Club News – October 2021

Meeting – October 15 @ 7PM via Zoom

Bjorn Bjorholm – Autumn Pine Care

Bjorn Bjorholm
Bjorn Bjorholm

Because of an unexpected event last month, Bjorn Bjorholm was not able to present to our club as planned. But we’ve been able to reschedule for October.  

He will be presenting two pre-recorded demonstrations. One on autumn black pine care with an emphasis on inducing back budding. The second will discuss use of fertilizer during the year. He will answer questions following each video.

This should be a great start to our series of presentations and workshops focused on pines we have planned over the next few months. Please join us.

Bjorn Bjorholm, owner of Eisei-en, is a bonsai professional and instructor who spent six years (2008 – 2014) as an apprentice under Master Keiichi Fujikawa at Kouka-en bonsai nursery in Osaka, Japan before receiving certification as a bonsai professional by the Nippon Bonsai Association. His tenure as an apprentice at Kouka-en was followed by three years (2014 – 2017) as artist-in-residence at the same location, making him the first foreign-born working bonsai professional in Japan. During his time in Japan, Bjorn’s works were featured in the Kokufu-ten, Sakufu-ten, and Taikan-ten exhibitions, among many others.

In addition to his work in Japan, Bjorn travels the world, from Europe to Asia to Latin America, teaching bonsai art and providing services to private clients and international organizations. He operates intensive bonsai schools with affiliate nurseries in Spain and the United States, while also working with international bonsai organizations.

Bjorn’s website for EISEI-EN is bjornbjorholm.com

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


Message from the President

by Charlene Fischer

Kusamura Bonsai Club has a wealth of knowledge from within our own membership. It has been six years since we recognized the contributions of members who have helped the club with their expertise in the arts of bonsai, their willingness to lead the club, or their generous support through donations.

The club  honors these individuals with a Lifetime Membership. Our current Lifetime Members are: Art Leal, Nora Morton, John Planting, Sandy Planting and Hap Thompson.

These past six years we have informally augmented this list and would like to formally acknowledge them for all they have done in support of the club. They are:

  • Kim Dang (Generous donations from sales of her collection)
  • Gordon Deeg (Numerous demonstrations and host of bonsai gatherings)
  • Jane Iki (Generous donations of her collection)
  • Stephanie North (Club President in 1993 and 2003, former VP and board member, club demonstrator, accent plant expertise, long term volunteer to the Bonsai Collection North)
  • Ed Poggensee (Club President in 1976, 2004 and 2005; former VP and board member, generous donations)
  • Janet Refvem (Generous donations and former board member)
  • Barbara Shahinian (Generous donations, former board member and provides storage for club materials)
  • Kathy Shaner (Generous donations, numerous demonstrations)
  • Jim Thompson (Generous donations and club demonstrator)

These individuals have guided us through the years by showing us how to care for our trees, how to run a club, how to be patient and how to be generous.  

In addition to our Lifetime Members the Club acknowledges members who provide the club with support that goes above and beyond the general membership. This year we want to recognize the following as Honorary Members

  • Sabrina Huang (photography of prior show trees)
  • Sean Morris (storage of club stands)

Thank you from all the members of Kusamura Bonsai Club.


Recap of September Zoom Meeting with Jonas Dupuich

After finding out earlier that morning that our scheduled speaker couldn’t make it, Jonas Dupuich came to the rescue for our September 15 meeting with his fabulous presentation on deadwood carving on bonsai. If he hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t have known that he had just gotten home the previous night from a cross country drive from Rochester, New York where he had participated in the 7th Biannual United States National Bonsai Exhibition. Everyone enjoyed seeing his Yaupon Holly bonsai for which he won an award for “Best Medium Bonsai” at the exhibition. Again, congratulations Jonas!

Jonas Dupuich
Jonas Dupuich with “Best Medium Bonsai”

Jonas started out by saying that while this is an awkward time to work on a number of trees such as deciduous trees, the time between mid September and November 1 is a great time to perform seasonal work (such as pruning, styling and wiring) on all types of junipers. And although fresh bark will come off much easier in the spring, deadwood work can really be done any time of the year. Jonas likes to include deadwood work amongst the other juniper work he does this time of year.

Stages of Juniper Work

Stage 1: Jonas always starts by thinning out the foliage which prevents scale and other pests from taking hold. The foliage is too thick if you can’t see into the tree. When thinning foliage, keep the smaller/tighter foliage and remove unhealthy foliage and long skinny leaves. If it’s still too dense, thin out some of the tighter foliage. If the tree is a younger specimen and/or in development stage, keep the long tips on the branches that you want in your design. These can be branches you want to bulk up for use as a live branch or as a thicker jin in the future.

After Jonas had thinned out the foliage, he would then clean up the lifeline of the tree and do some deadwood work. This is especially important if you have deadwood branches that are occupying space that you want live branches to occupy in the eventual design. And your goal should always be to create good characteristics in the tree that will provide options for creating a beautiful tree down the road.

Stage 2: Pick a possible front for the tree, select primary branches and wire and style the tree accordingly.

Young Material

Jonas first demonstrated stage 1 juniper work using two small juniper seedlings. On younger material you don’t want to remove unnecessary branches at this time because those branches can help thicken up the tree faster and down the road they could be used as candidates for deadwood. And while the tree is a seedling, it’s the perfect time to put some bends and twists in its trunk. For the 7” tall seedlings Jonas had, he would want to rotate the trunk a full 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 times in order to get the desired look. For every inch or two, he would twist the trunk in one direction and then reverse and twist it in the opposite direction. Having these twists in the trunk (resulting in a lifeline that twists around the trunk) will make shari work much easier in the future.

Longer tips on branches contain the hormones that promote root growth. So if you remove these longer tips on young material or over-prune a tree, you slow the tree down and risk attracting pests. If over-pruned it would take the tree a year or more to recover.

For young seedlings such as those used in the demo, Jonas would give them ten to fifteen years to fatten up. A good source for finding this type of material is Lone Pine Gardens in Sebastopol, CA.

Older Material

Jonas then moved on to a much older juniper to demonstrate creating deadwood. It was at this time that a number of members pondered “Do you know what your tree will look like before you do the deadwood work?”. Jonas replied “yes” and “no”. If you take into consideration that in many cases deadwood work should be done when you are developing the trunk then including deadwood work in stage 1 becomes more obvious.

What Characteristics Do We Care About in Junipers?

For juniper bonsai, we are looking for good movement in the trunk and deadwood such as shari and jins. A jin is a dead branch while a shari is deadwood along the trunk. It is the contrast between live and dead tissue that is most desirable on juniper bonsai. In nature, it is very common to see deadwood on junipers and the presence of deadwood indicates age on the tree. Therefore, we want to create deadwood on junipers to mimic what happens in nature.

When looking at junipers in exhibits, books, etc., look at the location of where the lowest live branch emerges from the trunk with respect to the height of the tree. Typically, the lowest live branch on a juniper will be at a minimum of half way up the tree. It’s not uncommon for it to be three quarters of the way up the tree from the base of the trunk. That allows you to bend the branches downward when styling it. And that allows the branch to be positioned at a very steep angle versus being more horizontal or going upward. This mimics what you see on old junipers in nature.

Creating a Shari

The most important rule to follow is never remove the living tissue beneath a branch you want to keep alive. To create a shari with a jin within it, you would follow the life line for the given branch all the way down to the base of the trunk.

Jonas selects branches to keep alive based on how “supple” they are. Retain branches that are not much thicker than a pencil in the styling of the tree. Remove the bigger/heavier branches or treat them as deadwood.

Eventually almost 80% of the foliage would be removed, but he doesn’t remove all of it at once. He recommended doing this work incrementally. During a major repot, don’t remove a lot of branches because you need those branches to develop new roots. And give the tree a year to recover/rest before working on it after you repot it.

Remove one or two major branches at a time so other branches will keep the root system healthy. As the desired branches generate new foliage, remove foliage from unwanted branches or branches that will be turned into deadwood. If you cut back a lot (on any species) you may get unwanted dieback because the tree doesn’t have enough resources to stay healthy.

Jonas started his shari work by using a Sharpie to outline the area of bark he wanted to remove along the trunk. Jonas pointed out a hollow area along the trunk that formed around a dead branch because live tissue built up to move water around the dead branch.  

It is always safe to use a hollow area as part of your shari. Use a grafting knife to trace the outline of the shari defined using the Sharpie. Push the knife completely through the bark and cambium layer until you reach the heart wood. Then peel the severed tissue away using the grafting knife or other tool.

Sharpie coloring hollow area to be removed
Sharpie coloring hollow area to be removed

Advanced Technique for Shari Creation

Solid lines show shari on front of trunk, dotted lines show shari on rear
Solid lines show shari on front of trunk, dotted lines show shari on rear

You want to create a shari that twists around the trunk of the tree. If the trunk itself was not twisted prior to the shari work, you want to create more than one shari that together will mimic that desired look. To do that you need to create a shari in steps spread out over a number of years. Start by creating a shari that appears and disappears across one view of the tree. You will then wait at least a year as live tissue builds up to go around that shari. That live tissue is enabling water to flow from the roots to the foliage on a given branch.

