Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => General Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: jlushious on September 07, 2013, 07:19 PM

Title: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on September 07, 2013, 07:19 PM
Hi folks, just finished moving from Vancouver, BC (Canada) - zone 8b to Calgary, Alberta (Canada) - zone 4a. My collection is still in Vancouver with my trusted family until I can determine which trees will be able to move with me. Just wondering if anyone on here is from Calgary - or knows someone who is? My efforts at finding a bonsai club here are pretty fruitless at this point.

Thanks for any help!

Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: scottroxburgh on September 09, 2013, 04:20 AM
I can't help you, but I am moving from Canberra, Australia to Vancouver BC.

What are your recommendations for clubs in the area?
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on September 09, 2013, 11:52 AM
It depends where you are living but there are two major clubs on the mainland:

BC Bonsai Society: (

They are great, I was part of this club and found it to be really helpful. They have a member who has studied in Japan.

There is also the Westcoast Bonsai Society: (

They meet in North Vancouver, but I do not know much about them.

The climate there is so good you can grow pretty much anything, just make sure you have good draining soil as it rains a lot.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: leszekr on September 29, 2013, 10:27 PM
Hi Jodie, there is no club in Calgary. I can't even tell you about other bonsai hobbyists here other than myself. I moved from Ontario back in 2011 and brought some trees with me. What survived is as follows: Eastern White Cedar, Larch (Tamarack), Scots Pine, Mugho Pine, Itiogawa Juniper, Blue Rug Juniper, Alberta Spruce (this one not really thriving, it is just there), Eastern Hemlock, Hinoki Cypress and Amur Maple... I lost a few trees which could not cope with Calgary's weather - freeze-thaw cycles brought on by Chinooks. Trees were brought out of dormancy or their hardiness was lowered because of warm spells and they perished. Also you mentioned 4a hardiness zone - in some sheltered areas of the city you'll get that. Otherwise it is 3b (this is where I am) or even 3a...brrr... in a summary, conifers seem to be doing ok here, most of the trees I lost were deciduous trees. If you have Japanese Maples, Tridents, Beeches, Burning Bush, Elms, Crabapples, Birches you may as well leave them in BC. I had Boxwood, Linden, Hinoki Cypress Sawara nad Korean Hornbeam that barely survived here and I had to take them to my friend's place in BC and plant them in the ground in effort to revive  them. Anyway, if you want to, please contact me so you can get a bit more info on the topic, maybe see my garden and the trees that made it.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on September 30, 2013, 04:27 PM
Thanks! I have not brought any of my trees from BC. I didn't want to take any chances with them since they were fine where they are for the winter (in BC).

I do have some deciduous that I will be sad to leave behind (my tridents, my prunus and particularly my dawn redwood). I figured most of those wouldn't make it out here, just too dry with all the winds to stay hydrated enough.

I will PM you, I would be interested in seeing your collection!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Caine on October 31, 2013, 10:53 AM
I've wanted to get started with bonsai but have never really known where to start. I was hoping to find locals who had bonsai experience to chat with and maybe have coffee. Watching videos and reading online is just not the same as being able to learn from someone and share experiences in person.

I was wondering if you two ever got together. I'm sure there are many isolated bonsai keepers in Calgary. Maybe we just need to dig to find them all :)
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Chrisl on October 31, 2013, 11:10 AM
Jodie, can't you provide some kind of winter shelter...garage, hoop house, shed in Calgary?  I'm pretty sure you'd be able to grow decid. trees this way.  Big culture difference b/w Calgary and Vancouver I bet too ;)
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on October 31, 2013, 11:48 AM
We haven't gotten together yet, but have exchanged some emails. I have intentions to go check out his collection, he said he has some winter storage situation set up. Right now the few trees that I picked up here, are deciduous and I have stuck in my shed. It's on the protected side of the house, so it should function well enough for this winter (they are also in large pots - probably too big, but it should provide some protection for now).

We certainly should start up a group discussion. Maybe a study group type format, where we just meet at someone's house once in a while to talk bonsai.

Definitely a very different climate than Vancouver! Colder winters, hotter summers and lots of wind. Eventually I will probably be putting together a winter structure, but seeing as we just moved into a rental house for now I can't do a ton. From what I have seen, there are a number of native deciduous trees that thrive here, just from looking at the landscaping and the foothills range land. Aspen and such seem to do fine here.

