Archive for the ‘Spotlight on Artists’ Category

Local Artist: Mike Saul   1 comment

Today we had a small get together at Steve DaSilva’s place with a basics course on repotting, sifting soil and digging trees from Steve’s field.

Master Saul, showed us the finer points of repotting a small juniper. Mike is meticulous in his style of working on trees. Much of this is probably due to his work with Ryan Neil, who to, is very meticulous about not only his work but how he teaches. A lot of responsibility is shouldered by those willing to get up in front of people and teach this art. Nobody is ever going to complain because you taught and showed them the right way. That’s what Mike did today. If you were not there today, you missed a great opportunity for some bonsai comradery, repot instruction, use of the greatest soil sifter known to man and digging trees from a great field.

Mike started his talk with preparing the pot the tree will be placed into. This pot needed wire ties and screens affixed. Mike showed the proper way to bend the screen staples to hold the screen into the pot.

He also told the story of wasting wire by cutting it longer than necessary for affixing the tree into the pot. A neat tip: just wrap the wire around the circumference of the pot and allow that length for the tie wires. Easy peasy.

You can almost read Mikes mind here….”Yes, I was getting to that”

Mike now has his pot prepared and is ready to remove the tree from the pot and do the root trimming. Mike shows us how the tree should be placed in the pot making sure it is off center. In this case since it’s a slanted tree it needs to be very close to one side.

After a 15 minute wrestling match with the tree he was able to free it from the pot without breaking it. Mike is a gentle and patient guy, I would have taken a hammer to it.

Mike takes his time and reduces the root ball until it fits into the pot with about 3/4 inch all around for soil backfill.

Mike puts a scoop of soil in and checks the height. He says the height is important because if planted too high the force of watering will eject soil from the pot exposing roots.

Another half scoop of soil under the core and he places the tree and squishes it in. “Squishes it in” is a technical Japanese term used in Japan during repotting.

Sit back, relax, take it in, “Is this what I want?” Once its backfilled it’s done. Screw it up now and you have to wait another year to fix it.

Upon the obligatory rest period for reflection, Mike backfills the pot with the correct soil. This is a proprietary blend he has purchased pre mixed and sieved for size. He runs it thru the screens one more time to remove dust. Mike uses the chopstick for moving soil down to the bottom of the pot. Mike says it’s important to make sure there are no air pockets that could cause the roots to die.

These are not mere cheap chopsticks, these are traditional Japanese signature chopsticks from Sakura Chaya. Check the registry on the Ginza, they will be there.

Soil is tamped down and we see Mike holding the tree by the trunk assuring us that the tree is affixed properly in the pot…as long as a wire doesn’t break or a wire doesn’t shift in the hole we should be good for the season.

Mike compresses the soil and covers it with a fine layer of Goki Moss, (chopped orchid moss) to keep the soil from washing out of the pot until the moss helps establish roots at the soil surface.

Now….the look I have seen a hundred times!! It’s after the work is done and you take that last look at the tree and notice that you needed to bring the front of the tree a little more forward in the pot. It feels as though it tips backward, and it may not, but it’s a feeling the compositions will make you feel.

Next year Mike!

The tree is complete. Mike said he will water it in when he gets home and he allows the water to run for a couple minutes until it runs clear. This assures any dust in or on the soil will be rinsed from the pot. I personally wish to thank Mike for picking up the reins and doing this kind of stuff. This is invaluable information and every new person should see this again and again until it is retained to rote.

I been doing Bonsai myself for 36 years and I know I learned a couple things, Mike Saul, ladies and gentleman.

Posted January 18, 2020 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

Ted Matson at Round Valley Nursery   Leave a comment

It’s been 9 months since Teds first workshop at Ed Clark,s Round Valley Nursery. This was a follow up to the work done in March, and since most were pines, this late Fall workshop was great for working Fall maintenance.

DSC_00370037

DSC_00360036

DSC_00350035

 

Saturday morning class had about 12 students.

 

DSC_00310031

DSC_00300030

DSC_00290029

DSC_00270027

DSC_00260026

 

This year I sat in one of the green houses and just wired trees. Lots of trees to wire. Take my pick and just wire.

Before

 

DSC_00230023

 

And some afters.

