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President’s Message:

Meeting Tuesday MARCH 21.

This is going to be a poorly written newsletter because our infamous Newsletter Guru, Ernie, has resigned from trying to make my writing readable to pursue other more creative opportunities. Note that there is a call for a new Newsletter Guru below. We really need someone to step up otherwise you’ll be stuck with Mark and me writing everything, and we wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Closing out February we have all been dealing with some interesting weather. It resulted in again cancelling the club’s visit to The Hermitage (more on that later) and almost wreaked havoc on Bonsai-A-Thon at The Huntington. It did lead to the closing of The Huntington’s Bonsai Collection for viewing, but Bonsai-A-Thon itself rocked on and was well attended. There is a report on that below.

The weather has also made repotting challenging. I’ve been trying to keep my stock of sifted soil components, akadama, pumice and scoria (lava rock), both dry and out of the garage (so that my spouse will still speak to me). This has led to a few emergency soil-drying-via-spreading-it-out-on-tarps sessions in between rainstorms. Fortunately, many of my junipers are still showing winter color and some of my deciduous trees haven’t popped, so I know that I still have a few more weeks in March to repot those (Whew!). For those of you who have Japanese Black Pines that are developed enough to decandle in June, you should start a moderate to heavy monthly fertilization schedule (preferably with a solid organic fertilizer) now so the tree will be healthy enough to recover from the decandling and push new buds. Do not perform this fertilization/decandling schedule with JBP trees you have repotted this spring as it may burn any new fine roots that have started growing, which could lead to killing the tree (take it from me and my bad experiences). Let the tree recover and do it next year.

Below you’ll read summaries of our February meeting and workshop and other adventures, as well as the upcoming activities for March (meeting and workshop), April (the club’s mini-show for the members of Bethany Congregational Church) and May (our Annual Show at Trinity Lutheran Church).

Wanted: Newsletter Guru

As mentioned above, Ernie is riding off into the newsletter publishing sunset. We are looking for someone who loves writing, does it well and efficiently, is a good copy editor (to fix all the president’s mistakes, and he makes many, many mistakes), is publishing software savvy (basic Adobe stuff), and can manage an emailing list by coordinating with the treasurer as new members sign up. If this sounds like you, please contact Jeff via our club email ( with the subject line, “Newsletter Guru.” If you don’t, we have ways to find you (and we will find you…). Then we will make you feel guilty about not applying until you finally breakdown and agree to do it. Just kidding folks (well, not really…). This is your opportunity to help the club and protect fellow members from excessive monthly presidential babbling.

Caption: A typical enthusiastic happy-go-lucky Newsletter Guru (who will be dearly missed).

March 14th Meeting: Joe Olson Talks Oaks

Joe Olson, Valley Oak, Bunjin Style, 22″ Tall

This month we’re back to our ‘normal’ schedule of meeting before our workshop. However, we do need to push our workshop back to the 4th Saturday (March 26). For this month’s rescheduled meeting on Tuesday MARCH 21, our former president and resident oak/deciduous expert, Joe Olson will be leading our meeting as we discuss the awesome Quercus (oak) genus as a subject for bonsai. Oaks are one of the most underrated species to work with- Mark just got one with a monster trunk and it took him all of 10 minutes to wire and style it. If you’re short on time, oaks are for you, and they get fat quickly (just like your club president and VP). As usual, we gather at 7:00 pm at Bethany Congregational Church on Hope Avenue, with the meeting beginning at 7:30. We hope to see all the oak and deciduous enthusiasts there!

March 25th Workshop: Ann Erb 9am – noon and 1pm – 4pm

Ann Erb has been a Japanese-trained bonsai practitioner and our Annual Show Chair for many years. She will be leading the club workshop on Saturday March 25. There will be two 3-hour long workshop sessions, morning and afternoon. Each workshop session costs $50. Please contact Carol Hicks, ASAP to reserve your spot ( If you have questions on repotting trees, bring your trees and your own repotting supplies to the workshop. The club will bring some of its generic repotting mix for newer members who haven’t had a chance to create their own soil mix yet. Note that Bonsai professional Ryan Neal considers repotting a tree to be the equivalent of open-heart surgery. Therefore, you need to do it right so Ann and some of the senior club members people at the workshop can show you how. It’s also still a good time to do major bending and pruning on junipers and other species before they take off on their major spring growth spurts. Be there or your trees will be square!!

Recap Of February’s Meeting: Tree Critiques

Our February monthly meeting fell victim to some rotten weather as well. There were a few brave souls who tempted fate during a ferocious windstorm in their ultimate pursuit of bonsai knowledge to attend the meeting which featured one of our infamous “Tree Critique” sessions. Members brought trees they had styling, health, and growth questions about and the group brainstormed possible options and pathways to improve those trees. Unfortunately, everyone spaced out taking photos, but we do have a 3-photo sequence of one of the trees discussed at the meeting. It was a confused prostrata juniper brought in by a more confused Jeff (who bought it from a very confused Danny). The discussion centered around whether to 1) keep and style the foliage as is, or 2) retain only the upper portion to create a literati -style tree, or 3) retain only the lower portion to create a cascading literati tree. While we did minor work on some of the trees in this meeting to move them forward, this redesign was going to take several hours. So, Jeff took it home and put it on his bonsai shelf to work on later this spring. Again, the weather intervened, and the tree was blown off the shelf in a windstorm a few days later. This prompted an emergency repot because the very nice Dave Giorgi pot it called home had shattered. Ultimately, the wind decided that Jeff should go with option 2, but because of the repot he only took the initial steps to move the tree towards its new literati form. Bonus: he was able to use a very nice artisanal (maker unknown) pot he just purchased at Bonsai-A-Thon.

