The Florida Bonsai Magazine: Spring Edition

From the Desk of the President

By Jorge Nazario

One of the pleasures of bonsai is the ability to share your passion for the art with other like-minded people. For most, April will mark the second month that your local club does not have one of their regular meetings, and usually at this point, we are but a handful of weeks away from our annual convention. I simply cannot put into words how weird it feels to not be in the final preparation stages for the convention. We will not be able to see you in Orlando this year, but there is still a way for us to see each other and share what we are up to. More details in an article below.

Any time you hear a company announce something new or changes to an existing product, you can rest assured that the decision has been mulled over for weeks if not months. Most businesses realize that their decisions affect many aspects of their company. Bsf is a 501 (c) (3) organization run by volunteers, however, the organization is still run as a business. We not only have an executive board comprised of a president, vice-presidents, treasurer and secretary, but we also have a board of trustees. These are the individuals who are in constant communication throughout the year in order to make sure that Bsf runs as smoothly as possible.

Our decision to cancel this year’s convention was not based on social media postings, the mainstream media, hysteria, or anything of the like. The decision to cancel the convention was based primarily on our concern for the health and safety of our members coupled with the information at hand from both the federal and state authorities. We had many factors to consider, and even though it was by far one of the toughest decisions we have made, we feel very strongly that it was the correct one.

After a week of decompressing, the convention committee is already well on their way with preparations for the 2021 convention. We have secured 2 new headliners, with the possibility of adding a third. We will have the first ever of its kind (as far as we know) convention next year. The cancellation of this year’s convention also gave us the chance to begin something which was already in the works as of January. We will soon begin procuring the material for the 2022 convention. This will allow us to get them at a cheaper price and also give us a chance to cuddle them for 2 years.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the entire board as well as the members of the special task force for their assistance and participation. I would also like to thank those individual club members who have emailed me personally with words of encouragement and gratitude. I cannot express how much they mean to me. As soon as I can, (legally) I will continue my club visits as promised.

See you guys real soon, stay safe.


A Bonsai epiphany

By Christopher Cosenza

After our October trip to the Komorebi exhibition in Miami, I came to a realization … or an epiphany if you will. 
We often talk of bonsai as an art and I agree with that wholeheartedly. This concept never was more evident than what we witnessed at Komorebi. The thought that went into the designs of these trees, displays and stands was quite impressive.
My wife Jeanne fell in love with a one-of-a-kind stand that Adam Lavigne had designed. We made him an offer, he mulled it over for a bit and graciously sold it to us. The making of this stand was chronicled on his popular bonsai blog Now, the materials used to make this stand would only add up to a few bucks, but the artistry behind it made this piece valuable to us.  photo from Adam’s blog
And that’s when it hit me. Many people balk at the cost of bonsai trees, pots or stands, but if you think of this truly as an art, then the cost is fair. If you were a lover of surrealism, what price would you put on an original Dalí painting?
I’m not saying our local bonsai artists and nurseries rise to the level of Salvador Dalí, but that’s not the point. If I pay a little more for a tree because someone I respect designed and cared for it, that’s my way of supporting the arts. 
It’s the type of philanthropy I can comfortably afford and it furthers our bonsai community in many ways. If I buy a tree from say, Mary Madison, I have paid for her effort and time, and that money goes toward funding more buttonwood yamadori trips for her so that others might enjoy one of her trees. 
When I attended the multi-club auction in Cocoa last year, I bid on quite a few items and got some great pots for a steal. But that was the seller sacrificing his product so that he may recoup some of the money he had invested in the pots or trees while giving the clubs a percentage of the sale, just like we do with our Suncoast auction.
Now, I’m not saying you should buy random items that you aren’t interested in, I’m just saying it couldn’t hurt to have a different perspective when it comes to assessing the value of something you truly admire and would like to add to your collection.
BSF Social Media Spotlight
As many of you may know, BSF has taken an initiative to bring Florida bonsai to a greater audience. Making The Florida Bonsai Magazine available to the world for free was one step. Another, more important step was to begin using the BSF Facebook page and creating an Instagram profile and twitter account.
Paul Pikel, our Epcot Exhibit Chair, and an accomplished photographer himself, has taken point and is the moderator of all social media posts.
During a conversation about the cancellation of the Bsf Convention this year, and the lost opportunity for an exhibit, it was decided to give Bsf members an opportunity to show their trees, their work, and their gardens.
You will now find on the Bsf website (you can follow this link or navigate around the main page to locate it) a form to download and submit your best pic, along with a story, and, if you want, your social media link of choice (to give you a shout out).
Now, make sure you have the best pictures possible, if it’s just a tree, get a neutral backdrop, if it’s you working on a tree, try to smile 😀. There will undoubtedly be many submissions, so don’t get impatient if you don’t see your pic right away.
Warm up your cameras (or smartphones), be creative, and make sure you clean the lens.
Let’s see some awesome trees from Florida!
To take a gander at our various accounts, here is the Facebook page, the Instagram profile, and the Twitter account.

