The Florida Bonsai Magazine: January 2020

The Panama Canal

By Jorge Nazario

At the 2019 Bsf convention banquet, I made a pledge to visit all of the Bsf clubs within the first year of my presidency.

I’m almost there. 

My visits began back in early July and have not stopped since. Most months had me visiting 2 clubs, while a couple had me going to 4. I have been fascinated by the different activities clubs use to keep their members engaged. 

 Some clubs have an official starting time for their regular meeting while at the same time announcing an earlier starting time (usually 30 minutes) for their new members in order to answer questions and give instruction. Most clubs have a “show & tell” segment allowing members to showcase their trees. The “raffle table” seems to be a staple at most clubs; it serves to not only generate revenue for the club but also the added benefit of giving an old tree, stand or pot a new home. I have attended demos, presentations, workshops, and club exhibits. I have had the distinct pleasure of awarding the President’s Award at 3 different club exhibits; this is by far one of the biggest thrills of being the Bsf President. 

I have 8 clubs to go, some of them are extremely far and may require some extra planning and possibly time off from work, but it is still my intent to visit them. I strongly believe that it is important for all clubs to be able to “put a face” with the name and the organization. I have thoroughly enjoyed answering the many questions from the members as well as keeping them up-to-date on all present and future Bsf plans.

 I recently found myself doing the oil change on my car a lot sooner than usual and wondered how many miles I had traveled. After checking the numbers three times, I found that I have traveled 3764 miles. I knew that was a lot, but did not realize how much until I did a google map search. It turns out that if I were to start from The Florida Hotel (where we hold the convention) and travel 3764 miles, I would be approximately half hour away from the Panama Canal. The Canal is actually on my “bucket list” but I think I will take a cruise instead. 

 If I have visited your club, thank you. This has been an experience I will never forget. If I have not yet visited your club, I will, God willing.

See you soon!

A Scholarship competition experience:

A Bonsai Journey

By Christopher Cosenza

In September, our club, Suncoast Bonsai Society, hosted its portion of the new BSF Scholarship Competition, which has three stages: club, district and state.

Six of us gathered at the Seminole Library to compete for a spot at the club level, where the winner squares off against the winner from Hukyu Bonsai Society of Clearwater/Tampa for the district level. The victor from that competition will compete at the BSF Convention in Orlando against Florida’s other district champions in May.

District winners also will be asked to serve as assistants to the two headlining bonsai artists at the convention. The ultimate champion will earn a $1K bonsai scholarship and will be asked to perform two demos at the 2021 BSF Convention.

This appealed to me on many levels.

I’ve always enjoyed competition and have found it makes me better at the activity, from baseball and tennis to poker and bowling. So why not bonsai? There is, of course, the more passive bonsai competition of exhibiting trees, which my wife Jeanne and I will most certainly do in the very near future, but the more active route of styling a raw pre-bonsai tree against other fine bonsai artists in front of an audience while on the clock is exhilarating.

Performing under pressure certainly can separate the wheat from the chaff and I prefer that environment.

For some, this was just a fun exercise or a way to spend a Sunday afternoon. For me, it was a chance to prove my hard work has paid off and that I could get to the next level.

After the competition ended and esteemed judges Jack Yost and John Goff declared my tree the winner, a huge sigh of relief settled over me. I was thrilled to be the Suncoast representative at the District V competition. Everyone who competed did so well and thanks to those who helped organize it. It’s such a friendly environment to gain experience.

As we were cleaning up, an observer walked up to congratulate me and asked how long I had been doing bonsai. When I said just shy of two years, they were shocked and asked how that was possible. I told them hard work, which really was an understatement. Here’s what my past two years have looked like:

● I’ve worked and styled 95 percent of our 100-plus trees at home. I’ve even styled and repotted dozens of trees for quite a few of our Suncoast members.
● I recently worked two eight-hour shifts at a bonsai nursery, trimming those trees for style or taper.
● I enrolled in and completed a study group with Wigert’s bonsai artist Mike Lane that spanned four months.
● I participated in six BSF workshops over the past two conventions, observing many others as well. In fact, I volunteered for the 2019 BSF Convention and worked alongside legendary bonsai professional Ted Matson, serving as his assistant for his final demo.
● I worked for nearly eight hours side-by-side with Puerto Rico professional Yamil Collazo in Orlando at Agresta Gardens.
● I’m a member of three local bonsai societies.
● I served as a docent for Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota’s annual show at Selby Gardens.
● I was an instructor for three of SBS’ BYOTs and volunteered twice at our Green Thumb Festival booth.
● I currently co-teach the educational program for our club and wrote a monthly column for the newsletter. 
● I’ve read numerous bonsai books, websites and periodicals.
● And I’ve watched literally more than a thousand hours of instructional bonsai videos.

