Austin Bonsai Society

June 2003

President's Message

Glenda Konopka

In the May newsletter, Larry Gfeller propounded a very timely and pertinent list of questions titled "What Can I Expect from a Bonsai Workshop?" While I am certainly in no way holding myself out as an expert on workshops, and everyone in our club will have their own opinions on this issue (which are certainly welcome for discussion and/or future publication), I've been to a bunch of workshops over the past three years as a newbie, helped plan some, and watched others, so here goes:

1. "How do I know whether to bring my own tree or whether the program includes the tree?"

Answer: Ninety-nine percent of the time the workshop brochure or other printed material will tell you this. For example, there are a bunch of workshops being offered at the Summer Breeze convention this July. If you read the workshop descriptions, you'll see that most describe the trees being provided for workshop participants - size, caliper, etc.; their cost is part of the workshop fee. Some other workshops describe the artist you'll be working with, but say "Bring your own tree"; because of this, these workshops tend to cost less than those with trees provided. If in doubt, never hesitate to call the persons involved with signing up participants for the workshop and ask them.

2. "How about other supplies: soil, pot, wire?"

Answer: Easiest one first - always plan to bring your own wire. Some people like aluminum wire, others swear by annealed copper. One type of wire might work best for pines, another for tropicals. Aluminum vs. copper wire preferences go in and out of style year-to-year I've been told. A person with weak hands might find it easier to bend a branch using 2 turns of a lighter gauge wire than someone stronger who can handle 1 turn of a heavier gauge. Unless specifically spelled out, bring plenty of wire, taking into account the tree and your preferences. I haven't attended a workshop yet where wire was provided. Regarding pot/soil questions, again, look at the type of workshop and the info provided about it. Most workshops don't expect you to style a tree and repot it due to time constraints - there's only so much you can accomplish in 2 to 4 hours; however, if it's a longer workshop or one focused on soil or root issues, they'll say if you need to bring a pot and/or soil. Again, if you're unsure, call someone.

3. "If I bring my own tree, where should I purchase it (bonsai nursery or conventional nursery)?"

Answer: Depends on the workshop and what you're hoping to learn/accomplish. If you're doing something like Hal Mahoney's magical transformation of a 1 gallon Home Depot juniper into high art, the answer is obvious - go to Home Depot! On the other hand, if you've paid the money for one-on-one time with a bonsai Master like Kathy Shaner or another special artist, then the choice is yours - if you want to start with something that you're certain has real potential as a bonsai and just needs a direction, go to a bonsai nursery and ask for good material with high potential; you'll pay more, but you'll get your money's worth in 2 to 5 years. On the other hand, if you want to experiment with non-bonsai material and learn to "see the bonsai in the tree," then go to a regular nursery and comb through their stock to find something suitable. Bottom line - you get out of a workshop what you put into it, both effort and material-wise.

4. "If I bring my own tree should it already be potted, wired, or prepared in some other way?"

Answer: YES! The absolute must-have for a workshop is a healthy, happy, vigorously growing tree, whether or not it's ever been pruned, wired, potted, or otherwise touched by human hands. Think about the trauma your tree is about to experience - it's like major cardiac bypass surgery for a human. Most work shops are scheduled months (or longer) in advance, so you have plenty of time to get your workshop tree as fit as a fiddle, whether you've had it for years or bought it specifically for the workshop (make sure the tree you buy is healthy above all else no matter the source). Most "raw" workshop trees aren't wired in advance because the style hasn't been established yet, that's usually why you're taking your tree to the workshop (see question #3); however, some trees you bring to workshops have been "works in progress" from earlier workshops or otherwise worked on for years, so they have been repotted, wired, pruned, or otherwise styled prior to this workshop and you're bringing it in for further refining, restyling, or other motives. Remember - health is priority Number 1.

5. "Different workshops have different costs. How do I recognize trees, styles, or techniques that are not cost effective for beginners (likelihood of long-term success is low)?"

