President’s Message: Our Family Tree
When we last “spoke”, I was on my way to Bonsai Mirai for a 3-day bonsai class on design, setting primary and secondary structure on trees, and wiring…. lots and lots of wiring. It was a great class (after my fingers recovered).
2qWhile at Mirai, I dropped off a few flowering trees from my collection for a new, young, aspiring bonsai practitioner (who has the same last name as I do, poor kid…) to start “practicing” on. One of those trees has a little history with BCSB. It’s the grewia occidentalis (Lavender Star Flower or Crossberry) seen in the photo. Ann Erb donated it to the club for the silent auction at our May 2018 show. I made the highest bid (no, my wife wasn’t there at the time) and took the tree home. I only did a little work on it over the last few years (wired/unwired once and re-carved the trunk’s rotting deadwood. Fortunately, the tree is now looking better than ever after my daughter Eve’s redesign. Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased, but I think she did a darn pretty good job of pruning, wiring and styling her very first bonsai. Now here’s the cool part. She did it by just watching a few hours of Mirai’s on-line bonsai educational videos. In a few months Mirai will post a video on their public YouTube channel showing how she figured out how to do all the work by herself using those instructional videos. It’s too bad that when I worked on my first tree, “on-line” was what you silently mouthed to family members who barged into the room while you were talking to your “friend” on your household’s only rotary dial phone.
Now, however, everyone can learn the finer and more complicated aspects of bonsai design. And finally, as a follow-up to May’s newsletter, the Pacific Bonsai Museum has released a video of their “World War Bonsai: Remembrance and Resilience,” which runs through the end of October 2021. I highly recommend spending 8 minutes of your busy day watching it. And horticulture thanks to the educational content that bonsai professionals like Ryan Neil, Michael Hagedorn, Bjorn Bjornholm, Jonas Dupuich (the presenter at our upcoming June meeting), and several others have produced over just the last 4 years. So now here’s a question for you to ponder: Is it OK for a bonsai parent to feel both very proud and a little jealous at the same time? In other news, Jonas Dupuich and Todd Shlafer, two outstanding professional artists will be presenting at our June and July club meetings, respectively. Allan has more info on that below. Also, the club officers and the club board members will be working over the next month to see if/when we will be able to safely return to in-person meetings and workshops. We hope to have some answers for you in next month’s newsletter.
Next Meeting: Black Pines – Tuesday Juan’s 8, 2021
At our June meeting, bonsai professional Jonas Dupuich will present techniques for development and refinement of Japanese Black Pine. Jonas Dupuich runs a Northern California bonsai nursery where he teaches and writes about bonsai. He is the author of The Little Book of Bonsai and the Bonsai Tonight blog, a weekly publication featuring how-to articles and photographs of bonsai around the world. His trees have been selected for display in local and regional exhibits, including the US National Bonsai Exhibition. Jonas grows a variety of different species and specializes in developing black pine bonsai from seed. Learn more at bonsaitonight.com. I expect things to slowly return to a new version of “normal” over the next couple of months. But since we don’t yet know when we can get back to indoor meetings, we are scheduling one more Zoom meeting for July. Our presenter will be bonsai professional Todd Schlafer of First Branch Bonsai. Todd is a traveling professional and collector of yamadori with a garden in Denver, CO.
“It’s been fun watching the branches develop on some of the older pines I’ve grown from seed,” Jonas reports on his blog site. “When these trees are healthy, it only takes a few years to reduce the internode length and fill out the basic silhouette. The main challenge at this stage is managing the tree’s vigor to reliably produce two shoots per branch after decandling.
This black pine tree is a good example of how much the internode length can be reduced over the course of a year. Last summer, the new shoots that developed were much shorter than they were the previous year. They were shorter for two reasons: the tree was repotted, and the number of branches was much larger than it was the year before (in general, the more branches a tree has, the shorter the new shoots will be). Now that the tree is producing short branches, I can focus on developing the silhouette. The first step is removing the old needles and thinning unnecessary branches. This gave me an opportunity to wire the primary branches. It’ll take a few more years for the silhouette to fill in, so I’ll look to do similar work each summer (decandling) and fall/winter (thinning and wiring) going forward. Once I have a better idea about the final outline, I’ll look for a smaller pot that suits the style of the tree.
Last Month: Members’ Tree Critique
In May, Vice President Allan Hemmy, led a virtual workshop where members could submit photos of trees they weren’t quite sure what to do with and the group would make suggestions. Not one member told me to pick a new hobby, which was encouraging. He put the photos into a slide presentation and used his digital paint tool to highlight branches the group thought should be lopped off. I showed an olive (1) that’s growing like an octopus. It was suggested that I airlayer the top and remove most branches at the base and make it into a windswept. (Ah, okay, I think.) Carol Hicks shared an azalea (2) from a recent workshop. She was quite pleased that not only had it lived, but it had many flowers. It was suggested as soon as the flowers subsided, she trim off the top and cut the foliage way back to two leaves pre shoot. Carol also had an olive with more branches than Bank of America. It was suggested either she cut of most of the top and form a broom-style, or prune to one main trunk with staggered branching (3). One of our newest members, Terri Clay shared a juniper that was cascading like a spring waterfall in Yosemite. There were several options, but it was suggested she prune more straight down than outward (4).
Wally Kunimoto shared one of his incredible grafted junipers – a prostrata with shimpaku foliage (5). We all searched really hard for a flaw and decided he had one tuft too many. It was also suggested he repot it with the right side lower to bring the apex over the trunk. Joe Olson had seasonal photos of a pomegranate that he has been working on for forty years (6). It featured a great shari and a bullet hole (first branch on left side). We all agreed the bottom right branch was not needed and that it was a great candidate for the silhouettes show. Allan Hemmy shared a tree via Zoom that he was not quite sure of as far as species. He thinks it’s an elm (7). He really likes the winged bark it produces. As he turned it in the pot, we picked a new front for him and now it needs repotting (that’s why many of are strong believers in round pots) It was also suggested he shorten his tree. One of the advantages of Zoom meetings is the ability to drink wine while taking notes and iPhone photos of the screen. So, if I messed up anyone’s suggestions or trees, please blame it on Melville Winery.