June 2017: Jay McDonald

The June 6, 2017 meeting of the Marin Bonsai Club featured our very own Jay McDonald, who demonstrated some work on a sizable, two-tree rock planting, which was raffled off at the end of the night. Jay had assembled the planting earlier this year, almost completely from materials he obtained at the Golden State Bonsai Federation’s Mammoth event in February. Its well-established health was a testament to Jay’s skill with this fascinating subcategory of bonsai artistry.

Before starting in on the rock planting of the evening, Jay first introduced us to another, older planting he had created, featuring a Nanking Cherry tree, the arcing limbs of which complemented the giant arc of the rock. Planting trees in rocks requires a fair bit of ingenuity. Sometimes you have to drill or chisel into a rock to create more space for roots, find unique ways to attach anchor wire, or epoxy small bits of rock in place to eliminate the tippiness of a rock. For his Nanking Cherry rock planting, Jay showed us where he had to create more root space by attaching a large piece of screen (the type we all use to cover the holes in our pots) across a gap in an otherwise high side of a natural bowl in the rock. There’s no amount of accent plants and moss that will completely cover something that dramatic, but since it’s in the back of the planting, the end result works and looks just fine.

Nanking Cherry

Next Jay introduced us to his current subject matter, a Cedar of Lebanon planted with a unique maple, appropriately spaced and arranged with accent plants on a nice dramatic Continue reading

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Beginners’ Workshops

The Marin Bonsai Club conducted its annual beginners’ workshop on July 18 and 25, 2017, at the Multi-Purpose Room at the Marin Art and Garden Center, Ross, California. This year’s beginners’ workshop or workshops were different in that they were taught as two-part classes by senior club members. The objectives were to teach interested students what is bonsai and learn from practical, hands-on techniques for developing nursery stock plants, styling, care, and maintenance of bonsai.

Roger Lion lecturing on the definition of bonsai and its origins.

The club provided the students with two plants (boxwoods and golden junipers) and aluminum wire and the tools to work with. The cost was $70 which included plants and supplies. Reservations were required and were started at the Marin County Fair bonsai display at the beginning of July. The responses to reserving one of 12 positions were great. The club had to turn away a number of individuals due to all 12 positions being filled early.

John Doig and Roger Lion covering bonsai styles.

On July 18, the president of the club, George Haas, welcomed everyone and introduced lead instructor Chris Ross, assistant instructor John (the Wire Guy) Doig, and bonsai historian Roger Lion. Other club members were present to help out.

The first class covered the definition and origins of bonsai by Roger. Then, Chris explained styling a bonsai from nursery stock. The students worked on boxwood Continue reading

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Scenes from the Fair

George Haas has created this snazzy little video showing some scenes from our display at this year’s Marin County Fair.


And click on the photo below to check out the 2017 Fair photo gallery:

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Command Center for 2017 Annual MBC Show

June 30 – July 4, 2017

Docent Schedule

Click on the box above to see who’s signed up for which shifts – updated 6/18/17.
Use the ‘Contact Us’ form or email info@marinbonsai.org to sign up.

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 June 30 – July 4 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 20 workshop.

Set up is June 28 and we need people from 9:30 AM for a couple of hours. Trees need to arrive no later than 1:30 PM to insure inclusion in the exhibit. If you have trouble getting your trees there in that window please discuss options with Jay.

Here you’ll find answers
to the most frequently asked questions
from visitors to our show.


MBC Brochure photo

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. I hope everyone will lend their support.

 – George

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May 2017: Peter Tea

At our May meeting, Peter Tea reintroduced us to two trident maples he had worked on in previous sessions. He did some more work on one of them, then moved to a Seiju elm and proceeded to give it some severe, but highly educational, pruning.

Peter made it clear at the outset that he didn’t want to do too much writing on the board this time, but rather wanted to do a lot of work on the trees. But he did list some of the most relevant review points for us to bear in mind as we watched him work. He listed the techniques most appropriate for tridents and elms at this time of year: pinching, defoliation (not for elms), cutting, and wiring. He also wrote down the two conflicting goals when we must decide whether or not to make a cut: thickening versus division. Finally, he listed the things we can manipulate to control our trees’ rate of growth: sun, water, soil/pot, repot interval, fertilizer, and cutting. His focus that evening was on cutting and wiring, with an emphasis on how those techniques can help us expose different parts of our trees to sun.

The first tree Peter worked on was a trident maple we have seen before, when he drastically cut it back at his previous demonstration. It was very instructive to see how it had changed, largely in line with Peter’s original intentions. He had dramatically chopped Continue reading

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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

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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

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