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
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 Morikami.org)
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
“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