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President’s Message: Space Case!

It’s 2022 and to paraphrase Monty Python’s Holy Grail, “We’re not dead yet.” But that doesn’t mean that the Fates and COVID sure aren’t trying…. As a club we are challenged with disseminating the latest and most interesting bonsai information to you that we can afford to get our hands on, while keeping fellow members safe during COVID. So, in addition to Omicron pushing us back to virtual meetings again this month, the 3 Fates are handing us our next challenge. Even if we weren’t dealing with Omicron, we will still be losing our regular meeting space. The Goleta Valley Community Center has reduced their hours to 9 AM – 2 PM daily which 1) wipes out our monthly Tuesday evening club meetings, and 2) has limited our Saturday workshops to 9:30 to 1:30, which precludes hiring a professional instructor who would teach a morning and an afternoon session. Therefore, we need to find a new home for BCSB meetings and workshops (although we will continue to have our Saturday workshops outside at the GVCC from 9:30-1:30 until we find new digs or get booted). Please reach out to Allan and me if you have and ideas or suggestions for where we can meet in the future. And note, there is a good chance we won’t be able to meet on the “second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 PM,” or have workshop on “every 3rd Saturday of each month,” but rather we will likely need to take whatever weekday evening and Saturday time slots that are available monthly. We’ll keep you posted….

Speaking of wreaking havoc on bonsai events, here’s an update on some of this year’s major bonsai events in California: Baikoen Bonsai Kenkyukai was able to host their 58th Annual Winter Silhouette Show January 22-23, 2022. While this event has already happened you can see photos of the trees on the Baokoen website.

Mame bonsaiThe Shohin Society Seminar 2022 in Santa Nella has been postponed until February 2023. The Annual Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt Mammoth Auction & Sale will be held on 19-20 February 2022 at the Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave., in Oakland, California. More information can be found the Bonsai LA Merritt website.

This year’s Bonsai-A-Thon at the Huntington has been rescheduled (fingers crossed) to take place on 2-3 April 2022. More information can be found on the Huntington’s website.

And finally, the “biggie,” The Pacific Bonsai Expo will be held on 12-13 November 2022 in Oakland, CA at the Bridge Yard. This will be a national-level bonsai show with a juried exhibition featuring 70 outstanding bonsai displays and a selection of the community’s top vendors. For more information visit the Pacific Bonsai homepage. If COVID or the Fates are preventing you from attending your favorite bonsai events (including BCSB meetings), remember you have a lot of trees to repot this spring (I’ve got at least 40….). So, GET BUSY!!


Tuesday, February 8, 7-9 PM Via Zoom: Jeff Sczechowski, Pots

Since we are in repotting season this month’s meeting will cover the nuances of pot selection to help you find the best pot for your favorite tree. We’ll go through how to determine optimal size, shape, color, glaze, etc. Rather than listen to Jeff, he’s found some short videos in which the experts will do all the explaining. To keep you on your toes, Jeff is going to come up with a pop quiz for you to apply your new knowledge to some trees; either his (because he’s lazy and wants someone else to do it) or photos of other trees. This will be similar to what we did last year on the 3 major design styles to create asymmetry and therefore age in your bonsai.

Saturday, February 19, 9:30 AM To 1:30 PM: Repotting Workshop

Outdoors at the Goleta Valley Community Center side parking lot. Only $25! Please bring your own soil and pots. Also, tools and wire if you have them, but there should be plenty.

Last Workshop: Ann Erb, Soil Mixing

Ann Erb has a lot of soil mixing stuff! And she brought it all to our recent workshop filling not only the bed of her large pickup truck, but also most of the interior. Not sure where her husband John sat. Her many different screening systems include a wheelbarrow sifting system with three different screens that you can shove back and forth like a gold panning operation. I pulled a “Tom Sawyer” and told our youngest member Phae how much fun it was and she sifted a bunch of my soil for me. Ann also brought all the kinds of soil she uses in her mixes. She never tires, so she also helped several of us repot some junipers we are preparing for future sale.

