The Florida Bonsai Magazine: Fall 2020

From the Desk of the President
By Jorge Nazario

Happy Fall!

Now, I am not what you would call a drinker, however, I have been known to down a beer or two from time to time. I’ve often said that I buy a 6 pack for the Superbowl (back when I used to watch professional sports) and still have 4 beers left for July 4th. On the evening of December 31st, however, as we say good bye and good riddance to this year, I might actually drink my full limit (3 beers).

I cannot wait for 2020 to be over.  

I have to admit that the decision process for cancelling the 2020 BSF Convention took a toll on me. I do not recall ever being so mentally and physically exhausted. For a couple of weeks, I didn’t even want to look at my trees: the whole process just plain wore me out. It took a phone call from Adam to kick me out of my funk. He reminded me that we needed to pick up some trees we had purchased and also needed to discuss the plans we had for the Bsf nursery. It was that interacting with a fellow bonsai enthusiast that allowed me to get back into gear. I believe that as we begin to talk about and plan the 2021 Bsf Convention, it will allow our members to get back into the groove as well. Put me to work.

My wife has taken full advantage of this fact that I like to remain busy by adding to the “honey-do” list.  I estimate that I am a full year ahead with all of my home improvement projects.

During these past few months, Mr. Lavigne and I have remained quite busy gathering material, building tables, and planning for the convention. Way before C-19, Adam and I had thought of purchasing convention material at least a year in advance. The Idea was to buy younger material (cheaper price) and take care of them for a longer period of time. C-19 gave us the opportunity to kick start that initiative. We now have all of the material (workshops and demos) for 2021, approx. 75% for 2022, and approx. 30% for 2023. By the start of the 2021 convention we will be at 100% for 2022 and 2023.

I have a list of some 55 things that need to be accomplished prior to any convention, the good news is that most of them have already been done.

We have the artists, venue, logo, scholarship competitors, awards and many other items that will carry over form 2020.

We will more than likely begin the vendor registration process in early January if not a bit sooner. We realize that some people might still be afraid to come in contact with others, however, we will be doing everything within our power to make it as safe as possible for everyone.

In this issue you’ll get the process and a view of the BSF nursery and material, an interesting story about Japanese swords, some pictures from the latest Kawa Bonsai Society auction and their display trees, and some news on the upcoming Multi-club Auction hosted by the Bonsai Society of Brevard


Bsf nursery space

By Adam Lavigne

Well now, that’s a mess!

Daniel standing on a mound of dirt

(Bsf prez) Jorge and I had been talking about creating a specific area at my nursery since before the 2019 convention took place. The idea we had had was to buy more immature material and grow it out for a year or two so that we could save money for BSF, have better guided trees, and to give convention workshop participants more value for their dollar. I’ve been storing many of the demo and workshop trees for several years but this work was to make a space to put all the trees in one spot, some shade area and some full sun areas, to make it easier to take care of them.

The following work was done over a month or so, on several different days

One could call it a blank slate but there was much to do to get to the “blank” part

Besides the brush removal, the most important part was removing a mound of dirt that was about 4 feet tall and ten feet wide. To do that, we enlisted Mr. Ben Agresta and his Boxer skid steer machine with a bucket attachment. He normally uses the skid steer to move his massive trees in his collection at Agresta Gardens. It came in handy moving the dirt.

Ben having too much fun moving dirt

With the addition of Ben’s diesel powered adult toy, the work went quickly.

For the curious, that oak in the corner is about a hundred years old.

Now that we had a level surface to work with, the real work could commence: put down the landscape cloth, finish building the benches, set out the blocks, and place the trees.

I just sat back and watched. Easiest work I’ve done in years

There’s lots of room now.

Unloading the block and building the benches!

it’s only about a half ton of block!

Jorge assembled the wood frames at home in his work shop and, with the help of Ken, Paul, and Zack, we attached the “horse fence” that would act as the top. This is the same (give it take) system that Jim Smith used in his nursery years ago and is used at Wigert’s today.

We decided on 8 foot by 4 foot benches (get four 8 foot 2×4’s, cut two in half, drill holes, screw them together, nail the fencing on top, and Bob’s yer uncle!)

Ken on the left, Jorge on the right

Two down, many more to go

Zack looking like he’s about to hammer his finger

Posing after the benches were up. Not bad for a days work!

Zack Felker, Paul Pikel, and Jorge

The next step was setting up the trees.

