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Club News – October 2020

Fall Brings New Colors to Our Bonsai

Ginkgo in Fall Colors by Alison Seaman @ Marin Bonsai Show, October 2013
Ginkgo in Fall Colors by Alison Seaman @ Marin Bonsai Show, October 2013

”Taking Care of Our Bonsai Tools” with Gordon Deeg 

October 16th @ 7pm

Gordon Deeg will discuss how to care for our bonsai tools, provide advice on grinding stones and demonstrate how to sharpen various tools. Maybe your cutters need realigning? Yes, this can be done. So join us for what’s to be a very informative meeting. Open discussion is welcome. So take a look at your tools ahead of time so you can ask Gordon specific questions about issues you may be experiencing with your tools. 

Club member Gordon Deeg, a bonsai artist since the mid-60s, is Director of the Bonsai Garden Lake Merritt, President of the California Shohin Society, active member of Sei Boku Bonsai Kai and Bay Area Bonsai Association (BABA), and a certified instructor on Satsuki Azaleas. Gordon is a sought-after demonstrator at many Bay Area bonsai clubs and has given incalculable amounts of time to the efforts of the Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) since its founding.

A Zoom meeting invitation will be sent to club members as the date for this event approaches. Guests are welcome too.

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: October Tasks

Time to Change Your Fertilizer

Now is the time to switch to a low nitrogen fertilizer. During the spring and summer trees grow a lot of foliage and branches. This type of growth needs nitrogen for cell division and the manufacture of protein. Trees seem to rest during the winter but actually the roots continue to grow during the fall and winter and need a small amount of nitrogen even during the winter. But we don’t want to over stimulate growth by providing too much nitrogen. See – Fertilizer Basics

If you’ve been using Osmocote or other granular fertilizers you can remove the old fertilizer by sweeping off the top of the soil using a brush. You might consider going a bit further, especially if the top layer has become compacted – either with excess salts (including fertilizer) or by soil breaking down. Either can cause water to run down along the edge of the pot instead of watering the entire root mass.

Using a chopstick gently rake from the trunk towards the edge of the pot about one-half inch deep to loosen the old soil and then remove it. This is also a good time to remove any weeds you see. While you’re at it, check whether you need to repot the plant in the spring. To do this, push a chopstick into the soil in multiple places. If the chopstick goes in easily then you don’t need to repot. When there’s a lot of resistance mark this tree for repotting. Now add new soil to the appropriate level and add the new fertilizer on top. Low nitrogen fertilizers are unlikely to “burn” plants and the rainy season will wash a lot of fertilizer thru the soil, so you can add a bit extra.

Additional Autumn Care Suggestions

Flowering Bonsai
Many species that bloom in spring create their flower buds in autumn. If you want flowers make sure you don’t cut the buds off during winter pruning. Flower buds are bigger than foliage buds and more rigid.

Fruiting Bonsai
On many species, the fruit will only develop on a two-year old branch. If you want fruit you’ll want to avoid removing those during winter pruning. Remember that allowing a tree to bear fruit takes a lot of energy so it’s best to get your tree to the shape you want it and in good health before allowing it to bear fruit. You can compromise and allow it to bear a few fruits.

Branch Placement And Styling
This is a great time to inspect your tree from above to make sure upper branches aren’t directly above lower branches, otherwise those will be shaded when the tree leafs out. This is the time to shorten any long shoots on short branches. You want to develop your branches so that the distance between new buds decrease as the branch gets longer. This is what makes the tree look natural.

Jin and Shari Work
You can make a new jin out of a living branch at any time of the year. But new shari should only be created when the temperatures are between 41°F and 68°F to prevent adding too much stress to the tree. When creating a shari the tree’s circulatory system is affected and it must adapt so it can continue to deliver water and nutrients to different parts of the tree. The tree must also develop a buffer zone between the dead and living wood to stop virus and bacteria from reaching and affecting the healthy cells. For a healthy tree, considerable energy is needed and in most cases the trees reserves are called into play. Newly created shari must also be protected from extreme weather changes until this buffer zone is established.

