The Florida Bonsai Magazine: Autumn 2022

Presidents message

By Kathrin Harris

This is supposed to be the Autumn edition of the Magazine, but our Publications Chair, Adam, has been patiently waiting over two months for me to write the President’s Message. While I imagine he has had a chance to add more content, I’m pushing the envelope as far as this issue still counting toward Fall. (Editor’s note: I’m not changing the title now…)

As you enjoy participating in your local clubs’ meetings and events during the holiday season, I’d like to remind you of a few BSF events and timelines coming up:

EPCOT’s 2023 Flower & Garden Festival Bonsai Exhibit:

All members may submit a tree (think LARGE) for consideration to display during this spring to summer event. Deadline for submission is December 31, 2022 at 11:59 pm.  All expectations and requirements are available on the BSF website, as well as the submission form: Epcot 2023

A selection panel consisting of both Disney and BSF members chooses 26 trees to be displayed for thousands of visitors to admire among entries submitted. It is an honor and a fascinating adventure to have a tree selected. Good luck to all those who choose to submit a tree for consideration.


2023 CONVENTION –  Colors of Nature!  “A color is as strong as the impression it creates”

As every year, the convention will take place on Memorial Day weekend at the Florida Hotel in Orlando. This year’s headliners are Elsa Boudouri from Italy (originally from Greece, her YouTube channel: Bonsai Cosmos) and Jose E. Rodriguez from Puerto Rico (His Facebook page ).

  The convention website will go live on February 1, at which time available workshops are announced/described, information for volunteer, scholarship, club-night sign-ups is provided, and the submission for display consideration becomes available. More information about the website and all it contains will be emailed after the new year.

Logo Contest – we are seeking member input for this year’s theme of “COLOR“. If you have an idea and a bit of artistic initiative, please submit your ideas for a logo to match the theme via the website: LOGO CONTEST LINK

  The entry form suggests submissions are due Dec 3, but since I am the reason this newsletter information is tardy, the deadline is extended to Dec 23.

Exhibit – the exhibition of member trees (between 40-50 depending on size of trees selected) is a highlight of the event, and a wonderful learning experience for both owners who are selected to display their trees, as well as the viewers. The display is always free of charge and open for anyone wishing to see it. Submission information will be sent after the new year, as the convention website is nearing going live.

Scholarship Competition – an excellent opportunity for one member from each of our nine districts to show off their talent and compete for the $1000 first and $500 second-place PRIZE. Clubs should be soliciting members who may be interested in representing their district in this annual event. Should there be more than one candidate in a given club, the club holds a competition to decide which member represents them. Thereafter, members of each club within a district (some districts enjoy no competition as there is only one club) have a run-off to determine which candidate should compete in May at the convention. These local competitions are fun events for both competitors and club members. If you are interested to compete but your club has not advertised this event, nudge them and request to be considered a competitor!

Club Night – this is your club’s opportunity to get together and plan something that can involve many members. Clubs conceive of the bonsai creation they will work on, provide all the required materials, have as many members as possible participating on Saturday night during the convention, and are then judged for best execution and result by our headliner artists. Winning clubs are awarded $500 prize, and all creations are auctioned off at the end of the evening to benefit BSF.

This year we have chosen a theme: Land And Water. Try your best to incorporate those two ideas into the design. (Hint: the projects don’t necessarily need to be wet or dry).

Club Tree Exhibit-This is a chance for each club to come together and choose a tree to represent your members in a club-only exhibit. The clubs decide which tree to send to the convention, with the theme being “Color” (Hint: of course flowers have color, but so do some trees’ foliage).

Volunteers -As with everything, especially with non-profit organizations such as ours, volunteers are vital to our success! We need YOUR willingness to put in a few hours (or more) to help with raffles, during workshops, the exhibit, registration, set-up, tear-down…in other words, hundreds of hours are needing to be filled. There is an appreciable perk for volunteering: getting the hotel room night(s) under the BSF umbrella that means you don’t pay tax or “resort fee” (saving over $40/night!). Volunteers register their willingness to help, then subsequently sign up for the room nights and pay BSF directly via the website.

January Board Meeting-The BSF Board consists of Officers and District Trustees. We meet twice annually in Orlando: once in January, and once during the convention. These meetings are open to all BSF members for observation. If you have input, or a suggestion for an agenda item, please feel free to email me:  Our January meeting will take place on Saturday, January 14, from 9am to noon at the Florida Hotel.