All of this was done in less than two years. My bonsai adventure is far from over and I have so much more to learn. You don’t need to go to this extreme to enjoy bonsai, but this is my method. I encourage you to enter this competition next year and you’ll be glad you did.

The Bonsai Society of SW Florida‘s 38th Annual Show & Sale

Story by Phil Krieg, photos by Phil Krieg, except where noted

 The Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida is an education organization whose prime purposes are as follows: 

 SECTION A) To advance the education of its members and the general public in the aesthetic, historic, scientific, business, andsocial features of the art of Bonsai. 
 SECTION B) To promote the knowledge, interest, appreciation, and enjoyment of the art of Bonsai on the part of its members and the general public. 
 SECTION C) To hold meetings and exhibitions in the furtherance of these purposes.


As an educational organization, we hold our annual Show & Sale.  This year was our 38th year and it was a huge success with more than 350 in attendance!  Here are some of the goings on…

 One of the central features is our exhibition by our club members.  We had a total of 45 trees in the exhibit from 32 club members. These included 15 novice members who have been involved in Bonsai for less than five years.  They have their own tables and a spectacular prize…a large beautiful root stand.  

The purpose of an exhibition is to share the beauty of small trees.  Competition is not the goal…sharing a common interest in wonderful Bonsai is the goal.  A critique of trees in the exhibit was given by Mike Lane, our Headliner.  His comments were positive and very educational.  This is a learning process and the critique was very useful.  He also has a great sense of humor so it was fun as well.


We do acknowledge superior trees which speak to us as a fine work of art.  Here are trees selected by Mike that recognizes excellent work: 


Shohin Trees 

1st Place – Fukien Tea by Gary McFall

photo by A. Lavigne

2nd Place – Portulacaria afra & Nia by Renee Beddoukphoto-A. Lavigne

Small Trees 

1st Place – Buttonwood by Charles James

2nd Place – Creeping Fig by Charles James

3rd Place – Juniper by Alex & Peggie Morris

Medium Trees 

1st Place – ficus salicaria by Phil Krieg 

2nd Place – Seagrape by Troy Randall

3rd Place – Ficus Kineshiro by Sam Wollard

Large Trees 

1st Place – Buttonwood by Jim Gehring

2nd Place – Bougainvillea by Gail Gehring

3rd Place – Florida Avocado by Matt Romeko


1st Place – Chinese Elm by Phil Krieg 

2nd Place – Australian Brush Cherry by Victor Goetz

3rd Place – Ficus Benjamina “Exotica” by Judy Giandelone

Novice Trees 

1st Place – Neea Buxifolia by Deborah Brackett

2nd Place – Portulacaria Afra by Rick Simon

3rd Place – Ficus Melon Seed by Angel Vega


This prestigious award recognizes a tree that is a favorite of all of our visitors: 

People’s Choice Award

1st Place – Neea Buxifolia by Deborah Brackettphoto-A. Lavigne

2nd Place – Salicaria by Phil Kriegphoto-A. Lavigne

3rd Place – Juniper by Alex & Pegie Morris

Best in Show 

Buttonwood by Charles James

Close up-

photo-A. Lavigne

Best Display 

Buttonwood by Charles James

Bonsai Societies of Florida President’s Award presented by Jorge Nazario, President:

Premna by Wellesley Legier

Wellesley was overjoyed!photo-A. Lavigne

photo-A. Lavigne

Well done everyone & congratulations! Special congrats are due to all who found moss!  We all know the challenge of finding moss to present our trees.  It seems like moss is becoming more rare by the day but we all managed to locate some and use it to complete the scene of each tree.  In fact, we had a discussion of mossing techniques. 

Simply, find as many different types as possible (maybe two or three) and then apply it in a patchwork method like a quilt in pieces about the size of a quarter to a half dollar (remember those). The resulting image is feeling like a forest or meadow or sea shore, wherever you choose to dream…moss is cool!

A key element of the exhibit was renting a pipe and drape system as the backdrop. The color of the fabric matched our table linens perfectly so there was this uniform space concealing the windows and library shelving and focused on the display of trees…looked great and affordable.  

We also raise our tables from 30” up to 42” with the use of 12” PVC extenders which fit on the table legs.  It raises the viewing level to a more appropriate height.  The linens we use each year are cut to match that increased height.

We enjoyed other activities and events besides the exhibit.

