August - No Meeting!

August 15, 2015 - Bonsai Garden Tour / BBQ

Members Only

On Saturday August 15 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 is a regular event, open to club members only.

Club News

Ex-Club Member Wes Young Donates Bonsai Pots

The club kindly thanks Wes Young who was a member in the 1970s and 1980s for his recent donation of high quality bonsai pots to Kusamura. Some of these pots are from Tokonome, a village in Japan known for its high quality pots. These pots will be offered for sale during our August garden/bonsai tour.

How to Recognize a Good Bonsai Pot

In June John Planting gave a number of us a lesson in how to recognize a good bonsai pot. Charlene, Chris, Lynne and Rita met at the Plantings home to price the pots recently donated by Wes Young.

Look at the bottom side of bonsai pots for a signature of the artist, a chop or “han”, and perhaps a sticker. The signature identifies the artist who made the pot. Signature pots are generally highest quality, followed by those with just a chop. Pots without anything are the lowest grade. Many of us are aware of the signature pots made by American artists Jim Barrett of the Los Angeles area who puts either JB or his entire signature on the bottom of the pots he makes. Another artist is Sara Rayner of Red Wing, Minnesota who makes one of a kind highly sought after bonsai pots and puts her signature on the bottom.

What does the sticker indicate? A small golden red oval sticker indicates a good quality pot. A diamond shaped green, blue or gold sticker indicates the pot is of the highest quality. The elegance of a pot is recognizable in the lines on the pot and in the crisp cut of the holes in the pot.

The chop or “han” indicates the region where the pot was made. A catalog of chops exists to indicate the region in Japan the pot was made, sometimes down to the individual shop.

Below is an example of a signature inscribed in the bottom of the pot.


Below is an example of a chop and blue diamond sticker. The chop indicates that this pot came from the Yamaaki shop in the village of Tokonome. It’s a well-regarded maker of bonsai pots.

Example of a "chop"

There are a couple of resources you might find useful to translate chops. Ryan Bell has put together an online directory of 600 marks listed at

There’s also an online directory of marks used by makers in Tokonome. See

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: August Tasks

July Meeting Recap

by Marsha Mekisich

Our July meeting program was a discussion and workshop of less common trees led by Jerry Carpenter and Gordon Deeg. Jerry and Gordon did an outstanding job making suggestions on styling and care for each tree brought in by our members. Whichever of them was most familiar with the tree took the lead resulting in a very informative and lively presentation as many times they compared thoughts while presenting. The meeting was very well attended and our membership brought in a very diverse mix of less common trees as outlined below. I must say this was one of my favorite meetings of all time. Hint hint, perhaps this should be a yearly event?

There was so much great information that we've created a stand-alone article. See Unusual Bonsai for details.