DSC_00240024

DSC_00250025

DSC_00420042

 

Some views of material. Some chojubai coming along.DSC_00400040

 

DSC_00410041

DSC_00380038

DSC_00130013

DSC_00190019

DSC_00140014

DSC_00100010

DSC_00160016

DSC_00170017

DSC_00070007

DSC_00080008

DSC_00030003

 

 

 

Posted December 12, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

R I P Harry Hirao   3 comments

Harry Hirao, aka, The Goat, Mr California Juniper

 

It is with great sadness to announce the passing of Harry Hirao. I have known this man a long time and his contributions to bonsai will be missed.

On March 12, 1917, Bonsai Master Harry Hirao was born. At the age of 6, Harry left his hometown of Lafayette, Colorado with his parents, to live in Japan with his grandparents because they were getting old. At age 16, Harry came back to the U.S. to live with his relatives on the farm.

Harry married Chiyoko Alyce Yamamoto on September 27, 1941. They lived a simple life as farmers growing vegetables on their farm and raised four beautiful children, two boys and two girls.  

Harry and his family left Colorado for California on March of 1957. With the help of relatives, they started a landscape gardening business. Several years later, Harry heard of an old friend, John Naka, teaching bonsai. Harry joined the class in the early 60’s and was a devoted student for 15 years before becoming a bonsai teacher himself.  

With his long time friend, Larry Ragle, they formed Kofu Bonsai Kai in 1977. Harry was fortunate enough to be able to obtain permission to dig California Junipers on a property in Tehachapi for Bonsai. To this day, many of his students and friends are able to acquire California Junipers from this site. Harry’s favorite plant for bonsai is the California Juniper and is also an avid collector of Suiseki.

Harry Hirao and Larry Ragle, Co-founders of Kofu Kai

dsc_012401220001

 

A perfect day for Harry is in the mountains of Tehachapi California searching for just the right juniper to dig. The day would start like this.

 

dscf0221

dscf0219

dscf0227

dscf0225

 

Harry would go on to style many trees for GSBF. Large trees dug by his long time friend Ray Thieme here in Fresno.

This tree donated by Ray sits in front of GSBF Collection North. Harry styled this tree with friends in Fresno at GSBF Convention Fresno, 2003.

dsc_00690006

 

Here are a couple shots of Harry and the tree. In the wide shot with Harry on the ladder being steadied by Kaz Mori, Mas Imazumi stands off to the side. Mas would die a few months later. Yours truly with the tree, much thinner.

maskazandharry

meandthetree

 

During the GSBF convention Modesto in 2008, Harry and friends would style this monster California juniper for the entrance of GSBF Collection South, again donated by Ray Thieme. During the repotting from grow box to bonsai pot, the tree died.

DSC_0036

IMG_1290-1

 

b4

 

 

l to r, Sam Adina, Ray Thieme, Charles Nelson, Harry Hirao, and Peter Macasieb.

m5

 

 

Harry has a tree it seems at every convention. Here are some of his trees over the years

DSC_0186

DSC_01030027

dsc_01310068

 

Harry’s love of collecting stones, Suiseki, is also legendary. His daughters graduated from Humboldt University and his trips there to visit always included some camping and collecting on the Eel River. This is Harry’s permanent collection at the GSBF Collection South

DSC_0204

This stone on display at a GSBF Convention is cold black and from the Kern River in Bakersfield.

DSC_0041a0041

 

Harry loves the Convention experience. This is his time and it makes him feel good to walk around and just people watch and talk with those that appreciate bonsai. Here Harry relaxes with my wife.

harry0001

Harry would pace the aisles just watching the bonsai scene unfold. Anyone who has attended a GSBF convention will appreciate this view of Harry, it is one that I have followed numerous times on my way to the vendor room, exhibit room or a workshop.

Harry, you will be missed, say “Hi” to your ole friend John for me.

dsc_02310001

 

 

 

 

Posted July 24, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

Tagged with

Serendipity !!   2 comments

The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines serendipity as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a satisfactory or beneficial way, understanding the chance as any event that takes place in the absence of any obvious project (randomly or accidentally), which is not relevant to any present need, or in which the cause is unknown.

….and so it was that I might be sitting in my truck early to today’s Ted Matson workshop. It occurs to me while I peer out my windshield in the fog of morning and only a few sips of coffee that what I see before me are large trident maple trees. Not just average tree but trees growing in a college parking lot to shade cars. In this picture the Botanical lab of the college is in the background and my truck is parked in the foreground. In front of that is a trident maple tree.

