November Meeting - Shohin Demo/Critique

November 20, 2015 @ 7:00PM

Club member and shohin expert Gordon Deeg will be our demonstrator. Gordon will bring some shohin from his personal collection to use in his discussion of shohin techniques. He will then convert some raw bonsai material into a starter shohin that will be included in the benefit drawing. Lastly he will offer advice and assist fellow club members with shohin they bring in for help. So please bring a shohin that you need help with or a tree that you are seriously considering for conversion to a shohin..

The definition of a shohin is a bonsai that is between 4 inches and 8 inches in height. Any shohin enthusiast will tell you that shohin have their own set of challenges as the smaller the material, any mistake when styling, wiring, pruning, etc. has a bigger impact.

Show and Tell: Bring a shohin of any variety or trees showing fall color

Club News

November Bonsai Potting Party

Our first potting party for the 2016 show will be Sunday November 15 from 10AM – 4PM at the Plantings home. Funds raised at our annual show are used to support the clubs’ on-going monthly activities and pay for the upcoming year’s show.

We will work on material that can be repotted in the fall. That includes fruiting and flowering trees, junipers, pines if protected afterwards, and boxwood and olive if you live in the South Bay. Each member of Kusamura is obligated to donate three trees or bonsai related items for our 2016 annual sale. So show your support by bringing one or more of your trees you plan to donate. Members are also asked to bring any club owned trees that fit in this “fall” category and need improving. Note that if you are donating cash or other items vs. trees the club still needs your help with the club owned trees.

A potting party is an excellent opportunity for you to use club soil, wire, pots, etc and get expert advise from other club members to make your donations ready for the show sale. So come out and support the club by participating in this event. You are sure to learn a lot and will have fun with your fellow club members in the process.

If you are new to bonsai or a newer member of the club, the potting parties are a great way to meet other members of the club and kick start your learning curve of the techniques for styling, pruning, wiring, and potting/repotting a bonsai.

For those of you who can come early and help with setup or stay late and help with breakdown, your assistance with those tasks will be greatly appreciated too. Remember you don’t have to stay for the entire day. The club thanks John and Sandy for making their home available for the parties.

Doughnuts will be provided but also consider bringing a bag lunch.

December Holiday Party

Our December program will be a holiday party to socialize with fellow club members and their families. Each year the club provides a ham for carving, a turkey breast, wine and tables decorated in holiday cheer. Club members are asked to bring a potluck dish for sharing. The club is looking for one or more volunteers to organize this event.

What are Mycorrhizae?

by John Mekisich

Darren Wong mentioned them in his demo but didn’t say what they are. So for those of you new to this term, “mycor” means fungus and “rhizae” means root and defines the mutually beneficial relationship between plants and these specialized fungi. The fungi basically colonize plant roots and act as an extension to the roots thereby increasing the surface area of the root system. This results in stronger roots for the bonsai sooner.

Here are a couple of photos showing mycorrhiza in a pine.

Lonnie McCormick
A 15 cm square plant pot with a 3-year-old pine tree. Note the fine roots (each about 1-2 mm diameter), but most of the growth we see is of mycorrhizal fungal hyphae that grow from the roots, thoroughly permeate the soil and absorb mineral nutrients.
Lonnie McCormick
Finer detail

Photos from Fungal Biology, 4th Edition (textbook) by J.W. Deacon, University of Edinburgh, School of Biological Sciences. See chapter MYCORRHIZAS

The textbook notes - The term MYCORRHIZA literally means "Fungus-root". It indicates a very close association between the mass of fine roots, about 1 mm diameter, and fungi that grow in or on those roots, helping the plants to obtain mineral nutrients from the soil. The most common type is termed an arbuscular mycorrhiza and it is found in about 80% of all land plants. In this type of mycorrhiza, fungal hyphae penetrate the root system from one of more "entry points" and then grow between the root cells before penetrating individual root cells to produce highly branched arbuscules (tree-like branching systems).

It goes on to say that mycorrhiza are - always dependent on their host plants. ... Perhaps as much as 30% of the sugars produce by the plant through photosynthesis is used to maintain the mycorrhizal fungi.

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: September Tasks

October Meeting Recap

Guest speaker Darren Wong demonstrated the techniques for working on an azalea bonsai. Darren said over 2000 varieties of azaleas currently exist and another 100 to 150 new varieties are introduced each year. All these varieties are hybrids and the reason the names of azaleas vary so widely is because the person who created the hybrid gets to name it.

