September 2019 Newsletter

The 2018-2020 Officers of Richmond Bonsai Society!

President Randi Heise
Vice President BettyLou Lages
Secretary Wendy Peckham
Treasurer Dave Barker
Board Member at Large:TBD
Past-President Thomas Sones

Regular Meetings, unless otherwise noted, are held the 4th Monday of every month at 7 pm in the Community Room at St. Mary’s Woods, 1257 Marywood Ln., Richmond VA, 23229.

Contact us at info@richmondbonsaisociety.org  or visit us at www.richmondbonsaisociety.org or on Facebook.

Bonsai information, common questions and answers, monthly growing advice, and bonsai links can be found on our website.

In this issue…

President’s Message by Randi Heise

I’m always sad to see September arrive because October is on its heels and then comes the start of winter.  While the kids are sad to see summer end for a different reason, for me it highlights the work I still need to do on my trees and for this year, time is running out. Branches were not grafted, trees still need repotting and others need to be restyled.  Fall’s saving grace is that it provides time for me to redeem myself since this is the perfect time to wire trees.  Although it may appear that furthering a tree’s development is put on hold until next Spring, this is the time to chemically fertilize for root growth and bud development and also to wire.   Although it’s mid-September, we have several months to complete the wiring of trees.  This critical task turns pre-bonsai material into bonsai. It’s detailed wiring, to the tips, that give the our little trees the appearance we all so dearly love.

Our speaker for September is a dear friend and internationally known artist. Young Choe is a master in the creation if Kusamono (moss balls or potted in specialized containers).  Kusamono are traditionally potted arrangements of wild grasses and flowers in unique pots, trays or in moss balls. Kusamono portray a particular season or location such as a meadow or alpine forest.  These are also used to enhance a bonsai display during formal two, three or four point displays or to add interest on the bonsai bench.  Young will offer a presentation and discussion to address how these creations are used with bonsai as well as a stand alone display.  The kusamono she creates will be auctioned off after the meeting.  She is a delight and we are very fortunate to have her visit us in Richmond.  I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.

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Calendar of Bonsai Events:

Richmond Bonsai Society Events

September 14-15    RBS Annual Fall Bonsai Show, The Great Big Green House
September 23         Regular Meeting- TBD
October 12               RBS Nursery Crawl at Colesville Nursery
October 28              Regular Meeting (Location will be in the Activity Room, not the Community Room.)
November 25          Regular RBS Meeting

Other Organizations
September 14          PBA Auction and Annual Meeting (see Upcoming Events)
December 7-8         Winter Silhouette Show, Kannapolis, NC

The National Bonsai Foundation hosts regular events at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC. Check out their events at https://www.bonsai-nbf.org/events.

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Recent Activity Reports

August Meeting Report

At the August meeting, our own Thomas Sones made an excellent presentation on finding landscape nursery stock to turn into bonsai. It is a good starting place for beginners to learn the basics of horticulture of trees in a pot and the basics of design, pruning and wiring to achieve a pleasing design. He had four different trees for members to look at and decide which tree had the best chance to be a good bonsai.

Before asking which tree was likely the best, Thomas provided the basics of what to look for.  First, look for species with small leaves or needles needed for a miniature tree.  Bonsai are not a separate species, but regular trees or shrubs made to look like miniature trees, so select species with small leaves or dwarf varieties of a species.  Second, look at the first foot of the tree above the ground.  You are looking for a fat trunk with good taper, a wide base that narrows as you move up the trunk.  Generally the top will be shortened dramatically and one branch wired upward to create a new apex (top).  Thomas brought several examples of fat trunks on nursery stock.  Third, look for an interesting trunk line that would give the appearance of natural forces shaping an aged tree.  Fourth, look for good nebari (root flare); this aspect gives the tree the appearance of age.  This is often difficult to determine in nursery stock because the trees are often planted with an inch or two of dirt above where the root flares out. So you may need to use your finger to feel around the dirt line.  Fifth, look for good branching if it is a conifer.  You are looking for branches in the first 18 inches that alternate sides at different levels with thicker lower branches and smaller upper branches, like an old tree would have. Do not worry about branches above that level since they are likely to be cut off.  In deciduous trees, this is not important since new branches readily grow from the trunk over time.