I wish you all a joyous, peaceful, and reflective holiday season, one that will usher in a new year of health, contentment, and new possibilities! Having lost both my father and my husband this year will make our family celebration quite different, but life continues, and watching my new 8-month-old granddaughter develop makes it all worthwhile.


Collecting a tree with the President

By Adam Lavigne

A few months ago, I get a text message from the new BSF President, Kathrin, along with some pics:

“…..I was at my trust attorneys office today and saw this amazingly large ficus microcarpa. They are going to remove it…do you suppose we could salvage it for a future BSF demo (if it survives?)…”

“…It’s base is maybe 15×13 and it’s mainly up against a wall and probably growing underneath the sidewalk and stairs. I imagine 50-60% of the roots would be lost in removal…”

“….This is in Punta Gorda, just off 41 south of downtown. I could bring the saws-all or whatever other tools if you think you and I may be able to remove it and you can keep it alive!”

Well, I’m always game to do some digging, so I say “Sure, when do you want to do it?”

……and that’s how I found myself following Kathrin on I75, on the way to a Punta Gorda strip mall, at 5pm, on a Saturday evening, after a studygroup session, in December.

We get to the property about 5:15 and we have about 15 minutes before the sun sets. No worries, I’m good under pressure.

Kathrin got right into it, digging away the river rock they used for mulch.

We have a brand new blade for the reciprocating saw (the best blade for collecting is a 12″ Diablo pruning blade made by Milwaukee, the red blade you see below).

It was brand new, mind you.

The tough part, as Kathrin said, was the tree butted right up against the stairs. The way you dig a tree in Florida is to cut around the trunk, severing the big roots as you go around, and pop it out. We have it easy here in the Sunshine State. But, with the tree literally flush with the stair wall, that wasn’t an option.

But we persevered, and got it out.

It’s a fairly big tree.

And, in the pic below, that’s a big root. That was the root growing under the slab. It’s about 9 inches thick

It burnt up two batteries and wore out the brand new blade.

The tree fills up the back of my van.

Kathrin took all the top branches we cut off, for cuttings and disposal.

Now, a few days later, I find myself back at my nursery. I have to fit that tree into the round pot.

A little more root work..

And there we have it, it fits!

Strong tie down wires so it doesn’t move.

Some water.

And “Bob’s yer uncle!” Let’s hope it survives, it’ll make a fantastic demo tree for a BSF Convention in a few years.

Florida Artists Win at the 2022 Winter Silhouette Show

Photos by Rob Kempinski

Every December, in Kannapolis NC, Steven Zeisel and Bill Valavanis hold a uniquely themed exhibit at the North Carolina Research Campus, The Winter Silhouette Show. The theme, guessing by its name, is how trees look during the winter.

As usual, this year we had several Florida Bonsai artists join in the show.

Above is Rob Kempinski’s Slash Pine/Florida Elm display. Here’s a detail of the companion, belowRob tends toward high concept displays, with what looks like two native plants for companions, some turpentine (made from pine trees, like in his display) a pine cone and what looks like a chisel, and lastly, I’m sure he painted the tree landscape with the orange sky. Pure Florida.

And this year, several Florida bonsai artists win in a few categories.

The award winners are:

Bruce Hartman’s Brazilian Raintree won best Tropical

And Rob Kempinski won Best Flowering tree with his purple bougainvillea

Congratulations to you both, you’ve made Florida proud!

Joy of Bonsai

By Mark Ceskavich and Michael Rogers

It seems like February 2022 was just a week or so ago when Kawa Bonsai Society held its 16th Joy of Bonsai event in DeLand at Schley’s Bonsai & Supplies. Our headliner, Sean Smith, flew in and conducted workshops that included building kifu and carving shohin root stands as well as Maple and Juniper and BYOT classrooms. Sean was his usual best, really engaging with every attendee making the weekend not only instructional but fun too. Sean has a long history with Joy of Bonsai when in Bunnell, and his return was outstanding.

Local artists – Cossette Perdue, Mike Rogers, Ben Agresta and Bobby Block demonstrated their expert knowledge in pottery, Florida native trees, wiring basics, and Bald Cypress. BSF district 6 styling competition was held among three clubs with Edil Vazquez (CFBC) representing our district at this year’s convention in May. BSF President, Jorge Nazario, was on hand to judge and award his BSF President’s choice to an exhibit tree to his liking.  

Five BSF clubs attended Kawa’s event even though Daytona’s Race Week used up most of the area’s hotel rooms. With BSF clubs supporting other clubs the weekend was “A great weekend of bonsai”. Our club really appreciates the support of all of our local BSF clubs. Thank you, everyone who participated.

