The Journey of the Sho Fu Brazilian Rain Tree Forest Part II

This follows up the first article about the journey of the Sho Fu Brazilian Rain Tree Forest that appeared in the April, 2018 issue of “The Florida Bonsai Magazine”.  The first article ended with Sho Fu members wondering whether the two-year club project to prepare the Forest for the U.S. National Exhibition would result in its acceptance for display in Rochester, New York in September.

Bill Valavanis was quick to send us a positive email response indicating his acceptance of the Forest.  Frankly we were not surprised given the size and quality of the seven trees in the forest, but we tried not to hide our optimism.  Club members were elated by the acceptance.  Several club members who had never attended the National Bonsai Exhibition indicated they would be attending in September.

After acceptance of the Forest, we had to get back to work on it in April, defoliating it once again and removing wire, working with a crew of four members.  July involved significant thinning of small branches and foliage coupled with some limited defoliation.  Our goal was to enable the viewer to see into the forest.

For those of you who do no thave a Rain Tree in your collection, the July / August time frame (the hottesttime of the year) is when growth is at a maximum.  In order to keep the foliage tight, that meant trimming new shoots about once every three days. 

August also involved application of moss on the Forest surface. That was no small task, given both the amount of moss that was needed and the limited areas in which we could find it.  One of our club members generously gave us several containers from his stash.  Also, a long-time bonsai friend, living on Pine Island, invited us to go with him into a preserve adjacent to his house to find a large amount of different kinds of moss.

So now for the hard part, packing the rental cargo van and traveling the 1,300-mile trip to Rochester, NY from Englewood, FL.  Again, fellow club members from our development team helped us with the loading and packing.  In addition to the Forest, we also took three of our own trees and three of our friends’ trees that had been accepted for display.  We built a second level to accommodate stands, suitcase, etc. Needless to say, the cargo van was fully loaded!

We packed the van on the Monday afternoon before the Exhibition and left early Tuesday morning, arriving in Rochester on Thursday just before noon. A few of our members arrived early and helped us with unpacking. 

Once unpacked the first job, believe it or not was to trim the new shoots of the Forest that had grown during the three- and one-half days in the van!

Some of the shoots grew six inches during the trip.!

The next challenge was significant.  Joe Noga, Bill’s outstanding photographer, was located in a separate room serving as a temporary photo studio.  The first attempt with four carriers to get the Forest in the door failed due to the depth of the forest (38”).  Finally, with six people carrying and tilting the Forest, then carefully bending some branches we got it into the studio.  Joe was fascinated by the Forest and spent about 30 minutes taking shots with various lighting setups.  We are anxious to see the portrait that will appear in the Exhibit book.

Bill obviously liked theForest as well. He decided to display it near the entrance to the Exhibit in a prime location along with another very large, beautiful bonsai. 

Saturday night, Bill had a very nice Exhibit Banquet, during which he announced the judging results.  The judges were Taiga Urushibata from Japan, Mauro Stemberger from Italy and Lindsay Bebb from Australia.  Then the big surprise – the Forest won “Finest Tropical Bonsai”!  We and the nine members of Sho Fu who attended the Banquet were thrilled as you can tell from the smiles on our faces that evening.

What we thought would be the final step of the Forest’s Journey was packing everything up at the end of the Exhibit on Sunday evening and heading home. One complication was Hurricane Florence. We eliminated a short visit to our Son and Daughter in Law and left bright and early Monday morning. We decided to avoid the most direct route down Interstate 95, instead taking Interstate 81, working our way through the Western North Carolina mountains and spending the evening in Greenville South Carolina.

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