Annual Show - May 2-3, 2015

Our 55th Annual Show will be here sooner than you realize. Plan to visit us to see some wonderful bonsai, see a demo and maybe buy a bonsai for yourself or a friend. Check back in late April for further details.

We always have wonderful trees on display. You can see last year's trees here.

Azalea from 2014 Show (Click image for larger view)

March Meeting

March 20, 2015 @ 7:00PM

Our March program will be a demonstration by Larry White. This will be Larry’s second appearance at our monthly program in less than twelve months. Everyone liked Larry so much we were eager to have him back. This time Larry will be working on a procumbens juniper.

When asked, Larry said “I became interested in bonsai when my wife, Karen bought me a small juniper bonsai as a Father's Day gift in 1993. I knew there was supposed to be a special way to prune them, so I got a bonsai book from the library. In that book, I saw what a real bonsai looked like and just had to have some of these beautiful plants for myself.

I took some bonsai classes from Johnny Uchida at San Lorenzo Adult School, and then joined Midori Bonsai Club in early 1994. Johnny had told me that old Junipers could be collected from the wild and be used as bonsai material. At my first Midori meeting, they announced a collecting trip to the Mojave Desert, and I was very excited about it. I partnered up with Doug Philips and we collected trees together for many years. Along with desert and mountain collecting in the wild, I also enjoy urban collecting and have collected many different species of trees. Approximately 75% of the trees in my collection are collected trees, and I have personally collected the majority of them. I still enjoy collecting trees be it in the mountains, desert, or in an urban setting.

I have practiced the art of bonsai diligently for the last 22 years. I have taken many "Master" workshops over the years and have learned extensively through participation in Midori bonsai club, attending many bonsai demonstrations, and actual hands-on experience. I have given several bonsai demonstrations at various bay area bonsai clubs.

Over the years, I have found that I like working on junipers a lot, California, Sierra and Procumbens Junipers mostly. I also like Oaks, Redwoods, and Cypress and I really like boxwoods and have studied their development into an Oak tree style.”

Larry received the award for “Best Conifer” and “Best of Show” in the first ever judged bonsai display at the GSBF convention in 2012. So you definitely don’t want to miss this juniper demo!

Show and Tell

Procumbens junipers, maples with spring foliage, and trees in flower

Club News

2015 Annual Show Update

by Charlene Fischer

Again the date is May 2 - 3 with setup on Friday May 1. Our guest demonstrator is Valerie Monroe on Saturday May 2.

Planning for our show continues. Thank you to Hal Jerman for volunteering to be the co-chair for table and backdrop setup and tear down and to Alison Williams for helping with pricing plants on Friday and Chris Weigen for helping with benefit drawing ticket sales on Saturday. It is time to begin letting Charlene know what trees you will be displaying in the show. Our club displays a card next to your tree with the Common Name, Botanical Name, and year in which the tree was started as a bonsai or in which you began working the tree. If you don’t know the Botanical Name, it is OK as we will look it up for you before printing a card for your tree. We typically ask that members display at least one tree and up to three trees. You can provide this information to Charlene at the club meeting in March.

Thank you to everyone who signed up for activities at the show. The sign-up sheets will be at the March meeting again along with a small box of pots for those who cannot attend a planting party and want to repot trees for the sale. The new postcards will be available as well as a sign-up sheet for information about your show tree.

New Board Member

Michael Greenstein has been elected to the Board of Directors to fill the position previously held by Lonnie McCormick. Michael is a long-term member of the club and has held this position many times in the past.

New Librarian

Alan Merrifield has volunteered to be our new librarian. The club thanks Zoltan ‘Z’ Gulyas who has held this position for a number of years and to Alan for taking over this responsibility. Each month Alan will be bringing only a portion of the library books and only the most recent issues of the bonsai magazines to our meeting.

To see what’s available refer online to ClubLibrary and email Alan at alamer99 -at- to request a specific item be brought to the next meeting for checkout.

Update on Happi Coats

Three new coats have been made and will be available for club members to see and try on for size at our March meeting. Yes, they have two pockets!

Our March 1st Potting Party Was a Success

Again, we had some fabulous weather for our final potting party of the season. And we had a record nineteen members participate!

Just before the party the club received a generous donation of thirty-four bonsai and numerous pots from the family of Wayne and Louis Richter. The club is most appreciative of this donation and everyone remembered Wayne and Louis as we worked on their trees for our annual sale. The club kept the very best of their trees for display in our upcoming show along with some pots for our holiday party in December.

The club thanks John Planting, Sandy Planting, Mark O’Brien, Hal Jerman, Richard Phillips, Charlene Fischer, Helen Reist, Jane Iki, Gale Lane, Lynne O’Dell, Alan Merrifield, Donna Farmar, Barbara Shahinian, Susan Freyberg, Rita Curbow, Chris Weigen, Michael Greenstein, Jim Thompson, and Diane Churchill for styling and repotting trees at the party. Thanks also goes to Mark and Michael for setup and tear-down of tables, Lynne for delivery and pickup of ceramic pots, Charlene for delivery and pick of plastic pots and wire, Helen for donut delivery, and to Dave Curbow for preparation and delivery of soil. And once again, special thanks goes to Sandy and John for hosting this event at their home.

