The Florida Bonsai Magazine: October 2018


On the September 7th and 8th weekend, Florida bonsai artists set up over 28 displays at the US National Bonsai Show in Rochester New York.  Florida, although 1,200 miles away, had as many participants as the home state NY. Brazilian Rain Trees, Bald Cypress trees, figs and more showed the rest of the nation that high quality bonsai thrive in the Sunshine State. Overall the show featured 281 individual bonsai from 27 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Set up in an indoor soccer field, the milieu provided ample room to display the trees in traditional two and three point displays.  Also inside the arena were a plethora of vendors selling nearly every conceivable bonsai accoutrement.  Several bonsai professionals provided interesting demos. All in all, a weekend was barely enough to take in all the activity while still meeting old and new friends.

The Florida attendees salute Bill Valvanis and his team for putting on an outstanding event that showcased to the world the high quality of bonsai in our nation.  Bill promises to hold event number 7 in two years so start planning your participation now.

Here are some candid shots of the trees, as photographs were not allowed.





President’s Message


I would like to welcome two new members to our BSF team. Rob Kempinski is taking the reigns as second Vice President  from Adam Lavigne.  And David Camargo, the president of Literati Grove, has volunteered to take over the speaker’s bureau from Mike Knowlton. Both were approved by BSF Board votes per the BSF Bylaws.

Rob has been a member of BSF for many years and is a former president of Bonsai Clubs International. He is known around the world and has performed many demonstrations or programs at venues in every continent (except for Antarctica). He has written a book on bonsai, “Introduction to Bonsai, Growing and Appreciating Bonsai Across the Globe” which received excellent reviews but is sadly now sold out. However, he says a second edition is coming for those that don’t have a copy. He has also taken over the duties of Editor of the online BSF bi-monthly magazine along with our webmaster Jorge Nazario.

I would like to thank Adam for all his hard work on the past five conventions and in his duties as second VP. His effort to establish the online magazine is appreciated as and has made it a success.

David Camargo, the president of Literati Grove, has volunteered to take over the Speaker’s Bureau from Mike Knowlton.  They have been working together for the past couple of months to effect a smooth transition. If you have suggestions or ideas for speakers contact David. His email address is

Mike Knowlton, as expected, did a fantastic job as the BSF Visiting Artist Chair.  He brought in several renowned artists and continued to make this program a valuable part of BSF.  Thanks Mike for the effort for BSF.

In other personnel moves, Mark Ceskavich is the new trustee for District 4, he is the treasurer of the Central Florida Bonsai Club. Thank you to Donnie Emenegger for the last three years of service as District 4 trustee.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our third new club to the BSF family this year. Mike Blom has informed me that he has formed Emblem Bonsai Society in Ft. Lauderdale.  Contact information for Mike is

July’s show “Kormorebi,” Miami’s first National Bonsai Exhibition was sponsored by the 2nd new BSF club this year, Literati Grove Bonsai Society and Adam Lavigne. It featured Mary Madison, Ed Trout, Sergio Luciani and Adam Lavigne.  It was a great success, attended by many BSF members and over 500 public visitors .

Next year’s convention efforts are moving right along. We have now secured Ted Matson and Pedro Morales as headliners.  Jorge and Paul Pikel are working on a separate website for convention information and registration.  It is going to make online registration a lot easier.

We have been working on addressing a couple of items that were nonexistent in our “By Laws” and/or in our Guidelines and Procedures Manual.  This was brought on by several emails and phone calls regarding the absence of BSF rules in the ByLaws that govern the Epcot committee.  In the January 2018 board meeting, I asked for a panel to come up with some recommendations for the responsibilities of the “Epcot committee.” At the May 2018 board meeting, two suggestions were proposed. The one that was chosen by the board, voted on and passed was the following:

The Epcot committee will comprise of a committee chairman who will remain until he or she is replaced by the BSF president and approval of the board. The four other members of the committee include the presidents of the BSF, Central Florida Club, The Kawa Club and the Brevard Club or a club member designated by the club president. These positions will not be permanent, except for the committee chairman, as the BSF and clubs will rotate when new presidents are elected.

The second item to be added to our By-Laws and the Guidelines & Procedures Manual is the establishment of a “Code of Conduct” for all BSF board members and committee chairmen.

My goal is “onward and upward” to make our organization the best it has ever been. I am so fortunate to have such a great team with the same focus that I have. I am honored to be part of the team of Reggie Perdue, Rob Kempinski, Jorge Nazario, Barbara Poglitsch, Sandy Racinski, Paul Pikel, and a great team of committee chairmen and a board of trustees that are totally dedicated.  I feel enthusiastic about the future of BSF and the opportunity to support our membership especially considering we have 3 new clubs joining the BSF family this year. That’s a first in recent history.


From the Editor’s Desk:


Saburo Kato, the late President of the Japan Bonsai Association, traveled the world extolling the virtues of bonsai as a medium for global peace.  It’s true. Over the Internet and modern travel, bonsaists worldwide unite peacefully via a common passion. With the world rapidly spinning around us the need for Mr. Kato’s concept grows even stronger.

The peaceful nature of the art has its own beauty. Bonsai serves as a catharsis to help us relax and remove ourselves from the stress of the times.  I find practicing bonsai in my yard to be a relaxing and contemplative solo activity. But sometimes a community is needed, both to share camaraderie and perhaps to learn some of the technical aspects of the bonsai art. While the internet makes lots of information readily available, the purpose of the BSF newsletter is to focus on the bonsai scene in Florida and to publish vetted information that benefits BSF members about either what is going on in Florida, some of the unique aspects about the trees we grow (as compared to the rest of the temperate word), and perhaps to learn about our fellow artists. Florida is a big state and as a peninsula might be a bit insular, so please consider this a call for content. Please send me any announcements, ideas or content you’d like to see included in the newsletter. rkempinski@cfl.rr.comx   (Note: remove the x after com as I did this to prevent spam BOTs)


New BSF Clubs Provides Evidence of Strengthening BSF

Emblem Bonsai enters South Florida


Emblem Bonsai Society is a new group in South Florida designed for beginner to advanced bonsai enthusiasts. We aim for bonsai education, development, and improvement. We will incorporate various activities and events such as visiting artists, workshops, and field trips. We welcome people new to the art as well as seasoned veterans. We meet every third Tuesday monthly from 7-9 pm at the Tamarac Community Center (Hibiscus Room).


Literati Grove Opens in Miami


Founded in 2016, Literati Grove is a Miami-based collective focused on enriching the community through the Art of Bonsai. As artists and enthusiasts, we seek to enhance the common individuals’ appreciation and understanding to reveal the true values of bonsai. Our intention is to create a bonsai cultural center and program that advances and preserves American Bonsai in South Florida. We believe it would be significant for both the culture and public to have easy access and exposure to unique specimens by recognized artists. Thus, the creation of KOMOREBI2018.

KOMOREBI2018  was the seed to plant their vision. A celebration of art and cultural expression encouraging human/nature interaction. We are striving to continue this mission by being inclusive of all individuals who wish to materialize such an experience and space. If interested please send an email to so we may build.

Komorebi Bonsai Art Exhibit Opening Brings Bonsai to the Miami Culture Scene

KOMOREBI2018, hosted by the new Literati Grove Bonsai Collective, took place in July at the Miami Cultural Museum.  As a one-day show, hosted by the Literati Grove and Adam Lavigne, it featured an assortment of excellent trees from around the state. Also featured were some creative display ideas.  This type of thinking reveals the artistic side of bonsai in the Sunshine State.  




Bonsai at the Zoo

August 2018 – The Brevard Zoo, near Kennedy Space Center, has had a permanent bonsai display for over 12 years.  Each year though, the zoo expands the display for one weekend and in conjunction with the Bonsai Society of Brevard host a low-key bonsai exhibition.  This is “show what you brought” event with no pretension, aimed to encourage BSOB members to continue to develop their trees and to help educate the public about bonsai.  In addition to the exhibit, there are regular demonstrations, vendors, and a children’s workshop.


In addition to displays outdoors, all weekend there was work sessions set up near the exhibit for people to watch routine bonsai work being done.




Play it Again Sam – Humphrey Bougies

“From the verdant mountainsides of South America comes a flavorful refreshing plant.”  Sounds like the lead in for a coffee advertisement, right?  Nope, we’re talking about the tropical vine, Bougainvillea.

French botanist Philibert Commerson gave the plant its name in honor of Louis de Bougainville, the first French explorer to cross the Pacific.  This botanist sailed with de Bougainville in 1768 from France to Tahiti.  Bougainville discovered the plant in Brazil in 1790 and brought it to Europe where it became both widespread and popular.  Despite being a vine, bougainvillea as bonsai now has a worldwide following.

Bougies don’t need much water or fertilizer, but as a vine, they do require lots of trimming.  Normally grown for their colorful bracts, with time and care they can look attractive even without the bracts. Bougainvillea’s viny growth habit means a couple of compromises from the usual bonsai rules.  If you want to make one look like an azalea, you need to prune, prune, and prune.  Usually, the top of the tree can remain a little bushy creating a nice dome of colorful bracts.


Bougy wood is soft and if not treated will rot rather quickly.  One can use this tendency to develop features that add age.  Treating bougy cuts with lime sulfur will extend the duration of the dead branches and scars (jin and shari ) considerably.  Miniwax wood hardener also works to extend the life of the wood.  (BTW, this is a controversial topic in Florida bonsai circles.)


The plant prefers full sun and a well-drained potting mix. Actively growing bougainvilleas like moist soil but should be kept drier in winter.  Drier conditions seem to encourage flowers.  Fertilizer recommendations vary, but any houseplant fertilizer, used according to label directions, should give good results.  Use less fertilizer during the winter.  Ideal temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees during the day and 60 to 65 degrees at night.  The varieties with purple bracts have decent growth patterns for bonsai.  Pink Pixie has the smallest leaves and bracts.

Propagating bougies is easy.  Cuttings root readily.  Place them in pure pearlite, pumice or even, egads, Turface, and give a little water and roots will form. Stumps or logs that people have forcibly removed from their property can make nice bonsai. The thicker the stump, the easier it is to root, although everything seems to root. A favorite bougy collecting time is right after a hurricane has been through town. Lots of raw material is available then.


BSF Interview:

Phil Krieg, Architect of Bonsai


Looming over Southwest Florida is bonsai artist and retired architect Phil Krieg.  Phil has been the BSF Convention Exhibit chair for the past few years and has also presented some well-designed bonsai at the exhibits. His display last year received recognition by the American Bonsai Society.  His trees have also been selected several times for the US National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, NY.  He is an active member of the Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida and BSF.    

BSF: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your time in bonsai?

