Austin Bonsai Society

August 2003

President's Message

Glenda Konopka

Now is the time of year when I say to myself "Why did I ever leave Long Island?  It was so much cooler there in the summer!"  We have to be tougher, they complain it's hot when the thermometer reads 85 degrees - whusies!!

The July monthly meeting was our RSVP tropical saikei workshop, and no less than 26 members attended - just goes to show what can happen when you put your mind to it. It was a wonderful opportunity for our "newbies" to get down and dirty, our experienced members to exercise their creativity with great materials, and everyone to interact on the way to a special addition to their collection; that's what bonsai is all about - getting dirt under our fingernails, learning, creating, and sharing. Now, if we can only keep our moss alive through this heat . . .

Many of our club members attended the LSBF convention and I was very proud of our good turnout. I learned a lot from the workshops with Ted Matson and his lecture/demo (all the time I could spare) and I'm sure everyone who attended or observed any workshop or lecture/demo expanded their knowledge and artful eye from all our guest artists and fine native teachers. The raffle was fun for all and the opportunity to meet people from all over Texas was fantastic. I was able to meet the presidents of other clubs, which was very exciting.  Mealtimes were an especially fun way to meet new people, swap stories, and make new friendships.

The August joint meeting with San Antonio on August 9th is going to be a blast.  For the first time, a workshop with Mary Miller is being offered in addition to her lecture/demo during the meeting.  Remember - even if you're not taking the workshop yourself, come and observe - it's the next-best way to learn from an excellent teacher.  There will be bar-b-que and lots of other food provided by our club (tell Stephanie Q. you're coming when she calls!), so bring your appetite and readiness to socialize with the great folks from S.A.

We always need to keep in the forefront of our practice that bonsai is art - sculpture and painting in wood and leaf. Bonsai is not just a unique horticultural challenge, but an opportunity to express ourselves artistically. As we run around like crazy in our daily lives, even when we're frantically watering our trees to beat the heat, we need to slow down and remember that we're doing this for the sake of beauty and grace. Our bonsai shouldn't be just another burden to deal with in our everyday lives, but a lifter of burdens and lightener of hearts. So, take a cleansing breath and look at your trees every day from a place of calm, harmony, and patience - they'll return ten-fold in joy and peace of soul what you've put into them.  They give more than they take.  "Peace through bonsai" is a phrase I think I've seen or heard somewhere (if you know where it comes from, please let me know); it's very true, and very timely given the chaos, violence, and upheaval around us and around the world.  Take care and see you all soon.   

General Meeting Minutes

by Del De Los Santos

President Glenda Konopka called the Austin Bonsai Society general meeting to order at 7:35 P.M. with a minor note that 27 members had RSVP to participate in the evening workshop with Joe Wait. Thanks were offered to Jo Wait for hauling all the soil, rocks and plants for the evening's workshop. Notice was provided to participants that if their saikei was not complete, they could continue on Wednesday, 07/23.  Connie King and Mike Grafa provided refreshments.


Regarding the State convention; 1) for volunteers to see John Pittenger about providing assistance, 2) Pat Ware could use assistance with raffle ticket sales at convention and 3) a reiteration to stop by and observe, and provide support.

If you are in need of a nametag, please see Sheila Ward. Their cost is $6.00.

If you shop Randalls Grocery Store, and you use your Randalls Remarkable Card, you can help the Texas State Bonsai Exhibit by informing the cashier at the checkout you want your purchases to benefit Account Number 9893.  Every time your Randalls Remarkable Card cared is used, Randalls will credit up to 1% of the sale to the Exhibit account. It's part of Randalls Good Neighbor Program.

Reminder that August 11th is the Mary Miller workshop, register if you haven't.

New Members Bill Boytim and James Morgan were introduced. (James is now the editor of the newsletter!). Because we will be working with "muck"tonight, Glenda announced that she brought and is providing rubber gloves for members to utilize in the workshop.

On to the workshop with Joe!. The meeting adjourned at around 9:10 and cleanup commenced to close the evening.

Board Meeting Minutes

by Carl Quisenberry

The meeting was called to order at 7:05pm.

Board members present:  Glenda Konopka, Candy Hansen, Pat Ware, Connie King and Carl Quisenberry.  Other members present, Chuck Ware and Stephanie Quisenberry.

