Florida Bonsai Magazine: winter 2020

From the Editor

By Adam Lavigne

Welcome to technically the last issue of the Florida Bonsai Magazine for the year 2020.

It has been an interesting year, both for the Florida Bonsai community, for the world, and myself.

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we had to cancel our convention, which I believe was the first time we as an organization had to, most clubs have gone to limited, if at all, in person meetings, resulting in us having to learn how to use many conferencing platforms like Zoom or Facebook live, and many clubs have seen the attrition rates for membership increase dramatically.

And since almost every bonsai convention and show had been cancelled for the year, with just the option of talking to bonsai people online, many feel isolated and lost.

The world has had to deal with the pandemic in dramatic ways, with masks, lockdowns, testing and illness, quarantines, and heart wrenching deaths of our friends and loved ones. The elections in the USA alone were trying, and that should have been enough for one year. All I can say about that is it’s best to just do as Martin Luther King Jr. recommended,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

If your club is struggling, please reach out to other club organizations, and the officers at BSF, there are some strategies that are working; some clubs have had record turnouts for their online meetings. We are all here to support one another,

For myself, all my traveling had been cancelled (just like every traveling bonsai artist and instructor), I lost a good two months from medical complications and subsequent hospitalization and a wonderful bout of pneumonia. I had surgery a few months later and had to make more concessions to health. But I’m better now than I’ve been in a few years because of the surgery, and my trees and nursery have never looked better from me being home. And my wife enjoys my company. It would be great for the readers if you’d share what you did during 2020 with your trees and how the years events affected you.

The good news for Florida Bonsai is that things are looking up. Later in the issue, Jorge, our BSF President, talks about the 2021 convention, which features a unique line up of artists and headliners, one we believe has never been done before.

We have some great articles in this issue.

In February, the Joy of Bonsai show, hosted by the Kawa Bonsai Society, will make a triumphant return after a few years absence (see story below by Benjamin Lorber).

There’s still the James J. Smith collection at Heathcote Botanical Gardens to see, and most bonsai nurseries are open for business (see story by Christopher Cosenza below).

And a rehash of a reprint of a reprinted article (yeah, confusing to me too, and I wrote it) on the formation of the Bonsai Societies of Florida, to help us understand where it all started and why.


One great day, two legendary locations

By Christopher Cosenza

My wife Jeanne and I decided it was time to safely venture out and get some fresh air. It had been a while since we went on a bonsai road trip and had always wanted to see the James J. Smith Bonsai Gallery at Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Ft. Pierce.

Smith was well-known in the world of bonsai, founding the Treasure Coast Bonsai Society in 1975 and the Dura-Stone Nursery in 1979. He died in 2016, but not before leaving behind the largest public tropical bonsai collection in the country.  

Every one of his 100 donated trees is remarkable and larger than life. We were fortunate enough to have longtime bonsai artist and friend Reggie Perdue give us a tour with his wife, Cosette. Reggie donates his time once a month at Heathcote to keep these specimen trees in top shape and his work is really paying dividends. 

Photo of Reggie and Cosette

It was so educational to have him tell us the history of the trees, the work they’ve endured and the future plans for many of them. Reggie and Cosette make quite the bonsai team. Recently married, they both enjoy bonsai (Cosette’s father was an accomplished bonsai enthusiast, too) and she is a successful potter as well. You may have seen them at the BSF Convention in the past with booths in the vendor area. 

Heathcote at night during the Garden of Lights Festival, photo by Chris Cosenza

We were lucky enough to have our visit coincide with the property’s sixth annual Garden of Lights Festival (it concluded Jan. 2) and it was quite the treat to see these beautiful works of art lit up at night. I think we would have preferred to see the trees during the day, but we had a good reason for not being there earlier.A ficus decorated with lights, photo by Chris Cosenza

Cosette and Reggie Purdue at the festival

photo by Chris Cosenza

Before we visited Heathcote, we hit Dragon Tree Bonsai Nursery in Palm City (just 35 minutes from Heathcote) and chatted with owner Robert Pinder. This nursery is worth the three-hour drive as his collection is impressive and the pre-bonsai selection is plentiful and cost-effective. (Editors note: Dragon Tree is one of the nurseries supplying workshop trees for the upcoming 2021 BSF convention occurring on May 28-30 in Orlando) We picked up a large Surinam Cherry, a dwarf hybrid Surinam Cherry and a Texas Ebony (plus three bags of bonsai soil) for less than most bonsai nurseries would charge for one average-sized tree.

