Halloween Dinner – October 18

Photo courtesy Jeff Lewis

We’re starting at 6pm on Tuesday October 18 for the Halloween Dinner so that we have dinner closer to normal dinner hour times. Here’s the game plan.

6pm: Set up. 🎃🌳📥❇🎇🍽🥘🥗
6:30pm: Dinner begins, Silent Auction begins. 📝
7:15pm: Spooky Tree Winners Announced. Prizes awarded. 🏆
7:30pm: Silent Auction Ends. Winners to pay cashier for auction winnings. 💵
8pm-end: Clean up.

Take a look at your inventory. Those extra pots, tools, trees that could go to a new home. Bring them for the silent auction. Complete the silent auction form for each item and place next to said item.

Costumes encouraged! Spooky trees desired! Food and drinks are a must! Auction items welcome!

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May 2022 Meeting:

Eric Schrader of Bonsaify produced a wonderful video of Jay’s Garden. Some of the trees from this demo can be seen in this multi-part series.


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January 2022: Valerie Monroe Repotting Demo Recap

BY CHRIS ROSS with photos by Tung X. Dao

MARIN BONSAI CLUB was pleased and fortunate to have a presentation recently by Valerie Monroe on repotting techniques. Valerie has been a bonsai artist for many years, and is always in demand because of her knowledge, expertise, and her thorough and professional presentation methods.

In this case, she brought two trees and a selection of bonsai pots for each. One tree was short and wide, the other was taller and thinner, but with a substantial base and nebari. The tree was to be raffled off at the end of the meeting, and the club members were allowed to vote on which tree to repot. The taller tree was selected and a possible pot as well. Since the pots had already been prepared with screens secured to the drain holes and two-millimeter wires ready to tie the trees down, Valerie got right down to business cutting the tree out of the old pot.

REMOVING THE TREE She used a rigid curved root knife made specifically for the purpose to cut through the dirt and roots all the way around the perimeter of the pot, and then turned the pot on its edge so that the tree was parallel to the floor. A little gentle downward pressure on the trunk about midway up the tree tipped the whole root ball neatly out of the pot, and the tree was placed on the table for cleaning and root reduction work. She mentioned that there are several tools designed for this root work—she showed a small rake with three or four short curved tines for soil surface, a chopstick and a small sharp steel hook for circumference root combing and separation, and finally a larger, thicker steel hook for the combing and reduction of the underside of the root ball.

As she worked, she described the steps she was taking as the best way to accomplish a professional repotting. First, gently rake the surface soil from the trunk or nebari out to the edge, raking the old soil and any weeds away without damaging any surface or subsurface roots, because they are an important part of the beauty and aged-looking finished bonsai. This process also helps determine how much root mass to cut off of the underside of the roots. Then tip the top of the tree off the edge of the table or support the trunk on another pot or a box and use a large rake—or preferably a hook—to scrape across the bottom of the root ball while trying to rake in one direction only to expose all the roots and get rid of soil.

A special set of heavy scissors called root shears is the best tool to cut off the down-growing and circling roots exposed and then the perimeter tips, repeating the process until a thin flat pad of roots is all that remains. This allows the pot to be shallower, thus making the tree look more powerful; eliminates down-growing and thicker roots; encourages lateral root growth that eventually widens the nebari (the base) of the tree; and encourages the surface roots to thicken into an older, stronger look.

Valerie added a thin level layer of soil to the pot and set the tree in the correct way: slightly to the side of center and slightly toward the back of the pot, being careful to angle the tree so that the best angle and front are clearly presented to the viewer.

Chris Ross assists Valerie with the removal of a very large taproot.
This was necessary to get the tree to fit in the pot.

POTTING THE TREE The pot had two drain holes, so Valerie used two wires strung from beneath the pot from hole to hole the long way and drew them up through the thin layer of soil and the roots and then twisted them on themselves at the root line to secure the tree.

This tree not only had down-growing roots to be cut, but a hardened wood mass bulging below the center of the tree. She had to chew with a knob cutter, scrape with a blade, cut with a knife, and wish for a rotary power tool to reduce it enough to match the thinness of the rest of the root mass and fit it into a pot. The addition of bonsai soil around and into the fringe of roots near the edge of the pot, slowly chopped into place with a gentle hand, a bit of patience and a chopstick completed the program.