KRIEG: I’m an Architect who, before I retired last year, specialized in Senior Care, which is to say I know how to design environments for us old folk.  Regarding Bonsai, I started by visiting Wigert’s Nursery on Pine Island in 2007.  He had an Open House featuring Pedro Morales who did a demo on a Ficus.  I was fascinated with this idea of bonsai and intrigued to the point of purchasing one, which I immediately killed.  As an architect the idea of styling trees is the sort of thing I would love to do with my building designs but since construction realities are seriously limited my only outlet for my dreams are with these little trees.

BSF: What do you enjoy about bonsai?

KRIEG: It is relaxing for me to design and wire a plant and discover the tree inside.  Actually, it’s more than relaxing.  It’s almost hypnotic, you know, that wabi sabi thing.  And to watch the tree grow and flourish gives me hope for our future.  It’s an inspiration for my life.  I also enjoy the people who practice bonsai…so intelligent, friendly and kind.

BSF: As an architect, how do you approach the design of bonsai trees?

KRIEG: I can do wonderful branches that I can’t do with steel beams.  Buildings are limited with time, scope and cost.  Trees are only limited by your imagination.  We can produce a cantilever that is unthinkable in steel or concrete.  So, Bonsai gives my mind an open space to wander, play and enjoy the art of little trees.

BSF: Do you feel bonsai is a craft, art, or some combination? Or does it even matter?

KRIEG: It is both an art and a craft.  It just depends on who is doing it and their skill level.  A lot of folk just enjoy the craft of growing, wiring and repotting but they do have not developed the vision to conceive of and create a truly magnificent ancient tree.  I would consider this a craft…and that’s my opinion only.  But, when you see a Master take a bush and transform it into a tree right in front of you, you know that it is an art.  My goal is to become an artist, slowly but surely.

BSF: What was your favorite bonsai moment?

KRIEG: When I understood what it meant to find the “line” of the trunk.  That opened up my understanding of many other design elements such as taper.  My other favorite moments are when I learn something new regarding either design or horticulture.  Learning is constant and rewarding and I will never stop learning.

BSF: Thanks Phil.  By the way, Phil will be chairing the upcoming BSF convention exhibit again, so think about what you would like to display and get it ready.


Why Bonsai Are Like Turkeys

When you finish carving your turkey this Thanksgiving, don’t stop in the dining room.  Get out in the bonsai garden and carve up some driftwood.  But use some woodworking tools and not your electric carving knife.  Here are some tips on the types of carving tools and how you can use them.  Note sharp tools are inherently dangerous.  Before using any woodworking tool, make sure you understand the hazards and use appropriate personal protection. At a minimum wear eye protection, earplugs and a dusk mask. Always pay attention to where a sharp edge can go if it slips, and keep flesh away from those areas.

Bonsai cutters- Bonsai cutters can do a passable job making a jin (dead branch)  or hogging out a stump.  However, they will leave telltale traces and don’t offer the most wood removal flexibility.

Carving Chisels – the old fashion chisels do wonders on making a stump look creative.  These are what Michangelo used to do his work.  Ok, if you’re not an artistic genius, then chisels will take lots of practice.  The key to using chisels is to keep them sharp.  How to sharpen tools can get complex and deserves a separate article.  Chisels also work better when hit with a mallet.  A big drawback of chisels is the cutting load can jar the roots of a tree, so make sure the tree is fully secured when pounding on it.

Scorps – that’s not a typo, a scorp is a type of chisel of particular utility to a bonsai artist.  It excels at removing bark and placing grooves in deadwood.

Die Grinders – Normally used in the metal trade, die grinders feature a fast spinning shaft  (up to 18,000 RPM) with either a sharp bladed cutter or an abrasive bit.  Used much like a dentist drill, they, unlike a dentist, create cavities and hollows in driftwood.  Again, with practice a die grinder and an assortment of bits can create intricate sculpture. The Dremel is a hobbyist tool that can get good results for small carving job.  The Foredom Rotary carver has a flexible shaft giving good access  and more torque to the bit.  A nice feature of the Foredom is the quick removal and reattachment of a cutting head making it easy to switch bits for better carving variety.

Right angle grinders – These are heavy-duty industrial tools that can remove lots of wood in a hurry.  One cutter available for an angle grinder that does a great job on bonsai is the Lancelot.  It is a circular disk surrounded by a chain saw blade.  When used properly it can create deep grooves, hollows and interesting deadwood.


Chain Saws – If a spinning chain saw blade on a grinder didn’t scare you, then a full-fledged chain saw can come in handy on some large projects.  Electric chain saws don’t have an exhaust and can be used indoors, gas models are to be used outside.

Reciprocating Saw –Normally used in home remodeling, this power tool is handy in removing large branches. But it really works well at removing roots from congested root balls.

Electric Carving Chisel – these tools use a reciprocating motion to replicate the cutting action of a hand chisel. Since they use electric power they can move quicker than a chisel powered by a cutting edge.

Butane or Propane torch – A torch comes in handy in three ways: cleaning pitch and sap off bits, burning fuzzy remains from carved areas and steaming driftwood to bend it. Some even use the torch to thoroughly burn deadwood.



Diphthongs Spotted at Melbourne Meeting

By the late Gene Howell 

(The following is a reprint  of an article the late Gene Howell wrote for the  Bonsai Society of Brevard in October 2001.)

Last month, the newsletter introduced a reason for botanical names. Pronouncing them can be problematic. Six or seven syllables can be intimidating to think about without making an idiot of you.  When that word contains several vowels strung together, it is apparent that you cannot pronounce all of them or your tongue will end up tied in a knot.  So which do you pronounce?

Here are a few simple rules for pronouncing the names. The more you use the botanical names, the easier it becomes without stumbling on every other syllable.


  • All vowels, except diphthongs (two vowels written together), are pronounced.
  • A vowel at the end of a word has a long sound, except when it is the vowel “a”.
  • An “a” at the end has the uh sound, as in idea
  • A diphthong is generally pronounced as a single vowel. These are “ae” and “oe”, in which case only the “e” is pronounced.  Also “oi”, which is pronounced as in “oil”; “eu” which is pronounced “you”; “ai” which is pronounced as in “hay” and “au” which is pronounced as in “August”.
  • In family names “ae” is pronounced “e”, as in bee.
  • Consonants:
  • “Ch” has the “k” sound, except in words derived from a language other than Greek (don’t ask me which ones these are, cause I don’t have the slightest idea).
  • “C” followed by “ae”, “e”, “oe”, “i”, or “y” has a soft “s” sound.
  • When “C” is followed by “a”, “o”, “oi”, or “u” it has the hard “k” sound

There are many other rules I can’t mention due to lack of space, but at this point my brain is beginning to fog over.  I can only imagine the condition of yours after plowing through all this.  Don’t be discouraged though, because it will actually begin to clear up after going through it a couple of times.

After absorbing as much as you can without falling asleep, dig out one of your bonsai or gardening books and give some of the botanical names a try.  Keep these rules handy as you do so and you will quickly learn the rules.

By the way, you will probably never remember all of these rules (I certainly don’t), but if you keep this information available, you will be able to correctly pronounce at least 90% of the botanical names you come across.


American Bonsai

Among American bonsai artists, there is continuing discussion about “American Bonsai.” Does the term mean anything and if so what is it?  Saimir Ogranaja, of Fort Meyers, and photographer at the recent BSF Convention, has been writing an article for the American Bonsai Journal about the topic.  He canvassed several prominent bonsai artist to assess the idea.  The article will appear in the upcoming American Bonsai issue.  If you have opinions on this, share them on the BSF Facebook page.

BSF Facebook Page


BSF 2019 Convention Update 

 “Traditional meets Tropical”

The Convention Committee, chaired by Jorge Nazario (BSF webmaster) has been diligently working on the details for next year’s convention. The theme is “Traditional meets Tropical”.  Headliners for programs and workshops include Pedro Morales from Puerto Rico, and Ted Matson, from California.  Florida artists will be conducting workshops and demos as well.

Currently there is an open competition to design the logo for the convention.  Click on this link for more details. Contest

A full web based registration is in development  and several interesting programs are being lined up.  Excellent workshop and demonstration material has been already procured.  Open you calendar for Memorial Day weekend next year and be sure to attend and join in the festivities.


The Florida Bonsai Magazine: June 2018

From the desk of the President

By Ronn Miller

Hello everyone,

Now that everyone on the convention team has had a break, the convention committee is on target for next year’s event.  Jorge, our webmaster, has touched base with Pedro Morales and he has agreed to be one of our headliners.

This year’s convention was a great success! We broke several records, such as, first year in BSF history we sold out all the workshops before the convention started, including over selling 4 workshops.  We had the largest raffle revenues for Friday and Saturday since coming to the Florida Hotel, five years ago.Ed looking at those thorns and considering some life choices. photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I would like to thank all of our great Legacy and Life Time Achievement Award winning Florida artists and our well-known bonsai artists who participated in one of the best programs we have had in a long time.Jim Van Landingham in his pith helmet….ummm, his element photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I would also like to thank my convention team of Adam Lavigne, Jorge Nazario, Reggie Perdue, and Barbara Poglitsch; and the many volunteers that made this year’s event a success. Special thank you to Ben Agresta who led us into the future with his help of putting registration on line.  He helped work out the bugs in the program that promises to make registration easier.Mike Rogers explaining the meaning of life to Steve Gale photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I want to say a very special thank you to our webmaster Jorge Nazario for his extra effort in organizing the many volunteers that made the convention run smoother than ever before. He requested volunteers in advance through the website and received a great response.  His idea to schedule volunteers to tasks in advance, resulted in folks being able to help in their available time and still have time to enjoy the convention.  Many volunteers came up to me and said what a pleasure it was to “work for” Jorge throughout the weekend.  Additionally, Jorge was with me during the meetings that I had with the Florida Hotel and his assistance was a great help in the planning stages of the event.Sam Wollard doing Mary Madison’s bidding photo by Rosemarie Voelker

The work that was accomplished to put an event together such as this is unique, and at times, very demanding. Even though we now have online registration, Barbara, our treasurer, has the giant task of reconciling all of the sales and income and outlays from the beginning to the end.Reggie Purdue realizing he’s going to have to use some wire after all photo by Rosemarie Voelker

I received some great news from the Miami district that we have a new club to welcome to the family. The new club is Literati Grove. The President of the club is David Carmago; his email address is

We are looking forward to the next big event in South Florida. Adam Lavigne and the new club, Literati Grove, are Hosting the Komorebi 2018 event which will be held on July 28 2018 featuring Mary Madison, Sergio Luciani, and Ed Trout. Hosted by Adam Lavigne (See Flyer below)

A big Thank you!

By Jorge Nazario

Several months back, when we began planning for this year’s convention, we realized (remembered) that we needed volunteers to assist with the many events that happen, sometimes all at once, during a convention. In April, we put out the word that we needed volunteers and, to our surprise, approximately 25 people answered the call. I still remember one year when all of the Thursday “grunt work” was done by 5 people; Jose Perez from CFBC, Mike Hadwin from Brevard and myself, with the exhibit being put together by Kathrin Harris and Lunneta Knowlton by themselves.