The main idea of the BSF section in my nursery is to develop trees for the convention. Below is a buttonwood we had purchased from Jupiter Bonsai. Here’s Jorge and myself repotting the huge tree into a slightly larger container.

It was originally planted in a large cut- down water drum.

From the looks of the roots, it needed some new soil.

That looks better.

We also received some collected trees from Puerto Rico. Neeas and holly leafed malpighia.

Some pretty decent trunks too.

These will be for the 2021 and 2022 conventions. Stay tuned to the Regular BSF website and this space for updates on that.

We got a sweet deal on these from our friend Guaracha of Guara’s Pots and Trees. Check him out, he’s a fantastic potter.

Good thing I have extra containers for all these trees!

In just a month the trees have all pushed new growth and we have a good year to grow them out.

If you’d like to visit and volunteer for some BSF nursery work, send an email to and we can set up a date. I’m always in need of someone to pull some weeds.

Thanks to Ben, Daniel, Paul, Ken, and Zack for all the hard work!


2021 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

By Paul Pikel

As most are aware, the 2020 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Bonsai Display at Epcot, WDW lasted for only 12 days, and many of the trees on display didn’t even get a chance to leaf out.  

Because of this and the uncertainty of the 2021 Festival, no applications for the 2021 show will be accepted for display.  BSF has decided that since this year’s festival was never completed, the same trees will be submitted for the display next year in the event that the Festival is held.  We believe it is only fair to give those exhibitors, many of them first time exhibitors, the opportunity to experience this special honor as it should have been. 

The trees were all prepared perfectly for show and were all deserving of a full 3 month display for the WDW guest to see and admire.


We thank you all for your understanding, and hope to see your trees submitted in the years to come.



Paul Pikel

Epcot Committee Chairman


Floral Art in Japanese Sword Fittings

 By Mark Ceskavich BSF Trustee District 4


While the Art of bonsai has long been associated with Japan, it actually originated first in India, then China, and then spread eastward to Korea and then Japan. The art of bonsai was spread by Buddhist monks who wished to bring the “outdoors” inside their temples. From ancient paintings and manuscripts, we know that artistic container trees were being cultivated by the Chinese around 600 AD, but many scholars feel that potted trees were being grown in China as far back as 500 or 1,000 BC and said to be used as a means of traditional Chinese physicians to transport their medicinal herbs. Bonsai may have first appeared in Japan during the Heian Period (784-1185) with Buddhism’s arrival in Japan in the 8th century. The influential Tendai Buddhist sect was founded at the Tōdai-ji (The Great Eastern Temple) in the ancient capital city of Nara.

Around the Tōdai- ji, sword making schools sprung up to supply the warrior monks who rose in parallel with the ascendancy of the Tendai school’s influence.  Swords and mountings for swords (scabbards, handles, handguards…) were produced at Nara and neighboring Kyoto and those artists imbued their craft with the Japanese aesthetics, a set of ancient ideals that include wabi (transient and stark beauty), sabi (the beauty of natural patina and aging), and yūgen (profound grace and subtlety). These ideals underpin much of Japanese cultural and aesthetic norms on what is considered tasteful and beautiful. We sometimes experience those feelings when we encounter the look of a weathered jin or the aged trunk of an old cypress.  

Japanese sword tsuba (handguards) are known for their warrior appeal by their hammered iron plate, aged patina, and wabi sabi aesthetics. A tedious blacksmithing process was used to forge a good iron plate and so it is sometimes overlooked that attention was similarly given to its decoration. Actually, in the carving of its symbolic decoration no detail was given to chance. The old makers were very expressive in their interpretation of ideals (Buddhist) and nature (Shinto).

While handguard styles changed to suit samurai fashion and taste what remained a decorative theme over the centuries was expression through flora, regional plants and greenery having important meaning. Following is a gallery of tsuba of 15th through 18th century vintage illustrating the close tie between the nature of plants to the spirit and beliefs of the warrior.

I hope that this window into the “soul of the warrior” helps to explain the way we can sometimes regard our trees as we work in the garden – with a felt meaning.  


       Flower of Large Radish

 Round Wisteria

             Weeping Cherry


   Ginkgo Leaves

  Fallen Paulownia


            Chrysanthemum of a Branch


      Nightengale in a Plum Tree

     Three Friends of Winter



      Plum Branch in a Window


The Three Friends of Winter is an art motif that comprises the pine, bamboo, and plum. The Japanese celebrated the pine, bamboo and plum together, as they observed that these plants do not wither as the cold days deepen into the winter season unlike many other plants. Together they symbolize steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience. For instance, Kuromatsu (black pine) grows in coastal areas and their long life, sometimes hundreds of years, hardiness, and the fact that they are green all year round, make them an auspicious symbol of longevity. In Japan, the grouping is particularly associated with the start of the New Year. Each sword guard has its own meaning as may each of our trees.