A favorite, both for the crowd and the organizers, is a free workshop where the general public, as well as members, are invited to style a tree for free.  

photo-A. Lavigne

This gives everyone a chance to experience the magic of changing a plant from pre-Bonsai to a small tree.  We had folks from as young as 7 years old up to 57 years old. All enjoyed the experience and they went home with a new friend.


It wouldn’t be a show without demonstrations!

We had one by Mike Lane, photo-A. Lavigne

Phil Krieg,photo-A. Lavigne

Bill Smith,

Justin Michaels,

and Gary McFall.These trees were raffled and went home with very happy owners.


Speaking of raffles, we had several on both days culminating in the grand finale of raffling off the demo trees.  These were great material for the happy winners.  The raffles are our primary source of paying for the show, including a night guard.

 All in all, everyone enjoyed themselvesimmersed in the joys of Bonsai!


My Perspective on the Epcot Committee selection process

By Jorge Nazario

On January 14th I, as the BSF president, along with the presidents of the Central Florida Bonsai Club, The Bonsai Society of Brevard and The Bonsai Society of Kawa, gathered together with Mr. Paul Pikel, our leader, in a room in the nerve center of the Disney Horticulture department. We were there for the important and difficult task of deciding which trees from the 64 (!) or so trees submitted to fill the 21 spots for display at the Japanese Pavilion during the 2020 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

I was very eager to participate in the selection process so that I would fully understand the program. Epcot limits the committee to 5 people; 4 judges and 1 chairman, (the aforementioned Paul Pikel who, because of his role, does not join in the process of choosing the trees, as he knows who’s trees they are).

When we arrived, Paul went over the instructions and placed all of the 8 x 10 pictures of the trees on a large conference table. Each tree had a sticker on the lower right-hand corner with the tree’s dimensions and species written for the judges to see. At this point in time, only Paul knows the identity of the artists.

We quickly noticed that there was an abundance of both bougainvillea and Brazilian Rain Trees.  We then decided on which 2 bougies and which two BRT’s to keep “for now”.

Our next step was to remove the trees that we decided were just not ready for show. Some needed refinement, some needed maybe one more year before they were ready. Unfortunately, I believe some were not chosen due to not very good pictures submitted (more on this in a bit).

After the first round of selection, we began the difficult task of choosing the rest of trees for the exhibit. This process took the longest. Some judges agreed on some trees while the other judges agreed on others. At the end of this process, we had whittled it down to the 21 trees.

I thought we were done, but then Paul threw us a curve. He informed us that 3 artists had 2 trees selected. So we then chose the best tree of the 2 trees for those artists, which meant we were down to 18 now, and needed 3 more to get to 21.

Unbeknownst to us, Paul had separated the discarded trees into 2 groups, one for those who had never displayed a tree at Epcot before, and one for people that have. We included the pictures from the new participants with the ones that did not make it to the original 21 and we decided on the 3 that we needed (this took some time). I will note that even after all the re-judging, there were still 2 artists with 2 trees selected for the show. The responsibility of BSF towards Epcot is to present not only the best trees, but a varied selection. For instance, one exhibitor had two unique species that were both good enough for entry, so the committee selected the trees. And it’s ultimately about the best trees.

At the last BSF board meeting, we had discussed and decided upon a contingency plan in case a tree selected by the Epcot Committee for the exhibit wasn’t able to be displayed for some reason. It was now our task to implement the newly established rule of assigning an alternate. Again, not an easy process. The alternate tree had to be available (and in show readiness) at the last moment, to fit the show for style, size and placement, and be from an artist that would be willing to bring it.

I must say that I was very well pleased with the overall professionalism and fairness on which the whole process takes place. It is very easy to tell that Paul fully understands how important this is for both BSF and Disney.

Some of you might not know this, but besides Bonsai, I have two other passions; Woodworking and Photography. I was very disheartened to see the number of trees that were more than likely not chosen due to the picture that was submitted. They mostly fell into 2 categories; wrong background or wrong angle. Ask any photographer worth their weight if they TAKE pictures for a living and they will most likely say,


That is because true photographers MAKE pictures. There are many factors to consider when taking a photo of any subject and Bonsai trees are no exceptions. Planning is already in the works for an article on Bonsai Photography (soon).

One of my main goals for Bsf is to remove all appearance of impropriety, in everything we do. We need both transparency and accountability to our members. If there are any questions, about anything BSF related, send me an email or give me a call. I’m here to serve the members.

With that being said, there are people, unfortunately, that say things online without taking into consideration the fact that they might be hurting people who volunteer time out of their busy schedules (I work a full time job and had to take PTO hours to attend the meeting) to select the trees in order to put on a world class BSF showing at the Epcot Festival. We do this without asking for anything in return.

