Club News – January 2022

Meeting – January 21 @ 7PM – Zoom Only

Leslie Buck

Leslie Buck’s dramatic memoir, Cutting Back – My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto, allows readers to imagine what it’s like to enter the gardens of Japan, meeting traditional craftsmen along the way, as she describes her personal journey. The book recounts Leslie travels from California to Japan where she spent a three season apprenticeship in private homes, monasteries and an Emperor’s garden working with “one of the oldest and most highly acclaimed landscape companies in Japan.” (Sadafumi Uchiyama is also curator of the Portland Japanese Garden). During her time working inside an elite pruning crew she learned how to balance strength with grace, seriousness with humor and technique with heart. One chapter features Leslie’s visit to a bonsai show in Kyoto with a local bonsai artist with a tree in the show.

Leslie was the first American woman to learn pruning from one of the most storied landscaping companies in Kyoto. Her story parallels that of Kathy Shaner who was a member of Kusamura and several other bonsai clubs before she became an apprentice of Sensei Yasuo Mitsuya in the 1990s.

Leslie Buck is currently an aesthetic pruner specializing in California natives and natural design in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has over two decades of gardening experience and a fine art degree from UC Berkeley and Bordeaux School of Fine Arts. Dennis Makishima, her pruning mentor, is past president of GSBF and a major leader in the creation of the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt. Mas Imazumi was Leslie’s bonsai teacher and taught at many clubs in California. Dennis and Mas are written about in Cutting Back and you will hear stories of these two bonsai leaders. If you want to learn more about Leslie her website is

If you are a member of our club then the Zoom information was shared via email.
if you are not a member and would like to attend as a guest, please use the Contact Us form to request the Zoom info.

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: January Tasks

Club Potting Party on Sunday, January 23

This event is a party to prepare bonsai for sale at our 2022 Annual Show that will be held on April 30 and May 1. Hours for the party are 10AM – 4PM at the home of Mark O’Brien at 661 Coleman Ave, Menlo Park. 

We will work on material that can be repotted in the winter. That includes deciduous trees, junipers, pines if protected afterwards, and various other species. Protected afterwards means keep it covered to prevent exposure to frost and/or windy conditions. 

Club potting parties are held to work on trees that can be sold at our Annual Show in order to generate funds to support the clubs’ on-going monthly activities and pay for future show expenses. 

Club-provided bonsai pots, soil and wire will be available for you to use to style, wire and/or repot each tree you work on during this event. As an attendee, you would either work on a club-owned tree or a tree that you plan to donate to the 2022 sale.

Anyone who has been babysitting a club-owned tree should bring that tree to the January potting party if it needs to be restyled and/or repotted. Note that if you are donating cash or other items vs. trees, the club still needs your help with the club-owned trees. In order to ensure Kusamura’s future financial success, each club member is kindly asked to attend one or more potting parties each year.

Richard Phillips and Rita Curbow will be there that day to work with those of you new to bonsai and haven’t repotted a tree before and/or are feeling rusty about the process.

For members who can come early and help with setup or stay late and help with breakdown, your assistance with those tasks will be greatly appreciated too. Remember you don’t have to stay for the entire day. 

Doughnuts will be provided but also consider bringing a bag lunch

Club Dues Now Due

Club membership dues are due by January 30. Club dues are $45 for a single membership and $55 for a family membership. You can renew online.

If you’re not yet a member consider joining. Our club is a good way to learn about bonsai with a bunch of fun people. See About Our Club for details.

Benefit Drawing Volunteer Needed

By Charlene Fischer

Kusamura is looking for a volunteer to conduct the Benefit Drawing at our in-person club meetings. The Benefit Drawing helps our club earn funds to pay for the meeting hall rental fee. A table is set up where members put items they want to donate. During the evening the Benefit Drawing Volunteer sells raffle tickets and draws winning raffle tickets after the demonstration has finished. Kusamura pays for supplies needed such as the roll of raffle tickets and bucket. This is a fun task for anyone who wants to  get to know their fellow club members by name more easily. No experience is required. If you are interested, please contact Charlene Fischer and she will ensure you get the required tickets, price sheet, and bucket for drawing tickets.

Beginner Bonsai Workshop Update

Since we are having a club potting party on January 23, there will not be a beginner’s workshop this month. 

But for those of you not aware, there is a lot of momentum going on in this workshop as the December 8 workshop attendee’s included Marlon Diokno, Tom Grossi, Royal Hansen, David Kim, David Knick, Austin Knick, Joe Peter, Barbara Phillips, Nathan Szajnberg, Jenn Tan, Ren You, Jiechang “JC” Zhang and her friend Nathan who is interested in joining the club too.

While previous workshops have enabled people to get help with individual trees, Richard presented his skills/concepts for wiring and allowed everyone to practice their wiring while they were observed to see where they might be having difficulties. This was an eye opening experience for everyone.

In the meantime to further your wiring skills before the next workshop, Richard suggests everyone watch this Colin Lewis video regarding wiring:

Note that in the video, Colin calls for a 45 degree angle, but a 55-60 degree angle is what Richard recommends for reasons given in the December workshop.

