David Nguy’s Bonsai Demo for San Pu Kai June Meeting

By Michelle Vess

“We learn from our elders, learn how to choose material and take care of it and turn it into something special.” -David Nguy

San Pu Kai was honored to have bonsai master David Nguy as our guest demonstrator at our June meeting. He worked on a beautiful 5 year old collected California Juniper brought in by our club’s vice president Bobby Knox. It was so fun and informative. He took raw collected material and made so much progress in cleaning, shaping and styling.

David’s step one: choose the front. Many factors go into choosing the front of the tree. The root base, trunk movement and apex are all important things to consider. He showed us that taking a bit of time to look closely at these aspects of the tree will help us not just pick a good front, but the trees best front.

Next he used some less desirable branches to cut back and form gins. He explained his process as he worked, “Before I put my scissors in my eye has already measured where I’ll cut it.” He then moved on to cleaning the tree from the inside out. For years it seems much of the American bonsai community has had the wrong idea about pruning junipers and have gotten stuck in a cycle of pinching the tips, pinching, and more pinching, and then watching the tree weaken. David says, “No more pinching! Letting the tips grow increases the health of the tree.”

Many Club members were curious to know what kind of soil David recommends. He likes 60% black lava rock, 40% acadama. The porous material holds fertilizer well and holds good moisture without being too wet. There was also some debate during the wiring portion of the demo over aluminum vs. copper. David uses both. Copper for show and when stronger bending is needed. Aluminum for training because it is less expensive and could be less damaging to the tree if forgotten.

David was a wealth of information about wiring. Some of the branches on the collected juniper he worked on were thick. He says, “If you are able, bend the branch into position while you are wrapping the wire.” He also demonstrated proper wiring when bending up or down. To bring a branch down anchor the wire under the branch and to bring a branch up anchor the wire over the branch. Then when you perform your bend there will be no gap and the branch is perfectly supported. His general wiring advice is to wire the main branches first and then the secondary. “If you want the tree to look good it’s in the details, wire the small branches too.” His final bit of advice, "Trimming rather than wiring might make a tree look good now but it doesn't always look to the future health and overall style of the tree."

San Pu Kai is so blessed to have had David and his student, Jason, as guest demonstrators for the club meeting and look forward to having him back again in the future.

For more information about David and his bonsai school check out bonsaijidai

Please visit Bonsai at the Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden website