Susquehanna Bonsai Club

The premiere bonsai club of south-central Pennsylvania

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Jennifer Price – Susquehanna Bonsai Club Demo

Jennifer volunteers and takes classes at Hidden Garden Bonsai, Willowbrook, Illinois. In addition,she has been studying with Jim Doyle and Walter Pall for several years, visiting and working at both Nature’s Way and with Walter on his private collection in Germany.

An avid and brave student of bonsai, Jen also has been assisting both of her mentors at bonsai exhibition demonstrations. Jen said that she has a personal interest in advocating for more women in bonsai. She feels that all too often the “helpfulness” of male bonsai masters and enthusiasts — stepping in to wire, prune and even doing the heavy lifting impedes females’ learning. With that in mind, for her demonstration on an Engelmann spruce, Jen asked Jim Doyle to take the back seat as her assistant. 

Movement is important in the tree. With movement as a key, Jen selected the viewing side, keeping in mind that depth is important, too. The tree had 2 small snags and 2 live trunks. In an interesting move, Jen decided to make the shorter of the two live trunks a snag as well. With just a small amount of wiring the result was excellent – expressive and very natural. Jen’s recommendation to anyone who wants to study bonsai: “Take a lot of classes!”

Thanks for reading 🙂


Mauro Stemberger – Susquehanna Bonsai Club

Sorry for the VERY LONG absence of updating this site. My time with 2 jobs, a family and everything else made time hard to come by. Going forward I promise to update this site regularly as I now have time to do so 🙂

Mauro Stemberger : Susquehanna Bonsai Club –  Club members bonsai critique -November 2017

Sheila opened the meeting with congratulations to Jim Kopenhaver who was elected president of SBC for next year. She welcomed Mauro Stemberger back to SBC and gave us an update on Mauro’s activities for the year. Mauro is now sporting a wedding ring and has essentially completed a bonsai book which will be available in the spring.

Mauro began his tree evaluation with his usual grace and visual acuity. The first tree presented was a Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis). Limber pines have short needles and bud back easily. Mauro is not a fan of the windswept style. He suggested looking for the front and developing the style, remove the bark from the existing gin. Mauro saw a smaller tree by creating separate jinn without a shari with the straight branch and then developing an apex by that jinn. Use the more compact part of the tree to develop the branches of the tree. The branches can be reduced slowly. In spring pinch the candles, letting the buds grow until July and then cut shoots by ¾, buds will form at the base of the cut candle. Wait until the candles harden off and cut off the old candle in the spring.

Privet (Ligustrum sp.) is a strong grower. Mauro suggested building taper to the trunk with 4 to 6 diameter changes since this is a strong tree and a fast grower. The root ball can be reduced, but first finish the tree and then put it into a bonsai pot. After the spring shoots are hardened, you can defoliate the tree and shape it and it will grow again. Build the branches and reduce the length and work on the shape. In the spring, work on the inner lines, wire and create structure of pads and start to shorten the tree. After the tree is developed and in a bonsai pot, control growth and size of leaves by slightly stressing the tree with less water. Food, light and water quantities control growth. We do not want to have a branch take off and destroy the form of the tree. Deciduous trees’ root ball can be cut hard when potting the tree. Conifers’ root ball cannot be cut back drastically when re-potting.

Yew (Taxus baccata): The tree was collected from a tree nursery and was growing in clay soil. The root ball was cleared of the clay soil and planted in “bonsai soil”. Mauro said that this was a fine procedure for a yew since it does not require mycorrhizal fungi in order to grow as pines do. It would be better to be planted in a soil that does not have any organic material in it since the organic material will hold water. The tree needs a good draining and airy soil when the branches are wired and pinched and growth is controlled. Akadama, pumice, and lava in 2-1-1 ratio would be an example of an appropriate soil. It has a good root ball. Next decide where the front is, bring the tree a little forward to increase the concept of three dimensions. Next, start up the trunk and select first, second and back branches. The lower back branch could be moved forward to become a welcome branch. Remove the chicken feet roots and decide which of the two uprights will become the apex. The other top branch could be a back branch or possible a jinn. When we start shaping, we want the tree’s energy to go to the branches rather than to the apex.

Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida): Treat like a black pine. Change the angle of the tree, it can reach this angle. This will bring some roots above the soil line. The exposed roots will need to be potted as the nebari is adjusted to soil level. Hide the bend in the back and bring the branches forward. Push the bottom branch down and shorten some of the lines. Subdivide the pads to develop them. Move the rhythm up the tree, from heavy strength of the bottom to lighter on the top. Reshape the back dead branch to a hollow or create a jinn. Bend branches in the cooler weather. Use raffia for large bends and guy wires to bring the branches down and ever few weeks, tighten the wires. Don’t allow the tree to freeze, if you are making adjustments during the winter months rather keep the tree in a cool greenhouse. Avoid the hottest months of the year to do heavy bending.

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens): Slowly open up the branches which are now too close. If the tree has room it will fill the space. Develop back branches to create depth. Prune harder on top to develop branches. If the pads are nice, allow it to grow a couple of inches and then prune and continue to clip and grow.

Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum): Check what is under the soil for the nebari – where is the original root ball? First build your plan – what is your design, and then take away everything that is not necessary, then clean and wire the entire tree. Junipers respond to being wired, twisted and breaking the fiber of the wood, it will recover more quickly than if the fibers are not stressed. That is the first step of your journey with the tree, there may be more than one option that is pursued during the journey with the tree. Junipers require as much sunlight as they can get. Grow in full sun to get strong compact trees. Yews, on the other hand, are an under-story tree and grow well with reflected light. If the tree is not used to growing in direct sunlight, slowly move it into more intense light to prevent the leaves from burning.

Yew (Taxus sp.): This specimen was grown in the ground and collected then fed heavily. The top was killed off and a jinn formed. Reduce the jinn since it is overpowering the tree. Build the proportions for the tree. Possibly open up a shari to define the edges of the live vein. Possibly change the orientation and have the right branch be the apex. We do not have to limit our imagination to the angle the tree was potted. Use all the information you can get from the tree, sometimes the hidden idea is the better one. An exception to this is Mugho Pine which will grow more strongly if it does not have to reorient itself.

To see more of Mauro’s handiwork or to reserve his book, go to his website at

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Check out the new video page!!! Susquehanna Bonsai Club

Hey all followers, viewers and members of the Susquehanna Bonsai Club blog. Check out the newly added video channel page on our website! Currently we have 4 video links posted for videos concerning the Susquehanna Bonsai Club. 

If you have an Youtube account and have posted videos concerning the Susquehanna Bonsai Club send me a message! I’ll review the video and if all checks out I’ll post a link to your video as well for all our viewers!



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Hershey Gardens Bonsai Exhibit 2016 – Susquehanna Bonsai Club

The Susquehanna Bonsai club had another great bonsai display once again at Hershey Gardens in 2016. Before we get to some photos here is a note from the club membership chairperson Roxanne Kamin:

Join us in congratulating this year’s winners of the Hershey Garden Exhibit Peoples Choice Awards.  The 2016 favorite was Jesse Cook’s Zelkova. A beautiful tree which reminded all of us of fond childhood memories. Next was Val & Jim Kopenhaver’s  Cypress Forest.  Congratulations to Jim, as he has won a People Choice  award two years running. Ron Bates rounded out this year’s top awards with his Euonymous. Mike Anderson’s Blue Atlas Cedar was also a strong contender. SBC wishes to congratulate each  of the winners. We also want to thank all of the SBC members who donating their time and trees to the 2016 exhibit.  ~ Roxanne

1st place 2016 Peoples Choice Award (chose by the public viewers)


2nd place:


and honorable mentions:



Here are some other pics from the exhibit. Or you can click HERE and check out the exhibits video on Youtube

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Also club member Roxanne was asked to answer a few questions by a local news channel, Penn Live, who posted the video HERE. Check it out!!

As always, thanks for reading!




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Susquehanna Bonsai Club – Bjorn Bjurholm and Frank Mihalic


MAY 6, 2016 

It is a unique experience to see three world-class bonsai artists demonstrating at the same time. All three came to bonsai in different ways.