How to get striations in the wood? The deeper you dig into the wood, the more texture you give the trunk and the more depth you give the trunk. So remove some of those wood fibers.

Hand tools are the best way to do wood work until you’ve honed your skills. Only after you’ve gotten really good at wood working techniques with hand tools should you progress to using electric tools. You want the deadwood to look natural versus man made and that’s much easier to do using hand tools.

Create disconnected sections that you will connect over time (over a period of a number of years).

Creating a Jin

The most common way to create a jin is to use a draw knife and whittle away the wood. Removing dead wood is far easier to do when the wood is fresh and alive as opposed to after it has hardened.

The textbook way to create a jin is to use a root cutter and split the end of the branch into four pieces after making two cuts. You want the end of the branch to look like a pie cut into four sections or slices. Follow the grain of the wood during each cut and cut through to the center of the branch. Then use pliers to grab the tip of one of the four sections of wood, break the tip and then roll the bark/wood around the pliers as you peel it off. This will result in a much more natural looking jin. Don’t remove the bark past where the branch intersects the trunk. Do this technique for all four sections.

Using a draw knife to reduce the diameter of the branch
Using a draw knife to reduce the diameter of the branch

To prevent accidentally removing bark on the trunk, use a knife or scissors to cut into the bark over the entire circumference of the branch where it connects to the trunk. Cut deep enough to get to the heartwood below the bark.

Split branch to begin making jin
Step 1 – Split branch to begin making jin

Follow the grain of the wood during each cut and cut through to the center of the branch. Then use pliers to grab the tip of one of the four sections of wood, break the tip and then roll the bark/wood around the pliers as you peel it off. This will result in a much more natural looking jin. Don’t remove the bark past where the branch intersects the trunk. Do this technique for all four sections.

Peel to reduce thickness of jin
Step 2 – Peel to reduce thickness of jin
Peel more to reduce thickness of jin
Step 3 – Peel more to further reduce thickness of jin
Completed JIn
Step 4 – Completed jin

To prevent accidentally removing bark on the trunk, use a knife or scissors to cut into the bark over the entire circumference of the branch where it connects to the trunk. Cut deep enough to get to the heartwood below the bark. 

Straight jins on a tree with a curved trunk don’t make sense. So wire the jin to put a curve in it if the wood is still green or only create a very short jin. In short, make jins that match what’s going on in the trunk of the tree. If the tree has a lot of movement, the jins should have a lot of movement in them.

You will see more deadwood on coniferous trees in nature so replicate that in bonsai. Generally the wood on deciduous trees is too soft for a jin to survive in nature longterm. For that reason you generally don’t see a jin on a deciduous bonsai. More likely to see hollows on a deciduous tree in nature and therefore on deciduous bonsai.

On a larger size jin that doesn’t have any taper, add taper to the jin by reducing its thickness.

Preserving Deadwood

Multiple approaches. Treat with lime sulfur to kill the algae that would break down the wood. Wood hardener should be used when you have a problem with rot. If Jonas was going to apply both, he applies wood hardener first and then applies lime sulfur on top of that. But he also pointed out that there isn’t a consensus within the bonsai community on which order one should be applied when both are going to be used. Obviously you will want to make sure you do not get either liquid on the surrounding live tissue or allow it to drip into the soil. Note that the more you cut across the grain versus along the grain of the wood the faster that wood will rot. If you use a wood splitter and nibble on wood that has hardened you will more likely cut across the grain of the wood with each nibble.

Thank You!

Jonas did a fabulous presentation and we all learned a lot. Special kudos for stepping in on short notice and saving the night!


Beginner Bonsai Workshop Dates

Upcoming beginner bonsai workshops at the home of Richard and Barbara Phillips will be held on the following dates:

  • October 23
  • November 13
  • December 11

All workshops are on a Saturday and are free. Rita Curbow will be assisting Richard with these workshops.

Richard will be contacting members who are eligible to attend. Newer members of the club and members who are known “beginner’s” in the art of bonsai are definitely eligible for these workshops but if you weren’t contacted and would like to attend please use the Contact Us form.

Members must be fully vaccinated against Covid to attend. Also bring a mask in case one or more people would prefer we all wear one that day.

The morning session is 9AM – Noon and the afternoon is 1PM – 4PM. Bring three to four trees because sometimes it may not be the right time of year to do the desired work on a given tree and you want to make sure you have enough material to work on for the three hours allotted.


Club Show Now Available

Normally at this time of year we’d be welcoming the public to our annual show at the Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto. But as we all know this isn’t a typical year so instead we’d like to welcome you to our show online. 

Visit Our Show

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