November 2019 Newsletter

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November 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: Vinnie Charity
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  or visit us at 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

It’s been a very fast year!  It seems to me that it hasn’t been long since I brought the trees out from winter storage in March and started the spring work and development.  Summer zipped by and my memory is of drought and making sure the trees never had a clue as to the drought. Now the tridents and Japanese maples are turning color, but the star of the bonsai garden is , of all things, a vine!   Virginia Creeper, “Parthenocissus quinquefolia”.  Virginia Creeper is a  is a five-leaved ivy, a species of flowering plant in the grape family, Vitaceae. It is native to eastern and central North America, from southeastern Canada and the eastern United States west to Manitoba and Utah, and south to eastern Mexico and Guatemala.  This little beauty has amazing color and is developing a barked-up trunk.  The color is a brilliant scarlet, orange, and yellow and the center of color in the garden.  This common plant spends most of its life as a weed climbing a fence or a tree or just rambling along the ground completely unnoticed, blending into the landscape UNTIL now when it erupts into a gorgeous waterfall of clear reds, oranges and yellows as it spills from the bench to the ground.  Consider collecting a Virginia Creeper to add to your collection. As a native, it does well in the garden and this little gem will really shine in the autumn.

This is THE time of year to wire your trees and to evaluate the next steps in development.  It is also the perfect time of year to sit down and start a bonsai journal.  It’s a great habit to start – or continue – by taking notes of the work you want to accomplish, note the date you re-potted, wired, sprayed and fertilized.  Implement a plan and document your tree and you’ll never spend time wondering when you wired or re-potted or sprayed for fungus.

This is the second year I have applied mesh fertilizer bags to the trees in significant numbers and for the first time I am able to state the obvious – I can see the documented results of aggressive feeding and no longer wonder if, or how well, this method of fertilizing is working.  Generally, it takes at least two – three years for wire to set on old Shimpaku juniper material, the larger older branches. The trees that were fed with organic 1-1-1 mix of  cottonseed meal, blood meal, bone meal, and fish meal. The odorous member of the fertilizer mix is fish meal.  The filled mesh bags were placed on the soil tip to tip,  “covering” the soil (trunk to pot rim).  The trees fed with organic fertilizer bags, had been also wired and wire started to cut into the bark at the end of the growing season of year two. Whoa!  I spent the next two days day removing wire and noticed that the heavy copper wire that “never cuts in” and anchored to the trunks had left slight depressions around the tree where new wood had grown at an unusual rate. Granted I push my trees for max growth, but to see the dramatic results is both satisfying and concerning. Concerning because now it is critical to take the time to record and track the dates when I wired trees so I can remove it in a timely manner. There was no damage that was a concern however I had left it unchecked for the third year, it would have become problematic.   The 2-3 years no longer is sufficient as long as I continue to use this organic fertilization program.  Bonsai journaling is a must for these trees

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Calendar of Bonsai Events:
November 25          Regular RBS Meeting
December 15           Club Holiday Party (No Regular Meeting in December)January 27               Regular RBS MeetingFebruary 24              Regular RBS Meeting
May 2020                Club Picnic, Auction, and OFFICER ELECTIONOther OrganizationsDecember 7-8          Winter Silhouette Show, Kannapolis, NCThe National Bonsai Foundation hosts regular events at the National                                                Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC. Check out their events at 2020                 Brussel’s Rendezvous.

Register now for the ABS Learning Seminars.Back to the top.

Recent Activity Reports

October Meeting: It was a full house as Randi and Jim kindly and deftly evaluated and offered advice for development of member’s trees. It was very helpful to hear peoples thoughts about their own trees, and then those of our seasoned members.

Upcoming Event Details

November Meeting: Monday, November 25. 7 pm

This month we will discuss. Winter Storage and Getting  Ready For Spring. Looking forward to seeing you on Monday, November 25th, 7 pm, in the Community Room of St. Mary’s Woods. Please note the Community ROOM, is our regular room.

