The Florida Bonsai Magazine: June 2018

From the desk of the President

By Ronn Miller

Hello everyone,

Now that everyone on the convention team has had a break, the convention committee is on target for next year’s event.  Jorge, our webmaster, has touched base with Pedro Morales and he has agreed to be one of our headliners.

This year’s convention was a great success! We broke several records, such as, first year in BSF history we sold out all the workshops before the convention started, including over selling 4 workshops.  We had the largest raffle revenues for Friday and Saturday since coming to the Florida Hotel, five years ago.Ed looking at those thorns and considering some life choices. photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I would like to thank all of our great Legacy and Life Time Achievement Award winning Florida artists and our well-known bonsai artists who participated in one of the best programs we have had in a long time.Jim Van Landingham in his pith helmet….ummm, his element photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I would also like to thank my convention team of Adam Lavigne, Jorge Nazario, Reggie Perdue, and Barbara Poglitsch; and the many volunteers that made this year’s event a success. Special thank you to Ben Agresta who led us into the future with his help of putting registration on line.  He helped work out the bugs in the program that promises to make registration easier.Mike Rogers explaining the meaning of life to Steve Gale photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I want to say a very special thank you to our webmaster Jorge Nazario for his extra effort in organizing the many volunteers that made the convention run smoother than ever before. He requested volunteers in advance through the website and received a great response.  His idea to schedule volunteers to tasks in advance, resulted in folks being able to help in their available time and still have time to enjoy the convention.  Many volunteers came up to me and said what a pleasure it was to “work for” Jorge throughout the weekend.  Additionally, Jorge was with me during the meetings that I had with the Florida Hotel and his assistance was a great help in the planning stages of the event.Sam Wollard doing Mary Madison’s bidding photo by Rosemarie Voelker

The work that was accomplished to put an event together such as this is unique, and at times, very demanding. Even though we now have online registration, Barbara, our treasurer, has the giant task of reconciling all of the sales and income and outlays from the beginning to the end.Reggie Purdue realizing he’s going to have to use some wire after all photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I received some great news from the Miami district that we have a new club to welcome to the family. The new club is Literati Grove. The President of the club is David Carmago; his email address is

We are looking forward to the next big event in South Florida. Adam Lavigne and the new club, Literati Grove, are Hosting the Komorebi 2018 event which will be held on July 28 2018 featuring Mary Madison, Sergio Luciani, and Ed Trout. Hosted by Adam Lavigne (See Flyer below)

A big Thank you!

By Jorge Nazario

Several months back, when we began planning for this year’s convention, we realized (remembered) that we needed volunteers to assist with the many events that happen, sometimes all at once, during a convention. In April, we put out the word that we needed volunteers and, to our surprise, approximately 25 people answered the call. I still remember one year when all of the Thursday “grunt work” was done by 5 people; Jose Perez from CFBC, Mike Hadwin from Brevard and myself, with the exhibit being put together by Kathrin Harris and Lunneta Knowlton by themselves.

After the overwhelming response this year, we organized the volunteers and assigned “duty stations” for each one. They knew in advance when and where they were needed along with precisely what needed to be done. Not only did they all show up, but everyone went above and beyond. All demos, workshops, raffles, registration, vendor area, and exhibit had the assistance of at least 2 or more volunteers at all times.

I know, full well, that the success we had during this year’s convention was due in large part to the dedication and assistance of the volunteers. On behalf of BSF, and my lower back, I thank you for all of your help.

I would like to recognize the clubs represented through their volunteers;

• Bonsai Society of Brevard

• Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida

• Treasure Coast Bonsai Society

• Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota

• Hukyu Bonsai Society

• Lighthouse Bonsai Society

• Central Florida Bonsai Club.

All of these clubs should feel very proud of the way they were represented at this year’s convention through the volunteer effort of their members. It was truly an honor working with them all.

