Marin Bonsai Club will conduct their annual bonsai auction and sale Tuesday, August 6 from 7:00 to 9:30 pm at the Terra Linda Community Center, 670 Del Ganado Road, San Rafael, CA. Quality bonsai, bonsai-related items and pots, pots, pots… Preview at 7:00 pm and live auction starts at 7:30 pm. In addition, there will be silent auction and sale items. Public is invited.
TIP: Come early and have dinner at the many great restaurants across the street, featuring Thai, Mexican, Italian, and Japanese food, and deli selections at Scotty’s Market!
On July 16 and 23, at the Terra Linda Community Center, San Rafael, California, Marin Bonsai Club (MBC) conducted its annual beginners’ workshops. This year there were two workshops, one with 10 students and the other with 11 students, all learning the living art form referred to as bonsai. Each student worked with a senior member of MBC on creating a bonsai from nursery stock. The trees were Prostrada junipers, roughly five years old and having been repotted by the Calaveras Nursery, Inc., located in Sunol, California. The junipers were repotted in five-gallon nursery containers about two and a half years ago and had well developed root systems.
The workshops were laid out in five tables with two and
three students per table. A senior MBC member/instructor was assigned to each
table. Many thanks to John Doig, Janice Dilbert, Dan Keller, Alan Voight,
Michael Murtaugh, Chris Ross, and George Haas for volunteering their time and
experience in teaching the workshops.
Beginners’ Workshop #1
John prepared the junipers in advance of the workshops by
cutting the root ball in half, reducing the size of the nursery containers and
wiring to secure the trees in the container. He also exposed the nebari by
scraping away some of the surface soil from around the trunk base. This
preparation saved a lot of time and avoided the mess of the students dealing
with the same. It allowed for the instructor to begin the teaching of bonsai
Prostrada juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) has a
low horizontal growth pattern. The plant is used in landscapes. The numerous
branches provide extreme movement and is quite suitable for bonsai.
Instructions basically started with cleaning the branches
of unwanted foliage; dead foliage, downward growth, crotches. Once the heavy
foliage was removed, unwanted branches were removed entirely or made into jin
(deadwood) features. Some proceeded to select a front view, while others
delayed identifying the front view and continued to work on structural and
Students had input into the bonsai design with some
choosing cascade or informal upright styles. John brought two Prostrada juniper
demonstration trees to aid the students in their creations. These were junipers
that were created by John and Chris during demonstrations conducted in
conjunction with the Marin County Fair earlier in the month.
Beginners’ Workshop #2
MBC provided aluminum wire for the workshops. Wiring was
a critical part of creating the student’s bonsai. The instructors demonstrated
the application of aluminum wire on the trunk and primary and secondary
branches. The students then followed by wrapping the wire around the branches.
The students expressed great enthusiasm and enjoyment in their creations of bonsai. A number of them showed interest in joining the club. In fact, there were several students who joined MBC during the workshops. All of the students were invited to join MBC’s winter repotting workshops in 2020.
Just before his May 7 presentation to the Marin Bonsai Club, Peter Tea wrote on the board nearly the same basic bonsai manipulation tactics he has written up there, and discussed, since his first lecture in our ongoing educational series with him. He listed the three methods of direct manipulation most relevant to the current discussion: Cutting, Pinching, and Defoliation. And then there were the five other main overall ways of inducing change in bonsai: Sun, Water, Soil/Pot, Repot Interval, and Fertilizing.
Not that he was being redundant. Quite the opposite, he
was showing the foundation of bonsai methods we have been studying with him for
a few years now, and foreshadowing the way in which his talk was about to focus
on Cutting and how it really stands alone in contrast to all the other methods
he listed. Note that for purposes of his present discussion, Peter minimized
his discussion of Pinching and Defoliation, since they’re essentially
variations of the same technique: physically altering your tree by removing
part of it. His ultimate point was that cutting is a little more dramatic than
simply feeding your tree differently or giving it a larger pot, and therefore
should be treated as the alternative to those other methods. To emphasize his
point, he referred to cutting as “Tactic 2.” The other methods, which
Peter collectively referred to as “Tactic 1,” he said may not be as
exciting as cutting, but they are ultimately more powerful and controllable in
a lot of important ways and should therefore be your first means of altering
But when changes in fertilizer, soil, etc. aren’t
accomplishing your goals, it’s time to pick up your tools and do some cutting.
And May is certainly the right time of year, because any tree or area of a tree
that is getting too much energy will be growing like gangbusters. May is a real
busy time for owners of deciduous trees.
Peter makes a point to differentiate between cutting and
thinning. Cutting a branch back causes division, which leads to ramification
and other desirable aesthetics, but it also slows the tree down, which is often
the only real reason for cutting back the branch of a fully developed tree.
Thinning, on the other hand, is not just a more widespread approach to removing
growth tips from the tree, it’s an important method for revigorating what’s
left after you’ve trimmed. What’s left will be stronger, an effect that is particularly
helpful if that area was struggling.
This cutting/thinning distinction set Peter up for his
conclusion later on, when he discussed the way interior growth can suffer despite
your isolated attempts to cut back the ends of the branches. If you’re trying
to encourage an individual piece of secondary growth to divide and thrive, cutting
the end may not be enough, because the tree still does not consider that area
to be part of the exterior, or canopy of the tree. In other words, even though
there’s nothing growing further out on that particular branch, and you may have
cut areas back above, the fact remains that, in relation to the rest of the
tree, it’s not at the “outside” of the tree, which is where the tree
wants to put its energy. That is why sometimes you just have to cut way back all
over the tree and essentially start over. The way Peter puts it, sometimes you
just need to “make the inside the outside.”
This really is the highlight of our bonsai year, and if you’ve ever been a docent before then you know that it is a lot of fun. You will get to answer really basic questions about bonsai and meet nice people who are interested in your hobby. It’s also a fun time to hang out with fellow members and share bonsai experiences.
The Fair runs from July 3 – July 7 and there are 3 shifts each day. We need for all of them to be fully staffed so we can make sure our trees are safe from curious fingers, well watered, and the public well-informed about the glorious art of bonsai. So check your calendars, confer with significant others, look at the Fair schedule for other events you might want to explore on the same day, and sign up for multiple shifts, if you can possibly manage it. We need all hands on deck at the Fair, and for set up and take down as well. The Fair exhibit is a fund-raiser for the Club and one of our best opportunities to reach out to the public and recruit new members. It’s easy. It’s fun. Your Club really needs you to help out.
We will have admission tickets for docents and parking passes for those who pull multiple shifts at the June 18 workshop.
SHUTTLE TO THE FAIR!
Park your car at Marin Commons (1600 Los Gamos Drive, San Rafael) and take the Marin County Fair Shuttle to the fairgrounds. Shuttle parking is free; Shuttle rides are $2 per person (children under 4 ride free). 10am–11:30pm. Other transportation options.
Here you’ll find answers to the most frequently asked questions from visitors to our show.
The Marin Bonsai Club has published a club information brochure for distribution. The brochure is loaded with information about our club philosophy, activities and exhibitions, and a brief history. It is intended for public consumption and new members. You will see it as a hand-out at our annual exhibitions and auction & sale. For more information, contact either Candace Key or George Haas.
This is the time of the year the club members really pull together to promote our club in the best possible way through the display of our bonsai. Please prepare your trees to show their best. Sign up for multiple docent shifts if possible. We need as many volunteers as we can muster.
The Fair is always so much fun; we get to promote the Marin Bonsai Club, sign up individuals for the beginners’ bonsai class and auction following the Fair, all of which attracts new members. Our bonsai exhibit is a big draw among Fair-goers and we need to make this one another standout.
Our esteemed own members Candace Key and Chris Ross
whisked the group away to Kyoto, Japan for our April 2019 meeting. As two of
our most avid, experienced, and creative members, Candace and Chris did a marvelous
job of transforming the photos from their trip into the closest thing to being
there without being there.
Candace did most of the talking and photography, but
Chris’ keen photographic eye was evident in some of the more spectacular
photos. None will soon forget the gorgeous iridescent koi photo, for instance.
Chris also served as fact-checker, as did Bill Castellon–landscape architect,
master arborist, and shohin enthusiast–who had joined them on their trip and
was present in the audience this night. It would be a feat indeed to try to
convey the entirety of their presentation in this article, but I’ll attempt a
Imagine tiny streets with restaurants and shrines or
temples on every block. Listen for the occasional sound of a bell ringing,
because it’s a form of prayer in many temples. Find yourself entering
intricately built stone Nijo castle with something to awe every visitor. Chris
tells us how the wooden bridge over the moat was designed to be dismantled
nearly instantly in case of attack. Throughout Kyoto, impressive ancient
woodwork was everywhere.
Daitokuji temple complex was next – one of their more engrossing
destinations. This was a large area containing a whole collection of temples
and gardens. There were lots of rock and Zen gardens and breath-taking architecture,
of both the building and landscape varieties. A couple slides demonstrated how
there were small contemplative gardens tucked into every possible corner of
every temple. There were apparently people milling about everywhere – a
thorough mix of worshippers, tourists, and tour groups – but Candace did a
great job of getting some of the more spectacular features in isolation. There
was so much going on that Candace said it struck her as amazing how the monks
would go about their worship as if this near-circus of activity wasn’t going on
The ultimate objective: the 38th Nippon Taikan Bonsai
Exhibition. There were not too many photos of this due to the show rules, but
Candace and Chris gave us a good sense of what it was like. This show was a
little more relaxed than something more prestigious, like Kokufu, with themed
areas and more experimental types of bonsai. And the sales area had a lot more
affordable material. Too bad it’s pretty much impossible to bring stuff home
from there! The same sentiment had been expressed earlier as we got to see a
few photos from their visit to a nursery specializing in shohin.
A couple other Marin Bonsai Club members were apparently in Kyoto at the same time as Candace, Chris and the rest of their group. Candace and Chris tried to meet up with Lake Hanyu and Alison Seaman, but scheduling and navigation problems prevented any American reunions. They did meet up with the long-time friend of another member of the group, who gave them free tickets to the Golden Pavilion, which took the architecture and landscaping to another level.
They met up with Sensei Yasuo Mitsuya at one point in the
trip. Mitsuya is the one who gave Kathy Shaner her apprenticeship, which led to
her being the first non-Japanese to become a true bonsai Sensei. The entire
group was very excited to meet up with him, the feelings were mutual, and he
showed them a good time – after insisting on revisiting the Nippon Taikan
Exhibit so that he could give his own take on everything.
All in all, they had an incredible time, want to go again
as soon and as often as possible, and highly recommend the trip. From the wowed
looks on many audience members’ faces after the presentation, I’d say a lot of
people will be taking their advice. Certainly there were some in the audience
whom have already been, and they were enthusiastically nodding their heads in