January 2017 Workshop

This inspiration from John re: this Saturday’s workshop —

On high Sandias
The setting sun has left the sky
The light grows dim.
I thought I was a brave man.
My thin sleeves are wet with tears.

—– apologies to Hitomaro

Remind me not to take a month off from workshop… It brings on these melancholic funks caused by the dreaded Winter Brain Fluke, which forces me to bloat and go belly-up on I-25, blocking the Fast Lane with a quivering mountain of floating grease. But my catatonia will soon end, and I’ll be back in the bonsai bosom of Richey Fox’s chaotic workshop, ruining God’s Creation with you at top speed once again this Sat at 9:00 am.

At our regular meeting, I was again impressed by all the knowledge you Brainiacs were oozing— I didn’t hear a false note sounded all morning. So, I feel comfortable in once again trying to go back to basics— to remind myself of that which all this knowledge is supposed to serve…… Bear with me for a moment.

“The paradox of being a bonsai man—–Bonsai is a plant that has been given direction in the way it has been pruned— the way it has been wired. Bonsai is giving direction to the tree, and yet I feel an artificiality to it all although I love the result, but I think it should be more natural— feel more natural.”

I have that little statement written on a scrap of note paper by my teacher, Khan Komai— something he constantly did. I keep it in a little frame on a bookshelf to remind me of those old days and to adjust my thinking in the present, as well.

In the early 1980’s, Masahiko Kimura exploded onto the Japanese bonsai scene and produced a tidal wave which is still flooding the bonsai world of today. Early on, there was much disapproval and even derision from traditionalists over his work as being primarily ” show business, egocentric over-manipulation, and even non-bonsai woodcarving”. But he was misunderstood as to his motivations— he was being traditional with a vengeance, using the most radical means yet devised to produce astonishing works of living art, the power of which soon overwhelmed his skeptics and set the course of bonsai on a wild ride which continues to this moment. His students currently constitute the top layer of new teachers, including Ryan Neil in Portland, whom most of you know, at least by reputation. ( We’ll be getting a first-hand description of Neil’s methods byone of our members who took the full plunge into the Portland Bonsai Mafia World recently— stand by)

When John Naka died, I think everyone wondered where the new leadership would come from, and now we know. And make no mistake— these young people are well trained and know their work, and have spared us from any wave of those whose primary skill lay in self-promotion— a curse of the bonsai art in this country. We should be grateful for that, indeed.

Yet, many of us have doubts in the nature of Khan’s note. We are working these trees damn hard, to an almost frantic level in some cases, and I wonder if we aren’t losing something in the process. The ideal must ALWAYS be the suggestion of a tree in nature, with a strength and beauty held, at first, in spite of time and elements, and ultimately, in partnership with these forces. Your mind and heart should be transported to a place where you are deeply touched by the grandeur of the simple and sometimes austere. I’d encourage all of you to look up “Sabi-wabi” and “shibui” to see how these feelings are cultivated by the Japanese. So the question becomes, are we creating those deep emotions in our relationship to our trees, or are we just being astonished by amazing pieces of living sculpture. I remember vividly my first class-made tree, a little one-gallon foemina juniper in formal upright style, sitting on my TV after class. It took me away to another world, a place where sadness and joy, beauty and struggle, peace and strife all came together in one poor little bush. I want each of you to feel this when you and the tree have your communion time together each day. This is the reward that comes at the nexus of tree and human, and it’s a wonderful reward.

In practice, then, what you are really learning is taste– for lack of a better world– and I don’t men that in a shallow way. I know that when you saw your first bonsai, a chord sounded in your mind, and you came to the ABClub to hear more of this music in the presence of your own little green friends, and to be with other people who felt similarly. We have seen over and over that is often not so much technique that matters, as attitude. Our pursuit of knowledge must be in service to the deep sense of profundity we feel when we see a marvelous masterpiece or when we play with our own little specimens, and not to the acquisition of some bigger cookie cutter to press down on raw material by force.

1) When you work on your trees, go into their frame of reference rather than dragging them into yours. 2)Do not be dismayed if you do not have the means to acquire the kinds of massive, aged material that sets the Big Guns apart from the rest of us. 3)By all damn means, talk to your trees, and for God’s sake, LISTEN to them as well. 4) Keep developing your sense of taste, and keep the idea of quality, whatever that means to you, uppermost in your thoughts. 5) Keep those beautiful emotional chords ringing in your heart, and use your new knowledge to work in concert with your tree to create more beautiful music yet. 6) If a tree dies, feel the sadness but do not despair. As Naka said, it has “gone to live somewhere else, as you, too, will do soon enough.

OK, OK —- from now on I wish to be called “The Preacher”. Apparently the Succulent Sensei has been drawn into some Higher Plane— therefore, the Tithe Jar will need to be goosed, henceforth, to a higher plane as well. No more loose change or those damn Centavo coins that someone thinks are funny!!

We’ll see you Sat AM, or your punishment shall be swift and terrible!!

I have existed from the morning of the world,
and I shall exist until the last star falls from the heavens.
Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula,
I am all men, as I am no Man— and so, I am a God.
Donald Trump, 2016

January 7, 2017 Meeting

Meeting location
Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church detail


9:05 – 9:15 Opening Remarks

9:15 – 10:15 Bonsai in the Winter–What to do if you don’t collect stamps!

Panel discussion, soil mixes (Athena, Adam, Scott)
Record keeping for your collection (Joann)
Planning for Spring work (Gordon)
Cleaning/Prepping pots (Jim)
Prepping drain screens (Vicki)

10:15 – 10:45 Wiring demonstration and training (Aaron)

10:45 – 11:00 Announcements
Bonsai apparel (Susan, Gordon)
Master class opportunities
Bonsai conference opportunities
Website and social media updates

11:00 – 12:00 Tree review for anyone who wants to bring a tree

No Dec. 17 Workshop… and other words of wisdom

Happy Holidays, everyone!  Here’s John’s latest

It’s been awhile, you Death Angel Toadstools, of which many of you are giddy glad, but we must cover some Bonsai Territory before the Season reduces us to slobbering blobs of poison protoplasm.

First, I want to call everyone’s attention to the exponential improvement of our Young Blood members like Aaron, Adam, Nathaniel and the few others.  These budding studs are going after the Bonsai art like a pack of rabid wolverines chasing a sick moose. Unfortunately, they also pose an existential threat to the psychic well-being of your Succulent Sensei. Somewhere, these little roaches have gotten the idea that they should have THEIR OWN ideas, and worse, that they should work on their OWN material, instead of letting me snatch it out of their hands and work it myself!! This tendency must be nipped in the bud. Have you watched them work? They have the intense, nervous eyes of animals who sense they’re in trouble, but don’t quite know where it’s coming from. It’s unsettling…..

Now, a few housekeeping details that might be of interest. The Greives’ gave me a copy of “Principles of Bonsai Design” by David de Groot, and I am going through it now. Normally, I take a pathetic, insecure delight in finding things wrong with these books, but I must admit that this is a dense and thorough presentation. As much as I love John Naka’s “Techniques 1&2″, the damn things are getting crazily expensive– close to $100 used for #1, and forget about #2. De Groot is about $40, and stands up pretty damn well to BOTH Naka’s, all in one volume. Definitely recommended….

Did any of you hook up with Wild Bill, our new Californicator, on an order to his source? Check also Bonsai Vision LLC on line. This poor devil lives in the St.George, UT/Las Vegas area, and grasps the needs of his fellow Desert Trolls. He has a good sale going until 12/20, and has a fixed shipping charge of $9 and change— hard to beat. I have not made direct contact with BV, but have ordered several pots, which arrived at lightning speed.

” A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”

Mathew 7:18

But, dear friends, in our world it ain’t a good tree unless it’s in a good pot. Therefore, let me review our recent discussion of how to know, at least hopefully, how to pick a proper pot for a worthy tree. First, the simple math. For an upright tree, formal or informal, The pot length should be about 2/3 the height of the tree, and, impossibly for us, the depth of the pot should equal the diameter of the tree above the nebari– basically, the thinner the trunk, the shallower the pot. Use round pots for trees like bunjin, and add in squares and hex’s for cascade and semi cascade, where the mass of the tree winds up outside the imaginary cylinder above the pot surface. Be careful of glazes, saving them for some deciduous, and most flowering specimens, choosing wisely for color complementing, etc.

One of the concepts a bit alien to us is the Asian notion of male and female. Those of you who have intellectual troubles with such designations may need to suspend your ideas for awhile. Here are some descriptions which I’m cribbing from De Groot…..

Masculine characteristics of tree:

  1. Formality– straight trunks, defined foliage outlines, more symmetrical branch balance
  2. Strength–powerful rootage, nebari, thick trunk, heavy branches, coarser foliage
  3. Drama–Sharp, angular movement, dramatic direction changes of trunk line, pointed apex, sharp triangulation of foliage
  4. Appearance of great age– rough bark, deadwood, dark colors of bark or foliage

Masculine pots:

  1. Angular, rectangles, squares, hex’s
  2. Formal—- straight walls, plain feet, no glaze, no decoration
  3. Elegance— straight lines, clean profiles
  4.  Dark/earthtone colors

Feminine trees:

  1. Informality— graceful trunk movement, irreg. outline
  2. Gentleness— rounded curves in trunk and branches, soft foliage, rounded masses
  3.  Graceful—thine trunk, fine rootage 7 BRANCHES, FLOWING LINES
  4. Youthful vigor— smooth bark, no jin or shari, light color bark and/or foliage, flowers or fruit

Feminine pots

  1. Curved form–oval, round, lotus
  2. Informal— curved walls, tapered outline,decorative designs
  3. Refined–smooth textures, glazes
  4. Light colors– creams, pastels, blues, even brighter colors

The tricky part is that no tree — as no human– is totally masculine or totally feminine. And pots the same— my favorites are masculine-line pots with feminine “cloud feet”, for example. You’ll get the hang of this quickly, and it makes ordering pots sight unseen less risky…..

So there you have it, Evil Fruits….Plagiarized from David de Groot !!! We will expand on this as we get into potting season. AND REMEMBER, let’s get these crazed young members under control before your Succulent Sensei grows old and fat like some neutered cat, with plump little fingers and soft hair on the back of his neck.

Do It Now!!!!



There is one tree, the phoenix’ throne… (The Tempest. Act 3. Scene 3.)

” The man that hath no music in himself

Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds

Is fit for treason, stratagems, and spoils.”


from The Merchant of Venice, v.i. 83-85

You know, Tree Toads, I think that’s ultimately what’s wrong with these political wienieheads….. you could substitute “bonsai” for “music”, add some tree language in v. 84, and we’d all be better off.  But you and I, Brethern and Cistern, do not have to act like these vicious little rabid field mice….. No— we have our trees to remind us of more beautiful things and more joyous activities. AND, many of you got a good hard dose of such activities two weeks ago. Ain’t wiring fun, Burl Butts? We separated the dilettantes from the serious people over THAT weekend, and though some of the feeble-spirited among you may drop the whole idea of bonsai and go back to worm tattooing or some such mindless pursuit, I sense that many of you are hooked. I hope you had a good experience over there…..

Several of you new werewolves expressed a desire to buy tools. Here is my Final Wisdom on that topic: If you are rolling in the $$$, consider going to the top of the heap and buying the venerable Masakuni brand. You will need an 8″ branch cutter, an 8″ wire cutter, and a #002 shears. The best source is direct from Japan at Bonsai Network Japan. Each tool is 8800 yen, which means about $300 for all three, and they will last forever. Don’t get involved in any “$pecially made” $tuff, though Dr. Martin did go a little above the basic line and bought the coated Masakuni’s, which seem beautiful. There are a number of mid-range Japanese-made brands that are somewhat less, such as Kaneshin and Fujiyama (sold by Dallas Bonsai) that are very good. My strong recommendation is that you go to Tian Bonsai— either on Amazon or on Ebay– and, if you can pony-up the $160.00, buy either set # JTTK-02, JTTK-04, or JTTK 05( though you will have to add a shears to #5, which has all other cutters you will need for awhile). If money’s tight, buy any or all of the basic three individuals: Master’s 8″ wire cutter@ $40.00; Master’s 8″ shears @ 38.00; and/or Master’s 8″ Branch cutter@ 38.00. I’d start with a shears, then wire cutter, then branch cutter. The reviews from our Clubbies have been good on these Tian’s, and the Amazon reviews are also good — with a couple of stupid exceptions. “Paul”at Tian is a great guy to deal with, and very fast shipper, as is “Maki-san” at Bonsai Network Japan, BTW.

Now, to more mundane subjects— In the Great Tool Commune of 10/15 & 10/16, several tools probably went home in the wrong boxes. George and I wound up with a stainless rake/spatula thing of unknown ownership. Bring all orphans on Saturday, and we’ll trade. I hate to bring up any unpleasantness or bad confusion, but if anyone found a red handled Felco shears, it’s ours. There was some suggestion that it was pilfered by a once-trusted outgoing officer of our Club, and Dr. Horak reported seeing one in the window of a Central Ave. pawnshop this week, but he was too busy “trying to find a date”( as he quaintly calls this activity) to check it out.

OK— Is there any other bullcorn that needs attention?? We should have a fine program on Saturday at the Church, and we shall answer any and all questions.


November 2016 Meeting

It’s a little early for John’s monthly screed extolling us to get our fundaments to Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church for the November meeting on the 5th at 9:00 a.m.  However, it’s not too early for yours truly to start advertising for my presentation on ‘Bonsai Care Throughout the Year’.  Recommended reading to get you in the proper frame of mind is this piece by a Scottish authority — http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/a-not-so-simple-question-when-does-autumn-start/0015395/.

Saturday Workshop

Attention Los Locos de Arbolitos!! Well, friends, this is the weekend you’ve been waiting for— the Superbowl, Armageddon, Your First Kiss, The Birth of Your Children, and the Oakland Roller Derby Finals all rolled into ONE !!!! We will meet at the palatial home of Janine and Gordon (contact Jesús or Karl for details if you’ve never been there) as close to 9:00 on Saturday as George and I can get there. I can’t remember the address, but maybe Jesus has it. I hope Burt has devised some fiendishly clever way to divvy up the trees, and we’ll get rolling as soon as we get our cheesy act together on that front. In a moment of lucid stupidity, I sent Nelson B. a “schedule” of how I’d like to see our work proceed, but I can feel it slipping into darkness as we speak. No matter— we are going to have fun if it kills us all. If you are new, and having any sort of reticent feelings about  digging in, get over it immediately!! Our Club has always been friendly to the Beginner’s Mind, and this will be no exception. Watchers are also welcome.

As I said, we will work both days and you will come away with something you like no matter how long it takes. We will also have a few souls who can’t be there Saturday, so we’ll review stuff on Sun. and if you want to do another tree or make a small forest, we’ll go for it. We can even change containers if you wish on Sat pm or Sun, but we will not drastically repot.

In the aforementioned vein, our semi-beloved host, Mr. Gordon van Wasabi, has announced that he will be in Fla. on Saturday, so we will depend on the tender mercies of Ms Janine on the first day. From past experience, this will be no problem,  since she has long been regarded as the Brains of that outfit in any event. I think sandwiches will be present for a Puttering Lunch— am I correct??

Remember that tools and wire will be present in quantity if you ain’t got, and money will not be an issue.

It’s time to kick out the jambs, tune up the instruments, and Stomp On The Terra!!!!

See you Saturday…..


October 15-16, 2016 Workshop

OK, Buckaroos, October is here, and we have some serious bonsai wrangling to do.  10/01 at the church.  Read the message below.  10/15-10/16 at Gordon’s hacienda.  I will send a map in another email.  Read about this below.  And, of course, a timely warm and fuzzy message from John.

Happy trails,//Jesús.


Hey Jesus,

Please remind everyone in your monthly meeting notice about the sale and raffle of bonsai pots, etc belonging to the late Bob Gasaway. I have a sturdy turntable made by one of our former members, a new set of soil scoops, a sharpening stone and 25 pots/sets of pots, glazed and unglazed, to be raffled off. Most of the pots are Japanese, a few are Chinese. Raffle tickets will be $1.00 each or 12 for $10.00 or 25 for $20.00 There will be a can adjacent to each of the raffle items. Anyone interested in winning a specific item will deposit a ticket (or tickets) in the can for that item. A winning ticket will be drawn from the can for each item. I also have 20+ 100 gram rolls of aluminum wire in varying sizes for sale at $2.50 each. First come, first served (no tax, no shipping.) There will probably be a few other surprises as well. Remember,half the proceeds of the sale will go to the club treasury and the other half to Bob’s wife Cheryl.



The last of the trees arrived yesterday. The final total: 5 blue arrow juniper (5 gal) – 15 Wichita Blue juniper (5 gal) – 13 Wichita Blue juniper (2 gal). All material is in very good condition but a number of the 2 gal will be better suited for a style other than formal up-right. We can get a count of workshop participants through email and at the club meeting. Kenn suggested we sort through the trees and number the formal upright specimens then draw numbers from a hat to match tree with club member. When do we want to sort them. Sat. prior to the start of the workshop or some other time before the 15th? My neighbor saw all the trees and wondered if I had finally totally gone round the bend and would be constructing an impenetrable wall of tree around my yard.. I have gone round the bend but am to lazy to dig that many holes. – burt


All right, you Nitrogenous Nimrods:

I hate to ruin your evening, but it is now time to remind you that our yearly cruise down the River Styx into Horticultural Hades will take place on October 15 &16. This workshop ordeal will have as its subject the study and creation of a formal upright–style (Chokkan) bonsai from nursery stock. Now, we know that many of you have had your Driver’s Licenses stripped by the courts, and/or are unable to bring your urine or breath up to the standards required by your interlock system. As a result, Burt went completely into lunar orbit again and has purchased 38 pieces of juniper nursery stock, which the club will sell you at drastically reduced prices. Here’s a list of stuff you will “need” ( though we can work around most of it if you’re brand new):

1) Basic tools— a decent pointed-nose trimming shears, a heavier pruning shears, and a wire cutter will suffice. Go to our website and FB and read my screed about tools.

2) Wire—- This will be your thorniest problem. I’ve got a lot of wire, and will be glad to give you some if you are helpless on this front. If you want to buy some, check either Dallas Bonsai Garden or Tian Bonsai on Amazon or ebay. Dallas is a bit cheaper, but Tian has some starter pack–type deals that might appeal to you, and are reasonably priced.  We’ll probably use–more-or-less– 1.5mm, 2mm, and 3mm. I have some huge ballbuster sizes if we need to straighten trunks or bend large branches.

3) As noted, the Club has trees for you, but if you want to get your own, by all means. HOWEVER, NO deciduous or broadleafs, NO goddamn Procumbens “nana” junipers, and please don’t tempt me with exotica or crapola too small to wire. I was going to forbid spruces and cedars, but Rikki Martin found a beautiful Atlas Cedar in Santa Fe last week. NO Alberta Spruce, unless the trunk is huge and powerful. If you want to go big, be my guest—- just don’t expect me to LIFT your POS, Get a straight (or straightenable) trunk!!

The purpose of this workshop is to learn the basic style and basic methods. I’m acutely aware that there will doubtless be a chaotic mixture of new and old hands. I am going back to old-school teaching style here, and will work step by step. If you’re more advanced, you can get out into  more exotic techniques, but if I see you being too cute, I’ll circumcise you with a root cutter to slow you down. You will emerge with something decent, not yet potted, that you must then learn to Winter over and start refining next spring.

We will cover a lot more ground on Saturday at our regular meeting at the Church.


Get your Equilibrium Punctuated Here

“The reuse of human feces as fertilizer was common in Japan. In Edo city, compost merchants gathered feces for sale to farmers. Human excreta of rich people were sold at higher prices because their diet was better; presumably more nutrients remained in their excreta.”

                                                                                                                               Ebrey, P.W. & Paliard, J. (2006) “Modern East Asia”
        There it is, folks! A new sideline for some of you wealthier types….. little bags of “Wayne’s Reserve”…..
        But no, my friends– this worthless screed shall not be about Bloop Bloop nor, as you older folks say, “Knitting the Brown Sweater”, nor yet, as the treacherous Jim Gall called it, “Nugg Nugg”. The workshop had a useful discussion about fertilizers last week, and I thought I would summarize some of the concepts discussed.
         Everyone should be aware of the 3 basic components of plant food— Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. On all store–bought foods, these 3 will be listed by percentages— the N-P-K ratios. Numerous other “trace elements” are blended with these, and provide the “Mumbo-Jumbo Factor” that bonsai people especially love. The compositions,strengths, frequencies of use, and seasonal timing provide yet more tempests-in-teapots for bonsaists to argue about.
          As always, an historical perspective first: The use of organics is a very long-standing tradition for bonsai– in large part because commercial chemical production is a fairly recent invention. Nearly all old bonsai books advocate a mixture of organics blended together into a kind of dough and placed as small “cakes” on the surface of the pots. One of my earliest duties as a bonsai apprentice was to mix cottonseed meal, blood meal, and bone meal together, using ordinary baking flour as a binder, into a doughy,”earlobe texture” blend, then rolling it into long sausages and slicing it into little pucks. I would let these dry, then put one  puck into each corner of the bonsai pot.
        There were several problems with this method. Generally, the bone meal as sold in bags was not really very water soluble. As the little cakes melted away, the bone would just lie there. Also, the blood meal was irresistibly attractive to dogs, mice, rats, squirrels,etc. A larger dog would pull pots off shelves to get at it ( don’t ask me how I know this), and smaller dogs would tear into bags and root around in it (again, don’t ask). And, if the cakes became rehydrated in the pots, they would soon become  fly breeders of serious proportions. Soon, the relative ease of fish emulsion was a tempting substitute, or at least an alternating regime, and was(is) widely used.
       In recent times,  commercial compositions have made huge inroads into the sacred organic methods, although “organic” remains a holy utterance among the Luddite crowd.
       In our semi-beloved club, there are as many preferences as there are individuals. Some of you are high nitrogen advocates. Though this undoubtedly builds strength, it has several drawbacks. N encourages large, rank leaf growth, and long internodes ( the length of the branch between leaves). As you veggie growers know, it will also hinder fruit and flower production. In Japan, it is also thought to make bonsai somewhat “course”, which essentially means lack of refined miniaturization on trunks and branches.
        Many of us, therefore, have been going over to high phosphorus blends. The first real advocate for this in the early 70’s was Warren Hill, whom some of you have met. He wrote an article in the yearly Calif. Bonsai Soc. magazine called ” Phosphorus– The Key to Life and Beauty”, that influenced a lot of us.  High P has long been advocated as a Fall food because it strengthens roots for the dormancy period. The iconoclastic Hill wondered why, then, it shouldn’t be used all year.
        Now, as said, much VooDoo surrounds the feeding process, which is far more straight-forward chemistry than we’d like to admit. The difference between the Holy Organics and Peters, Miracle Grow, etc. is probably not really that significant. I have come to believe that seasonal timing is far more important than we realize here in the desert. Our growth cycles are extraordinarily influenced by changes of light and temperature, and occur in a sort of punctuated equilibrium rather than in a slow, steady pace as in more civilized climates. We get a dramatic, early Spring flush, followed by a period of near dormancy in our hottest weather, then another flush as the trees anticipate Fall. I noticed today that my elms have suddenly come back to fast growth now that coolness is in the air. My new method, therefore, is to hit everything pretty hard in early spring with my beloved Tiger Bloom (2-8-4), in 7 day intervals or even more frequently. Then, from June through July I back off and let the trees consolidate their gains. In late August, I start cranking the food again to anticipate the Fall, pre-dormancy flush. Some of you ( Gordon!) even feed through dormancy in reduced amounts, and I’m liking that idea better all the time. Getting those nutrients available before the growth actually begins seems important, as if the tree were pulling strength together for its big spurt.
             There’s a lot to know, ain’t there?? Hang in there, keep an open mind, and, at our moment of death, we’ll know just what to do……

August 2016 Monthly Workshop

OK, all you nanoarborphytes,  I have been emailed from long ago and far away.  Our own Jedi Master John has a very important public service announcement for you.  The opinions expressed therein are, naturally of course, not necessarily those of this Pokéstop, but you may obtain necessary grains of salt necessary to collect Pokétrees at Connie’s.

Su seguro servidor,


Thus sayeth John:

Actung, Goobers!! Your Floral Fuher commands your attention!

I am detecting a first hint of Fall in the air, and it’s time to settle into some glorious days at the ancestral home of the Bombastic Bonsai Bag!! We shall be primed for a long, hard morning on Saturday at 9:00am. We can begin to settle back into our “normal” routine, and try to stabilize our badly confused new members, who are rightly wondering what kind of dilly-dong organization they have wandered into. Some of this disorientation has been the result of the absence of our adult supervision in the form of Burt the Barbarian, who has apparently been visiting his “Other Family” over in Colorado City, AZ, for several weeks, but will soon be back to give us Holy Hell once again.

I will bring my two tubs of the Mike Melendrez Black Goo Goo/ Trouser Chile and some baggies for you to divvy-up, if you don’t have any. I want to keep harping on this soil quality business, and I’ll be asking for reports from those of you using it now. I also intend to cover selection of raw material, which remains our biggest barrier to better trees. If all goes as planned (ho, ho), we will do our workshop on the formal upright style this Fall, and you should all be checking the end of season stuff at nurseries and Big Box stores… more about this on Sat.

Ok, what else? I need to get this over to Jesus, who has been bombed-out on Nitrous Oxide for several weeks. I noticed he had a Nurse with him at the Greives’ Clambake, and she seemed to have him well in hand…

Saturday or bust!