Old Business:

There are still some un-reimbursed vendor charges from the 2003 annual club show that the club needs to pay.  The total cost of the annual show was $1910.23, of which $1745 was the new tablecloths.  The dates requested for the 2004 show are May 14 as the set up day and May 15-16 for the show. The Houston Convention will be on May 21 & 23, 2004. The saikei workshop, at the July monthly meeting, cost the club $453.60 for trees, soil, and other materials; a cost of roughly $17 per member.

New Business:

Glenda talked to Ted Matson, during the LSBF 2003 Symposium, about coming to Austin for a workshop and lector/demo in March or April 2004. We could share airfare with the Ft. Worth and Houston clubs, if we can coordinate the timing of the workshops with them. Virgil Curtis, President of the Houston club, was the contact person for this. It was suggested we should talk to Eli Rodriguez about taping visiting artist lector/demos in the future. 

John Denton is the new LSBF Visiting Artist Tour Coordinator.  If anyone has suggestions for a guest artist for the   Texas Tour, contact John. We would like to have Ted Matson back in late September or early October 2004 for this; we will discuss this with John Denton.  Glenda asked about the possibility of changing board member and officer positions to two-year terms to facilitate club programs.  This would require a change to the club By-Laws.   It may also be difficult to get people to accept longer terms in office, so this is under study and open to debate by the membership.

We need to select a club delegate to the BCI convention in Rochester, NY. Credentials will be required for whomever we send to the Sept 5-7 2003 (Labor Day weekend) convention.  We voted for the slate of BCI Officers.  Nine people were nominated for office, but we could only vote for seven.  We picked Karl Betke USA, Linda Brant USA, I. Chi Su Taiwan, Vic Ceballos Republic of the Philippines, Frieda Joris Belgium, Chiara Padrini Italy, David Radlinski USA, Tony Tickle Great Britain, Ed Trout USA, dropped Ron Solt USA, Willi Benz Germany.  There was also a BCI By-Law change regarding who can run for President.  Pat made a motion to accept change, Carl seconded. Motion carried.

Candy announced that Tokyo Electron (TEA) has leased 2 acres to the Texas State Bonsai Exhibit for $20/year in perpetuity. LSBF must have a Grand Opening within 36 months of signing the lease, which is expected to take place in August. ABS has donated $500 to the exhibit in the past. Candy suggested the club increase our contribution to the Permanent Texas Bonsai Exhibit to $1000. Carl made a motion to increase our contribution, Connie seconded the motion. Motion carried.

AAGC, Inc. sent ABS a copy of the information that will appear in the AAGC Yearbook, about ABS, for verification.

The club needs to approach different venues of the Austin artistic community, in an attempt to get Bonsai perceived as an art rather than just a gardening venture. We discussed places to put exhibits, such as the Austin Art Museum.

Stephanie suggested we investigate the possibility of club members pooling their annual contributions to KUT and KLRU, and funneling the contributions through ABS, to get seats in the Presidents Circle for wider marketing of bonsai events. This will be brought up at the August club meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.

International Bonsai Arboretum Letter

[Letter from William N. Valavanis, Publisher and editor of International Bonsai]

Unfortunately, because of the SARS epidemic, the organizers of the BCI Convention in Taipei had to cancel their event. The bonsai world needs to work together to promote and present educational programs on bonsai art.  That is why I (have invited the Officers, Directors and members of Bonsai Club International (BCI) to join the subscribers of International BONSAI at our Collected Bonsai II Symposium in Rochester, New York on September 5-7, 2003.

The Officers and Directors of BCI will have their annual meetings and award ceremony at our September symposium. The board meeting and annual meetings for BCI will be held on Thursday evening, September 4th, while the award ceremony will take place at the Saturday evening banquet. BCI will also have a special silent auction to benefit their educational activities and magazine.

I invite the members of BCI to join us at the Collected Bonsai II Symposium. This will be a special symposium celebrating the 25th year of publication of International BONSAI and my 40th year of bonsai study. The Masterpiece Bonsai Exhibit will include collected bonsai and stones while my Commemorative exhibit will feature some of my finest bonsai creations spanning five decades. This is in addition to our seven lecture/demonstrations, workshops, critiques and of course a sales area.

I am certain the members of BCI will be welcome at the Collected Bonsai II Symposium and will enjoy the friendly hospitability of the Holiday Inn. In addition to our educational programs the City of Rochester is filled with horticultural treasures and interesting sites. The Finger-lakes wine country, George Eastman Museum of Photography, Highland Park, the International Bonsai Arboretum and other sites are also well worth visiting during your Rochester visit. Niagara Falls is a short one and a half hour ride from Rochester and will surely add ot your total visit to Upstate New York.

