2017 Regular Meeting Notes

Please find links below to the PDF notes for our regular meetings. This page will be updated as new documents are prepared by our 2017 club president, Gordon Van Wechel. Thanks Gordon!

January 2017 Albuquerque Bonsai Club Notes
Bonsai Soil & Substrate, Pot Cleaning, Learning Opportunities

February 2017 Albuquerque Bonsai Regular Meeting Notes


March 2017 Albuquerque Bonsai Club Regular Meeting Notes
“Un-wintering” Bonsai, Preparing Show Trees, Kusamono

April 2017 Bonsai Club Regular Meeting Notes
Bill Wawrychuk’s Useless Bonsai Tips

May 2017 Bonsai Club Regular Meeting Notes
Mother’s Day Weekend Exhibition Preparation

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/.

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!