John’s Soil Musings

“Studying wine taught me that there was a very big difference between soil and dirt: dirt is to soil what zombies are to humans. Soil is full of life, while dirt is devoid of it.” —Olivier Magny: Into Wine: An Invitation to Pleasure

There is probably more opinion/voodoo concerning soil than about anything else in bonsai, and that’s saying something! Nearly every devotee of little trees has a formula which that person asserts is the only mixture that can successfully grow a bonsai; basically, that “My dirt is soil, and your soil is dirt.” I want to give you a little history of the thinking and practice of bonsai mixes, and summarize my most recent experiences.

The original mix used in the US before and after WWII was; 1/3 sandy loam, 1/3 decomposed granite, and 1/3 humus, usually in the form of rotted fir bark which was then available in bags called forest humus. For the Komai Bonsai Nursery, we got the loam from Khan’s cousin who shared the nursery grounds with a small indoor plant wholesale business. Hiro made his soil from some excellent topsoil mixed with various humus components, and a good shot of sand. The granite was obtained by your Humble Narrator, who would take the ancient yellow truck and an assortment of little dogs up into Santa Anita canyon above Arcadia, CA, and scrape the beautiful stuff off the road cuts into trash cans, which then had to be screened of dust at the nursery. We had three big cans of ingredients in the workshop, and we’d mix by upping the granite for conifers, or upping the humus for deciduous, plus the “house mix” of 1/3 ea. for our classes.

I also would take a load of the glorious granite down to John Naka’a house periodically. He used the same basic mix, but substituted oak leaf mold for humus. In the early 70’s, a group of Japanese heavyweights came to LA to demonstrate, took a look at Khan’s soil mix, and rejected it out of hand. To Khan’s astonishment—and testing his cultural need to be a gracious host—the demonstrators went into our large pot room, took about 20 cheaper pots off the shelf, and began breaking them up into small pieces, which became their soil mix with no additions! This was our first exposure to akadama, and it aged Khan about 10 years in an afternoon.

The writing was on the wall. Khan found a source of horticultural pumice in bags that we began experimenting with, since we couldn’t dig decomposed granite fast enough to keep up with demand. When Harry Hirao came up to teach his monthly class, he took one look at the pumice, and bought a few bags, into which he began transplanting his collected California junipers. His success rate improved dramatically, and the era of non-organic soil mixes had begun in earnest. The only thing Khan ever sold in quantities sufficient to justify his hopes for the nursery as a “business” was hundreds of bags of pumice. Though we kept a supply of house mix soil for the beginners’ classes, the more advanced people quickly went to pumice at 100%, or nearly so.

When I came to Socorro, I kept the same loose mix I used in Capitan (elev. 6,500 feet), and immediately started having trouble. I jerked stuff out of the gravel and went, in many cases, out of laziness and not having any “grit” that I liked, to 100% Miracle Grow potting soil, and things improved. In fact, my congenital laziness seemed to be working well.

My current opinion that this eternal fussing over soil mix is yet another fetish, and that other factors are more significant than we imagine. My current practice is to have a series of bags lined-up as follows:

  1. Green label Miracle Grow potting mix,
  2. Playground sand, which is a little finer than I’d like, but beware “bedding sand” which is dangerous to both kids and trees,
  3. Horticultural pumice, which I’ve been buying by the pricey bag at Rheem– we need to make another pick-up run to Espanola,
  4. Well-rotted humus other than that mushroom compost crap which, like most manure-based stuff is pretty salty, and a few other humus products for experimentation.

I use my Dr. Fox coffee-can scoop, and add stuff as I feel right about it. I also keep a bag of pea gravel for a thin layer over the screen when repotting, mainly out of old habit.

This grit business has led us down many strange paths, and everything from Grape Nuts to kidney stones has been tried. I still love decomposed granite, and we can collect it here, but pumice has a bit of moisture retaining porosity that works best for us. It looks a little bird-poop white on newly potted trees. Several things have NOT worked for me. I’ve come to detest any kind of cat litter or grease sweep, though I see it recommended by bonsai people. Many of you have gone to buying Japanese dirt in the form of akadama, and I would recommend the high-fired variety. The unfired stuff breaks down too fast for my taste. I don’t like Turface anymore, some of the Oregon Mafia have railed against it as too moisture-holding, but we’re a long ways from Oregon, Toto. I just don’t care for it. I’m settled now on pumice, it’s the best thing we’ve got, I believe, and it’s readily available.

Now, what about this dirt vs. soil issue? I think we have not given anywhere NEAR enough consideration to the fact that our mix must become a happy little land, chemically and organically. As you know, when I first heard our boy Mike Melendrez in Las Lunas talk about this, I wanted to have his baby immediately. In retrospect, I may have gone overboard on my worship, like a little girl who gets hung-up on horses. But, it confirmed some ideas which I was not educated enough to articulate. And, many of us have been using his Soil Secrets black goo-goo, and we think we’re seeing good things happening. Fortunately, we have some members who are expert on these matters, and we need to force them to tell us all they know, using violence if necessary. Our soil needs to be seen as a living organism, too, using its constituent physical structure to nurture life, and to hospitably sustain it. Think about this, and we’ll discuss it more in the coming months.


July 2016 Workshop

THE POINT, Dear Ones, is that we will meet at the home of the Mistress of Mayhem this Sat. at 9:00am for another attempt to save face. We have a question about the effects a potassium-charged water softener has on trees. Most experiences with salt-charged devices are disastrous, of course, but what about the potassium? Any thoughts on this problem??

OK– dress cool, and we’ll do our special little thing!!

— je

I’ll be bringing my Wisteria stump for Kenn to grind on with his manly power grinder.  Should be fun… and messy.

— kh


July 2016 Meeting–Not at the Church

From Will Arthur, brave volunteer hosting our monthly riff-raff:

When: Saturday, July 9th

Time: 9am – ?

Where: Will Arthur’s home

Address: (Contact the web guy for exact location)

Here are the major streets by cardinal directions bordering my home:

South: Lomas

North: Constitution

West: Washington

East: San Mateo

For anyone so wishing, my pools open & I’ll have some breakfast goodies and fruit juices – sorry, no coffee though.

The gate on the north side of my home will be open leading into my backyard. Just come on in with your plants. If you need to call me, here’s my cell: 505.401.0133

I look forward to seeing everybody this Saturday.


July 2016 Meeting Postponed

Back during the frosty weeks of winter when we were laying out the year’s schedule, it seemed reasonable to think that we’d have nothing to do but work on our bonsai over the 4th of July weekend.  But last month, suddenly everyone remembered the picnics, the trips to the mountains, firework-caused wildfires, and the in-laws coming to visit.  So with a voice vote the club agreed to postpone the July meeting until the 9th.

Just to be absolutely clear, if you show up at the Presbyterian Church this Saturday, you will find yourself twiddling your thumbs with the rest of the members who don’t check the club website and Facebook page.  (Speaking of which, someone call Connie and remind her!)

Is it just a coincidence that a few weeks after our “dramatic and unprecedented” change of schedule, the UK decided to reverse it’s 60 years of EU membership?  Nuff said.

June 2016 Workshop

The monthly workshop will be held at Ms. Connie’s Marvelous Madhouse of Maples.  Saturday June 18, 9:00 until the last tree is chopped.  Considering that temps will be over 100°, this might be a weekend to work on tropicals and succulents.

Enemies of Bonsai

The main enemies to keeping bonsai alive in New Mexico are:

  1. Direct and reflected full sun.
  2. Desiccating winds, both summer and winter.
  3. Lack of any meaningful humidity.

There are a few others, like poor (alkaline) water, and extreme temperature variations, often occurring in the same 24 hour period.

Very few plants can handle a full day of Albuquerque summer sun, especially in the afternoon, and especially reflected from walls or fences. You must provide some sort of shade mechanism from about 10:30 am onward, and it needs to be pretty damn thorough. Some of our folks have sufficient large tree growth in their yards to provide dappled sun all day, and it works for them. Most of us require some sort of structure or shade cloth moorings to get the job done. My first effort in Socorro involved wood lattice over a ramada. It did not provide nearly enough protection, and the wood eventually deteriorated from the elements. This year, junior and I got serious and recovered the frame with 90% filter shade cloth, and the difference was huge. Everything we have, including the toughest junipers, are enjoying a far less stressful environment. I have also blocked the S. Western exposure with a new plum tree that really helps, as well. The problem is that a lot of shade cloth is truly ugly, especially in black. I like the looks of those sail-shaped babies though, and they provide an opportunity to create something actually quite beautiful. The cheapest stuff is available at Harbor Freight, they call them “mesh tarps.” I’d suggest doubling them if they’re in full sun. Amazon also has an extensive selection. Some of you have had good success keeping trees on east and north-facing walls which block both sun and wind.

The problem of wind is difficult to solve. I’m currently having decent luck with a layer of bamboo screening mounted against a chain link fence— it’s held up amazingly well for some years, considering the fact it gets a full summer blast from the south. You’re going to have to be creative about this, or it’ll drive you back to your old hobbies of Green Stamp collecting and Zoophilia. I have in the past allowed enough surplus hangover of shade cloth to create a wind block, and have had mixed success. Much of this requires some serious thought as to siting…. best to get it right the first time if you can.

The issue of water is simple to grasp but hard to fix. Nearly all trees do much of their survival work through their leaves and foliage, of course. In our climate, with humidity usually pushing zero, trees need to hunker down for long periods between rains, and wait for the merciful monsoons to get them going again. So, we have the curious phenomena of summer dormancies, and such. I would guess that 80% of all lost bonsai die from water issues. With our coarse soil mixes, it is virtually impossible to over-water outdoor bonsai in ABQ, and I am always terminally skeptical when any of us claims over-watering to be a problem here. So, our trees need copious water both in roots and on foliage. When I water in 95 deg. weather, I soak down everything—- benches, ground, structures, surrounding trees and shrubs, even shade cloth. I have had endless trouble with automatic watering systems, so I don’t really trust them, but I bought a ton of misting- system stuff and would like to see how it works. Do any of you use misters?? Watering is taken with extreme seriousness in Japan—it takes at least a year for apprentices to be trusted with the task. When we are at Queen Connie’s, that is one of the things you all should learn from her—she is a Maniac Master of watering.


— John

May 2016 Thank You Note

Thank you for another outstanding bonsai show!  It was just gorgeous, as usual, and it is a true hit with visitors.  I love, too, that it happens over Mother’s Day weekend. 
You and your club are just a true dream to work with!  Thank you also for participating in National Public Garden Day – it means a lot to us to have you (Susan and Nelson!) there.
The attendance for the weekend was almost 5,000, so hopefully you got a good crowd.
Please thank all your excellent members, too, for us.
Thank you again –

June 2016 Meeting

With the success of the annual Mother’s Day Bonsai Show, John has stopped sniffing Superthrive and gone back to his daily tot of Rootone mixed with MiracleGrow.  We now return to our regularly scheduled monthly meeting, this Saturday June 4 at the Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  All are welcome.  There are usually a number of prospective new members who were inspired by (aka “not frightened off by”) our club’s comportment at the Botanic Garden.  Established club members should take all their meds and be on their best behavior next weekend so as to not frighten off prospective newbies.

Countdown to the 2016 Mothers’ Day Show

Will be this Saturday (4/16) at Connie’s house.  John must not be sniffing the Superthrive as his note below is unusually brief.


Just a mercifully short note to remind everyone that we will be freezing our nebaris off at The Stinging Nun’s backyard on Sat. AM @ 9:00. I was in ABQ yesterday, and purchased a couple of flats of little plants for you to play with making shitakusa and kusamono for the show and/or your yard. What I’m short-of are small pots. I have a few, but if any of you have a stash that you’d be willing to contribute, or just have the ones you want to work-up for yourself, please bring.     My intent is to regale you with show lore, display aesthetics, and other such BS, but remember that we are in prime (re)potting season for conifers right now, so I’ll bring the soil bucket along.

The weather forecast is kind of poor for Sat., so the layered look will be in…..

We Show No Mercy


Leaf Anatomy

Presentation by our resident botanist Karl Horak.
View On Prezi >

Transcript of Leaf Anatomy
Leaf Anatomy
for Bonsai
It’s all about photosynthesis
But what exactly is a leaf?
Evolutionarily, it’s a flattened stem
The key is to look for an axillary bud
What the hell is an axillary bud?
It’s a bud in an axil, of course.
Damn you, botanists… what the hell is an axil?
CO + H O + Light
Carbohydrates + O
CO in and O out,
but also H O out
The arrangement of leaves is controlled by auxins and other growth hormones
For bonsai, this is critical because…

That’s where the axillary buds are
and they control the appearance
of secondary branches

And e-vile botanists have
come up with all sorts of
terminology to describe
the results
All these variations are adaptations to deal with photosynthesis: conserve water, absorb light, exchange gases, protect from herbivores, resist disease, etc.
For bonsai, small leaves have the proper scale to
give the desired esthetic effect:
Juniper scales
Short-needled pines
Microphyllous leaves
Compound leaves w/small leaflets
Leaves amenable to size reduction
Lucky for us, leaves are very plastic.
Since they don’t have much to do with
reproduction, they can vary to suit changing
conditions (sun vs shade, wet vs dry, juvenile
vs maturity).