About these guys:

Frank Mihalic, a second generation American bonsai artist had his father, Tony Mihalic who is known for his forest and rock plantings (Saikei), as his first instructor. Wildwood Gardens started by Tony has been cultivating bonsai for 70 years. Go to to learn more about the nursery and Frank’s career in bonsai and bonsai jewelry.

Bjorn Bjorholm began his career as an apprentice of Japanese bonsai master Keiichi Fujikawa. Bjorn spent nearly six years working at Mr. Fujikawa’s nursery, Kouka-en located in Ikeda City just north of Osaka. To learn more about Bjorn’s bonsai and his tour schedule go to his website at

Jim Doyle received a degree in horticulture from Delaware College of Science and Agriculture in 1973 and opened Nature’s Way Nursery. Bonsai became a business rather than a hobby in 1980 through the influence of Chase Rosade. Go to his website at to see photos of Nature’s Way Nursery’s Spring Festival featuring Frank and Bjorn.

What did they do at the Susquehanna Bonsai Club meeting?

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Frank decided to do a rock planting on Tufa rock which has a sponge like texture. The Tufa rock comes from the Sandusky, Ohio area deposits. His tools will be a hammer, screwdriver, wire, adhesive and a chisel to prepare the rock and then plant prepared, appropriately sized plants in the cavities on the rock.

Frank attached tie-down wires to the pockets in the Tufa rock by applying Epoxy putty to the wire at the bottom of the pockets. Crazy glue and cornstarch will also work as an adhesive. There is no need to create drainage holes in the pockets because the Tufa rock is so porous. The benefit to creating a rock planting in a demo is that it looks like a finished product at the end of the demo.

Frank next wired the small trees for the primary plantings. He then puts the trimmed and wired tree in place and sees how it looks. Frank adds some clay to his muck when planting. After the complementary plants are positioned adding moss is the next step. Use wire u-pins to hold the moss in place, so that when the planting gets dry the moss will not pull away. For a vertical rock, cheesecloth can be wrapped around the rock to hold the moss in place. The cheesecloth will eventually rot off. Place the finished rock in a tray of water to add humidity during the summer. Frank likes moss that has grown in the sun. The rock can be overwinter in a poly house during the winter. Frank keeps his storage area around 38 degrees during the winter. Juniper, boxwood and cryptomeria all do well planted on Tufa rock. Forest Rock Planting and Ezo Spruce by Saburo Kato is a good book for more information about rock plantings.

click on first image to open gallery

Bjorn chose a yamadori Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) collected from the Rockies and in a pot for the last 4 to 5 years. The specimen has elegant movement of the trunk and top. He designed a Bunjin style (Literati). The tree was grown in pumice which drains well and will not cause root problems.

Bjorn started by removing deadwood and unnecessary branches. Also remove branches that have no buds on them if you have enough foliage on the tree. There are four types of growth that can be cut from the tree:

1. Anything that is heavy on top and growing upward so that the laterals are maintained.

2. Anything that is hanging down on the bottom side of the branch. Cut the foliage off rather than plucking it off, however, leave a radial group of needles at the end of the branch.

3. Anything in the crotches of the branches. A branch should multiply by 2’s. If there are more than two branches radiating out of the

same spot, it will cause enlargement of the branch at that spot.

4. Start with the biggest branch on the bottom and work your way up the tree. When cutting branches, leave a stub the diameter of the branch. The stub can be used to anchor guy wires used to position branches and it can be removed after it is no longer used.

It is better if the tree is on the drier side when you are working on it. Bjorn holds the wire in the palm of his right hand and uses the left hand to pinch the wire into place. Start at the trunk of the tree and work out to the tertiary branches. Two wraps of wire are required to hold the branch. Two smaller branches of similar size can be wired together. Weave between the needles by using the wire to wiggle around the needles to get to the radiating tip cluster being careful not to smash needles. Ideally two wires or less on a branch at one spot, three being the maximum. The angle when wiring pines can be 60% to 65%, wire deciduous trees at a 45% angle since they tend to break more easily. The direction of the wire on the branch is important. See which direction the branch is going to be bent and wire in the same direction so that the wire will tighten as the branch is bent. Leave the wires on one to three growing seasons and until they bite in a bit, the scar tissue will help to hold the branch in place.