My Journey In Bonsai

By Daniel Harvey

Since I can remember, I have been intrigued by Japanese culture, tradition, music, and more. A few years ago, I took a girlfriend on a date to a garden and museum in Delray Beach, FL. Little did I know that I would begin an amazing journey by visiting, in my own backyard, this little gem known as The Morikami Museum.

This museum pays tribute to Japanese farmers that had created a farming community more than a hundred years ago, and had a profound impact on that region of the state.  The beautiful property and garden features two museums with ancient Japanese artifacts, walking paths, resting areas, lakes filled with Koi, rock gardens and much more.  I could write volumes on the beauty and mystery that is experienced in this place, but I could not do it justice.  You have to see it to believe it. (Until they are open again, you can take a virtual tour at

My date and I leisurely strolled through the pathways, feeling as though we had been transplanted into the heart of Japan itself.  Each garden we visited took us to a different period in the history of Japanese design.

We wandered into the next display and I stood speechless.

It seemed as everything around me had come to a grinding halt and I was breathless.

You see, we had stumbled into the bonsai collection, lovingly cared for by the curator, Vlad Foursa.

I forced my date to spend nearly an hour in the display as I studied each tree. What I was studying I had no clue, but standing in their presence was more than enough.

A few days later I fell into the trap that most brand new Bonsai enthusiasts fall into……..I made the dreaded “DIY Box Store Juniper Bonsai” purchase.

My experience did not end as tragically as most do, and, because of this, I was hooked!  Soon after buying my juniper I learned about Dragon Tree Bonsai in Port Saint Lucie, FL.

I took a drive up to the nursery one day after school (I’m a music teacher) and met Robert Pinder, the owner, and purchased my second bonsai: a Fukien Tea.

Robert is extremely knowledgeable, and is very willing to share that knowledge with you. If you have never visited his nursery, do so. You will not be disappointed.

As I began to learn more about bonsai, I soon realized the Juniper I purchased was actually two trees potted to look like a fuller single tree. I separated them, giving me two junipers, and I received a dwarf gardenia as a gift, and suddenly my collection was growing.

Being a lifelong learner, I figured it was time to start looking for people close by (I lived in the Palm Beach area) to start learning about little trees.  This is when I met Mike Blom from Emblem Bonsai.  He was overwhelmingly warm and welcoming. After getting in contact with him, he invited me over to check out his nursery, and shared his time and knowledge graciously.

Soon after meeting Mike, I met my bride (not the woman I brought to the Morikami) and relocated to where she lives, in Orlando, FL.

Mike’s recommendation was for me to get in contact with Adam Lavigne. Adam helped me work and develop my small collection, pointed me towards other artists with whom to study, introduced me to the Central Florida Bonsai Club and many more people I am proud to call friends.

As a beginner stepping into the “Bonsai World”, everything wasn’t that easy.  If it weren’t for the thick skin I developed as a music teacher, or the interactions I had with the gentlemen I have credited, I believe I, like many others, would’ve left the scene after my first couple of interactions.

