The Florida Bonsai Magazine: February 2018

From the desk of the President

By Ronn Miller

Hi all,

I would like to give you a quick update on the status of this year’s convention. It is looking like it will be one of the best times had for all.  This year we are honored to salute our Florida artists. The team of 1st VP Reggie Perdue, Webmaster Jorge Nazaro, Ben Agresta and myself, led by 2nd VP Adam Lavigne, have been working hard to finish up the program and registration package.  This year will be a first for us as we are going to present the registration form online to make it possible for members to fill out and enter it without having to print, fill it out manually, and mail it in. Of course you can still mail your registration if you want to.

The theme this year is “A Legacy of Learning” and will feature BSF Legacy Award winners as our headliners. We have Ed Trout, Mike Rogers, Mary Miller, Jim Vanlandingham, Louise Leister, Mary Madison, and Mike Cartrett. We will also pay tribute to Legacy Award winners and to winners who are not with us anymore.

Additionally, other great artist will also be featured in the outstanding program that we have put together.  Adam Lavigne, Rob Kempinski, Hiram Macias, Reggie Perdue, Jason Osborne, Donnie Emenegger, and Vladimir Foursa will be performing demonstrations and workshops.

We have secured some fantastic material for both workshops and demonstrations. Our goal for workshop trees was for quality while considering the value. We will be showing pictures of the trees when the first convention newsletter is published.  Selection of workshop trees will be on a sign-up basis, the first person to sign up for the workshop will get first choice.

We are going to ask for volunteers for various tasks and we are in the process of setting up requirements. Volunteers will be eligible to get on the BSF Master List for rooms that will be exempt from taxes.  This saves a significant amount on your room. Payment for your room will have to be made to BSF before 1 May as the hotel requires us to pay for the rooms in advance. Information will be available for contacts and areas where you can volunteer in the first newsletter coming out soon. The newsletter will accompany the launch of the registration form.

I will be contacting vendors and sending registration information within the next week.

Ronn Miller

Bsf President


by Tony Green

When the fervor of bonsai took hold of me, I sought all the information I could find. I learned the history of bonsai. I subscribed to bonsai magazines. I watched videos about wiring and watering techniques. I researched substrate and light cycles. The learning materials I immersed myself in often displayed magnificent white pines, exquisite Japanese flowering quince, and majestic Rocky Mountain junipers. And slowly, another force grew inside me, nestled in right beside my bonsai fervor: zone envy—“an affliction whereby one desires to cultivate a species of plant outside their native zone.”

A plant hardiness zone (determined by the USDA) is a standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive in their location. Zones are determined by the average annual minimum temperature in winter and are divided into ten-degree increments. I live in zone 10b— the southeast coast of Florida.

One of Tony’s trees, a schefflera forest

The magnificent trees I saw in my studies needed a dormancy period during the winter, requiring winter temperatures far below those found in my zone. While I was able to cultivate tropicals like bougainvillea, schefflera, and ficus where I lived, I yearned to work on the great variety of trees I was exposed to in my studies. It was this force that drove me to apply for an internship at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC in the spring of 2017. *

The bonsai collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is world-renowned. Comprised of over 400 trees, the collection includes bonsai from all over the world, many of which have been donated by famous artists and heads of state. Some of the most famous trees in the world are in this collection, including Goshin by John Naka and the Yamaki pine, rescued from Hiroshima and in training since 1625. Truly, it is one of the top bonsai collections in existence.

Ironically, when I arrived at the Arboretum, the staff took great pride in showing me their collection of tropical trees. They had gone to extensive measures in their tropical greenhouses to mimic the warm, humid environment required for tropical trees to thrive—conditions I had always taken for granted in Florida.  I realized that, apparently, zone envy afflicts bonsai practitioners no matter where they live (Washington DC is zone 7a).