Julian Tsai Workshop

On Saturday February 18th, we were fortunate to have Julian Tsai return to lead two workshop sessions for the club at Bethany Congregational Church. Julian discovered a passion for bonsai while in college and after graduation, he pursued an apprenticeship under Keiichi Fujikawa of Fujikawa Kouka-en in Osaka, Japan. Julian’s experience in Japan gave him a strong foundation in both evergreen and deciduous techniques. In his practice, he emphasizes horticulture and development that enables the sustainable design of trees. More information is available at Note, Julian will be back to teach our April workshop.

Bonsai-a-Thon: A Wild Wooly Adventure Down South…

Mark Britton’s inception photo of Danny Martinez filming Huntington Bonsai Curator Ted Matson doing his auctioneer thing during the standing-room-only auction.
Mark Britton’s inception photo of Danny Martinez filming Huntington Bonsai Curator Ted Matson doing his auctioneer thing during the standing-room-only auction.

Several club members braved the rain and even some snow to make it down to The Huntington for this year’s Bonsai-A-Thon. Bonsai-A-Thon is the main fundraising event for the GSBF collection and Huntington-owned trees housed there. Despite the weather causing travel problems and closing the gardens due to the possibility of trees dropping branches on people’s heads, Bonsai-A-Thon was well attended. Several vendors were selling all things bonsai (trees, pots, soil, tools, etc.) and The Huntington was both auctioning excess trees from its collection and raffling donated pots. Most of the auctioned trees which were long-time bonsai, sold between $600 and $2000. President Jeff lucked out by winning a $200+ Kit Boehme donated pot (much to Danny’s and Mark chagrin. Ha! In your face, boys!!) with a $1 raffle ticket. If you didn’t make the trip this year, make plans to attend next year’s event (hopefully with some better weather….)

Upcoming BCSB Shows:

30 April, Bcsb Mini-show At Bethany Congregational

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!! On Sunday, 30 April, we will be putting on a small “Thank You” show for the members Bethany Congregational Church who graciously allow us to use their patio and meeting rooms for our club events. The show will open approximately at 11:15 and run until about 12:30. We will need to quietly set up outside starting around 10:00 AM. This is an excellent opportunity for new members just starting their bonsai journey to practice the ins and outs of preparing a tree for display. It is also a great warm up for all members for our upcoming BCSB Annual Show 2 weeks later. Trees will need to be in a clean bonsai pot with moss or a clean/neat top dressing. Bring a display stand if you have one. Senior members will bring extra stands if you don’t have one (we will coordinate loaner stands at our April Monthly Meeting). Accent plants are optional. We will also have a table of “trees in training” with trees that are in bonsai pots but still in the development stage so attendees can see some of the wiring and bending techniques we use to style trees. We will go over the preparation details in our April Meeting.

13-14 May, Bcsb Annual Show At Trinity Lutheran Church

MARK YOUR CALENDARS, AGAIN!! On 13-14 May we will host our Annual Show at Trinity Lutheran Church (909 N. La Cumbre, Santa Barbara). WE NEED ALL MEMBERS to participate in setting up, showing trees, answering questions from attendees, staffing the sales table, and cleaning up. In addition to this being our opportunity to both inform and entertain the public about the art of bonsai, it is also our biggest fundraiser of the year. Ann Erb will be presenting on how to prepare your tree(s) for the show during our April Monthly Meeting. We will also be passing around sign up sheets (and putting them up somewhere in the cloud for on-line sign up) so that people can sign up for a designated time to help with some aspect of the show. Let’s make this year our best show ever!


Rescheduled: Trip To The Hermitage: 10am – Noon (or so)

Because of the continuous rains in January and February, we had to cancel our planned trip to The Hermitage. As some of you may know, we have been working with The Hermitage to
repot their bonsai collection. As a result, The Hermitage is offering our Club a couple of free visits. The first visit is limited, so if you are interested contact Carol Hicks ASAP (cmh4769@ or 805 964-3098). The Hermitage is a unique – to say the least – art collection and botanic garden on a large piece of hilly property. We will be walking the grounds. Here is a link to the website: for more info. Again, please contact Carol immediately if interested and available for a possible mid-day/workday tour.

8-9 April: Aba Sacramento Show

The American Bonsai Association, Sacramento’s 63rd Annual Spring Bonsai & Suiseki Show and Sale will feature headliner, Todd Schlafer of First Branch Bonsai. Demonstrations will take place both Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM. More info is available on the GSBF Events page.

15-16 April: Modesto Bonsai Club Show

Modesto Bonsai Club Show will host its 40th Annual Bonsai and Suiseki Show on 15-16 April. There will also be sales of trees, pots, tools, and other bonsai related items throughout the day. A demonstration will be presented by Sam Adina at 1:30 pm. More info is available on the GSBF Events page.