Answer: Research, research, and more research, coupled with whatever bonsai experience you've had before making the decision to take a particular workshop. Under no circumstances underestimate the best resource you have right here - ask experienced seasoned club members who have been growing bonsai in this god-forsaken climate for years what they'd recommend; there are some trees and styles that will naturally do better for the beginner than others - informal upright is a whole lot easier style to handle than a weeping, windswept, full-cascade. Read the plethora of magazines and other resources in our library - our own Bill Cody has written extensively about the pitfalls of trying to grow trees in Texas weather in the ABS journal, not to mention all the great contributions by so many people over the years to our newsletters. Read reliable books by reliable authors like John Naka, Yuji Yoshimura, Deborah R. Koreshoff, and Paul Lesniewicz (this is by no means a complete listing, so no-one have a cow over the gazillion books I left out!!) The more you know about a tree, style, or particular technique, the better to make your decision; knowledge is power. Follow your gut about what you think you can handle; if it looks too intimidating, whether or not it may actually be, you're doomed to failure because you just won't feel confident about your ability to keep a particular tree alive and healthy, let alone perfectly styled. Everyone seems to have types of trees they're more in harmony with than others, so go with those until you build more confidence, have more experience, and want to branch out (ouch, no pun intended) into a new species. I also wouldn't recommend a beginner taking a $500 workshop with a tough tree specie without a lot of help and support afterwards - the likelihood of long-term success would seem pretty low under those circumstances; start modest and build a solid foundation from which to expand your practice.

6. "What is the best way to learn and record the care and feeding requirements of the workshop tree I will take from this experience?"

Answer: Your pre-workshop research should get you pretty well prepared for the tree's aftercare, but again, there are other sources of help. Most workshop teachers will give you an overview of the immediate needs of the tree; take good notes and follow their instructions (usually). Gather all the information you can about the tree's growth habits, fertilizer requirements, and seasonal needs. Ask our club members; research your tree as much as you can in whatever manner. You (hopefully) wouldn't go out and buy a purebred puppy or kitten without having first researched about feeding, training, exercising, vetting, and other requirements to make it a happy and healthy part of your household; bonsai are no different.

7. "How do I learn if special tools will be needed (i.e., carving, grinding, etc.)? If they are, should I invest in these tools for a possible one-time use in this workshop?"

Answer: As before, get all the info you can about the workshop and the artist conducting it; some trees are great for jin/shari work, other species just rot; some artists love to carve, others don't; some workshops are specifically targeted towards these special techniques, others aren't. Example: Chuck Ware was covered in sawdust at the November 2002 convention workshop he taught (we have photos!), but unless you think this is something you want to do to a bunch of trees and have the money for a decent grinder, you might just want to borrow someone else's tools and see how it goes. Some carving tools are cheap, others expensive. Over the long haul, let the evolution of your practice dictate what tools find their way into your bonsai bag and how you apply them to the various workshops you take. Me? After 5 years I finally bought a baby Dremel - I've used it twice, once at a workshop with Dennis Makashima; I'm not much of a carver-type at this point.

8. "Often I have difficulty understanding the artist. How do I deal with this should it come up and I paid a fee for someone I can't understand?"

Answer: If you're addressing this issue from the perspective of "bonsai jargon," be patient and listen, research before and after the workshop, ask other people in the workshop what the artist meant, and it will come with time and exposure; all vocations and avocations have their own "speak" - law, mountain climbing, computer programming, medicine, sculling, accounting. If you're speaking of a language barrier, i.e., I don't speak Japanese and he doesn't speak much English, again do your research, ask others who have taken workshops from this individual and see if there's been a problem. However, I have found most foreign-speaking bonsai artists to be well aware of the potential barrier and very patient with being asked "What did you mean?" more than once by their workshop students; bonsai is a patient art, anyway, which helps. The artists also know you've paid good money to learn from them, and they will inevitably go out of their way to teach you - whether it's repeating themselves, getting someone to translate, drawing pictures, using sign/body language. There's a lot that can be transmitted about bonsai that has nothing to do with language, also. Bonsai is physical, hands-on, soul-based, and artistic, as well as intellectual; you don't need to speak Japanese to watch and understand what an outstanding artist is doing with you and your tree as they take your hands and show you how to wire a branch; think about how much knowledge is exchanged in our daily lives using gestures, physical demonstration, and facial expressions. Language assists understanding, no doubt about it, but I haven't been in a workshop yet where language has hampered my learning experience.

9. "There are more workshops offered than my time or money allows. How should I choose? Is there any real value involved in observing?"

