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Club News – May 2020

Get Advice About Your Tree with Richard Phillips
May 15 @ 7PM Online Meeting Only

Following the success of our Zoom meeting in April (thirty members attended virtually and feedback was enthusiastic), our next meeting on May 15 will also be by Zoom, starting at 7 pm, but sign in as early as 6:30, so Richard can admit you and you can be set to go!

We had such positive feedback not only about Michael’s presentation on oaks but also about the slides and discussions of members’ trees (all oaks!) that our entire meeting in May will be about YOUR trees.

To be included, send Richard photos of one or two trees on which you would like feedback, general or specific advice by May 8 (a week before our meeting). Trees in development or up for styling or restyling or with particular issues to solve are ideal for seeking advice from members. Send up to five photos per tree (labeled front, back, left, right, detail).

Try to photograph against neutral, not-busy background so we can see the tree clearly. A sheet hung on a line works well. If you can, photograph in open shade, rather than sunlight to avoid distracting “hot spots.” Richard can fix things like exposure and color balance, so just take the photo and let him do the rest.

Label each photo using your first name, species, and view, for example:
Richard – Trident Maple – Front

Labeling in this way will make Richard’s job of entering your trees into his slide presentation much easier. 

Of course you do not need to submit any photos to join the Zoom meeting, view member trees, and listen, and contribute to the discussion. We learn so much from each other, which of course is why we seek to continue virtual programs until we can meet again at St. Mark’s. Please continue to join us. We look forward to your faces and voices.

The ZOOM meeting invitation will be sent out in a separate email to club members. 

Note that this meeting will NOT be recorded.


60th Annual Show Canceled

We’re sorry to announce that our 60th Annual Show has been canceled. 
The safety of our members and the public is far more important. We’ll be back next year!

However, our Show Chair has put together a video that showcases our Legacy Trees – trees that were owned by our founding members or those that have been in our club for a long time.


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: May Tasks


Election of Officers and Board Members for the 2020 – 2021 Term

Yes, it’s that time of year again. As per our Club Bylaws, we’ll have our election of officers at our May 15 Zoom meeting. Barbara Phillips is heading the nominating committee of three persons and will present the slate to the membership for voting. Any member can nominate themselves for any of the elective positions by contacting Barbara Phillips or by declaration at the May meeting.

Board members ending their two-year tenure are Andrew Lipson, Barbara Phillips and Tom Romer. The club extends a big THANK YOU to them for their service in this capacity these past two years. For those of you new to the club, please note that becoming a board member is a great way to get to know your fellow members, find out what goes on behind the scenes and offer your own unique talents for helping the club continue to be successful and promote the art of bonsai.

Oaks for Bonsai

By Michael Greenstein

Our first Zoom meeting was a huge success. We had thirty people participate and Michael’s presentation was great. You can watch it below or on YouTube.

Michael said that in 1990 Kusamura founding member Tosh Saburomaru told him to “Grow an oak bonsai and grow old together.” Michael took that to heart and has a number of oaks. He showed us their progress as he talked about a number of them in his slide presentation.

Michael covered both evergreen and deciduous oaks. He showed us photos of a variety of oaks he owns that included the Coast Live, Canyon, Cork, Holly, Valley, Blue, Brewster and scrub oaks. Members also provided photos of their oaks and Michael offered advice on those going forward. Alan Merrifield showed us his Palestine Oak “Querous calliprinos” which no one had seen or heard of before. 

Some of the additional comments that Michael made about oak bonsai:

  • Evergreen oaks are usually potted in unglazed bonsai pots.
  • Deciduous oaks are usually potted in glazed pots.
  • When watering, keep oaks on the slightly dry side.
  • Wait until deciduous oaks leaf out before fertilizing. Otherwise you will get long nodes.
  • After hardening of new leaves on deciduous trees, trim leaves to three or four as soon as possible.
  • Oaks will sprout where they are cut but not further back on the branch.
  • When wiring younger growth, wire branch outward or down. Otherwise, growth will want to grow up.
  • If oaks get too much sun in the summer, they “may” go into a dormant stage. Michael puts his oaks in the shade and he gets three “cut and grow” opportunities within a year’s time. Of course, your oak needs to be very healthy in order to do this.
  • Defoliate deciduous oaks for ramification, reduced leaf size and to remove burned leaves.
  • Michael defoliates his oaks on June 1 every year and leaves come back at around three-fourths their original size. Note that while this applies to the San Francisco Bay Area, a June 1 timeframe may not apply to other areas.
  • Yalley and blue oaks may suffer from leaf burn in areas that don’t get Hetch Hetchy water. In other words, if your city’s water source is a combination of treated surface water and local groundwater, you will have problems with leaf burn on these types of oaks as well as other types of trees such as some maples.
  • When repotting, preserve the oak mycorrhizae in the existing soil and include it in the repot. For those of you who have never seen mycorrhizae before, it is a white looking material in the soil and improves the health of the tree as it helps with water up take. It’s like an extension to the roots.
  • When repotting, also note that oaks are more sensitive to root disturbance than other trees. So never bare root an oak and don’t cut all the roots back.

A Closer Look

Oak Gaul
Oak Gaul

Just as oaks provide shade and shelter in the animal world, they are also very tasty to a number of pests and diseases. There are whole slew of oak galls and they vary throughout the world based on the oak variety. 

This gall may be caused by the crystalline gall wasp. These galls, pink in color with white hairs, often appear in clumps on the underside of leaves of blue, scrub, leather, and Oregon oaks.

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