To me, Bonsai symbolizes peace, harmony and balance.  My home club (CFBC), that is dear to me, has a purpose statement that states “…to share ideas, thoughts, and knowledge with those interested in learning the art of bonsai to the mutual benefit of all.”  As a beginner, I must say that I did not encounter this with every bonsai collector, artist, or hobbyist that I have met.

As a person who practices Bonsai, I hope that I never forget that I too was once in the shoes of someone who just bought their first “mall- sai” or that not everyone can afford to spend 100’s or 1000’s of dollars on a “finished tree”.  As a society of like- minded people, we should strive to always personify the spirit of what we practice, and welcome every newcomer. We must foster their fresh and new desire and excitement, and pour our knowledge into them so that they may too contribute to our “Bonsai World”

I want to personally thank everyone who has been warm and welcoming to me as I began and continue my journey.  I’d like also give a special thanks to the gentlemen mentioned above for looking past my mallsai and my limited skill and knowledge, to welcome me, teach me and guide me.  I hope I can honor you gentlemen by showing the same welcoming appreciation, respect, and to and share my knowledge with the newcomers I meet.

I now have many trees that I am proud of, and continue to develop.

on the left, my Fukien tea from Robert, on the right, my very first bonsai

a bald cypress I bought from Dragon Tree Bonsai

a buttonwood acquired from the multi-club auction last year in Brevard


A Field Trip

By Mark Ceskavich BSF Trustee District 6

For those involved in US bonsai, the name Jim Smith needs little introduction. “Gentleman” James J. Smith (1925-2016) remains greatly remembered by all who have met him for his unselfish contribution to Bonsai and his soft and easy manner of teaching. Jim was known as a world class Bonsai Master in tropical and semi tropical trees, and in October 2009, Jim donated 100 of his best specimens to Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce, FL. Over the last decade this collection has been on display to the delight of many visitors.

As one easily imagines the work involved in taking care of 100 top class, and very large, specimen trees can sometimes feel like overwhelming task. The collection on permanent display today remain in great shape thanks to Bonsai Curator, Tom Kehoe and a volunteer staff. It was at a BSF meeting last year where Bonsai Society of Brevard’s (BSOB) Reggie Perdue mentioned the volunteer work he was providing to the collection and raised awareness to the need for more help in ways of treasure, time, or talent. We tip our hats off to BSOB for lending its hand to maintain and uplift such a Florida treasure.

Well, Central Florida Bonsai Club (CFBC) of Orlando heard the call and eight members volunteered to take a field trip to Fort Pierce. The gardens are a two-hour drive from Orlando and almost four for some of our group, but all arrived by 10:00 am. We were met by Diane Kimes, Executive Director, Tom Kehoe, and Tom’s lovely wife, Belinda. After an interesting walk around the exhibit and inspection of various specimens, displays, and sun exposure, the group was ready to work. Tom already knew what he wanted and casually pointed to two huge Portulacaria and said, “Let’s start here”.

photo by Tom Kehoe

Photo by Tom Kehoe

These two were “three man trees” and so the club brought just enough manpower to muscle them up into the pavilion. Re-potting is an incredibly long and physical process with trees this large. As the work began one of our club members said, almost to himself

“It is an honor to work on trees of such greatness.”

That said it all, and the two trees were repotted, repositioned, trimmed, and some wire added. Time for a lunch break… and we moved a few potted trees among the display stands to optimize the sunlight.