In any case, Caine I will pm you and we can connect via email as well!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: bofobo on November 02, 2013, 01:55 PM
Greetings. I like finding threads like this because it is close to home. I am one of those Calgary bonsai keepers, more like 2 summer tree killer tho. Lol. I am a Calgary native who decided it was high time to get into bonsai a couple years ago and only had 1 of my garden collected plants survive the first winter on my patio table fully exposed. Yeah dumb but it taught me a lesson. That same tree has survived my amateurs soil mixes, totally dry roots, and over watering. I have purchased some Wally world trees ( indoor) but mostly for the pot. There is a little garden center just east of Chinook mall called garden retreat. They have no plants worth bonsai but it is the only place I have found tools pots and other essentials. I have been looking around for other bonsai enthusiast's since before I planted my first seed and have been largely unsuccessful myself, and would be very interested in meeting new people with this common interest.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Benedicto on November 06, 2013, 12:13 AM
Hello all, I just happened to stumble onto this thread while searching for Bonsai clubs here. I'm a SAIT student in Calgary and I'm fascinated with Bonsai but am having some troubles starting up and learning the basics; YouTube and google can only help so much. :( I was hoping to find a group that met on a regular basis where I could learn...unfortunately I have very little experience with bonsai or plants period and can use any knowledge I can get. Would be great if something started up?
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on November 06, 2013, 04:21 PM
Awesome, another one! I sent you a PM with my info. This is great, we can start an informal group or something, even if we are all beginners we can share any knowledge we have gained so far.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Gaffer on November 06, 2013, 07:56 PM
Well done guys your on your way.
Why did you have to move to Calgary .so cold. Eww
Qualicum Brian
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: bofobo on November 11, 2013, 10:37 AM
I don't know what happened to the original Calgary bonsai club but I would like to. Perhaps a few members are still around. In my short experience with bonsai and people through kijiji, neighbours and while shopping around, I have heard of individuals but most seem to have been very old and getting out of the hobby. Others have lost all their trees due to one cause or another and they didn't start up again. I'm told an old friends Dad has a couple trees and I have been looking to make my way up at take a look some day. With how much the world has changed in the last 10 years ( about how long since the last Calgary bonsai club updated their web site) and in the spirit of youth this group is starting out with perhaps we can connect with more people through social media like this, I don't know about you guys but the first place I went to find a club was Facebook. It is most likely the first place a novice or person with interest is likely to look for people to connect with.  Having said that I'm of the opinion we need a FB page and I'm open to debate on name ideas. I fancy BOW CITY BONSAI. Any ideas? Could be anything really even as mundane as YYC BONSAI CLUB.   ??? Oh oh CHINOOK WINDS BONSAI CLUB. Perhaps I'm getting a little ahead of myself but then again perhaps not.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Gaffer on November 11, 2013, 09:17 PM
Leave your trees in van. If you can dig them into someone's garden and just let them get fat. I know you will eventially be back in van and your trees will love it.
Qualicum Brian
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on November 12, 2013, 09:08 PM
I think that's a great plan, we should all meet up and get acquainted first though!

It would be great to use places like this forum and facebook and such to find other like-minded people in our area. There is a club in Edmonton as well as in Lethbridge, so there HAS to be others in Calgary.

I likely will leave at least half my trees in Vancouver, my family has a big house with a huge yard and I am pretty sure my mom is already eyeballing a few for decorative purposes! Either way a few will come, but many of the more tender varieties wouldn't survive anyways!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: ortizdhs on November 26, 2013, 04:38 PM
Hi there:

I moved to Calgary on May. Adquired a couple of Junipers from Bluegrass and Golden Acre. And one Mugo from a small local nursery. Will like to join you guys in a meeting about this fascinating hobby. send me a PM.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on November 27, 2013, 09:20 AM
Sent you a PM!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: bofobo on November 30, 2013, 06:01 PM
I know of some yamadori material that I learned today is going to be replaced with new young shrubs in the late spring at a shopping center. If anyone is interested, I have permission to remove them come spring. They are not very large plants but have 2-3 inch trunks, stand about 12-16 inches high and would fit into a 16×16×6 crate very nicely. Others may need a slightly larger box as they are very slanted. Interested? Send me a message.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on November 30, 2013, 08:05 PM
What kind? Sounds interesting for sure!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: ortizdhs on December 01, 2013, 11:18 AM

 I sent you a PM for the collection.

Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Aikidoka on January 24, 2014, 12:00 AM
I'm returning to Bonsai as a casual hobby... that being said, I'd enjoy getting some advice and feedback, especially given Calgary's climate. Has the group been started yet?
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on January 24, 2014, 08:35 AM
Sort of! Everyone has been busy over Christmas, but I will PM you!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on February 26, 2014, 10:43 AM
Started a Facebook group for localized discussions. We had our first meet-up on the weekend with a few folks. Let's hope we can keep this momentum going. For anyone who didn't send me an email, here is the facebook group URL: (
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Gaffer on February 26, 2014, 09:32 PM
There is going to be a convention in Victoria in October 2014. It will be snowing in Calgary by then so it would be a good break for you. Be nice to meet you there.
Qualicum Brian
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on February 27, 2014, 09:19 AM
Change of link: (

The facebook page was a pain, so I made a group instead!

I will be out there around thanksgiving Brian, what are the dates?!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on April 06, 2014, 11:27 AM
Two of us got together yesterday for our second "meeting" and built some grow boxes for potential collection this spring. Photo attached. Basically I own absolutely no tools to do this kind of thing, so thankfully Mike is awesome and pretty much built them all (I held the pieces together though!). Thanks again to Mike for having basic woodworking know-how and sharing his skills with me!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on April 06, 2014, 04:49 PM
Congratulations, your club together already does more than mine :)
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Sorce on April 07, 2014, 08:06 AM
Like build decent grow boxes.  ;) poke
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: ortizdhs on April 07, 2014, 08:01 PM
Nice boxes!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on April 08, 2014, 09:35 AM
They turned out great. Now I just need to find some stuff to put in them! Kind of putting the cart before the horse isn't it?
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: ortizdhs on April 08, 2014, 11:53 AM
Not really, one of the most important things that is needed before a collection is an appropriate place to plant the material that we bring back. I think you are one step ahead!!
Title: Re:
Post by: Joshua Hanzman on April 08, 2014, 09:27 PM
Yea i agree with ortiz, it us far worse the way i do it which sorce eluded to, which is collect a tree, find out it doesn't fit in anything i own, then scramble and build a box....

Sent from my LG-MS770 using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: SusanCue on September 15, 2014, 01:38 PM
I've tried several methods of keeping indigenous varieties outside in Calgary.  Left on shelves they freeze, then Chinooks thaw them, then they re-freeze when it gets cold again.  It's just too confusing for them.  I tried covering trees with several layers of burlap then burying the pots to the base of the trunk to keep them frozen.  You would think this would work, but in the Spring most trees leaf out before the ground thaws making re-potting impossible.  I tried re-potting in the Fall; that would work for a few years but I always lost them.  (I may try this again now that I know more than I did then.)  A friend tried digging a big hole and putting shelving in it to keep trees protected and frozen but it didn't work; they still thawed during the Chinooks and he eventually lost all of his trees.  Chinooks are deadly to Bonsai! 

Unfortunately, the only reliable way to grow Bonsai in Calgary is in a greenhouse that has a heater for the Winter and good ventilation for the Summer.  In the Winter I cover my pots with thermal fabric that rejects heat.  On really warm Chinook days, I put snow or ice on the soil to keep the roots cold and prevent the trees from waking up too soon.  That's when I'm really glad I use soil with good drainage!  I keep tropicals inside and put them in the greenhouse to enjoy the summer heat.  The greenhouse also protects my trees from our deadly Summer hailstorms.

I've been doing Bonsai in Calgary for 30 years and this is the only methods that works.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but facts are facts.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on September 15, 2014, 02:17 PM
Thanks for sharing Susan! I am just trying to work out my winter strategy as well. Unfortunately I don't have a greenhouse so things could get interesting! I was going to dig a trench on the north side of my house, load the pots in, mulch and then when it starts to snow bury everything and keep it covered in snow all winter. Being on the north side it should stay frozen if I keep it covered. At least I will try! I don't have any other options!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: SusanCue on September 15, 2014, 04:13 PM
That's a good idea.  The only problems you may encounter are that we don't always get lots of snow over the winter and also when we get Chinooks, it melts.  I once tried doing something similar; I used straw to mulch the trees but over the winter there had been so much thawing and re-freezing that it had created ice and I couldn't get the trees out when it was time to re-pot in the Spring.  Do you have an unheated garage with a window in it?  You could put your trees on a table close to the window. 