001

002

Now the tree on its own is no big deal. I am sure there may be many places in our fair town that have trident maples in the landscape. It used to be a fairly common landscape tree. What is a big deal is the fact that I am always on the lookout for fresh seed. These trees have seeds up the wahzoo. I was barly able to contain myself at the sight of all the seed hanging from these trees. Guess where I will be come September?

003

004

 

Just this clump alone on the end of a small branch probably has 500 seeds!

005

A few minutes later, club members begin to arrive. The gate is unlocked and everyone begins loading in their trees. Ted Matson begins his workshop with a juniper from David Soho. This thing was a monster and Ted had him prune almost everything off of the thing except a trunk line that ran out rather horizontal finishing with a rather semi cascade Bunjin. It will need a few years to fill in but I think it was the right decision for the tree.

006

007

008

009

010

David pruning off the old branches. You could almost hear a small moan from David every time the concave pruners made a kerchunk noise!

010a

010b

Steve DaSilva brought this twisted pomagranite to work on. Ted explained that this tree suffers from many years of growing without cutting back. Many of the branches are 1/2 inch in diameter and bone straight. All of the branching was cut back nearly in half.

011

012

013

014

015

016

017

019

Now this tree is looking more like a tree. Nice work.

020

Ray Thieme, future subject for an artist spotlight, brought this huge shimpaku juniper. Ray purchased it via Glenn VanWinkle who aquired it from Mas Iishi. It is kishu grafted on to prostrata understock.

021

022

After some instruction and comments from Ted, Ray begins the work. Lots of cutting….

023

…and sawing…

024

025

Ray ran out of time and will do more of the cleaning and begin wire at home. So far the tree cut out quite well. The trunk is a full 2 inches across.

026

Ted Matson Workshop at the Round Valley Nursery   Leave a comment

Ed Clark, owner of the nursery arranged for a Ted Matson workshop back in March. Due to stand commitments, shows, vacations, Easter and Mothers Day, most of my weekends have been taken up by something. It is now time to show a little of what went on over that weekend. Ted is always a good teacher. His expertise in a number of plant materials, his love of shohin, and the material provided by Ed were a match made in heaven. The workshop consisted of a two day affair with each day broken into separate morning and afternoon sessions. Each day was a repeat of the morning or afternoon before.

Ted started out by telling us the many attributes of the way Ed was growing the material here. Ted was also savvy of those that think this material is too twisted and has too much movement. Ted explained that these trees over the next couple of years are going to mellow out and become fine bonsai due to pruning and growth on top of growth. Ted explained that having seen material grow for bonsai all over the United states that this material is different because care has been taken to keep the movement up while the plant is growing. Ed doesn’t just stop and allow the tree to twist and turn and then allow it to grow pole straight the next year. There are growers in Southern California mentioned by name that have allowed this to ruin what would have been good material.

DSC_00270027

DSC_00280028

DSC_00300030

 

Ted used some trees from the nursery and also brought some material he had bought earlier and worked on it some and then used for demonstration.

DSC_00310031

DSC_00390039

DSC_00400040

DSC_00410041

DSC_00440044

DSC_00450045

 

Lunch was provided in the workshop and Lind Clark did a great job with a buffet style lunch. We killed an hour and then hit it again in the afternoon.

DSC_00460046

DSC_00490049

DSC_00500050

 

This was some of the people from the afternoon session.

DSC_00770077

DSC_00790079

 

I worked on two pines during the workshop. One I had bought specifically for the workshop and the other a tree I purchased during the lunch break for the second session.

 

Here is the tree I purchased earlier and worked on in the morning.

DSC_00010001

DSC_00020002

 

This is what it looked like after the first pruning and some wire. Pretty scary.

DSC_00800080

 

This is what it looks like tonight. I am very happy with its growth, and it looks like there is going to be a good tree in here.

DSC_00100001

 

The second tree was purchased right at the nursery for the workshop. I had brought three others to work on but for some reason this one caught my eye. Ted had said something about these trees that made me pause a little. He said instead of looking for the best ones to work on, sometimes it makes more sense to look for those with the most faults. These are the trees that have character and feeling. So I picked out one that had some faults and will see what I can do with it.

