Fall edition 2019

From the President’s desk

By Jorge Nazario

As I write this, I find I am humbled, honored and privileged to assume the role of President of the Bonsai Societies of Florida. I am deeply grateful to my predecessor, Ronn Miller, for his outstanding contributions to Bsf during his presidency, as well as those by the members of the Board.  I am inspired by their commitment to Bsf and all of their achievements. Truly, the growth of BSF has been propelled collectively by these individuals. I look forward to continuing this important work towards fulfilling the mission of BSF.


Unfortunately, the first business I must convey is our newly elected first vice-president, Rob Kempinski, recently announced his resignation due to work related requirements; we wish him all the best. 

As his replacement, we are pleased to welcome Kathrin Harris, who has agreed to step in. While Kathrin currently serves as Treasurer and Membership Chair of Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota, she has been one of both BSF’s and Sho Fu’s most active volunteers for many years. She has previously served as both Vice President and President of Sho Fu. She’s also has been a key member of the BSF Convention Exhibit team for at least the past six years, including the 2019 BSF Convention Exhibit. Kathrin has distinguished herself as a person with dedication, integrity, and professionalism. We are confident that she will continue to make outstanding contributions to BSF.

Our main priority this year is to improve/re-establish our lines of communication. It is extremely important that we all know what’s going on in our state. To this end, we have asked our trustees to develop a newsletter to be distributed to all club members in their district outlining all upcoming district club events.  We hope that you use this valuable information and take the time to visit other clubs in your area and meet other people that share your passion for Bonsai. 

I am looking forward to hearing from you on how we can make Bsf even better. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me president.jn@bonsai-bsf.com

Yours sincerely,

Jorge Nazario

President, Bonsai Societies of Florida

Taking the Long Way

By Jack Yost

Back in the early 1980’s, in Michigan, the Kalamazoo Bonsai Club (now a Society) once found a cow pasture where we collected some cow swept pre-bonsai. Another time, we found an abandoned nursery that I’m pretty sure we had permission to collect in, as long as we filled in the holes.  Mostly, collecting meant keeping a shovel in the trunk and driving around the back roads.

Back then, no one ever thought of spending vast sums of money on guided tour yamadori collecting trips.  Nor did we purchase trees from those who did.  To be sure, those who knew of local, or semi-local, places to collect trees, happily did so.

These days I still keep a shovel in my trunk, out of nostalgia I suppose, since I don’t know any places to root around in. However, my own collection itself has become a kind of hunting ground.  I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in having too many trees, more than I can properly take care of.  While this is depressing at times, and I am gradually divesting some of these bonsai, there are occasional bright spots. Eventually, even the most neglected trees swim to the surface of my attention asking for a makeover or at least a strong haircut.  

Such was the case with this lorapetulum.  I have had it for 19 years, dating back to my reentry into bonsai after coming to Florida from Michigan.  It seemed that every time I wired a branch the branch died, each time diminishing the design potential.

Looking back, I can only assume that there is a seasonal factor for wiring lorapetulum and I was outside the go zone.  I started using guy wires but by then the lower branches were all gone.  

It looks OK but it is skinny and will never fatten up and you can see that the lower trunk is bare.  

A year and a half later it is all overgrown and generally in the way on the bench.  It didn’t occur to me to take a ‘before’ picture until it was half pruned.

I had known for some time that there were two or three literati possibilities in the tree but wasn’t motivated to work on it.  

In 2016 I got the Zhao Quinquan book, Literati Style Penjing and it has given my appreciation for literati fresh life and greater understanding.  Literati is now a bigger tool in my mental toolbox. BSF President Jorge Nazario announced at our July Suncoast Bonsai Society meeting that the 2020 convention club tree display theme would be literati.  With that, the stars aligned for a literatimakeover.  

Once committed it was easy to carve it out, and at least for the moment it is one of my favorite trees, after 19 years of struggle and neglect.

The Journey of the Sho Fu Brazilian Rain Tree Forest

Part II

 By Mike and Lunetta Knowlton


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 not have a Rain Tree in your collection, the July/August time frame (the hottest time 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 from Englewood.  

Again, fellow club members from our development 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 set ups.  

We are anxious to see the portrait that will appear in the Exhibit book.


Bill obviously liked the Forest 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.


Here’s an overview of the whole show from the valavanisbonsaiblog.com

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.

The next morning we went West toward Atlanta and then down Interstate 75.  

While adding a few hundred miles, it was a good move, given what happened in both North and South Carolina the next two days.  

Back to the Rain Tree Forest – Good thing the Exhibition was only two days long.  By Sunday, it was beginning to show signs of the stress caused by being in a cargo van for three days and in a large building for another three days.  By the day after we got home (three more days in a cargo van), it had self defoliated about 80% of its leaves.  Not to worry – within a week, in the hot humid Florida climate in full sun, it began to put on a new set of leaves.


With the two year project complete, the next step was what to do with the Rain Tree Forest.  After all, the Forest had long since out grown its original Exhibit space at Selby, and it required significant effort to keep it properly maintained.  Imagine the time involved in keeping seven large Rain Trees under control!  Few of the Sho Fu Board felt that the club should keep the Forest.  Board members wanted to sell the Forest and use the proceeds to establish an extensive education program, particularly because of the large number of recent new members, most of whom were at the beginning/intermediate stages of their bonsai journey. 


As retired public school educators, both Lunetta and I were intrigued by the idea of having a reasonably significant amount of money set aside for a formally established education program.  After much discussion, Lunetta and I decided to buy the forest from Sho Fu.  We both wanted to be involved with helping to develop the education program.  Also, during the two years that it resided at our house during the original club project, we got attached to it.


On the one hand, we could control the destiny of the forest and not see it sold to someone who might disassemble it and resell the seven trees on an individual basis to make a profit.  Also, the sale of the Forest coupled with a generous donation from another Sho Fu Board member created a meaningful sum of funds to move forward on the education program.  On the other hand, acquiring the forest was not the smartest decision, given the fact that we already owned one large, very nice Rain Tree and a large but more manageable Rain Tree Forest in addition to more than 120 other bonsai.


It must be fate, or maybe the stars were aligned properly, but Rodney Clemons stayed overnight with us after his Sho Fu session as part of his visiting artist tour.  He had seen the Forest at the Exhibition in Rochester.  He saw the Forest again in our back yard and when I told him our dilemma, as only Rodney could do, he reminded us of why we have spent so much time, energy and money over the past 30 years – our love of the art of bonsai.  

He quite bluntly said that it would be a crime to see the Forest disassembled, and that the Forest deserved to become part of one of the three most prestigious public bonsai collections in the country.  More discussion followed and he recommended that we contact Chris Baker, Curator of the Bonsai Collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  


One thing led to another.  After much discussion between Lunetta and myself we decided to donate the Forest to the Bonsai Collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden after the first of the year.  The Chicago Botanic Garden has excellent facilities and all the expertise necessary under Chris’ guidance to see that the Rain Tree Forest will be seen and appreciated by many thousands of people for many years to come.


From our perspective, one could not write a better script – a successful bonsai club project that involved and energized most of our members; a number of our club members being motivated enough to attend the National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester for the first time even though they did not have personal trees on display there; recognition by world class judges in a national competition of the quality and beauty of the Forest; meaningful funding for a formalized, ongoing educational program for our members; and acceptance of the Forest into the Bonsai Collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  We feel privileged to have been involved with this journey.  

As bonsai lovers, we are convinced that we could not have asked for more.  Life is good!

Mike and Lunetta Knowlton

2020 Convention News


2020 Logo Contest

The BSF Convention Committee is pleased to announce the start of our “award winning” (slight exaggeration) Convention Logo Contest. Beginning Tuesday, October 1st until Saturday, November 2 you will be able to submit an original drawing to serve as the official logo of the 2020 BSF Convention. The link below will send you to the contest page of our website where you will find not only the guidelines and conditions for the contest, but also the entrance form.

The winner will be chosen early November, and will be announced soon thereafter. The winning artist will receive complimentary convention merchandise along with their name and picture in the convention website and this magazine.

The theme for next year’s convention is;

Movement and Style:
“A discussion of Art and Bonsai”

 Next time you see a post about the convention, we will hopefully have your logo at the top instead of the placeholder. Therefore, sharpen your pencils, sharpen your crayons, clean your brushes, or get your mouse ready and put your artistic talents to work.

Visit the Convention Logo Page

Club Exhibit

This year’s Club Exhibit was a huge success. 13 clubs participated by including their trees into the exhibit. There is, however, a twist (no pun intended) to the 2020 Club Exhibit rules. We are asking once again for clubs to enter a tree that will represent their club, but the new rule for 2020 is that the tree must be “Literati Style”, in keeping with our “Movement and Style” theme. The trees will be judged solely by member votes, in other words, the trophy will be awarded by People’s Choice. As soon as your club decides on participating, let us know with a simple email so that we may make room for your tree. 


Vendor Registration


     The Online Vendor Registration Form is now available on the Bsf website under the Conventions tab. The form will allow you to secure your spot for the vendor area. We have already received emails securing 56 tables with some 47 tables still available (as of now). Please take the time to fill out the registration form so that you can see the total you will need to send to Bsf. 

 Please send us a separate email (if you have not yet done so) letting us know where you would like your tables to be based on the vendor area map. (first come – first served) Tables in black with white numbers are already taken.

There is a contract you will be required to sign that is available by email when you register. Failure to sign will exclude you from vending.

Be aware that any sale in the State of Florida requires the collection, reporting, and payment of sales taxes.

Convention Headliners

The convention team is excited to finally announce the two headliners for the 2020 Bsf convention:

Jennifer Price

And Nacho Marin

Both artists embody and live the theme of the convention, Movement and Style: a discussion of Art and Bonsai.