After lunch, two Willow Leaf Ficus were on deck – one a specimen and a stupendous sized forest. More of the same, but this time really updating the forest with heavy root pruning, wiring, and repositioning of several trunks. This was a marvelous project. At the day’s end the CFBC team was happy to have had the opportunity to work on trees of such caliber, and Tom was happy for the help. It was a win-win, and a trip remembered. In 2020 CFBC plans another visit to honor this great Florida tradition.

photo by Tom Kehoe

Central Florida Bonsai Club members attending the event: Ben Agresta-President, Roberto “Teeco” Alfonso-VP, Adam Lavigne-Corresponding Secretary, Mike Rogers, Harold Sauter, Mike Sielaff, Abner Cruz, and Mark Ceskavich.

photo by Tom Kehoe, from the left: Tom Kehoe, Abner Cruz, Teeco Alfonso, Adam Lavigne, Mark Ceskavich, Mike Rogers, Ben Agresta


OPERATION BONSAI FREEDOM – The story of the 2020 Epcot Exhibit

By Paul Pikel

They say,

“Man plans and God laughs”

Well, that phrase has never been more appropriate than it has for the start of 2020.  This is the 26th year that BSF has participated in the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World.  We are only 1 of the last 2 remaining charter participants of the festival, the other being the University of Central Florida (UCF).

Just like the previous year, the BSF Epcot Committee has been planning for this show for months, making sure to produce a display of the finest bonsai that the artists of Florida had to offer.

In January, the selections were made and the exhibitors were notified.  We had a good mix of first time exhibitors and veteran exhibitors.  Our committee now had representation from BSF, the KAWA Bonsai Society, the Central Florida Bonsai Club, and the Bonsai Society of Brevard to make the selection.  The trees the committee selected (as chronicled in the last edition of The Florida Bonsai Magazine) were a beautiful variety of styles and species that represented the state of Florida, and what can be grown here.

In the early morning of March 4th, the trees were placed on their stand at the World Showcase, Japanese Pavilion at Epcot.  The display was outstanding and every tree was beautifully prepared for display during the 3 month exhibition.  All the months of planning behind us, an how ready for the world to see our trees!

Ed Trout’s buttonwood framed spectacularly in front of Spaceship Earth, photo by Jorge Nazario

A view of the Zen Garden, photo by Jorge Nazario Cosette Kelly’s ficus Benjamina, photo by Jorge Nazario

Doug Marcum’s Chinese elm, photo by Jorge Nazario The Walkway, photo by Jorge Nazario

Then, just like that, 12 days later Disney closed its parks due to the threat of the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, Covid-19!  As Floridians, we know how serious it is for Disney to shut its parks.  We have been through wild fires, hurricanes, and every other natural disaster but Disney would somehow stay open.  Now they were shutting down for two weeks!

During this time, BSF remained in contact with Disney to be sure the trees would be taken care of during the show, and that they were being watered daily.  It was no surprise that they were.  Disney has been an amazing partner with BSF each year and during the show and we have gotten to know the staff very well.  It was decided to keep the trees in the park during the two week shut down.

However, as the outbreak of cases grew and the new normal, “Social distancing” became more prevalent, Orange County and Osceola County issued Stay-at-Home orders extending the 2 original weeks to the full month of April.  Many people were having to work from home, while others were furloughed.

Now BSF was faced with a decision to make, and it wasn’t an easy one.  Disney had continued to make sure the health of the trees was a priority and the daily watering continued, however, our weekly maintenance and trimming that BSF Trimming Team does through the festival had to be stopped.  We no longer had the opportunity for a visual of how the trees were doing.  It was finally decided to make the call and pull the trees from the show.

With addition furloughs at the parks forthcoming, we had to act fast.  We asked that the trees be moved to the greenhouse so that it was easier to recover the trees.

On Thursday, April 9, in the afternoon, we got confirmation that they would move the trees from Epcot to the Disney greenhouse facility, and they planned to have them all out by Sunday (Easter).  I worked with Jorge Nazario, as he was able to secure a truck and has a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to make the pick up.  He included Adam Lavigne and together we began, OPERATION BONSAI FREEDOM!  On Friday, April 10, I was told the trees were out, so on Saturday (36 hours after being advised the trees would be pulled) we were all at Disney 9:30 am, for the pick up.

When we arrived at the greenhouse, we made a quick inspection. The 21 trees all looked well watered, healthy, and even the moss from the installation was perfect.