All in all, it was a great day and we highly recommend you visit these two legendary bonsai locations.

— Christopher Cosenza is a member of Suncoast Bonsai Society, Hukyu Bonsai Society and is second VP for Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota. 

Bald Cypress

(reprint from May 1997 Florida Bonsai Magazine, originally from a Gold Coast Bonsai Society newsletter, author unknown)

(Editor’s note: I can only guess that this following article was adapted from someone’s notes of a program Mary Madison gave for the Gold Coast club. I can hear Mary’s voice every time she is quoted)

Mary Madison explained that she has come a long way in her ability to keep a specimen thriving and growing since her early days of experimenting with cypress.

She has learned two important lessons after collecting the trees.

1) Cypress must be kept wet. Even if she doesn’t have the time to pot the trees after arriving home, she throws them in water and allows them to soak.

2) Keeping the entire trunk moist is also essential to increase survival rates. After collection, she places them in her mist house.

Of course, the most important aspect in collecting cypress is making certain the tree is still dormant, or just in the beginning stages of putting out new growth. Once the growth has emerged even 1/4 of an inch, she does not attempt to take the tree.

Partial shade is good for cypress, especially when starting out with a newly potted tree. She keeps most of her trees in partial shade all the time just for water purposes. Mary also explained that she uses pots without drain holes for the first two years so water collects in the pot. This allows for quick growing root systems.

Superthrive can be used after collecting or repotting. Unfortunately, Mary has too many trees to make this a reality in her yard. As for fertilizing, anything can be used: Peter’s, MiracleGro, Milorganite, etc.

A question was asked as to whether Mary brought back the soil the cypress was growing in. She said, as a rule, she does not. First of all, she collects trees that are growing in water so getting soil is almost impossible. There is always soil clinging to the root system, but she has brought back trees with nothing and they still do well.

She does not use a soil-less mix because keeping the tree wet would be almost impossible in that mixture. Mary uses a rich soil mixture which includes sand and wood shavings among other ingredients.

Mary explained that cypress should be repotted every two to three years. It has been said that a cypress should be root pruned and actually placed in the ground during this time. Experimentation is the only way to find out what works for you. Air laying should be done in the spring.

Of course, the most important aspect of keeping cypress is learning the conditions at your own home. As the tree becomes acclimated to your yard, it may go dormant earlier or later or bud back earlier or later. Have patience and never give up; mary told us the story of a lady that visited her every year and always purchased a cypress tree. Finally, Mary asked her how all her other cypress trees were doing since she thought the woman must have quite a collection at this point.

Sheepishly, the woman explained that every cypress tree she purchased died every year, always around the same time. Unbelieving and mystified, Mary gently probed, asking,

“What time of the year do your trees die?”

“Why, in the winter” the lady said

“They always seem to drop their leaves and die in the beginning of winter. Then I have to throw them out and come here to buy a new one.”A rose among thorns at the first Komorebi show in Miami, Fl left to right: David Camargo, Sergio Luciani, Mary Madison, Ed Trout, Adam Lavigne

Formation of BSF

by Adam Lavigne

I have a good collection of the old print versions of the Florida Bonsai Magazine I like to sit down and read from time to time and I found this article, reprinted from, as it says, the Florida Bonsai Newsletter, dated June 15, 1973.

And like the editor says at the beginning of the article, even though the words written by Ed Potter are from 1973, they hold true in 2021. I bet no one there gave thought to a year so far away from 1973. There are some in the organization who remember this. For me, I was born in 1975, so it’s all history.

If you click on the pics and magnify them, the image is giant and more easy to read (for those who may be ocularly differenced).

I do have some pride that the original organizing was done in Orlando, being as that’s where I’m living at the moment, and that my club and the Central Florida Bonsai Club, was there to participate.