Holiday Party Sunday December 15th

Don’t forget to save the date for the Holiday Party to be held at E.L. Smith’s home on Sunday, December 15th.  Please plan to bring a dish to share and a gift to exchange. The gift exchange price range is $20 and be prepared to engage in a game of “Dirty” Santa as you select your gift and then struggle to maintain it as the next person to select a gift may have one mission and that’s to take your gift away from you. You are the next to select a gift and may be able to take it back ….may be able. You need to follow those pesky and perhaps troublesome  rules you know.   Bonsai related gifts are suggested and heavily preferred.  It’s a lovely time in a wonderful setting.

Members will receive a separate email with more information and a RSVP poll.

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Article: Winter Storage and Getting Ready for Spring

by Randi Heise

Why Winter care? Determining the optimal care for your trees in winter will depend on where you live and the tree species you have.  Although we all reside in Virginia, each of us has a microclimate that may impact how we, individually, need to prepare for the safe winter storage of our trees.  Although there are guidelines for species, there are also guidelines for trees with special considerations and guidelines for trees of different developmental stages. Regardless of the microclimate or your location, whether you are in Gloucester versus the far west end of Richmond or Midlothian, or Fredericksburg or Williamsburg, the one KEY element we all must be concerned with is how to keep the wind away from your trees. WHY?  The wind is the most detrimental element in tree protection.  When the tree is frozen, the entire tree is frozen, including the roots. Wind that blows across the branches and trunk of your tree cause the tree’s protective bark to desiccate. As the moisture evaporates from the tissue of the tree, the tree starts to become dehydrated and is unable to absorb water from the soil.  WHY? The roots are frozen and cannot uptake water to replace water lost from the evaporation due to the wind.

Tropical Care! Your non-tropical trees have been preparing for winter for the last several weeks, by hardening off new growth and deciduous trees are dropping leaves to reduce moisture loss. Tropicals are the exception to this rule, there is much discussion as to when to bring in your trees, and basically I suggest you bring in your trees when you are concerned with the night temperatures.   I generally bring in the ficus when the temperatures start to continually dip to 50.  My tropicals reside in the basement – temperatures are a constant 55 degrees.  The trees are under LED lights (T5) and continue to grow. The Lantana blooms all winter.  I also have keep a fan on to generate constant air movement and eliminate or deter fungal growth.  I also have a humidifier as well.  Fortunately, my tropicals are reduced to two Ficus, Tigerbark and a Nerifolia, a Fukien tea and a Serissa.  None of these trees are especially fussy and require minimal winter care other than water monitoring.   During the winter the Ficus requires much less water and watering is limited to keeping the soil barely moist.  If you are able to provide a place indoors with lots of light and relatively high humidity the trees will do well.

Without additional lighting, only a spot immediately in front of a south-facing window will provide enough light.

What to avoid: If you are wintering your trees outdoors and you plan to set your pots directly “on” or “in” the ground, please consider adding a layer of pine tags, pebbles, or wooden lathe under the pots.  This allows for the pot to drain after a snow melt, rain or intentional watering.  You do not want the water to collect in the pot and freeze.  This condition is not favorable to pots or roots.   If you want to take advantage of an existing building or structure and place your trees against the structure walls, please consider the impact of the sun against the walls and the residual heat.  Using a south facing wall may cause a strong temperature swing causing your tree to be part of an extreme freeze and thaw cycle.

It’s a much better idea, to have your trees against a structure wall that offers some shade.  This limits the opportunity for extreme temperatures changes and limits the trees going through the freeze – thaw cycle.  Please note raked leaves typically maintain moisture and moisture breeds fungus. A better solution is to use pine needles.  Pine needles are acidic, this helps to protect against fungus. If you have pines and are concerned about needle cast, spray your trees with a fungicide prior to putting them away for the winter or use commercially prepared pine straw or needles as this material has generally been treated. Also, the only time needles are vulnerable to needle cast, it’s when the needles are just starting to open.

