April 2020 – Joe Olson

Last Month:  Joe Olson – Oak Tree Bonsai

Club President, Joe Olson, has an incredible collection of oak bonsai. He brought 12 different types to show us. At one time, he said he wanted to have one of every type. But there are approximately 400-600 species worldwide, so he either had to move into a much bigger house or limit himself. North America has the largest number of species: 90 in US, 160 in Mexico.

World wide distribution of oaks

China has 100 species and California has 22 species. Joe told us most oaks are easy to grow from acorns. Some, like the Coastal Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), the common evergreen in our area, can live to be 250 years old. They do very well in containers and take well to air layering. He said you can cut off all the branches and it will grow new ones! Not trying that on mine though. The Cork Oak (Q. suber) has “show-stopping” bark and small leaves and do very well in our region. Another popular local oak is the Valley Oak (Q. lobata), a deciduous oak that gives the Santa Ynez Valley its name. The leaves tend to be large but can be reduced once in a container. One other local oak is the Island Oak (Q. tomentella) found only on our Channel Islands and on Guadalupe Island off Baja, California. These do really well in containers. Left and above are the trees Joe brought in. He had to use both his car and his wife’s to transport them all!

President’s Message: Strange Times

The Gary Judd Plant-A-Seed Program grants are for the purpose of introducing bonsai to elementary school, high school, and college or university level horticulture students.

What a strange and surreal month March has been! I hope all of you are staying safe and well. The month started off extremely well, I thought. The second Tuesday was the high point of the month for me.  I was delighted to give Phae Watt a $100.00 check for the Golden State Bonsai Federation’s “Plant a Seed” award at our March meeting and I very much enjoyed giving the evening’s presentation on oaks. Things then started to go downhill rapidly. By the following Saturday we had cancelled Mel Ikeda’s workshop, and now here we are at the beginning of April staying home all the time. We have cancelled this month’s Tuesday evening meeting and Cathy Benson’s Saturday workshop, and our May meeting and workshop are up in the air as well. And that’s not all: We will not be having our show and plant sale in May as scheduled. I’m hoping we can reschedule it for some date in autumn when, if all goes well, life returns to some semblance of normalcy. Trying very hard, I found a  couple of small silver, well, at least bronze linings to this dark cloud. All the extra stay-at-home time has given me, and I hope to you, too, a little more time to work on my trees. With some luck they will at least be a little improved by show time, whenever that might be, and I might even get around to some long overdue repotting. The other lining is that if we have a fall show there is the opportunity to show different trees that usually don’t get shown in spring and if we are really lucky, even some fall color.

Librarian’s Corner: Susanne Barrymore

“All about Fertilizers, Soils and Water” An Ortho Book

Since I grew up on a home farm, exposed to much that a person needs to know for vegetable and flower gardening, I was very interested to find how much interesting information there was in this book, and how well it is presented. There is one page presenting Early Soil Science, starting with a Chinese classification of soils approximately 4,200 years ago. Apparently the ability to produce crops was used to determine property taxes. Then the next example the authors found was Roman, Columella’s Husbandry, written about 60 AD.  After Rome fell the dark ages lacked knowledge about farming, as well as most else.  After that Arabian culture was more enlightened than most of Europe, in north Africa and parts of Spain. A Moorish scholar prepared a handbook on agriculture in the 12th century, and improved farming in Spain.  Anyone interested in history will find this one page worth reading. There is considerable information about soils for anyone interested.  This includes the benefits of building raised beds, and building composting bins. The next section is about fertilizers, different forms, where it comes from, and how to apply it.  This includes a discussion of Organic Gardening, a Misnomer? This moves on into a discussion of diseases, control of insects and parasites and predators.  Lengthy section worth reading for gardeners. Final section on watering, a serious matter for southern California plant lovers. It mentions not using softened water for plants.  Under distilled water, like rain water, they mention is beneficial for plants in small amounts of soil, like bonsai. One section on wetting agents is particularly significant for me. When I first started bonsai, about 60 years ago, things would die just getting water from one side. I learned how the soil can be resistant to getting wet, and John Bleck called my attention to a product called Monterey perk-o-late plus, which contains nitrogen, iron, manganese and zinc, and a wetting agent so the water treated with this will penetrate the dry soil better. There is considerable information about watering systems, and then about fruit trees, in containers or in the ground.  This is followed by a “Gardner’s Glossery”, and an Index.

Editor’s Corner: Ernie Witham – Amazing Trees In Nature

During these stressful times of COVID-19, it’s nice to see nature struggles also, but somehow manages to overcome. These images are from the Internet and were sent to me by another tree lover. Enjoy!