My wife was not happy.
You see, I had no plans at all to make the trip to Rochester, NY this year to attend Bill Valavanis’s bonsai show, the 4th U. S. National Bonsai Exhibit.
What happened to stir the ire of my spouse was my accepting the invitation of the American Bonsai Tool and Supply Co. to help represent them at the event.
I tried to blame it on Cullen, Da’ Boss, over at the company, but she wasn’t having any of it.
I’m not saying I was banished to the couch, but she wasn’t waking me up to go to bed either.
Anyway, that left me with just a few days to get ready. While perusing the TSA website I found this infographic:
Since I always shave with my 300 year old samurai sword (as any real bonsai artist does) and I was not checking bags (per Da’ Bosses orders) I guess I wasn’t shaving.
At least I didn’t forget deodorant like Stephan did.
Say “Hi!” Stephan.
Notice his beard?
He started growing one to fit in with me and Cullen and our magnificent facial follicle adornments.
Da’ Bossman, Cullen:
We are calling ourselves the Bearded Bonsai Bros.
Here’s Cullen modeling his cute carryon bag. He’s going to try to claim it’s really my bag. Don’t you believe it.
And yes, if you look closely you’ll see Stephan is wearing wing tips.
Here’s another wing tip.
We flew as the sun was setting so I got this epic pic. I would not see the sun again for four days.
The show was the weekend of the 13-14th of September, with set up beginning on Thursday evening, but we arrived on Wednesday evening. I guess flights were better priced then.
We also flew into Buffalo instead of Rochester; the first two nights we stayed at Cullen’s familial compound, Chateau Mariacher.
It was awesome. Not only the compound but the hospitality of Cullen’s family.
His dad is a bow hunter.
As well as an avid fisherman.
More on that in a second.
Da’ Bossman’s dad’s name is David.
When we got settled in the guest wing and joined the patriarch of the Clan he asked us what we wanted to drink.
He actually said,
“I don’t know what you losers are having but I’m getting a whiskey. You want some?”
Cullen’s timidly asks his mom if she has cranberry juice so he can make himself a Jack and Cran.
I, of course, said “Sure, on the rocks”
Stephan, who started calling me “Dad”, said “Why not?”
We surprised our host with that, I think.
We also finished off the bottle.
It was Jim Beam, for those who want to know, the big bottle.
Anyway, Dave convinced us to go fishing the next day.
Fishing for Musky, actually, on Lake Chautauqua.
It only cost him a near full bottle of Beam.
We drag ourselves out of bed the next day, have a fantastic breakfast courtesy of Cullen’s Mom, and make our way to Lake Chautauqua.
In the rain.
Our boat….
It’s known, variously, as The Black Death or Old Black N’ Blue.
It floats, at least.
Ah, you noticed the heavy jacket.
Yes, it was 58f. To us Florida boys, it was cold.
I counted four layers on Stephan.
Looks like a potato man with French fry legs.
Or a Tim Burton illustration.
The boat managed to stay afloat but, with the four of us on board, wallowed like a pregnant sea cow in the choppy water.
Cullen and his dad shared the bonding opportunity of fishing together.
Steve and I chose to pursue a different type of bonding exercise.
And then, it began to rain.
Now, if you look at the horizon on the last three pics you’ll notice that we were having what is called “movement” on the water.
It was all I could do to relax.
Especially when I get this pic from the home front.
My own David watering the nursery.
It looks warm.
58f, windchill, waves and rain, hunting the elusive muskellunge.
Wow. We survived. We didn’t catch anything except this.
I did learn a valuable bit of self knowledge I hadn’t known before.
I can’t pee off of the back of a boat.
They had to put me ashore (I trespassed on a closed-for-the-season boys overnight camp to pee on a tree…..I know, sounds creepy to me too) during which we ran aground on some shoals. Dave had to get out to push us off the sandbar.
I felt bad until I felt the water, it was warm compared to the air. We shoulda gone swimming.
When we make it to the Compound and Steve and I finish off the Captain Morgan bottle to warm up our insides (sorry Cullen, no more girly Captain and Cran drinks for you).
Early the next morning (I think it’s Friday) I wake up to this outside the window.
It’s a doe, a deer, a female deer.
But no ray, no drops of golden sun.
From what Cullen says, Buffalo is cloudy about 91.2324% of the time.
I guess he did a term paper on it back in high school and that’s the “official” number.
Ok, now it’s time to go to work.
Off to Rochester and Bonsai!
The, now obligatory, bridge pic.
It was about an hour drive to the event building.
Tip for those attending in two years: if you use your gps and type in “Total Sports Experience” you will be presented with three different locations.
It’s the one next to the Tim Horton’s.
What a nice coffee shop.
I ordered a Croissan’Which. They just gave me a flat stare.
We had arrived and it was time to lug in some boxes. I must say that a box full of bonsai tools is quite heavy.
Or at least that’s what Stephan and Cullen say, I just took pictures.
Now, I must apologize to you all if you thought that I would have a gallery of the exhibit trees for you.
I wish I could have done it but it wasn’t technically allowed.
I did take two pics of two very well known trees, what I figured I could get away with.
This is an amazingly old bonsai from Japan that was donated to the national arboretum in Washington, D.C.
It’s a Japanese white pine.
Just damn.
And the next is a larch composition created by Nick Lenz.
It is often referred to as ” Root over Penelope”
If you ever want to tease me about the trees I can’t grow, the two I most wish I could are the Japanese white pine and the larch.
And those two above are spectacular, aren’t they?
As for the other trees in the exhibit I invite you to peruse Peter Warren’s Facebook page Saruyama Bonsai or even William Valavanis’s page (or any hundred others out there. The exhibitor could photograph their own tree(s) and all the other pics I show of exhibit trees are stolen from Facebook.)
Bonsai shows have bonsai and bonsai sundry vendors (that’s why I was there after all), so here are some of the trees for sale.
A couple of junipers.