Jorge L. Nazario

Volunteer Coordinator (editor’s note: or, as he described himself- ” the handsome big guy in the security polo”)

The 22nd Bonsai Show at Flamingo Gardens

By Art Cid, photos by Gail Santini

On April 21-22, 2018, the 22nd Annual Garden and Bonsai Show at Flamingo Gardens was held by the Broward Bonsai Society.

Demonstrations and lectures took place on various topics throughout the weekend. Two local artists, Hiram Macias, and Ed Trout, performed tree styling demos for the event. The trees were raffled after each demonstration.

Mr. Hiram Macias

Mr. Ed Trout, assisted By Art Cid.

The Exhibit included many varieties of tropicals and evergreens that were displayed beautifully.

To round out the show, there were trees and bonsai items for sale.

Hiram worked on a ficus cascade and did his usual magnificent job.

It was well attended even though we had rainy days and thunderstorms that left us without power during Ed Trout’s demo.

Ed finished his tree under light provided by cell phone flashlights and he had no problems styling and wiring his masterpiece under these less than optimal conditions.

Hope to see you there next year!

Arturo Cid, President, Broward Bonsai Society

The BSF Convention, 2018: A Legacy of Learning- the Club Night Competition

By Barb Hiser

If you are one of those people who thrive on chaos, excitement, adrenalin, dirty hands, sticky muck, and good-natured trash talking, then Club Night is for you!

Club Night is an annual event at the BSF Convention.  It is just as it sounds: an opportunity for Florida bonsai clubs to sign up ahead of time to create a group project within the time limit of 3 hours on Saturday night of the Convention.  The purpose: to promote healthy competition among clubs and teamwork among club members. Each club traditionally donates their completed project to BSF, and it is auctioned off at the Banquet, earning some money to for the convention expenses.

Tables and tarps are set up by the BSF Volunteers (awesome work, by the way), and several hours before start time, wagons filled with plants, wire, buckets of soil and muck, tools, rocks, moss, and pots can be seen as they are hauled into the room.  The only preparation that can be done ahead of time is a light tree trim, and perhaps pot/slab preparation. All other work must be done during the time limit, including design, wiring, repotting, mossing, and table set up at completion.  Most clubs have several planning meetings prior and a ‘dry run’ to be sure it goes off like a finely tuned machine at Club Night.  Think about Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s Pit Crew….now imagine that activity applied to a bonsai slab. That is Club Night!

More or less!

The starting bell has just rung, and BSOB is getting to work:

Excitement in the rooms escalates as the clock is ticking, and chaos erupts as participants roam the room looking to borrow a special tool, or moss, or soil.

When the final bell rings,  all work stops.  But in the last few hectic moments, clubs sweep up around their table, remove all signs of trash, place their tablecloth, and then STOP!  Here are the final projects:

BSOB’s entry- a Ficus salicaria forest with a haiku companion and a hand made slab which was made during a club event; it earned $250 at the auction.

KAWA’s Green Island Ficus in a Chinese pot; it earned $120 at the auction.

Suncoast’s Podocarpus tanuki;  With the bleached and weathered deadwood, it served as a tribute to the recent volcanic eruption in Hawaii; the pot was made by club members; it earned $100 at the auction.

Treasure Coast’s forest beach, with Texas ebony and a sandy beach; it went for $100 at auction.

Hukyu’s re-creation of Hallelujah Mountains in the hit movie, Avatar.  It contained mixed plants and even had some dry ice to add to the final effect; it went for $215 at auction.  This magical creation won Second Place.

Southwest Florida’s Ficus and Fukien tea ‘river’, a loving tribute to a pioneer in SW Florida, Virginia ‘Jenny’ Boka.  She was a founding member of the club in the early 70s and studied with Zhao.  In her honor, they used only clip and grow technique for a natural style, using her trees and companions in this display. She is in her 90s now and moved to Ohio last fall; friends say she is still a dynamo in real life!  This made $300 at the auction, and the club earned $500 for their treasury because this was the First Place Winner!