Darren travels to Japan on a regular basis. While there he hand selects and brings back trees from nurseries that grow trees specifically for bonsai material. Based on his experience, the best time to import an azalea is November, December, or in the spring, e.g. early March, since all the soil must be removed from the plant in order to import it to the United States.

Styling: When styling an azalea, Darren uses all the branches at the top because the top of the azalea is always weaker than the lower branches. This is because an azalea is basically a shrub vs. a tree. Because the branches are tender, wire loosely so you can practically slip the wire off the branch. You then bend the branch by twisting it so that the wire is tighter after it is bent. That means you really need to know in what direction you are going to bend before you wire. Usually you have to remove wire after it's been on for six months or so. Darren said he was taught to only remove branches after you've wired in case you break branches and end up making an area weak because it has too few branches.

The safest way to cut back this time of year is to cut the leaves off but leave a tiny bit of the leaf. This technique is called Dome. You should mist the branches and water the roots less right after performing the Dome technique. Cutting back now means you will have more ramifications come March. Darren also only cut back to where there was a bud on a given branch. Branches that had no buds now will have to wait until March for pruning. Thread grafts work well on an azalea. Approach grafts not as well.

Branch cuts on an azalea in the ground heal easily. A cut larger than your pinkie finger on an azalea in a bonsai pot will not heal. Plant it in the ground again and it will heal.

Watering: Watering too much is the number one killer of azalea bonsai. Darren recommends you wait for the moss to start to dry out and then water. Don't water just before you wire because the water can pump up the branch. He checks each individual tree before watering. Darren said he’s never had a tree die because it was too dry but he has lost trees because they were too wet. Azaleas like to be misted also. Because sphagnum moss stays too wet and breaks down quickly, Darren uses mountain moss.

Azaleas are categorized by leaf shape: narrow, medium, or broader. Broader leaf azaleas do better in the SF Bay Area. Narrow leaf azaleas are more tolerant of water. As many of us in the Bay Area live in areas where our water is harmful to azaleas, Darren said it is best to use bottled water if you only have one or two azaleas. He also said to be on the lookout for a new water filter that shows promise for removing the hardness (minerals) in water along with the chlorine.

Potting/repotting: Use Kanuma as it is slightly acidic and azaleas love acid. Having tree bark in your soil mix will cause root rot for an azalea. Only partially repot your tree once you have it established and healthy in Kanuma. Exercise extreme care when transplanting your azalea from a potting soil to Kanuma.

When purchasing Kanuma for azaleas opt for “hard” Kanuma. Soft Kanuma breaks down quickly. Use sharp garden scissors to remove roots that are standing up. A healthy tree should have a mat of roots. The soil level should have a slight incline versus flat so water will flow away from the tree trunk.

Darren recommends that you transplant narrow leaf azaleas in February and broad leaf from March to April. He said that by May it is starting to get too warm. I know this conflicts with what some members in the club practice and therefore could make for an interesting discussion.

Fertilizers/fungicides: Darren recommends using an organic fertilizer containing mycorrhizae fungi for enhanced root development. Darren puts fertilizer in tea bags and uses a granular variety vs. powder. Don't apply anything in powder form for any of your trees except for Bone Meal. Tea bags prevent fertilizer from clogging and don't let the fines get out and clog the soil. Such a tea bag will last for 3 to 5 months. Organic means each time you water something will go in. It is not a systemic time-release fertilizer. He uses a 7-5-4 granular in the spring and a 5-5-5 granular this time of year. For a show tree, he removes all fertilizer by March or April so it won't change the color of the flower. Darren uses systemic fungicide Cleary 361 and sprays twice a year.

Yearly cleanup method: You need to switch to a “no nitrogen” fertilizer for winter or new growth will occur and then die during winter. This will end up setting your tree back. So Darren replaces the top inch of soil now to prevent this from happening. Mountain moss that has been “soaked” is then added on top of that.

Wash your mountain moss before putting it on your tree. Rub the moss between your hands, squeeze it out so it’s fluffy and put it in place by starting at the base of the trunk. When the moss starts getting thin Darren replaces it. He also replaces it when he does bloom cleanup on the tree. If moss gets too dense you can get root rot. Go along the edge and tuck the toss under the soil so the moss doesn't float to the top when you water. By using light pressure the moss adheres to the topsoil and stays in place. Cover the nebari of the azalea with moss so the roots will continue to flair vs. die.