January 2018 Newsletter

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January 2018 Newsletter

Richmond Bonsai Society 2016 – 2018 Officers
President: Ron Edwards  Vice President: Jon Warkentin Treasurer: Jack Frye  Secretary: Thomas Sones
Board Members At Large: Betty Lou Lages

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 here.

RBS 2018 dues are $25 per person or $30 per family, which includes PBA membership. Checks should be made out to RBS and can be paid at a meeting or mailed to our treasurer (email us for address).

In this issue…

Secretary’s Message by Thomas Sones

Happy New Year! Best bonsai wished to all of our members and friends. Fingers crossed that this cold winter is actually good for our trees.

The RBS board is working on a great lineup of events for this year. The year starts off with a 3 part demo, lecture and workshop for our January, February, and March meetings. We will also have a beginner workshop in March and are working on an exciting guest for later in the spring.  We have decided to NOT participate in the Arts in the Park Show (as previously announced), but instead, the Maymont Herbs Galore & More event in April as a way to attract new members. We will also be vending starter trees to pay for the booth and will need member help preparing them to sell. Also in May at our annual picnic, we will be electing new officers for the following 2 year terms and will need members to volunteer for those positions.

Lastly, we have decided on upgrades to our website to enable on-line payments. We intend to use this as a primary method for paying for membership, workshops and other events. While there is a minimal (3%) cost associated that will need to be passed on, this will greatly reduce the work load of the new Treasurer, whomever that will be starting this summer.

Also, don’t forget that there are monthly tips on our web page and members active on our Facebook page are helpful too.

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Calendar of Bonsai Events:

Richmond Bonsai Society Events

Jan. 22         Regular Meeting Stone Mountain Saikei Planting Demonstration by Jim Ford
Feb. 26         Regular Meeting: Stone Mountain Saikei Workshop Part 1
Mar. 10.       Beginner Workshop
Mar. 26        Regular Meeting: Stone Mountain Saikei Workshop part 2
Apr. 23         Regular Meeting
Apr. 28.        RBS at Maymont’s Herbs Galore & More
Other Organizations:
Now- Feb. 3   Exhibit: Viewing Stones: Falling into Winter, National Arboretum
Jan.  6-18        Exhibit: Bonsai Winter Silhouettes, National Arboretum
May 12-13       World Bonsai Day Celebration with guest Juan Andrade, National Arboretum
June 8-10       PBA Spring Bonsai Festival

PBA  Study Groups: RBS members are invited to register for PBA’s ongoing study groups with Owen Reich and Jack Sustic. Study groups are meet throughout the year.  For more information, contact PBA President LeAnn Duling at ellaroo2@gmail.com.

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Recent Activity Reports

Annual Holiday Dinner Party: In December, RBS Members celebrated the holiday season with a beautiful dinner at Maldini’s Italian restaurant followed by a fun gift exchange.

xmas1 xmas2 xmas3

Upcoming Event Details

Jan. 22         Regular Meeting Stone Mountain Saikei Planting Demonstration by Jim Ford

This Demonstration includes: how to cleave, select and bond stone for mountain conglomeration, tree selection, trimming and wiring, wiring demo, pot and stone conglomeration preparation, planting and landscaping. Examples below created by Jim.

jf1 JF2 jf3

Jim’s demonstration will be followed up with a 2 part workshop in February and March. More details will be discussed at the January meeting and will be in the newsletters.

Feb. 26         Regular Meeting: Stone Mountain Saikei Workshop Part 1: Stone and Pot Preparation
Mar. 26        Regular Meeting: Stone Mountain Saikei Workshop part 2: Planting and Landscaping

Article: My Bonsai Story by Jim Ford

I first became aware of Bonsai at the age of 6 in the Texas, New Mexico area of the Southwest. It was here that a friends Japanese mother, first show me photographs of bonsai and other things of Japan. Those photos and the single short paragraph and black white photo, found in The World Book Encyclopedia, marked the beginning of my Bonsai odyssey.  Google bonsai Now…right?

image1Mr Me early 60’s on a Bonsai safari…ok Boy Scouts, Bonsai it was all the same to me!

After serving in the armed forces 68-72, following family, I came to settle in Richmond. Virgina, found some vintage Bonsai pots and restarted my Bonsai odyssey.

Many years later I discovered and joined the Richmond Bonsai Society, where I served as president and board member for many years. I forget how many years but I’m sure it had to do with the fact that I had a pickup truck…


Examples of my tree development published in the RBS news, late 90’s early 2000’s. These two are still with us and growing. Back then we actually “printed” stuff.

During that time I was most fortunate to have been surrounded by many super contributing RBS club members. However out of all those, it was Lee Abrahamson’s influential powers with great Bonsai Masters, across the nation and world, that kept the club fertilized and growing. Not only did he arrange for these Masters to visit and educate the club, he fed them and then incessantly drug every one of them through my garden. I used to keep my garden clean because of Lee’s impending tours. During this time I was also privileged to have spent a week on stage with Kimura and other international Bonsai Masters, as photographer for the international Bonsai convention in DC.

image1(3)Current main Bonsai growing area summer 2017.