Memory Book Presented to John and Sandy Planting

In the fall of 2021 John and Sandy Planting reached the milestone of being members of Kusamura for sixty years! And as we couldn’t celebrate this anniversary with John and Sandy in person at a club event, an effort was spearheaded by Charlene Fischer to create a Memory Book that could be presented to them.

A big THANK YOU goes to Charlene and “JC” Zhang for all the time they put into creating this Memory Book which was truly a labor of love. Thanks also to Richard Phillips who did photo shoots for members and all of you who contributed photos along with your unique stories and/or helped gather this info for Charlene and JC to work with. Using photos of John and Sandy along with separate photos of their pets and favorite bonsai, JC sketched John and Sandy in a scene with some of their favorite memories. “This is a treasure!” said their daughter Missy. And yes, John and Sandy loved it too. Sandy happily read every word of text and reminisced with John about the many trees she enjoyed seeing.

Filoli Forms Community Partnership with Kusamura

As many of you know Kusamura has a long history with Filoli including more than fifteen years of volunteering to take care of their bonsai collection. It all started with Jim Thompson many years ago when he was assisting bonsai master Harry Sakai. Then in 2009 a Bonsai Volunteer Group was formed consisting of up to seven members from Kusamura. Because of the pandemic, volunteers were no longer able to participate after March 2020.

In August 2021 Filoli asked Kusamura to become a Community Partner with them. After approval by the Kusamura Officers and Board of Directors and acquiring the necessary insurance, Kusamura entered into this partnership in October 2021. This partnership is renewable on a yearly basis.

As a Community Partner, Filoli agreed to allow Kusamura to hold up to two club member events per year for free on the Filoli property. An event could be an annual show where members display bonsai for the public to see over a two day period, a member meeting, or space for a bonsai demonstration. Kusamura Officers and the Board of Directors are currently looking into what’s the best use of these opportunities for the club moving forward in 2022. Note that Kusamura members will not have to pay the Filoli entry fee to attend the club function on the given date(s) but other Filoli guests will.

As a Community Partner, Kusamura agreed to provide care for Filoli’s bonsai collection once a week, on an agreed-upon day by Kusamura and Filoli’s Director of Horticulture. Care includes but is not limited to pruning, wiring, root pruning, repotting and weeding. Volunteers from Kusamura provide their own bonsai tools but Filoli pays for all bonsai related expenses such as potting media, bonsai wire, bonsai pest control supplies, etc. Volunteers also provide input regarding the watering and fertilizer needs of the bonsai but the Filoli Horticulture are responsible for those duties.

Once it became official, a group of eight Kusamura members formed the bonsai volunteer team. The team now includes five members who were volunteering to care for the Filoli bonsai prior to the pandemic along with three additional members. Those club members are Charlene Fischer, Donna Farmar, Hal Jerman, Idris Anderson, Jenn Tan, Lynne O’Dell, Marsha Mekisich and Rita Curbow. Starting on October 20, the group have met at Filoli every Wednesday from 10AM – 1PM to work on the collection which consists of over sixty trees

Hal and Idris transform a maple using paper-wrapped copper wire to bend a branch along with some turnbuckles

December Holiday Party “Thanks”

By Lynne O’Dell

Even though our  Club Holiday Party was modified by CDC guidelines to provide a safe environment, we created a festive gathering of our new and veteran members and their guests. Twenty-eight people attended. A generous array of appetizers, desserts and libations was satisfying and impressively presented outside under the covered walkway. On behalf of the club, Idris Anderson made the ham sliders, Melinda Murray made the turkey rollups, Hal Jerman handled the wine and Barbara Phillips handled all other beverages. Barbara also brought a scrumptious apple and bean soup. Contact Barbara if you want the recipe.

After eating, we then moved inside for our Holiday Gift exchange “Select or Steal” game which offered some prized gifts with the popular Enkianthus campanulatus tree being stolen twice ending up with Hal. And while eleven year old club member Austin Knick was happy with his gift, his nine year old brother Lucas was thrilled with the Buddha statue.

Our Holiday party wouldn’t be complete without our parade of decorated bonsai trees. We all had fun looking up close at the creative and festive transformations. It was wonderful to get to know newer members and their families as well as reminisce with members we haven’t seen for many, many months. 

The club thanks the early set-up crew of Melinda and Richard Murray, Barbara and Richard Phillips, Charlene Fischer, Dave Curbow, Hal Jerman, Steve Jensen and Coordinator Lynne O’Dell for all their work to make the party such a fun event. And thanks to everyone who prepared food items and/or decorated a bonsai in holiday cheer.

Jenn Tan’s shohin with jingle bells
Jenn Tan’s shohin with jingle bells
Lynne O’Dell’s Walking Stick bonsai with Covid-19 liquid amber ornaments
Lynne O’Dell’s Walking Stick bonsai with Covid-19 liquid amber ornaments
Hal Jerman’s Walking Stick bonsai with some fun holiday ornaments
Hal Jerman’s Walking Stick bonsai with some fun holiday ornaments
Jiechang (JC) Zhang showing off pruning saw from the holiday gift exchange
Jiechang (JC) Zhang showing off pruning saw from the holiday gift exchange
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