Sam Wollard, President of the Southwest Florida club and a BSF Volunteer, proudly holds the First Place trophy. Their club gets bragging rights for a year, and then they will give it up to the ‘new’ winner at BSF Club Night 2019

Our judges were Louise Leister (left) and Ed Trout (center); the BSF Chairperson for this popular event was Dr. Reggie Perdue (right).  Thanks again for another fun event!

After the judges’ decisions were made and prizes were awarded, we headed to the hotel bar/grill, Crickets.  Some celebrated their wins, and some cried in their beer (or sweet tea)!

If you have not participated in Club Night, start planning for next year.  Family and friends are invited for ‘the gallery’ and who knows…..your club could have bragging rights for a full year!

No more waiting until “next year”…….well, until next year….

By Josh Brown,

photos by Josh Brown unless noted otherwise

February 28, 2018 was really something special. That date might not initially hold a lot of meaning to you, however, that was the first day of the 2018 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and holds special meaning to me. To help you understand why, I need to go back to 2007, when I moved to Florida.

The spring of 2007 found my wife and I at the Epcot Flower and Garden festival wandering through the World Showcase. Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were bonsai trees on display for the event.

photo by Louise Leister, at the 2007 show

I was totally engrossed in those trees and spent what my wife would lovingly describe as “a little too much time” studying each one. Seeing what quality trees looked like in person had me in total awe and made me want to learn more about the Bonsai Societies of Florida.

photo by Louise Leister, at the 2007 show

At that time in my life I had two trees, which had traveled with me from Illinois, but I had no real training or idea what bonsai could become.

photo by Louise Leister, at the 2007 show

Looking back now I realize this was the watershed moment that started the bonsai journey I have been on for the past 11 years. I can safely say it has been an amazing journey. To go from total awe in 2007 to putting a tree on display at Epcot on February 28, 2018 is something that still strikes me as surreal. I kept asking myself,

“How did I get here? How do I now have a tree worthy of being seen by literally millions of people?”

Especially considering I almost didn’t submit any trees for consideration…

Although I have been practicing bonsai for 11 years, I have only previously displayed a tree once, at the 2016 BSF convention. I enjoy bonsai practice immensely and find it very rewarding, but the idea of presenting a tree for public opinion is more than a little intimidating. I am often my own worst critic and since bonsai is never “finished” I always have a tough time thinking anything is ready for show.

December 2017 was no different, I was out in the garden doing a great job of talking myself into submitting trees for consideration “next year”, with no thought of the 2018 Epcot show. That changed when I was out doing my winter preparations one weekend. I was studying my deciduous trees in silhouette and I thought they were really starting to look nice. It was then that I realized I was holding myself back by not applying. The worst thing that could happen was that it would not be selected. Even if that happened I wouldn’t like the tree any less and would have lost nothing. Plus I would learn from the experience and have a better idea what was worthy for the elusive “next year.” So, out came the camera, a terrible backdrop, and my less than stellar photography skills.

Imagine my surprise a month later when I hear from the illustrious Epcot leader, Paul Pikel, that my Bald Cypress had been selected for the Exhibition. I was over the moon with excitement and told almost everyone I saw that week, of which 90% probably thought I was mildly unstable. Although I had never voiced it out loud having a tree at Epcot was a bucket list item for me. After all that excitement, one would think that the event itself could never live up to my expectations.

Well, I can safely say the event didn’t live up to my expectations….because it actually exceeded them. I was in awe during the entire setup process and didn’t want to leave. from the left, Fellow first time exhibitors Josh Brown and Barb Hiser, and Barb’s husband Guy. Photo by Adam Lavigne

Not only was my tree now on display, but I was part of a distinguished group of artists, many of whom had helped me and taught me through the years.

Josh beaming with pride at set up, photo by Adam Lavigne

My bonsai journey still has a long path to travel, but this Epcot stop was something special.

Some of you reading this may have never displayed a tree, while others may have displayed trees so many times it has become routine or even boring.

photo by William Moore from the Bonsai Clubs International Instagram page

I ask each of you to remember this, the trees we put on display today will inspire the next generation of bonsai artists.

