April 2017: Ryan Nichols – Pest & Disease Management

Ryan Nichols gave us some of the science and sensibility behind bonsai pest and disease management at our April meeting. With a background that includes many years as a turf specialist, Ryan considers soil health to be of paramount concern for all horticulture, including bonsai trees.

Like many of our favorite speakers, Ryan used a top-down approach in his lecture, beginning with some thought-provoking questions about how we define plant health and what factors contribute to its improvement or decline. He pointed out that his soil-focused approach runs counter to common horticultural thinking, which tends to focus almost entirely on foliage, a little on roots, but very rarely on the soil. This is primarily for the unsurprising reason that the soil is simply less accessible. Ryan says that the reverse priority, with soil as our principal concern, has much more to teach us. His explanation centered on soil microbiota, particularly fungi, with mycorrhizae as the prime example.

We’ve heard a little about mycorrhizae from other speakers, but Ryan gave some more specifics and recommendations. If you’ve heard of mycorrhizae before, you probably know that they’re a family of white, webby fungi that help make more nutrients in the soil available to the roots of your plants. For instance, they help convert nitrogen into a form that plants can more easily absorb. Ryan pointed out that mycorrhizae also support the roots by extending their reach. The mycorrhizal hyphae network grows much more quickly than roots, and any water and nutrients they reach are shared with the roots to which they are attached. That is why Ryan strongly recommends using a bacterial/fungal inoculation for new soil and for any soil that you have been forced to treat with chemicals. Anything killing pests or diseases is probably killing your beneficial soil microbiota as well.

Ryan concluded with a discussion of common diseases and the typical pests encountered when growing bonsai, followed by some discussion of, and comparisons among, the various products available to mitigate them. These and other details from Ryan’s talk are available to members who request them at info@marinbonsai.org. You will be sent a copy of the detailed slides Ryan used for his talk.

May all your bonsai schemes sprout properly this May.

– David Eichhorn

Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment

March 2017: Chris Ross & Tim Kong – Juniper Styling

On March 7th, our own Chris Ross was joined by our former club sensei and current member of BSSF, Tim Kong, to give us a demonstration on how to style our junipers. In particular, Chris focused on knowing when you can do what with your trees, and how to quickly impart as much age as possible in younger trees. Tim provided alternative perspectives, often discussing how he bucks many trends, and gave many tips on how to remain frugal when enjoying what can often be an expensive hobby.

Chris and Tim brought three trees between them. Chris brought a nursery shimpaku juniper that he and John Doig have been maintaining for at least a year and a half. Tim brought two older junipers of more common varieties from the inherited section of his own collection, including a nice cascade with lots of potential deadwood. Chris did a lot to the young shimpaku throughout the demo, including extensive pruning and wiring, but Tim’s trees only had their latest wire removed from them. Tim primarily used his trees as a focal point for his comments regarding the value of all trees, no matter how lowly their origin, and how to see and release the potential in “lesser” trees. All three trees were raffled at the end of the night. Continue reading

Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment

Meeting Bling

As if you needed another reason to come to our monthly meetings, be advised that in addition to enjoying presentations from esteemed bonsai experts, our members bring in their own ‘Show and Tell’ trees for all to see.

Here are some of the awesome trees that Jay ‘Mr. Moss’ McDonald brought to our March meeting:

Thank you Jay for taking the time and effort to bring your artwork to us. It’s quite a workout to haul bonsai around town but that’s how you stay in such great shape!

Posted in Member Trees | Leave a comment

Garden Revitalization Opportunity (GRO)

One of many worn out display stands.

GRO is a fund-raising project to improve and replace worn out benches, display stands, water systems, new pathways and more at the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt.

No such project has been planned since the Garden opened its gate to the public in 1999. We are raising $100,000 to make these improvements, and so far have raised slightly over 25%.

Help us  meet our goal!

GSBF Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Workshop Action Shots

Our first workshop of 2017 was dedicated to the task of repotting bonsai (the most important task one can perform for their bonsai).

Art Wasserman and John Doig take on a Japanese maple grove repotting task.

John is showing Art how to tie down the root stock on a pile of bonsai soil mix, a critical part of any repotting.

Working with a chopstick, Art is eliminating any air pockets in the bonsai soil mix.

We had a good crowd show up with their bonsai and tools. There was plenty of experienced help to lend a hand in repotting. Candace Key was ready with the repotting handout from the January 3rd Jonas Dupuich demonstration on the same subject.

Michaele Jaffe happily puts the finishing touches on her repot.

Continue reading

Posted in Workshop Recap | Leave a comment

January 2017: Jonas Dupuich – Repotting demo

Jonas Dupuich, famed author of the excellent Bonsai Tonight blog, helped us kick off our 2017 repotting season with a special demo on the first Tuesday this month. The two dozen members present, plus one woman, Caroline, who came to our meeting for the first time specifically to see Jonas’ demo, all received a review of some of the basics, and many special tips to prepare for the work ahead. If you couldn’t make it to Jonas’ demo, hopefully these notes will help you get ready for our repotting workshops on January 17th, February 7th, and February 21st.

Based on a raffle from the previous month, two members’ trees were selected to serve as Jonas’ subject matter. Rather than attempt the daunting task of repotting both trees himself, Jonas guided the trees’ owners through the process. George Haas was placing a young black pine into a bonsai pot and soil for the first time, and Adam Petras was refreshing the soil and trimming the roots on a lovely, well-established, root-over-rock trident maple. After quite a bit of discussion with Jonas and the assembled group, Adam passed on the selection of possible new pots he had brought with him, choosing instead to put the tree back into its original pot.

Jonas brought a handout with him containing details about when to repot certain trees, soil mix suggestions, and a simplified list of the standard steps in repotting a bonsai. He purposely left the list of steps simple because he wanted to encourage discussion and elaboration as George and Adam progressed through the process. If you would like a copy of Jonas’ handout sent to you, please contact Candace Key. That basic information will not be reproduced here. Rather, here are some of the tidbits of information Jonas added throughout the demo.

One thing Jonas mentioned that many people don’t realize is that when you use a sickle to cut around the roots of the tree, to free it from the pot, it is best to slice across numerous times, like you would if cutting something thick with a razor blade, rather than cutting all the way down in one spot and trying to saw across. Also, you should only need to cut three of the four sides, because one edge shouldn’t stop the tree from being tilted out of the pot.

Another useful tip, once you’ve gotten your tree out of its old pot and have begun to clean and trim the roots: If the tree is large enough that you need to lean the tree on one side to get to the bottom of the roots, try to work on the leaned-on roots last, otherwise you will crush and bruise tender newly trimmed roots. Sharply trimmed roots are dramatically more Continue reading

Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment

We have our repot winners!

We start the year off right away at 7pm* on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 with a repotting program presented by bonsai professional Jonas Dupuich. Jonas will first lead us through the process to make sure our attention is focused on the tasks at hand. There are a number of common mistakes at each stage of the process and Jonas’ careful instruction should help us avoid many of them.

Two lucky club members, George Haas and Adam Petras, winners of our lottery, will receive guidance in the repotting of their trees during the meeting. One tree will be going from a nursery container to a bonsai pot, and one repotted from a bonsai pot into another, giving us two different perspectives on the repotting process.

Continue reading

Posted in Events | Leave a comment