Answer: See the responses to earlier questions, including number 5, re choosing which workshop(s) to take and why. Invest your time and money wisely, taking only those workshops that will benefit you at the level of practice you're comfortable with at the time; spend the money to learn from the best, buy the best material you can afford, don't waste your time taking a workshop covering techniques you already know cold, and you'll get the best returns possible on both your time and money. Better to take fewer, better workshops than numerous, less valuable ones; you'll be better served in the long run both by increasing your learning curve and spending your time at home on fewer, better trees. About observing - absolutely there is very real value in observing workshops; in fact, you can sometimes learn more that way than taking the workshop yourself. If you observe, you can follow the artist from tree to tree instead of staying in one place with your tree. You can observe various ideas take shape, various techniques required by different styles and presentations of trees, the interaction between the artist and the participant, which will help you make informed decisions in the future about spending money to take a particular workshop. The more you observe, the more you learn - and that's what bonsai is all about.

Any questions? Ask those who know more than I and have a great June!

Calendar of Events

June 11 Monthly Meeting
Soils for the Summer
with Bill Cody
7:30 PM
Zilker Garden Center
Refreshments by:
Barbara Rodriquez
Carl Quisenberry

June 14 LSBF Meeting
1:00 PM
Zilker Garden Center

June 18 Board Meeting
7:00 PM
Zilker Garden Center

June 21 Shohin Society Meeting

June 28 Members workshop
Bring Your Soil Problems
7:30 PM
Zilker Garden Center

July 9 Sign up for free club saikei workshop with Joe Wait Only those registered can take the workshop. Call 1-512-312-1614. Everything except pot provided. See pg.6 Observers free, also.

July 11-13 LSBF Symposium, Austin,Tx.

General Meeting Minutes

Del DeLos Santos

The general meeting of the Austin Bonsai Society was called to order at 7:40 P.M. by Vice President, Roger Patterson, Charlotte Cranberg presented the Garden Council Report, and Pat Ware presented the treasurers report, raising the issue of workshop attendance. ABS lost money on the Hal Mahoney workshop, ABS members failed to even show and observe the workshop much less register. The few members who always seem ready to support the club purchased registrations for participation. We need to begin spreading the news for Mary Millers workshop in August, and Roy Nagatoshi in the fall. ABS members are encouraged to register early, and if opting not to participate, come and observe and learn.

Bill Cody and John Pittenger raised the question of club subsides for ABS members to increase workshop attendance. It was moved and seconded, and voted on to defer the issue to the ABS Board.

Pat Ware announced that the early registration discount for the Summer Breeze Symposium is coming near. Registration is $110. 00 prior to June 1st and $125.00 after. Please hurry up, register and save yourselves some money. There was no additional news from Chuck Ware regarding LSBF.

The meeting proceeded with Terry Ward's presentation on preparing for a tree for show. Terry covered the do's and don'ts of how to clean a pot of calcium deposits and the art of exhibit pruning to ensure no stubs or large leaves remain on the tree to be exhibited. Terry touched on soil covers, i.e. , the use of moss, and colored gravel to refine the visual presentation. Also covered was the use of accent plants their display position and pots. The meeting adjourned at 9:30 P.M.


GLENDA (251-2612)
OR PAT (1-512-847-2514)

Thank you Bennie for stepping in to do the Azalea study group on short notice. Everyone learned something from this "old pro". Remember for sure: water Azaleas with rain water & spray for spider mites.

Board Meeting Minutes

Del DeLos Santos

The board meeting of the Austin Bonsai Society was called to order at 7:13 P.M. by President, Glenda Konopka. Pat Ware, Connie King, Larry Gfeller, Candy Hansen, Alisan Clarke, Chuck Ware and Joe Wait were present, Del De Los Santos was running late. Pat Ware presented the treasurer's report and the details of the Hal Mahoney workshop. John Pittenger's proposal to subsidize or lower workshop fees was presented and discussed. The board discussed the possibility of issuing vendor coupons as a form of workshop subsidization for ABS members. The vendor coupon subsidy was table till the June meeting.

Discussion was held regarding the Joe Wait's July topical saikei presentation, cost of materials and pots was discussed. Alisan presented the scrolls utilized at the show.

Vito has declined to present the Azalea workshop in May, phone calls were made to obtain a replacement instructor.

The show report will be forth coming as all expenses have yet to be presented for payment. It was decided to contact Bill Cody about storage of the new cloths along side with the show backdrops. It was decided that the new cloth table covers be laundered prior to storage.

