Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai

Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Club

23rd Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai Annual Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Show – May 19 & 20, 2018

The Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai (BASA) held their annual Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Show on May 19 and 20, 2018, at the Lakeside Park Garden Center, Lake Merritt, in Oakland, California. It was a “celebration of color” with the Satsuki Azalea bonsai in full bloom. A special display of suiseki (viewing stones) was presented by the California Suiseki Club. A great demonstration on Saturday was performed by Johnny Uchida on a Satsuki Azalea bonsai. On Sunday, a beginners class on creating Satsuki Azalea bonsai took place.

Here are some highlighted images of the Satsuki Azalea bonsai on display.

Meeting/Demonstration February 22, 2018 – Tool Maintenance

Gordon Deeg presented a program on tool maintenance at the last BASA meeting that was informative and comprehensive. This subject is rarely discussed, and his approach was lively and entertaining. He made what is a dry and technical subject both accessible and memorable.

Gordon brought along a series of stones and tools that make sharpening and maintaining tools an easier task, and emphasized the point that sharp, clean, well maintained tools are absolutely required to be able to do the work we need to do on our bonsai plants with a minimum of damage and exposure to disease, poor healing and scarring, The stones, he said, can be types that are lubricated with oil, water or diamond-impregnated surfaces that do not require lubrication. The coarse ones must be used first when the cutting edges are damaged or have been allowed to get very dull, followed by finer, then very fine ones. He noted that the grit value of a sharpening stone or surface is expressed in numbers that go from low, which are coarser, to high, which are finer, to very high, which are essentially grits used for polishing and refining a cutting surface so that the edge you work to create can last much longer and require less sharpening in the future. This means not less frequent sharpening, but less effort and time for the sharpening that should be done very frequently. A coarse grit would be rated at 600-800, used for re-establishing or correcting a damaged edge; a sharpening surface is rated at 1100 to 1600; a refining and polishing surface is rated at 1800-2200 for the tools commonly used in bonsai.

Gordon noted that many, maybe most bonsai professionals maintain their tools by quickly sharpening before each day’s use. In this way the tools always work well and last much longer. They become an advantage that saves time and effort. Once a good edge has been established, maintaining the blade becomes a matter of a few strokes on a fine or very fine surface, which only takes a minute or so.

The diamond surfaces were of special interest because they can be shaped to fit the cutting surface, so there are spindle shapes and graduated wave forms to fit any curved, hooked, or odd-shaped cutting surface. It was noted that the company, American Bonsai has two sizes of graduated funnel-shaped diamond sharpeners that are very useful for curved cutters.

American Bonsai Tool & Supply Co. – High Quality Stainless Steel Bonsai Tools & Supplies – American Bonsai offers high quality stainless steel tools and supplies for bonsai enthusiasts.

The process of sharpening causes microscopic metal filings to accumulate on the sharpener’s surface, reducing its effectiveness, dulling it, so to speak. It is this that the water or oil is for, because it floats most of the filings above the surface of the sharpener so they can be brushed or wiped away, which should be done frequently, even on dry sharpeners like diamond. Gordon even had a stone to grind across the sharpening stones, to renew the surface and flatten them out, because the act of sharpening tends to wear the middle parts of the stones and warp the surface.

There was more information given about how to use a hammer to correct the hinge point of a tool that binds or has become too loose, how to correct a tool whose blades don’t quite meet any more, and other small wonders of tool wizardry. Now I think he should present this vital and informative program every year. If he gives it again, be sure not to miss it.

–Chris Ross

Bay Area Satsuki Aikokai – Annual Spring Show

Recharge – Professional Strength Microbial Superpack

Warning: For your consideration, while bacteria and fungi of this product are beneficial to your plants, the same is not true for you. Those agents can be infectious for humans. They are common and we unknowingly encounter them in our gardening and potting of plants. Practice standard sanitary procedures to protect yourself. This product is dry and a bit dusty, be careful when handling that the dust or the liquid mix does not get in your eyes, nose or mouth, or cuts or sores you may have on your hands or arms. Just use reasonable precautions when using the product. Always read the instructions and caution labels.

Mary purchased a new product which has gained wide use by members of the North American Clivia Society. Clivias, even more than azaleas are subject to root rot, and this seems to be an important step in controlling the problem. It is produced by Real Growers (link below) of Fort Collins, Colorado. That is the home of Colorado State University (the old Colorado A&M), an important research university. I am sure, with Colorado’s legalizing marijuana, that this product was developed for that market. It is called ‘Recharge – Professional Strength Microbial Superpack’. I believe it could be quite useful to California azalea growers as our climate is very favorable to the growth of the various fungi that may cause root rot. Its best use is as a preventative, or after the application of anti-fungal chemicals that often deplete the soil in pots of the good fungi as well as the bad. The product is fairly expensive, the basic containers 8 ounces, 16 ounces and 5 pounds, and is used at the rate of 2.5 grams per gallon of water, applied I noted that the label calls for continuous or frequent use every 7 to 10 days. And I also think that is intended for the commercial growers, probably using flow through watering and fertilizing systems. For our purposes I think use with regular periodic feedings would be very adequate. All we really need is the agents be introduced into our potting soil. They should be self-sustaining and in fact thrive unless there are unusual circumstances such as extreme temperatures or the introduction of fungicides or anti-biotics. One 16 oz. container will make about 160 gallons of solution.