Josh’s cypress, mid show, photo by Adam Lavigne

I can only hope that in another 10 years someone else can say that seeing my tree at Epcot inspired them to pursue bonsai. I have gained a lot and grown from the experience (no pun intended).

I can safely say that Paul will have to put up with me for a while now because I will definitely be submitting trees for consideration…. NEXT YEAR!

Florida Buttonwood: a review

By Mary Madison and Jean Waldberg (reprinted from Florida Bonsai, vol. 5, no. 2, February 1975)

(editor’s note: it is our intention to reprint at least one article from the Florida Bonsai Archives in each new issue. If you’re perusing your old stack of magazines and think an article is important, drop us a line at Enjoy this month’s article by the Queen herself)

Some of the greatest bonsai in the world are those collected specimens which reflect a struggle for survival against the overwhelming odds of the ravages of nature. The appreciation of any collected bonsai specimen is enhanced by the realization of this struggle for survival.

The Florida buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is unique in its struggle in that it is not indigenous to south Florida and has had to survive not only frost, floods, and violent winds but storm tides and Man too! It is also unique in that is has received aid in its struggle from alligators!

Florida is of recent geological origin and the primary habitat of Conocarpus erectus (the Everglades and the Florida Keys) is thought to be only about 5,000 years old. Current thinking is that the plant species did not evolve in the area but in the Caribbean Basin and was transported to Florida by tropical storms.

Frank C. Craighead, Sr. (in The Trees of South Florida, vol. 1, University of Miami press, 1971) considers the Everglades,

“ of the most formidable of our natural environments“.

Dr. Craighead states further,

Nowhere else in all our land can be found so many adaptions between such a complex of physical factors and varied biota”

(Biota is the combined plant and animal life of a region)

The primary factors in development of vegetation types are soil, water (fresh/saline), drainage, and elevation. In South Florida, these factors are measured in inches! A difference of two inches in average water-level results in profound changes in vegetation. Buttonwood occurs where peats have built up above mean sea-level.

Black, red, and white mangroves and buttonwood cover much of the low coastal areas of the South Florida shoreline. On the landward edge of the Saline Mangrove Zone (a crescent-shaped area at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula) is the buttonwood embankment or buttonwood levee. This embankment impounds the freshwater swamps of a three-County area (Collier, Dade, and Monroe) and this separates normal tidal waters from the impounded fresh water.

Freshwater plant associations of sawgrass, spike-rush, buttonwood strands, bay heads (tree islands of swamp hardwoods), willow heads, and cypress domes thrive in the marl and peat of these freshwater swamps. The coastal levee, before white man’s activities in the area, was occupied by stands of mature buttonwood and other tropical hardwoods. Now, prairies of shrubby growth and immature buttonwood occur in this area.

Within the Saline Mangrove Zone are saline buttonwood islands or strands (editors note, it is “strands” and not stands: from Wikipedia-“A strand swamp or strand is a type of swamp in Florida that forms a linear drainage channel on flatlands. A forested wetland ecological habitat, strands occur on land areas with high water tables where the lack of slope prevents stream formation. … Beneath a strand swamp are layers of peat). Buttonwood forms almost pure strands on the islands which have built up a peat elevation of one foot or more. These areas are one and a half to three feet above mean tide but are submerged by storm tides (storm surge).

The coastal prairies also have strands. Hurricane Donna (1960) deposited a layer of marl mud on the coastal prairies, which furnished an excellent seedbed, and buttonwood have now taken hold on these prairies.

The general climate of the area is subtropical with temperature mean varying around 15 degrees Fahrenheit between summer’s high and winter’s low. However, at periodic intervals, frosts do occur. Buttonwood, and all three species of mangrove, are severely damaged by temps at 30f, with buttonwood and white mangrove the most susceptible. Frost will “cut back” top growth of buttonwood down to persistent root systems, which will then form dwarf communities of many-stemmed shrubs.

Rainfall is seasonal with 60-80% of annual precipitation occurring from May through October.

