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Club News – January 2021

Repotting: Advanced Techniques with Valerie Monroe
January 15 @ 7PM via Zoom

By Richard Phillips

Ever find the perfect pot for one of your favorite bonsai, but it doesn’t have a drainage hole? Or, want to make a group planting, but aren’t sure how to hold all the trees in place? What about a situation where you’re working with a container with a single hole and want to install tie wires and can’t drill additional holes?  And of course, there’s the situation where the tree you are potting has almost no root ball, so then what?

Join us on January 15 as Valerie Monroe demonstrates how to address these kinds of situations. Bring your questions and also any ways you’ve solved these and other potting challenges. In the bonsai community, we learn from each other and thus all advance our knowledge of this art.

Valerie’s demonstration has been pre-recorded but she will narrate live as the video is shown via Zoom.

Bio: Valerie Monroe is a longtime member of Sei Boku Bonsai Kai. In addition to being its current President she has been involved with Bonsai and aesthetic pruning for over thirty years. Valerie says she hopes to inspire others to enjoy and appreciate beautiful trees as much as she does.

You can also refer to the February 2016 newsletter on our website for information regarding proper bonsai pot selection per Valerie’s instruction. This will be the perfect time to ask Valerie questions if you need more information regarding this topic too.

Hope to see all of you on the 15th in the New Year and new decade!


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

Fertilizer Recommendation

You should be using 0-10-10 this time of year. For more details about fertilizer, refer to Fertilizer Basics


Upcoming February Club Meeting : Tips and Tricks

By Idris Anderson

Start thinking ahead for this meeting as we’d like YOU as a member of Kusamura to share tips, techniques, and shortcuts that you have learned and found most helpful in your practice of bonsai. These can be from a fellow club member, from a bonsai professional, from your own discovery and invention, or even from the internet (or books), giving credit where credit is due. Please glean from your memories in any category: Potting and Repotting, Wiring, Pruning, Fertilizing, Watering, Carving, Working with Deadwood, etc. These can be the simplest and most rudimentary to the most advanced. We hope to collect the contents of this meeting and publish for all in a pdf, as Michael Greenstein has suggested. So prepare ahead with one, two, three or more tips and tricks. We’ll do this in rounds until we run out of tips, or time.


Bonsai Pot Auction – December 7 to 20

By any standards our bonsai pot auction in December was a huge success as so many members were eager to buy pots to start off the repotting season with appropriate pots for their trees. Thanks again to Desmond Johnson and the family of Dave Flynn for donating all the bonsai pots. And thanks to friends of Hal Jerman for donating the watering can and shears.

The auction was conducted over a two week period with each week offering two sets of items with different start dates and end dates to facilitate bidders to be able to focus on placing bids down to the final seconds. There was a lot of competition for some items and I was told by some of the bidders that it was all pretty exciting getting the highest bid under such circumstances!

In all, the club sold over $3,900 of bonsai items of which all but two were the bonsai pots. All but fourteen of the bonsai pots sold and I think this is a reflection of how nice so many of the pots were. Thanks to all of you for paying for them and picking them up in a timely manner also. Enjoy repotting and using your new pots!


Soil Making Party – Thank You

The club thanks Lynne O’Dell and those who joined her on December 5 to make soil for the club’s future potting parties. Members participating included Hal Jerman, Christine Weigen, Christoph Dressler, Richard Murray, Thomas Chiu, Idris Anderson, Katherine Glassey, and Richard and Barbara Kindall. “Lynne did all the hard work in preparation for us, including detailed calculations of how much of each soil type to get, locating and transporting the soil, and getting us all set up in her corral. We just stepped in and in two hours, efficiently generated 750+ pounds of top notch bonsai soil!” said Christine. I’ll remind you that December 5 was one of those “unhealthful” air quality days because of local fires, but they reportedly created their own dust cloud with all the sifting going on. 

Recap of Our February Zoom Meeting

It was great to learn all the “tips and tricks” that members shared during our February program. And the variety was amazing too. For those present, I think that you’ll agree that Donna Farmar won the most creative award for  her frugal use of potato grocery netting and a metal cooking rack. If you weren’t at the meeting, you can find her use of these items documented in this article created by Idris Anderson on the club website at Tips & Tricks by Idris.

In that document you’ll find tips and tricks from Charlene Fischer, Christine Weigen, Donna Farmar, Idris Anderson, Lynne O’Dell, Michael Greenstein, Mark O’Brien, Richard Phillips and Rita Curbow. Michael Greenstein had so many great suggestions, they warranted a document of their own. It can be found at Tips & Tricks by Michael.

Idris Anderson and Lynne O’Dell both discussed how to create a bonsai heat box. Idris’s great write-up about the process along with Lynne’s photos can be found at Making a Heat Box.