Working together will only strengthen the friendly bond of the bonsai community and I personally look forward to welcoming and sharing our symposium and special events with many new and longtime friends in Rochester.

I look forward to greeting you at the Collected Bonsai II Symposium, have a safe trip.


William N. Valavanis
Publisher & Editor
International BONSAI

Green Garden Network's "Green Garden Award"

There is a new yard of the week program happening in Austin. Yards in this program are not honored solely for their beauty but also for being maintained in an earth friendly manner. Winners receive a "Green Garden Award" sign to display in their yard, photos on the City of Austin web site, and free admission to a Green Gardening Workshop.

This program honors gardeners who keep beautiful yards without harming the environment. In order to win gardeners must practice at least seven of 14 environmentally sound methods of gardening that are listed on the nomination forms that are available online at and at Grow Green displays.

Here are some ways of maintaining your garden in an earth-friendly manner:

Conserving Water

  • Use mulch to prevent water from evaporating and to prevent weed seeds from sprouting.
  • Water your landscape every five days because it takes five days for the water in your soil to evaporate.
  • Collect rainwater in rain barrels in order to reduce your demand on Austin's water supply.

Clean Water

  • Reduce your reliance on pesticides. Pesticides poison aquatic life and beneficial bugs. Use pesticides only as a last resort; try less toxic alternatives first.
  • Prevent soil run-off by using mulch, decomposed granite, or stepping stones for paths in your yard. This allows your soil to absorb more water.

Healthy Soil for Healthy Plants

  • Use grass clippings on your lawn in order to return nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to your soil. This may eliminate your need for fertilizer.
  • Use compost instead of fertilizers. Compost improves the soil, acts as a weed killer, and reduces the need to water.
  • Use organic and natural fertilizers. In a study performed by the City of Austin and Texas A&M, organic fertilizers out-performed synthetic fertilizers.
  • Never over-fertilize nor fertilize before a rain. Your should apply fertilizer no more than two times per year at a rate of  lb. of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. 
  • Make your own compost. Use leaves, green yard waste and some food scraps.

The Right Plant for the Right Place

  • Grow plants that are native to the area or will do well in our climate. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from.
  • Use less grass in your yard. Grass is high-maintenance. It requires more care and resources than many other plants.
  • Use your garden to create habitat for birds, butterflies, or other wildlife that are losing habitat because of city growth.
  • Plant good shade trees to cool your house and reduce your electric bill.

[Compiled from the Green Garden Network's Nomination Form for the Green Garden Award]

Saikei Workshop

(Compiled by James Morgan with excerpts from Joe Wait's saikei worksheet)

The Saikei workshop on July 9th was an incredible success. The trees, plants, moss, wire, rocks, pebbles, etc. provided by Joe Wait and the Austin Bonsai Society allowed members of all abilities to experiment with and learn about saikei. Many beautiful saikei landscapes emerged from the workshop. The turnout for the workshop was impressive (but of course it had to be; who can turn down free trees and all the other goodies mentioned above?). 

To remind all of those who attended but might have felt overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information provided to them on saikei and the mad rush to get trees (as I know I was) here is a review of what we learned.

Saikei means landscape or planting in Japanese. In Chinese, it is Penjing. In either case, it is the art of creating landscapes using bonsai-style trees plus stones and other plants (plus ornaments for some Penjing).

Saikei is more than just the tree; it represents a miniature landscape. Saikei should represent a "scene;" a vivid scene on a miniature level. 

If there is one simple aspect of saikei to remember, it has to be the importance of the triangle. Everything in saikei is triangulated:  tree heights and sizes, tree placement, tree silhouettes. Individual trees should have a triangular shape to them as well as groups of trees.

Probably the second most important quality of saikei (if not equally important) is asymmetry. If triangles should be suggested throughout the landscape, so should an asymmetrical value. Remember, we are creating a natural scene, nothing in nature is symmetrical. So in our saikei's we should strive for balance, not symmetry. 

One should not arrange their trees in straight lines. We are not recreating a tame orchard. We are trying to create a scene that nature could generate. The landscape should be rolling. A stream or path should wind through the landscape (not go straight through it).

These are some of the basic qualities of saikei. Thanks to the Austin Bonsai Society and Joe Wait many members of our club were able to experience the excitement and satisfaction of creating our own unique saikei landscapes.