If, by chance, your tree did not make it this year, please take the advice given and make that tree better for next year. When the letters go out informing the artists whether or not their tree made the show or not, those that didn’t make it get personalized advice on how to improve the tree, and are encouraged to submit again for next year. And, as I said above, it was a bougie and BRT year, but we need variety in the display, so we can’t choose them all.

So let’s stop the practice of assuming that anything we do not understand must by definition be negative. The process of choosing the trees is as fair as can be made. And I promise you, it was the trees, not the artists, that were chosen this year.

I was asked by a close friend recently as to who got in the show and after pausing for a second, I responded by saying “I have no earthly idea”. And it was mere hours after the meeting too. I could remember the trees….this pine, that buttonwood, those two Brazilian rain trees, but I didn’t even know the artist’s names. That actually sounds kind of bad, since I was part of the process.

But then again, I think it’s a good thing.

This year’s BSF display at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival will be one of the best yet. Take some time to visit it this year.

It runs from March to May , 2020 2019 Epcot exhibitors

In honor of Mr. Thomas Zane

By Adam Lavigne

It is with pleasure, but sadness, to announce the renaming of an important BSF award to commemorate one of our most important early BSF members, Thomas Zane.

Tom was instrumental in Florida Bonsai, his main focus being education. His short booklet “Introduction to Bonsai: A Course Syllabus” published in 1991, is still available in print and is used extensively as one of the best beginners guides for bonsai classes in the USA.

The founder of the Kawa Bonsai Society and Bsf President from 1993-1995, Tom also was the guiding hand in the Epcot/Bsf partnership for inclusion of bonsai in the inaugural Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, back in 1994, a partnership which has grown from the original 16 trees loaned in the first year to today’s 21.

Many of the current influential Florida bonsai artists got their start either directly, or from Tom’s educational materials, and the bonsai community and Bsf, would not be where it is if it weren’t for his teachings and guidance.

At the latest BSF annual meeting, a suggestion, originally from Mr. Richard Miller, was presented, discussed, and voted on to change the name of the Legacy Award to honor Mr. Zane.

Below is the section in the BSF Guidelines and Procedures manual:


This is a name change of the existing Legacy Award. This award may be presented to any individual who has been a vital part of the Florida Bonsai World and who has left an identifiable legacy, one who is helping to bring Florida bonsai into the future for continued enjoyment. Recommendations for the award shall be submitted to the Board for approval by board members.

Frequency. The award is given to no more than three individuals every calendar year.

Award. Each recipient of this award shall receive a framed BSF Certificate of appreciation, and/or gift if appropriate, to be determined by the awards chairman for that year.

Criteria. The criteria for recognition shall be based upon a lifetime of dedication to the teaching and improvement of bonsai in Florida. The individual should have held office in a local club and/or at BSF level where he or she improved the art of bonsai in an appreciable way. This award is given to honor those people who are always reaching to improve the art and have done so through education in Florida.

Commencement. Already in existence.

Presentation. This shall be presented to the recipient at the BSF Annual Convention Banquet.

Authority: Minutes of Meeting, Board of Trustees, May 30, 2003, February 29, 2004. December 2010, January 2019, January 2020


By Kathrin Harris

Making the Job of Membership Chair “easier”

All member societies of BSF must provide an updated roster and dues payment annually to the BSF Membership Chair. When I first started doing membership for Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota, the job of membership had traditionally been done by the Treasurer. There are certainly some tasks that can be accomplished more efficiently when the membership chair and treasurer are one and the same, but this is not a requirement. A working knowledge of spreadsheets and ability to work with a computer help the record-keeping and payment duties manageable. Many years ago, BSF Membership Chair Gail Santini developed an extensive, yet easy to populate, excel spreadsheet for member societies to use. The file itself has been modified this year in order to assure all member societies submit their information in the same format, and District Trustees were to share the new file with their Membership Chairs. Some wrinkles have recently been ironed out to make the file more user-friendly, so be sure that you have and use the version named “Main Roster, rev.2019C”.

By early January of each year, a complete roster must be emailed to the BSF membership chair (currently Rebecca Lavigne: along with the dues payment for each active member. The file’s fourth column identifies each name as either Active, Inactive, or Pending, which should be used for those members who are anticipated to renew but have not yet done so. When long-standing members have not yet paid dues to their society, the membership chair needs to make reminder calls, send emails, or even write letters.To keep the need for chasing after dues payments to a minimum, Sho Fu starts the “renewal” campaign early enough in the year (October) in order to have “active” – meaning paid—members in place by January 1. Updates to the spreadsheet as new or renewing members are added should be provided to BSF on a monthly or quarterly basis, along with the dues payment. I find it complex enough to keep track of our own society’s membership and their payments…I cannot even imagine having to manage the hundreds of members who are either at-large or within BSF’s dozens of member societies.