And, to steal what Jean Waldberg wrote at the end of her piece,

“This is YOUR organization; come participate and help make it great!”

Joy of Bonsai 2021

By Benjamin Lorber

On February 27, 2021, the Kawa Bonsai Society will be bringing back its once annual Joy of Bonsai show.  Joy of Bonsai will be hosting Mike Lane, a student of Erik Wigert, as the headliner of the show.  Mike Lane began Bonsai in 2008, won the BSF scholarship competition in 2010, displayed trees nationally, and has since headlined multiple conventions.  Mike will bring his expertise on a multitude of topics to all who want to participate in this one day, learning filled event.

Mike Lane working on a Buttonwood at Wigert’s Bonsai Nursery
Photo from Wigerts

The last time Joy of Bonsai was held was in January of 2016.  Much has changed since the last time it was held.  Kawa will now be hosting Joy of Bonsai at Schley’s Bonsai and Supplies.  Jason Schley has graciously let Kawa use his nursery and will also be offering a 20% discount for everything bought during the show.

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic is not over, masks and social distancing will be required per DeLand mandate as well as by Schley’s Bonsai. We want to prevent an outbreak of cases, so please follow these CDC guidelines and do not come if you are not feeling well or do not want to abide by these rules.

In the past, Kawa has charged a daily registration fee to participate in the event.  But this year only, Kawa has decided to make the event free of charge to the public!  We want to promote Bonsai and the fun of being outdoors in the state of Florida.  Being that this will be the first Bonsai show held since COVID-19 pandemic began, Joy of Bonsai being free is our gift to the Bonsai world.
Photo of Kawa member’s trees from Schley’s 2019 Summer event.  
Photo by Benjamin Lorber

Kawa members will be helping put together an exhibit of trees to showcase our club’s talent.  Trees displayed may be in varying stages of development but will showcase each of our member’s best work.  Kawa will be awarding a people’s choice award that all Joy of Bonsai attendees get to vote on.  Mike Lane will also be conducting a critique of the Bonsai exhibit.  The cost will be $10 and is open to anyone.  Even if you do not have a tree in the exhibit, participating is a great learning experience.

Mike Lane will also be conducting 2 workshops.  One of the workshops Mike Lane will be conducting is on Parrots Beaks ($275) and the other is on Shohin Bonsai trees ($250).  With the Shohin workshop, you get the opportunity to pick any Shohin tree from Schley’s Bonsai and Supplies to work on with Mike Lane.  Some examples of what you can choose are below.

If you decide to take a workshop, lunch will be provided free of charge.  If you decide not to take a workshop, there will be a small fee you will have to pay.  Kawa will be catering lunch.

Some possible choices for the Shohin Workshop
Pictures by Benjamin Lorber

Parrots beak for the class.

Parrots beak for the class.

A lavender star flower.

A few larger parrots beaks below.

(This one has potential!)


For those who decide not to take a paid workshop, Mike Rogers will be doing a demonstration in the morning.  Mike Rogers is a highly experienced Bonsai artist, and it is something you do not want to miss!

Another fun event that Kawa will be hosting is a styling competition.  The rules are that 2 people per club can enter to represent your club in the competition.  There will be a $25 entry fee for all participants and the tree gets donated afterwards for auction.  The species that participants will get to style are Junipers. Participants will bring their own tools; wire will be provided.  Winners will receive a prize.  One of the prizes will be a gift certificate to Schley’s Bonsai Nursery.

We will also have Vendors, if you are interested in Vending, please contact Jason Schley at schleybonsai@aol.com, or at (386) 675-3118.  Anyone interested in signing up for a class, critique, or styling competition can also contact Jason.  For payment options, please contact our treasurer Mark Ceskavich at trustee6.mc@bonsai-bsf.com or at (407) 401-1319.  Kawa takes cash, check, or card over the phone.