When my greenhouse was being remodeled a few years ago, I kept my trees in the house on a big shelf that has large windows on each end.  I covered the entire area with heavy plastic, put a thermometer inside and opened the windows as needed to let in cold air.  I sealed the top, sides and bottom with duct tape to keep the cold air in the area and out of the house.  It was a real pain getting in there to water, but the trees did fine.  A basement window would work for this but not a south-facing window; it would get too hot.

I've always envied people who live in climates where they can just leave their trees outside all the time.  It would make doing Bonsai so easy!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on September 15, 2014, 04:39 PM
Hm, yeah that could be a problem, I will have to work something out. I rent my house and we don't have a garage or access to the basement (or a spare room to turn into a cold room!). Definitely limits things. I will have to take a try at it this year and see what happens, I don't really have other options.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: SusanCue on September 15, 2014, 05:16 PM
I know how hard it is.  I've been doing Bonsai in Calgary for over 30 years and have found the temperature-controlled greenhouse to be the only thing that's reliable.  I know not everyone has a greenhouse.  If you have someone in BC to take care of your trees, you're better off leaving them there for a few years if you plan to go back.  I'm sure you know that you can't grow trees from BC outside in Alberta; wrong climate zone.  Without a greenhouse, the only Bonsai trees you can grow here reliably are tropicals.  Nice ones are hard to find; I bring mine in from Florida.

Please stay in touch and let me know how you do.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: jlushious on October 30, 2014, 10:15 AM
Well I finished my winter prep yesterday. I dug a trench alongside my house on the north side, used the dirt from the hole to build up a bit of a berm around the edges. I lined it with straw and then put all my plants in there. I gave them all a good final water and then packed them with more straw. I covered some completely, others up to some of the lower branches. All the pots have straw packed in between them for maximum insulation.

Once it snows I will stack all the shovelled snow on top for extra coverage and hopefully that will keep everything frozen for the winter.

I will have to dig in and give them a water every once in a while since the straw has a tendency to shed water a bit (especially when it's as deep as I made it). But when we get chinook winds and things warm up I should be able to poke the watering wand in there and give them all a water when they need it.

Pic below is halfway through the straw packing process. Fingers crossed!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Judy on October 30, 2014, 11:47 AM
Do you have to do any protection from mice and moles and voles where you are?
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: KmtConan on March 09, 2017, 04:05 PM
Hey guys, im new ro bonsai and living in YYC, i was just hoping to revive this thread and see if anyone is around.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Joda on October 25, 2017, 06:24 PM
As am I. I am trying to join the group that is posted here, but I get an error. Is the FB Group still going?
HI everyone! I happened across this thread and have tried reading all. I am only just starting but excited to learn from people that are obviously nice and helpful!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: M. Frary on October 26, 2017, 10:17 AM
I live in zone 4 but a cold 4.
I can help.
Wintering questions?
Vole and mice problems?
I've been through it all.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: RedJen on November 02, 2017, 04:16 PM
Hi everyone, I'm also new to bonsai and live in the Calgary area. I think there have been several attempts to revive a Calgary bonsai group but nothing has stuck, at least from what I've been able to find. I have a Shimpaku Juniper that I've owned for a little under two years now that I bought from the shop 'Plant' in Inglewood. I mistakenly thought I could keep it inside, I kept it inside all of last year because by the time I found out it was a bad idea it was already deep into winter and I didn't want to shock it. Since late Spring/ early Summer of this year it's been outside and seemed to really enjoy it. I have noticed some minor browning and did an emergency transplant into a larger pot a couple of months ago. I probably botched this as I only removed some of the original soil from the root ball for fear of damaging the root system too late into the season, and have it now surrounded in proper bonsai substrate/soil.