The effects of hurricanes are many: plant species are brought to the area by hurricanes as well as bird species; trees are sheared off completely by tornado-like winds; trees are stripped of branches and completely defoliated; trees are uprooted; rootlets are broken by the swaying of trees; and trees are flooded by the highly saline tidal waters which rush across the low elevations of South Florida.

The highest mortality of vegetation from hurricanes occurs in low areas on which a deposit of impervious marl (.1-.5 feet) is deposited by high tides. This causes oxygen deficiency to the rootlets of completely defoliated trees, and they cannot survive.

Although mangroves can tolerate a salinity of 40,000 ppm of sodium chloride, buttonwood is usually destroyed where this concentration is held for a few months. However, buttonwood can tolerate salinity of 1,000 ppm, and more, if the flood of storm tides is followed by heavy rains which dissipate chlorides.

Alligator trails are an important factor in the flow of water through the Everglades and in the formation of buttonwood strands. Tearing the roots of mangroves with their snouts and tails, they serve to keep the mangrove creeks open. The decline of alligators has allowed the mangrove roots to grow, accumulate debris, and many former mangrove creeks are now buttonwood strands.

Alligator nests, built of plant materials two to three feet high and six to eight feet wide, are “taken over” by buttonwood when abandoned by the alligators.

Buttonwood has been a commercial commodity in Florida. The very hard wood was used to make buttons. Buttonwood charcoal was a primary source of fuel before the introduction of kerosene. Buttonwood hammocks we’re cleared for producing charcoal from around 200 years ago and as recently as 40 years ago (ed. note-that would be 80 years now. The charcoal was used to smoke mullet, among other things, which was an important commercial fish until about 20 years ago, when the closed the fisheries due to overfishing). One cord of buttonwood produced 10 bags of excellent charcoal.

Conocarpus erectus, The Florida buttonwood, has obviously evolved very successfully and is a vital part of the ecosystem of South Florida. The buttonwood thriving in the Everglades National Park is untouchable, and specimens are unreachable except by the hardiest explorer.

But what of those “easily collectible” specimens in the other areas, notable the Florida Keys?

Buttonwood is found throughout the Keys, generally in the Mangrove Zone. Although usually found on elevations a foot or so higher than the mangroves, buttonwood is also found in areas exposed only at abnormally low tides.

On the Upper Keys, buttonwood, growing in pockets of soil and accumulated debris, tend to have larger leaves than those plants on the Lower Keys, which are growing in rocks with little soil. Silver buttonwood (C. Erectus “sericeus”) is found on the Lower Keys too.

Collecting can be done throughout the year. However, during the Spring and Summer months, the plants suffer little or no shock. The Collector will have to endure endure heat, mosquitos, deer flies, sand flies, and other pests. During the Fall and Winter months the plants do suffer shock and are slower in recovery. Although some plants are lost, if they are kept well-watered for three to six months, they may recuperate. For the Collector, Fall and Winter months are far more pleasant. But the rest of the year there are other hazards: ants, scorpions, innumerable species of snakes, poison-wood, and even crocodiles. The latter won’t bother you if you don’t bother them!

The most appropriate collecting tools are a small pick, a hatchet, loping shears, and, of course, plastic bags.

After trudging over the rocky, razor-sharp pinnacles of coral rock and/or through knee-deep muck, one arrives at a collector’s “Heaven-on-Earth”- a forest of naturally dwarfed buttonwood, complete with tiny leaves, driftwood and natural jins by the score. And all possibly never before seen by the human eye. There they are, growing in the hot sun, sprayed by salt, torn by winds, flooded at each tide, and growing in what seem to be solid rock.

There is respect and admiration for these living “miracles” of Nature. With discretion and discrimination, the Collector selects just a tree or two.

The books must now be forgotten. One cannot root-prune or take a fine football out of almost solid rock. One must clip the roots, get as much as possible, cut back the top, and if there’s a pool of water nearby, set the specimen in it until ready to leave. Otherwise, after spraying fresh water on it, place the tree in an opaque plastic bag and, if possible, set it in the shade.