Perhaps we could find a way to split a container among those that might be interested. The contents include spores of six fungi and starting colonies of four bacillus. I’m going to use some of Mary’s on my azaleas, particularly as I repot them, or if any show signs of trouble I’ll keep a record so I can report in the product efficacy from my experience. From the label – “This product is intended to be used as a soil amendment to establish colonies of beneficial bacteria (and fungi) in horticultural systems.” Also available from Amazon, but what isn’t!
– – Don Meeker


Recharge is loaded with mycorrhizae and Trichoderma fungi as well as the strongest microbe package available anywhere. We add organic goodies including kelp, molasses, humic acid, fulvic acid and amino acids to develop a healthy colony of living soil microbes. Undiluted, uncut and delivered at true professional strength concentrations.




Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt Annual Auction & Sale

Fundraising for the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt’s GRO Project

The Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (BGLM) has been raising funds for its Garden Revitalization Project (GRO) for months. To date, over 50% of the $100,000 goal has been contributed to revitalizing our Bonsai Garden museum. But, there is more to do. This project aims to upgrade the display benches and stands, watering system, pathways, add windows and much more, in order to meet the challenges of caring for and maintaining the historic and legacy bonsai collection in a professional and museum quality manner.

BGLM has recently initiated a commemorative brick fundraising drive in which individuals, clubs and businesses can purchase a variety of laser engraved bricks for $150, $250 or $500, and the proceeds will help fund the GRO Project. The engraved bricks will last a lifetime and rest in a place of honor at the entrance to the Bonsai Garden. For information on the bricks click here: Commemorative Bricks.

Another method of contributing funds to the GRO Project is to simply donate any amount through the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt’s crowd funding website – YouCaring.

New windows in perimeter fence

Installation of pavers for all pathways

New red cedar display stands

Your help is greatly appreciated!

Our September meeting provided a great “welcome back from Summer” program on pest and disease control for our satsuki azaleas, and suggestions for timely and appropriate feeding. Bob Gould, who so humbly insists he is not an expert, led our discussion and imparted tons of expert information. He brought several products to illustrate his preferred products and there was a lively back and forth with questions and suggestions from members. Darren Wong, who studies with Mr. Suisho Nakayama in Japan and imports trees as well offered his experience in repotting and treating trees that have been brought to this country bare-rooted. His methods were similar to Bob’s and we all learned from the exchange of information between our two club experts (yes, you are Bob!)

Bob Gould led the pest and disease control discussion

Darren Wong discussed pest and disease control

BASA members received specific pest and disease control assistance

The meeting was so chock full of tidbits and tricks for keeping our trees healthy that it was difficult to keep up with the rapid-fire comments. To the best of our knowledge the following accurately represents what was said. Where specific advice was given I have attributed it to either Bob Gould-BG or Darren Wong-DW.

Bugs – Fungus – Disease

Merit 0.5 is a good systemic insecticide. Bob alternates Merit, which is in powder form, with a spray during the year. He treats about 3 times a year and DW twice a year in the Spring and Fall. Because Merit is dry it can be mixed in tea bags along with fertilizer and placed on the soil to be watered in for a slow release.

Cleary 3336 is the fungicide Bob uses, usually after the Spring bloom in June.

There are also some mystery pellets that were mentioned with a Japanese name and source. If you can locate it with these clues, use 1 teaspoon for a 12-inch pot?

Thrips can be a very big problem for azaleas and quickly kill them. They need to be controlled with a systemic treatment like Merit 0.5 or Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower 2 in 1 Systemic. The Bayer product contains the Merit chemical and also has some fertilizer in it.

Root rot is a huge killer for azaleas since it is so easy to overwater them. Watch your watering very carefully and wait to water until the soil is a bit dry, not just the moss on top. Subdue is the treatment for root rot. It is difficult to locate, but takes only a very small amount to be effective, used every two weeks until improvement is evident. Members may want to share the cost of this, as well as bags of Merit to reduce the cost and waste.

Fertilizing is much more of a “touchy feely” thing, as literally, Bob decides when to fertilize by the feel of his trees. If the leaves are not firm and cool to his touch he gets busy with the fertilizer. There are many good products on the market, but Bob and Darren agree that keeping the numbers low, 5-5-5, is best for our purposes of creating bonsai. This proportion provides beneficial minerals, but doesn’t encourage crazy growth. Whitney Farms and Dr. Earth were mentioned as good organic products. Chris Ross suggested Dr. Earth’s Rhododendron mix which contains good micro minerals for azaleas. Don Meeker mentioned that in colder climates a 0-5-5 might be preferred to keep new growth down during the coldest months, but in our climate, we are fine with the higher nitrogen content.

One of Darren’s favorite fertilizers is Greenall FST which has iron, magnesium, sulfur. He uses it once a year since most fertilizers to not provide the micro-minerals and nutrients that this product does.

If you have young azaleas and just want faster growth to build a big trunk and branches a chemical fertilizer will get you there faster – as Darren suggests.

The most important part of fertilizing is to JUST DO IT! Being consistent with whichever product you choose will be the most effective way to insure strong growth and flowering for your trees. October is the most important time to fertilize since food for the trees now will provide strength for the Spring push of growth.

Lastly Darren provided his favorite method of wintering over his trees:

  • Remove weeds and seeds.
  • Add a fresh top layer to the soil.
  • Fill tea bags with two or three tablespoons of your favorite fertilizer and place here and there on the soil.
  • Cover with Yamagoki moss (Japanese mountain moss) – putting the moss over the fertilizer keeps it moist and allows it to release the nutrients more fully, leave this on through the Fall and Winter.

Thank you Bob and Darren for a fine presentation. We greatly appreciate you sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience.   — Candace Key

A good online source for these and other products is Do My Own Pest Control at


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