Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai

Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Club

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Update: Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (BGLM) Garden Revitalization Opportunity (GRO)

Great news – the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (BGLM) Garden Revitalization Opportunity (GRO) Project ended August 2017 by raising 45% towards its goal of $100,000. New vertical, straight grain red cedar benches and stands have been installed to replace the original bonsai display benches and stands. There have been more than two thirds of the new overhead water systems using the new micro cone sprayers installed to replace the old drip irrigation piping. Copper metal sculpture artwork has been added to the accent display site with its own water system. In October, plans call for the installment of cement pavers for all the pathways. This will eliminate muddy and dusty conditions and make it more accessible and safer for the public. Needless to say, exciting things are taking place at the BGLM. Look for new fundraising ideas coming this month. BGLM thanks everyone for their support.

Working with Darren Wong

Photo taken after thinning on July 15, 2017

On 15 July 2017, I took my “Kaho” Satsuki Azalea bonsai to Darren Wong of Soh-Ju-En, a family business specializing in Satsuki Azalea bonsai, to work on and perform summer maintenance. Darren wanted to thin out the pads which were very dense. We did not perform Mesuki, a technique for pruning to shape. The yearly growth should be trimmed; shoots grow in sets of five at the ends of branches and should be trimmed down to two. The rest of the shoots should be pruned to two sets of leaves. Prune secondary shoots in the middle of summer. However, in the case of my “Kaho” Darren chose to thin the leaves slightly. We removed dead leaves and tiny branches, mostly in the interior. The pads were very dense. Darren wanted it so when you put your hand under the pad you can see the hand clearly from above the pad. Some photographs were taken upon completion. Darren will send the photographs to his sensei Sushio Nakayama in Japan to show what progress has been made on the bonsai. Darren and sensei Sushio have selected a show pot for the “Kaho” which should arrive from Japan in time for the repotting season next year. For now the “Kaho” remains in a large training pot. I took some photographs  of the “Kaho” in May of this year. The ability to show the bonsai next year depends on many factors.

Photo taken by George Haas May 2017 showing partial flowering.


Up-Date: GSBF Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (BGLM) Garden Revitalization Opportunity (GRO)

As of June 30, 2017, GSBF BGLM has raised 37% of its goal for the GRO Project. The goal of $100,000 is slowly and surely becoming a reality. GRO Project is the first major replacement and improvement undertaking by BGLM since it opened its gate to the public in 1999. Already, many of the display benches and stands have been built and installed. These display benches and stands are made of red cedar and constructed in traditional Japanese joinery. More than two thirds of the new water overhead and spot system has been put in place and is currently in operation. The GRO Project calls for cement pavers for all the pathways and new cul-de-sac. Fund raising has a ways to go. Donate now! Help spread the word among family, friends and others. Log on to the GSBF BGLM website http://www. to contribute online. It takes only minutes to donate any amount of funds. Or mail a check to GSBF Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt, PO Box 16176, Oakland, CA 94610-6176, made payable to GSBF BGLM and note GRO Project in the memo section.


Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai (BASA) 22nd Annual Show

On 20 and 21 May 2017, at Lakeside Park Garden Center, Oakland, California, the Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai (BASA) held their 22nd Annual Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Show. Featuring Satsuki Azalea bonsai in full bloom. There were vendor and member sales, including imported from Japan Satsuki Azalea bonsai. Silent auctions and expert advise on hand made the show more exciting and informational. This year’s theme was “It’s all about the flowers in May.” Here are some photographs of the show bonsai.

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Satsuki Azalea Bonsai at 8th World Bonsai Convention

I attended the 8th World Bonsai Convention (WBC), April 27-30, 2017, at Saitama City, Japan. The exhibition and vendor Satsuki Azalea Bonsai were beautiful. Here are some photos of the exhibit and vendor trees. Excursions included the Omiya Bonsai Village, Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, and the Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine. Something about the WBC. It’s held every four years. The 1st WBC was held in Japan 28 years ago. The next World Bonsai Convention will take place in the City of Perth, Australia in 2021.

Bonsai Display by Jonas Dupuich


Our Bay Area Satsuki Azalea club meeting at the Lake Merritt Garden Center in Oakland, on March 23, 2017 was especially interesting and well-attended. The guest speaker was Jonas Dupuich, who brought along a variety of trees and display stands and an extensive knowledge of the often subtle but decisive art of display. Jonas, a founding member of BASA, began his presentation by discussing the different ways azaleas are shown: as purely flower displays, as bonsai with or without some flowers, and as deciduous bare trees so that the development of the structure is paramount. He also provided an excellent handout itemizing how to prepare our trees for exhibit – many reminders that all of us can use at show time.