Bjorn positioned branches fanned out like a hand and pads on different planes. With the first branch he created four pads with foliage evenly distributed. The jin will be the highest point on the tree and the pads below that. The jin was formed and positioned but will be worked on after it dries out a bit. Refinement of the styling will be done in later years. He recommended fertilizing all year this year and next to promote back budding and vigorous growth. In the third year and after that fertilize from mid-September to December to promote shorter needles.

Bjorn compared Japanese bonsai and European and American bonsai. In America and Europe Bjorn has the opportunity to style collected trees whereas in Japan most of the work is refinement work of wiring trees. The focus in Japan is on the long-term development of trees 5 to 30 years out and in Europe and America it is on the short-term. In April 2017, Bjorn will be leading a tour to the World Bonsai Congress in Omiya, Japan.

click on first image to open gallery

Jim worked on a yamadori Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) which was collected 3 to 4 years ago. His goal was to show off the movement of the trunk and to design so that it has two viewing sides. The tree’s transpiration should make the bark feel cool all the time even in hot weather. A good way to determine if the tree is alive and healthy is to hold a piece of deadwood in one hand and

a part of the tree in the other hand and if it feels cool compared to the deadwood, it is good to work on it. Wait at least two years before wiring a collected tree and then at least three years after styling a collected tree to repot.

Jim started by cleaning dead and unusable branches from the Lodgepole pine. It is not as flexible as the Ponderosa pine. The tree got twisted in different directions in nature from stress . Branches are chosen to show the movement of the trunk. Bring down the branches into the empty space to emphasize the movement and features of the tree.

Leave the wire on the tree for 2-3 years. It may have to be wired again when the wires come off if the branches do not hold their position. The scars on the tree are beauty marks which show how the tree healed and grew in a different direction. Some branches will be removed in later years.

click on first image to open gallery




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Arthur Joura Demo – Susquehanna Bonsai Club

Arthur Joura On Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) Bonsai : (sorry no photos at the moment)

By Darlene Tyler

Jim Doyle introduced Arthur Joura who is Curator of the bonsai collection at the North Carolina Arboretum in Ashville, North Carolina. Arthur said that 500,000 people visit the Arboretum each year and the vast majority of visitors come through the bonsai garden and really like it. Since 1996 Arthur has been organizing and hosting the Bonsai Expo. This is the 21st Expo at the Arboretum, will feature Dan Robinson, and will be held on October 8 and 9. With Jim’s help, SBC has an exhibit in the Expo every year.

Arthur is committed to developing regional American style bonsai with nature and regional differences in specimens dictating the styles rather than traditional Japanese cultural practices. What changes when studying trees in nature is the role model of how you look at a tree: Instead of taking cues from other bonsai specimens you take your cues from nature.

Arthur’s slide show and lecture about American East Coast trees in their natural setting and their use in American Bonsai was beautiful and inspiring. The photos included a landscape he did while demonstrating for the club in 2005, South Appalachian Cove, an interpretation. The tokonoma display

was an American beech seedling grown by Arthur and a hemlock (styled by Yoshimura with its main trunk removed). This composition was also a demo at the club several years ago.

Red Maple, Acer rubrum, produces an extraordinary display in the fall. It is a canopy tree growing sixty feet to 100 feet tall and lives about one hundred twenty-five years. It is an Eastern North American tree extending from Canada to Mexico and is the most common canopy specimen in the Eastern United States forest. It is cultivated for landscape use and does well in cultivation, is adaptable to a wide variety of site conditions and will vary considerably with its location in the East. Chalk bark maple (Acer leucoderm), Arthur’s demo tree, is an understory tree which has all the attributes of a sugar maple and gets great autumn color. Chalk bark maples grow to thirty-five to forty feet high and develop a smaller trunk than a red maple.

