This year, I had the privilege of being one of the artists for the Bonsai Society of SW Florida’s annual show. I gave a demo and a workshop but I was also honored to give out two awards in the exhibit; the BSF Presidents Award (no, I’m not the prez yet but the current one was on his way to Japan and couldn’t be there) and the Best Display. I’m not sure I’m worthy enough to be a judge yet but I tried my best. 

Let’s start with the trees, I’ll comment where appropriate. 

A nice portulacaria afra, pretty well developed.  

An ixora with a good trunk. That’s hard to find, even here in Florida where they are common landscape plants. There was discussion about a concept called nitrogen locking, as this one is a little yellow. Nitrogen locking happens when the ph is of the soil (or water) isn’t in the correct range and the plant can’t uptake nutrients. In this case, an ixora needs an acid substrate and many wells in Sw Florida are very alkaline. Coffee grounds are a quick fix for that or switching to kanuma (an acidic pumice from Japan) works too. 
This was one of my runner up choices for the Best Display award. The tree is a green island ficus. 

I liked the idea of the scene but, to be nit-picky, the figures weren’t in scale with each other (which one could argue that it was a dream scene with the inclusion of the head-as-stand) 

But what didn’t work for me was the placement and attitude of the figure and the screen. Go back to the first pic and you’ll see that the man, although facing the tree, is actually in front of and, therefore shielded from the tree. When doing a display like this it’s important that small details of composition be perfect. 
This is a divi divi, and it’s flowering too. 

This was another contender in the best display award. The tree is a premna microphylla. You are seeing correctly, it’s sitting on bricks, which I thought was brilliant. 

The accent was planted on a piece of a broken concrete ring. Again brilliant. 

I love the idea of the scroll too. Maybe if it was a little more graffiti like in style though, it might have been perfect. I love the dripping. The main reason I didn’t pick it as the winner was that both the premna and the accent incorporated masonry in their individual presentations and combining them in one display there was not enough contrast. Maybe if the premna was on some rusty, twisted metal or the grass companion was planted in a broken glass bottle, then it would have brought it all together. I know it sounds like a contradiction but it would have tied the whole display together with more contrast between the tree and the companion. 

A little ficus salicaria

A big Lysiloma latisiliquum. I liked this tree a lot, but what surprised me was I heard it was much criticized. One criticism was that the branches were angled up. But the tree is a legume, and a tropical canopy tree. The branches do naturally angle up from the trunk as their first movement. The second criticism was that you couldn’t see into the tree. This was true. I think with just a few tweaks, it will be an award winner. 

I think this was an escambron (claredendrun aculeatum). I love that stand. 

This is a collection of tilandsia for the accent on the next tree. 

A parsoni juniper 

This is a brazilian raintree. 

A little portulacaria. The exhibit had an area just for novices, a good idea if you put your own club’s show on. 

Another f. salicaria. It was in the novice area too. 


This is a Turks cap (Malvaviscus drummondii or M. arboreus var. drummondii) an American native plant that lives on the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida.  It’s also in the Caribbean islands. It’s planted over a rock and has a spectacular shape for being in the novice section. I’d recommend a better pot maybe. 

I really liked this next one, a bucida Spinosa (or, correctly, terminalia mollinetti, but we bonsai people are hard to change,even when we are wrong).   But this was a cool idea, a complete acacia style flattop. 

If it didn’t have this bald spot I would have considered it for the presidents award. 

I really love this neea. 

Especially the hollow trunk. Bee-eee-ay-yute-if-full!

A nice small conocarpus erectus with a rustic stand. 

One of my favourite species with carving even, ilex vomitoria “schillings”It won best small tree. 
Another fine neea. There was one neea tree that made the rounds a few years ago that I thought was the most natural looking one I’d seen. Don’t know what happened to it or the man who owned it (he probably faded away for political reasons) but I’m picking this one as my favorite now.  

A Fukien tea

I loved this buttonwood so much I chose it for the presidents award. The deadwood detail is what sold me, plus the gentle dignity. It’s not an in-your-face-look-at-me tortured tree. Don’t get me wrong, I love those types of trees, but sometimes gentle perseverance is just right. 

Look at that calm interplay with the live vein and the deadwood. 

This next Brazilian raintree is a true marvel to me. As a species it’s really apically dominant so to be able to grow it like a cascade takes some real talent. 

Taxodium distichum Love the deer. 

A pretty sweet ficus microcarpa. It looks like it started out life as a ginseng style. 

Here was my choice for best display. 
A Brazilian raintree. The antelope was just in scale for the display, the combo of the companion and the figurine works for me, especially the dried grass and I thought that the black stand under the tree set off the whole thing. Especially with the natural looking slab. This is what I mean by contrast brining a display together. 

A parsons juniper. 

The next two pics should be one. 

I love shohin displays. 

The next display is what was called a “Keshiki bonsai” 
I wasn’t able to watch the presentation by  Susan Johnson on the concept as I was leading a workshop but I think I get it. 

Here’s a jaboticaba with a good nebari and movement. A good example of the species. 

This is the true dwarf of the dwarf of the dwarf schefflera. I think it’s called “luseanne”. It won the people choice award. My pic doesn’t show the depth of the forest planting at all. One gets lost wandering inside that grove. 

This is another bucida in a different style. 

A sea grape. 

I particularly liked this Chinese elm. It won best small tree. And I think it was masterful to show it defoliated. That’s a Sarah Raynor pot. 

And a third bucida in another style. I need to explore them more as bonsai subjects. 

And finally, a parsons juniper. One of the best parsons junipers I’ve seen. Spectacularly carved, styled and developed. It won best in show, the artist is Dorothy Schmitz. 

And that’s it, I hope I didn’t miss any trees but I apologize if I did. 

What a great show with great trees, great people and good times. Thank you to Martha for inviting me and Phil for hosting me. I am looking forward to next year. 

3 thoughts

  1. Adam, Thank you for your exceptional blog. I enjoyed the review of the Southwest Florida Annual Show. I am the President of the Sandusky (Ohio) Bonsai Club. I am starting to prepare ideas for presenting to the members at our annual planning meeting where we decide on the 2017 Calendar. I have only been a bonsai enthusiast for a little over three years and was bit hard at the first event that a friend, and fellow member, invited me to. You’re blog is my favorite even though I, living in Ohio, have a love/hate relationship with Tropicals. I was sending this message to you with the idea that if you have any visit planned to Ohio in 2017, you could include a visit to Sandusky. We meet on the first Tuesday of each month at the Frost Center at Osborne Metropark. We have 50 members with at least 30 active. Many of them are old-time members with 15+ years. Leo Pelka is a member with 30+ years, He has donated all of his show quality bonsai to Schedel’s- a wonderful facility with a huge Japanese garden in Elmore, Ohio. He works there every Wednesday and the Bonsai pavilions were renamed after him two years ago. Anyway, would you be able to fit a day in on a Saturday or actually any day through the Spring or Summer in 2017 for a talk/workshop? Another Club member owns a local Nursery- Mulberry Creek that you would definitely enjoy seeing. Please repond if interested. Keep up the great work generating interest in bonsai. Andy Shannon


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