Secrets for the miniature tree grower

By Jorge Nazario


   I love to read, always have. I think I developed the habit from watching my dad devour books in a few days while I was growing up. He used to go to the bookstore and spend hours looking for the “right” book. Fortunately, nowadays, it takes just a couple of mouse clicks to have just about every book ever published at one’s disposal. When I began my bonsai journey, I (like most people I suppose) began purchasing books in order to get a better understanding of the art. I quickly found out that some books on the subject are quite pricey.  This is when I discovered that I could also purchase used books. I simply decide what book condition I am comfortable with and choose from the many suppliers. I have purchased over 20 books on the art of bonsai and have saved quite a bit of money in the process. One of these books had what initially appeared to be a bookmark someone had used, but upon further inspection turned out to be a piece of bonsai history.

   In the pages of this book I found paperwork referencing membership in an organization named Miniature Nursery Club of America. Apparently, after paying a fee (referenced order blank missing) members would receive an instruction manual entitled “Secrets for the miniature tree grower” which was published in 1952. Members would also receive “Over 100 assorted seeds… from the far corners of the world”, a small book on a “scientifically balanced short cut formula for speed up fertilizing”, an inscribed Lifetime Membership Certificate and a “Complete business development and sale program plan”.  “Absolutely everything needed to set up your own miniature nursery”

  It was interesting to note that most of the “secret techniques” referenced in the instruction manual were still practiced today, although the terminology used differs.

I found no evidence of any instructions on styling of trees, I guess that was a different club. I have scanned most of the paperwork I found for you to enjoy.




Kawa bonsai auction

By Adam Lavigne

The Kawa Bonsai Society of Deland recently hosted an auction and BBQ last month and here are some pics from the event and the exhibit. registration line with Mark Ceskavich at the desk

Masks and social distancing was in evidence and strongly encouraged.

The exhibit was small but had many good tree on display.

Mike Rogers’ jaboticaba

I didn’t find out all the owners’ names and I apologize for that. I’ll guess at some of the trees species as well (I know, terrible journalism, sorry)

a euphorbia species, in the same genus as crown of thorns and poinsettia

a sweet little buttonwood

parrots beak

Maybe a premna with a succulent companion

Brazilian Raintree

not sure of this species

Portulacaria afra

parrots beak

I think this might be a Simpson’s stopper

If you have some pics from an event you’ve attended recently, send me them and a description of the event, and I’ll put together a short article.

But do as I say, find out the names of the trees, and not as I’ve done.


The Multi-Club Auction

By Barb Hiser

“Who’ll Give Me $75?”

The Central Florida bonsai clubs are gearing up for the 6th annual Multi Club Picnic/Auction. This fun event has always been very popular, with BSOB (Brevard) coordinating and CFBC (Central/Orlando) coordinating the silent auction. In years past, the BBQ grill kept churning out hot dogs and hamburgers, as members delivered home-made side dishes to the multiple tables. I have fond memories of traditional sides such as baked beans and potato salad, and less traditional dishes such as Asian Salad and noodle kugel. The open air venue, F. Burton Smith Regional Park, is always perfect…fresh air, lots of tables, a stage, and cover from the weather. In 2018, a late summer hurricane left the area under nearly a foot of water so the event was postponed until spring.

This year, we are dealing with Covid-related restrictions and all that implies but the Auction will go on! With Covid restrictions, we will not be having the grills or pot luck, but everyone can bring their own lunch. Emphasis on AUCTION this year!

In years past, we have had youth workshops and competition, and last year we held the adult District Competition semi-finals for the BSF Scholarship Competition.

Edil Vasquez, Blaine Johnson, Angelica Ramirez, and Zack Felker

Angelica’s creation was selected by representatives from each club and BSF, and she will be moving on in the BSF competition.

I have to confess: this event is my most favorite of the entire year! I get to visit with rarely-seen friends, have gotten great deals on amazing trees.

And last year, I decided to put some of my trees into the auction. Of course, the money I made went back into the beautiful trees that followed me home but it’s all for a good cause. At the end of the auction, each participating club makes a percentage of sales and the bulk of the sale goes to the seller, of course. Every year, I am “on the hunt” for the perfect tree and this year will be no exception.

