As promised, here’s the “story” post of the trip to the 2016 Winter Silhouette Expo. Let’s start with the view from the second floor, above the exhibit room. It’s always best to start at the top. But maybe not in order. I don’t remember things in order, it doesn’t seem, sometimes, so maybe I’ll write this post that way. Or maybe it was the coquito. And beer. Memories soaked in spirits. Nestor supplied the cocquito. Chris poured the beer. 

Some of these pics aren’t mine, some are Nestor’s (above left), some are Cullen’s (from AB Tools) and some I just outright stole from the Facebooks. Let’s start in the middle somewhere. 

My buxus microphylla being photographed by the amazing Joe Noga. If’n you’re wanting a true professional photo of your (your club, Society, or regional group’s) exhibit trees, I suggest You hire Joe. He took, I kid not, at least thirty photos of my buxus here. It’s a difficult tree to photograph I guess (the light bark seems to reflect the lights and it causes really bright hot spots) but he finally got the photo, with the help of holding up two blinds blocking the lights and handheld spots and all kinds of tricks that only a pro could think of. Here’s the result (photo by Joe, obviously) 

Thank you sir, for all the hard work. Next year I’ll enter an easier tree to photograph, promise. 
The show had four demos during the weekend, we had Owen Reich ( 

Rodney Clemons (All Good Bonsai in Atlanta) Rodney’s Virginia Pine demo tree. Rob Kempinski on the left and Rodney on the right. 
Bill Valavanis and his demo tree.  

And the last demonstrator was this long haired weirdo who’s writing this blog, yours truly. I’m looking over my shoulder, wary of the snipers. 

I’ll show my demo trees a little later in the article. 

If you remember last years coverage (click  here) James, Rob’s sister’s boyfriend’s son, and Rob had collected a pine tree. Surprisingly, it was still alive and flourishing. We are thinking it’s a loblolly pine. 

Here’s Rob and James weeding it and plucking the three year old needles.   If James keeps up with the tree, in 20 years (he’ll be in his thirties) that tree will be a masterpiece. 

In case you didn’t guess, this year I drove with Rob again, along with my good friend Dustin Mann. This is after they defoliated Rob’s tree, The Kraken (a ficus microcarpa) mid show. It was a dramatic move and surprised a lot of people. The before/after shots. 

Rob is pushing the envelope when it comes to bonsai display. I think he’s having fun doing it too. 
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Rob and his sister and her family for putting up with Dustin and me and letting us stay with them for the show. 

Last year I talked a lot about my prep for the show, the stands, the trees, etc., but this year I’m going to go quickly over it. 

I had made the stands previously, I just needed to clean them up a bit. A little rustyI knocked off the big chunks and sprayed clear coat on the steel. 

That stand is very similar to the one I used last year, but it’s a shohin stand for multiple trees. 

I went through too many configurations for the tree placement. I’m not sure I got it right in the end, but I enjoyed the challenge. It’s all about flow.  As it was presented in the show:photo by Joe Noga. 

The trees mid prep. 

Ulmus parviflora. 

The boxwood mockup. Notice the lack of green moss. 

Barb provided the moss this year, which gave rise to the above companion, some reindeer moss (lichen) growing out of regular moss. She really came through for me. Her sea grape and shimpaku juniper. Along with her sweet companion plants. Thank you ma’am! 

The boys from AB Tools were in the house: I’m very fortunate to have them as friends. Thanks guys! 

One of my favorite people, who just moved from Florida to North Carolina, was in attendance, No, not Alex Jones, that’s Mr. Mike Cartrett. He was doing what he does best, selling bonsai and bonsai related sundries. He gave me this cool Hawaiian rock.My original idea was to carve it out a bit more and drill some drain holes. But Rodney reminded me that I should leave it alone, else I’d feel the wrath of the Hawaiian volcano gods. Mike promised me that it had been blessed and any curses removed. I might just be careful, this time. I don’t need any more curses chasing me around. 

One of the great things about shows like this is you get to meet many new people and renew old friendships. You see, bonsai is little trees. But it’s also big friendships, good people and great art. I’m grateful to be a part of the community.  

Ok, now for some (if you’ll forgive me a little) shameless self promotion. 

My demo trees. A ficus salicaria. 

And a green mound ficus. 

The ficus salicaria was just a gag demo. I trunk chopped it. Ruthlessly. Here it is today. It’ll be a fine shohin in a year or two. 

On the green mound, I did some actual work. And hammed it up as best I could. 

I got Nestor to defoliate for me. 

The theme of the talk was, believe it or not, “Why tropical bonsai is superior to classical bonsai”. Maybe I’ll write a blog post using that theme soon. Post it on all the forums and stir up all kinds of trouble. Maybe…..

Anyway, here are some, like I said, shameless self promotion shots. It was all about the point this year. My orange Nikes were a hit too. 

I really had fun, doing what I do best, talk bonsai. Me and my Vader-Helmet hair. Dumm dumm dumm dum tee dum dum tee dummmm….

And here is a shot, back home in The Nook, of the finished tree. And that’s all. There were some stories that will stay at Winter Silhouette. 

Thanks to the man with the plan, Mr Steven Zeisel, for again putting on a great show. I will be there next year, definitely. 

I hope to see some more readers of the blog next year, too. We need a contingent, a movement. A mob. That’d be cool. Take over the joint. 

As a parting shot, this is a photo that Dustin got of a random girl taking a pic of one of the exhibit trees, it looks like Rodney’s kingsville boxwood. 

That’s what bonsai is about. Not the awards, not the egos, the cliques and politics. Not the money or the trappings or the hubris. Bonsai is this. That girl is seeing the tree and was so inspired by it that she stopped to take a pic. Simple.  And that makes me feel hopeful. 

6 thoughts

  1. Wonderful perspective on the show! And I agree wholeheartedly… first time, and it definitely won’t be my last. It’s already on the calendar for 2017 (first weekend in December). The people were amazing, and I learned things I never knew….most of it about bonsai! And, as you said, thanks to Steve Zeisel and his crew for putting together a flawless event in an outstanding venue.


  2. Started mid-December, read straight through your entire blog. Wasn’t prepared for this to be the last entry, actually had to scroll up to see if I had just missed the link to the next post. When I started reading I knew absolutely nothing about bonsai, just wanted to learn. You have a wealth of information that would have taken me a long time to learn from a book, and the addition of first the overhead shots of the trees and now the videos make me feel confident enough to maybe attempt bonsai. Looking forward to your next post and video. Would really like to see some more information or a video about how people like you and Mary go out collecting. What do the trees look like when you find them, what makes you chose one over another, how much of the nebari do you typically see or do you have to dig a bit to check, what all do you do when removing it from where it grew, and then time and care before you can actually touch it again? Thanks again for being a virtual mentor to those of us so far away.


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