bib-annual-exhibit/.

February 5 – 7, 2016   Santa Nella, California
California Shohin Seminar @ Hotel Mission de Oro Feb 5: Registration 10 AM – 5 PM with demonstrations from Noon – 6 PM, Exhibit and Vendor areas set-up 11 AM – 5 PM; everyone is invited to share their treasured Shohin Bonsai in the Exhibit. Feb 6: Exhibit opens for Registration, Viewing, Vendor Sales, Workshops, Raffle & Benefit Drawing 8 AM – 5 PM. Feb 7: Exhibit Open 9 AM – Noon with demonstrations, and business meeting. Registration Forms available on the website. Attendees who only want access to vendor and exhibit may purchase a day pass. For more information see our website: http://www.calshohin.org/, email: calshohin@yahoo.com, or phone: Randi Keppeler (650) 598-0127.


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