Candy Hansen stated that she would like to purchase the old burlap table covers, the item was moved, seconded and voted on to sell the burlap to Candy for $50.00.

Advertising via radio and television was for future shows was also discussed. The board meeting adjourned at 8:30.

Your Bonsai in Full Sun, Part 2: Container Root Zone Temperatures and the Effects of Four Watering Regimens

J. R. (Bill) Cody

Previously, we have seen that the placing of our bonsai in full sun may result in the root-zone temperatures reaching such high levels that both the short- term and long-term health of our bonsai may be adversely affected. Commercial growers in the nursery industry are advised of several strategies by which container temperatures may be reduced, e. g., overhead shading, aluminum foil container shading, using white containers, pot-in-pot or pot-in-ground cultivation, plant positioning to take advantage of canopy shading, and mid-day watering.

Since solar radiation striking the walls of a container is the primary source of thermal energy causing supraoptimal root-zone temperatures (SORZT), shading the root ball and container per se does reduce the markedly elevated root-zone temperature swings seen, especially in the East and West quadrants, in containers in full sun.

Shading the container also reduces the heat sink/heat radiator properties of ceramic bonsai containers. However, the average root-zone temperatures measured in a covered bonsai container 98.6F. were consistently very near that of the average ambient temperature 96F. which is well above the root temperature range for optimum growth [60-86F. and approaches the upper limits of supraoptimal root-zone temperatures [(89.6-104F.]. In Central Texas (Latitude 31) ambient temperatures consistently reach well into the middle to upper supraoptimal temperature levels for four to six hours on a daily basis.

Since few of the strategies open to commercial nurseries can meet the artistic criteria for bonsai on display, the purpose of this study is to determine if there is a watering regimen, with and without container shading, which may prove to be efficacious in protecting our bonsai from supraoptimal root-zone temperatures in full sun.


A large rectangular brown ceramic bonsai container [inside measurements: 18" x 13" x 5" deep with a measured volume of 14.2 liters (3.3 gallons)] containing a cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) planted in a growth medium of expanded shale and pine bark v:v::1:1 was selected for the study. The elm has been in this container for two years, so there has been some decomposition of pine bark with accompanying compaction of the growth medium. This reduction in porosity (there are less air-filled spaces) may increase the overall root zone temperature within the container. However, this condition will improve the cooling effect of the water applied as there is a reduced rate of water flow through the growth medium as well as an increase in the horizontal movement of the irrigation water. All procedures were the same as in the previous study except that the post-watering temperature was recorded 10 minutes after watering to allow for adequate drainage. This study was done in August 1999 and September 2000.

During a study done the previous summer (unpublished data), the amount of irrigation water was determined by the 'usual and customary' method of bonsai watering, i.e., the plant is watered until irrigation water appears through the bottom holes. To some bonsaiist, this represents the watering end-point and they go to the next container, but others continue for a short time longer. Using the latter technique last summer, I standardized the watering time for the 5-inch deep container as: "water through plus 10 seconds." This amounted to an irrigation time of 16 seconds, producing an irrigation volume of 8.3 liters (2.2 gal.) that is 58% of the container volume of 14.2 liters (3.3 gals.). The average water temperature was 87.2F. in 1999 and was 88 F. in 2000. Other bonsaiist have reported water temperatures of 84F. from a large municipal water district and 65F. from a deep well. I contribute my relatively high water temperatures to excessive solar radiation upon the water source (Lake Belton) and the storage tanks, elevated temperature of the earth and the relatively shallow water pipes of a rural water district.

The effectiveness of a watering regimen depends upon volume of water, temperature of the water, and thermal properties of the growth medium (the more air space, the less effective irrigation is in lowering media temperature). Since all sides of the container still felt warm to the touch using last summer's watering regimen, my conclusion was that the heat sink/heat radiator properties of the container were not being adequately addressed. By measuring the container's volume [14.2 liters (3.7 gal.)], this year's irrigation was increased to "water through plus 27 seconds" which consistently produced an irrigation volume equal to 100% of the container volume. Despite the average water temperatures being rather high both years of this study, the calculated volume of water at both of these temperatures resulted in post-irrigation container sides that were cool to the touch.