My first responsibility was to properly clean the water basins and keep the hoses neatly put away. Next, I was instructed in proper watering and fertilization. Then, one day I was assigned  a ficus which needed spring pruning

“We have this ficus that needs pruning. Why don’t you give it a shot? You can ‘go hard’ ” they told me.

Ficus natalensis

Apparently, a “hard” prune on a ficus is defined differently in mid-Atlantic regions than it is in sub-tropical Florida. My mentors looked at my finished work, mouths agape at my drastic “hard” styling of the tree. After that, they politely told me to “go easy” when it came to pruning. Once we overcame such communication hurdles, I was honored to be trusted to work on some of the most famous and valuable bonsai trees in the nation.

Japanese black pine de-candled by Tony

During my time there, I spent twelve hours a day, five days a week absorbing all the information I could about bonsai. I felt like a captive-bred fish finally released into a palatial lake, greedily absorbing all my new environment had to offer. I learned skills for maintaining various species, cultivars, and styles of bonsai. I gained understanding of how a tree’s age impacts the treatment and styling approach. I acquired new knowledge of extensive display techniques. Much of my time was spent interacting with public visitors to the museum, answering questions and educating people about the collection. Of course, I would not have taken away so much value from my experience if I had not been working with the knowledgeable, supportive staff I had guiding me through my journey.

At its heart, zone envy is a curiosity. It’s this curiosity that drove me out of zone 10b into zone 7a for more training and experience and allowed me to expand my horticultural knowledge. However, all people can utilize that native wonder, even within their own temperate zones. Everyone can test the limits of their zones, integrating species that are just on the edge or just outside of their temperate zone. It is this curiosity that takes us to places we never imagined and allows us to explore our creativity in ways we never knew were possible.

Michael James, interim curator and Tony, working on The famous Yamaki Pine

*If you are interested in an internship, follow this link for more info.

The Journey of the Sho Fu Brazilian Rain Tree Forest

By Kay Karioth and Mike Knowlton

The story of our Brazilian Rain Tree Forest begins where most all rain trees living in the United States began.  Jim Moody, well known Florida Bonsai artist, was sent in 1974, by his sister-in-law who was living in Brazil, five Rain Tree seeds. He planted them and as the seeds grew into trees, cuttings were taken from them.  Cuttings grow rapidly in the Florida climate and in no time Brazilian Rain Trees became a very popular new tropical species for Bonsai artists to grow.

Jim Moody died in 2003.  His grandson, Allen Carver, continued the tradition of working with and selling Brazilian Rain Trees.  In July of 2004 Allen was invited by the Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota to visit a club meeting and “do a demo” on Brazilian Rain Trees.  At the time he had never put together a forest.  He brought a handmade concrete slab and 5 trees that were approximately 4 years old.

At the end of each Sho Fu meeting, a raffle is held.  On the evening of July, 2004, one of the members, Vito Morrongiello, was lucky enough to win the forest.  It lived with him until 2008.  He was one of the first Sho Fu members to donate not only this forest but also other large trees to the Permanent Exhibit at Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.  The Exhibit trees are owned by Sho Fu but because of the relationship Sho Fu has with Selby, thousands of visitors get to enjoy not only the Rain Tree Forest but all of the Permanent Exhibit trees.

Richard Dietrich has been curator of the Sho Fu Permanent Exhibit for approximately 8 years. During this time he spent hours and hours trimming and maintaining the Forest along with about 14 other specimen trees, as well as serving as a docent for the thousands of Selby Garden visitors from all over the world.

The forest was exhibited at the 2014 BSF Convention, at which it won ‘Best Large Tree’.  Tears flowed profusely among both club members and judges when Vito, who was in declining health at that time, saw the forest at the Convention and learned of the award.

Fast Forward to August, 2016.

In August, 2016, Mike and Lunetta Knowlton presented a program for Sho Fu on “Why enter one of your bonsai trees into a state or national exhibition – and if you do, what is entailed?”  The members attending the meeting appeared to be very interested and asked lots of questions.