After the overwhelming response this year, we organized the volunteers and assigned “duty stations” for each one. They knew in advance when and where they were needed along with precisely what needed to be done. Not only did they all show up, but everyone went above and beyond. All demos, workshops, raffles, registration, vendor area, and exhibit had the assistance of at least 2 or more volunteers at all times.

I know, full well, that the success we had during this year’s convention was due in large part to the dedication and assistance of the volunteers. On behalf of BSF, and my lower back, I thank you for all of your help.

I would like to recognize the clubs represented through their volunteers;

• Bonsai Society of Brevard

• Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida

• Treasure Coast Bonsai Society

• Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota

• Hukyu Bonsai Society

• Lighthouse Bonsai Society

• Central Florida Bonsai Club.

All of these clubs should feel very proud of the way they were represented at this year’s convention through the volunteer effort of their members. It was truly an honor working with them all.

Jorge L. Nazario

Volunteer Coordinator (editor’s note: or, as he described himself- ” the handsome big guy in the security polo”)

The 22nd Bonsai Show at Flamingo Gardens

By Art Cid, photos by Gail Santini

On April 21-22, 2018, the 22nd Annual Garden and Bonsai Show at Flamingo Gardens was held by the Broward Bonsai Society.

Demonstrations and lectures took place on various topics throughout the weekend. Two local artists, Hiram Macias, and Ed Trout, performed tree styling demos for the event. The trees were raffled after each demonstration.

Mr. Hiram Macias

Mr. Ed Trout, assisted By Art Cid.

The Exhibit included many varieties of tropicals and evergreens that were displayed beautifully.

To round out the show, there were trees and bonsai items for sale.

Hiram worked on a ficus cascade and did his usual magnificent job.

It was well attended even though we had rainy days and thunderstorms that left us without power during Ed Trout’s demo.

Ed finished his tree under light provided by cell phone flashlights and he had no problems styling and wiring his masterpiece under these less than optimal conditions.

Hope to see you there next year!

Arturo Cid, President, Broward Bonsai Society

The BSF Convention, 2018: A Legacy of Learning- the Club Night Competition

By Barb Hiser

If you are one of those people who thrive on chaos, excitement, adrenalin, dirty hands, sticky muck, and good-natured trash talking, then Club Night is for you!

Club Night is an annual event at the BSF Convention.  It is just as it sounds: an opportunity for Florida bonsai clubs to sign up ahead of time to create a group project within the time limit of 3 hours on Saturday night of the Convention.  The purpose: to promote healthy competition among clubs and teamwork among club members. Each club traditionally donates their completed project to BSF, and it is auctioned off at the Banquet, earning some money to for the convention expenses.

Tables and tarps are set up by the BSF Volunteers (awesome work, by the way), and several hours before start time, wagons filled with plants, wire, buckets of soil and muck, tools, rocks, moss, and pots can be seen as they are hauled into the room.  The only preparation that can be done ahead of time is a light tree trim, and perhaps pot/slab preparation. All other work must be done during the time limit, including design, wiring, repotting, mossing, and table set up at completion.  Most clubs have several planning meetings prior and a ‘dry run’ to be sure it goes off like a finely tuned machine at Club Night.  Think about Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s Pit Crew….now imagine that activity applied to a bonsai slab. That is Club Night!

More or less!

The starting bell has just rung, and BSOB is getting to work:

Excitement in the rooms escalates as the clock is ticking, and chaos erupts as participants roam the room looking to borrow a special tool, or moss, or soil.

When the final bell rings,  all work stops.  But in the last few hectic moments, clubs sweep up around their table, remove all signs of trash, place their tablecloth, and then STOP!  Here are the final projects:

BSOB’s entry- a Ficus salicaria forest with a haiku companion and a hand made slab which was made during a club event; it earned $250 at the auction.

KAWA’s Green Island Ficus in a Chinese pot; it earned $120 at the auction.

Suncoast’s Podocarpus tanuki;  With the bleached and weathered deadwood, it served as a tribute to the recent volcanic eruption in Hawaii; the pot was made by club members; it earned $100 at the auction.

Treasure Coast’s forest beach, with Texas ebony and a sandy beach; it went for $100 at auction.

Hukyu’s re-creation of Hallelujah Mountains in the hit movie, Avatar.  It contained mixed plants and even had some dry ice to add to the final effect; it went for $215 at auction.  This magical creation won Second Place.

Southwest Florida’s Ficus and Fukien tea ‘river’, a loving tribute to a pioneer in SW Florida, Virginia ‘Jenny’ Boka.  She was a founding member of the club in the early 70s and studied with Zhao.  In her honor, they used only clip and grow technique for a natural style, using her trees and companions in this display. She is in her 90s now and moved to Ohio last fall; friends say she is still a dynamo in real life!  This made $300 at the auction, and the club earned $500 for their treasury because this was the First Place Winner!

Sam Wollard, President of the Southwest Florida club and a BSF Volunteer, proudly holds the First Place trophy. Their club gets bragging rights for a year, and then they will give it up to the ‘new’ winner at BSF Club Night 2019

Our judges were Louise Leister (left) and Ed Trout (center); the BSF Chairperson for this popular event was Dr. Reggie Perdue (right).  Thanks again for another fun event!

After the judges’ decisions were made and prizes were awarded, we headed to the hotel bar/grill, Crickets.  Some celebrated their wins, and some cried in their beer (or sweet tea)!

If you have not participated in Club Night, start planning for next year.  Family and friends are invited for ‘the gallery’ and who knows…..your club could have bragging rights for a full year!

No more waiting until “next year”…….well, until next year….

By Josh Brown,

photos by Josh Brown unless noted otherwise

February 28, 2018 was really something special. That date might not initially hold a lot of meaning to you, however, that was the first day of the 2018 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and holds special meaning to me. To help you understand why, I need to go back to 2007, when I moved to Florida.

The spring of 2007 found my wife and I at the Epcot Flower and Garden festival wandering through the World Showcase. Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were bonsai trees on display for the event.

photo by Louise Leister, at the 2007 show

I was totally engrossed in those trees and spent what my wife would lovingly describe as “a little too much time” studying each one. Seeing what quality trees looked like in person had me in total awe and made me want to learn more about the Bonsai Societies of Florida.

photo by Louise Leister, at the 2007 show

At that time in my life I had two trees, which had traveled with me from Illinois, but I had no real training or idea what bonsai could become.

photo by Louise Leister, at the 2007 show

Looking back now I realize this was the watershed moment that started the bonsai journey I have been on for the past 11 years. I can safely say it has been an amazing journey. To go from total awe in 2007 to putting a tree on display at Epcot on February 28, 2018 is something that still strikes me as surreal. I kept asking myself,

“How did I get here? How do I now have a tree worthy of being seen by literally millions of people?”

Especially considering I almost didn’t submit any trees for consideration…

Although I have been practicing bonsai for 11 years, I have only previously displayed a tree once, at the 2016 BSF convention. I enjoy bonsai practice immensely and find it very rewarding, but the idea of presenting a tree for public opinion is more than a little intimidating. I am often my own worst critic and since bonsai is never “finished” I always have a tough time thinking anything is ready for show.

December 2017 was no different, I was out in the garden doing a great job of talking myself into submitting trees for consideration “next year”, with no thought of the 2018 Epcot show. That changed when I was out doing my winter preparations one weekend. I was studying my deciduous trees in silhouette and I thought they were really starting to look nice. It was then that I realized I was holding myself back by not applying. The worst thing that could happen was that it would not be selected. Even if that happened I wouldn’t like the tree any less and would have lost nothing. Plus I would learn from the experience and have a better idea what was worthy for the elusive “next year.” So, out came the camera, a terrible backdrop, and my less than stellar photography skills.

Imagine my surprise a month later when I hear from the illustrious Epcot leader, Paul Pikel, that my Bald Cypress had been selected for the Exhibition. I was over the moon with excitement and told almost everyone I saw that week, of which 90% probably thought I was mildly unstable. Although I had never voiced it out loud having a tree at Epcot was a bucket list item for me. After all that excitement, one would think that the event itself could never live up to my expectations.

Well, I can safely say the event didn’t live up to my expectations….because it actually exceeded them. I was in awe during the entire setup process and didn’t want to leave. from the left, Fellow first time exhibitors Josh Brown and Barb Hiser, and Barb’s husband Guy. Photo by Adam Lavigne

Not only was my tree now on display, but I was part of a distinguished group of artists, many of whom had helped me and taught me through the years.

Josh beaming with pride at set up, photo by Adam Lavigne

My bonsai journey still has a long path to travel, but this Epcot stop was something special.

Some of you reading this may have never displayed a tree, while others may have displayed trees so many times it has become routine or even boring.

photo by William Moore from the Bonsai Clubs International Instagram page

I ask each of you to remember this, the trees we put on display today will inspire the next generation of bonsai artists.

Josh’s cypress, mid show, photo by Adam Lavigne

I can only hope that in another 10 years someone else can say that seeing my tree at Epcot inspired them to pursue bonsai. I have gained a lot and grown from the experience (no pun intended).

I can safely say that Paul will have to put up with me for a while now because I will definitely be submitting trees for consideration…. NEXT YEAR!

Florida Buttonwood: a review

By Mary Madison and Jean Waldberg (reprinted from Florida Bonsai, vol. 5, no. 2, February 1975)

(editor’s note: it is our intention to reprint at least one article from the Florida Bonsai Archives in each new issue. If you’re perusing your old stack of magazines and think an article is important, drop us a line at Enjoy this month’s article by the Queen herself)

Some of the greatest bonsai in the world are those collected specimens which reflect a struggle for survival against the overwhelming odds of the ravages of nature. The appreciation of any collected bonsai specimen is enhanced by the realization of this struggle for survival.

The Florida buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) is unique in its struggle in that it is not indigenous to south Florida and has had to survive not only frost, floods, and violent winds but storm tides and Man too! It is also unique in that is has received aid in its struggle from alligators!

Florida is of recent geological origin and the primary habitat of Conocarpus erectus (the Everglades and the Florida Keys) is thought to be only about 5,000 years old. Current thinking is that the plant species did not evolve in the area but in the Caribbean Basin and was transported to Florida by tropical storms.

Frank C. Craighead, Sr. (in The Trees of South Florida, vol. 1, University of Miami press, 1971) considers the Everglades,

“ of the most formidable of our natural environments“.

Dr. Craighead states further,

Nowhere else in all our land can be found so many adaptions between such a complex of physical factors and varied biota”

(Biota is the combined plant and animal life of a region)

The primary factors in development of vegetation types are soil, water (fresh/saline), drainage, and elevation. In South Florida, these factors are measured in inches! A difference of two inches in average water-level results in profound changes in vegetation. Buttonwood occurs where peats have built up above mean sea-level.