I lost touch with the club for a period of time, but continued to pursue my studies of propagation and Bonsai development.  I currently maintain a collection of more than 200 ceramic potted, Bonsai. With more than 500 pre-Bonsai in nursery containers, just counted today, and another 300 plus potential Bonsai material, in the ground. As I do personally consider every plant in my garden as potential Bonsai material, this number may be a little inflated. I’m trying to cut back, however I do love to “experiment”…


New experiments in the shade house, now serving as cold frame…Very cold frame…

Over the years, I’ve created many Bonsai with, on and in various stone arrangements.  Of course originally making attempts at emulating styles and esthetics of the many Bonsai masterpieces of China, Japan and others.  I’ve only recently begun to steer my styling to the wild, natural landscapes I grew up with It the American Southwest.



Sample Butte nestled with junipers in New Mexico

Like so many Bonsai practitioners, I’ve both collected and purchased native materials, taken from the wilds of North American. In most cases we all set about applying Asian esthetics and styling to this material.  I’m now finding myself purchasing and propagating Asian materials and applying the esthetic and styling of the American Southwest to them. This is a turnabout that is just now beginning to be reflected in many of my recent Bonsai works.

Thank You

Article: Photographing Bonsai


Winter is a great time to make a visual record of your bonsai’s appearance, especially for deciduous trees without leaves because you can clearly see their structure. Doing this yearly will help you track changes year to year.  This comparison will also allow you to anticipate which branches to remove or bend when wiring or trimming your tree in the spring. There also are other reasons to photograph your bonsai: detailing growth history, preparing for publication, confirming insurance value/presence, or merely sharing pictures with friends.  Although choice of camera appears to be a major factor, even simple cameras will suffice for most tasks. Digital cameras now are dominant for most photography, and with their many automatic features, instant feedback and computer editing, their use in plant photography has now become widespread.The most important factor in producing good photos is composition – what you see in the frame. Composition is the position of the tree within the frame while considering the aspects of background, lighting, degree of magnification, and artistic content.  Generally speaking, the object should not be in the very center of the frame.  Some people use the rule-of-thirds concept to position the tree, which lessens the mechanical aspect of the photo and provides a balanced view.  Any “blank” space within the frame should remain small.  Shoot the picture from the front of the tree and level with the trunk.  Be careful about shadows, since they will detract from tree.

Background also is a critical compositional factor – any other object detracts from the main subject. There should be no background clutter. Background color should be neutral and should complement the colors of the plant.  Most people use a neutral, beige background, and avoid white, which appears too stark.  Of course, if you’re documenting plant growth or features with background stadia lines, these precautions should be disregarded.  Indoor photography allows one to use a piece of paper or a blank wall to control the background, but this option is not always available given the size of the tree or its location (e.g. at a garden show).  Some internet sites use black backgrounds and lighted trees to get a dramatic effect, but in general, a neutral background is best and is easiest to manage technically.

For advanced photographers, you can override the automatic digital controls and use the camera’s depth of field feature to blur background objects, or if desired, to bring more of the tree (front-to back) in focus.  Depth of field controls how much is in focus in front of and behind the subject.  Use of a long lens, i.e. magnification, will flatten the image, give less distortion, and allow the tree to be positioned further from the lens – a good thing.

Regardless of whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors, one should always avoid high contrast lighting in close-up shots.  Too much light can produce unwanted shadows or washed out, overexposed areas.  This high contrast phenomenon sometimes can be avoided indoors by using angled lights or flash units.  Most people with multiple or very large trees will likely take outdoor pictures.  Ambient light conditions can be either detrimental or advantageous.  As with the high contrast example above, sunny conditions can produce unwanted shadows and/or loss of detail.  Shooting under cloud cover will diffuse the light and give more acceptable results.  Choosing shooting time will also alter your results.  When the sun is low in the sky, picture colors will appear more natural and warmer in color to the eye.  Overly back-lighted pictures will give darker objects and loss of detail, but the halo effect – if not overdone – also can be very dramatic.  Use of filters and diffusers will modulate the light and can soften the picture.

Although not mentioned specifically above, image sharpness also is critical for good pictures.  Keeping the subject in focus is usually a camera function.  However, some people will override the automatic features of the camera and will use the macro feature to get the best close up pictures. Focusing then becomes more critical.  The best advice for macro photography and indeed for taking any pictures of bonsai is to use a tripod.  The stability obtained with a tripod should result in excellent pictures, even at less than optimistic lighting.

Lastly, increasing the resolution or pixels in a digital photo will give sharper pictures and detail – especially if you are printing or viewing large pictures.  Any digital photo suitable for 8×10 inch prints will give sufficient detail for most uses.  You should print out the best pictures of your bonsai and put them in a photo book for easier comparison with earlier pictures or defoliated/branch-only shots.

Regardless of whether you understand all the detailed technical aspects of photography, the experience gained by taking pictures will help you make better pictures.  Comparison of your work with published internet photos as examples will improve your results. The important element here is to take pictures.

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Other Announcements and information

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.

PBA mailing list – PBA is compiling an email list to make communications more streamlined. Sign up here.

For sale:

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

Pumice (as a planting medium). Randi has pumice in two sizes, 3/8 and 5/16. Both sizes are priced the same, a 79 pound bag is $93 otherwise the pumice is sold at $1.25 per pound. Contact her for orders. randiheise@yahoo.com

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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