On the way home from the meeting, Mike and Lunetta discussed several things:

1. What would it take to entice more Sho Fu Members to attend the BSF Convention each year in Orlando or the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester every other year?

2. Many of our members are just beginning their bonsai journey and do not have a tree that would be ready for a State or National exhibit.

3. Sho Fu has a wonderful exhibit at Selby.  Why not consider choosing a tree that the entire club could work on over a two year period and then, as a Club, submit it for Exhibit at the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, 2018?

4. What tree would be the best choice to work on?  The Brazilian Rain Tree Forest! It is large; it is unusual; there are jobs for many members to work on during the time of preparation.

A proposal was written and presented to the Sho Fu Board.  The Board discussed it, agreed that the idea was a good one and agreed to support moving forward. In the proposal, the Knowlton’s recommended that the forest should be removed from Selby and moved to a place where the membership could work.  This way, several club members at a time could participate in the various jobs needed on an ongoing basis to not only care for the forest but also begin the two year process of preparation for exhibition.  The Knowlton’s volunteered their home location and that was accepted by the Sho Fu Board.

Work needing to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, bi-yearly, and yearly basis:

Daily watering, timely defoliation, de-thorning, wiring, repotting, removing the wire, keeping new growth trimmed, regular fertilizing, regular application of fungicides and insecticides, and periodically taking the forest to Wigert’s nursery for advice on styling.

Other  considerations were:

Designing a new slab since the forest has outgrown the old original concrete slab it has lived on for 9 years,

Finding a wood slab or exhibit table large enough for the forest.

Deciding how the forest would be transported to Rochester, if it is accepted in the 2018 U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.

This project is not only how one prepares a tree for a “formal show” but also, this is how a bonsai enthusiast works on all the trees in his/her collection. So, in reality, this project should help all Sho Fu members who get involved and enhance their skills as they work on their own trees.

Significant work on the forest started in the Fall of 2016.  Due to the size of the forest, while at the Selby display, it was not regularly turned to balance exposure to the Sun.  The back of the forest was weak in relation to the front.  BSF members who have Brazilian Rain Trees in their collection also know that due to its fast growing nature it requires aggressive trimming and thinning to keep it under control.

13 club members of  Sho Fu worked with Mike and Lunetta concentrating primarily on defoliation, thorn removal, thinning and trimming.  The forest was then taken to Wigert’s Nursery where Erik Wigert worked with Mike and Richard to thin unnecessary branches and to wire every branch in the forest (Ugh!  Two people working 5 hours).  Some of the bigger branches needed guy wires to facilitate placement.  Special efforts were made to get more sun into the center of the forest.

Another long time Sho Fu member, Tom Friend, constructed a beautiful new concrete slab that kept the same shape but was enlarged about 2” around the perimeter.  Also, Tom provided a deeper center core that made more room for soil.  Finally he provided numerous drain holes and short feet on the slab to promote drainage.

Also, Tom finished a large Cypress slab that the Knowlton’s had purchased in North Florida.  The slab will be used as the table for the forest in the formal display.

Early Spring, 2017

Following several months of observation and input from a number of bonsai artists, Lunetta, Mike and Richard worked all day with Erik to once again wire the branches and to take apart and repot the forest.

 Since the final styling included turning and moving certain of the trees in the forest, the ‘doormat’ of roots had to be carefully but substantially reduced. Following two months in a shade house, all of the trees had recovered and in July another process of wire removal occurred.

The forest was then allowed to grow in full sun for the next several months with minimal trimming and once again was defoliated and re-wired in early November with the help of four other Sho Fu members.

January, 2018

The forest trees have quickly grown a new set of leaves and we received a ‘call for trees’ from Bill Valavanis for consideration to be part of the 2018 National Bonsai Exhibition. Pictures were taken of the Forest, both ‘naked’ and fully leafed out, and sent to him.

