Crabapple Workshop

Great Day at Darts Hill

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Today we had a fantastic day at a BC Bonsai Society crabapple workshop. The day was hosted by Dart’s Hill Garden Park in Surrey, where we not only got to have the workshop in their great covered area, but we also got a personal tour of the gardens by our very own Pam.  It is great having people in our club that belong to others, and finding ways for two clubs to work together for everyones benefit.  Thank you to Darts Hill for being such great hosts to BC Bonsai and to Pam, Peter and Jim for all their work in organizing the day!

The workshop itself involved getting a great tree, and doing that important first work to turn a field grown specimen into bonsai.  We cut back major roots, and unneeded branches and carefully wired and repotted our trees.  The white flowers on the trees showed exactly what we were getting and already I can imagine the finished trees, in full bloom at one of our shows in the coming years.  Fantastic!

The best part of the day of course was the hands on experience and the chance to connect with each other as we rolled up our sleeves and worked on great material.  I hope to see even more members at our next event!

4 Advanced Members, 4x the Information!

The BC Bonsai Society tried a new format at our May meeting and had lots of great feedback from members.  Instead of a single presentation we set up 4 interactive stations and rotated groups of members through them.  The result was smaller, more interactive group discussions, with more of a chance to socialize and learn.  The four topics covered were:

Single-Push / Multi-Push Pines – Peter

Soil Components and Mixes – Jerry

Getting Trees Ready for Show – Pam

3 Techniques for Maple Defoliation – Darren

Thanks to all the presenters for their time and expertise, and to the members for their willingness to try something new!

Big Turnout At Pine Workgroup

June 2016 Pine Workgroup

We had a large turnout at the pine workgroup on June 27th.  We even got out a lawn chair or two for the capacity crowd who were ready to learn about the unique challenges of pine bonsai.  10 years ago, our regular meetings were this size and now our club has grown to the point where specialized workgroups are attended by 18 of us.  It is great being part of such an energized club!

The meeting took place in June and, although the sap was flowing, we decided to learn all we could from Tak, and did some heavy styling work and some needle thinning.  A more ideal time for branch removal is in the winter when the tree is dormant, and needles typically get removed in the fall so the tree can use them over summer for photosynthesis.  Doing the work now will not kill the tree, but it will weaken it more than if the work was done in the fall and winter.

The meeting kicked off with a white pine.  Tak removed the apex and fashioned a new one out of a branch to improve the trees taper.  He then demonstrated needle removal, which on white pines is done by trimming the needles with scissors.  Plucking them by hand can harm the bark at the base of the needles, and that is where we hope new buds will form.  The needles are cut back to 1/16th of an inch to open up the tree.  Later the small stubs that remain will fall off leaving a clean appearance.

The next tree that was worked on was a semi cascade.  Not many changes were made to it’s design, but it was re-secured in its pot.  When you held the tree, you were able to move it back and forth by a half an inch, and that wiggle room is enough to cause damage to tender new roots.  To fix this without repotting the tree, a thicker wire was threaded up through the pots drainage holes, and secured in a loop over top of the trees base.  The wire was tightened after plastic mesh was inserted next to the bark to prevent the wire from damaging the trunk.

While all this was happening work started on a semi cascade.  In the pictures below you can see how it looked after thinning to create a layered effect.  The overhead picture shows the fan shape you should try to achieve through branch development.  The picture is not great, but note how the secondary branches come off the trunk in an alternating left, right, left pattern and decrease in size as they progress from the trunk outwards and from primary branch, to secondary and to tertiary.

After the branches were thinned, the dentistry tools were brought out.  “Time to clean the tree’s teeth” was declared, which caught everyones attention.  In reality, the sharp tools were very effective for cleaning up the roots and deadwood on the tree.  You should consider getting some of these tools for the next time you detail your tree.

There were some big tree transformations up next, where major branches were removed and the trunks and main branches were wired.  With pre-bonsai material, it is important to inspect the roots and establish a pleasing trunk line early, while the tree is still flexible.  It is also important to find each place where there is more than one branch emerging from the trunk, then make a design choice and only keep one of them and the leader.  If they all are left on the tree, the branches will create a section of reverse taper in the trunk which is undesirable and difficult to correct later.

There are several other reasons why you should take these steps to develop pre-bonsai material.  Exposing the roots helps reveal any portion of the trunk that might be buried in the soil.  You can also see the shape of the roots and decide what style of tree would make best use of them.  Bending the trunk while it is flexible, gives you the most most control over the trunk line.  The thicker it becomes, the less control you will have.  The two things that are the most difficult to change in established bonsai are the trunk line and the roots, so that is why it is so important to work on them early.  Here are some examples to close off this entry.

