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Trident maple post grafting and ready to grow

Vice President’s Message: Pinch Hitting

Allan HemmyEven though MLB Spring Training has been postponed, I’ll use the analogy that I’m batting in the leadoff spot this month as I fulfill the true role of the VP and temporarily take over the duties of the President while he is unavailable.

For those that don’t know, Jeff was injured in a hit-and-run on the PCH while returning to his car from a bicycle ride in the Santa Monica Mountains a couple of weeks ago. He is rehabilitating at a skilled nursing facility in Santa Barbara and hopes to be back home soon. A group of club members has been helping his family water the trees in his absence and both he and his family are grateful for the generous support. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can get back to pruning branches soon.

In other club news, we have another (and hopefully our last) Zoom meeting scheduled for 7pm Tuesday, March 8th. The link will be sent out the day of the meeting. It will be a presentation with Q&A on beneficial insects given by a representative of Rincon-Vitova Insectary in Ventura, CA. They will present some interesting solutions for whole-garden, integrated pest management including attracting and retaining beneficial predators. This should be applicable even for those of us without large green spaces as even adding the right host plants in containers can help sustain certain predators around our benches.

On the topic of future meetings, I’m excited to announce that we are in the final stages of securing a new meeting space at the Bethany Congregational Church on North Hope Ave. The Goleta Valley Community Center is operating with reduced hours for the foreseeable future which precludes us from having our evening monthly meetings. Additionally, they have planned renovations and management changes that have forced us to look elsewhere for a reliable meeting space. Our new location will have both facilities for the monthly meetings and workshops. Once finalized we will update the website with directions to the space and future planned programs. I hope we can have a good turnout at our first in-person meeting of 2022 as we look forward to some normalcy and planning for our Club Show in May.

We have also had some members reach out to inquire about additional resources for those just starting out in bonsai or anyone that just wants to advance their bonsai skills. One idea that has been adopted by several clubs across the country, is to offer a structured mentorship where beginning enthusiasts are paired with “seasoned” bonsai members to help them further their skills either in workshop type settings or one-on-one sessions. If this is of interest to any members either as mentors or mentees, please reach out and send an email to the club email address on the website. In the meantime, we’ve created an experimental Q&A forum on to your email inbox, so I’d like any club members that want to participate to send a specific request to join to the club email (bonsaiclubsantabarbara@gmail.com).

Hopefully, members will find this a useful place to get answers or feedback on a variety of topics including pest identification, which branch to prune, which pot looks best with this tree, etc. Google Groups will allow users to post bonsai questions and photos for answers or feedback by members. The Group has several settings on how the questions and answers are delivered members if we hear any changes. After not being able to hold it in person last year, there promises to be a large sale area and many trees/items for the live and silent auctions.

Finally, the annual GSBF fund raising event at the Huntington Library and Gardens is still on the schedule for the postponed date of April 2nd and 3rd. We’ll continue to update members if we hear any changes. After not being able to hold it in person last year, there promises to be a large sale area and many trees/items for the live and silent auctions.

Tuesday, March 8, 7-9 PM Via Zoom: Rincon-Vitova Insectary

This presentation will be on beneficial insects. Among other gardens of the world, Santa Barbara’s own Lotusland relys on beneficial insects to control pests in lieu of environmental-harming pesticides. Join the Zoom and find out how your trees and/or garden spaces can benefit.

Saturday, March 19, Workshop – Details To Follow Soon!

We should be in our new home, Bethany Congregational Church, for our March workshop. The church, which conducts services in both English and Japanese, is a perfect fit for our club. Several members own bonsai and there is much interest in our meetings and a possible beginner’s workshop in the near future. I have included a few photos of the large and medium-sized indoor space, plus the large outdoor space taken at a recent Vistas class. Vistas, an independent, continuing education organization, has held many classes at Bethany and appreciates the excellent video and sound system.

VP’s Message: Root Grafting A Trident Maple

I have a couple larger Trident Maples (Acer buergerianum) in containers that I grew in the ground from pencil–sized saplings started in 2014. Ideally, the tree pictured here would have been put back in the ground to work on taper of the trunk to the primary branching after digging it up to work the roots every few years. However, I had to dig them and grown them in containers for the last couple years. But this has allowed me to pay closer attention to the development of the root base (nebari) and I decided that this spring I would attempt to graft additional roots to fill in the gaps between the larger roots.

I purchased a couple dozen one year old seedlings from Left Coast Bonsai and upon arrival decided to store them in the refrigerator, because my tridents always seem to be the last trees to wake up in the spring. After a week wrapped up in cold storage with occasional checks, my larger tridents in the garden finally showed hints of green on the swelling buds. With some video encouragement in the form of a root grafting tutorial from Bonsai Mirai, I gathered up my supplies this past weekend and set to work. I knew that I would need to perform two types of basic grafts, a thread graft where the donor branch or seedling is threaded through a hole drilled in the parent tree and an approach graft where the donor material is laid into a channel on the surface of the parent material.

I began by un-potting the parent tree, clearing away the soil in the areas of the planned grafts. Then I marked a chalk line around the tree to visualize the planned planting angle and additional chalk spots marking the graft locations. For the thread grafts, I matched the diameter of the base of the seedlings to the drill bit and drilled from the root graft side to preserve as clean of a hole as possible. The hole still needed to be cleaned up with a sharp hobby knife to create a good union to the grafted donor. The thin bark or cork cambium also needs to be removed from the donor seedling on the underside so that the vascular cambium of the donor can fuse to that of the parent’s. I placed a very small sliver of bamboo along the top side of the seedling in the hole to firmly press together the hopeful graft surfaces.

Finally, I sealed all around the outside of the hole and seedling on both the entry and exit with a wound sealing putty to keep out water. This type of clay putty can be purchased from most bonsai supply shops and may have various fungicides and hormones to promote callousing. But for a vigorous growing species like trident maples, I use a much cheaper product called “Duct Sealant” that can be found at most home improvement stores.

The approach grafts were created by removing a rectangular section of the cork cambium with a sharp knife, creating a channel with v-shaped wood gouge, and then cleaning the sides of the channel with the sharp hobby knife. I removed the cork cambium on one side of the seedling and then placed it in the channel, tightly against one side. Regular plastic tacks were hammered into the parent tree so that the lip of the tack held the donor seedling tightly in place.

In total, I placed 6 thread grafts and 2 approach grafts on one tree. This was my first time attempting root grafting, but I have done a limited amount of other branch grafting on my trees. I’m hopeful that I’ll have a high success rate, but regardless I’ll check back with an update in 2 years after I’ve removed the top of the graft. Since this tree is in a container and will grow slower, it still has several more years of thickening and cut backs to improve the primary branching.