Richard Phillips also did a fabulous job as “beginning” bonsai teacher!

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: March Tasks

Inspect Your Pines

Because of our warmer than usual weather this year, pines are producing candles earlier than usual. Not long after the candles appear pine cones and pollen sacs may appear, growing at the base of the candle.

Pines don't produce flowers but they produce seeds located inside the female pine cones and male pollen sacs that open to release pollen that will float with the wind to fertilize nearby cones. The female cones are generally located near the top of the tree but the pollen sacs are usually lower - reducing the chance of self-pollination. There may be a two or pollen sacs or more than a dozen. Producing cones or pollen takes energy and so we remove both. You may cut them off using sharp scissors, or gently twist them off.

Everyone knows what a pine cone looks like, but not everyone knows what a pollen sac looks like.

Pollen sacs at base of candle
Figure - Pollen sacs at base of candle - so many you can't really see the candle

For more information on pine care, see our article - Black Pine Basics

Report on February 2015 Meeting - Repotting

by Jerry Carpenter

A big thanks goes to Dave Curbow and Gordon Deeg for an information packed re-potting event. Their input was helpful to beginners and seasoned bonsai artists alike. It is always good to see different styles and different purposes with very different material at work in front of us.

A very important aspect of bonsai is re-potting. It will seem like there are many steps to it but here are some key ones to remember:

  • Hydrate the plant to be repotted the day before if not already in moist soil. Never re-pot a dry root system
  • Prepare your bonsai pot before starting to work on the root ball of the tree. Make wire pins with 16 gage copper wire that perfectly fit the holes in the pot. Have enough screening to cover the hole well. Pins should not have long excess wire under the pot but just enough to hold it firmly.
  • Use an edger to remove the soil from along the sides of the pot being especially careful when the pot has a lip. Remember to remove soil not just cut along the edge. Take your time.
  • Start working on the root ball from the bottom then work on the sides carefully trying not to rip fine feeder roots. (This is true on most species except for root sensitive trees like azaleas.)
  • When working on roots from the top of the soil always work outward and never across the pot. This will help to build a good nebari because you preserve the structure of surface roots.
  • Cut all taproots or material coming straight down from the bottom of the trunk. We aim to create find feeder roots and not heavy root material.
  • On most species you will want to create a concave depression in the root mass opening up the root ball to give room for the development of feeder roots.
  • When tying down a tree in a pot use a process and stick with it. Tie down wire configurations depend on the number and location of the holes. Use copper wire (16 gage) for tie-down wires to provide stability and because they will break down slower than aluminum.
  • Establish a tie-down process that moves from corner to corner, tying the tree down with a square cage. Try to always connect wires at corners.
  • Use bamboo chopsticks as protection against wire cutting into the root mass by placing them over sensitive roots and tying the wire over the top of them. This will take some practice.

In general each person will need to use the guidelines and establish a process that secures the tree into the pot securely so that it does not wiggle endangering fine roots. There is so much more to learn about tools, processes, pots, soil and such. Check our website for more hints and work with others who do this well.

A Blog We Recommend

White Pine

Bill Valavanis has been studying bonsai for over 50 years. During that time he has published books and International BONSAI magazine (for 35 years), run the the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, New York and contributed to our artform and hobby in many ways.

Recently we've discovered that he has a new blog - full of wonderful photos and coverage of Japanese bonsai shows and news. You may want to take a look -


Building a Bench to Display Your Bonsai

Michael Greenstein, February 2015

Bonsai Benches

Leaving pots on the ground makes it easier for bugs to find their way into your bonsai and makes it difficult to see your trees. Putting them on a bench solves these problems. Michael Greenstein describes his experiences building benches for his bonsai.

Read more





Our Website Is Very Popular

By David Curbow

As webmaster one of the things I do occasionally is take a look at how many people visit our site a month, which are the most popular articles, etc. We've had a website for many years, since late-2000. We moved to this site in early-2012 and since then our web traffic has increased almost every month, from 250 unique visitors to over a thousand last month. In 2014 we had almost 10,000 unique visitors! Not bad for a non-profit club.

We expect that most visitors would be from the United States - and they are, but surprisingly many visitors are from Ukraine, Thailand, France and Finland. We even get a few visitors each month from Japan, which is very flattering.

Our Black Pine Basics article is visited more than almost everything else combined! Other popular pages are Soil Basics and Moss Basics articles, photos from our 2014 Show, and Member Story Bonsai on a Shoestring.

We're happy that people find our articles useful. If you're in the area, please drop in on one of our meetings.