As happy and relieved as I was to see the collection of trees, I was sad as well.  I know the amount of work that it takes to coordinate this show, the amount of time and love that each exhibitor puts into getting the trees ready, and most importantly, I can understand the disappointment that the guests that look forward all year to the festival, and especially the bonsai, who will not have the opportunity to see these beautiful specimens. Cesar Gonzalez’s Brazilian Raintree, photo by Jorge Nazario

We loaded each tree very carefully into the truck, securing them to pallets so that they wouldn’t move during the 30 mile ride to Teeco Alfonso’s nursery.  It was dirty, hot work but it had to be done.

the U-Haul about to be filled, photo by Adam Lavigne

Paul Pikel worked diligently to secure each tree, photo by Adam Lavigne

The staging area before loading, photo by Adam Lavigne

Bsf President Jorge Nazario photo by Adam Lavigne

After about an hour of loading and crawling around on the filthy truck floor, the trees were ready.  When we arrived at Teeco’s nursery, the trees were gently unloaded and placed in a clear, sunny space where they would be watered and cared for until the owners could make arrangements to pick up their trees.

Teeco Alfonso operating the loader with a surgeon‘s precision Ed Trout’s buttonwood and Jerome Kellerhals’ American elm, photo by Adam Lavigne

Paul and Jorge placing Ronn Miller’s big ficus microcarpa, photo by Adam Lavigne

Paul’s last photo of all the trees together

The show had come to a close.

Although this was certainly not the year any of us expected, BSF did what we had to do in order make sure this collection of trees remained healthy and will make their way home.


From the Editor

By Adam Lavigne

Wow.….It has already been an interesting year. I think I’m ready for 2021.

Let me get some business out of the way:

As always, the magazine needs stories. They don’t have to be fully fleshed out masterpieces, if you send me an outline, I can find out the details, add links (like the ones to the Morikami above) and even place the photos where they go. Just send words and pics, with a description where they go, and I will assemble them. Plain text and regular JPEGs are fine.

Along with the social media member spotlight (don’t forget to submit some pics for that), this magazine is yours, the members of BSF. Tell me what your doing, where you’ve been, even if it happened two years ago. Tell me your story from your perspective.

We ain’t writin’ no research thesis here, no way.

I’ll proof it, fix all the past imperfects and future tense problems, make sure the wonder from the wandering isn’t the wander from the wondering.

Now for some musings.

Things will be better. We will get together again, work on trees, tell all the big bonsai tales. Take the time to enjoy your family, your hobbies, read some books (bonsai books!) start a journal on your tree maintenance, and, obviously, take care of your trees.

And take care of yourselves.

©️2020 Bonsai Societies of Florida

14 thoughts on “The Florida Bonsai Magazine: Spring Edition

  1. Uplifting and informative, interesting in one way or another to all our members, gives one to pause and consider what is really important. Well done Adam

  2. Great newsletter. Hats off to everyone who worked so hard to get the Epcot trees relocated.

  3. Excellent issue. Looking forward to 2021 when we can see everyone again. Stay safe BSF members!

  4. Excellent work here…many thanks!
    Phill Krieg

  5. Great issue. I was only going to skim through and ended up reading every article. All good stuff. Thanks, I needed it.

  6. Thanks to all you folks for all you do. Impressive

  7. Excellent issue. Thanks to all of you for your hard work and dedication to BSF and the bonsai communities.

  8. Great read….Thanks..

  9. Great job guys. It takes a lot of work to put this magazine together. Congrats.

  10. The BSF Newsletter continues to be photographically beautiful, full of news, updates and information – another great job Adam! I really appreciate everyones contributions and Adam’s hard work. Big thank you for all that worked so diligently to return the Epcot trees in great health and stature!

  11. It astounds me at the work and coordination required to show the best bonsai trees in Florida during the annual Flower and Garden Festival. But then that effort was compounded with the early removal of them from Epcot. Amazing Teamwork and skill, and the loving care showered on “our” trees gives me a lump in my throat. Many people were involved, and kudos to each and every one.

  12. Nice job everyone! Thank you!

  13. Good job. Enjoyed the read

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