Full sun plus 10:00 a.m. watering: Watering at this early hour provided no protection from afternoon temperatures, the West quadrant temperatures reaching an average of 107.3F. and 114F. at 1600 and 1800 respectively.

Full sun plus 12:00 noon watering: The temperatures reacted as we have seen earlier. After watering, the West temperature bounced to 105F. by 1800; the others rose only slightly.

Full sun plus 2:00 p.m. watering: By 2:00 the temperatures have reached the middle of the SORZT range. After watering, the west reading rises again but only to slightly above ambient.


Overhead watering reduces leaf and twig temperatures but does little toward ameliorating root-zone temperatures. The environmental problems produced by excessive water and fertilizer use, and the accompanying ground water pollution, gives professional nurserymen reason to pause when considering the use of as little as 3 liters (0.79 gal.) of water to irrigate a 10 liter (2.64 gal.) black plastic container for root-zone temperature reduction. It is no small wonder that other methods (see above) are suggested to reduce this potentially growth-reducing problem. Few of these latter methods readily lend themselves to bonsai culture because of artistic objections. Over-head shade of 47% may be effective in reducing root-zone temperatures without affecting root and shoot growth. The art of bonsai watering is considered to be of near mystic qualities in some locales as well it should. However, timing, water volume, water temperature and growth media characteristics all have some effect on the efficacy of water application to reduce root-zone temperatures.

In a previous study (unpublished data) irrigation with 50% of the container's volume did not prolong the initial cooling effects of the irrigation upon the root zone temperature neither in degrees nor in time interval regardless of the time of day applied. In this study increasing the irrigation volume to 100% of the container volume, did make a difference, if the irrigation was done at 2:00 p.m., compared to 10:00 a.m. or 12:00 noon. I believe that this improved degree of protection is accomplished by:

1) dissipating the accumulated solar radiation absorbed by the ceramic mass of the container during the hours prior to watering, and

2) water application nearer the beginning of the period of greatest solar heating reduces the time period of root-zone exposure to these higher temperatures before the ambient temperature begins to decline. However, this regimen does entail the usage of a relatively large volume of water and the leaching of significant amounts of fertilizer if applied on a daily basis. If applied to a large number of bonsai, the extra expense for both water and fertilizer may be significant.

From above
we can hear the crowd below
growling and grumbling and
taking it easy.
Robert Dollar

Please bring the items you will donate to the raffle or silent auction for the Symposium in July to the meeting and give to Pat Ware. We are asking everyone to donate one item (more than one will not be refused!). The profits made by the raffle will benefit us all! As this Symposium is being held in Austin, we are hoping for a large support from the Austin club.

Also, anyone who would work for a couple of hours selling raffle tickets, please let Pat know - she can use all the help she can get!!!

Saikei Workshop

1. Note the plans in the June and July newsletter including the need to call Joe Wait (512-312-1614 to reserve trees for Saikei (landscape workshop. Trees and supplies (except pots, will be provided free by the Austin Bonsai Society to members for the workshop. The trees will be five or more small-leaf Eugenias ranging from 5 to 10 inches tall. Provided supplies will include soil, wire, stones (or bring your own stones), hydraulic/fast-setting cement, moss an several types of mini landscape plants. The theme of the saikei will be a "hill Country Spring" with live oak-style" trees.

2. Participants will provide their own SHALLOW saikei-style pot, marble tray, or stone slab with dimensions of 12 to 15 inches front to back and 18 to 24 inches wide. Participants should also provide their own tools if possible.

3. On July 9th, Joe Wait will provide "rules-of-thumb" for saikei and slides to critique "professional saikei" vs. "rules of thumb". We will then plan the saikeis, trim and train the trees. If the workshop group is small and/or time allows, we will continue with the tasks noted for July 23rd as much as possible.

4. On July 23rd, we will select and prepare the stones (including cementing together if desire), plant the trees, plant the moss and mini plants, and put the finishing touches on your saikei.

5. Remember, it is important to make your reservation with Joe Wait and also to plan your pot/container in advance.

NOTE: Don't let the size of the container be the reason you don't take the workshop. If you wish to do a smaller size, no problem, you will just have fewer trees. Also, Joe will have a few plastic pots available, if necessary.

Don't Forget!
Mark your calendar and to send in your registration form for the 2003 LSBF Symposium to be held in Austin July 11, 12, 13