The Florida Bonsai Magazine: April 2018

From the desk of the President

By Ronn Miller

Greetings!  First, we would like to welcome Bob Wertz as the new Trustee #8 for the Broward club and the Gold Coast club.  He will replace Art Cid who has done a great job of supporting and representing the clubs for the Bonsai Societies of Florida. Thank you, Art and best wishes. We also would like to welcome a new club to the BSF, The Forest Bonsai Club of Ocala.

BSF convention news for 2018. You now have, for the first time, a chance to register for the convention online. We launched the website a couple of weeks ago.  We have had some bugs with the system but we have smoothed them out and it seems to be working fine now. There have been many registrations and, in fact, two workshops have sold out (see workshop trees at the end of this message.) There are going to be more than 16 vendors with everything from completed trees, pre-bonsai, tools, supplies, display stands and much more.

We need volunteers to help in many areas. If you volunteer, your club will be eligible for a share of the profit and you will also be able to go on the BSF registration list for your “tax free” room nights. If you would like to volunteer, please fill out the volunteer application form and submit it. Our webmaster, Jorge Nazario  ( ) is the volunteer manager for this year’s convention, he will contact you after receiving your application and will put your name on the hotel room “master list”, you may then register for the convention.  On the registration, write “Master List”  for hotel reservation number.  For those on the master list, your payment for the room is $106 if requested by 15 April. Please make sure you receive confirmation from Jorge prior to making a room reservation at the hotel.

A check for your room payment is preferred.

Please mail to:


5622 S.E. Lamay Drive

Stuart, FL 34997-6548.

Rick Jeffery ( be the lead on the raffle again this year. Contact him with donations. Barbara Hiser ( be the contact for the Brevard club for the raffle on Saturday and Noreen Sherman ( will be the contact the Treasure coast for the raffle on Sunday. Get your donated items ready!

Phil Krieg ( is the lead for the exhibit.  The cutoff date for submissions for the exhibit is May 1st! Submit online Here

Ronn Miller is the contact for the vendor area. Send an email with an intent to be a vendor and he will contact you about registration. Remember that vendors are eligible for inclusion on the tax free Master List for hotel rooms.


Green island ficus!

The 2018 Epcot/BSF trees

By Adam Lavigne

Once again, Paul Pikel and the Epcot Committee have assembled some of the best trees in Florida for Bsf’s role in the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.(thanks to Kathrin Harris for the above collage)

This is the 25th year of the festivals run at Epcot, and it is a special one for sure.

As usual, the exhibitors had to be at Epcot bright and early on the first day of the show for setup. We only had until 11am when the Japanese Pavilion was opened to the public! But, as usual, the Disney people were able to pull off the Magic and have everything ready for the opening.

There is a great mix of trees this year, from Pinus Thunbergia to Ulmus parviflora, and all the tropicals you can imagine in between (we are in Florida after all!).

The display has four areas….

…..the zen garden….

…….the meadow….

…..and Tori gate left, and right.

There are 21 trees on display again, and the show runs until May 28th, in the Japanese Pavilion.

The committee, expertly run by Paul Pikel, had a tough job this year paring down the more than fifty entries.

But Paul is a boss, and the job was done well.

It is a pleasure to watch Disney guests look at the trees and wonder aloud at the time it takes to create such beautiful works of art and to marvel at some of the ages of the trees.

I overheard one guest exclaiming about the above buttonwood, which is estimated to be about 200 years old, saying,

“Imagine the things this tree has seen, on the southern coast of Florida, the hurricanes, the pirates, the treasure hunters. It is humbling to be in its presence”

Many of the trees have stories….

……and impressive provenance…..

….often being passed from one collection to another. The above elm, owned by Ben Agresta, has been everywhere, starting in China, to Mississippi, to Ohio, to Michigan, and finally to Florida.

We had a few new species…..

…..such as the water oak, above, which was collected and styled by Julie Trigg. It’s my favorite tree in the show.

And the old standbys like the green island ficus of Reggie Purdue, below.

Next year, we hope to see your tree, just remember to submit one. The deadline is December 31st, at midnight. So there’s no excuse, get that pic today, and send it along.

(photo credit, Guy Hiser)

Using unrooted portulacaria afra cuttings in bonsai

By James J. Smith

(Editors note: this article was originally published in The Florida Bonsai Magazine in 1980, and again in 1989. With the upcoming workshop at this years convention, as well as the theme, we thought it was appropriate to reprint it again, enjoy!)

Succulent group planting (for smaller unrooted cuttings)

This type of planting can be styled as a formal forest, using the three basic trees as a base, or as a more formal type saikei type planting. The cuttings should have straight trunks for the formal style, but may be any style for the saikie style planting.

Figures 1 and 2 show a saikei type planting using all straight trunk cuttings. This type of planting is very easy to do because the cuttings can be inserted into the soil to within 1/4″ of the bottom of the pot. Since the soil is rather deep, the cuttings should be stable enough without being wired. If not, they may be wired as show.