 

This small tree had some reverse taper and lots of wire in the trunk. It had a rather gnarly shape and looked like it could be a good tree later on.

DSC_00760076

 

The tree was pruned and wired.

DSC_00820082 (2)

This is how the tree looks tonight. It is growing strong and like all Ed’s trees the needles stay firm and short. Lots of choices for an apex and the branches have lots of shoots. I am happy with this one as well.

DSC_00020001

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Artists ~ Glenn VanWinkle   Leave a comment

Glenn VanWinkle

AKA: Ripsgreentree, Itchy, Sleeping Beauty and Santa

0010001It is pretty common knwledge that California per capita probably has the largest population of bonsai practioners in the USA. Among all those practising the art are those that grow material for the art. Glenn VanWinkle is one of those people. I came to know Glenn in 1993. He had come by the Fresno Bonsai Society for a meeting. Glenn has been doing bonsai for many years. I have never nailed it down to the year but I think it was around 1983 or thereabouts. Glenn has a keen fascination with growing material. While he also enjoys the finished product, his first love is the growing of the plants. Once they get a canopy on them he loses a lot of interest in the plants and turns his attention back to the source, growing.

While engaged in the growing of plants, Glenn sought out the best soils possible for growing plants. While his ideas of soil mixes has changed thru the years the mix has always been friable with larger particles and plenty of air. This is what is needed to grow plants healthy. If plants are not healthy then plants don’t sell. During his search for suitable components for soil akadama was of course a good choice. Akadama was scarse back then even in Caifornia and expensive. Lava has always been in good supply as well as decomposed granite and pumice. Glenn came upon hard pan as a soil component around 1993. He crushed the stuff with a wood stump and a single jack sledge hammer. Talk about back breaking work. He saved up his money and bought a small crusher. It would hold about a 1/4 cubic foot of material. It was gear driven and the hard pan is well…HARD and it would break the gears what seemed weekly. The gears were not cheap and Glenn would be down for weeks at a time till he had enough money to buy more gears.

Glenn now has his hard pan broken into 1 inch chunks by a huge batch plant for grinding stone. He then breaks the small chunks in his smaller crusher and then sifts it in his new custom built sifter which can sift tons or more a day.

Lets take a look at what Glenn is growing. Glenn is a lot like me in thinking that it makes sense to grow what thrives here. Glenn has alot of elm, maple, juniper, pine and cali dama.

A couple overview shots.

001a

001b

Lots of elm trees. They grow good here, as well as lots of other places.

002

003

004

005

He has some real large Seiju/corkbark elms also.

006

007

008

009

While not overloaded on maples, he does have them. Last year he grew about a thousand tridents from seed put them inbundles of tyen trees and sold them in small plastic pots.

010

011

012

Glenn’s real passion is pine and juniper. He has lots of both. Here he has flats of m pines growing in pond baskets.

013

There are pines all over the place here.

014

015

016

A representative shohin sized pine.

017

018

Kishu shimpaku all over the place. I walk thru here and trip all over the place with cans all over the ground.

019

020

Here is a big one just waiting to be styled.

021

022

Pines and junipers in the back of the property.

023

The one with the white trunk is a Ca. juniper

024

025

Here is a large Ca. juniper having a trunk layered off.

026

There are a few large procumbens around.

027

Did you ever see a dwarf nandina with a base like this? I havn’t.

028

 

Posted February 14, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

Spotlight on Artists – Steve DaSilva   4 comments

 

 

 

Steve started his bonsai journey in 1984. The same year I started.   Steve watched the “Karate Kid” and was inspired about bonsai, as were thousands, by that movie. I must say that I found the movie a great motivator for me as well. Steve’s first tree was purchased from the Barnyard in Carmel California, a business still there today. I shopped that place as well and filled in many of my first back issues of Bonsai Today there. Steves first tree was a crabapple. He still has the bones. It was pretty small when he purchased it but it did die and he never threw it out.

Steve with some pinch pots he made.

DSC_00040004

Steve and his (dead) first bonsai.

DSC_00210021

DSC_00220022

 

Steve joined a bonsai club in Vacaville California, Soon after a friend suggested he join the Napa Valley Club. Here he would work with Mas Imazumi, well known throughout California. Steve would move to Fresno in 1990 and soon found the Fresno Bonsai Society. In 1993 while taking aesthetic pruning at a course at Merrit College, Steve would meet long time friend Dennis Makashima. Steve would retake the course later along with Bill Castellon and Randall Lee. Steve would become President of the Fresno Bonsai Society in 1998 and keep with the job till 2004. He would later become President for a second time in 2011 and 2012.