But here lies my greatest worry. I have not given myself proper time for winter preparations and the snow is already here. Mostly because I'm trying to suss out what is best to do. I've pored over several sources all with different recommendations about what to do to prevent my bonsai from dying and all with warnings about not to do something that another article is advising. I have an East facing yard and that's where my juniper has been for most of the season, sitting on the deck. I've now moved it to the front of the house facing west in order to put it on some ground and up against the house to try to give it some shelter from the snow (when I woke up this morning the juniper pot already had a layer of snow in it). Though I think it might be getting more wind the ground is covered in mulch and the snow hasn't reached it yet. I'm very worried about the temperature because I was reading anything lower than -10C and all the roots will die. My basement is too warm and I have a small shed with an east facing window in the backyard but it's also on the patio and not on the ground and there isn't any way for me to implement temperature control in the shed. I plan on buying some sort of cold frame and getting some burlap and mulch and trying to dig out a hole in the front under my bay window where I have it now to try to give it some shelter, especially for the roots and perhaps a touch of residual warmth from the house to keep it around or above the -10C range, if that's even possible. My other greatest concern is our Chinooks, something that we look forward to to give us a break is detrimental to trees and plants. I was reading some earlier comments on this thread about a user whose worked with bonsai for 30 years and only a temperature controlled greenhouse worked for keeping her bonsai alive in our treacherous Calgary winters. I'm hoping there's something I can whip up in the next couple of days until I can arrange for something better. I am open to any and all recommendations from those who have more experience in Calgary bonsai.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Jay on November 02, 2017, 06:19 PM
Hi.... First I do not live anywhere near you. I am in northern Vermont in the US. But... We do get cold here. -10c really isn't that cold. Your shed has possibilities. A major issue is desecation, the wind will dry out your tree real quick. Keeping it inside the (unheated) shed sounds fine. During dormancy the need for light is near zero. I keep my Larch and Junipers as well as Boxwood and spruce in my unheated garage, with barely any light. When the temps go below -10F I use a heat mat for the roots, and only until it gets up to +10F. Freezing isn't usually the issue.... Freeze , thaw, freeze, thaw etc is.
My two cents
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: RedJen on November 02, 2017, 07:38 PM
Hi Jay, thanks for getting back to me. I agree that -10C isn't that cold, but in Calgary it can get to -40C in the later winter months and like many places our night temperatures can plummet. I should have enough time to prep for that hopefully. My juniper has been out in the front most of the day and I won't be home until much later because of work but I've asked if anyone is home to bring it into the shed. Hopefully it didn't get blasted too badly by the windchill factor which is currently reading at around -20C now that the sun is beginning to go down. What type of heat mat would you recommend? I could try to find a power pack or something along those lines that can go in the shed with it on especially cold days. Thanks again for your input!
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Jay on November 03, 2017, 07:10 AM
Well negative 40 is cold and the point where C and F are the same.
What I use is unique to me, I made a grid out of copper pipe, filled it with auto antifreeze and place heat tape on it.
The heat tape keeps the pipe at temps just above freezing. By placing the pot right on (touching) the pipe the heat transfer to the pot and moderates the temps....there are many other methods
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: RedJen on November 04, 2017, 02:18 PM
Jay, thanks for the idea. At first I was confused by what you meant by "heat tape" my first thought was the reflective tape used as a heat barrier, but because that didn't make any sense I quickly dropped that idea and thought that some kind of heating cable made more sense. I did some research and found that Heat Tape is a brand (I also discovered that heat tape is simply a term interchangeable with heating cable) but it doesn't appear to be sold in Canada. There are other heating cable brands I can get my hands on but I'm very inexperienced when it comes to using them outside their intended function. Because of this inexperience I'm hesitant to settle on a specific type, I was thinking the Wrap-On brand would work but the instructions say it has to be wrapped up with fiberglass insulation after it's installed. I'm not sure if that's absolutely essential or more or less a way to keep the heat from escaping into the air. I was also looking at the soil heating cables but the reviews aren't promising.

I did have an idea about using a small seed starting mat and placing that inside of a plastic tray/tub lined with heat tape (the kind that's reflective) so it can bounce back the heat and limit heat loss into the air and hook up the mat to a thermostat so I can regulate the heat to something more moderate, at least above -10C. It dipped to -20 last night without windchill, but as you and others have said, staying freezing is better than freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. I can only try my best and learn from this.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Jay on November 04, 2017, 07:14 PM
RedJen the idea you have sounds fine. You are not looking to do a Bonsai Sauna. You are just looking to raise the temp of the pot (roots) not the plant. Remember as you said you do not want to go....freeze thaw etc. just raise the temp a,bit to the mid 20f is perfect.
Title: Re: Calgary Bonsai?
Post by: Ride4life4 on October 30, 2018, 01:29 PM
Just wondering if a Calgary bonsai group ever got started out of all this?