As a bonsai specimen, red maple is readily available both commercially and from nature, transplants well, can be grown in full sun but does better in some shade, and can be used to create any form . It produces new growth on old wood and the leaves reduce well with persistent training but not as well as Trident maple. It is prone to insects and disease (frog eye fungus) and reducing inter-nodal distance can be challenging. Adversity develops character and red maple will develop twisting of the grain and burls.

The flower is showy in a subdued way and close up. From a distance in the landscape the mass of flowers creates an orange to red haze which envelopes the canopy of the tree. It is the color show of the Southern Appalachian forest in the spring. The fruit is a paired samara (an indehiscent winged fruit). The fruit display, which begins green and progresses to pinkish and then to orange when mature, is more eye-catching than the flowers.

There is variability in shape of leaves, size and color and when the leaves first appear the color is different. There is a yellow form of red maple as well as some with orange and bright red leaves. The leaves are translucent when backlit. Red maples do ramify utilizing leaf pruning, but not all the leaves at once. Every week take off the biggest leaves and those with spots from June through July and gradually strip-out the leaves, which is a much more sensible regiment for the plant.

Arthur directed his attention to styling the chalk bark maple specimen, which was cut back in the mid 2000’s and planted. Cut and grow techniques were used yearly to get an authentic movement and tapering in the branches. Look at the tree from all directions and angles to be sure the tree looks convincing from all directions. Frequently you will get good opportunities to redesign a tree when disasters show up and

with the right degree of flexibility, it is often possible to design a new tree.

The maple was bare rooted and a characteristic of chalk bark maples is that they hold their old leaves all winter (marcescent) until the spring when the new leaves push-off the old ones. Remove the old leaves and get a sense of the branches that are not useful and remove a little bit at a time and continue until it is where you want it to be. Have in mind what you want the canopy to be.

Most trees have an upward thrust and the composition will be different if the tree grows in a forest or in an open field. The tree is reaching for the sun. The lower branches have to reach out further. Along the way there is branch removal by insects, disease and competition. We mimic this competition when we prune and allow another branch room to grow. Upward and outward movement and our human ideas are needed to create an attractive bonsai. Try to think like a tree. Make sense out of random movement. What would the tree do with these parts it has? Arthur enjoys carving but sometimes it looks better tearing grab hunks of wood, split and grab and break creates a better finished appearance.

“Dead” deciduous wood will not last long whereas most evergreens have a capacity to resist rot. The exception is hornbeam which holds up well. After creating hollows or deadwood, use a small culinary or soldering torch to round off the edges and make the new work look like an old stump. An indoor/outdoor water-resistant wood glue helps to prevent the loss of moisture in the new work.

If there is competition between the branches, move them upward and outward. To develop trunks, grow the tree in the ground to develop strong root growth and the trunk will expand proportionately. What is bellow grown is vitally important. When you are growing trees in a bed, put a rock or tiles below the roots to keep them radiating out and prevent them from growing down.

After the wiring and pruning, the maple was potted in a box made of locust with hardware cloth on the bottom covered with landscape cloth. The soil mix was the Arboretum’s potting mix and aggregate. The potting mix is composted pine bark, peat moss and Micromax with added lime and micronutrients. The aggregate is expanded slate, a local product. Put a mound of soil mix into the box and push the tree into it and finish adding soil mix after the plant is in place. Attach the tree in the box with wires around the tree that are attached to staples in the top of the box. Design the tree entirely than look for the front at the end of the process.

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Hershey Gardens Bonsai Exhibit 2015 – Susquehanna Bonsai Club

The 2015 Susquehanna Bonsai Club annual exhibit at Hershey Gardens.


(click on first image to enlarge and scroll through gallery)


(click on first image to enlarge and scroll through gallery)

Once again the Gardens enjoyed a successful exhibit, with over 100 more visitors than in 2014 casting their ballot for their favorite tree. Join us at a future meeting where we will present Carl, Jim and Bob with their awards. A hearty Thank you to all of the SBC members who exhibited trees, managed the care and feeding, set up and took down the exhibit, and shared their weekends working and teaching the public about bonsai. We couldn’t have done it without you! 

Roxanne Kamin

Thanks for reading 🙂