Central Virginia Bonsai Society
below from the January 5, 2019, CVBS Newsletter
WINTER BONSAI WORK> I was intimidated by the amount of work needed on my trees so began the winter wiring and pruning in November rather than waiting until late December as in past years. So far, the early start has worked out well for me and for my trees. The bulk of the work thus far has been with pines. Wiring has been done with no observed damage to bark or limbs. It should be noted that the type of wiring being done is mostly adjustments. This is less traumatic than major bending of trunks and large branches. Major bending is more likely to be accompanied by some internal damage. My instincts say that this type of wiring should be done closer to spring so that healing can begin soon afterward.
Due to their numbers, most of the work is with Zuisho. I continue to be amazed at their flexibility. Twisting while bending often greatly reduces the amount of wiring needed to properly orient the foliage. All of the rough, partially trained Zuisho air layers have already been examined, tuned up with wire, and marked for later air layering and cutting removal. Some of these are looking good enough to make me think about putting them in nicer pots.
The very advanced Zuisho are gradually being sold. In the meantime, those still in my possession need to be taken care of so that their appearance improves yearly.
This is slower going as these are larger trees with more terminals every developing year. One of the positive aspects of dealing with so many trees is that it provides me with many opportunities to practice and improve my wiring and styling skills.
Some who grow prebonsai from seed like to plant the seeds in the fall (as would normally be the case in nature). This works well if the planted seeds an be given proper temperature ranges and protected from hungry mice and birds. It has worked better for me to store my seeds in a cool, damp location and to plant them in early spring. I mix my seeds with damp peat and store them in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. So far, this method has been dependably successful. Some seeds do not require careful treatment over winter but itís is not always easy to know which ones are forgiving of casual treatment. Better safe than sorry in most cases.
Back budding is necessary recover proper foliage placement on pines which have been allowed to grow out too far. One way to encourage the back budding is to remove all needles except the ones produced in the most recent growing season. This allows light into the interior. Back budding is greatly increased on branches which are exposed to more sun. It is amazing how much the appearance and light penetration can be improved by removing all but the most recent crop of needles.
Back budding may take a year or more to be apparent. However, when it becomes clear that it is happening, the rate can be increased by suppressing or removing the strong buds at the end of longer terminals. The idea is to transfer the strength of the terminal back to secondary buds scattered along the twig. This is not a rapid process but necessary to get useable numbers of back buds.
In our area, 2018 was the wettest year on record. This seems to be continuing into winter. Itís nice to let nature water the trees. If the rain becomes less frequent, remember to assure that the evergreens donít dry out in warm spells. Transpiration is lurking. When conditions are favorable, plants with green foliage in winter will begin photosynthesis and draw more water than one might expect from the pot.
Many of us are intimidated by wiring, at least when we first start bonsai. It is an acquired skill but almost always becomes more effective, faster, and more fun with practice. My personal wiring skills continue to improve as the advanced bonsai develop more terminals and require even more wiring to maximize their beauty. The hard, heavy wiring often needed to set a trunk shape and position design branches gradually gives way to detail wiring as the tree matures. Detail wiring takes less strength but may require more time and wire. It is very satisfying to spend a few hours with an unruly canopy and reveal a great design which was previously hidden by the treeís attempt to ďdo its own thing.Ē Get a tree which needs refinement, take it to a comfortable place, and solve the wiring puzzle. You will have a nicer tree, even if it may be a growing season or two away.
Preparation for the spring rush can begin at any time. Clean, sharpen, and oil your tools. Make a list of bonsai which must be repotted. If pot changes are anticipated, prepare the pots by installing drain hole screening.
If you have plants in the ground which may be developed enough to dig, use the slow period to root prune with a shovel. If this is done now, the plant will usually come out a bit later in spring (giving a little more time to get everything done) and will only need to be lifted to make the move to a training pot in early spring.
ADAMS BONSAI HAPPENINGS> Wiring, pruning, needle removal, and bud selection have been daily tasks for me since Thanksgiving. I am closer to being ready for spring than I have been for many years. It is very nice to have the time to work on the detail styling of many of my trees. Passing the wire operation to Jeremiah has freed up lots of time for me. Iím trying to put it to good use. The floor of the studio is ankle deep in branches and needles which have been removed. Over time, many of the trees have become too congested in certain areas. It isnít easy to give up a nice healthy branch but in congested areas something needs to go so that what remains can get sufficient sun for proper health and foliage density. I must confess that having a bit less to wire is a positive thing. The resulting simplicity puts more importance on the remaining branches but I think I have improved the overall design in each case.
The warmer and wetter than normal weather has made it tough to find a good day for spraying the two needle pines with lime-sulfur. I did finally get it done a few days ago. The spray leaves a grey cast and rotten egg smell on the foliage but normal color and smell returns by early spring. The spray is mildly insecticidal and also acts as a fungicide in the battle to ward off needle cast fungus.
Teaching requests continue to be received. Iím scheduling events as far ahead as the fall of 2020. I enjoy traveling to other clubs and seeing their trees. I almost always learn something on the trips while I am supposed to be teaching. Iím encouraged by the number of new enthusiasts who are becoming involved with bonsai. I think the young Japanese trained professionals who live in the US are a big part of attracting new and younger bonsai fans.
After noticing that Bill was using his phone as his principal camera on Our Japan trip, I became very jealous. He wasnít burdened by the heavy body and lens of the SLR. Best of all, his pictures were excellent, good enough for publication use, and all the pictures were, automatically available on all of his devices as soon as he was in contact with a cell tower or WiFi. My phone was 6 years old and not suitable for quality pictures so I had to lug my heavy Canon everywhere I went.
On returning home, I did some research and found that Google makes a phone, the Pixel3, which has an amazing camera which seems perfect for most bonsai pictures. I junked my old phone and am now happily taking pictures with the Pixel3. I think this is going to be a great improvement for my bonsai work and for family/travel as well. The picture quality in low light, high contrast situations is remarkable. It does much of its work using artificial intelligence and the information theory principals I studied in grad school 50 years ago. Chips are now powerful enough to do many of the tasks which were impossible to do back in the day. I grin a little each time there is a need to take a picture. Itís so much easier to do now.