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President’s Message

Good news! To quote John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake Blues in the movie The Blues Brothers “We’re putting the band back together.”

Yes, the Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara is returning to in-person events in August.  We will be holding our next monthly meeting on Tuesday, 10 August, at our traditional Goleta Valley Community Center location.  In addition, we will be holding an “open workshop” on Saturday 21 August, also in the GVCC but we will be using the open courtyard across from our regular meeting room for that event. More details on each event are below.  We are also contacting our network of bonsai professionals and instructors to arrange for monthly meeting presentations and workshops for this fall.

Now for the important part. Allan and I, along with the BCSB board members, developed a set of COVID-19 policies and procedures (“BCSB COVID-19 Protocol”) that will apply to all BCSB events until the COVID-19 pandemic and/or epidemic (including all its variants) is essentially over.  Our objective was maximum protection of our members health and minimize the potential liability of the club. The BCSB COVID-19 Protocol is too long to present in full in this address, so it will be sent to club members as a separate document and posted on the BCSB website for guests (and hopefully future new members) who are not on our newsletter mailing list yet. Here’s a basic summary:

  •  Masks and 6-ft social distancing will be strictly observed by all attended at all indoor events (including those in the GVCC courtyard).  The mask and distancing policy for outdoor events will be based on the event, the location, and the state of the pandemic.
  • Vaccinated attendees must provide evidence of their vaccination prior to entering the meeting or workshop room. This only needs to be done for the first event as the club will check-off that this information has been submitted. You can email proof of vaccination and signed liability waiver ahead of the meeting.
  • Unvaccinated attendees must provide their results of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to the start of the event.  This must be repeated for each new event. Again, results can be emailed prior to meeting.
  • Unvaccinated under 12 year-olds are very much encouraged to attend our BCSB events but must also comply with the negative COVID-19 testing requirement.

We hope over time that we can ease the protocol and get back to completely “normal” in-person meetings once it is safe for all our members and guests. Keep your repotting chopsticks crossed that this will happen soon.

~ Jeff

Turns Out We “Are” in Kansas Toto… and Denver

In June we took a “vacation” back to Kansas to see our family, but made a layover to see friends in Denver. I took the opportunity to sneak over to the Denver Botanic Garden and check out their bonsai display. I also had the privilege of meeting Larry Jackel, the Bonsai Curator and long time friend of our club President Jeff S. The bonsai display area makes wonderful use of stone and wood to display the many native Colorado trees like Colorado Blue Spruce and Ponderosa Pine. But I was pleasantly surprised to also see a couple native California trees, a Coast Live Oak and a California Juniper. The garden also has a beautiful Japanese-style garden designed around an amazing collection of yamadori Ponderosa Pine niwaki or “garden trees”. You may also notice the white coverings over some of the bonsai pots and the coir mats (Ikea coir floor mats) under the trees. Mr. Jackel explained the white coverings were to shield the pots from the afternoon sun and the mats help regulate the temperature by providing evaporation, reduce reflective heat, and insulate the pot from the underlying bench. The mats are especially important over the heat conducting stone. This is a good reminder as we head into our hottest months that even here in our pleasant coastal climate, we may need to protect our roots from high temperatures depending on the amount of direct sun and your local microclimate.

On this topic, there is a great article on solar heating of bonsai pots in the American Bonsai Journal, Volume 53, Number 3. The authors (Heltsley and Wiessinger) have also generously provided the link to the article.
From their experiments, they found that if the tree couldn’t be relocated to the shade or watered during the day of an exceptionally hot period, the next best strategy is to wrap the pot and soil in white, cotton t-shirt cloth. I recommend checking out the linked paper to see the graphs showing the other methods they tested and their evidence that top dressings appear to trap heat in the soil rather than protecting from solar heating.