Phyllotaxy is the arrangement of leaves on the stem, usually in a spiral
Except for adventious buds, aka “breaking back”

April 2016 Meeting

Heads up, Frond Fidgeters!!!
Oh, Man—– This is an opportunity that does not come along very often. If you can con, wheedle, demand,or assert your right to disappear for awhile, try to take some time this week to join Kenneth in his Orgy of Bonsai Shame over at Connie’s this week. This will be your reward for all the help and kindness you showed to the Draggin’ Queen while she was out of it. And I’m not kidding about this…. You would have to pay Big Bucks for an experience anywhere near this one anywhere else. Don’t underestimate what you have here!!
I will be having my own bonsai debauch in Santa Fe this week, so I will expect a blow-by-blow next Saturday at our meeting. Now, if you are a new member and feeling hesitant about going to The Old Broad’s back yard, suck it up and plunge ahead. Call Kenn, get directions, and mince your way into a crazed wonderland of weird obsession unlike any other between the coasts, and maybe not there, either. If you are among the few remaining ABQ Clubbers who are gainfully employed, get the Bonsai Flu immediately. Many of you will need to notify your probation officers, and assure them that those threadleaf Japanese Maples are not, in fact, dope. Those of you in psychiatric care or halfway houses may need notes/confirmations that I will be happy to provide from a form that we developed years ago— I’ll give each letter a personal touch or two which will reassure your PO. I would expect to see a ragged line of you pilgrims making your way along I-40 as there has been this weekend, and you will have the same opportunity to throw away your cheap wood crutches AND BE HEALED!!! CAN I HEAR AN AMEN??
See you Sat AM

March 2016 Meeting

I expect to hear from Burt or John with some choice words about the meeting scheduled for this Saturday, March 5th.  It’s the beginning of high season for spring bonsai work.  Prune, shape, transplant, fertilize, wire — don’t just sit there!

Maybe someone will remember what the program is supposed to be.  I’ve got my leaf anatomy presentation ready, but you’ll have to wait until April for that.  Oh, yes… there’s that Bonsai Show in May, too.

Addendum:  As per usual, John did not disappoint.

“OK, Bonsai Brutes— We will re-announce this on Saturday, but the program I foolishly volunteered for is at Cherry Hills Library, somewhere North of our meeting room, at 6:00 pm on Tues, 3/8/16. I scooped-up a bunch of NM Olives at Jackalope last week, and I’m going to put the whole wretched mess together in a forest planting. This will cause those who work at the library— and who thought they wanted this demo– to regret ever HEARING the word “Bonsai”, and to immediately unfriend/delete all references to the ABQ Bonsai Club. As always, there will be dirt and branches flying everywhere, combined with a LOT of foul language and Strong Drink. If you want to help/watch/kibitz, you will be welcome. Ms Vickie made the grave mistake of offering to help, though I know she plans to have Ken out in the SUV with the engine running in case things spiral out of control, and all her senses compel her to flee the crime scene. Some of you, too,( like Crazy Cousin Will A.) may wish to enjoy a career–pathing experience in the Janitorial Arts by cleaning up the tons of crap we will leave behind. This training should give you the inside track to getting hired to shovel elephant dung at the Biopark—- a job recently held by our own Dr. R Fox, who referred to it as “my little corner of Show Business”.

Very well. Also this Saturday, the Bombastic Burns’s will present a program on Penjing– the Chinese style of bonsai and saikei. AND, El Presidente will hopefully have licked his Dengue Fever bout, and be able to present much long-dormant business re: the Show, and a mob program like last year’s.

I worry that we have not paid much attention to our latest hellbroth of new members— be patient and belly-up to the Bar. Any of you who are unwilling to be loud, demanding, and obnoxious probably are just not material for this Club anyway…….

See you Sat, 9:00 am, at our usual room at the Church.



Saturday February 20th , 2016 Members-only Workshop

The question is how many of you new folk we can squeeze into Fox’s shop this Saturday for our workshop. In the “loaves and fishes” tradition, we always seem to have room, and we really want you newbies to show up. Maybe bring a folding chair if you’ve got one. Richard’s address is … [ha ha, only if Burt has seen your 24 greenbacks]. You will need to proceed around the side of the house, past Fox’s Folly (his greenhouse), and into his shop at the rear of the property. If you see any degenerate homeless types vomiting on his lawn, those are your fellow club members in Sat. AM form. We will begin at 9:00am and go until the last tree is ruined. Bring some material if you want to do some work. Do not be shy about this— you’ve already pee’d away your 24$$, so you may as well join the lunacy full bore…..

See you Sat.

(New members, if you have paid your dues but don’t know the super secret location, send a message to the web guy via the Contact link on the homepage.  Be there.  Aloha.)

February 2016 Meeting

All kinds of excitement this month:  George and John’s report from the distant shores of the California bonsai scene (the Baikoen show), updates on the Queen’s condition, sage advice on the selection of pots, pandemonium re: the Mothers Day Show (only 3 months away, ahh!), and much, much more.  Don’t miss it!


December 2015 Meeting

The December bonsai club meeting is our traditional holiday potluck and festival of decorated bonsai trees.So bring a dish to share and decorate your favorite tree.We will start the annual collection of dues, $24 per household, and make another try at completing the program schedule for 2016.
Happy holidays – burt

November 2015 Meeting

Remind me, Dear Hearts, when I am making fun of ignorant superstitions, that last Friday– 11/13– was indeed a day when the Croaking Ravens came home to roost and crapped their filthy white feces into my life like a nightmare— a bad movie in which I was the unwilling star. When George came home from work Fri.PM, he was approached by about 6 DEA agents in full combat gear and ski masks, wishing to use our backyard as a point to fire upon our neighbors as they came running out the back door of their apparently heroin–filled house. I regret not getting a photo of them lined up along our side wall, with AK-47’s ready to reduce any escaping soul to human hamburger— a bracing sight. It no longer seems curious that our beloved neighbors kept to themselves, though they always seemed to have a stream of visitors…… They painted their house regularly, and always mowed their lawn— NICE people, Good folks— much like YOU, dear Clubbies— but obviously with a similar nasty little addiction that was only shared with their most intimate friends.

        And thus, in this spirit, we will once again share our Dirty Little Secrets on Saturday AM @ 9:00 at our Winter Quarters in the workshop of Mr. Richard Fox @ 1017 Virginia NE— right behind Garcia Honda. For those of you who have not been there, you will need to park in front and wind your way back to the shop, past Richard’s greenhouse which he bought cheap and immediately put $50,000 into to make it work. You should see several degenerates milling around the front yard whom you will soon recognize as your fellow Club members. Now, the workshop is smaller than Connie’s yard, so prepare for a bit of Forced Intimacy, but we should be fine. We will discuss the ever-present problem of acquiring good material and some other basics. Please bring something to work on, especially junipers and other tough material that we can still tweak. The forecast is for pretty cold weather, but the shop is warm— especially with all the body heat that junkies generate when doing our equivalent of “Using”…..
        I have a gift for The Evil Empress that will come from the class— we’ll see if she sneers at it, since it’s not one of her snotty Masakuni tools.
        OK— Let’s get it on one more time, and to hell with the DEA…..

November 2015 Meeting

It has been a while since our last meeting at the church so tomorrow will be busy. On the agenda is a discussion of the wind swept and the slanting style. a discussion of the Artisan Cup which was held in Portland, Oregon. I have served my year as president and Richard as vice president – Richard is a brilliant fellow  and therefore has no interest in becoming President. So, officer nominations will be solicited..Elections will be held at the December meeting which leaves time for the formation of super-pacs and the distribution campaign funds..  We have to fill out our show committee and I am proposing a new position.
John will have some 0-10-10 fertilizer for sale. See you at 9am at the church- if you have not seen the Artisan Cup photos which are circulating let me know and I will forward them.
– Burt

First Frost for Many

Clearing skies mean colder nights. The Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for tonight. Weather Underground forecasts temps near 30° in the North Valley for the next 3 nights. Probably right around freezing in the Heights. Bundle up when you come to Saturday’s meeting–near 40° at the start, into the 50s by the finish. Sunshine will make it feel warmer.

Your tropicals and tender plants should be inside while it’s time to think about putting the tough ones in the cold frame.

October 2015 Meeting – Field Trip

Post-field trip note from John:

Dearest Twig Necks,

             Those blessed among us who showed-up in the bowels of Los Lunas/Tome yesterday were treated to a display of horticultural expertise of serious proportions. The owner, Michael Melendrez ( the “r”is correct), gave us about two hours of high-speed Basic Chemistry which had the vicious ring of truth, and opened further possibility that we may yet be able to create conditions in which our trees THRIVE, rather than just survive. Now, you all know that I resist bonsai fad/breathless expose’s from the Tiny Tree Elite, but Mr. Michael is another beast entirely…. You can check out his roll on several websites, including his company Soil Solutions.
            That’s right, leaf lips— you must now become Organic Chemists!!! And we are going to do just that! Kenn and Vickie have already greased the wheels to have Michael come to do programs with us after the first of the year, and I guarantee that you will stand in awe of his knowledge and zeal. I’ve been privileged to know a few High Priests of Plants ( Julius Nuccio, Jack Catlin, Ryuzo Nomura, etc.), and Mr. Michael is one of them.
          I’m going to give you a couple of his tidbits that exposed my own ignorance, and caused involuntary bowel movements among those present:
  1) Liquid fish fertilizer is bad  because of chemical additions used to make it safe ( Mr. Nomura in L.A., mentioned above, used to make his own fish emulsion and manure teas in a thoroughly revolting process which I’ll never forget).
   2) Mushroom compost is bad because of its calcium-producing tendencies.
   3) Our efforts to acidify chemically are creating more salinity.
   4) We are overusing compost, which also tends to boost PH.
          There were numerous other proclamations which I don’t remember. I AM NOT suggesting that we immediately throw everything away and obey The Gospel Of St. Michael……. yet. But, lets get hip to the fact that we can and must do better so that we don’t slip away from our beloved little art out of discouragement ( San Patricio!!! You shyster rata!!! Are you out there??).
           Some good news: All these magic potions are available from his nursery, AS WELL AS his potting soil at $7.00 a bag. I am thus able to steer us away( get it?) from Miracle Grow toward this well thought-out mix. A cubic yard is cheap, so let’s pressure the pickup owners to volunteer— which reminds me, email that linthead Richard Fox and shame him into no longer malingering over a cheesy new knee. I am going to apply pressure on Mother Burt to devote a little club $$$ to get some of these mixtures.
           Which further reminds me, what do you think about getting the club set up to video future demos/programs ??  Gordon van Scratchy is a wizard at this, as is my Techogeek son. I keep hearing about some $500.00 required to become pros in this area — think on it.
         Which, quaternally, reminds me to report that Geo had a productive time in London— more ammunition to be able to put Dad in a nice Home in La Jolla with a balloon-tired wheel chair for beach sand maneuvers ……
         OK– I’ll remind you of our workshop on the 17th at a later date. Meanwhile, consult all websites on the Artisan’s Cup in Portland which occurred last weekend, and was either the Second Coming of Bonsai Christ, or an ostentatious episode of grandiose feces-flinging— I’m not sure which. Look at all photos, and reread “Spirit of Bonsai”on our website. We will discuss further, with Heavy Input from our members who attended. Be sure to check Michael’s websites for info on the Happy World of soil chem.
Saikei Susan!!! Stop saving lives and get back to Treeland!!!

Labor Day Weekend 2015 Meeting

Despite it being the holiday weekend, the diehards of the club will be holding their monthly meeting at the Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church at 9:00 a.m. this Saturday, Sept. 5.  Program details below from El Presidente Burt.  See you there.


The bizare bonsai behavior continues – I will again be standing in front of you on a very early Sat. at the church and I have been saving up a boat load of club business (I admit that my boat along with my brain is a bit leaky). We will talk a few minutes about fall going into winter for our trees.  Discuss a new committee set-up for the show – an ad hock committee of the last three club presidents has a suggested committee format. We will begin the work on the 2016 program schedule. Sept. program is on plantings which involves  rocks. Bring trees! Oct. odds and ends – Forest plantings is the scheduled program but we still do not have a presenter. October is our traditional officer nominations and elections. We will switch location of our workshop meeting in Oct. or Nov. — see you Saturday.
Please attend the October meeting in order to prevent your election in absentia.
– burt

Remembering Harry Hirao

This great Bonsai Man was the living embodiment of the blessings and pleasures that our little art can bring into one’s life.

Harry was among the last living members of the group of Southern California  artists who shared bonsai, at first as their own cultural fellowship, and ultimately as teachers who, much to their surprise, became revered sensei to hundreds of students. Most of them were kibei—US born Japanese who were sent to Japan for their educations—and many of them shared the internment experience during WWII. Many of them became iconic “Japanese Gardeners” and/or nurserymen in the booming world of post-war SoCal. Virtually all of them came under the influence of John Naka, who combined his artistic talents with an obsessive desire to learn bonsai, and together they brought the standards of  American bonsai to a new level of possibility.