Establishing the trunk line

Branch removal and major thinning

June 2016 Shohin Workgroup

The BC Bonsai Society offers a few different bonsai workgroups which focus on particular bonsai topics.  One such workgroup is for Shohin-Bonsai which are up to 8 inches high.  Shohin have the appeal of being small, and offer the challenge of achieving a beautiful and natural design in a much smaller tree.

Starting out with a Japanese maple that was reduced from 4 trunks to 2, leaving a set of trunks that complimented one another with a narrow fork where they met, a difference in size and similar trunk lines.

The next Shohin material was an azalea with a nice form, given that it only had two trunks instead of the typical, and often challenging, whorl of multiple trunks found in nursery trees. The roots were inspected first, then it was simplified down to what was needed for a Shohin design.

Tak continued his instruction and hands on assistance with a boxwood that had its roots and height reduced significantly.  Next came branch selection and finally wire to produce what will be a great specimen.

After the boxwood came an Osmanthus with a very thick trunk.  It was pruned back to improve the design and the criss-crossed and obtrusive roots were removed.  The trunk on this tree makes it a very powerful Shohin.

There was also a rather uncommon informal upright Ginko at the workgroup, which was thinned, wired and planted at a different angle

Next there was a shohin, sinuous raft, cotonea aster.  Tak assistance in reworking the branch placement so that the flow of the design was in the direction of the trunk was an important change for the enhancement of this bonsai.

There were about 6 pine trees at the work group which make great material for shohin-bonsai.  Many of the trees had their long sacrifice leaders removed, which were in place originally to thicken the trunks to make powerful shohin.  In some cases the strong leaders were beginning to weaken the lower branches and Tak suggested that the easiest way to maintain the vigor of lower branches in this situation, is to plant the tree in the ground.


20 Participant Raft Workshop

Larch Raft Workshop – Feb 2016

The club got together to host a workshop on larch rafts, with material that is just starting to bud out.  We are looking forwarded to seeing how these trees shape
up at our future meetings!

Bryan distributing tie-down wire for each larch tree.


Adding a straight length of thick wire the length of the trunk so some bends can be done to add some movement to the trunk.


trunk to encourage rooting.

Birds Nest Spruce Demo – Sep 2015 Meeting

Demo by Tak

A demo by our President Tak Yamaura on an old garden grown Birds Nest Spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) belonging to one of our members. This tree was dug and potted in this container a couple of months previous, trying to save as much of the original root as possible. Tak reduced the number of trunks to three, determined the front of the tree and advised on the desirable height of each trunk. He then thinned some of the minor branching before suggesting a feeding with bone meal for the winter season and leaving the tree to recover and grow until next year and signs of strong regrowth.

Blog entry and photos by Pam.

Development of a Wild Hemlock

Hemlock Wild

Development of a Wild Hemlock

December 2007

Approximate date of birth 1960

Age 47 years, new pot and fresh soil.







June 2008

Show at Township 7 Vineyards and Winery

October 2009 trimmed and wired.

Used old bed sheet, cut into narrow strips, for protection.

March 2011 another hair cut

November 2014, time for yet another hair cut.

Tree is now 31 inches tall and 2.5 inches thick at the trunk.  It is now approximately 54 years old.

“Suiseki” or Viewing Stones Theme

“Suiseki” or Viewing Stones Theme

November  2014 Monthly Meeting
This was another windy and stormy night with only 26 members attending.  The meeting focused on the art or “Suiseki” or viewing stones and Lynn was gracious enough to bring a photo board of such stones.  These are naturally occurring shaped rocks displayed on a daiza (wooden base) or in a tray.  The stones are not allowed to be reshaped other than cutting the base flat if necessary.

Blog Entry by Bryan

Some members brought trees to work on, all in different stages of development.


Nov. 03, 2014 Pine Group Quarterly Meeting

Pine Group Quarterly Meeting

The group met at Japan Bonsai with Tak Yamaura providing the teaching and guidance .  Peter worked on his Japanese Black Pine with Claudia providing input.  Regrettably it was a very blustery evening and only five members attended.  The nice thing however was the one-on-one guidance provided by Tak.

Tony brought a very nice Austrian Black Pine about eight years old and Jim brought a large Mugo that he plans to make into a Shohin (under 10 inches).

Bryan brought in a Bristlecone Pine very much in need of a haircut and shaping.  Looking forward to our next meeting in 2015.

Blog Entry by Bryan

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