It was a really fun evening. Richard had promised door prizes but we lost track of time with all the great stories that no one cared about door prizes at the end which ran over our normal time. Another nice thing that can happen with Zoom meetings, you don’t have to break down and close the doors if you need more time.

The club thanks everyone who participated and our VP and Recording Secretary Idris Anderson for doing such a great job recording everyone’s suggestions.


Recap of Our December 18 Holiday Meeting

Everyone was in a festive mood as we had a “Parade of Trees” theme for our holiday meeting. We had thirteen members participate by decorating a bonsai in a holiday theme or create a moss garden. Other members Zoomed in too and participated in the “ooh” and “aah”ing.

In the evergreen group, we started out with Stephanie North who used jewelry that she personally made to decorate a San Jose juniper. The use of jewelry was very creative and added a unique flair to her tree. Charlene Fischer decorated a beautiful evergreen tree using blue and white lights and an owl perched atop a sweeping branch. Donna Farmar decorated a juniper with red ornaments and curly ribbon. We were all impressed with the lovely photo shoot of Donna’s tree. Christine Weigen decorated a juniper she inherited from her dad so it was quite personal. Richard Murray displayed his

In the evergreen group, we started out with Stephanie North who used jewelry that she personally made to decorate a San Jose juniper. The use of jewelry was very creative and added a unique flair to her tree. Charlene Fischer decorated a beautiful evergreen tree using blue and white lights and an owl perched atop a sweeping branch. Donna Farmar decorated a juniper with red ornaments and curly ribbon. We were all impressed with the lovely photo shoot of Donna’s tree. Christine Weigen decorated a juniper she inherited from her dad so it was quite personal. Richard Murray displayed his love for trains and bonsai by decorating a Cedar of Lebanon with an assortment of train ornaments. He followed that by photo shooting his tree in front of his latest addition to his back yard train layout which spans his entire yard. This latest addition consisted of a Tudor style house created using 1,412 tiles to replicate the roof of the house. The house is 33” wide and has twenty-five windows in it. One of the many unique features was a copper roof over a bay window. Richard said he has put over 400 hours of work into this project at this point but there’s more to do, i.e., more fun to be had!

Idris Anderson, Lynne O’Dell, Rita Curbow, Suresh “Mo” Mohan, Hal Jerman and Barbara Phillips decorated deciduous trees which obviously are dormant at this time of year. Idris used a dead tree that she is considering for use as a tanuki down the road. Lynne decorated a pomegranate grove that had two fruit that were the perfect size as ornaments. Rita Curbow decorated a Trident maple in the theme of the Peanuts cartoon strip with white lights and white snowflakes. Mo’s maple was quite the rage as he had been very creative and used Life Saver’s candy as ornaments. Hal’s Filbert “walking stick” tree actually had catkins on it. And Barbara Phillips rounded out this group with her dead tree displayed in a “fog” like scene along with Nandini branches with berries placed like trees. Two owls that Barbara felted herself rounded out this eerie festive scene. It was truly unique and everyone really enjoyed seeing it! Some of the photos will be put on the club’s Instagram account in the near future.

Trident in Spring
Trident in Spring
Decorated for the holidays

David Martinez Moreno showed us three moss groups he had created. David says he likes to keep them in view during his day job to ensure a calm environment. This led to quiet the discussion on moss. Someone pointed out they had just watched Ryan Neal do a moss presentation earlier that week and his recipe for mixing and growing your own moss was discussed.

Rita Curbow suggested the book Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Amazon) for those who are truly fascinated with moss and want to delve into their inner world. Bonsai enthusiasts will find it interesting to learn that this book points out that the density of mycorrhizae is significantly higher under a layer of mosses. As water washes phosphorous from the trees leaves or needles onto a layer of moss, fungi with hyphae in the moss enable the phosphorous to be passed from the hyphae in the moss to hyphae in the roots of the tree. Bare soil is far less hospitable for such a partnership.

Lastly, Happy New Year 2021 everyone!


Update on Bonsai at Filoli

Kusamura members have a history of volunteering to take care of the bonsai at Filoli. 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. In 2020, the group was made up of Charlene Fischer, Donna Farmar, Idris Anderson, Lynne O’Dell and Rita Curbow. Understandably, volunteers have been unable to volunteer at Filoli since March 2020 because of CA Covid restrictions put in place by the county and state. In the fall Filoli hired Juan Cruz of Midori to come in and work on all the trees. He did a fabulous job and one tree was put on display in the Filoli mansion during the holidays. I bring it to your attention because it is a legacy tree donated to Filoli by John and Sandy Planting in early 2019. It is shown here with its branch structure reflected in the red table cloth.

Pine On Display donated by John and Sandy Planting

From January 15 – February 28, Filoli’s entire collection of bonsai will be displayed for the first time ever in the House, Garden House, and on the Garden terraces. For tickets and additional information visit filoli.org/bonsai.

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