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Club Meeting August 2014

by Jurie van Heerden

Jurie welcomed all members to the club meeting and announced the apologies from Dorothy Franz and Tony Bent and also that a new visitor joined the meeting called Dawie de Klerk.

First on the list was Jan Jurie Loots who managed the Library slot and spoke about a book called "Mission of Transformation" by Robert Stevens.

The next speaker was Freddie Bisschoff who spoke about modern growing mediums.

Freddie started the presentation with the question "What is the ideal bonsai soil?" He said that people in the bonsai community all have different opinions what the ideal bonsai mix should be and have different mixtures.

The next question Freddie asked was "Is there an ideal bonsai soil mixture and what makes a good bonsai soil?"

He went on to say that bonsai soil should have good drainage and must have some water retention. Freddie said that he has been using a mix consisting of 3 parts compost, 2 parts sand and 3 parts fine rocks for the last 2 years as it worked for him in the Cape Town climate.

The feedback that Freddie received during Walter Pall's last visit to South Africa was that Walter tries to avoid the word bonsai "soil" because according to him there is no soil in the modern bonsai substrate.

Freddie added that your whole bonsai substrate must be loose evenly in your bonsai pot and must be of equal particle size, have the ability to absorb water and release it back, have no fine particle organic material, must not decompose easily and be as lightweight as possible when dry.

Some modern bonsai substrates are lava, baked loam, zeolite and chabasai (leca is part of this group). According for Walter, he uses crushed leca with very rough peat mixture for his bonsai substrate.

Freddie opened a discussion with members of their experiences with Leca - Carl Morrow mentioned that his experience with leca was that his small bonsais died but he does use it with his larger bonsai.

It was mentioned that leca must be crushed to make it a better substrate and it is important when using leca to change your feeding and watering regime due to the consistency of the substrate.

Some key aspects with watering your bonsai in leca substrate is that you must water aggressively and it is very easy to underwater your bonsai.

Some feeding facts to take notice of are to feed your bonsai with lots of nitrogen and according to Freddie, Walter feeds his bonsais 20 to 60 times more than the average bonsai grower.

Freddie closed his presentation by thanking all for their time.

The Judge's choice and group discussion was managed by Rudi and he discussed and gave his opinion on some of the trees from the display.

The next speaker introduced was Gail Theron who was going to speak about Casuarinas as bonsai.

Gail started the presentation by showing incredible specimen of casuarinas as bonsai and discussed with the club members their thoughts.

Gail mentioned the common names as Sheoak, Australian Pine, Whistling Pine, Horse Tail Tree, Beefwood, Ironwood and Buddha Pine, further more Casuarinas are a warm weather species native to Australia, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Florida, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Africa, and some parts of China and Japan.

The wood of this tree is used for building-timber, furniture, shingles, fencing and tools and makes excellent hot burning firewood. The tree's root nodules are known to fix nitrogen, and it is traditionally prized for its ability to increase the soil's fertility. Its abundant leaf-fall is high in nitrogen and traditionally prized for mulch. The resin exuded from some Casuarinas are edible and is a food source for Aboriginal people. All parts of the Casuarina tree (needles, sawdust, bark, and prepared mulch) can be useful in lowering the soil pH. Lowering soil pH makes the soil more acidic, ideal for acid-loving plants such as azaleas.

Gail spoke further about the fruit, roots and some positive factors like flexibility and rapid growth for bonsai and then took the members through more photographs of bonsai using casuarinas. Gail closed the presentation by thanking everyone for their time.

Jurie closed the meeting.

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Haiku

Rolling on and on

those distant mountains captured

for ever on a stone... ~ Doug Hall

Random Bonsai Tip

When a tree has reversed taper or a narrowed 'waistline' above the nebari, you could do an airlayering just above the narrow section; or you could damage the cambium layer by either hammering gently with a mallet or by piercing the bark right into the cambium with a sharp object eg. scissors or an awl. You could also make deep incisions along the grain of the bark, where the healing process will cause scarring which would then thicken the trunk.