Trees to avoid – conifers that have large “knuckles” where four or five branches are coming off the trunk at the same spot. This also creates inverse taper, where the trunk is thicker as you move up the tree.  Inverse taper looks unnatural and should be avoided as it cannot be fixed.

Of the trees that Thomas brought, the group thought the hinoki cypress represented the best chance of being a good bonsai.  It will need to be shortened extensively, cleaned and pruned.  If pruned in the fall, it will need to be protected in the winter.  It would be repotted in the Spring into a training pot with bonsai soil.

As a follow up, the new nursery stock that he showed at the meeting will be used for demo’s at the Fall Bonsai Show, see below. Additionally, RBS be visiting a Colesville Nursey in Ashland on Saturday, October 12, at 10 am. Join us as we scour the nursery for potential bonsai material. Experienced members will be on hand to advise as needed. THEN,  we ask you to bring those purchases to discuss at the October meeting.

Upcoming Event Details

The PBA Auction and Annual Meeting, Saturday, September 14, 9 am.

The action and meeting will be held on  in the Lilac Pavilion at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct, Vienna, VA 22182.AUCTION – Bidding at the PBA Auction is open to the public as well as PBA members.  Only PBA members are able to sell, however. Start considering if you have items you might like to sell. You can sell up to 7 items (or lots) and you will register your items when you arrive on the 14th. PBA gets 20% of the proceeds and the rest goes to the seller. If you plan to sell, try to arrive by 9 a.m. The Auction will start at 10 a.m. Come early to check out the selection. And please spread the word. Share with others and post on social media. We want a good turn out! ANNUAL MEETING- Following the auction, PBA will hold an annual meeting where you will be able to hear PBA updates and vote on any PBA business that requires a vote by the membership. We hope to see you there!

RBS Annual Fall Bonsai Show, Saturday & Sunday, September 14 & 15

Richmond Bonsai Society is partnering with the Great Big Greenhouse to bring bonsai to the public during the weekend of September 14 and 15.  We plan to have space for approximately 25-30 trees.  There will be an area for long time members to show established trees, new members to show newly developed trees and a section for trees under development that will help show the public how bonsai are often created from nursery stock.

In addition to a call for trees, we will need volunteers to fill several shifts on Saturday and Sunday.   A sign-up sheet will be distributed at the August meeting for the you to volunteer for a shift as well as let us know how many trees you would like to show.

Since we are exhibiting trees in greenhouse environment, all trees must be disease and pest free.  If you have any questions regarding the health of your tree, we will have experienced members available when you drop off your trees at the greenhouse.

September Meeting with guest Young Choe,  Monday, September 23, 7pm

We are delighted to host international Kusamono artist, Young Choe, as our guest artist and speaker in September.  Young will deliver a presentation on Kusamono and its importance in bonsai display. She will also demonstrate the art of Kusamono by creating two Kusamono that will be auctioned after her demonstration. Kusamono are long lived and become more beautiful as they grow, mature and multiply.  Young travels the globe to share the art of Kusamono and it’s role both independently as an art and as an accent plant when displaying bonsai.  I’m excited have her in Richmond to share her amazing talent.


Young studied traditional art-ink painting and calligraphy-in her native Korea before she moved to the United States.  She obtained her BS in Horticulture from the University of Maryland.  While volunteering at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, she was able to bring her artistic talent together with her knowledge of horticulture to create Kusamono.  She traveled to Japan to study this unique art form with the master Kusamono artist, Keiko Yamane, a former student of Saburo Kato.  In the world outside the Museum, she worked with native plants at the USDA, NRCS, National Plant Materials Center in Beltsville, Maryland.  Also, she was a propagation horticulturist at the US National Arboretum. Young currently works at the US National Arboretum. 

Bonsai Help

At the September meeting, there will be a table at the side of the room with an experienced member available to answer any of your bonsai-related questions before the meeting, between 6:15 and 7 pm.  You can bring in your tree to get advice on styling or maintenance, or to have someone look over your shoulder as you clean the tree, or prune it, or wire it.  (If you have a pest problem with a tree, please bring a picture of the problem or a small cutting of the infected area in a sealed bag.) If you potted a juniper at the March workshop, now would be an excellent time to wire it to improve the image. If you were in a bonsai basics class, you may need to cut off old wire if it is cutting into the bark.

RBS Nursery Crawl, Saturday, October 12, Colesville Nursery

As a follow up to our September meeting, RBS be visiting a Colesville Nursey in Ashland on Saturday, October 12, at 10 am. Join us as we scour the nursery for potential bonsai material. Experienced members will be on hand to advise as needed. THEN,  we ask you to bring those purchases to discuss at the October meeting.

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Article: Fall Fertilization – Organic or Chemical?  

Bonsai care is predicted by two things, the health of the tree and the phase of the tree’s cycle:

  1. Winter dormancy
  2. Spring revival and flowering
  3. New growth and fruiting
  4. Short period of summer dormancy due to rising temperatures
  5. Resumption of growth during the Fall prior to hard frost
  6. Preparation for the winter dormancy.

With cooler temperatures looming, we are beginning various Fall tasks although Richmond temps are fickle and may be all over the charts – from a cool 50 degrees to the return of Indian summers with days in the 90s.  You find yourself needing to adjust your bonsai care accordingly. 

Once the hot days of summer have past, plants return to normal growth and your focus should be on Fall fertilization. Fall fertilization is different from the fertilizing you have been doing all Spring and Summer.  Fall fertilizer supplies the tree with what it needs to reconstitute exhausted reserves and provides nutrients it needs to successfully survive the winter.  The Fall fertilizers I use are often sold as “Bloom Busters” due to the high phosphorus and low nitrogen rating.  Fall fertilizers promote root growth and bud development.  During the Fall, it is preferable to use fertilizers that are low in nitrogen, so you are not stimulating new growth that may not have time to harden off prior to winter.  The fertilizer should be rich in phosphorus which stimulates root growth and development as well as support the generation of new buds in preparation for spring.  

When fertilizing bonsai in the Spring, I generally reach for the organic fertilizers or a mix of organic and chemical BUT in the Fall, I always reach for a chemical fertilizer.  Chemical fertilizers need to be used carefully since it is easy to overfeed and damage your tree.  The desired trait of chemical fertilizer is that the nutrients are immediately available to the tree while organic fertilizers need to break down 20-30 days before they are available to the plant.  Organics applied in mid-September are not available to the tree until mid-October.  With the first hard frost forecasted to be November 16th – 30th, time is of the essence. Applying organic fertilizer during the Fall gives the tree little time to respond.  On the other hand, chemical fertilizer applied today is available today.  

I have been very happy with my tree’s response to the chemical fertilizer I have been using for the past couple of years.  It is critical to always ensure that the trees are well watered prior to applying a chemical fertilizer.   Never substitute or “short cut” watering your trees by only “watering” with the chemical fertilizer mix.  Always first fully water your trees and allow time for your tree to absorb water prior to an application of chemical fertilizer.  I always water all trees and then go back and apply a chemical solution in the order they were watered.

While organics are very forgiving, you must follow the label mixing instructions as chemical fertilizers are easily misused with disastrous results.  It is critical to remember more is not better.  A favorite chemical fertilizer of mine is BR-61 Plant Food, 9-58-8., It is available in a 3 Lb container.  The middle number is phosphorus with the first being nitrogen and the last being potassium.  I have had outstanding results with both root growth and bud development using this product. 

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Other Announcements and information

Board Change in Use of Paypal for Workshops

The RBS Board changed the policy with regard to paying for workshops in 2018 through Paypal. The price of a workshop paid for using Paypal will include the Paypal service fee of roughly 4 percent. So for a workshop costing $50, the price on our website will show $52 for the Workshop if paid online. The workshop price, if paying by check or cash, will be $50. If you have any questions on the new policy, contact Dave Barker, RBS Treasurer.

RBS Board Position Needs To Be Filled

As many of you know, there have been some changes to our Board of Directors since the election last year. Dave Barker was appointed to fill the remaining term of the Treasurer leaving the Board Member At Large position available. If you are interested in stepping in to fill the remainder of this term (until May 2020), please speak to Randi.

Donate a Book or Magazine: RBS maintains a lending library available to members. The lending selection includes many magazines, books, and some videos. If you have books or magazines that you no longer enjoy, please donate them to the club.

For sale:

Mixed Bonsai Soil -regular and shohin soil (fine) 5 gal bags. Call Lee (804-869-1257) to place a special order.

Notice: RBS mails printed newsletters upon request. We encourage members to update their member records and switch to electronic versions of the newsletter when possible. If you receive a printed version, but would prefer electronic, please inform the club secretary or reply to this mailing.

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