An Open Invitation to other Bonsai Lovers-Please join us at this fun event! Bring your competitive spirit, your wallet, and plan on a very enjoyable day!

Here are some raw statistics from the 2018 Auction if you can use them:

Total in attendance: 90

Number of items in live auction (included original artwork, bonsai, prebonsai, rocks)-70

Number of items in silent auction (included pots, pre- and post-bonsai, figurines, tools, rocks, stands and more!)-80

Highest selling item at the live auction- $200

Highest selling item in the silent auction-$75

The following clubs were represented: Bonsai Society of Brevard, Central Florida Bonsai Club, Treasure Coast Bonsai Society, Kawa Bonsai Society (Deland), Hukyu Bonsai Society of Tampa, North Florida Bonsai Club (Jacksonville), and Literati Grove (Miami).


We lost a good man

By Adam Lavigne

On August 26, 2020, the Florida bonsai community lost one of its own, Mr. Larry Duke, known by many as “Papa Duke”.

Larry with Florida bonsai great Toby Diaz

When I first met him many years ago I instantly liked him.

Larry was 72 when he passed away and had been living in West Palm Beach, Florida when he passed away peacefully at his home. His wife Judy, daughter Jennifer, and dog Coco were at his side when he passed on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020.

What surprised me was Larry was born in Orlando, Florida on June 9th, 1948. A real Floridian. He met his wife Judy in Pompano Beach, Florida and they tied the knot in 1971.

Larry was a barber by profession, which might explain not only his love of bonsai but his always exquisitely shaped beard and perfectly coiffed hair.

Larry was a good man, always a smile on his face.

And he knew your name. He would never forget to mention my last blog article he had read and give his compliments.

He was giving and had a gentle demeanor, a spiritual guide and mentor to countless friends. He loved his hobbies, tending to his bonsai trees and going to bonsai clubs, gardening, and fishing. He was serious but also enjoyed anything he set his passion on.

Godspeed my good man, you’ll be missed at the next convention.


From the editor

By Adam Lavigne

First off I’d like to say, wow, what a year so far. There’s no one who could have predicted the events so far. I do not envy those leaders who have to make the decisions today, I know I’m not qualified to do it, even with as much as I’ve read and studied history. I’m just barely able to make my own lunch order.

But things are getting better. And the bonsai continue to grow. I hope you’ve had more time to work your trees, getting to know them and watch the development, as we’ve had this pause. I know I have.

Second, the perennial call goes out for articles. Pics, prose, poetry, cartoons, anything bonsai related is of interest for publication. I can help you write it too. This is a magazine for you, by you. Let your voice be heard.

As always, many thanks to all of the authors contributions to this issue.

The time to think about the part you can play in the next convention, whether through volunteering, a donation to the raffles, taking a workshop or submitting a tree for the exhibit. The info will be published shortly.

©️2020 The Bonsai Societies of Florida

14 thoughts on “The Florida Bonsai Magazine: Fall 2020

  1. Awesome edition, thank you for your work, support and dedication.

    1. Is November auction still on

      1. It is still on

  2. So nice to know our Bonsai clubs are finding ways to work together and maintaining their trees. Finding new ways to share knowledge primarily on the internet keeps everyone on their toes, keep up the fine magazine.

  3. Boy, what a refreshing way to spend an hour – catching up on Florida Bonsai happenings. A great reminder of our fun community and fine membership. Bravo.

  4. Well done…informative, educational and a fun read…

  5. You guys are Rocking’ it! Thanks for all you do

  6. Thanks for putting this magazine together and for everyone’s hard work preparing for our upcoming conventions.

  7. What a great plan for the BSF nursery. Am currently overseas as a contractor for th US Air Force and would like to “pull weeds” when I return.

  8. Thanks for putting such a good read together. It was great to see that things are starting to revive after this long year. Looking forward to a great year and your magazine is very encouraging.

  9. Cesar M Gonzalez October 15, 2020 — 9:11 am

    Great Edition Guys! Thank you for the hard work and compromise at BSF. Talk to you soon!

  10. Hats off to all your hard work on the site in Adam’s nursery and for putting together a really great newsletter during these difficult times.

  11. I have just rejoined Florida Bonsai after many years working. I am so happy finding a group here in central Florida. I thank Mary Miller for her guidance in my youth that has finally grown into what I hope to bring back to this group.

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