Well, February 3, 2023 is coming up soon for Kawa Bonsai Society’s 17th annual Joy of Bonsai in DeLand. Headlining will be someone familiar to many, Jennifer Price. Local artists, Mike Rogers, Mike Lane, and Abner Cruz will conduct demo’s and Mike Lane will lead a Premna and BYOT workshop. Have a look at Kawa’s website for more information and how to register. This year we are avoiding Race Week and have a room block set up here in DeLand, so plenty of room for all. We all hope you can make it to honor this long-standing Florida tradition.

To register Click here

Cayo’s Story


While many people emerged from the pandemic with exciting hobbies such as running, knitting, reading, and candle making, I think I took the cake as I surfaced with a newfound love of Bonsai. Nature has always interested me; I’ve always been curious as to how trees can form into strange shapes based on influential elements. At the same time, I’ve also been an avid sculptor since I was a young child, where my mother says she would give me pieces of clay instead of regular toys to keep me occupied. Merging my sculpting skills with natural curiosity, I decided to start learning the art of bonsai in early 2020.

Since starting, my bonsai education has taken me all around the world. While physically being on my couch at home in Tampa, I spent the majority of lockdown watching Japanese YouTube videos on wiring techniques and learning how to repot.

My bonsai education then encouraged me to take remote classes with renowned American bonsai artist Ryan Neil on the Mirai Live platform. My bonsai education also had me plant shopping most weekends and making frequent trips to Wigert’s for potting soil. After spending a year and a half learning and practicing, I heard of BSF’s 2021 scholarship competition, but unfortunately, I was too late to compete. Instead, I focused my time on preparing for 2022.

I joined Suncoast Bonsai Club and went to win all two competitions leading up to BSF.

Regardless of winning these, I was still so nervous to step into the conference room in May and line up next to Florida’s best upcoming bonsai artists. The BSF competition was challenging but I loved every minute.

While I won the competition, I know there is still so much to learn, and have decided to go on and take classes with Boon and David Cutchin. Bonsai is an ever-growing artform and none of us will ever truly know everything about it, but I’m determined to try.

Convention Poem

By Rebecca Lavigne

Spent some time at a Bonsai Bizarre

Saw many people from near and from far.

Vendors of trees and soil and pots

Tee shirts and tools for which there were lots.

The exhibit was awesome, food for the mind

Some so traditional, some one of a kind.

The workshops and demos were knowledge galore

The headliners gave us their all and much more!

Club Night was fun with so many who came

Old clubs and young clubs so new to the game.

The items for raffle were awesome each day

Trees and books and pots, made of clay.

Then at the banquet we remembered the fallen

Those who gave everything and followed the calling.

What an amazing weekend with friends

Always so sad the day that it ends.

Next year at convention time, get into your car

And drive to Orlando for the Bonsai Bizarre.


Excerpt from BSF Epcot Page photos from the 2022 exhibit by Jorge Nazario

Since the beginning of the Flower and Garden Festival in 1997, Bonsai Societies of Florida (BSF) has partnered with Walt Disney World (WDW) to display Bonsai in the Japanese Pavilion at Epcot. However, this is no ordinary display and by no means is it the usual process for creating an exhibit.   What looks to a Disney ticket holder as perhaps just another exhibit among the thousands of plants and flowers, took months of planning to have the trees on their stands.  

Purpose of this display

As per the BSF By-Laws, the purpose of BSF, in part, is to:

To advance the education of its members and the general public in the aesthetic, historical, scientific, technical skills, business, and social features of the art of bonsai.

To promote the knowledge, interest, appreciation, and enjoyment of the art of bonsai on the part of its members and the general public.

The annual exhibit at Epcot is in line with these goals. Additionally, WDW equally benefits with a world-class Bonsai display during their Flower and Garden Festival.

Criteria and order of preference  


WDW and BSF have stipulated the minimum heights (pot and tree) of the two tree categories.

Large trees must not be less than 30. ˝

Smaller trees must not be less than 20˝

These height requirements are adhered to strictly.

Trees must have “visual mass” which could be a large trunk or a very full canopy. This is required due to the large-scale setting they will be displayed in.  Small trees would be visually lost against such a grand background at the WDW Japanese Pavilion 

Application and photo process

Every year the process begins with the collection of entries submitted by Bonsai artists from all parts of Florida. Participants must be a member of BSF in good standing, and dues current.  On average, over seventy trees are submitted for consideration for display during the festival.  The deadline for submitting a tree is December 31st of the year prior to the actual show. 