 

In 2006 Steve had a new house built in the country on some acreage. It is here that he would plant his first seedlings into the ground to build trees for the future. Over the years Steve would add additional plots to the growing amount of space devoted to bonsai.

This phase one started in 2007. This is an overview of the plot. It is about 20 by 25 feet and contains tridents, crab apples, twisted pomegranates, black pines and corkbark elms.

DSC_00010001

The row of lighter colored plants next to the fence are twisted poms about three inches across.

DSC_00030003

These are some of the pines

DSC_00060006

Still lots of fat tridents in the ground. One of the things that is kinda weird when looking at a field is that nothing is in pots so there is no spacial comparison that can be made as to how large something is. For instance this trident is about 5 inches across at the soil and about 10 inches tall.

DSC_00130013

DSC_00200020

DSC_00160016

DSC_00140014

This is one of the smaller pines in the above photo. It seems so small when seen with the larger pines. The trunk on this one is about 2.5 inches across and about 24 inches tall.

DSC_00120012

Here is one that has been sawed off at the ground. It is about 5 inches tall and three inches across at the soil.

DSC_00050005

This is the close up.

DSC_00040004

Here is the big cork bark elm I dug up.

DSC_00070007

Phase two started in 2010

Lots of pines out here. These are really starting to shape up. I have my eye on one. Need to talk to steve about that…

DSC_00380038

DSC_00390039

DSC_00400040

DSC_00410041

DSC_00470047

DSC_00480048

DSC_00490049

DSC_00500050

Here are some recent Itoigawa juniper cuttings.

DSC_00440044

Chinese quince

DSC_00460046

DSC_00430043

DSC_00510051

Hornbeam

DSC_00530053

More tall four inch base tridents. I have two of these I am working on.

DSC_00550055

DSC_00560056

Phase three started in 2013.

More pines, crabapple, tridents

DSC_00360036

Phase three trident

DSC_00370037

This is where Glenn makes all the cali-dama. The crusher and sifter is on Steves property. Glenn collects the hardpan and has it trucked to a batch plant, where it is broken into 1 inch chunks.

DSC_00350035

Then he runs it through his smaller crusher to take it down to soil size particles.

DSC_00590059

Then he sifts it in his recently purchased sifter. It is bagged or put into shipping containers to be sent all over the USA. He also crushes lava in the small crusher.

DSC_00580058

Steve has a pretty large and impressive collection of bonsai at his house.

DSC_00230023

DSC_00240024

DSC_00250025

DSC_00260026

DSC_00270027

 

DSC_00280028

DSC_00290029

DSC_00300030

DSC_00310031

DSC_00320032

DSC_00330033

DSC_00340034

Steve is surrounded by grapes. He lives in the raisin capital of the world so grapes around the property is a no brainer. The grapes are over a hundred years old. The study group we belong to will be taking cuttings off these grapes soon for some shohin size trees.

DSC_00600060

DSC_00620062

DSC_00630063

DSC_00670067

Red tail hawk looking over the vineyard…

DSC_00680068

DSC_00780078

DSC_00790079

Steve has a blog, which is a little dated currently, but he can be found on face book as a regular. Steve teaches workshops at the bi-annual Shohin seminar in Santa Nella and will be there next Feb., he also does aesthetic black pine pruning and keeps busy all summer as well as running the aesthetic pine pruning at Shinzen Gardens in Fresno. Steve is on the Board of Directors of the Shinzen Garden and has been instrumental in helping move the Clark Collection of Bonsai from Hanford to Fresno California where it will be housed in a permanent collection in the Japanese Garden portion of the park. If I’m not mistaken, it should be just beyond the trees in the background.

DSC_00270014

DSC_00290015

One of the pines his group maintain.

DSC_00300016

DSC_00310017

DSC_00360018

DSC_00370019

DSC_00430020

DSC_00460021

DSC_00480022

DSC_00550023
Steve also working at Fresno City College, organized two exhibits of bonsai paired with art as well as a winter silhouette exhibit. Both recieved great reviews.

DSC_0003

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: