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Club News – June 2020

Get Advice About Your Tree with Richard Phillips

June 19 @ 7PM Online Meeting Only

JUNE IS BURSTING OUT ALL OVER! We are pleased to announce that our June 19th meeting invites all of you to participate. June is the month when spring growth has filled our trees with lots of new foliage—it seems more than ever this spring? Maybe you’ve been pruning like mad and want to show off your efforts, or you have questions about pruning back or letting run. Or you have a tree that just looks great and you want to show it off. Or you have questions about where you take a tree in its next development. Of course, maybe you just want to hang out online with the wonderful people in the club! Hope to see everyone on Friday, June 19th. 

To be included, send Richard photos of one or two trees on which you would like feedback, general or specific advice by May 8 (a week before our meeting). Trees in development or up for styling or restyling or with particular issues to solve are ideal for seeking advice from members. Send up to five photos per tree (labeled front, back, left, right, detail).

Try to photograph against neutral, not-busy background so we can see the tree clearly. A sheet hung on a line works well. If you can, photograph in open shade, rather than sunlight to avoid distracting “hot spots.” Richard can fix things like exposure and color balance, so just take the photo and let him do the rest.

Label each photo using your first name, species, and view, for example:
Richard – Trident Maple – Front

Labeling in this way will make Richard’s job of entering your trees into his slide presentation much easier. 

Of course you do not need to submit any photos to join the Zoom meeting, view member trees, and listen, and contribute to the discussion. We learn so much from each other, which of course is why we seek to continue virtual programs until we can meet again at St. Mark’s. Please continue to join us. We look forward to your faces and voices.

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

Note that this meeting will NOT be recorded.


Sixty Years of Bonsai

Kusamura, one of the oldest English speaking bonsai clubs in Northern California, celebrated it’s Sixtieth Anniversary on June 6, 2020. In recognition of this milestone Rita Curbow, our newsletter editor,  created a presentation showcasing some highlights from our club history. 

Legacy Trees

Our Show Chair, Charlene Fischer created a video that showcases our Legacy Trees – trees that were owned by our founding members or those that have been in our club for a long time.


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: June Tasks


Officers and Board of Directors Elected for the 2020-2021 Term

The following officers and board of directors, who were nominated and elected at our May Zoom meeting, will be sworn in at our June meeting with terms effective July 1:

  • Richard Phillips — President
  • Idris Anderson — Vice President
  • Hal Jerman — Treasurer
  • Idris Anderson — Recording Secretary
  • Barbara Phillips — Corresponding Secretary (replaces Christine)
  • Thomas Chiu — Board of Directors
  • Rita Curbow — Board of Directors
  • Michael Greenstein — Board of Directors
  • Maryann Hinden — Board of Directors (replaces Andrew Lipson)
  • Richard Murray — Board of Directors (replaces Barbara Phillips)
  • Christine Weigen — Board of Directors (replaces Tom Romer)
  • Lynne O’Dell – Past-President

The club thanks Andrew Lipson, Barbara Phillips and Tom Romer for their service as they complete their two-year tenure as a Board of Director this month. The club also thanks Christine Weigen for her service for a number of years as Corresponding Secretary.

Our Nominating Committee was Barbara Phillips and Mark O’Brien who did a great job of recruiting “first-time” participants to the Board. Welcome “aboard” Maryann, Richard and Christine!


Recap of Our May 15th Zoom Meeting

We had another good turnout for our second Zoom meeting. Some twenty- five members tuned in while ten of those members submitted photos of trees to be discussed. The tree varieties included azalea, juniper, ponderosa pine, camellia, crabapple, lodge-pole pine, San Jose juniper and Japanese maple. Michael Greenstein offered the best advice when he said “Life is short, make it a bunjin.” Most people got advice on pruning and styling, wiring, pest treatment, foliar feed, and new pot selection. It was fun to have so many members offer their input.

In addition to getting assistance with our trees, a number of members offered their favorite quotes about bonsai. Here are some of them. 

