Jim Smith trip. And a glancing brush with hurricane Isaac

It seems like we’ve missed our exit.
I certainly do not remember ever seeing those power poles before.
Next exit, pee break, get out the iPhones and map us a route.
We are on the road to Jim Smith’s nursery in Vero Beach, Florida for his usual 4th Sunday workshop.
We are an optimistic bunch, considering the rain bands from Huricane Isaac crossing across the state.
Jim’s nursery is in Vero Beach, which is on the East Coast of Florida.
I sarcastically told everyone
” The hurricane is on the west coast”
No problem.



Lots of cow country. A few orange groves.

“We did it, we did it!”

The first view is usually that big tree looming over the nursery. It is a ficus microcarpa that grew into the ground from a nursery tree in a pot.

Then it grew through the shade cloth screening (that’s not there anymore. It was torn away with the last hurricanes)
It does make a good shade tree though.

Then you see the empty stands. It’s sad that they are empty but they’ve been moved to Heathcote Gardens click here where, hopefully, they’ll be taken care of properly. It’s a nice little botanical garden.

We had Steve (we like to have fun, you should join us next time)

Guaracha (he’s actually named Juan but he’s from Puerto Rico and they tend to have nicknames).

The lovely Yamida. She’s from PR too, Guaracha’s boss.
And Nick and Dave. You’ve seen them already doing the Dora song.

Contrary to popular belief, there are still trees for sale. Lots to choose from too.


And still good ones.


Lots of ficus



It’s always surprising to see some of the trees that have been there for a long time.

It’s almost as though people are afraid to buy them because it’s like, if you do, you’re taking away some of the mystique and ambiance of the nursery.


One can imagine the roots of these trees hitting the ground and, in 50 years, there will be a huge banyan there with nursery benches grown into them.

Here’s a log for only $35. Amazing.

I always make it a point to visit the pot shed (that’s where you pay, so, I guess I have to,but….)
Here you can find old pots for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of today’s pots.
Jim has excellent prices. You will have to come here to see them.


I got these two pots for a pittance.

The real reason we came here was to see the man himself. This creek is on the way to the workshop area.

There’s the Legend. I truly don’t believe that American bonsai using tropical trees would exist at its level today if not for this man and his nursery. I would bet that there isn’t a high level collection in America that doesn’t have a tree grown at Jim’s.
The surprising thing is he is so humble. And he is truly a nice man too. Always smiling, always willing to share his knowledge.

Here he is taking a break with his ubiquitous YooHoo chocolate drink. Classic.

Here’s a ficus someone brought in for some advice.

Lookin’ over his shoulder.
We don’t have much longer to enjoy the company of this man. I wish it weren’t so.
Go, see him, learn from Jim Smith what it truly means to do bonsai. Not just the techniques. Not just the refinement or all the things that go with showing a tree or the politics. This man has lived the life. He deserves whatever honor we can give him.

Here comes the rain!


Hurricane Isaac was just a rain event for us but it was worse for those in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Stay safe friends.
At my house in Orlando I only got about 2 inches.

Time to go home.

I did get some trees but I’ll show you them later.
Worth the trip!
And a Sea grape bonsai to remember.


About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
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