And the saga continues………..

Find out if the Forest was accepted in April edition of The Florida Bonsai Magazine!

5th Annual Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo, December 2017, in Kannapolis, NC

By Barb Hiser

As a native Floridian, I honestly didn’t know what to expect at a “winter silhouette” bonsai show….working mostly with tropicals, our trees look about the same year round except trimming slows down in the winter.  Attending this show for the first time in 2016 was a sure way to change my initial “ho hum” expectation into a jaw-dropping reaction!  I finally understood how “those people up north” could actually enjoy bonsai other than tropicals! The same way we defoliate our tropicals to view the structure (among other reasons), the nature of the deciduous tree during winter is magical and allows the viewer to see a completely different tree.   Attending the 2017 show did not disappoint; in fact there were vendors, outstanding demonstrations and workshops, and spectacular display trees.  It looks as if it is growing every year.  And the venue is elegant, establishing a beautiful backdrop for the high quality trees in their winter best.

Florida was well-represented by artists who envisioned a Florida tree in winter:

Chris Denton (Shefflera Arboricola, banyan style)

Notice the incredible ramification and movement: perfect for a silhouette tree.  Even the judges marveled at the ramification of this Arboricola.


Adam Lavigne (Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam, and celtis laeavigata, sugar berry )

A signature feature of Adam’s displays is his unique stands, and these 2 displays didn’t disappoint.  The uro and the hollow trunk add incredible interest and age to both beautiful trees.  If these trees could talk, what would they tell us of a storied past?

Carpinus caroliniana above

Celtis laeavigata below

Rob Kempinski (Main tree-Ficus salicaria)

Rob is an excellent bonsai artist, and he is equally known for his unique displays, always telling a story and with many layers of mystery.  Curiosity abounded with his display at Winter Silhouette, and the responses from viewers ranged from a ‘time machine’ to  ‘Steampunk’.

Bruce Hartman (Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Mound’)

Bruce’s display was an entry in the Club Night event at the annual BSF convention 2017, made by Team BSOB.  It represents lava tubes, with the active volcano clearly visible in the back.  The display was put together, planted, wired, and even the hand painting of the volcano scene, all during the time allotted for Team Night.  The display was then auctioned and Bruce had the winning bid.

Seth Nelson (Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Mound’)

Seth says he inherited this amazing tree from Jim VanLandingham, and has recently made redesign changes to the 30 yr old tree. He describes the process:   “turn and change the angle….remove thick unattractive aerial roots,” but no other branches were removed. His intention was to be “respectful to the old bonsai while bringing in a new perspective and level of refinement. “ Seth says Jim V. was excited to see his tree in this new light, and it won the Best Tropical Award!  (see Awards below)

Sam Ogranaja (Main tree: Premna macrophylla, Stinky Lady)

Sam’s display made a statement about Hurricane Irma and the resulting devastation.  Hurricane survivors often write on their exterior walls or window coverings as a way to alert officials of someone in the building or to simply vent their frustration, (‘Go Away Irma’). The main tree is actually a tanuki graft, well integrated into the driftwood and fitting in perfectly to the scene left in Irma’s wake.

Mike Rogers (Lagerstroemia, crepe myrtle, ‘New Orleans’)

Mike did this planting about 10 yrs ago for a Kawa club demonstration. The trees were grown from cuttings and air layers, and Mike wanted something a little different from the average group/forest planting.  He’s very happy with it,especially in silhouette, and I personally second that!

Barbara Hiser (Coccoloba uvifera, Seagrape. – Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’)

This sea grape started on the island of Puerto Rico and has made its debut in the United States over the past few years. New growth is reddish, and in warmer months leaves can be reduced to the size of a half dollar or less. Actually in the tropics where this tree grows naturally, it holds its leaves all year so this is a Floridian’s impression of a winter tree!