Nacho is not just a bonsai artist, but an accomplished photographer, draughtsman, and sculptor. His work, all of it, uses drama, movement, and color and makes the viewer feel as though they are inside the world that Nacho is creating.

Jennifer, a ballerina as well as a bonsai artist, creates movement in the trees and makes them appear as though they are dancing themselves. Like you are sitting front row in a performance, the lights, the graceful lines, the music. You gasp when the dancers seem to defy gravity, as though that one ballerina is nothing but pure movement.

This year should be fun and informative.

More to come about 2020’s convention in future posts and emails

Florida represents at the 2nd U.S. National Shohin Exhibition in North Carolina

Florida bonsai artists were well represented at the recent Shohin Exhibit in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  

Six of the twenty-nine exhibitors were from Florida, equaling North Carolina with the most Exhibitors in the event!  

Congratulations to all the Florida exhibitors – Mike Rogers, Johnson Teh, Mike and Lunetta Knowlton, Louise Leister, Mike Lebanik and Rob Kempinski – for their commitment and their artistic talent. 

Johnson Teh

Michael and Lunetta Knowlton

Mike and Lunetta Knowlton

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers

Michael Lebanik

Louise Leister

Louise Leister

Louise Leister

Johnson Teh

Besides exhibiting, Mike Lebanik was a guest artist doing both a workshop and demos.


There were three categories of trees –Mame, Shohin and Small – all 12” or less in height.  Check out Bill Valavanisblogpost of the event  for excellent pictures of displays and a detailed description of the show and the beautiful facility where it took place.  

Put the next National Shohin Exhibition in 2021 on your calendar.  If you are serious about bonsai, you should not miss it.


Special congratulations go to four of the Florida Exhibitors who won awards – Mike Rogers for ‘Best Bonsai Companion Combination’,

Johnson Teh for ‘Best North American Species’. 

Mike and Lunetta Knowlton for ‘Best Tropical’

and Louise Leister for ‘Best Mame Bonsai under 5 inches’


Editor’s Note

By Adam Lavigne

Hello again my bonsai friends. Thank you to the Bsf board and to Jorge for welcoming me back to the Florida Bonsai Magazine editorship. There have been a few things that have happened since I left, but all that is, to me, water under the bridge. My goal, as always, has been to present Florida Bonsai, all of it, to the World.

When I assumed the role of editor in the beginning, we, the Bsf board, made the decision to present our Magazine to anyone who was interested in what we were doing in bonsai.

Our techniques, our shows, our artists.

And especially our trees.

And we have some of the best, as you have read about in the stories above, in the country.

I have brought the format back to a blog style, first, because that’s how we read things on the internet. We scroll. All of our devices work that way, our smartphones, our computers, etc.

Secondly, the reason scrolling is the standard on the Internet is because it’s easy to use. There’s no extra clicking (it’s 2019, and it’s all on one page!) no pop up ads to slow down page loading, and the photos and text are easily expanded in a reader format for those who need larger type and images.

Many thanks to Rob Kempinski for his work in my brief absence, his editorship was fantastic, especially (with reporting from Tom Kehoe) on the new bug assaulting our beloved willow leaf figs down on the East Coast.

Lastly, there are some great new stories coming up in the next edition, like a travelogue from Jorge on his adventures visiting every single Bsf club, an overview of the Komorebi2019 show in Miami, and maybe even some news on the rumor of a documentary being made about Florida Bonsai…..hmmmmmmmmmmm!

And, in that same vein, please, send me stories. It could be about your local club’s show, or about events at a bonsai nursery, or even stories like Jack’s, about the journey of a tree in your collection.

Pics, text, anything I can add to the story of Florida Bonsai.

It’s our story to tell.

This is your magazine.

Let’s show the World what we can do!

Copyright 2019 Bonsai Societies of Florida, all rights reserved. Opinions of authors are their own and may not reflect those of Bsf

10 thoughts on “Fall edition 2019

  1. I like the format. Well done and many thanks for your efforts. I appreciate the work that goes into it!

  2. Yes, I too like the format…thanks Adam!

  3. Rosemarie Voelker October 19, 2019 — 7:20 pm

    Fantastic new format and exceptionally artistic presentation…congratulations

  4. My first read of your on-line magazine! Absolutely love it, well done!

  5. Awesome Magazine representing Bonsai in Florida. Thanks Adam and all the contributors

  6. Great edition! The saga of the Sho Fu raintree is a very compelling read that really helps one get the sense of what it takes to travel with such a prized specimen.

  7. Very nicely done Adam, thank you very much for your hard work – which included wonderful pictures and great information!

  8. I’m very impressed with the magazine. I found it to be interesting, informative and is in a great format. Well done Adam. Thank you and thanks to the contributors.

  9. I find I typically page through a paper magazine, and set it aside with the intention of reading it later. I read this in its entirety.

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