Valerie Monroe is an experienced professional as a bonsai artist and as a presenter. In the course of demonstrating the repotting of a tree, she gave us critical information for decisions about pot selection, color, size and shape; tree angle, tree positioning and front selection; facts about tree safety, soils selection, basic timing of pruning for tree design and shaping, differences in requirements for deciduous, evergreen, and conifer trees. It was a comprehensive and informative meeting.

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Demo summary: Eric Schrader – Kishu Shimpaku Juniper

George Haas has written this summary of the August 3, 2021 demonstration by Eric Schrader.


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Season’s Changes: Autumn, 2020

The change from Autumn into Winter is a truly profound one in most of the world of nature, and we all know it by heart: The Harvest moon, golden Autumn afternoons, crisp chilly evenings with sweaters and hats, the first frost and the unexpected ice on the water in the morning. Here in the Mediterranean and desert-like microclimates that makes up so much of California, we only know about all that stuff because we read about it, maybe even saw pictures. It might as well be just a collection of stories and rumors calculated to make us glad, we live here.

As bonsai artists and enthusiasts, our gardens have a lot of advantages: No, or very few, freezes, and if we get a cold snap it’s almost always a brief unpleasantness, not a weeks-long, life threatening ordeal. No frozen roots, so a little bit of growth usually continues in spite of weaker sun and shorter days. But the changes are there to some degree, and are useful. Trees need rest too, to get ready for the Roller Derby riot of Spring. There are lots of things to do in the garden to help them along.

Take the wisteria and other tropical or semi-tropical trees out of the water bath where they spend their Summers. They now become a watering problem, needing a truly moist winter without being squishy wet.

Take the remaining leaves from trees which have yellowed or dropped seventy or eighty percent of their leaves, and do some light trimming or moderate wiring and set them all together in a dimmer part of the garden because they no longer need the lion’s share of the sunlight that the junipers and pines and other conifers will require. These bare trees now become a watering problem, needing to be kept from ever drying out but never wet.

In November and into December, evaluate the black and red pines for health and vigor to get a sense of how the summer buds that were selected have done and a little wiring might be helpful even if it’s just to provide a bit more light into the interior space of the tree and its back buds. White pines, mugo pines, and all other high-mountain types can be worked and cut and shaped and wired. But all the pines now become a watering problem, because they and the junipers and the rest of the conifers need to sit in the full sun all winter to take advantage of that ability, they have to remain slowly active even when it’s cold.

See a pattern here? Water is always an issue. Water is a harder problem to take care of in colder weather and the clues you need are harder to find and harder to read. Be careful, be observant, and be systematic. If there’s a question or an issue, don’t wait. Contact someone in a bonsai club who has healthy trees under their care, and get help.

Some growers in warmer climates fertilize all year, usually with low-number fertilizers like Bloom 5-5-5 or Gro Power 5-3-1. Others switch to 0-10-10 to keep the nitrogen out of the soil during dormancy. In every case the most successful growth seems to be with consistency, neither feast or famine, always feeding regularly and on time.

Keep an eye on the weather. In case of a cold snap, place pots under eaves, under benches and hedges and big trees, and wait for the warm up to put them in the sun again. Most plants can stand a few hours of freeze, and a few plants, like most azaleas, seem to like a bit of frost now and then, but why take a chance? And guess what? Extreme and/or prolonged cold becomes a water problem. Moist but not wet can be hard to accomplish in really cold weather.

Clean off all the benches and all the ground around to prevent overwintering pests. Scratch off the top half inch or so of soil and replace it with fresh soil for the same reason, and also to increase immediate water permeability to help with the (you know this by now) Water Problem.

Don’t neglect to do dormant spraying at the end of November, December and January. Use lime sulfur, dormant horticultural oil sprays and/or copper based dormant sprays like Lily Miller Microcop fungicide. Always follow label instructions regarding dilution rates and application carefully. Cover the soils so sprays and drips don’t get into the pots.

Go out in the garden some dark night with a flashlight. Everything looks so different; it might bring a new perspective. Go out on a bright moonlit night without a flashlight and just be with these living beings that depend on your faithful well-meaning attention for their daily existence. Go out in the dawn to experience a new day’s beginning with your partners in this ancient, compelling art, and you may find that the notes of hope heard there, however faintly, can become a chord of harmony and gratitude in your heart.

– Chris Ross

Autumn Haiku

Autumn passes through.

Summer burns in the treetops

For a few more days.

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