Review and selection process

During the second week of January, the Committee schedules their meeting with Epcot to discuss the proposed Bonsai for display. However, it is not until the committee arrives at Disney that the selection begins.  The Chairman spreads out all the applications on a table showing only the photos.  All information about the tree and the tree’s owners is not shown during selection.  No one on the committee except the chair knows the details of the tree and owner.  Information about tree size, value, and dimension may be provided to assist with decision-making.  By doing this, bonsai selections are based upon the best trees while not being persuaded by the owner. Submission link

Bald cypress bonsai: a DYI project

 Shaji Mathews

 Bald cypress is one of the few trees that change color and appearance by the seasons in Florida.  If you ever drive across the “Big Cypress Preserve “section of the “alligator alley” on I-75 in summer, lush green of the groves of cypress on both sides of the highway is a welcoming sight. They change to rusty red in fall before dropping leaves in winter. Come spring, they sprout new leaves and the groves come alive.

Bald cypress is a very popular bonsai subject.  It is a very easy plant to germinate from seeds and be grown to a bonsai tree instead of buying a developed plant from a nursery.

Step one: Scope out a healthy tree in the neighborhood that has cones developing in summer.

Step two:  Cones mature in late summer /early fall. The cones break apart as they fall.  Gather some from lower branches or from the ground before the chipmunks and squirrels get to them. Note: the cones have a sticky sap, so handle them with gloves if desired.

Step three: Wrap the cones in wet paper towel and put in a freezer bag. No need to break them apart or separate the actual seed.

Step four: Leave the bag with seeds in the freezer for six to eight weeks.

Step five: Remove the bag from the freezer, thaw to room temperature.

Step six:  Plant the chunks of cone (seed and the rest the of the cone) in garden soil in starter pots.

Step seven: In about three months or so, seeds will start germinating in the pots. Wait a few months before transplanting.  

Now the waiting starts. Bald cypress are quick growers, so decide what you want to do with them and hopefully, in a few years you will have a bonsai tree or forest that you will be very proud of.


From the Editor

Adam Lavigne

Well, here we are again, about to close the year down. It’s old and haggard, bent and grey, walking with a cane towards its rebirth. I truly hope the New Year is a good one for us all, with no hard freezes, or hurricanes or drought.

It was a year, to say the least. But I’m grateful.

As Kathrin spoke to above, we have many good things to look forward to coming up.

The Epcot show, which I recommend you submit a tree to, is truly an awesome experience. First, you have nothing to lose; we’ve made it easier to submit (Click here), with a more fair and open selection process (for example: those on the selection committee cannot submit a tree, as that’s a serious conflict of interest. Incidentally, for this years convention exhibit, we are implementing the same policy). And remember, you must be a paid primary member of BSF, whether through a club or as an at-large member.

The Convention is gearing up and getting close. Jose and Elsa will not only bring their unique perspective from the environments they practice bonsai in (Jose is from Puerto Rico, with a climate much like Florida, and Elsa is from Greece, and lives in Italy, so many of the trees she works on are just like ours), but they are each amazing artists. I’m looking forward to seeing them in action.

With the Convention also comes the scholarship contest. If you wish to participate, tell your club president, or your District Trustee (Here’s the map and list) or send me an email ( and I’ll help you out. It doesn’t cost a thing and you could even win.

If your club wishes to participate in Club Night, send me an email ( so I can get you on the list.

And lastly, here’s the constant call for articles, pictures, poems, cartoons, events…anything having to do with Bonsai in Florida. The magazine can’t go forward without participation from you all, the BSF Members. It is your magazine. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation or spelling, we can fix that. We just need your experiences, your experiments, your thoughts.

And many thanks to Shaji for the bald cypress article, and Cayo as well. And everyone who’s contributed this year.

My email address for the magazine is

©️Copyright 2022 Bonsai Societies of Florida

3 thoughts on “The Florida Bonsai Magazine: Autumn 2022

  1. Jean-Edouard Viala December 14, 2022 — 8:32 pm

    Tks Adam for sharing the magazine with bonsai fans. I am always happy to read news about bonsai especially tropical. Keep the good work. We are hungry for more.

  2. Adam and Kathrin – An Excellent issue of Florida Bonsai Magazine – very interesting and informative!! Mike Knowlton

  3. Great “Autumn” issue. The story on the collection of the ficus brought back memories of wrestling podocarpus and bougainvilleas from very similar situations. I have a couple scarred knuckles as reminders of the battles. Looking forward to the May Convention. Colors are good!

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