Harry fit all the above criteria, and really came into his own when the group began to collect California Junipers in the Mojave/High Desert. He fell in love with the desert and spent virtually every cool season weekend of his life out in the sticks looking for trees and rocks. These junipers were a real shot in the arm to US bonsai since they were at least comparable to the fabulous shimpaku junipers of Japan, and existed in the wild by the millions whereas shimpaku had been largely depleted. He soon became known as “the mountain goat,” and it was an apt title.

I met him in 1974, when my teacher, Khan Komai, thought that his advanced students should be exposed to Harry’s skills which were brought to bear on BIG junipers, especially. Khan didn’t care for large bonsai, nor much for junipers , so Harry really blew us away. I hit it off with him from the beginning, for still unknown reasons.

Like most of the kibei, Harry thought in Japanese and his English was very limited. The fact that he was not much into talking, even in Japanese, made every word precious. He never gave a lecture, or even a brief talk. He wanted to wade right in to the trees, and make the rounds at the tables. I did some commentary on his demos, and he seemed to like what I did. Several times he insisted that I narrate his work, and it caused all kinds of political troubles with clubs who didn’t want some huge interloper horning-in on their act. This led to an infamous scuffle over the microphone at a Descanso show—a strange and ugly scene.

You could define a “Master” as someone who, given the student’s lack of experience and his/her self-obsession, can point out a course of action that the student would not otherwise contemplate. By this standard, Harry was a true Master. His ability to find fronts and angles of composition was legendary. He would invariably come up with a viewing point that had never occurred to us. I once saw him take a student’s little one gallon juniper and hold it upside down while he studied it for a long moment. I was never sure what he had in mind there.

He would come up to Khan’s nursery from his home in Huntington Beach one Monday night a month, accompanied by his wife Alice, who taught school in Orange County. She was the archetypal Japanese wife, quiet and unassuming, appearing to be deferential to her husband, but who we knew ran the Harry Traveling Show with an iron hand. At first, she would sit and grade papers or knit, but later my ex, and some other wives and friends, would come along just to shoot the breeze with Alice. She was a rock.

In 1977, Harry decided to start a bonsai club in Orange County to accommodate his ever-enlarging classes. Thus was born Kofu Kai Bonsai, and it took off like a rocket. It almost immediately had a hundred members, and they were a Wild Bunch. For those of you who want to think of bonsai as quiet and sedate, you might not have wanted to mess around with Kofu Kai. That group went everywhere and did everything with a gusto that bordered on the insane. We all got nice, round, embroidered logo patches which I immediately sewed onto my old football jersey. Later, they wore bright blue Hapi coats with the patch, and would descend by the multi-busload on shows and programs all over the west. I was at John Naka’s house one day, and he was clearly upset by the amazing activity of these Kofu Kai’s who outnumbered and out-partied his smaller clubs of West LA. He kept hissing “those damn bluecoats.”

The great sacrament of Kofu Kai was beer. I never went anywhere with Harry and his Tribe that did not offer dozens of coolers well stocked with the sacramental brew. Quiet as Harry was, I can still hear him calling “John! Beer!” about every 30 seconds. He would persist in opening a can and handing it to me when I had just opened one. In 1985, I was more-or-less forced into “A well-known program of recovery” from alcoholism, and in some distorted fashion, I have Harry and Kofu Kai to thank for my new life.

I didn’t see him much when I left California, but George and I made it to his 90th Birthday in 2007—a splended bash in characteristic high style. I saw him and got some visiting time at a Baikoen show in ’08—that was the last time.

Harry Hirao lived the bonsai life at its best. He had no practical ego, yet he was a natural leader. His students would have done anything for him; and with him, nothing seemed impossible. He cared nothing about eminence. He wanted better bonsai and more fun doing it. When you were up in that desert, scouring the Eel River for stones, or sitting with him at a show, you were walking with the king. It was a hell of a feeling. If I can impart to my students even a slice of that confidence and joy that he brimmed-with, I will not have wasted my time on this planet. Get a dose of that Hirao Spirit and go out there and raise all manner of bonsai hell!


DeGroot’s Book

Roger Case sends this from the Pacific NorthWET: Dave DeGroot, former curator of the Pacific Rim Collection, and now happily retired, has finally had his follow-on book on bonsai design published by ABS. It’s the best book I have seen on the principles of bonsai design and covers most everything that one would want to know about design and related topics. It’s not a horticultural book (no discussion of soil, etc.), but for all other aspects it is truly superb. I strongly recommend that the club get at least one copy for the library and individuals get one for themselves.

Available here: http://www.stonelantern.com/Principles_of_Bonsai_Tree_Design_p/b1prin.htm


This Sunday… (2015)

Well, Peanut Heads, did you enjoy Saturday’s meeting?? I hope that those of you who showed up at the church Sat.AM will admit your error—- we will not laugh at you, we will laugh NEXT to you….. However, you will notice from the attached flyer that our strange boy Willie Pentler many months ago conned me into volunteering US for his Open Space program, and, as always, I thought the day would never come. But it HAS come, and it’s Sunday at 9:00 (which hour I sure-as-hell don’t remember volunteering for). I know you will want to turn out en masse for this sensational event, which surpasses in grandeur the Stuporbowl, the World Cup, and the Oakland Roller Derby finals, all rolled into one. You will WANT to be there!!!! If you’ve never been to the place, it’s quite a marvelous campus— pretty much unknown to the average Burqueno. Besides, attendance is usually pretty sparse, so we can turn it into a mini-Connie’s if you want to bring something to work on. Pentler is desperate for public attention, and he seems to enjoy having us work around there as long as we want. He had more fun than we did last year.
Also, I found my copy of a speech given in the 70’s by Kyuzo Murata, a REAL Japanese Master who owned Kyuka-en nursery in Omiya City, where I studied. It is the Real Deal, and an immaculate inoculation against the Bonsai B.S. that gets thrown around— unfortunately including much of my own. If you remember the flesh and bones of the speech, you will never go wrong. It puts all of our flagrant foolishness— which I dearly love— to shame. I’ll get my renegade son to type it up, and I’ll send it out this week.
What else?? We will meet at the Wicked Queen’s on the 18th, but first we must survive The Savage Sabbath…….
Show up, or be forever cursed….

A Word or Two from the Sensei

A word or two from the Sensei:

“I turn to simplicity; I turn again to purity.”
—– Genghis Khan, 1221 AD

Yes, friends…. Even the Great Khan ( whose methods and politics many in our Club still revere) wished for rest and quiet in his last years. And, my fondest desire was to follow old GK into the peaceful Gardens of Tranquility, where only an occasional veiled dancing girl would provide a counterpoint to the contemplative mood……. But, then I went to the ABC meeting on the fateful Saturday, June 6, and I was confronted by a crazed gaggle of new members demanding with a desperate fervor to be shown the mysteries of bonsai. I shuddered…… like a poodle passing a peach pit.

So, ye new folk, abandon all hope and enter this beautiful world with its surpassingly strange participants. You have, to your probable dismay, wasted your money on dues, and now, for good or ill, you’re thrust into a world beyond your ken. Let the following serve as an incomplete introduction to this world.

Those of you who are completely new to the art have a distinct advantage— you don’t have to unlearn any of the B.S. that floats through the bonsai world all too often. Enjoy your Beginners Mind while you can.

First, get a book or two and try to absorb the most basic ideas. The book I like is by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna Halford, now called “The Art of Bonsai”. You can get it cheaply used thru Amazon— Unless you’re a collector, why not buy used books that you can beat up??. Note that it used to be called “The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes”— same book. The other great book is John Naka’s “Bonsai Techniques, Vols. 1&2”. These are wonderful books, but are relatively expensive, especially when autographed. If you’re working on the cheap, the Sunset and Ortho paper bounds are very decent, and are almost free on the used mkt. Remember that the club has an extensive library, which Burt quixotically brings to each regular meeting.

The internet is a vast mixed bag. I like a Brit named Graham Potter, who has numerous lessons on many topics. He works on especially good material, which will give you a sense of our main problem, which is the lack of good bonsai material UNLESS you are willing/able to collect. The other guy, who is a part of a New Wave of young hakajin who have been well-trained, is Ryan Neal. We will give you other suggestions as we go.

In terms of supplies, keep it simple at first, unless you are rolling in $$ and have a need to go ape-crap to disguise your insecurities. A decent pointed-nose trimmer, a wire cutter, and maybe a heavier pruning shears will get you going—- all available at Wal-Mart. Check and see what the old fools are using at the workshop— we’ll spend some time this Sat on the subject.

Wire for training is important, and not many el cheapo alternatives are available, unless you are among those fine citizens of our State who steal copper, Years ago, copper was the standard, but in the 70’s, anodized aluminum almost totally replaced it. Annealed copper is still the best, but is a lot harder to work with unless you have King Kong hands. Many of us buy aluminum wire from Dallas Bonsai Gardens, who always seem to have the best prices. It’s a helluva lot cheaper in bulk, so maybe we’ll try to make a buy and share. I have a lot of wire, if you need some to do your workshop material.

Remember that most any woody trunked, small leaved material is usable as bonsai stock. Junipers are best to start, though some of you will want to use tropicals that you can keep indoors. I’m not a tropical fan, but the principles are about the same. We’ll teach you what to look for in material— a matter of primary importance.

In NM, it is of paramount significance that you work to provide an environment favorable to the cultivation of your trees. Just about everything that bonsai don’t like is the weather norm here— dry air, strong winds, intense sun, abrupt temperature change, lousy water, etc., etc., etc. If you are unable to negate most of these problems, you will lose interest and go back to your old hobby of psycho-active drugs. There are NO bonsai prodigies— everyone is a geek for a year-or-two, at least. But if you can’t keep plants alive and happy, you’ll have to settle for being a viewer/appreciator, rather than a participant. I cannot stress this enough!! When you see Connie’s yard, you’ll understand what I mean.

Since I’m going to be in Santa Fe later this week sponging off Richard and Susan, I won’t send out any further workshop notices— unless I can get Boy George to do it. The workshop is free, though I strongly suggest that you tithe according to your quarterly gross income in order to curry my favor. Any freewill offering you choose to make will pay my gas and lavish lunch. Bonsai — like much else– is in danger of becoming the province of those who “fart against the silk”, as my Dad used to say. Money is screwing up a lot of stuff—- let’s resist that trend. Save your $$$ for material and pots— and your tithe.

Can you all figure out how to get to Queen Connie’s house??? Contact the web guy if you’ve paid your dues but didn’t get the e-mail version of this massive missive.  The crazy old broad has no internet, and has only recently purchased a propane-operated cell phone. I’m not much better, but maybe one of our Gear Geniuses can provide a map. The club bought some chairs, but if you have a portable folder, bring it. We may run out of room….

What else?? As a result of fast progress made by our earlier wave of beginners, I’ve rethought many of the teaching principles that I learned all those years ago. It seems to work well to just throw our beginners into the mix and let them start swimming. The old Zen proverb applies–” If you want to climb a high mountain, start at the top”. Who am I to argue……..

See you at Connie’s @ 9:00 am, 6/20/15. Show no mercy!!!!

Botanic Gardens to host Bonsai exhibit (2015)

Follow this hyperlink to see Burton’s interview:  http://krqe.com/2015/04/30/botanic-gardens-to-host-bonsai-exhibit/
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE)- The Albuquerque Botanic Gardens is hosting a miniature event.

The ABQ Bonsai Club will be showcasing their beautifully designed bonsai trees during the Annual Bonsai Club show.

Bonsai, pronounced bone-sigh, is a Japanese art of creating miniature trees and landscapes. Bonsai creates the illusion of a fully grown tree in a smaller form.

There are two components of this tree and the first is the horticulture. It’s all about keeping the tree alive wile growing it in a small container. The second is creating the illusion of a mature tree.

The Botanic Garden will be hosting the Bonsai show May 9th and 10th showing a formal display of the trees from the collections of the club members.
Club members range from beginners to those who have been practicing this art for over 20 years.

The club was founded in 1975 and is open to anyone who is interested in learning the art.

Oh, the Humanity!

