I’ve been heartened to see an increasing level of participation in BSSF programs over the last year both in terms of the number of members who attend and the dedication that individual members have been showing.  The BOD hashed out a set of organizational goals during 2015; among them is a pair that says a lot about where we’re headed:

  • Foster serious bonsai work in San Francisco
  • Attain meeting attendance of 100 people

One of the most exciting initiatives that Catherine has undertaken as Vice President and Program Coordinator is to try to create a calendar of programs that will serve the entire membership – not just beginners and not just seasoned members. That is a tall order when you get down to the real heart of the matter. But, our slate of programs for 2016 has a little bit for everyone, and some programs that will benefit members at all levels simultaneously.

As I discovered when telling my son about the importance of doing his homework recently – I sometimes erroneously assume that people think about things the same way that I do. Rather than assume that you understand how the program lineup will benefit you, let me explain how I think you can further your goals by participating in some of the 2016 BSSF programs.

Participation in workshops is the only way to truly learn the mechanics and the practicalities of bonsai work. While you can learn many things from reading, it is only in the application of the knowledge while hands-on with a tree that you will internalize the lessons and deeply understand the relationship between the plant and the grower. Bonsai learning is perhaps a bit more difficult than seemingly similar endeavors in that many of the techniques are unique to a particular plant, or genus and also vary not only by season but also from year to year.

Kicking off 2016 is the Juniper Practicum. We already have a nearly-full signup sheet for this program and I couldn’t be more excited to work with everyone in such an energetic and groundbreaking setting. I think the Practicum document explains many of the potential benefits in detail so I’ll leave it to you to read them (see the Sept/Oct 2015 newsletter or the website.)

2015-08-30 18.29.35.

In February and March there will be plenty of opportunity to get your trees into shape for the spring show. February will feature a Masters’ series workshop with Peter Tea on the 14th and then a Basics II/Repotting workshop on the 20th. In March we will continue with two Masters’ Series classes with Matt Reel on the 12th and 13th.

Repotting is the foundational step in creating a healthy plant that you can use in bonsai so take this nudge and sign up to get your tree repotted into good soil. (What’s that, you don’t have soil? Well, you don’t need it because participants in the repotting class will have soil provided by the club!) If we fill up the Basics II/Repotting class, I’m thinking we’ll take the opportunity to extend the class by 4 hours to accommodate.

You might mistakenly assume that Masters’ series workshops are only for people who are advanced students. Let me correct that error by saying that Peter and Matt are the masters, and as a student you can learn a lot in a short period by going directly to a professional bonsai artist. You don’t need to have a lot of experience, only a couple suitable plants to work on, a set of tools and a willingness to work hard to improve your trees! With only 6 spots in each class make sure you’re one of the people who decides to sign up first so you don’t miss your chance.

Perfom thoughtful styling on a good piece of material and pay close attention to your horticulture. Before you know it you'll have some good trees.

Your participation in these workshops and programs will benefit you greatly, and regular attendance will begin to build your confidence in working with trees on your own. But I want to also extend my thanks in advance because attending BSSF workshops fosters the members around you whether you realize it or not. The workshops create an environment of excitement and accomplishment and they enrich the organization by increasing the pool of quality material that is owned by its members. When I was a beginner and saw trees at the club meetings that were already mature, having been recently wired and cleaned up, I was enchanted and inspired to learn the techniques needed so I could accomplish the same results.

In 2016, apart from my continuing activities as club president I’ll also be working on expanding opportunities for San Francisco Bonsai enthusiasts in a couple other ways. Keep an eye on my blog (www.phutu.com) for my personal work which often makes it to the BSSF Facebook page, but usually not into the newsletter. I’ve also secured a line of tools, based on my recommendations to students, that I’ll be selling. These tools are the same tools that I’ve been using for years, many of which are quite inexpensive.