Black, red, and white mangroves and buttonwood cover much of the low coastal areas of the South Florida shoreline. On the landward edge of the Saline Mangrove Zone (a crescent-shaped area at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula) is the buttonwood embankment or buttonwood levee. This embankment impounds the freshwater swamps of a three-County area (Collier, Dade, and Monroe) and this separates normal tidal waters from the impounded fresh water.

Freshwater plant associations of sawgrass, spike-rush, buttonwood strands, bay heads (tree islands of swamp hardwoods), willow heads, and cypress domes thrive in the marl and peat of these freshwater swamps. The coastal levee, before white man’s activities in the area, was occupied by stands of mature buttonwood and other tropical hardwoods. Now, prairies of shrubby growth and immature buttonwood occur in this area.

Within the Saline Mangrove Zone are saline buttonwood islands or strands (editors note, it is “strands” and not stands: from Wikipedia-“A strand swamp or strand is a type of swamp in Florida that forms a linear drainage channel on flatlands. A forested wetland ecological habitat, strands occur on land areas with high water tables where the lack of slope prevents stream formation. … Beneath a strand swamp are layers of peat). Buttonwood forms almost pure strands on the islands which have built up a peat elevation of one foot or more. These areas are one and a half to three feet above mean tide but are submerged by storm tides (storm surge).

The coastal prairies also have strands. Hurricane Donna (1960) deposited a layer of marl mud on the coastal prairies, which furnished an excellent seedbed, and buttonwood have now taken hold on these prairies.

The general climate of the area is subtropical with temperature mean varying around 15 degrees Fahrenheit between summer’s high and winter’s low. However, at periodic intervals, frosts do occur. Buttonwood, and all three species of mangrove, are severely damaged by temps at 30f, with buttonwood and white mangrove the most susceptible. Frost will “cut back” top growth of buttonwood down to persistent root systems, which will then form dwarf communities of many-stemmed shrubs.

Rainfall is seasonal with 60-80% of annual precipitation occurring from May through October.

The effects of hurricanes are many: plant species are brought to the area by hurricanes as well as bird species; trees are sheared off completely by tornado-like winds; trees are stripped of branches and completely defoliated; trees are uprooted; rootlets are broken by the swaying of trees; and trees are flooded by the highly saline tidal waters which rush across the low elevations of South Florida.

The highest mortality of vegetation from hurricanes occurs in low areas on which a deposit of impervious marl (.1-.5 feet) is deposited by high tides. This causes oxygen deficiency to the rootlets of completely defoliated trees, and they cannot survive.

Although mangroves can tolerate a salinity of 40,000 ppm of sodium chloride, buttonwood is usually destroyed where this concentration is held for a few months. However, buttonwood can tolerate salinity of 1,000 ppm, and more, if the flood of storm tides is followed by heavy rains which dissipate chlorides.

Alligator trails are an important factor in the flow of water through the Everglades and in the formation of buttonwood strands. Tearing the roots of mangroves with their snouts and tails, they serve to keep the mangrove creeks open. The decline of alligators has allowed the mangrove roots to grow, accumulate debris, and many former mangrove creeks are now buttonwood strands.

Alligator nests, built of plant materials two to three feet high and six to eight feet wide, are “taken over” by buttonwood when abandoned by the alligators.

Buttonwood has been a commercial commodity in Florida. The very hard wood was used to make buttons. Buttonwood charcoal was a primary source of fuel before the introduction of kerosene. Buttonwood hammocks we’re cleared for producing charcoal from around 200 years ago and as recently as 40 years ago (ed. note-that would be 80 years now. The charcoal was used to smoke mullet, among other things, which was an important commercial fish until about 20 years ago, when the closed the fisheries due to overfishing). One cord of buttonwood produced 10 bags of excellent charcoal.

Conocarpus erectus, The Florida buttonwood, has obviously evolved very successfully and is a vital part of the ecosystem of South Florida. The buttonwood thriving in the Everglades National Park is untouchable, and specimens are unreachable except by the hardiest explorer.

But what of those “easily collectible” specimens in the other areas, notable the Florida Keys?

Buttonwood is found throughout the Keys, generally in the Mangrove Zone. Although usually found on elevations a foot or so higher than the mangroves, buttonwood is also found in areas exposed only at abnormally low tides.

On the Upper Keys, buttonwood, growing in pockets of soil and accumulated debris, tend to have larger leaves than those plants on the Lower Keys, which are growing in rocks with little soil. Silver buttonwood (C. Erectus “sericeus”) is found on the Lower Keys too.

Collecting can be done throughout the year. However, during the Spring and Summer months, the plants suffer little or no shock. The Collector will have to endure endure heat, mosquitos, deer flies, sand flies, and other pests. During the Fall and Winter months the plants do suffer shock and are slower in recovery. Although some plants are lost, if they are kept well-watered for three to six months, they may recuperate. For the Collector, Fall and Winter months are far more pleasant. But the rest of the year there are other hazards: ants, scorpions, innumerable species of snakes, poison-wood, and even crocodiles. The latter won’t bother you if you don’t bother them!

The most appropriate collecting tools are a small pick, a hatchet, loping shears, and, of course, plastic bags.

After trudging over the rocky, razor-sharp pinnacles of coral rock and/or through knee-deep muck, one arrives at a collector’s “Heaven-on-Earth”- a forest of naturally dwarfed buttonwood, complete with tiny leaves, driftwood and natural jins by the score. And all possibly never before seen by the human eye. There they are, growing in the hot sun, sprayed by salt, torn by winds, flooded at each tide, and growing in what seem to be solid rock.

There is respect and admiration for these living “miracles” of Nature. With discretion and discrimination, the Collector selects just a tree or two.

The books must now be forgotten. One cannot root-prune or take a fine football out of almost solid rock. One must clip the roots, get as much as possible, cut back the top, and if there’s a pool of water nearby, set the specimen in it until ready to leave. Otherwise, after spraying fresh water on it, place the tree in an opaque plastic bag and, if possible, set it in the shade.

If you’re unable to pot immediately on arriving home, set the buttonwood in a bucket of water. Even left in water for extended periods of time, it will form a new root system. The buttonwood is truly an incredible tree.

Optimally, pot into a bonsai container as soon as possible. Experience indicates greater success with buttonwood if all drastic pruning, both of the tops and roots, is completed when potting immediately after collection.

The critical time for buttonwood seems to be in the repotting, once established in a container. The root system will sprout at the very terminal of the larger roots, and not in a general rootball at the base of the tree. Therefore, cut the long, heavier roots back initially, or the entire root system, which develops in the container, will have to be sacrificed at repotting. Occasionally, a more complete root system can be developed at scoring heavy roots at the base and applying a root stimulator to the scored area.

Pruning at time of collection should be drastic; and if Little or no root system is obtained, completely defoliate the tree!

Potting soil mixture should be organic and can be either a rich, black potting soil or a mixture of soil, gravel, and calcined clay particles.

Watering is key to success with buttonwood. Remember, it’s natural habitat is moist, damp, and even wet areas. To encourage growth of the root system, or if your buttonwood is not recovering from the shock of collection, submerge it in a pot of water. Never allow the tree to dry out completely. Buttonwood are susceptible to cold and should be protected at temperatures below 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit. In South Florida, it will tolerate 35f, if sprayed with water constantly through the cycle of evening drop in temperature through the morning rise of temperature.

The driftwood or deadwood, which is so striking, can be left untreated. The forces of nature which created this magnificence seem to have made it impervious to decay. If desired, after the plant is established, it can be treated chemically to bleach and further preserve the driftwood.

Although in South Florida there is little experience with buttonwood as indoor bonsai, it would seem an ideal candidate. The plant can be treated almost casually, requiring little maintenance as long as it receives plenty of light and a humid atmosphere. It should, of course, receive plenty of water.

From the Editor

By Adam Lavigne

As I put this issue together, I am up in the Midwest on a bonsai teaching tour and trying to write between all the demos, private sessions, and workshops. One would think I would be able escape the heat of Florida up here in Michigan and Ohio but it seems as though the heat followed me. The only respite is the humidity is low compared to Florida. Like that makes a difference when it’s 96f.

As I visit the Midwest bonsai collections and work on the trees, the one thing that really strikes me is the ratio of tropical to temperate trees up here compared to Florida. It’s about the same, believe it or not (or else I wouldn’t be returning so often I guess). Many bonsai hobbyists love tropical trees. It gives them something to do in the winter.

One idea that I presented to the board when I became the editor of this magazine, and what’s been guiding my hand as editor, is to introduce the force that Florida Bonsai is, to the rest of the Country and the World. The Bonsai Societies of Florida is the second largest statewide organization in the Country, behind California (who had a head start in bonsai) and ahead of Texas. I think we have both the trees and the talent to at least pull even with California, if not surpass them.

Our artists have been dominating in several shows of late (such as the Winter Silhouette show in Kannapolis, SC), we’ve had Floridians who’ve been members of the boards in the ABS, BCI and even president of the latter.

Our goal is to highlight and support both Florida artists and professionals, and the many public collections, such as the collections at Shelby Gardens or the Melbourne Zoo, or Heathcote, through articles and social media posts, and thus present Florida Bonsai to the World.

To do this, we, the Board, have decided that the Florida Bonsai Magazine will be open and free to all, both to look at and read, and to share. To help BSF in this new idea, post this issue, and the back issues, on social media, share the links on emails to your bonsai friends around the Country, print it out and take it to your club meetings. Share it.

Imagine the next time you are scrolling through Facebook and suddenly you see a guy from Portugal quoting and the article from Jim Smith that they read from the last issue. How proud will that make you?

Florida Bonsai has much to share with the World. Let’s stand up and make them notice.

Adam Lavigne

Florida Bonsai Magazine editor

As usual, we are always looking for articles, simply send them to Don’t worry about spelling, or punctuation, we can fix that. We can even flesh out just an outline if that’s all you have.

©2018 Bsf

The Florida Bonsai Magazine: April 2018

From the desk of the President

By Ronn Miller

Greetings!  First, we would like to welcome Bob Wertz as the new Trustee #8 for the Broward club and the Gold Coast club.  He will replace Art Cid who has done a great job of supporting and representing the clubs for the Bonsai Societies of Florida. Thank you, Art and best wishes. We also would like to welcome a new club to the BSF, The Forest Bonsai Club of Ocala.

BSF convention news for 2018. You now have, for the first time, a chance to register for the convention online. We launched the website a couple of weeks ago.  We have had some bugs with the system but we have smoothed them out and it seems to be working fine now. There have been many registrations and, in fact, two workshops have sold out (see workshop trees at the end of this message.) There are going to be more than 16 vendors with everything from completed trees, pre-bonsai, tools, supplies, display stands and much more.