Now comes the best part…the making it easier part.  Many years ago, our then treasurer set up bill-pay with our bank. No more hand-writing checks and sending them in the mail yourself. With just a few keystrokes, SunTrust mails a check to Ms. Lavigne, who then updates her master list and forwards the the funds on to the BSF Treasurer. Throughout the year as new members join or “straggler” members finally renew, a quick update to the spreadsheet and a request to SunTrust to mail out a check for dues is all that’s required. All banks offer a free bill-pay service, if you haven’t discovered it yet, look for it! It’s easy to use, saves time, and the bank actually pays for the postage! 

I have been assigned to try to resolve issues that membership chairs may have with the process. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at

Monkey pole stands, easy method

By Daniel Harvey


Get yourself four 4×4’s 10ft long- cut in half leaving eight 5ft sections. (I needed 7 for my project, the “monkey poles” that go into the ground)

2×4’s, qty 14 at 18” length. 2 needed per pedestal. (The support pieces for the top, notice the fancy cut edges. Man doesn’t live on bread alone)

2×4’s, qty 14 at 4” length. 2 needed per pedestal (the unstained pieces, they support the support pieces, they will be removed after final installation)

2×2’s qty 63 at 24” length. 9 needed per pedestal (these are the tops)

1.  Precut all wood at the lengths and quantity on cut-list above.

2.   Stain all wood according to product guidelines. 

 3. Polyurethane all wood according to product guidelines. I used 4 coats.

4.  Assemble (find a friend to help, or a father-in-law)

I measure everything, even the screw holes, hence the blue chalk lines.

Ready for the top.

Using the 2×2’s, carefully, and employing a special, Nobel Prize winner deduced algorithm and a 99¢ tape measurer, mark out the spacing between each slat so that your architect wife doesn’t complain about the unevenness of your construction.

Dig your holes in the ground, decide whether to use concrete in the hole (there are pros and cons to both using and not using concrete in the holes, I put pebbles in the bottom for drainage, but no concrete)

And then enjoy the view!

From the editor

Welcome to the year 2020! The year I may finally need glasses!

Sorry, the vision jokes will only get worse as the year progresses. But I’m sure you could all see that coming….

Anyway, let me cover some subjects that need covering.

First, the 2020 BSF convention. You should all have received an email (if not, you can read it here) concerning our headliners and the logo award winner.

Let me congratulate Hiram Macias for his wonderful artwork:

And to welcome our two headliners:

Jennifer Price

And Nacho Marin

Our stalwart President, Mr. Jorge Nazario, is just about finished with the new convention website, so keep an eye to your email inboxes for the announcement when it goes live

Speaking of BSF emails, anyone not getting them? First, are you checking for BSF missives? This went out not long ago:If you didn’t get it, make sure it’s not in a spam list. If it’s not, check with your club level membership officers, then go to the district trustees. If you are a BSF member, we should have a good email address. We don’t sell your info, promise! Send inquiries to

Some business considerations, BSF is in the process of creating advertising rate schedules for the magazine, for the magazine website, and for the regular BSF website. Therefore, please, anyone and everyone with a bonsai business who would like to get their name out there, please drop an email to me at

And finally, the constant request for articles. This is a magazine for Bsf members, and if you have something to say, or made a trip to a nursery, or exhibit, or even an impressive backyard garden, send me some words, some pics, and I’ll get them into the next magazine.

Thank you!

Adam Lavigne, editor

Copyright, 2020 Bonsai Societies of Florida, all rights reserved

7 thoughts on “The Florida Bonsai Magazine: January 2020

  1. Cool magazine…well done! I’ve done it for a few years for our club and I fully appreciate the challenge…

  2. Mark D Ceskavich January 22, 2020 — 8:57 am

    The newsletters keep getting better and more informative. Thank you, all contributors and Adam for a nice read with my morning coffee!

  3. Great newsletter. Thank you for the dedicated work.

  4. Good info. Thanks

  5. Really great! Lived it! Just one small suggestion (former newspaper person) more white space between paragraphs.

  6. Another great magazine Adam, I appreciate your hard work on the magazine this year, quite professionally done and very interesting articles especially the process of selection of Epcot trees. I have been a member of BSF for over 10 years – and often wondered how the process worked.

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