From the desk of John Egert regarding this Saturday’s meeting (9:00 a.m. May 2 @ Heights Cumberland):
        Well, I have now entered the yearly phase of Bad Bonsai Dreams. Last night, I dreamt that a rival bonsai club– full of charlatans who showed artificial trees and strange papyrus-like plants— were horning in on our show. They were bullying us and stealing/destroying our plants with dismaying impunity. We finally decided that violence was the only solution, and my last image was of Connie– dressed in full leathers– wailing away with a wicked Hell’s Angels-style chain whip………. the horror….the horror.
       But I know that those of you with Real Lives don’t have these visions. I did get a couple of questions about the show, which I’ll go over now and on Sat. 5/2 at our meeting.
       First, we have rarely–if ever– had as many new members in the ABC as we have now, and I’ve never had as much fun with the gang of bull-goose loonies that have apparently been sent by their parole officers to the Club— God knows why. My whole approach to teaching newcomers has changed as a result of watching our earlier wave of new people, who have learned very fast. If you are new, and want more basic teaching/info, let me know. All my mental thrashing around over the show may have resulted in giving less attention to those who are totally new to the art, and I’d be glad to spend extra time after our meetings, or?? Hang in there, and keep reading and watching Graham Potter and Ryan Neil on youtube.
        #1: What about this stand issue?? If you have stands for your trees, that’s good, but usually everybody brings whatever they’ve got and we mix-and-match( making it a good idea to tag the bottoms with your name, BTW). So, if you’ve got something good, bring it, and we’ll find a stand for it.
        #2: How about training wire?? Some wire on show trees is OK. In the post-Kimura era in Japan, it is now seen as a sign of willingness to improve even old, established trees by wiring, and it is acceptable there. Big wires on the trunk would probably be considered too crude.
        #3: How many trees?? My three tree limit idea was an effort to improve the overall quality of the show, which is always better uncluttered. If you’ve got more than three good trees, bring ’em. I have no idea what will show up each year, and with lots of new members, this year will be especially surprising, for good or ill….
        #4: If I don’t have anything to show, what can I do to participate??  The Friday afternoon/evening setup is always a tableau of some weirdness, and is always entertaining. Generally, several tragedies are narrowly averted, and occasionally old friendships have been sorely tested— though things have been fairly quiet and smooth in recent years. We now have a number of action-oriented new youngbloods in the club, who could probably set up the whole damn thing in 20 min….. Therefore, I have taken steps to provide a taste of the old personal invective and bitterness which lent color to the setup and takedown….. more about that at the Sat. meeting.  Also Google-up “Shitakusa” and “Kusamono”, and see if you can put together an attractive accent plant— we usually need quite a few, and they can be done at the last minute.
        Also, we need to have a group of members doing docent work during show hours. It’s fun to do, and you hear some of the oddest comments by viewers. Even if you’re a beginner, you know light years more than our average visitor. We’ll have a signup sheet for this at the meeting.
         I haven’t thought too much about the Sat. demonstration…. George wanted to get a bunch of small junipers and let viewers try their hand. We’d need some experienced hands to help…. we’ll discuss.
        What else?? God knows that should be enough….. Keep talking to me with ideas— even if I start laughing hysterically. I’m really looking forward to what you brainiacs have in store….
Oh, I forgot.. Burt is going to do a segment for the KRQE AM news show on Thurs. this week. He’s supposed to be in the 7:00 am hour, which, I THINK, means it’ll be seen on KASA Channel 2, but I’m not sure. I’ll call the station tomorrow and try to clear that up and let you know. Burt has apparently had his Duck Dynasty-Style hair and beard greatly subdued, so don’t be deceived if some Young Republican-looking guy is yammering about bonsai on Thurs.

April 2015 Members-only Workshop

That’s right, you Pine Knots!!! Revelations!! And it is now upon us!! In 23 days, you will not be read your cheesy “Rights”, nor will you be offered legal assistance!! On the afternoon of 5/8/15 you will be sucked down the burning hole of Bonsai Hell, and the crusty undead will grasp at your alabaster ankles….  And “Why”, you bleat like sheep?? Because I sense a lack of full commitment on the part of some of you— an unreadiness to plunge into the Lake of Fire in support of your beloved Show Chairman and Humble Sensei!

You may yet save me, if you can pull your collective heads out in time. We will meet at the Mini Ranch of the Grieves clan on this Saturday, 4/18/15, at 9:00 am. [ Did you GET THAT, Suzanne??] The address is way out East where the bonsai-killing winds howl through the pass. Call Kenn or Ms Vickie @292-7023 if you can’t figure it out otherwise. We will pot up a monstrous juniper that Kenn has been torturing for some years, and play with anything else which you bring. I will also regale you with the tragi-comic saga of the show flier this last week. The weather may be a little brisk, but we will soldier on.

So there it is, Tree Toads! The unclean spirits are upon us, and there’s not much time to swat them off our spines!!

April 2015 Meeting

We’re on track for the monthly meeting 9:00 a.m. Saturday April 4th at Heights-Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Lots happening this time of year, so bring your questions and your trees.

It’s just over a month until the Mother’s Day show at the Albuquerque Botanic Garden — preparation for that big event will be a topic of discussion.


March 2015 Meeting

Well, people—- I have finally triumphed in the techno-wars!!! Burt’s son– like mine– is gainfully employed and is no longer readily available to show Old Dad how to hit the “ON” button on his computer, so, it has fallen to me to remind you that we will meet at 9:00 am tomorrow at the Church. We should have enough going on to justify you fighting through your hangovers in order to attend.
Man…. when we have to look to me to provide technical expertise, this group is even more screwed-up than I thought…..


Many of you will recall that in January of 2013, there was a crisis for the Bonsai community as the U.S. Department of Agriculture had placed a ban on the import of Akadama soil into the United States. Akadama is a basic ingredient in many soil compositions used throughout the Bonsai community. As it turned out, the ban was only temporary, but Triple Red Line Brand was permanently restricted. However, this resolution took several months (the government does move slowly at times). After some extensive searching and through the contacts of Roger Case, as a club we were able to place an order with a California operation which still had a supply of Akadama which had been received before the ban took effect.

Unsure of what the future for Akadama might be, and after talking with many of the local west coast Bonsai professionals, I determined to see if there were any materials available which had similar properties to Akadama but were native to the U.S. and would meet the requirements for a “good” Bonsai soil. Most sources of commercially prepared soils, bonsai enthusiast and bonsai professionals agree that a “good” bonsai soil will have the following characteristics:

  1. The soil composition must drain excess water quickly while retaining sufficient amounts to support the tree after watering.
  2. The soil composition must be non-compacting and provide space for oxygen exchange.
  3. Whether a single component or multiple components are used in the soil composition, they must be of a uniform size.
  4. The composition should have a neutral or near neutral “ph” factor (somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 “ph”).
  5. The soil components should have a good “Cation Exchange Capacity” [CEC].

All of the other basic components (red and black lava rock, pumice, charcoal, and granite grit) for what is commonly referred to as “Boon Mix” continued to be readily available. The component needing a comparable replacement was the Akadama.

CATION EXCHANGE CAPACITY (CEC) is measurement of a soils capacity to retain nutrients. Clay (Akadama in this case) and organic matter have negative electrical charge These negatively charged soil particles will attract and hold positively charged particles (in the fertilizer you apply) much like opposite poles of magnets will attract

Elements having an electrical charge are called ions. Positively charged ions are called CATIONS and negatively charge ions are called ANIONS. [Cation is pronounced cat-eye-on; Anion (negative charges) is pronounced ann-eye-on].

Clay ions are always negatively charged and are therefore identified as ANIONS. Organic particles of soil may have either a positive or a negative electrical charge and can therefore be either a CATION or an ANION. CATIONS held on either clay or organic particles of soil can be replaced by other CATIONS, thus they are EXCHANGABLE.

The total number of CATIONS a soil can hold – or its total negative charge- is the soil’s CATION EXCHANGE CAPACITY. The higher the CEC, the higher the negative charge of the soil and the more CATIONS it can hold. The higher the CEC levels, the more fertile the soil.

The fact that CATIONS can be exchanged in the soil is the key factor in Bonsai plant health. The exchange factor allows for the positively charged nutrients to be ADSORBED onto the negatively charge clay or organic soil particles and then later released for ABSORPTION by the feeder roots of the plant as needed. ADSORB means that the positively charged nutrients attach to or cling to (think of static cling from the dryer) the negatively charged soil particles. The nutrients do not penetrate the surface of the soil particles, they simply cling to the surface until released or exchanged for other ions. Without the effect of CATION EXCHANGE CAPACITY, nutrients applied to the soil would simply wash out with the drainage of the applied water.

The CATION EXCHANGE CAPACITY scale ranges from a 1 (lowest level) to 100 (highest level) based on the type of soil and the “ph”. Sand has a CEC of 5 – 20; Clay has a CEC of 20 – 50; and organic soil has a CEC of 50 – 100. Depending on the particular lab reports, Akadama soil was identified as having a CEC of between 21 and 26.

So, if we need to find a replacement at sometime for Akadama in out mix, in order to meet the characteristics of a “good” Bonsai soil, we need an inert ingredient which has a neutral, or near neutral, “ph” and a CEC of between 20 and 30. In my research, I found 3 such soil components which I decided to use as part of the soil study and one “organic” based soil.

“Boon Mix” was used as a control and has a CEC value of 23. Wee Tree bonsai soil mix, which was screened for fines and then supplemented by additional lava rock, pumice, charcoal and granite grit, was included as it is close to an organic mix for CEC purposes, and after screening and supplementing it has a CEC value of 28. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) has a CEC value of 27, Haydite which has a CEC of 25, and Turface (MVP) with a CEC value of 30 were the other 3 soil components selected as having a neutral or near neutral “ph” and a CEC values within the 20 to 30 range. These soil components were mixed with lava rock, pumice, charcoal and granite grit in the “Boon Mix” proportions except for the Turface.

Turface came with a manufacture’s caution that in horticultural applications, the volume of the Turface in the soil composition should not exceed 10% to 15% due to a risk of the soil becoming nutrient toxic. It was therefore mixed at a ratio of 10%.

Once the soils were selected and prepared, they were all tested (measured) for Soil Permeability and Soil Porosity.

PERMEABILITY (sometimes referred to as Hydraulic Conductivity) is a measure of the ease with which fluids (mainly water) will flow through or be transmitted by a porous rock, sediment or soil. The packing (compression), shape, and sorting of granular material controls their permeability. Permeability is controlled by the size of the particles of the sample soil, the consistency of the size of the particles, the size of the pores or void between the particles and the degree to which the pores or voids are interconnected. Generally, materials of larger particle size which are consistently sorted will be more permeable.
POROSITY is a measure of the open spaces (voids) or pores found within a particular soil or sediment. The open space in a soil sample is comprised of the open spaces between the particles themselves and within the cracks, crevices, or cavities between or on the soil particles themselves. Porosity determines the total amount of water a soil or sediment will hold. Porosity is largely influenced by factors of particle size, shape and assortment. The greater the column of pore spaces a material contains, the higher its porosity and the more water it can hold. Porosity is expressed as a fraction or a percentage of the volume of the pore space to the total volume of the material.


TOTAL POROSITY — The amount of water accepted by the measured amount of soil mix. (In this example the amount of soil is 8.5 ounces.)

SOIL POROSITY — Amount of water retained in soil mix sample after draining. This is the amount of water in the soil which will be available to the plant. Not all of the retained water is available to be used by the plant due to being absorbed within the particles of the soil and due to the effects of the surface tension of water.

PERCENTAGE OF AIR IN SOIL — Air filled space within the soil sample after drainage from initial TOTAL POROSITY stage.

HOW TO MEASURE — For our example the initial volume of soil is 8.5 ounces.

TOTAL POROSITY is the amount of water that is accepted by the soil sample to reach total saturation.

Record this number. (For example if the soil sample accepts 6 ounces of water to reach total saturation, record 6 ounces. Allow the soil sample to stand covered in the water for 30 minutes.)
SOIL POROSITY — The amount of water remaining in the soil sample after drainage from the original TOTAL PROSITY amount of water. (For example, the amount of water that drains from the soil sample equals 2.5 ounces. Subtracting 2.5 oz. from 6 oz. means that 3.5 oz. remains within the soil sample. Record3.5 oz.)

PERCENTAGE OF AIR IN SOIL SAMPLE — The percentage of air remaining in the soil sample is equal to the amount of drainage water collected. (In our example this was 2.5 oz. Record this number)
To determine the TOTAL POROSITY, SOIL POROSITY, AND PERCENTAGE OF AIR in the soil sample divide each recorded number by 8.5 and then multiply the result by 100.

TOTAL POROSITY = 6.0 divided by 8.5 = .70 — .70 x 100 = 70.5. The TOTAL POROSITY in the example is 70.5 percent.
SOIL POROSITY = 3.5 divided by 8.5 =0.41. — .41 x 100 = 41. SOIL POROSITY in the example is 41 percent.

PERCENTAGE OF AIR IN THE SOIL SAMPLE = 2.5 divided by 8.5 = .29. — .29 x 100 = 29. PERCENTAGE OF AIR in the example is 29 percent.
I then determined that in order to conduct as fair an analysis of the 5 soil mixes as possible, I would select 5 of the most popular trees grown for Bonsai, obtain 5 of each species of tree (all were one year old cuttings or seedlings) and plant one of each tree in the five soil mixes. The trees that were selected were Japanese Black Pine, Korean Hornbeam, Japanese Larch, Trident Maple and Shimpaku Juniper. All of the trees were planted in the first week of March, 2013.

2013 Progress, Outcomes and Observations — All 25 trees were planted in 4 inch nursery pots the first week in March, 2013. There was one of each species of tree planted in each of the 5 soil compositions. After planting, the trees were placed in a protected area of my un-heated green house were they would get plenty of light. In mid May, they were given their first fertilization which was comprised of 20-20-20 mixed at 1/4 strength combined with fish emulsion and kelp meal at 1/2 strength. This feeding formula was repeated every 14 days for the remainder of the growing season.

