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.