After you have taken the cutting, prepare them by removing all the leaves and branches that will be below the soil. Some pruning may be done at this time, but more will be necessary when you plant them.

Next, arrange them on a table according to size, so you can easily pick the appropriate size for the composition.

The pot should be prepared, as usual, with screen over the drainage holes, and then place your rocks and bond them together and to the pot using your favorite method, whether it’s epoxy, cement or even hot glue. Fill the pot with soil and contour it to the desired shape. If your cuttings have dried sufficiently (at least 24 hours) then you can use moist soil. If not, bone dry soil is best.

You are now ready to plant your cuttings, starting with the tallest first and working your way down to the smallest. Make sure that all pruning is completed before placing the cuttings, then plant them deep. If more pruning is needed after all cuttings are in place, it is usually better to wait until they have rooted.

If necessary, the cuttings may be wired together with thin wire (22 guage copper or 1 mm aluminum) for more stability. The less they move the more roots.

At this point, it is best to carefully move the tray planting to its permanent location for rooting. After it starts to grow, it will be necessary to pinch the tips regularly (every week if needed) to develop the branching in the more formal styles.

If a more informal or windswept style is being developed,pinching is not as demanding.

You may add sand or gravel or moss now or wait until you are exhibiting the planting. Any number of variations of this type of planting with portulacarias are possible. And, if for some reason you don’t like the creation or if you just want the practice, you can disassemble your planting and start over. The cuttings will stay alive for weeks or more if given protection from the sun and kept in a cool place.

This type of planting, if started in early spring, will look very nice by the time cold weather arrives, if given the proper care.

Informal upright succulent planting

This type of planting, as shown in figures 3, 4, 5, and 6, will take longer to complete (it helps if you’re more experience as well) but if you can find the right cuttings, a fair bonsai can be developed in about two years.

Look for cuttings with short internodes for mame size trees. For larger trees longer internodes will be satisfactory.

Study your cuttings and use the best available, like one with more branches. If no cuttings are available on your stock plant, develop one by pinching.

This style of cutting determines the length of time it will take to develop a bonsai. You can start with a trunk and a pair of side branches and then develop a top after the cuttings have rooted, but if you have all the basic branches at the time of the potting, the tree will start to fill out and be a nice bonsai in a year or so.

After you have selected your cuttings, complete all pruning and wiring before placing it in the pot. If the bonsai is small you may even wish to use the wire used for the no. 1 and no. 2 branches to secure the tree into the pot, as seen in fig. 4.

Soil is not put into the pot until the cutting is wired into the container and adjusted accordingly.

After the pot is filled with soil, it can be watered for the first time at least 24 hours after the cutting was taken, to allow the cut end to dry and reduce the risk of rot. After the drying time has passed, keep the soil evenly moist until it is rooted. After the portulacaria begins to grow, you can begin with liquid fertilizer. It can also be moved into brighter light if desired. Pinch every week or so as needed to develop into a fine quality bonsai.

The plant should be repotted the following year in the same container. Pot it slightly higher to expose and create surface roots as shown in fig. 6.

The portulacaria can live for many years without repotting, but while in training, it should be repotted every year for fast development.


For fast bonsai with portulacaria afra

1. Grow in light shade

2. Water regularly, do not let the soil dry out completely while in training.

3. Fertilize heavily (experiment).

4. Pinch new growth, at least weekly when growing heavily

5. Use pesticides with caution.

A sad note

A word from the editor

By Adam Lavigne

As usual, I will again solicit articles for publication. Anything bonsai, horticulture, or related arts I will consider for publication. Even if it’s a draft, we can finish the article for you.

Also, photos of past events, news of upcoming events, or stories from 30 years ago you wish to see reprinted or think are important, please submit them. The email is:

As you see in this issue, we reprinted a great article from Jim Smith, who left our earthly plane recently (imagine the study group that has formed up there, John Naka, Yuji, Joe Samuels, Ben Oki, Jim….). I hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, learned from it.

The convention this year has been a labor of love. As the nominal convention chair, I’ve had an interesting time. We began a new program of online registration and, as with all new things, there have been some snafus. But bear with us, everything will work out. Don’t miss out on it as this is, believe it or not, the first All-Florida program. We are lucky in this state to have true bonsai pioneers like Mary Madison, and Masters like Ed Trout, that it really behooves you to attend. Even if it’s just for one day. Check out the website links above if you wish to volunteer, exhibit a tree, or participate in the Club Night or Scholarship competitions.

Thank you and hopefully I’ll see you next month in Orlando.

Copyright 2018 BSF

2 thoughts on “The Florida Bonsai Magazine: April 2018

  1. I had not seen the article by Jim Smith. Thank you for reposting. My mind is spinning, thinking about how I can create a small, simple, yet effective forest.

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