Mike Rogers working on a Brazilian Rain Tree grouping at Schley’s 2019 Summer event.
Photo by Benjamin Lorber
Possible trees that could be used for the styling competition.
Photo by Benjamin Lorber

Joy of Bonsai has always been a very special show for me personally.  Joy of Bonsai was the very first show I exhibited at as a young Bonsai artist.  Even though my tree may not have been 100% ready for showing when I first started displaying, since I was a club member, I was encouraged to bring my tree to enter as part of the show.  We still encourage all our members to display a tree no matter the level.  When I would display a tree, I would always include a timeline with my trees to show the progress that it has made since I began it.  In 2014, I was asked to put together a big timeline display on a trifold showing the progress I had made on multiple trees.  The timelines were meant to give the audience an idea of how far my trees have progressed. 

Displaying trees at Joy of Bonsai taught me the process of preparing a tree for show.  I learned how to properly moss, clean the leaves/pot, find the correct stand, and finally choose an appropriate companion item.  Small conventions like Joy of Bonsai prepared me for displaying at larger conventions like the ones BSF hosts.  This is a goal of Kawa, to have all members learn how to properly display a tree and understand the process of getting a tree ready for showing.

The tree I displayed the most at Joy of Bonsai was my Green Island Ficus that I rooted from a cutting in 2007 off of a Jim Smith tree my Mother had purchased.  The tree has been displayed at Joy of Bonsai from 2012-2016 and once at a BSF Convention.  My Green Island Ficus is in a bit of a rebuilding phase but I hope to display it at a future Joy of Bonsai!  I have not decided what I will display at Joy of Bonsai yet, so you will have to visit the show to see!

Something I would absolutely recommend is for everyone to take an exhibit critique.  Taking a critique is how I got valuable advice from Bonsai masters on how to improve my tree, display, presentation, etc.  I learned a lot by hearing someone else’s thoughts/perspective and I would highly recommend taking the critique with Mike Lane at this upcoming Joy of Bonsai!

The multi-tree timeline display I put together for Joy of Bonsai 2014.
Photo by Diane Lorber
My Green Island Ficus being displayed at the last Joy of Bonsai Kawa hosted in 2016.
Photo by Adam Lavigne

Sean Smith, Ted Matson, and Bill Valavanis studying my Green Island’s Timeline at the 2015 Joy of Bonsai Shohin+.
Photo by Trisha King Walters

            I would highly recommend attending this year’s Joy of Bonsai!  Kawa is very excited to be able to host the very first in person show since COVID-19 began!  Below is our rough schedule of the day.  The finalized schedule and registration packet should be coming out in the coming days and will be posted on our website.  Please visit kawabonsai.com for more information about our one-day event.  Feel free to contact an officer with any inquiries you may have!

            Kawa Bonsai Society hopes to see everyone at Joy of Bonsai 2021 on February 27 at Schley’s Bonsai and Supplies!!!

Joy of Bonsai Flyer and Schedule
Created by Benjamin Lorber

From the Presidents Desk

By Jorge Nazario

There is a select few in Bsf who know the ins and outs of what it takes to put on the Bsf Convention every year. There are literally hundreds of moving parts that must all come together at the precise moment in time so that everything runs smoothly. Some of those “moving parts” actually take place up to 15 months before the convention. For example, we now purchase material for the convention a full 2 years prior in order to “baby” them at the Bsf nursery. One extremely important decision to make in the early days is the choice of headliners. When thinking about headliners for 2021, I asked a very simple question, and the response was quite surprising. My question simply was, have we ever had an “all-female headliner” convention? The answer was not only no we have not done that before, but we think no one has done it anywhere. So, guess what?

The Bonsai Societies of Florida is very proud to present the 2021 Bsf Convention, May 28 – 30, 2021 featuring:

Jennifer Price – USA    A video with Jennifer

Elsa Boudouri – Greece   A video with Elsa

Lourdes Arnaez – USA a video of Lourdes

Mary Madison – USA     A video with Mary

We are still putting the final touches on program and workshop details. You can expect to receive an email soon regarding important convention dates and information. This will be an historic event you do not want to miss.

Winter Cypress

Photos and story by Mark Ceskavich

Each January I welcome the New Year with a same resolution (also on my “to do” list) – “Repot my Bald Cypress Bonsai”. Living in Central Florida I am fortunate to call the Taxodium Distichum a local variety, indigenous and so easy to work within its natural cycle by just noticing the big ones in the local bogs and river shores. As one of only a few tree species that can claim to be a deciduous conifer, the bald cypress presents a wonderful opportunity to witness its foliage bud bright green in the Spring, a full canopy through the Summer, seed cones and its turning to a tawny rust color in the Fall. 