VP’s Message: Repotting With A “Third Hand” Repotting Jig

I am finally succumbing to the peer pressure of getting my trees that are entering the refinement stage into proper ceramic bonsai pots. I’ve also recently sold off many of my pre-bonsai and younger trees, which I’ve “re-invested” into bonsai pots (likely at 1987 ‘Black Monday’-type returns). One of my recent repots this January was a Monterey Cypress purchased circa 2016 as 3 gallon nursery stock from Kimura Bonsai in Northridge. I put it in the ground for 2 years to thicken and it more than doubled in diameter to over 2 inches. In fact, I probably let it grow too fast and had an overly thick leader to remove along with some loss of interior branching which will be hard to regain due to their notorious lack of back budding. In the spring of 2018, I dug it and put it into an “Anderson Flat”, which is a square plastic container with a mesh bottom for holding small nursery pots. A common size used for development or early refinement in bonsai is the 15-3/4” on a side and 5” deep square which can usually only be found online. I was envisioning an oval with a lip which I thought would give it that coastal cliff feel. So I loaded the tree into my wife’s bonsai van and drove down to see Colin at California Bonsai Studio in Thousand Oaks. I already had some credit with them as they had recently sold one of my Portulacaria bonsai on consignment. So with Colin’s help we tried on several new “shoes” for the tree. As is often the case, it seems like you never find the perfect container on the first attempt. But they did have a nice oval with a lip that albeit a little oversized for this tree will work great for a large ficus that will be ready for a nice pot in a few years. Since this tree is transitioning from developmental into refinement, I decided to buy the slightly larger oval.

After moving the tree from the bench and back again, I realized that it was heavier than it looked and I was going to need some assistance in repotting and getting at the bottom of the rootball. Unfortunately, my children are still too small to conscript for work on heavy trees and my wife couldn’t be tricked again into bonsai work after that time I enlisted her help to remove the bottom of a large trident maple using a reciprocating saw. So it was time to finally build a bonsai repotting jig, similar to what we sometimes use at the Huntington Garden. I first saw the “Third-Hand” bonsai repotting jig in the 2012 July/August issue of the GSBF’s Golden Statements. The article credited the invention to Sam Adina, a fixture in the Bay Area and Central California bonsai scene. It is a wooden platform overhanging and clamped down to a workspace which allows a tree to rest sideways with the weight of the tree leaning against two adjustable pipes and spikes (large nails) holding the base of the rootball from sliding. A flexible cord or tie-down strap can be used to further secure the rootball against the pipes. A nice safety feature for storage is a board to cover up the exposed nails. The only modification that I may make in the future is a beer holder, if I can figure out how to keep the dirt out.

After measuring once and cutting twice (a few times), I had it assembled and was pleased with how it held the tree in place to allow me to work on the bottom of the root mass. Once in the new pot, I trimmed some of the new growth back and removed some lower branches for eventual shorter jins which also helped take some stress off of the roots. I’ll be removing the wiring probably by late spring as it continues to grow out and there will be some light pruning this summer to redirect the energy from stronger to weaker areas. Then the goal this fall is to continue to work it into that upright, flat-topped classic coastal Monterey Cypress form.

Before all of this work, I went back and watched the Eric Schrader presentation on Monterey Cypress as bonsai which he gave to the club via Zoom last year. Club members can still access all those Zoom replays via the previously sent link to the Vimeo hosting site. They will be available into the summer as part of our 1 year paid subscription or we have them on DVD in the library. It was a good refresher and reminded me that the optimal time to repot Monterey Cypress is as the new year’s growth is beginning. This year it snuck up very quickly around the first to middle of January and was very evident by how much water the tree was using. I’m currently working hard to finish pine repotting and every day I see another deciduous tree pushing buds and in need of repotting.