Some trees from Jim Gremel.
I’m going to steal the twisty bending process on the above tree.
And some familiar species that I will definitely be stealing the technique the vendor used to shape these trees.
He’s using ficus burtt-davyii and ficus natalensis and fusing the trunks to get bigger trees.

I’ll do a post on the process soon, I have a bunch of small cuttings I can use.
Bonsai conventions are just as much about friendships as they are about trees.
I made many new friends, renewed some old ones and hung out with some familiar faces from my part of the country.
Justin from Ft. Myers, goofing around.
Mike Lane, bonsai teacher from Wigert’s.
He had a tree in the show.
As did Jason Osborne (Chef)
He had a sweet pink pixie bougie (pic from his Facebook)
Which he took on the airplane.
He only broke off the apex on the way home. No problem.
Here’s Paul Pikel
Right after a shot.
This one actually.
Which I did not partake of, in fact, I didn’t really drink at all, I had a sober, serious business trip, talking bonsai and tools. (Sorry, wife was looking over my shoulder….)
I also got to meet a fellow Blogger, one I read religiously, Jonas Dupuich of Bonsai Tonight.
He is the authority on growing and developing Japanese black pine stock and bonsai in the US. I think he’s even surpassed his teachers.
On the the awards.
Bill Valavanis has posted all the winners on his blog (click here) already so I think I’m safe to post the ones I’m most proud of.
You see, Florida bonsai won the most awards, as far as I can count.
Paul Pikel won the All American award for his buttonwood (a native, american tree) in an American made pot (I think by Rob Addonizio) and an American stand (by Mark Rhymes).
(Photo by Mike Lebanik)
Aaron Bucher from Miami won the Best Tropical Award.
(Photo by Bill)
Below we have Aaron, second from the right. My friends Hiram and Gus are on the outside (left and right, respectively) and I’m not sure who the random dude is.
(Photo stolen from Hiram Macias’ Facebook)
And finally, one of my favorite trees, the winner of the Yuji Yoshimura award for the Finest Classical Bonsai, a Japanese black pine by Louise Leister.
I say we be representin’, takin’ home the bling!
Before you ask, I did not show a tree. I wasn’t going to attend if you remember.
I will next time, promise.
And that’s about it.
The American Bonsai Tools were a hit, I’m fortunate to be in on the ground floor of this amazing company (
Thank you guys!
And, open the heavens, just as we were leaving, the sun poked it’s head out for a moment.
Oh, glorious sunshine!
And then it’s gone.
As a parting pic, I’d like to share my absolute favorite tree at the show, from my friend Owen Reich.
A Japanese maple in a Lang pot.
A 6 am flight and it’s home and back to work.
My wife is still mad at me.
I’ve apologized and begged forgiveness.
I know, I’ll just nuzzle on her neck a little, that might help.
Until next time, please excuse me, I have some nibbling to do, among other things.

4 thoughts

  1. That Japanese maple by Owen was one my top 3 trees at the show, maybe even my favorite too! Nice to have a picture to remember it by. 🙂

    It was good to meet you at the show, Adam! (We talked about cation exchange and whether summers are really worse in Florida or Massachusetts)



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