We need volunteers to help in many areas. If you volunteer, your club will be eligible for a share of the profit and you will also be able to go on the BSF registration list for your “tax free” room nights. If you would like to volunteer, please fill out the volunteer application form and submit it. Our webmaster, Jorge Nazario  ( ) is the volunteer manager for this year’s convention, he will contact you after receiving your application and will put your name on the hotel room “master list”, you may then register for the convention.  On the registration, write “Master List”  for hotel reservation number.  For those on the master list, your payment for the room is $106 if requested by 15 April. Please make sure you receive confirmation from Jorge prior to making a room reservation at the hotel.

A check for your room payment is preferred.

Please mail to:


5622 S.E. Lamay Drive

Stuart, FL 34997-6548.

Rick Jeffery ( be the lead on the raffle again this year. Contact him with donations. Barbara Hiser ( be the contact for the Brevard club for the raffle on Saturday and Noreen Sherman ( will be the contact the Treasure coast for the raffle on Sunday. Get your donated items ready!

Phil Krieg ( is the lead for the exhibit.  The cutoff date for submissions for the exhibit is May 1st! Submit online Here

Ronn Miller is the contact for the vendor area. Send an email with an intent to be a vendor and he will contact you about registration. Remember that vendors are eligible for inclusion on the tax free Master List for hotel rooms.


Green island ficus!

The 2018 Epcot/BSF trees

By Adam Lavigne

Once again, Paul Pikel and the Epcot Committee have assembled some of the best trees in Florida for Bsf’s role in the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.(thanks to Kathrin Harris for the above collage)

This is the 25th year of the festivals run at Epcot, and it is a special one for sure.

As usual, the exhibitors had to be at Epcot bright and early on the first day of the show for setup. We only had until 11am when the Japanese Pavilion was opened to the public! But, as usual, the Disney people were able to pull off the Magic and have everything ready for the opening.

There is a great mix of trees this year, from Pinus Thunbergia to Ulmus parviflora, and all the tropicals you can imagine in between (we are in Florida after all!).

The display has four areas….

…..the zen garden….

…….the meadow….

…..and Tori gate left, and right.

There are 21 trees on display again, and the show runs until May 28th, in the Japanese Pavilion.

The committee, expertly run by Paul Pikel, had a tough job this year paring down the more than fifty entries.

But Paul is a boss, and the job was done well.

It is a pleasure to watch Disney guests look at the trees and wonder aloud at the time it takes to create such beautiful works of art and to marvel at some of the ages of the trees.

I overheard one guest exclaiming about the above buttonwood, which is estimated to be about 200 years old, saying,

“Imagine the things this tree has seen, on the southern coast of Florida, the hurricanes, the pirates, the treasure hunters. It is humbling to be in its presence”

Many of the trees have stories….

……and impressive provenance…..

….often being passed from one collection to another. The above elm, owned by Ben Agresta, has been everywhere, starting in China, to Mississippi, to Ohio, to Michigan, and finally to Florida.

We had a few new species…..

…..such as the water oak, above, which was collected and styled by Julie Trigg. It’s my favorite tree in the show.

And the old standbys like the green island ficus of Reggie Purdue, below.

Next year, we hope to see your tree, just remember to submit one. The deadline is December 31st, at midnight. So there’s no excuse, get that pic today, and send it along.

(photo credit, Guy Hiser)

Using unrooted portulacaria afra cuttings in bonsai

By James J. Smith

(Editors note: this article was originally published in The Florida Bonsai Magazine in 1980, and again in 1989. With the upcoming workshop at this years convention, as well as the theme, we thought it was appropriate to reprint it again, enjoy!)

Succulent group planting (for smaller unrooted cuttings)

This type of planting can be styled as a formal forest, using the three basic trees as a base, or as a more formal type saikei type planting. The cuttings should have straight trunks for the formal style, but may be any style for the saikie style planting.

Figures 1 and 2 show a saikei type planting using all straight trunk cuttings. This type of planting is very easy to do because the cuttings can be inserted into the soil to within 1/4″ of the bottom of the pot. Since the soil is rather deep, the cuttings should be stable enough without being wired. If not, they may be wired as show.

After you have taken the cutting, prepare them by removing all the leaves and branches that will be below the soil. Some pruning may be done at this time, but more will be necessary when you plant them.

Next, arrange them on a table according to size, so you can easily pick the appropriate size for the composition.

The pot should be prepared, as usual, with screen over the drainage holes, and then place your rocks and bond them together and to the pot using your favorite method, whether it’s epoxy, cement or even hot glue. Fill the pot with soil and contour it to the desired shape. If your cuttings have dried sufficiently (at least 24 hours) then you can use moist soil. If not, bone dry soil is best.

You are now ready to plant your cuttings, starting with the tallest first and working your way down to the smallest. Make sure that all pruning is completed before placing the cuttings, then plant them deep. If more pruning is needed after all cuttings are in place, it is usually better to wait until they have rooted.

If necessary, the cuttings may be wired together with thin wire (22 guage copper or 1 mm aluminum) for more stability. The less they move the more roots.

At this point, it is best to carefully move the tray planting to its permanent location for rooting. After it starts to grow, it will be necessary to pinch the tips regularly (every week if needed) to develop the branching in the more formal styles.

If a more informal or windswept style is being developed,pinching is not as demanding.

You may add sand or gravel or moss now or wait until you are exhibiting the planting. Any number of variations of this type of planting with portulacarias are possible. And, if for some reason you don’t like the creation or if you just want the practice, you can disassemble your planting and start over. The cuttings will stay alive for weeks or more if given protection from the sun and kept in a cool place.

This type of planting, if started in early spring, will look very nice by the time cold weather arrives, if given the proper care.

Informal upright succulent planting

This type of planting, as shown in figures 3, 4, 5, and 6, will take longer to complete (it helps if you’re more experience as well) but if you can find the right cuttings, a fair bonsai can be developed in about two years.

Look for cuttings with short internodes for mame size trees. For larger trees longer internodes will be satisfactory.

Study your cuttings and use the best available, like one with more branches. If no cuttings are available on your stock plant, develop one by pinching.

This style of cutting determines the length of time it will take to develop a bonsai. You can start with a trunk and a pair of side branches and then develop a top after the cuttings have rooted, but if you have all the basic branches at the time of the potting, the tree will start to fill out and be a nice bonsai in a year or so.

After you have selected your cuttings, complete all pruning and wiring before placing it in the pot. If the bonsai is small you may even wish to use the wire used for the no. 1 and no. 2 branches to secure the tree into the pot, as seen in fig. 4.

Soil is not put into the pot until the cutting is wired into the container and adjusted accordingly.

After the pot is filled with soil, it can be watered for the first time at least 24 hours after the cutting was taken, to allow the cut end to dry and reduce the risk of rot. After the drying time has passed, keep the soil evenly moist until it is rooted. After the portulacaria begins to grow, you can begin with liquid fertilizer. It can also be moved into brighter light if desired. Pinch every week or so as needed to develop into a fine quality bonsai.

The plant should be repotted the following year in the same container. Pot it slightly higher to expose and create surface roots as shown in fig. 6.

The portulacaria can live for many years without repotting, but while in training, it should be repotted every year for fast development.


For fast bonsai with portulacaria afra

1. Grow in light shade

2. Water regularly, do not let the soil dry out completely while in training.

3. Fertilize heavily (experiment).

4. Pinch new growth, at least weekly when growing heavily

5. Use pesticides with caution.

A sad note

A word from the editor

By Adam Lavigne

As usual, I will again solicit articles for publication. Anything bonsai, horticulture, or related arts I will consider for publication. Even if it’s a draft, we can finish the article for you.

Also, photos of past events, news of upcoming events, or stories from 30 years ago you wish to see reprinted or think are important, please submit them. The email is:

As you see in this issue, we reprinted a great article from Jim Smith, who left our earthly plane recently (imagine the study group that has formed up there, John Naka, Yuji, Joe Samuels, Ben Oki, Jim….). I hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, learned from it.

The convention this year has been a labor of love. As the nominal convention chair, I’ve had an interesting time. We began a new program of online registration and, as with all new things, there have been some snafus. But bear with us, everything will work out. Don’t miss out on it as this is, believe it or not, the first All-Florida program. We are lucky in this state to have true bonsai pioneers like Mary Madison, and Masters like Ed Trout, that it really behooves you to attend. Even if it’s just for one day. Check out the website links above if you wish to volunteer, exhibit a tree, or participate in the Club Night or Scholarship competitions.

Thank you and hopefully I’ll see you next month in Orlando.

Copyright 2018 BSF

The Florida Bonsai Magazine: February 2018

From the desk of the President

By Ronn Miller

Hi all,

I would like to give you a quick update on the status of this year’s convention. It is looking like it will be one of the best times had for all.  This year we are honored to salute our Florida artists. The team of 1st VP Reggie Perdue, Webmaster Jorge Nazaro, Ben Agresta and myself, led by 2nd VP Adam Lavigne, have been working hard to finish up the program and registration package.  This year will be a first for us as we are going to present the registration form online to make it possible for members to fill out and enter it without having to print, fill it out manually, and mail it in. Of course you can still mail your registration if you want to.

The theme this year is “A Legacy of Learning” and will feature BSF Legacy Award winners as our headliners. We have Ed Trout, Mike Rogers, Mary Miller, Jim Vanlandingham, Louise Leister, Mary Madison, and Mike Cartrett. We will also pay tribute to Legacy Award winners and to winners who are not with us anymore.

Additionally, other great artist will also be featured in the outstanding program that we have put together.  Adam Lavigne, Rob Kempinski, Hiram Macias, Reggie Perdue, Jason Osborne, Donnie Emenegger, and Vladimir Foursa will be performing demonstrations and workshops.

We have secured some fantastic material for both workshops and demonstrations. Our goal for workshop trees was for quality while considering the value. We will be showing pictures of the trees when the first convention newsletter is published.  Selection of workshop trees will be on a sign-up basis, the first person to sign up for the workshop will get first choice.

We are going to ask for volunteers for various tasks and we are in the process of setting up requirements. Volunteers will be eligible to get on the BSF Master List for rooms that will be exempt from taxes.  This saves a significant amount on your room. Payment for your room will have to be made to BSF before 1 May as the hotel requires us to pay for the rooms in advance. Information will be available for contacts and areas where you can volunteer in the first newsletter coming out soon. The newsletter will accompany the launch of the registration form.

I will be contacting vendors and sending registration information within the next week.

Ronn Miller

Bsf President


by Tony Green

When the fervor of bonsai took hold of me, I sought all the information I could find. I learned the history of bonsai. I subscribed to bonsai magazines. I watched videos about wiring and watering techniques. I researched substrate and light cycles. The learning materials I immersed myself in often displayed magnificent white pines, exquisite Japanese flowering quince, and majestic Rocky Mountain junipers. And slowly, another force grew inside me, nestled in right beside my bonsai fervor: zone envy—“an affliction whereby one desires to cultivate a species of plant outside their native zone.”

A plant hardiness zone (determined by the USDA) is a standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive in their location. Zones are determined by the average annual minimum temperature in winter and are divided into ten-degree increments. I live in zone 10b— the southeast coast of Florida.

