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Club News – July 2020

Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Bonsai – Jonas Dupuich

July 17 @ 7PM

Our July 17 meeting will feature Jonas Dupuich on the topic “Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Bonsai.” His presentation will focus on how to avoid making mistakes that cost us time and sometimes the tree. Jonas will share the learning process he has gone through and seen others go through. Our stumbles teach us sometimes as much or more than our successes. Jonas has great stories to tell. The presentation is beginner friendly but the concepts apply to practitioners at all levels as it isn’t focused on techniques or species but rather on beliefs or approaches that can prevent us from creating beautiful bonsai. Jonas will be presenting on Zoom from his own workshop, illustrating his talk with some of his own trees. 

It’s always exciting to have the expertise of Jonas, now our first professional presenter in the Zoom format. Put the date on your calendar! It’s a terrific sensation to see our faces pop up on Zoom tiles, a wonderful way to connect even as we shelter-in-place.

A few things about Jonas:

He’s a popular presenter on bonsai and we are lucky to have him in the Bay Area. Jonas is a full-time, award-winning bonsai expert and creator of Bonsai Tonight (https://bonsaitonight.com), one of the top bonsai websites in the world. Check out his blog (new every Tuesday and Thursday) and the forum (and archive) where bonsai enthusiasts can submit questions about their trees and a wide range of bonsai practitioners respond. Jonas recently published The Little Book of Bonsai: An Easy Guide to Caring for Your Bonsai Tree. He offers workshops and consultations for groups and individuals.

The ZOOM meeting invitation will be sent out in a separate email to club members. 

Note that this meeting will NOT be recorded.

Monthly Tasks

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: July Tasks


Recap of Our June 19th Zoom Meeting

We had twenty plus members tune in for our June 19th Zoom meeting. Tree varieties covered included silverberry, bougainvillea, azalea, black pine, Pfitzer juniper, Rocky Mountain juniper, ginkgo, Western white pine, Sawara cypress and San Jose juniper. Overall recommendations included foliage feeding with something like Miracle Grow once a week or every other (this is in addition to using an Osmocote granular feed), covering trees with shade cloth when temperatures are above 85 degrees, pruning to allow more light into interior of trees and to encourage ramification, de-candling of black pines, up-potting unhealthy trees and treating deadwood with wood hardener.

The silverberry needed to be pruned back to two sets of leaves to open it up and encourage back budding. Silverberry can be repotted between early summer and through September. Note that hardened silverberry leaves can be cut in half to allow light into the interior of the tree too. Newer leaves will also be smaller. For additional info, refer to the article Unusual Bonsai by Marsha Mekisich on Unusual Bonsai from a club demo by Jerry Carpenter and Gordon Deeg in 2017.

The Satsuki azalea had some lovely flowers. If you are concerned an azalea will be past it’s prime for an upcoming show, put it in the shade to slow down flowering. Remove all the flowers at the same time to cause all blooms to appear at the same time the following year. Again, refer to the Unusual Bonsai article for additional info. We had several members ask about their black pine. One tree was very unhealthy and it was recommended that the owner poke holes in the compacted soil and fill the holes with akadama or turface. This will enable more water to get to the compacted roots. The tree should be up-potted at this time too (as it might die otherwise). Up potting involves potting the tree in a larger and deeper container to allow finer roots to develop. A chopstick should be used to loosen up the compacted soil around the outer perimeter of the existing roots and extra long roots circling within the pot should be trimmed back to encourage finer roots to develop. Interior roots should not be disturbed at this time of year. If the tree is healthy next March, it could be repotted at that time.

July is a busy month for black pine work if the tree is healthy as noted in this month’s Timely Work Schedule. More details are covered in the Black Pine Basics article . Jonas Dupuich’s new book The Little Book of Bonsai also has a great section on candle pruning and needle plucking. While you can only get a single flush of new foliage on a white pine each year, if guidelines are followed correctly you can get multiple flushes of new foliage on a black pine within the year. When wiring and during development of a tree, Maryann pointed out that a branch will grow faster in a horizontal position vs. a vertical position. She says it has to do with the chemicals in the branch and how they respond to different positions. This was good advice for the ginkgo owner who needed to bulk-up one of its branches. I looked this up on the Internet and found this article fascinating Plant Tropisms for those of you who might want to learn more about differential growth.

The bougainvillea had been dug up from a neighbors yard four to five years ago. I really liked this tree because it had a very tree like appearance that I haven’t often seen with this type of bonsai material. Bougainvillea don’t like their roots disturbed often but respond well to foliage pruning. Michael Greenstein said he removes flower buds and cuts back heavily on his bougainvillea during February thru April as new shoots come out. Then he has lots of foliage in June to support the blossoms that appear at that time. Michael also removes the flower when the white center appears to save energy for next year’s growth and he grows bougainvillea in a shallow pot with one-half inch of water.

Look for red spider mites on your trees this time of year and wash them off, as spider mites don’t like water. The Rocky Mountain juniper was an especially lovely tree with nice deadwood and everyone was envious. Wiring and other minor improvements were suggested. 

Michael Greenstein shared his story of how he did a drastic restyle of a San Jose juniper that was originally owned by Bill Scott. These slides show the amazing transition.

As many club members are spending more time on their bonsai while sheltering-in-place, some members are also making bonsai pots. Barbara Phillips showed us photos of recent pots that she had made at home and then fired in either a wood-fired or gas-fired kiln. They were lovely.

Multiple people have told me it was a really fun meeting!

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