One tip!  Don’t directly cover your trees with plastic.  Plastic conducts cold and direct contact with your trees may cause damage.  Also, remember to remove plastic when the sun rises.  The plastic can “cook” your trees as well as protect them from cold.  To protect the majority of my non-tropical trees, I use a 6-mil reinforced white plastic, wrapped around the legs of my bonsai benches. I wrap from the top of the benches ground, leaving the black plastic grid top “open”. The open top helps to reduce temperature fluctuation and also allows for limited air flow. I’ve just touched on the very basic of why we protect trees and what to be aware of when considering a place to winter your trees, during the November meeting we will discuss various structures, pros and cons and offer suggestions on safe wintering of your trees.  Members will also be sharing their method of winter protection and any tips or tricks they now rely on to safely carry their trees through the winter.  One more thought….don’t use clear plastic – go with a white, the white plastic allows for light however no concern or worries of having the trees sunburned that may occur with “clear” plastic.

LET’S TALK GETTING READY FOR SPRING. Now that’s a topic I can get behind as I’m not a big fan of winter.  Trim your deciduous branching to open up the canopy so that the spring buds are well placed. Be sure to consider directional pruning when cleaning up your deciduous branching and prune for twiggy growth, 2-2-2.  Clean off the sphagnum and your top layer of soil, especially if you used fertilizer bags this past year. The residue of organics can/will slow down the drainage of surface water in your pots and you need fast draining soil regardless of the season.  Clean up the moss growing on nebari and trunks to get ahead of any potential rot.  Additional details of getting ready for spring will be included in our discussion during the November meeting so plan to attend so you have a jump on next year’s growth.

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Other Announcements and information

RBS Welcomes new Board Members

As you may have read in our recent newsletters, RBS has needed to fill the Board Member at Large positioning on the Board of Directors for some time now. Our President, Randi, has appointed Vinnie Charity to fill the position for the remainder of the 2018-2020 term. All board positions are due for new election in May 2020 (see below).

RBS Annual Dues

RBS is a fairly large organization with numerous expenses and currently, we only have three main income streams: dues, workshops, and the monthly auction of donated material. Our largest expense is the costs of having outside speakers.  Good workshop leaders and speakers are expensive  and often includes the speaker’s fee, and sometimes hotel bill, meals, transportation, and demonstration material costs.  The board thoroughly discussed the proposal to raise club dues and voted in approval of the proposal before announcing at the October meeting.   The  proposal from the board is to raise dues $5 a person and we will vote as a club at the November meeting.  We are happy to answer any questions regarding costs at the November meeting before the vote.


Over the past few months, you may have noticed the silent auctions of many items donated to the club. Last month Randi went to Montpelier and picked up several trees from the estate of a past member.  She still has several to retrieve.  The trees were neglected for several years and now that she has them,  they will be re-potted in the spring and should be ready for auction prior to the club picnic in 2020.  We want to be sure the tree’s you bid upon are healthy and ready to relocate into your garden. Stay tuned!

PARTY TIME!!  HAPPY 50th Anniversary RBS!

Time flies with good friends, good times and a shared interest.  Richmond Bonsai Association will turn fifty next year. It’s time to plan our celebration and we want everyone to be involved and help us celebrate. If you have any celebratory thoughts or suggestions don’t hold back shoot us an email. We want this to be a celebration of bonsai, the club history and FUN.  I’m throwing out my two cents and suggesting raffles, a bonsai show, great food good drink, new friends, old friends, and surprises.  We’re tracking down lost members and if you have someone in mind to invite, please do so.We’re thinking catered and if you like some potluck and decorations.  Now it’s your turn for your ideas.  Don’t wait too long since the event will be held in March. That seems like a long way off…but I measure time in meetings and that’s only 3 more meetings before the event since we do not have a meeting in December.

Nominations Committee Formed for 2020 Elections

Thomas will head a nominations committee for the 2020 Elections. RBS members will elect a President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Recording Secretary, and Board Member at large in May for the 2020-2022 two year term. Anyone interested in helping with the committee or who has thoughts about the nominations or candidates, please speak to Thomas. 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.Back to the top.