All of the trees appeared to prosper until about mid July when it became apparent that the 5 trees growing in the Turface MVP mix were not as healthy as the other trees. By early September two of the trees growing in the Turface mix had died and the other 3 were definitely weaker than the other 20 trees. A careful unpotting of the 2 trees which had died revealed that the problem was the Turface mix remained too wet and the roots had rotted. Remember, the Turface composition was only 10% Turface. I immediately reduced the amount of water the other 3 trees in the Turface soil mix were getting.

All of the other 20 trees in the other 4 soil mixed grew tremendously. By late October, the maples, hornbeam and larch had all grown more than 2 feet in height. After their leaves and needles had turned, they were all lightly branch trimmed and reduced in height to approximately 15 inches. The black pine and juniper had extended approximately 2 to 3 inches. The real surprised to me was that the roots (on these 20 trees) had completely filled the 4 inch pots and grown out through the drainage holes and several inches into the gravel floor of my greenhouse. All would need to be repotted in late winter of 2014.

One observation that I made when lifting the trees out of the gravel floor was that there was tremendous growth of feeder roots on the roots that had extended into the gravel. The roots extending outside the pots were trimmed off. I therefore had expectations that the pots would be full of strong feeder roots when I repotted.

2014 Progress, Outcomes and Observations — In late February, all of the trees were showing signs of bud swell and so repotting was in order. Remembering the tremendous feeder root growth in the gravel floor of my greenhouse, I was slightly disappointed when I commenced repotting. While the 4 inch pots were quite full of strong roots, they were long and fibrous, but not nearly as dense with feeder roots as I anticipated.

The soil around the root ball and under the root ball was lightly loosened with a few strokes from a chopstick on all of the trees. All of the trees were repotted into 6 inch bulb pots and additional amounts of the appropriate soil compositions were added.

The 3 remaining trees in the Turface composition were still weak, and their roots did not fill the 4 inch pots as with the other 20 trees. As the roots were only in the top 1/3 of the pot, I determined to apply a small amount of rooting hormone to the root balls and to increase the particle size of the soil mix to 1/4 inch and to increase the pot size to 6 inches as with all of the other trees. I also determined to reduce the watering routine for these 3 trees so as to hopefully promote a drier soil.

Once all of the trees had been repotted, they were again returned to the greenhouse for the new season. The fertilization routine for 2014 was the same as it was in 2013. Again, all of the trees displayed tremendous growth. The 3 trees in the Turface mix responded favorably to the change in the soil size of the mix, although they did not show the progress of the other trees in the other mixes. Again, for the other 20 trees, the roots filled the six inch pots and grew into the gravel floor of the greenhouse.

In late October, as the trees were being prepared for the winter, I saved some of the feeder root masses growing in the gravel of the greenhouse floor. Over the winter I wanted to study these. I also took a slight risk and lifted the strongest tree in each soil mix and collected a root to also study over the winter. Clearly, all of the trees will need to be repotted in the late winter of 2015 and will move up into 8 inch bulb pots.

Late 2014 and Early 2015 observations. At this point, I feel comfortable in saying that I would most definitely never use Turface in any soil mix for Bonsai again. Turface simply retains too much water. Even after changing the size of the soil mix in 2014, the 3 trees do not show the health and vigor of any of the other 4 compositions. It also appears to decompose or degrade into sludge rather fast. The original soil mix which was left on in the transplant of 2014 now has very little granular structure left. I will know more when I look at the trees during repotting in a few months.

Of the 4 other compositions of mix that I have evaluated in this study, they all appear to support the development and growth of the trees and the root systems. Clearly, the CEC value of the various soil compositions was favorable to the trees, and with the exception of Turface would appear to satisfy the quest for a “good” Bonsai soil.

When I took the root samples I had collected when I lifted the trees to a Master Gardener office and did some examination under a microscope, there were some obvious differences in the root development. The first thing I noticed was that while there were soil particles clinging to the roots in all of the samples, only in the Akadama mix did the root actually penetrate through the soil particle and emerge out the other side. The root actually impaled the soil particle. A close look at a dry Akadama particle revealed that there are tubular structures within the Akadama particle which in many cases actually traverse the entire particle. Therefore, these particles will cling to the root until they decompose or until the root expands to the extent that the root fractures the particle. All of the other mixes revealed that the roots were growing only in or through surface irregularities and crevices of the composition particles.

Additionally, a microscopic examination of the feeder root clusters growing into the gravel of the greenhouse floor showed that these roots had multiple divisions of the roots where they had pushed against sharp edges of the gravel. But why were these roots so much healthier than the roots in the pots? A friend at the OSU agriculture labs asked me to bring the root samples in to him along with samples of the various soil mixes and a bucket of the greenhouse gravel. After putting the roots under the microscope, he and I sieved the 2 gallons of greenhouse grave.

Although the gravel in my greenhouse was rated as 1/4 inch minus in size, what we found was that the particle size of the mix was actually (according to the sample) approximately 20% in the 1/4 to 1/2 inch minus size. It was this additional size of particle in the mix which accounted for the healthier root development. There was more oxygen in the gravel mix in the greenhouse than there was in the uniform size of particles in the pots. This mix of larger sized particles provided more space for oxygen to collect as the water drained down. Roots need water, oxygen and nutrients to develop. The additional oxygen spaces were key.

I intend to test this concept with the next repotting. I have sufficient screened components of each of the soil mixes available that I will be able to add 20% of soil volume in the 1/4 to 1/2 inch size and incorporate that throughout the soil mix in the larger 8 inch pots. If the concept proves positive, I expect that during repotting in 2016 I will find significantly more of the feeder roots throughout the root mass inside the pots.

So the take away from 2 years of this study is:

  1. Akadama is still probably the best soil mix component of all of the ones tested.
  2. Akadama will allow the tree roots to literally penetrate right through it.
  3. It is possible to control (raise or lower) soil porosity by changing the percentage of each component in the mix, therefore you must test the porosity of each component as well as the porosity of the final mix.
  4. Soils with similar CEC values will provide excellent root development and trees growth very similar to Akadama although Akadama has some clear advantages.
  5. Better root development appears to be possible with soil mixes containing a combination of similar sized particles as opposed to a single uniform size.

So there you are. Two years worth of observations and study. Have a great new year and remember, spring is coming so get your repotting materials, tools and your plan ready.

—Keith Wingfield

Matthew 7:15

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” — Matthew 7:15

As George and I were driving home from the Saturday meeting, we passed the buffalo ranch near the Rio Grande crossing south of ABQ. It occurred to me that, as a penance for beating my gums at top speed during these meetings, I should stop, climb the fence, and subject myself to being trapped and mauled by these huge beasts. Upon further consideration, and being aware of my luck in these matters, I feared that they might, instead , be sexually attracted to me, and as with King Kong and Fay Wray, you ain’t done ’til the buffalo’s done. We drove on. I began to consider how to change the show a bit to try to improve it, and have come up with the following ideas. As you are already aware, none of this will be written in stone, and anything that seems stupid deserves to be placed at a point in my anatomy which never ( or at least VERY rarely) sees the sun.

1) We are going to limit each member to three main trees and three smaller accessory plantings. I have never liked to send home any trees which are alive and might be thought of as bonsai-like at least… but our shows look better when they’re not jammed. You should be considering which trees you might show now, and prepping them accordingly.

2) Though this dubious honor should go to Connie, since I am that one about whom St. Matt so carefully warned, I am going to commandeer one table for my porcine self and delicate son and set up a sekikazari. I would like for us to be able to give each member a certain space to set up her/his own display next year, if this works out. Besides, after the show I will have been drummed out of the Club anyway– more room for others next year!!

3) Your opinions always are somewhat welcome, so I  we will enhance the People’s Choice award, etc., and try to get more interactive with our viewers.

4) I really want to honor Nicholas in some way this year, especially by devoting a tokonoma to him. If any of you want to step up and manage such a project, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll ask Connie to do it and she can choose some people to help her with it. Flowering trees will be exempt from rule #1.

For you new members, if you don’t have a showable tree yet, here are some ideas:

1) Offer to help Queen Connie with her stuff. She is finding it more difficult to get it all together each year, and we’ll need to assist her.

2) Google “kusamono” and/or “bonsai accessory plantings” and put something nice together that will be a splash of color or other interest— remember small scale. These can be put together almost the day before the show, so their blooms will be good. Osuna and Plants of the Southwest are good sources, and small pots are readily available. Viewing stones— google “suiseki”— are also good to collect, and are easier to grow

3) With a hoarse cry of determination, come early-ish on Friday pm and help set up the tables, covers, etc. In recent years, it’s gotten pretty easy, and there has been a drastically reduced level of sputtering rages, the occasional fistfight, and stalking out of the building in a Capital Snit. I miss those days, though I know many of you who had large, meaty bites taken out of your posteriors do not. Perhaps one of you newer folk can rise to the occasion and inherit the title of www.asshole.com which is currently vacant.
4) Don’t be tempted to run out and buy a “Mallsai” to show. You’ll have something good soon enough. Anybody who brings one of those “S curve” elms with a damn mudman in the pot will be terminated with extreme predjudice.

Again, if you think that any-or-all of this is a cheap load of crap, I welcome violent, free-ranging debates. Many of the small -minded among you will  doubtless consider this screed in the same category as listening to 12 year-old girls yammering about Justin Bieber— so be it. I know that many others will be awed by the gemlike gleam of the above thoughts……..


Chokkan: Formal Upright Style

Formal upright is the most fundamental style in bonsai.

  • Believed to be the first style
  • Difficult to execute correctly
  • Not very common style today
  • Trunk is straight with gradual taper, front 1/3 to 1/2 exposed
  • 1st branch is at 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 the height of the tree and facing slightly forward
  • 2nd branch is on the other side of the tree slightly higher and facing slightly forward
  • 3rd branch to the back and same distance from the 1st branch as 1/2 the distance from the first
    branch and the pot.
  • Continue up the tree in the same rotational style getting closer and closer together with the branches.
  • Nebari should be all the way around the tree.


Fibonacci sequence can be used to determine the height of the tree vs 1st branch location:
1+1=2, 2+1, 3+2=5, 4+3=7, 5+4=9, 6+5=11

Golden ratio is found throughout nature (a:b :: b:a+b)

1.618 (is the rounded off numeric   representitive) X 1st branch = tree height

0.618  X height  is first branch.



Powerpoint file from Kenn: Chokkan Powerpoint

January 2014 Social Media Update

The Albuquerque Bonsai Club has had a Facebook page since July 2014 and now (January 16, 2015) there is a Twitter feed — @ABQbonsai where all the latest may be found.  Even if you don’t tweet and don’t have a Twitter account, you can see what’s there by pointing your browser at https://twitter.com/ABQbonsai.

Meanwhile, don’t forget John Egert’s workshop on Jan. 17 at a location given only to dues-paying members.

And in February, don’t miss the monthly meeting for a discussion about seiryu stone, bonsai stands, formal upright style, and preparing for the May bonsai show.

The Resources page has been tidied up and of particular interest might be this new article on Suiseki — http://www.top13.net/suiseki-artists-turn-so-far-unnoticed-stones-into-magnificent-art/


Celebrate Nicholas Ng’s Life

Come Celebrate Nicholas Ng’s Life on Sunday October 5th !!!

Nick’s friend of 30+ years, Sally Price, has graciously offered to host Nick’s celebration at her home in Four Hills this Sunday afternoon.

Meet and Greet Mixer from 4-5PM, Food Will Be Served at Five PM

Sally’s address is : 1024 Wagon Wheel SE

Sally’s Phone # is : 292-2737.. Sally says that EVERYONE gets lost .. so DO CALL AND SOMEONE WILL COME GET YOU UN-LOST!!!

Here are the directions —They seem simple enough — We will See You There.

Exit EAST I-40 at the Tramway exit.. Heading South, It’s a RIGHT TURN..

Stay in the THIRD LANE FROM THE RIGHT, the 1st two turn onto central.. You want to go straight across Central.. past the Smith’s grocery store on the left..

The road curves around to go EAST ..Go until you get to the STOP SIGN.

Turn RIGHT at the stop sign onto Four Hills Drive, go about 0.8 miles.

You’ll want to turn RIGHT ONTO STAGECOACH .. which is maybe the third turn.

There’s an UNEXPLAINABLE NAME CHANGE from STAGECOACH TO WAGON TRAIN somewhere…..You’re still on track to get there..

Stay on WAGON TRAIN (i.e. StageCoach) until You come to a 3-WAY stop sign.

Go straight until you come to the 4-Way Stop Sign.. still go straight until you come to RATON, which ONLY turns RIGHT. That’s a little over 1 mile.

Turn RIGHT turn onto RATON. Go 300 ft.

Take another RIGHT onto WAGON WHEEL.. Sally’s house is the 7th or 8th on the RIGHT, 1024 Wagon Wheel.. it’s a WHITE SLUMP BLOCK HOUSE WITH BLUE TRIM. Park anywhere in the street.

It seems to me that it’s all RIGHT TURNS.. and Sally’s House is on the RIGHT

… so If Your Car Wants to Turn left.. DON’T DO IT!!!