  • Bill Daniels: Just remember – this is a hobby. Visualize your bonsai. Make it the way you want it. No one will enjoy it more than you!
  • Author Francois Jeker in “Bonsai Deadwood”: Bonsai is the art of the fourth dimension. It is the art of time. 
  • Michael Greenstein: The art of bonsai can teach you a lot of patience. Bonsai is a nice mixture of sculpture and horticulture. The only finished bonsai tree is a dead bonsai tree. All art is about telling a story; a bonsai tree should tell a compelling story. When you initially design a bonsai, think about the design in terms of the five-to-ten year vision. 
  • Barbara Phillips: From the novel “Overstory” Earth may be alive: not as the ancients saw her – a sentient Goddess with a purpose and foresight – but alive like a tree – A tree that quietly exists, never moving except to sway in the wind, yet endlessly conversing with the sunlight and the soil. Using sunlight and water and nutrient minerals to grow and change. But all done so imperceptibly, that to me, the old oak tree on the green is the same as when I was a child.
  • Alan Merrifield: When wiring lower branches, wire them like this (caricature included with arms extended with drooping curvatures implied and the left arm slightly lower and more forward than the right).

It was really nice to see everyone at the meeting. Like me, everyone got a special kick out of seeing John and Sandy Planting participate via Ken and Missy’s computer. 


Oaks for Bonsai

By Michael Greenstein

Our first Zoom meeting was a huge success. We had thirty people participate and Michael’s presentation was great. You can watch it below or on YouTube.

Michael said that in 1990 Kusamura founding member Tosh Saburomaru told him to “Grow an oak bonsai and grow old together.” Michael took that to heart and has a number of oaks. He showed us their progress as he talked about a number of them in his slide presentation.

Michael covered both evergreen and deciduous oaks. He showed us photos of a variety of oaks he owns that included the Coast Live, Canyon, Cork, Holly, Valley, Blue, Brewster and scrub oaks. Members also provided photos of their oaks and Michael offered advice on those going forward. Alan Merrifield showed us his Palestine Oak “Querous calliprinos” which no one had seen or heard of before. 

Some of the additional comments that Michael made about oak bonsai:

  • Evergreen oaks are usually potted in unglazed bonsai pots.
  • Deciduous oaks are usually potted in glazed pots.
  • When watering, keep oaks on the slightly dry side.
  • Wait until deciduous oaks leaf out before fertilizing. Otherwise you will get long nodes.
  • After hardening of new leaves on deciduous trees, trim leaves to three or four as soon as possible.
  • Oaks will sprout where they are cut but not further back on the branch.
  • When wiring younger growth, wire branch outward or down. Otherwise, growth will want to grow up.
  • If oaks get too much sun in the summer, they “may” go into a dormant stage. Michael puts his oaks in the shade and he gets three “cut and grow” opportunities within a year’s time. Of course, your oak needs to be very healthy in order to do this.
  • Defoliate deciduous oaks for ramification, reduced leaf size and to remove burned leaves.
  • Michael defoliates his oaks on June 1 every year and leaves come back at around three-fourths their original size. Note that while this applies to the San Francisco Bay Area, a June 1 timeframe may not apply to other areas.
  • Yalley and blue oaks may suffer from leaf burn in areas that don’t get Hetch Hetchy water. In other words, if your city’s water source is a combination of treated surface water and local groundwater, you will have problems with leaf burn on these types of oaks as well as other types of trees such as some maples.
  • When repotting, preserve the oak mycorrhizae in the existing soil and include it in the repot. For those of you who have never seen mycorrhizae before, it is a white looking material in the soil and improves the health of the tree as it helps with water up take. It’s like an extension to the roots.
  • When repotting, also note that oaks are more sensitive to root disturbance than other trees. So never bare root an oak and don’t cut all the roots back.

Forest Bathing Amongst Your Bonsai

In line with including members favorite quotes about bonsai at our May meeting, I wanted to point out this websiteby Morten Albek of Denmark. 

I hope that like me, many of you have been doing a lot of forest bathing amongst your bonsai these past few months.

Needle Juniper
Needle Juniper
From Brussel's Bonsai, Olive Branch, MS.

Click for larger view

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