~ Allan

Tuesday, August 10, 7:00 PM: Club Critique/Advice Session:

A couple times a year (normal year, that is) members bring in one or two trees that they would like advice on. These sessions are always fun and most of the critiques are right on. For instance, a few years ago, I brought in a San Jose juniper that was struggling. The pot was also full of weeds. I got a lot of suggestions, but Steve Gibson thought the problem was that I was over pruning. “If you let your tree grow as long as you have let those weeds grow, you will be better off.” I took his advice and my tree looks great now. Please don’t tell Steve or I will never hear the end of it. Please note: The Goleta Valley Community Center has changed our room hours of operation. We must now be out of Room 7 by 8:30 pm. Therefore, out meeting will start at 7:00 pm, instead of the usual 7:30. Check-in time (with your vaccination proof and waiver form) and socializing time with be from 6:30-7:00 pm. We have decided at least for this first meeting to forego coffee service and snacks. Please feel free to bring your own. Alcohol is still prohibited, as drinking and pruning can lead to odd trees. Please refer back to Jeff’s president’s letter about our COVID-19 protocols. I’m sure the GVCC requires masks at all time. So do we. Plus the vaccination proof, and waiver of responsibility, which will be emailed to you prior to the meeting.

Come to the Meeting, Win this Tree!

VP Allan Hemmy has generously donated this great portulacaria afra to the  Club to be raffled off at the “welcome back” August meeting. Tickets will be sold at the meeting and winner must be present to win. Though Allan did not specify, I do not think the beer bottle is included.

Workshop: Saturday, GVCC, August 21, 9:00 AM to 2 PM

Yes! We are holding our first Saturday workshop of 2021. Matter of fact, this is our first in-person workshop since February 2020. We had Valentine’s Day that year also. My wife loved the roll of copper wire I gave her (all I could find at nine pm, having forgotten what day it was). She playfully tied me up with it. My left arm now has some nice design elements.

Seriously, though. We have thought and planned this out to be as safe as possible. Our workshop will be held outside in the garden area between our usual room and the large reception room, which is closed for renovations, so we should have the garden area completely to ourselves. Tables with be provided and socially distance. And only one person per table. This does limit how many Club members we can accommodate, so if you are interested in attending, please let Carol Hicks know as soon as possible. We will not have a workshop leader. Instead bring trees that you want to work on and if you have questions about what to do next to your tree, one of the other attendees may be able to help. The workshop will begin at 9 am. Stay as long as you want up to 2 pm.  A special thank you to Carol Hicks, who set all this up with the GVCC.

Library Additions! Check It (Them) Out!

We will soon have a dvd copy in the library of the Eric Schrader Cypress, Sergio Cuan Deciduous, Jonas Dupuich Pine, and Todd Schlafer Juniper presentations? We would also like to ask people to check to see if they have any items checked out of the library from way back in early 2020.

Last Month:

Todd Schlafer: Collected Juniper Styling

In July, Todd Schlafer conducted a demonstration, via Zoom, from Colorado. He used this Rocky Mountain juniper collected by Randy Knight three years ago. It is one of many collected trees he owns! He referred to it as a “running juniper” as compared to a “mounding juniper” because of the foliage. The styling techniques are applicable on “mounding foliage” trees as well. The first thing Todd does when working on a collected juniper is to strip off all the live bark. He has a small chisel that he uses. The resulting brown live portion then contrasts nicely with the deadwood. Stripping the bark also finds any bark beetles.

Once stripped, Todd uses 100 grit sandpaper to smooth the live part of the tree, then uses an old toothbrush to clean the deadwood. He gets the deadwood really wet first. For this tree, Todd decided to style it as a semi-cascade. He jinned the top of the tree using a Master Carver tool (similar to a Dremel, only larger) at low RPMs to create one of the three apexes in his final design. He mixes white and black watercolor paints with his lime sulphur to give the jin a more natural look. He then did extensive wiring on the right-hand section to create another foliage apex. And wired the upper foliage that will eventually make a third apex.

The first photo shows the before and the last photo shows the after. Amazing difference!

~ Ernie