January 2017


January 2017, Vol. 43, Issue 1 


  • President’s message
  • JT’s Tree Tips
  • Editor’s Note
  • January Meeting Topics & Club Calendar
  • Midori Club Nursery Tour
  • Northern California Bonsai Events

Presidents Message

Happy New Year everyone! With the new year comes a new club President and Board of Directors. Some of the Board members are continuing on from Jack’s time as President. As a club, I hope to engage all the members and hope to encourage members to participate beyond just coming to the meetings and other events. Time goes by pretty quick, and we will continue to need new members to take over the management of the club. We have started planning the club meeting topics for the coming year, along with some special events, and our yearly club bonsai show. To
start off the year, Gerry Fields will be conducting another Tree Improvement discussion. Please bring in any trees you’d like to get some advice on. This time of year, we can discuss repotting, angle changes, pot selection, etc., then you can actually do them, at home, or at our 3rd Thursday meeting. If you don’t have any tress to present, feel free to bring in a tree and do your own improvements on it! The Board and I will be finalizing the years programs and developing some special events, which will be published shortly. I look forward to assisting the club as we move forward into the new year. I also look forward to getting to know everyone a bit better, and to work on our trees together!

Larry White

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 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.

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.

January Meeting Topics & Club Calendar

January 5th – Tree Improvement Program w/Gerry Fields

In the January 5th meeting, I will be facilitating Midori’s “Tree Improvement Program” (TIP) for 2017. Members are encouraged to bring in 1 or 2 trees. We will all try to help you with taking your tree to the next level.  The emphasis for this session will be on transplanting options for your trees. The interaction of tree health, styling, and transplanting will be discussed. This can be a longer range project…Trees to be transplanted in a couple of years.  But the preferred emphasis is on tree(s) ready for transplant.  One possibility is to follow through and transplant the tree at our next meeting, January 19th   

So bring your tree(s) to the January 5th meeting and let your fellow members help you take them on their journey. I’m sure you will get some good input.

Hope to see you all there,


January 19th – Transplanting Workshop

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

Midori Club Nursery Tour

Saturday March 25th, Leave 9:30am

Here’s everyones chance to share a road trip together in search of some great bonsai material to pick up and have to develop for future workshops.  Everyone in the Club is invited to share in this event!

Leave:  Churches parking lot 9:30am.

First Destination:  The Enchanted Forest, Dave Chimpky’s Nursery.27920 Quercus Ct., Hayward, Ca. (510) 581-0258  Dave has collect an incredible amount of bonsai and pre-bonsai material over the years that includes many trees you won’t see anywhere else.  He also has many conifers both dwarf and miniature in nature along with a good amount of lace rock for rock plantings. Also his backyard garden has many wonderful plants to see in the ground that will give you a good idea how plants will look years later. We will leave Dave’s Nursery around 12:30pm headed down the mountain into Hayward for a Mexican food lunch stop.

We’ll leave the Restaurant around 1:45pm.

Second Destination: Calaveras Nursery, 1000 Calaveras Rd., Sunol

This nursery has many acres of plants to investigate including many sized containers.  They have a good collection of Junipers, Boxwoods, and other flowering type plants you’ll enjoy searching out and purchasing.  And the owners son has a personal bonsai collection he will share with us along with plants he himself has set aside for his use in a restricted area there.

The leave time will be open ended based upon each car groups circumstances.  Please, if we have a good group of club members that will need rides from the church that morning please offer your car that morning.

2016 Meeting Schedule

Month 1st Thursday 3rd Thursday
January Tree Improvement Program w/Gerry Fields Repotting workshop
February Transplanting w/Senior members Photo Shoot with Danny and Jim & open workshop
March Working w/Junipers w/Ron Anderson Round table questions from club members
April Developing Cascades w/Jack Christiansen Cascade workshop
May TBD w/Valerie Monroe Building a cascade stand w/Ray Stagner
June Annual Silent Auction Open workshop
July TBD Photo Shoot with Danny and Jim
August TBD Open workshop
September TBD Show organization program and show prep workshop
October TBD Open workshop
November TBD Open workshop
December Annual Holiday Party, Election, and Auction Open workshop

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 28 – 29, 2017 Oakland, California
Bay Island Bonsai Show
: 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 http://bayislandbonsai.com/bib-annual-exhibit/.


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