Bring Yourself,

Bring Your Stories,

Bring Your Pictures,

Bring Your Bonsai

Nicholas Ng

We recently learned of the passing of Nicholas Ng, long time club member and authority on flowering bonsai.  He will be missed.

For our new people, who didn’t get a chance to know Nicholas very well, John Egert submits the following:

NicholasNgNicholas Ng was one of those rare people who marched to a very different drum than the rest of us— so different, in fact, that I think only he could hear it and only he could understand its cadence. We all have the conceit that we “understand” people, but anyone who claimed that he/she understood Nicholas Ng was either lying or delusional. He embodied simplicity and he embodied complexity, often within the same moment. He revealed nothing about himself, and he revealed everything– again, all at the same time. He laughed at things I found extremely serious, and frowned at things I found hilarious. He occasionally took me aside and whispered advice to the effect that I was acting like a fool, just when I thought I was being cute and generous. Whenever we thought we had considered every possibility around an issue, he produced an opinion so contrary to “logic” as to be breathtaking. I never thought I’d heard the Final Word on anything until I heard what he had to say…..

Nicholas lived with intense physical pain. Every step was agonizing, but he made them as an artist, which ultimately seemed to be his reason to keep going. He was a marvelous painter, and we remember his bonsai as graceful and delicate, often the tiniest twig carrying two or three blossoms. He had no concern for bonsai rules or aesthetics beyond what he loved to see. With characteristic irony, he was a health care professional with a deep distrust of the medical system—- though maybe that isn’t so paradoxical as it appears. He resisted his Dr’s advice to operate for years. I believe he had a knowledge that he would not leave the hospital once he submitted. He lived constantly in the balance between continuing to live and accepting death as a release.

At our shows, he could be counted upon to be there at all hours, and a couple of years ago, we conned him into using a little counting machine to try to accurately measure our attendance. Though there is no way to prove it, I’d be willing to bet that his count was extremely close to perfectly accurate. Nicholas was not one to half-bake anything.

You don’t get to experience truly unique individuals too often, but Nicholas was a one-off prototype that The Creator probably considered far too complex for mass production. As I’ve tried to say, he was contradiction incarnate— intensely private yet utterly generous, carefully reasoned yet off the wall, wonderfully congenial yet closely reserved, skeptical yet sentimental, on-and-on. He didn’t have much close family– never married– but he had the ABQ Bonsai Club. I don’t know how his death will be memorialized, if at all, but come Mothers Day 2015 he will be— guaranteed.

We’ve lost a remarkable friend. He was a source of color and richness in an increasingly homogeneous world. Our lives will be substantially leaner for awhile, and those fluorescent lights he disliked so much as “artificial” at our meetings will burn noticeably dimmer when they find out that Nicholas Ng has gone to another room.

Upcoming Events

Dave Ellis sends his thanks for the turn out for Nicholas’ memorial:

I’m really happy that members of the Bonsai Club were able to attend Nick’s send-off.  I know that it meant a lot to Simon and Theresa.  I hope that everyone took home some of Nick’s Bonsai library… I sure know that I did.. There were still quite a few left-overs when all was said and done that evening..

In Nick’s last days, he was pretty much unresponsive, as they say.. and while sitting with him, I read to him.. the only reading material he had with him.. the JOHN YOSHIO NAKA Commemorative issue of the JABS. cover to cover.. and then to later find out that Mr. Naka had visited the Albuquerque club.. made it all that much more meaningful.

February 2014 Meeting Location

The club generally meets at the Heights-Cumberland Presbyterian Church 9:00 AM on the first Saturday of most months.  We meet in the multipurpose building indicated by the letter ‘A’ in the Google Maps image below.

Enter the multipurpose building via the only door (on the southwest side under the portal). We are down the main hallway and then to the right when the hall makes a ‘T’.  Abq Bonsai ClubLook for friendly people with a bunch of trees in small pots.

Occasionally, we meet at a member’s home.  If so, it will be announced here at least a few days before the date.


February 2014 Meeting

Saturday February 1 at 9:00 AM
Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Look for us in the SE side of the facility in one of the multi-purpose rooms

Words from the Prez:

This saturday at the meeting we will be having a raffle for the two pots that the club has bought, John’s donation. If you go to this site http://www.bonsaivision.com/category-s/1869.htm third row down far right, blue heritage, is one of the pots and the fith row down first one, the Jim Barrett, is the second pot. These will be useful for John’s group planting class.

For those few, John, people who have not donated their monies for the year it would be appreciated at this time. After this meeting I will be putting together a roster for the year.

We will be discussing civilly, soil, dirt, growing medium or what ever you feel like calling what you are putting
your trees in. Maybe a little about what John thinks we will need, i.e. muck?

I got a new harbor freight flyer and they have a 12′ by 20′ mesh sun tarp for $49 instead of $69. This is what I
have over my tree house for protection for those of you who have been by my place.

January 2014 Tree Barking

Wake Up And Smell The Liquid Fish!!!!

And yet AGAIN, we are firing-up the monthly Affront to Botany which will be held at the palatial estate of Richard Fox in his workshop, which houses a many-thousand$$ woodworking machine of rather hazy purpose, which, in any event, has now been shunted into obsolescence by simple 3D printers which will soon be owned by every pimply geek on his block. It is vaguely akin to some senile geezer who keeps a steam locomotive in his garage in the pathetic belief that “They’re a comin’ back!!”. ( Kenneth— will you print Richard’s address for the New Folk???).
But let us not dwell on such digressions…… I intend to cover some basic material since we have a pretty good group of people new to the club, at least, and several new to the art. Ms. Joanne and others have had to jump in to the deep end with no water wings, so we’ll do some basic talk which some of you Anasazi could use as well. I will also bring a smallish pinon which I hope to restyle, with emphasis on visually shortening leggy branches.

ALSO, I know you are lusting for information about the up-coming group planting debacle in March. As we said in the meeting, Geo and I have a few good yosue pots that I want to get into the hands of those of you who are strapped for cash, so that you, too, can make fools of yourself in March. Obviously, nobody wants to talk about being broke, so I have given the task of getting these pots to you to my semi-beloved son, who is broker than any of you, and is almost psychotically close-lipped about this sort of thing. Send him an email at georgekomai@gmail.com, and he will take care of you. We have one pot set aside already, and we have 2 or 3 more. There are other options, too, like stone slabs or Burt’s Concrete Oatmeal that he hyped at the meeting. You may also want to make a wood box and wait a year or two to see if the planting is worthy. Let George know.

What else??? I guess that’s it…. See you Saturday, OR ELSE.

January 2014 Meeting

This Saturday Burt will be explaining about hypertufa.

This is the beginning of the new year, so it will be appreciated if everyone remembers to bring their club donation.   For those of us who are having memory problems, it is $24 for the year or $2 per month or $0.462 a week or $0.066 a day.  I am sure Athena would appreciate receiving the entire yearly donation.

Bonsai Botany

Presentation by our resident botanist Karl Horak.
View On Prezi >

Plant Anatomy for Bonsai
What is Plant Anatomy?
The internal structure of plants
A Bonsai-centric Overview
Ancient visage
Secondary Growth
Girth only
Primary Growth
Shoot apices
Anatomy is a key to grafting, air layering, rooting of cuttings, “breaking back”
Not to be confused with “Plant Morphology”
The external structure of plants
Usually studied by means of examining thin sections under a microscope
Concentrating here on woody dicots and gymnosperms
Aesthetic form
Longevity and health
Secondary growth
Keiseiso (cambium)
Za & nebari
Jin & shari
Primary growth
Apical meristems
Phyllotaxy & leaf anatomy
Growth hormones
Root structure
Growth hormones
Tsugiki (grafting)
Toriki (air layering)
Sashiki (cuttings)
Fruits and seeds
And why should I care?
Root apices
Occurs at apices
Intimately related to plant physiology
We’ll save leaf anatomy, photosynthesis, and the whole water balance question until later.
Plus ethylene and abscisic acid, among others
Create a complex set of gradients that control growth and differentiation
Final Words

Plant anatomy involves a lot of strange vocabulary that describes the strange goings-on inside of plants. In the end, understanding the internal structure of our trees makes us better able to produce the living works of art that are Bonsai. From leaf size and shape to branch angles to bark texture, the underlying cellular structure informs the trees that we work with.

Upcoming Events October 2013

Instead of the usual class by John Egert, the October 19 get-together will be a field trip to Trees That Please.  Plan on meeting at #9 Gilcrease Rd. Los Lunas at 10:00 to take advantage of club access to their 1 gal. material. See Athena’s e-mail for details.

Afterwards, people are encouraged to go to their nursery for their Fall sale, which continues through the month.  Their website is http://treesthatplease.org/.  The nursery is located at 3084 NM Hwy 47 in Los Lunas.  This is a great opportunity to have club experts help you pick nursery stock that can be part of your group planting project for the March Master Class.  Our esteemed Sensei summarizes the salient points:

It’s Tree Time in the Rio Grande Rift!! Did you all get Kenny Boy’s message about where we’ll be on Saturday?? If you can break loose with a few bucks, you may be able to get your forest planting started— or even finished— if we see some good things there. Remember, you will need at least seven trees of all sizes to do the job— five is OK, but looks wimpy unless they are all strong. If you’re hurting for $$, I would suggest looking for one substantial main tree( maybe to be found at the Nursery itself among the larger stock), or two fairly substantial trees to begin the group, then fill out your numbers later.  I’m really curious to see the Dawn Redwoods—- RICHARD MARTIN–ARE YOU LISTENING— A very nice group could be made with them, and it sounds like this guy likes them. Some of you may want broadleaf or deciduous material— we’ll see what’s available. I have a few forest pots that I will be happy to give to anybody that can arouse my degenerate sympathies, but everybody needs to consider a proper pot OR a suitable box as soon as possible. If I can be pried off my delectable butt, maybe I’ll bring some of the loose pots and see which of you can be most pathetic…..
OK— Be there or be square!!!!

The November meeting will take place on the 3rd at the Cumberland Church as usual.  Karl Horak will give a presentation on plant anatomy as it applies to bonsai.  A sneak peak of the slides is online (still a work in progress, though).


People’s Choice Winner 2013

Connie Gardner’s Trident Maple carried away the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Albuquerque Biopark Bonsai Show.  Two days of voting saw every tree in the exhibit gather some votes, but in the final tally, Connie took the prize.

Connie Gardner wins the People's Choice Award
Connie Gardner wins the People’s Choice Award during the 2013 Mother’s Day Show

2013 Mother’s Day Show

Once again the ABC put on its annual Mother’s Day bonsai show at the Albuquerque Botanical Garden, May 11-12.  And just  in time… the ABQ Biopark has been included in a listing of the top 10 botanical gardens in the U.S.

ABQ Biopark Staff at the Mother's Day Bonsai Show
ABQ Biopark Staff at the Mother’s Day Bonsai Show
Bonsai Show public demonstration
George (left) and John (right) Egert finish a public demonstration during the ABQ Bonsai Club Show



















Metasequoia group planting
Metasequoia group planting












Saikei landscape planting
Saikei landscape planting






















The show continued on Sunday and the weather was outstanding.

2013 Meetings

May will be getting ready for the Mother’s Day show at the Botanical Garden. Mother’s Day show May 11 & 12. Please let Kenn, John or Susan know who has what in the way of setup material.

Some conferences coming: ABS Saratoga Springs, New York Sept. 12-15

There is an Deco-Japan exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum Feb 9 through April 21. Sunday 9-1 admission is free. Site below.


July 2012 Meeting

The July 7 meeting will be the traditional midsummer potluck.  This year it will be at Connie Gardner’s house.  Members only, please.

The August 8 meeting will once again be at Heights Cumberland Church.  The topic will be pest control.


2012 Bonsai Show at the Albuquerque Botanical Garden

Once again the club is hosting the Mother’s Day Bonsai Show at the Albuquerque Botanical Garden.  This year the display will take place Saturday May 11 through Sunday May 12.  Club members will be showing general bonsai techniques and answering questions all weekend.  John and George Egert will provide Sunday demonstrations, turning perfectly good nursery plants into the beginnings of bonsai.

Enjoy the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens this Mother’s Day.  Stop by the bonsai show (immediately on the right as you enter the gardens) and vote for the People’s Choice Award for the most popular tree.  Maybe one of these from 2012 will be your favorite.  (Click on the thumbnails for a closer view.  Click again and see the full-sized image.)


Just a quick reminder that bonsai enthusiasts with fewer than 10 year’s experience still have time to apply for participation in the 11th annual Joshua Roth New Talent Competition in Denver.

 — Kenn Greives, ABC President

Visions of the American West, sponsored by ABS and BCI, will be held in Denver from June 21-24, 2012.  Information about the contest is available online at http://absbonsai.org/   or they can contact me directly at natureetours@gmail.com  Information about the general Denver convention is available at:  http://bonsai2012.org/

See you in Denver,

John Wiessinger

Joshua Roth New Talent Competition Coordinator