 The interactive presentation began with a discussion of the display stands which ranged from formal to informal, from light colored finishes to darker ones, and from tall or short to flat trays. Jonas explained the uses and placement of these and the other elements of a display, such as secondary trees, accent plants, and scrolls to create a harmonious presentation. Members of the club were called on to express opinions and preferences, and then the somewhat loose set of rules and conventions that govern the art of display were applied to the results to demonstrate how to optimize the final result.

It was of interest to note that many of the “rules” seemed to be principles that a person with an education in design, or one of great sensitivity and some experience, would probably choose to follow automatically. For example, large, strong trees were shown to look their best in the formal style of presentation: larger stands of darker finish, rectangular rather than square shapes, straighter lines, simpler design and uncomplicated appearance. Of course, the opposite was demonstrated to be true as well: more delicate trees looked best on stands of lighter colors, curved legs, oval or round or more square shapes.

 Once a tree was properly set, Jonas added accent plants and scrolls that harmonized in color, size and tone, and that accurately suggested the season and geographical area that the artist wished to depict.

 The presentation by Jonas was informative and well-paced, with handouts to read and plenty of trees and stands to demonstrate, and he also used the trees and pots and ideas that members brought in the process. This high quality of presentation and thorough approach can always be expected from him, and it was a pleasure to participate.

– Chris Ross


Approach Grafting by Darren Wong

Photo depicts nails above and below grafted branch, sealed with cut paste.

Photo depicts direction of grafted branch and location on trunk.

Photo of Darren Wong, Mike Mello and Marcia Cozens as Darren works on Marcia’s Satsuki azalea bonsai.

On February 23, 2017, at the Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai club meeting, Darren Wong gave the members a demonstration on “approach grafting” of Satsuki azalea bonsai. Approach grafting is the use of two live branches and fusing them together. Darren used a couple of Satsuki azalea bonsai that members brought to the meeting for the purpose of showing how to approach graft. Some preparation was taken in the first case, that was to lightly wire a long branch in the direction of the second branch or trunk. In this case, Darren could easily bend the longer and thinner branch across the trunk. This long, thin branch was the first-year growth and very flexible. He was going to approach graft or attach the longer branch to the trunk. The trunk being thicker than the longer branch. With approach grafting both branches or branch-trunk combination is being fed by the continued flow of water. Approach grafting provides a good and reliable method for a successful union.

The best time for approach grafting is when the bonsai is in the growing season, like February and March.

The cambium plays an important role in approach grafting like other methods of grafting. This is the union that must meet in order to obtain a successful graft.

Darren first determined where on the trunk he needed to add a new branch. He placed the long, thin branch across the trunk and found the location on the trunk to place a new branch. He proceeded to use a sharp grafting knife to make a ¼ inch long “v” shaped cut in the trunk. The “v” is cut length-wise in the direction you want the new branch to grow. The depth of the cut was approximately ½ the thickness of the long, thin branch. The cut was not very deep. Darren pointed out the cambium as green, lying just under the outer bark. This information tells you the branch or trunk is live and capable of taking the approach graft. He used a woodworker’s carving knife to round out the “v” cut for a more natural fitting.

He then placed the long, thin branch into the cut area to ensure a good fit. Darren then used his grafting knife and fingernail to lightly scrape the bark away on the long, thin branch to expose the green cambium layer. This was done on both sides of the long, thin branch so that the cambium of both branch and trunk touched one another. This will help the grafting take faster.

Darren saw that the fit was good. He then used a small nail with rubber washer (imported from Japan) and hammered it in place to hold down the long, thin branch and placing pressure on the union. Another small nail was used to ensure an adequate amount of pressure was placed on the union of branch and trunk. The nails are positioned one above and one below the branch, hammered into the trunk (see photo).

Darren then applied cut paste, rolling the cut paste in his palms to measure about ¼ inch or more in length, and applied the cut paste to all exposed areas of the union. This step is important to seal in moisture and assist in healing the wound.

Approach grafting another member’s bonsai followed the same steps above. Darren cautioned about watering and handling the bonsai afterwards so as not to disturb the approach graft. He did some light cutting of other branches and tips, but do not cut the tip or branch used in the approach graft. The approach graft will be successful when you observe the long, thin branch grow in size. Darren usually leaves the approach graft alone for two years to ensure it takes and is healthy. At that time, you cut at the base where the grafted branch first enters the trunk leaving the new branch.



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