2019 MCF Bonsai Show Photos

We’ve just wrapped up another very successful show at the Marin County Fair!

Here are a few photos to enjoy and there are many more in the 2019 Marin County Fair gallery on our Visuals page. Check it out!

Photos courtesy of Craig Thompson, Dan Keller and Sharon Bone.

Posted in Member Trees | Leave a comment

May 2019: Peter Tea on deciduous trees

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 your bonsai.

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.”

Continue reading
Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment

GSBF Golden Statements Magazine Live

The Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) Golden Statements Magazine is free online and live.

Here is a direct link to the Golden Statements Magazine for your reading enjoyment.

Golden Statements Summer 2019

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Command Center for the 2019 Marin County Fair Bonsai Show

Click on the button below to see who’s signed up for which shifts – updated 7/2/19.
Please use the ‘Contact Us‘ form or email info@marinbonsai.org to sign up.

Docent Schedule

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!  Image result for shuttle bus drawing

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.

I hope everyone will lend their support.

 – George

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

April 2019: The Candace & Chris Kyoto Tour

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 taste.

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 around them.

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 agreement.

– David Eichhorn

Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment

March 2019: Jonas Dupuich’s Exposed Root Pines Presentation

The final article in this weekend’s Jonas Dupuich triple play. If anyone has photos from this demo that they’d like to share, mbcweb@marinbonsai.org is the place to send them. Ed. 5/20/19

Giving us our first presentation at our new regular meeting venue, the Terra Linda Community Center, Jonas Dupuich, bonsai expert extraordinaire and the creator of bonsaitonight.com, brought a bunch of pines with him, young and old, to give us a lesson on how to create exposed-root pine bonsai. Jonas has been working with pines for 25 years, so his love for the trees and vast knowledge of what works best for them readily shows whenever he does a demonstration with them. Jonas brought, and works with, mostly black pines, but he also brought a red pine, and the exposed-root procedures he was talking about this night definitely apply to all pines.

To start off the night with a little observational education, Jonas showed slides of exposed-root bonsai examples from the “Green Room,” the sales area of Japan’s famous Kokufu show. There were a lot of extreme examples in the slides, and Jonas asked for audience feedback regarding what looked good and what did not. Exaggerated or excessive twists and turns did not rate very well, and neither did those that were too straight or two angled in places. These opinions all made sense under the general tenet that bonsai should look as natural and believable as possible. If it’s obvious that your bonsai has been through an extreme manipulation, then that manipulation was probably unsuccessful.

Next Jonas transitioned into the how-to portion of the night by showing a final few slides of various trees being subjected to his root manipulations. It was especially interesting when we got to see Continue reading

Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment

January 2019: Jonas Dupuich’s Deadwood Presentation

This is the second of three Jonas Dupuich demo write-ups in this weekend’s triple play. – Ed. 5/18/19

Jonas Dupuich, local bonsai professional and the curator of bonsaitonight.com, joined us again at the beginning of 2019 to talk about carving deadwood. He brought a Shimpaku juniper with him to carve for demonstration purposes and a crape myrtle to raffle at the end of the night.

Jonas started by talking about the best trees for deadwood and when to create deadwood on a tree for the first time. He brought the juniper for demonstration and talked mostly about junipers because they are the trees most enhanced by deadwood. Most other trees can have deadwood, but it’s difficult to maintain on deciduous trees, which are more likely to rot away rather than dry out, and some varieties, like pine, are valued so much for their bark that stripping it off would be a bit crazy.

Junipers heal up so quickly, there’s no real point in carving a small one. It is common, however, to carve a collected or early-stage developing tree relatively early, because it’s easier to get to everything without fully developed branches getting in the way.

To round out his introduction, Jonas explained lifelines and the importance of not destroying too much of them. As has been seen on many a dramatic bonsai, a very high percentage of a juniper’s trunk can be dead, so long as there is a healthy lifeline running all the way from the roots to the foliage. Carefully tracing a lifeline, which can often perform many twists and turns, is challenging, but you also have to remember that it works both ways. It’s fairly intuitive that destroying a lifeline will kill the foliage above it, but you also have to remember that if you destroy too much of the apical foliage being fed by a lifeline, the tree may give up on that entire lifeline, killing not just the apex, but lesser branches along the way as well.

While on the topic of lifelines, Jonas added a side note, highly recommending twisting all branches when you wire them throughout the development of any bonsai. Twisting the branches not only adds more character, but it also adds more opportunities for intricate and fascinating deadwood should the desire to create some arise later on.

To segue into working on the Shimpaku juniper he brought with him, Jonas fielded suggestions as to where to start stripping bark to create a shari–an area of bark stripped along the trunk or a major branch. He talked a bit about where deadwood makes the most sense. For example, deadwood often occurs in association with dead branches, but it can also develop under live branches when some damage doesn’t heal properly because of the shade. Randomly placing deadwood where it doesn’t make sense will cause it to overpower the overall look, instead of blending in naturally and completing the tree’s overall “story.”

Once we had all agreed where it made the most sense to place a shari on the current tree, Jonas outlined the area with a black permanent ink pen. He highly recommends doing that so you don’t lose track of where you intended to cut, something that can easily happen once you get in close to make the cuts. To begin the cutting, Jonas likes to start with a very sharp (e.g., grafting) knife, cutting the lines he just drew to isolate the area of bark he will be stripping. That way he’s sure to avoid over-stripping into areas meant to be left alone, which can easily happen once the bark peeling begins, because it will often come right off in long . . . well, strips. Note that old, dead bark is considerably harder to strip than live bark. It’s often more of a chipping or chiseling activity than a stripping one, so if you know you’re going to strip a newly dead area eventually, it’s best to not let it sit for too long.

Because the selected area on Jonas’ tree contained a dead branch, he started with that first. There are advantages to starting with any dead branch stubs present in your intended deadwood area because, with the techniques Jonas was about to show us, you can greatly enhance the surrounding area by starting Continue reading

Posted in Meeting Recap | Leave a comment