One of Tony’s trees, a schefflera forest

The magnificent trees I saw in my studies needed a dormancy period during the winter, requiring winter temperatures far below those found in my zone. While I was able to cultivate tropicals like bougainvillea, schefflera, and ficus where I lived, I yearned to work on the great variety of trees I was exposed to in my studies. It was this force that drove me to apply for an internship at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC in the spring of 2017. *

The bonsai collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is world-renowned. Comprised of over 400 trees, the collection includes bonsai from all over the world, many of which have been donated by famous artists and heads of state. Some of the most famous trees in the world are in this collection, including Goshin by John Naka and the Yamaki pine, rescued from Hiroshima and in training since 1625. Truly, it is one of the top bonsai collections in existence.

Ironically, when I arrived at the Arboretum, the staff took great pride in showing me their collection of tropical trees. They had gone to extensive measures in their tropical greenhouses to mimic the warm, humid environment required for tropical trees to thrive—conditions I had always taken for granted in Florida.  I realized that, apparently, zone envy afflicts bonsai practitioners no matter where they live (Washington DC is zone 7a).

My first responsibility was to properly clean the water basins and keep the hoses neatly put away. Next, I was instructed in proper watering and fertilization. Then, one day I was assigned  a ficus which needed spring pruning

“We have this ficus that needs pruning. Why don’t you give it a shot? You can ‘go hard’ ” they told me.

Ficus natalensis

Apparently, a “hard” prune on a ficus is defined differently in mid-Atlantic regions than it is in sub-tropical Florida. My mentors looked at my finished work, mouths agape at my drastic “hard” styling of the tree. After that, they politely told me to “go easy” when it came to pruning. Once we overcame such communication hurdles, I was honored to be trusted to work on some of the most famous and valuable bonsai trees in the nation.

Japanese black pine de-candled by Tony

During my time there, I spent twelve hours a day, five days a week absorbing all the information I could about bonsai. I felt like a captive-bred fish finally released into a palatial lake, greedily absorbing all my new environment had to offer. I learned skills for maintaining various species, cultivars, and styles of bonsai. I gained understanding of how a tree’s age impacts the treatment and styling approach. I acquired new knowledge of extensive display techniques. Much of my time was spent interacting with public visitors to the museum, answering questions and educating people about the collection. Of course, I would not have taken away so much value from my experience if I had not been working with the knowledgeable, supportive staff I had guiding me through my journey.

At its heart, zone envy is a curiosity. It’s this curiosity that drove me out of zone 10b into zone 7a for more training and experience and allowed me to expand my horticultural knowledge. However, all people can utilize that native wonder, even within their own temperate zones. Everyone can test the limits of their zones, integrating species that are just on the edge or just outside of their temperate zone. It is this curiosity that takes us to places we never imagined and allows us to explore our creativity in ways we never knew were possible.

Michael James, interim curator and Tony, working on The famous Yamaki Pine

*If you are interested in an internship, follow this link for more info.

The Journey of the Sho Fu Brazilian Rain Tree Forest

By Kay Karioth and Mike Knowlton

The story of our Brazilian Rain Tree Forest begins where most all rain trees living in the United States began.  Jim Moody, well known Florida Bonsai artist, was sent in 1974, by his sister-in-law who was living in Brazil, five Rain Tree seeds. He planted them and as the seeds grew into trees, cuttings were taken from them.  Cuttings grow rapidly in the Florida climate and in no time Brazilian Rain Trees became a very popular new tropical species for Bonsai artists to grow.

Jim Moody died in 2003.  His grandson, Allen Carver, continued the tradition of working with and selling Brazilian Rain Trees.  In July of 2004 Allen was invited by the Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota to visit a club meeting and “do a demo” on Brazilian Rain Trees.  At the time he had never put together a forest.  He brought a handmade concrete slab and 5 trees that were approximately 4 years old.

At the end of each Sho Fu meeting, a raffle is held.  On the evening of July, 2004, one of the members, Vito Morrongiello, was lucky enough to win the forest.  It lived with him until 2008.  He was one of the first Sho Fu members to donate not only this forest but also other large trees to the Permanent Exhibit at Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.  The Exhibit trees are owned by Sho Fu but because of the relationship Sho Fu has with Selby, thousands of visitors get to enjoy not only the Rain Tree Forest but all of the Permanent Exhibit trees.

Richard Dietrich has been curator of the Sho Fu Permanent Exhibit for approximately 8 years. During this time he spent hours and hours trimming and maintaining the Forest along with about 14 other specimen trees, as well as serving as a docent for the thousands of Selby Garden visitors from all over the world.

The forest was exhibited at the 2014 BSF Convention, at which it won ‘Best Large Tree’.  Tears flowed profusely among both club members and judges when Vito, who was in declining health at that time, saw the forest at the Convention and learned of the award.

Fast Forward to August, 2016.

In August, 2016, Mike and Lunetta Knowlton presented a program for Sho Fu on “Why enter one of your bonsai trees into a state or national exhibition – and if you do, what is entailed?”  The members attending the meeting appeared to be very interested and asked lots of questions.

On the way home from the meeting, Mike and Lunetta discussed several things:

1. What would it take to entice more Sho Fu Members to attend the BSF Convention each year in Orlando or the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester every other year?

2. Many of our members are just beginning their bonsai journey and do not have a tree that would be ready for a State or National exhibit.

3. Sho Fu has a wonderful exhibit at Selby.  Why not consider choosing a tree that the entire club could work on over a two year period and then, as a Club, submit it for Exhibit at the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, 2018?

4. What tree would be the best choice to work on?  The Brazilian Rain Tree Forest! It is large; it is unusual; there are jobs for many members to work on during the time of preparation.

A proposal was written and presented to the Sho Fu Board.  The Board discussed it, agreed that the idea was a good one and agreed to support moving forward. In the proposal, the Knowlton’s recommended that the forest should be removed from Selby and moved to a place where the membership could work.  This way, several club members at a time could participate in the various jobs needed on an ongoing basis to not only care for the forest but also begin the two year process of preparation for exhibition.  The Knowlton’s volunteered their home location and that was accepted by the Sho Fu Board.

Work needing to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, bi-yearly, and yearly basis:

Daily watering, timely defoliation, de-thorning, wiring, repotting, removing the wire, keeping new growth trimmed, regular fertilizing, regular application of fungicides and insecticides, and periodically taking the forest to Wigert’s nursery for advice on styling.

Other  considerations were:

Designing a new slab since the forest has outgrown the old original concrete slab it has lived on for 9 years,

Finding a wood slab or exhibit table large enough for the forest.

Deciding how the forest would be transported to Rochester, if it is accepted in the 2018 U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.

This project is not only how one prepares a tree for a “formal show” but also, this is how a bonsai enthusiast works on all the trees in his/her collection. So, in reality, this project should help all Sho Fu members who get involved and enhance their skills as they work on their own trees.

Significant work on the forest started in the Fall of 2016.  Due to the size of the forest, while at the Selby display, it was not regularly turned to balance exposure to the Sun.  The back of the forest was weak in relation to the front.  BSF members who have Brazilian Rain Trees in their collection also know that due to its fast growing nature it requires aggressive trimming and thinning to keep it under control.

13 club members of  Sho Fu worked with Mike and Lunetta concentrating primarily on defoliation, thorn removal, thinning and trimming.  The forest was then taken to Wigert’s Nursery where Erik Wigert worked with Mike and Richard to thin unnecessary branches and to wire every branch in the forest (Ugh!  Two people working 5 hours).  Some of the bigger branches needed guy wires to facilitate placement.  Special efforts were made to get more sun into the center of the forest.

Another long time Sho Fu member, Tom Friend, constructed a beautiful new concrete slab that kept the same shape but was enlarged about 2” around the perimeter.  Also, Tom provided a deeper center core that made more room for soil.  Finally he provided numerous drain holes and short feet on the slab to promote drainage.

Also, Tom finished a large Cypress slab that the Knowlton’s had purchased in North Florida.  The slab will be used as the table for the forest in the formal display.

Early Spring, 2017

Following several months of observation and input from a number of bonsai artists, Lunetta, Mike and Richard worked all day with Erik to once again wire the branches and to take apart and repot the forest.

 Since the final styling included turning and moving certain of the trees in the forest, the ‘doormat’ of roots had to be carefully but substantially reduced. Following two months in a shade house, all of the trees had recovered and in July another process of wire removal occurred.

The forest was then allowed to grow in full sun for the next several months with minimal trimming and once again was defoliated and re-wired in early November with the help of four other Sho Fu members.

January, 2018

The forest trees have quickly grown a new set of leaves and we received a ‘call for trees’ from Bill Valavanis for consideration to be part of the 2018 National Bonsai Exhibition. Pictures were taken of the Forest, both ‘naked’ and fully leafed out, and sent to him.

And the saga continues………..

Find out if the Forest was accepted in April edition of The Florida Bonsai Magazine!

5th Annual Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo, December 2017, in Kannapolis, NC

By Barb Hiser

As a native Floridian, I honestly didn’t know what to expect at a “winter silhouette” bonsai show….working mostly with tropicals, our trees look about the same year round except trimming slows down in the winter.  Attending this show for the first time in 2016 was a sure way to change my initial “ho hum” expectation into a jaw-dropping reaction!  I finally understood how “those people up north” could actually enjoy bonsai other than tropicals! The same way we defoliate our tropicals to view the structure (among other reasons), the nature of the deciduous tree during winter is magical and allows the viewer to see a completely different tree.   Attending the 2017 show did not disappoint; in fact there were vendors, outstanding demonstrations and workshops, and spectacular display trees.  It looks as if it is growing every year.  And the venue is elegant, establishing a beautiful backdrop for the high quality trees in their winter best.

Florida was well-represented by artists who envisioned a Florida tree in winter:

Chris Denton (Shefflera Arboricola, banyan style)

Notice the incredible ramification and movement: perfect for a silhouette tree.  Even the judges marveled at the ramification of this Arboricola.


Adam Lavigne (Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam, and celtis laeavigata, sugar berry )

A signature feature of Adam’s displays is his unique stands, and these 2 displays didn’t disappoint.  The uro and the hollow trunk add incredible interest and age to both beautiful trees.  If these trees could talk, what would they tell us of a storied past?

Carpinus caroliniana above

Celtis laeavigata below

Rob Kempinski (Main tree-Ficus salicaria)

Rob is an excellent bonsai artist, and he is equally known for his unique displays, always telling a story and with many layers of mystery.  Curiosity abounded with his display at Winter Silhouette, and the responses from viewers ranged from a ‘time machine’ to  ‘Steampunk’.

Bruce Hartman (Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Mound’)

Bruce’s display was an entry in the Club Night event at the annual BSF convention 2017, made by Team BSOB.  It represents lava tubes, with the active volcano clearly visible in the back.  The display was put together, planted, wired, and even the hand painting of the volcano scene, all during the time allotted for Team Night.  The display was then auctioned and Bruce had the winning bid.

