Phil Richardson – Lodgepole Pine

November 17 @7pm – 9:30pm

by Lynne O’Dell

Phil Richardson will be our featured guest speaker styling a collected lodgepole pine. Thirty-one years ago he joined East Bay Bonsai and is currently a member of the bonsai clubs of San Francisco, Gold Country, and Sierra Bonsai. He is the current president of the Nevada County Bonsai Club and has an extensive nursery of collected and styled bonsai at his Moonshine Ranch Bonsai in Grass Valley. After 25 years as a professional horn player and music teacher he retired to concentrate on bonsai. He has vended his trees at the past couple Shohin and GSBF conventions and has been collecting with Scott Chadd and Bolet in the White Mountains and Mammoth Lakes for many years. His lodgepoles are typically styled in a bunjin or cascade style. Phil will bring lodgepoles that he has styled and share his extensive knowledge of the species. The demo tree will be raffled.

Phil Richardson
Phil Richardson

Monthly Tasks

This month: November 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.

Children’s Corner and Social Media for the Annual Show

by Idris Anderson

First, many, MANY thanks to Barbara Phillips, who conceived of and put together the Children’s Corner at our Annual Show for these last many years. She deserves a rest from all her labors to bring this event off in fine style. She sourced the plant material, the muck and soil, the pots, and recruited her lovely assistants, including Maryann Hinden, JC Zhang, Austin Knick, and David Knick. It has been (and we hope will continue to be) one of the most popular events at our show.

Invitation to Join the Circus (Annual Show Team)

Children’s Corner: If you’d like to help out by becoming the lead for the Children’s Corner, please let Idris Anderson (our show chair know). It’s such a vital and fun event, helping to fulfill the educational mission of the club.

Social Media: Tech savvy members alert! We need someone to touch all the bases to advertise our show in all the tech sites and print venues. Let Idris know if you are interested in this important role to bring the crowds to our show. We’d much appreciate the support!

November 19 Beginners Workshop – Horticulture Basics

by Richard Phillips

Bonsai is like a three-legged stool. The first two “legs” are art and craft. Art is the aesthetic principles we apply to design a bonsai. Craft is the set of skills we use to realize our artistic vision. But what is the third “leg” of the stool?

The third leg is science – the science of horticulture. To create a successful bonsai, we need to understand how it grows, what it needs to thrive and why it responds as it does when we prune, wire, repot, fertilize, etc.

Richard will present the basics of bonsai horticulture in the morning session, and members are encouraged to bring their trees for specific information about that species’ needs and growth habits. The afternoon session will be a time to work on trees as appropriate for the season. Attendees are encouraged to check the Timing Work Schedule included in this newsletter to decide what trees can be worked on that day.


  • 10 AM – Noon Presentation on “Bonsai Horticulture”
  • 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM Participants work on trees with the assistance of the workshop mentors

Location will be announced by a separate email sent to all club members the week of the workshop.

Even if you don’t have a tree to work on, you can learn by observing others at work or assisting someone with their tree. The best way to learn bonsai is by doing it alongside someone with experience.

Bonsai Rendezvous Reverie

by Lynne O’Dell

A large contingent of Kusamura members attended the GSBF Bonsai Rendezvous in Santa Nella, October 20-22. There was so much going on it was difficult to choose among the events: workshops Friday and Saturday mornings and afternoons, Bjorn Bjorholm styling all day a very large collected Utah juniper, Six Rising Stars styling trees in competition (Bjorn was the judge), vendors of trees, pots, tools, suiseki, stands and other related bonsai material, a silent auction, Saturday night dinner with live auction, and especially Sunday morning with Bjorn styling a juniper that Steve Iwaki won/bought at the live auction (Steve was Bjorn’s humble assistant).

Not to mention the awesome show of awesome trees from the gardens at Lake Merritt, Fresno, and the Huntington, and of course all the conversations we had with each other and the larger California bonsai community. I can name at least 18 Kusamura members who enjoyed all of this, including our small travel grant winners, new or relatively new members thereby encouraged to attend. They will be reporting on their experiences shortly. So much fun!

John Naka tree with decaying deadwood at base
John Naka tree with decaying deadwood at base

One of the extraordinary exhibit trees was this juniper which was originally developed by John Naka and featured in his 1982 “Bonsai Techniques II” book as an example of how to patch a decaying piece of deadwood at the base. 

The tree was also styled by Ryan Neil in 2019 on a live stream, where a planting angle change was proposed and a sacrifice branch retained to build vigor. The recording can be viewed at with a membership subscription or during the trial period.

Before Styling
Before Styling
After Styling
After Styling

This tree is currently part of the Clark Bonsai Collection inside the Shinzen Friendship Garden in Fresno, CA.

Highlights from the October Intermediate Workshop

This month’s workshop was attended by a mix of new and long-time members. The colors and effects of the fall season were present in the landscape and chill breeze. We enjoyed discussing each other’s trees and continuing fall pruning and maintenance.

Recommended Videos – Olives

by Idris Anderson

It’s summer and the heat is finally cranking up for heat-loving species like olives. Major work on olives is also done in summer, including collecting, repotting, and pruning. There are many good videos out there on olives (including some too from Aussie Bonsai Bloke Sam Doecke from Australia of course, one of my wild outlier favorites; I don’t include him below but you can look him up easily enough). You may not know Terry Erasmus from South Africa, my first pick below, but you should. He’s a consummate professional. Shouldn’t be a surprise that my other two picks source their olives from Spain and Mallorca—all countries with a plenty of wild olives and the heat that they love. The Bay Area is also a good place to collect olives, which are not native but which are widely distributed, thanks to Spanish missionaries who brought the small-leafed Mediterranean olive to this region. Enjoy! Now is the best time to get to work on your olives!

Creating Bonsai from Wild Olives

This link takes you to the first in a series of 12 videos on many aspects of developing olives for bonsai. Terry may be the world’s expert on olives. Highly recommended. By the way, Terry was a student of Boon Manakitivipart.

Terry Erasmus | South Africa
February 18, 2022 | 19 minutes |
Video Link

Designing an Olive Bonsai Tree

This video is all about style and design of a special large olive. Discussion of what branches to keep and what to eliminate or reduce is easy to follow. Spectacular tree.

Rafael Torres and Bjorn Bjorholm | Bonsai Empire
28 minutes, April 14, 2022
Video Link

Olive Bonsai Demo

Focus here is on care, including the watering, placement, fertilizing, pruning, and wiring of Bonsai olives.

David Benavente | Bonsai Empire
October 29, 2021 | 33 minutes
18 minutes, August 2, 2022
Video Link

Newsletter Editor: Jenn Tan

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