Cooler night time temperatures cause our trees to begin the transition to dormancy. Our trees stop providing nutrients to the leaves so the green colors disappear and the yellow, orange and reds become dominant.


Kusamura Is Recognized in Local Papers for Sixty Year History

The article “Tiny trees with deep community roots: For 60 years, Kusamura Bonsai Club has Cultivated Japanese Tradition in Bay Area Backyards” written by freelance writer Laura Swanson appeared in a recent edition of the Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice and The Almanac. Laura did a great job describing the ambience of the club and pointing out that for some members bonsai can be a way of life. Thanks to Charlene Fischer for making Laura aware of Kusamura’s sixtieth year anniversary.

Laura’s article can be found on the club’s website at – Tiny Trees Article


Club Matching Donations to Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt

Treasurer Hal Jerman is happy to announce that he received a total of $575 of donations from Kusamura members. That easily topped the matching funds that Kusamura committed to, so the club contribution was $500 bringing the total to $1,075 that Bonsai Garden Lake Merritt received toward their campaign to upgrade their security system at the Garden. Any donations mailed directly to BGLM are not included in the total reported here.

The club thanks everyone who participated to help make the bonsai collection at Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt safer for us and future generations to enjoy. On behalf of BGLM, Gordon Deeg said the donation is greatly appreciated as the garden has very little income due to the current situation.

To learn more about the Bonsai Garden, go to GSBFbonsai.org


Recap of Our September 18 Zoom Meeting

At least twenty-four club members Zoomed in to hear and see Michael Greenstein present his slide show on “Seasonal Pine Tree Bonsai Care”. Michael says he is a “Pine tree enthusiast with lots to learn” and not an expert. I know all of you will agree that Michael did an awesome job and sounded like an expert on pines once he was finished. Michael’s presentation of fifty slides was so thorough that I really didn’t take any notes as I think the slides speak for themselves. I know Michael inspired all of us who were in attendance. You can find the slides from Michael’s presentation at: A Primer on Seasonal Pine Tree Bonsai Care

Before proceeding with further work on your pines, understand the meaning of words like needle biology, single and multiple flush, fuses, etc because as Michael said, “It is very important to apply the correct technique to the category of pine: applying the multiple technique to a single flush pine could kill it”. In addition to the popular Japanese black pine for bonsai, Michael touched on white pine, Western white pine, Mugo pine, Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Scots pine, Italian stone pine and others.

If you’d like more information about the 390-year old bonsai tree that Michael talked about seeing at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, see – Bonsai Tree That Survived Atomic Bomb

The club extends a big THANK YOU to Michael for a most informative and well prepared presentation.


BCI Everything Bonsai Online Auction

The Auction starts on October 8, 12:00 AM GMT (UTC), and closes October 11, at midnight GMT (UTC).

Sculpture created by Frank Mihalic of Ohio for the BCI auction
Sculpture created by Frank Mihalic of Ohio for the BCI auction

View the Catalog Online or download it for offline viewing, and get ready to bid. Our members and directors have donated an awesome variety of bonsai-related items, some are one-of-a-kind creations. This is your opportunity to bid on books, tools, sculptures, tables, suiseki, pots, apparel, and more. Some items include shipping costs while some require the bidder to pay for shipping so read carefully. To register for the auction, go to:

Register and ask to join this special Facebook group.

Registration is open until October 7, 2020 midnight GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) or UTC (Universal Coordinated Time). To find out the time in your time zone, go to dayspedia.com and click on Time Converter. Enter your location to find out when the auction starts in your area.

To get the Auction Catalog, go to Auction Catalog


Calling All Poets – Seven Words for Bonsai

At our September meeting Lynne O’Dell proposed this idea: express your feelings about your bonsai during the pandemic using exactly seven words; no more, no fewer. Send your words to me – Rita Curbow.

Here’s a start:

“Time amongst tiny trees, the world subsides” (Rita Curbow)

“My bonsai plants in my bonsai pots” (Barbara Phillips)

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