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GSBF Workshop Grant Winner: San Pu Kai Bonsai Club(Vista, California)

Edited by:Cary Valentine President of San Pu Kai
& Maria Barbosa Treasurer/Membership

The Golden State Bonsai Federation offers a wonderful annual grant to help smaller bonsai clubs fund talented demonstators that they would otherwise not be able to afford. In 2012, our club of 38 members, San Pu Kai, entered the grant application process and the membership was overjoyed to have won the grant. This grant enabled San Pu Kai to invite teacher and master demonstrator, Ted Matson, to our late Summer 2013 meeting.

The grant application process is easy. An application is obtained from Bob Hilvers, the Grant Chairman, of which you then state what you are going to do with the grant if you win it, with who and how much you plan to budget and the planned date of the workshop. Once awarded the grant winner would then take photos of the event and submit an article, with the photos, to the Golden Statements. Upon submission of the article, with the workshop receipts, the winner would then be reimbursed the $400.00 grant. So the article you are reading now is our club’s submission for our Workshop Grant award.

At the 2012 GSBF convention in which we enlisted Ted Matson to come do a future workshop at San Pu Kai, both Ted and Steve Valentine found a wonderful San Jose Juniper (Juniperus Chinensis “San Jose”) from George Muranaka at Muranaka Bonsai Nursery for Ted perform the demonstration at San Pu Kai. Ted has been teaching Bonsai since 1988 with a background of teachers from leading masters including Ben Suzuki, Shig and Roy Nagatoshi, Melba Tucker, Warren Hill and John Naka (founder of San Pu Kai). Ted has conducted numerous workshops at many conventions and conferences, many times appearing as headliner or featured artist for major bonsai events. So to have Ted share his breath of knowledge and skill at our small club was indeed a priviledge.

Ted did a wonderful informative talk and demo working on the San Jose Juniper obtained the year prior. Despite the juniper’s young appearance it could be transformed into an older and more dramatic and engaging tree by following methods for creating an aged bonsai; Movement, Taper, Segmentation, Compression and Ramification. A tree must have movement in various directions. The taper of the tree must be gradual from the nebari to the top of the tree, and also from the trunk out to the end of the branches. Each growing season a segment is created and are marked by internodes or sharp angles. It can include segments on the trunk or the branches. The more woody-type ramification that is present in the splitting of branches and twigs, the more aged the tree will look. And, most important, the branches must appear weighted with downward movement.

Ted then removed large masses of foliage on the Juniper to open up the view to the trunk movement and taper as wells the scaffold of branches moving up the trunk. He then cleaned out the dead and brown foliage, unproductive branches and buds. By this thinning, he stressed, you create space to reveal the design.

One of the most interesting things we learned in Teds talk was, "we have been working on junipers all wrong". Even after all these years as teacher, he says that recent exposure with current students from Japan and the knowledge that they have shared from Japan, and as a serious student of the Bonsai art, has kept him open to better techniques. He says he will always be learning,…and that gives us hope for us all. The new approach to Juniper shaping is “DO NOT PINCH” since this leads to a weakening of the tree. Continued pinching weakens the branches to the point where you have to replace that branch since all of the Juniper’s strength is in the tips of the tree. Long term pinching will promote die-back and dead branches! I really admire Ted for sharing with us the new truth about pinching and that he too is still learning.

The fact that you leave the tip on the branch (you can wire it if you like) this helps increase the growth and strength of the branch, rather than weakening it. This also helps with the growth of secondary and tertiary branching in the pads before you cut the ends off. This gives the branches time to develop. Also this gives the juniper time to grow and adjust. Ted also emphasized that you should not keep your Junipers in show condition year-round----- let them grow. If you follow these steps, you will have a very strong and healthy Juniper. If your Juniper is strong and healthy you can than style and show your Juniper for a future show.