Upcoming Event – Satsuki Azalea workshop

satsukieventIt’s time to begin working on your satsuki!

North American Satsuki Bonsai Center is pleased to announce four workshops covering proper fall maintenance for satsuki azaleas.  Please feel free to forward this information to members, member clubs, or any others you believe might be interested.

Workshop topic:  Fall maintenance for satsuki azaleas
Dates: 11/19, 11/20, 12/3, 12/4
Duration:  6 hours (10am – 4pm)
Location:  Castro Valley, CA
Cost:  $50/workshop
Limits:  Each workshop will be limited to 8 attendees on a first-come, first-served basis.

Summary:  Each six-hour session will focus on the basic steps to assess and apply fall maintenance techniques to your satsuki. The morning lecture and demonstration will be followed by hands-on work Continue reading

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October 2016 – Peter Tea

On October 4th, we had our latest presentation from Peter Tea, wherein he talked more about developing juniper trees. He started with the same tree he showed us last time, pointing out how much it had changed and what still needed to be done, and finished with a relatively recently collected tree, discussing its particular needs and limitations.

On the tree from last time, Peter indicated an area that will be left alone for awhile, to allow it to grow in order to balance the design of the tree. Other areas will be trimmed as usual, to keep them in check. From there he talked more about the general methods for slowing all refined trees’ growth to maintain their designs. He reviewed a concept from last time that describes how more refined trees are, in a way, closer to death than trees in development, because their growth rate has been slowed so much, and their strong versus weak areas are so balanced, that radical changes tend to have a far more dramatic, even life-threatening effect upon them. While killing an entire tree through careless pruning is highly unlikely, if a refined tree’s balance is not maintained, over-pruning the wrong area could cause the tree to give up on that area, resulting in a localized die-off of one or more branches, which could ultimately destroy the tree’s overall design and aesthetic appeal.

Talking more about the particulars of styling, Peter reviewed the tendency for accepted bonsai aesthetics to travel a continuum from more natural-looking trees to more abstract trees. When one end of the continuum is in fashion, trees from the other end start to stand out as unique, but eventually that end becomes more popular, rendering it more common and thus less unique, and the previously popular style begins to stand out again, and the back-and-forth cycle continues. Peter’s ultimate point was that as we style a tree, we should not feel overly constrained by whatever is popular at the time, because both ends of the continuum are valid and a particular style should not be dismissed based solely on
what other artists are doing. Furthermore, Peter said that we should not necessarily accept a tree as it is, limiting ourselves to what the tree allows us to do easily. Real bonsai work involves doing what the chosen style demands, regardless how difficult it may be.

At the more natural end of the natural-abstract style continuum, the appearance of age in a tree is a time-honored way of creating a natural look. Here are some qualities that contribute to the appearance of age:

– Deadwood
– Drooping branches
– Multiple, larger pads
– A fuller appearance
– A round versus a pointed canopy
– Thick bark
– Having a single top/apex, as opposed to several competing growth tips

A well-tapered trunk also contributes to an aged look, but is not as important on junipers, since they don’t tend to acquire taper in nature.

Peter spent the last hour of his presentation discussing a juniper that had been collected about two years earlier. Among the interesting points he made during this part of the presentation was the fact that collected Sierra and California junipers have better chances of survival if their soil is kept relatively dry and the foliage is generously misted.

That was our last presentation of the year. As the year winds down, so do our club activities. Stay tuned for details about the club Holiday party in December and what we’ll be doing next year.

– David Eichhorn

Photos by Candace Key
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September 2016 – Randall Lee

On September 6, 2016, at the Marin Art & Garden Center, Ross, California, Bonsai instructor and artist Randall Lee of Alameda, California, presented the members of the Marin Bonsai Club with a demonstration on Chamaecyparis obtusa, common name – Hinoki Cypress, a native of central Japan. C. obtusa has a scale like leaf.

Dan Olson introduces Randall Lee

Dan Olson introduces Randall Lee

Randall Lee introduces Hinoki Cypress

Randall Lee introduces Hinoki Cypress

In a handout, Randall identified some of his favorite varieties of C. obtusa as “Well’s Special”, “Nana”, “Gracilis”, Gracilis Nana”, and “Torulosa”. Similar to the Hinoki Cypress is Chamaecyparis pisifera or common name – Sawara Cypress or False Cypress, a native of central and southern Japan, and on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. C. pisifera have a pointed leaf tip. Some of his favorites are “Nana” and “Filifera”.

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August 2016 – Peter Tea

The presentation by Peter Tea in early August was as educational as usual. His handout looked like a quiz on everything he has been teaching us for the last year and a half or so. He covered a lot of what he has talked about before, but it wasn’t straight review. Peter took all those important points (such as the three signs of health Continue reading

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Auction Time!


Here are some photos (thank you George Haas) of the auction action:

Congratulations to everybody on another superbly executed auction. A special thank you to Candace Key, who tirelessly takes the helm of this huge undertaking every year. It was also wonderful to see the auction regulars without whom the whole thing would fall apart: Michaele Jaffe, Alison Seaman, Frances Noles and our Treasurer, Art Wasserman, were all on hand to work the tables and keep the auction running smoothly. And then there were Continue reading

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From the VP of Programs – August 2016

Thank you, George Haas, for the excellent write-up of Jay McDonald’s June demonstration. Jay sure did aim a lot of power tools at that bougainvillea! And I certainly enjoyed the break from delivering the blow-by-blow. Nobody answered my challenge to bring something to carve the following workshop, but that’s ok, I carved on my own. Much more daintily than what Jay did, but there was some noticeable progress. Everybody else was busy prepping trees for the Marin County Fair Show.

By all accounts, the Fair show was outstanding. Interest in the Beginners’ Workshop was high, though so far the sign-ups are on a par with past years, even though the visitors were contacted sooner after their visit with us than ever before. We have five committed participants so far, and at least three more promised.

August is going to be a busy month for us all. First, we have Peter Tea returning again, on the 2nd, to show us  Continue reading

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Another Great Show at the Marin County Fair

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Photos by George Haas and Dan Keller

Once again our exhibit at the Marin County Fair was a crowd pleaser. Hundreds of people came by to admire our trees in the spectacular display orchestrated by Jay McDonald, John Doig and Jeanette Arnold. There was a good representation of club members showing trees, although we always want more, and many people stepped up taking multiple docent shifts to make sure our trees were secure and the public duly information about the wonders of bonsai.

Rookie of the year award goes to Marcia Summers, and special thanks to Craig, Jay, John, Jeanette and others who put in extra time and effort. The show wouldn’t have been nearly so successful without everyone’s willingness to do whatever needed to be done. Thank you!!

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June 2016 – Jay McDonald

Jay McDonald conducted a deadwood carving demonstration for the Marin Bonsai Club meeting in June. He brought in two trees, a Japanese maple and a Bougainvillea. Jay pointed out that he had removed the outer bark from deadwood appearing on the Japanese maple prior to coming to the meeting JayDemo1and demonstration, and wanted to show what it looked like without the bark. He used a sandpaper bit and Dremel power tool to remove the bark leaving behind a smooth, fresh look to the deadwood at the top of the maple tree.

Jay then turned his attention to the Bougainvillea. He described the Bougainvillea as a large trunk ripped off an even larger portion Continue reading

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May 2016 – Peter Tea

Our ongoing program with Peter Tea continued in May with Peter’s May 3rd presentation on the topic of deciduous trees. Peter emphasized techniques appropriate to our season, delving into considerable detail and wrapping up by demonstrating a heavy prune on a trident maple he brought.
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Monthly workshop suggestion

Attendance at May’s workshop was extremely low, not at all justifying what we pay to use the space, and thus there is discussion among the board members once again about either encouraging members to make more use of this resource, or being forced to curtail it. Always trying to do the more positive thing, the board is currently reviewing ways to make the workshops more enticing. One possibility we will be discussing is including some sort of informal demonstration at every workshop that reviews the methods we learned from our speaker earlier in the month. I am personally excited about this proposal because it is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been imagining for some time now.
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