If you’re unable to pot immediately on arriving home, set the buttonwood in a bucket of water. Even left in water for extended periods of time, it will form a new root system. The buttonwood is truly an incredible tree.

Optimally, pot into a bonsai container as soon as possible. Experience indicates greater success with buttonwood if all drastic pruning, both of the tops and roots, is completed when potting immediately after collection.

The critical time for buttonwood seems to be in the repotting, once established in a container. The root system will sprout at the very terminal of the larger roots, and not in a general rootball at the base of the tree. Therefore, cut the long, heavier roots back initially, or the entire root system, which develops in the container, will have to be sacrificed at repotting. Occasionally, a more complete root system can be developed at scoring heavy roots at the base and applying a root stimulator to the scored area.

Pruning at time of collection should be drastic; and if Little or no root system is obtained, completely defoliate the tree!

Potting soil mixture should be organic and can be either a rich, black potting soil or a mixture of soil, gravel, and calcined clay particles.

Watering is key to success with buttonwood. Remember, it’s natural habitat is moist, damp, and even wet areas. To encourage growth of the root system, or if your buttonwood is not recovering from the shock of collection, submerge it in a pot of water. Never allow the tree to dry out completely. Buttonwood are susceptible to cold and should be protected at temperatures below 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit. In South Florida, it will tolerate 35f, if sprayed with water constantly through the cycle of evening drop in temperature through the morning rise of temperature.

The driftwood or deadwood, which is so striking, can be left untreated. The forces of nature which created this magnificence seem to have made it impervious to decay. If desired, after the plant is established, it can be treated chemically to bleach and further preserve the driftwood.

Although in South Florida there is little experience with buttonwood as indoor bonsai, it would seem an ideal candidate. The plant can be treated almost casually, requiring little maintenance as long as it receives plenty of light and a humid atmosphere. It should, of course, receive plenty of water.

From the Editor

By Adam Lavigne

As I put this issue together, I am up in the Midwest on a bonsai teaching tour and trying to write between all the demos, private sessions, and workshops. One would think I would be able escape the heat of Florida up here in Michigan and Ohio but it seems as though the heat followed me. The only respite is the humidity is low compared to Florida. Like that makes a difference when it’s 96f.

As I visit the Midwest bonsai collections and work on the trees, the one thing that really strikes me is the ratio of tropical to temperate trees up here compared to Florida. It’s about the same, believe it or not (or else I wouldn’t be returning so often I guess). Many bonsai hobbyists love tropical trees. It gives them something to do in the winter.

One idea that I presented to the board when I became the editor of this magazine, and what’s been guiding my hand as editor, is to introduce the force that Florida Bonsai is, to the rest of the Country and the World. The Bonsai Societies of Florida is the second largest statewide organization in the Country, behind California (who had a head start in bonsai) and ahead of Texas. I think we have both the trees and the talent to at least pull even with California, if not surpass them.

Our artists have been dominating in several shows of late (such as the Winter Silhouette show in Kannapolis, SC), we’ve had Floridians who’ve been members of the boards in the ABS, BCI and even president of the latter.

Our goal is to highlight and support both Florida artists and professionals, and the many public collections, such as the collections at Shelby Gardens or the Melbourne Zoo, or Heathcote, through articles and social media posts, and thus present Florida Bonsai to the World.

To do this, we, the Board, have decided that the Florida Bonsai Magazine will be open and free to all, both to look at and read, and to share. To help BSF in this new idea, post this issue, and the back issues, on social media, share the links on emails to your bonsai friends around the Country, print it out and take it to your club meetings. Share it.

Imagine the next time you are scrolling through Facebook and suddenly you see a guy from Portugal quoting and the article from Jim Smith that they read from the last issue. How proud will that make you?

Florida Bonsai has much to share with the World. Let’s stand up and make them notice.

Adam Lavigne

Florida Bonsai Magazine editor

As usual, we are always looking for articles, simply send them to Don’t worry about spelling, or punctuation, we can fix that. We can even flesh out just an outline if that’s all you have.

©2018 Bsf

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