Seth Nelson (Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Mound’)

Seth says he inherited this amazing tree from Jim VanLandingham, and has recently made redesign changes to the 30 yr old tree. He describes the process:   “turn and change the angle….remove thick unattractive aerial roots,” but no other branches were removed. His intention was to be “respectful to the old bonsai while bringing in a new perspective and level of refinement. “ Seth says Jim V. was excited to see his tree in this new light, and it won the Best Tropical Award!  (see Awards below)

Sam Ogranaja (Main tree: Premna macrophylla, Stinky Lady)

Sam’s display made a statement about Hurricane Irma and the resulting devastation.  Hurricane survivors often write on their exterior walls or window coverings as a way to alert officials of someone in the building or to simply vent their frustration, (‘Go Away Irma’). The main tree is actually a tanuki graft, well integrated into the driftwood and fitting in perfectly to the scene left in Irma’s wake.

Mike Rogers (Lagerstroemia, crepe myrtle, ‘New Orleans’)

Mike did this planting about 10 yrs ago for a Kawa club demonstration. The trees were grown from cuttings and air layers, and Mike wanted something a little different from the average group/forest planting.  He’s very happy with it,especially in silhouette, and I personally second that!

Barbara Hiser (Coccoloba uvifera, Seagrape. – Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’)

This sea grape started on the island of Puerto Rico and has made its debut in the United States over the past few years. New growth is reddish, and in warmer months leaves can be reduced to the size of a half dollar or less. Actually in the tropics where this tree grows naturally, it holds its leaves all year so this is a Floridian’s impression of a winter tree!

This ‘Shimpaku’ (on the stand) is early in its life of display but can only get more beautiful, proudly representing the Juniper family. This tree was part of the collection of Louise Leister. We arm-wrestled for it, and I won!

The highlight of this beautiful event was distribution of Awards and each was a well-deserved recognition for the skill and passion of the artists, respect for the individual tree, and dedication to the advancement of bonsai.

Best Conifer: Adair Martin (Japanese White Pine). This tree was grafted 20-25 yrs ago onto a yamadori Lodgepole trunk with deadwood and shari.  Adair says it’s actually 2 grafts: one is the drop branch on the right and the other is the crown. Beautiful tree, skillfully worked.

Best Deciduous Tree:  Tom Bjorholm (Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam).  This native forest of American Hornbeams makes a stunning presentation in silhouette.  I can only imagine how it looks in full leaf and in the fall with a smattering of small delicate yellow leaves.

Best Display:  Mac McAtee (Persimmon, Diospyros rhombifolia).  Incredible attention to detail brought this display to a whole new level!  The artist made the stand of persimmon wood with a tile top, and on the front is a cut out of a persimmon leaf.  This possum loves persimmons, as you can see him eating, and the picture is from a magazine cover from the 1920’s; the figure is holding a string of dried persimmons. The table cover is dyed a shade to mimic the color of many persimmons.

Best Tropical:  Seth Nelson (as described above)

ABS Award for Best Native:  Gary Clark for his snow scene with native American Hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana).  These are separate trees in separate pots, and it was assembled at the show on Friday night. There was a little turtle tucked up under the fallen log, and it was only visible by getting up close and personal with the display! This was a show-stopper and there was a cluster of viewers admiring it most all of the weekend.

Bonsai Glamor Shots

Joe Noga spends hours at each show taking professional photos of each tree.  It takes 20-30 minutes or more per tree.  Here’s a peek at what it looks like behind the scenes.  I felt like a ‘stage mom’ as my trees got photographed!

And speaking of photographers, phone cameras were everywhere!  Here’s a classic picture.

I hope you have an idea of what a spectacular show Winter Silhouette is.  The upcoming date is December 1-2, 2018. Admission is free.  Here’s a link for more info

See you next year!

Happenings around Florida

The Bellota Bonsai Auction

Please rsvp here if you are interested in joining the auction at Agresta Gardens

The Bsf exhibit at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival 2018

This years exhibit begins on February 28th and runs through May 28th, in the Japanese Pavilion at Epcot in the Walt Disney World Resort. There are 21 of the finest bonsai in the state on display for an estimated 6 million guests to spread the Art of Bonsai not only to Florida but to the whole world. Don’t miss this years offerings!

The 4th Annual Multi-club Picnic

3rd Annual Lighthouse Bonsai Society Auction

The 45th Annual Bsf Convention-May, 2018

The schedule-

A brand new club

We are proud to announce a new club that has just formed in the Ocala area, called the “Forest Bonsai Society of Ocala”. The president is David Cutchin and if you would like info, send an email to

Welcome to the World of Florida Bonsai!

From the Editor

By Adam Lavigne

I hope you’re enjoying reading the new version of The Florida Bonsai Magazine as much as I am putting it together. I find the collaboration with different authors very stimulating and refreshing.

If you would like to submit an article for publication, the deadlines are the end of March, the end of May, the end of July and so forth, every two months with publication months of February, April, June etc. Simply send the article as a plain text email, with photos either attached or sent separately, I can format it for publication.

The types of stories we are looking for are first person accounts of bonsai activities, styling or horticultural techniques on trees in your collections. Upcoming events from your club activities, memorials or remembrances of past Florida or American bonsai practitioners, and anything else bonsai related you may find interesting.

I will be reprinting, as best I can, some old articles from the print version of The Magazine, so if you can remember something you loved from, say, 1993 or 2001, send me the article.

The email is

© 2018, Bonsai Societies of Florida

The Florida Bonsai Magazine: December 2017

From the desk of the President, Ronn Miller

Hello everyone,

I would like to share some of the things that are going on in the Bonsai Societies of Florida.  First, thank you all for your patience during the transition process as it has been slower than it should have been. We have been dealing with some issues that include health problems, committee chair changes and the intense workload to produce this Magazine.

The digital magazine through Joomag has been published for four years and has been a true labor of love for Publications Chair, Kay Karioth; Digital Editor, Jackie Barrett; and Past President, Mike Knowlton.  Each issue requires hours and hours of time to produce and they deserve a great big thank you for all of their extra effort to get the job done. Unfortunately, we cannot continue with the current method of sharing BSF news and information in this manner.  Adam Lavigne, Second Vice President, will assume the Publications Chair position.We are exploring different avenues of delivery so that we can generate more timely information to a higher ratio of readers. There are several ideas that we are working on and I am pleased to see the enthusiasm that is being put forth.  One of the ideas that we are working on is this blog style where the publishing committee, consisting of members from throughout the state, work together with Adam to present, articles, events and club news.  Of course, we are always open to productive suggestions and positive criticism from everyone.

The next situation that we had to deal with is that we had to make some changes to the webmaster position. Paul Pikel, who wears many hats in BSF, has changed jobs and just doesn’t have the time to spend, due to the executive position that he now has. He’s contributed so much to BSF and to the world of bonsai through his management of the website and many club websites, the Epcot program, photography of the convention trees, and the many instructive videos on bonsai still available on YouTube. Paul will continue to chair the Epcot program. The new webmaster will be Jorge Nazario, from the Central Florida Club. He has experience with the WordPress format and is very enthusiastic for the chance to help. Paul will work with him in the transition. Thank you Paul!

Adam, First Vice President, Reggie Perdue, and I are close to putting the finishing touches on our convention plan and program for 2018.  The theme is going to be “A Legacy of Learning” and will honor our current BSF award winners, to include, Mary Madison, Mary Miller, Ed Trout, Jim Vanlandingham, Louise Leister, Mike Cartrett, among others, and the memories of past artists of Florida Bonsai.

I would like to say, again, thank you to Kay, Jackie, Paul and Mike for all of your dedication and hard work that you have done to support BSF. Additionally, I would like to recognize two more key players on the BSF board that play an important role in our operations. Gail Santini, our membership chairman, maintains our database for the entire BSF correspondence machine. She is instrumental in sending emails and notices. She is also very experienced in information services and has been invaluable while working closely with the publications team on many issues. The second person that I would like to send a giant thank you is our Treasurer, Barbara Poglitsch. In the few months that I have been signing checks, she has impressed me with suggestions, advice, and information that I have found invaluable. Thank you in advance for sharing this information at your next club meetings and through your own communication with members.  Feel free to contact me at  if you have any positive thoughts or ideas as we move forward.

Ronn Miller, President – Bonsai Societies of Florida

Welcome to the new format for

The Florida Bonsai Magazine!

By Adam Lavigne

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope this year has brought you good times and good memories, or, if not, at least you learned something.

In case you haven’t noticed, this edition of The Florida Magazine is a bit different than they’ve been the last couple of years. There are several reasons for this but, before I talk about those, let me introduce myself. I am Adam Lavigne, currently the President of the Central Florida Bonsai Club, the 2nd VP of BSF and, now, Publications Chair and Blog Coordinator, on the board of the American Bonsai Society, writer of my own blog and, because I gotta in this digital age, a YouTuber as well.

I would like to thank Kay Karioth and Jackie Barret for their hard work and commitment to the Magazine these last few years. They were diligent in their job, with the direction of Mike Knowlton, past president, and created many quality magazines and I hope my tenure as editor will, maybe, come close to. They set the bar very high. Thank you lady’s.

Now, to the reasons for the format change.

First, the Joomag format was a beautiful platform to use, when it worked, but the difficulties in both the editing and creation of it, plus the annoyance in using it on your computer, tablet or phone, made the continued use non-tenable. I had so many problems in logging in that I ignored it for weeks before I opened it. And, judging by the engagement numbers from Joomag, many others didn’t bother either; less than half of our subscribers even opened it.

Second, the cost of the Joomag platform was, to the Board, just a little daunting. More than a thousand dollars a year and the data storage had a limit. We are using WordPress now, with unlimited storage and a very easy to use editing program, for a 5th of the cost a year. And the magazine will show up directly in your emails, so no extra clicking and putting in passwords or user names.

And lastly, WordPress is easy to use when putting together content, has a stable and generally bug free editor program, and anyone can use it. Which means I will be soliciting articles and stories from you when I see you. Be forewarned.

We are also thinking of increasing the output of the Magazine. Let me know what you think of that. (Email me story ideas, articles, pics, etc to

I hope you like the inaugural issue of the New and Improved Florida Magazine Blog!

Epcot deadline is fast approaching!

By Paul Pikel

Since the beginning of the Festival 24 years ago the BSF has been showing the very best bonsai from all over Florida.  Each year a display of 21 trees are exhibited in the Japanese Pavilion at the World Showcase at Epcot.  The trees are viewed and enjoyed by over 2 million people who visit the park during the three month event.

I would like to extend an invitation to all of the BSF bonsai artists to submit photographs of their trees for consideration to be an exhibitor during the 2018 exhibit.  The exhibit will begin February 28th and will end on May 28, 2018.  This is the perfect opportunity to display your hard work and passion, and will help increase the exposure of Bonsai to new groups of people that may not have the opportunity see such amazing trees.

In return you will have the satisfaction of being part of select group of artists who have had the honor of displaying their tree at such a grand and unusual venue.  

We continue to welcome first time exhibitors to display right next to the most well known bonsai artists of the BSF.  However the window of opportunity is closing fast!  The deadline for submitting your tree is 11:59pm December 31, 2017.  The on-line application can be found at

Paul Pikel

BSF Epcot Committee Chairman

A Treasure Coast Bonsai Society and Port Saint Lucie Botanical Gardens Collaboration

By Noreen Sherman

The Treasure Coast Bonsai Society has met for over 40 years. It was started by the late James Smith, Bud Adams and Gloria Moody.  We may only be a small club compared to many in the State of Florida, but we do our part in promoting the art of Bonsai!

About 2 years ago one of our members, Bob Weil, asked at a meeting if our club was interested in putting bonsai at The Port Saint Lucie Botanical Gardens.

Bob is a Master Gardener and a volunteer at PSLBG.  This idea was bantered around and eventually we agreed to visit the gardens and hear what they were thinking.

Our first meeting was with Joleen King, the Executive Director of PSLBG. Joleen gave us a tour of the gardens and explained that it is maintained totally by volunteers, mostly members of different clubs in the area.

The orchid, bromeliad, cactus, bamboo and propagation gardens were beautifully maintained. They’d love to have a bonsai display and work with us to make it happen. PSLBG would also enjoy hosting our monthly meetings, support our efforts in their monthly Newsletter and provide a new source for potential members to be exposed to bonsai.

With a little more bantering and coming together the Club voted to move forward with the idea. We revisited the Garden and decided which area we most desired to have as our future bonsai display area. Our beloved Bill Zeigler, a retired architect and 40-year bonsai trooper, drew up a detailed plan for the area and presented it to the Club. We then revisited the Garden, plans in hand, made some “group decisions” and then voted again…to look at a contract!

Actually, the legal side of this was pretty straightforward. We then got to work with Bill scouting out pedestals and all other materials. A great day saw our volunteers, led by our friend Ray Grasso, pour the cement footings.

Then, right after the ABS/BSF Convention, we gathered again to set the six 250 lb rebar-enforced pedestals, led by member Jay Galbraith and Curtis Clark from PSLBP. A number of Club members pitched in for the hands-on work.

We are now well on our way to bringing the Art of Bonsai to Port Saint Lucie Botanical Gardens. Soon the final pedestal work will be completed, some strikingly beautiful ceramic Japanese tiles donated by Bill and Renee Ziegler will be placed on the perimeter, plantings, a fence, the sprinkler system. and then the bonsai will be ready to be displayed.

We’ll keep you posted!

Noreen Sherman


By Michael Knowlton

As most of you know, we are currently in our third year of producing New World Bonsai, a commemorative book of BSF Convention Exhibit Trees.  New World Bonsai 2017 will be a special edition because it incorporates a much larger number of exhibit trees that were exhibited last May at the joint ABS/BSF Convention.

We had hoped to mail New World Bonsai 2017 by the end of September to everyone who had ordered the books, but our completion and mailing date has been pushed back to December 18.  Hopefully everyone will have their books by Christmas.  The delay has been caused by a number of factors including the additional work involved with producing a book that will have about 25% more trees included than prior years; Hurricane Irma; and finally reviews of three ‘hard proofs’ that were done for purposes of quality control.

Thank you in advance to those of you who have ordered the books.  We hope that the wait will be worth it.  Thank you also to Jackie Barrett, Paul Pikel, Rhys Lynn, and Lunetta Knowlton for their many hours of work on this project.

Michael Knowlton


Story by Adam Lavigne, photos by Kay Karioth, Gail Santini, Jackie Barret

The Bonsai Societies of Florida’s convention every year holds a competition for the Member clubs that we call, simply enough, Club Night. What, pray tell, is Club Night? Well, my friends, it is, to throw out some descriptors: chaos, joy, heartache, pressure, sweat, creativity, beer-wine-spirits, good times, camaraderie, competition, and, most importantly, fun.

More precisely, it is a competition, with few rules but some guidelines, whereas the competing clubs, such as The Bonsai Society of Brevard, the Central Florida Bonsai Club, etc., field a team that, in a set time period (usually around 3-4 hours), creates a bonsai related planting. Hopefully this occurs without bloodshed.

This year we had several new clubs competing, many of the same old clubs, but also, since the convention was a joint venture with the American Bonsai Society, several members of their board fielded a team. They had a few “ringers”. I’m sure you’ll recognise their faces.

I am happy to report that they did not win, even though I saw the bribes and the plying of liquor to the judges.

One of the favorites, as always, was the Bonsai Society of Brevard, who’ve won the competition many years. This years entry was a multi-media extravaganza with sculpture, trees, framing, and even a painting that was created during the competition.

I believe the theme was ‘Krakatoa’ the volcano.

We had the Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida, past champions as well, with a simple design of raintrees in a concrete slab/pot.

Phil, who is an accomplished draughtsman, drew a “virtual” sketch of what the team thought the planting would look like filled in.

Suncoast Bonsai had an admirable entry, very well composed.

They made wonderful use of larger trees on a slab which had an awesome theme based on the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken.

But it’s not always a landscape or group planting. The Shofu Bonsai Society, of Sarasota, styled a buttonwood for their entry.

They provided a drawing as well. The competition keeps getting better.

The Central Florida Bonsai Club (my club) decided to get into the spirit (or spirits???) of the evening and created a, ummm, unique piece. I’ll let it speak for itself.

The stand was an impromptu creation made from the many (MANY) empties found within the room.

Next we have the Treasure Coast Bonsai Society and their offering.

I liked this one, the scale was perfect and the grouping very artistic.

But the judges had no choice in choosing the winner, The Hukyu Bonsai Club, from the Tampa/Clearwater area.

The thought, planning, creativity, and execution all came together in a fantastic piece with a theme from the Lord of the Rings, a recreation of the Last Homely House, Rivendell, the abode of Elrond.

They deservedly won this years competition (they won last years too. There is talk of a ban on the club because they are that good…..) and we are glad they did. The time they put into the art piece was astonishing, not to mention the teamwork.

Next year, at the 2018 event, we hope to see even more clubs participate. Get your thinking caps on (I know for a fact that the members at Hukyu are already planning) and bring on your best. You’ll have fun, I promise!

Bonsai: Bringing people together, The Mysterious, Elegant, Rugged, and Ancient

By Barb Hiser

Just after the 2017 ABS/BSF joint convention finished up in Orlando, I had the opportunity of a lifetime.

This years convention was celebrating the 50th anniversary of The American Bonsai Society and people from around the world came together to learn, share, and enjoy fellowship of like-minded enthusiasts. Among many Master bonsai artists who were in attendance, Budi Solistyo, from Jakarta, Indonesia, was there to share his knowledge with us.

I had been asked several months earlier if I would be willing to host Budi and his wife, Threes Tanto, after the convention since I live in Central Florida and Budi and Threes were anxious to explore this part of the world.  

I’ll be honest:  I was a bit intimidated. I still consider myself an average bonsai hobbyist and I had heard that Masters would often give feedback on your trees, and mine were not worthy!  Plus, we have a very small home but we do have an RV. And I worried about cultural differences in food, customs, lifestyles, etc.  I wanted to be an excellent ambassador for America, Florida, and Bonsai.  After speaking to several people who had hosted Budi in the past, I felt prepared.  To sum up the experience, I think we have made friends for life as we all shared similarities and differences in our home cultures!  They had never been in an RV so they really enjoyed that experience, and it afforded all of us privacy and space.  My husband Guy is retired from Kennedy Space Center, so we took them there first, and Guy was able to share many “back stories”, which Budi seemed to enjoy.

The next day we were to transport him to his next ‘venue’ so we drove about 2 hours north to meet up with David VanBuskirk (of D&L Nursery in Ocala).

He had arranged a pontoon boat ride on Lake Norris, an environmentally significant lake, so we could all gain inspiration from the ancient bald cypress trees that grow there.

It was an awe-inspiring trip, as my mind wandered and wondered about the stories those trees could tell as they leaned, twisted, dwarfed, towered, provided homes for critters, and hinted at their storied pasts.

All of us enjoyed a picnic afterwards, beneath the shade of live oaks and pines. My story ended there, as Budi and Threes headed to Puerto Rico the next day.  But my mind has been opened to the various shapes and styles that these trees take in their natural setting, and I look forward to more opportunities to host Masters from other countries in the future.

Here are a few more pictures of the many that were taken over those few days.

Barb Hiser

Some thoughts from the new website administrator

By Jorge Nazario

My name is Jorge Nazario; I am the vice president of the Central Florida Bonsai Club and I have recently been appointed new webmaster to the BSF website. I would like to begin by thanking Mr. Paul Pikel for his many years of dedication to the BSF website; he has laid a foundation that will make my job a thousand times easier. The time restraints he faces due to his new job prohibit him from continuing as the site’s webmaster. Luckily for me, I have his phone number so any questions I have will be answered by the site expert.

Over the last couple of weeks, changes were made in the arrangement of certain items on the site, with a few more to follow soon. All links are being checked to make sure they are still valid. Outdated information will be replaced with current documents. It will be our goal to make the site more dynamic in nature; this will be achieved by the addition of certain sidebar items and the relocation of existing ones. However, we cannot do everything alone, we need your help.

You can help with our website by communicating with us as much as possible. We ask that you let us know of any event (Show, Auction, and Visiting Artist) your club may be part of. If you have a flyer for said event, please email it to us ( along with any additional information so that we may post it on the site. If you have an event that takes place annually, please let us know the minute you have the dates set, this way we can include your event on a 12 month calendar section that will be available as a menu item soon. We have also added an “upcoming events” section that will serve as a reminder of your event on the Home page. This section will have information on the next 2 months’ worth of events. Also, send us those pictures after the event; these will be shown on a slide add-on feature on the right hand side of the site. Site visitors who were not able to attend will be able to see a bit of what they missed.

The Bookmarks section will be checked for accuracy and will be expanded to present as many bonsai related links as possible. If you do not see a vendor you are familiar with or a Bonsai organization (National or International) you know of, please let us know so that we may include their name and website address. We don’t want to leave anyone out!

Finally we ask that you check any and all information on the site regarding your club; where you meet, the day you meet as well as the time. Please let us know of any inaccuracies so that we may quickly correct them.

I am really looking forward to working with you in order to continue providing the best possible website experience for our existing and future BSF members.

Best regards

Jorge Nazario

Copyright 2017, Bsf, all rights reserved.


Coming soon!

A new format for The Florida Bonsai Magazine, mid December. The Florida Bonsai Magazine is undergoing some changes, and will be published soon. We, the editing team, are working diligently to create some interesting and engaging content, so keep an eye out on this page or, better yet, subscribe by filling in your info in the “subscribe” bar.