This ‘Shimpaku’ (on the stand) is early in its life of display but can only get more beautiful, proudly representing the Juniper family. This tree was part of the collection of Louise Leister. We arm-wrestled for it, and I won!

The highlight of this beautiful event was distribution of Awards and each was a well-deserved recognition for the skill and passion of the artists, respect for the individual tree, and dedication to the advancement of bonsai.

Best Conifer: Adair Martin (Japanese White Pine). This tree was grafted 20-25 yrs ago onto a yamadori Lodgepole trunk with deadwood and shari.  Adair says it’s actually 2 grafts: one is the drop branch on the right and the other is the crown. Beautiful tree, skillfully worked.

Best Deciduous Tree:  Tom Bjorholm (Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam).  This native forest of American Hornbeams makes a stunning presentation in silhouette.  I can only imagine how it looks in full leaf and in the fall with a smattering of small delicate yellow leaves.

Best Display:  Mac McAtee (Persimmon, Diospyros rhombifolia).  Incredible attention to detail brought this display to a whole new level!  The artist made the stand of persimmon wood with a tile top, and on the front is a cut out of a persimmon leaf.  This possum loves persimmons, as you can see him eating, and the picture is from a magazine cover from the 1920’s; the figure is holding a string of dried persimmons. The table cover is dyed a shade to mimic the color of many persimmons.

Best Tropical:  Seth Nelson (as described above)

ABS Award for Best Native:  Gary Clark for his snow scene with native American Hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana).  These are separate trees in separate pots, and it was assembled at the show on Friday night. There was a little turtle tucked up under the fallen log, and it was only visible by getting up close and personal with the display! This was a show-stopper and there was a cluster of viewers admiring it most all of the weekend.

Bonsai Glamor Shots

Joe Noga spends hours at each show taking professional photos of each tree.  It takes 20-30 minutes or more per tree.  Here’s a peek at what it looks like behind the scenes.  I felt like a ‘stage mom’ as my trees got photographed!

And speaking of photographers, phone cameras were everywhere!  Here’s a classic picture.

I hope you have an idea of what a spectacular show Winter Silhouette is.  The upcoming date is December 1-2, 2018. Admission is free.  Here’s a link for more info

See you next year!

Happenings around Florida

The Bellota Bonsai Auction

Please rsvp here if you are interested in joining the auction at Agresta Gardens

The Bsf exhibit at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival 2018

This years exhibit begins on February 28th and runs through May 28th, in the Japanese Pavilion at Epcot in the Walt Disney World Resort. There are 21 of the finest bonsai in the state on display for an estimated 6 million guests to spread the Art of Bonsai not only to Florida but to the whole world. Don’t miss this years offerings!

The 4th Annual Multi-club Picnic

3rd Annual Lighthouse Bonsai Society Auction

The 45th Annual Bsf Convention-May, 2018

The schedule-

A brand new club

We are proud to announce a new club that has just formed in the Ocala area, called the “Forest Bonsai Society of Ocala”. The president is David Cutchin and if you would like info, send an email to

Welcome to the World of Florida Bonsai!

From the Editor

By Adam Lavigne

I hope you’re enjoying reading the new version of The Florida Bonsai Magazine as much as I am putting it together. I find the collaboration with different authors very stimulating and refreshing.

If you would like to submit an article for publication, the deadlines are the end of March, the end of May, the end of July and so forth, every two months with publication months of February, April, June etc. Simply send the article as a plain text email, with photos either attached or sent separately, I can format it for publication.

The types of stories we are looking for are first person accounts of bonsai activities, styling or horticultural techniques on trees in your collections. Upcoming events from your club activities, memorials or remembrances of past Florida or American bonsai practitioners, and anything else bonsai related you may find interesting.

I will be reprinting, as best I can, some old articles from the print version of The Magazine, so if you can remember something you loved from, say, 1993 or 2001, send me the article.

The email is

© 2018, Bonsai Societies of Florida

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