In Winter, these trees become bare of any foliage and dormant – the perfect time for most any kind of work from collecting, root pruning, re-potting, to hard branch trimming and wiring. I keep just four or five cypress, and their winter work makes for great fun and reward for the month of January

While many bonsai enthusiasts know more than I about these trees, here are ten common sense tips and tricks I have learned along the way for keeping a cypress healthy and happy. I hope you find them helpful.

1. The hard work of collecting, repotting, root pruning is done in the Winter after the trees become dormant. This is more of a must do rather than a tip if you want your trees to survive.
2. Expect that you will have wire on your trees every year. Cypress trees grow so fast that trimming to develop ramification is an ongoing event, and I find that no cypress looks good with straight branches. In nature you will that see the big trees have this kind of movement fashioned from strong winds, many even losing their tops from hurricanes to become “Flat Tops”.
3. In winter I typically prune up to 50% of the root ball, always removing anything larger than a pencil size in diameter. The fibrous roots are what we are after for a healthy specimen.
4. If collecting I do not hesitate to “trunk chop” the tree to itsdesired height right away. You want new branches to sprout from the lower trunk which will be preserved in its final design.
5. Once a branch has good movement from previous wiring, I find that it has to have an attitude adjustment every so often. Branches will grow towards the sun and may have to be repositioned relative to the balance of the design. Using a guy wire that can be tightened over time does the trick. Just be sure to add something to prevent the wire from biting into the bark. 
6. In Winter I clean any lichen or moss off the trunk and branches. Moss will ruin the bark and lichen is just ugly. For me it is a tedious process and I always use a toothbrush and a piece of cypress twig taking care not to injure the delicate bark that will form over the years. When removing the tree from its pot I lift it by its heavy lower branches and not by its trunk for the same reason. That old bark gives the sense of great age to the tree.
7. When repotting there are many options for what soil to use. I use a medium bonsai soil mix with organic (bark) to facilitate that fibrous root. And when summer approaches, I will add a layer of milled sphagnum moss on top of the soil for further moisture retention.
8. Once repotted in the winter I do not fertilize until after the tree’s early foliage has hardened into a canopy. For me, this is early May. This prevents too much foliage growth. 
9. I water twice a week until foliage begins to bud, then I go for full sun and begin a daily watering regimen. In May I place the cypress trees into trays, or more appropriately, tubs where they sit in water until fall. Cypress need water, and cannot be overwatered.
10. If you have worked on your cypress for however long and you just don’t like it, plant it in the ground for a few years then start over. You can do a lot with these trees just remember they are life form and you just need to properly time and limit your work to keep them happy.


38” tall – in training 8 years, being restyled 

height 35 inches, 10 yrs in training

height 24 inches, 13 yrs in training

  Detail – shingled bark and knee

Last word

From the editor

As always, we are looking for articles, pics, interviews, videos, and even poetry, as long as they have to do with bonsai and their related arts. The articles can be fully fleshed out prose poems or the skinniest of skeletons, I can put some skin on them bones.

Send stories to: publications@bonsai-bsf.com

Plain text please, no formatting, and full size photos are fine, I can crop them accordingly.

©️2021 Bonsai Societies of Florida

7 thoughts on “Florida Bonsai Magazine: winter 2020

  1. Great magazine!! Great job to all the writers!

  2. Guess I’m going to move a couple cypress from the swamp out back and move a couple I’ve been working with into a in ground tub. Nice mag and appreciate the bald cypress information.

  3. Well done, a little bit for everyone, history, travel, bonsai knowledge and most of all keeping in touch. Bravo

  4. It’s been a very long year- thank you Adam for a bit of knowledge and inspiration. Looking forward to the convention and some normalcy.

  5. Excellent content and presentation – Congratulations!!

  6. Great magazine. Thanks to all who contributed to this publication.

  7. I always look forward to this publication. Great articles and quality pics!
    Thanks guys!

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