Ahhhh, it’s my favorite time of the year at the Walt Disney World Resorts, the Annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. And what that means is, the Bonsai Societies of Florida display in the Japanese Pavilion.

I’ve had a tree on display a few times now but this year I opted not to submit one for consideration. There were a few reasons why I bowed out this year, one was to make room for new exhibitors.

One of those new people was Stephen Gale, one of my study group students, and this is his tree. I volunteered to deliver it for him so he didn’t have to buy a new car in order to transport it. I used my wife’s Kia minivan so I didn’t have to replace my much loved PT Loser. The tree is a willow leaf ficus (Ficus salicaria) that he had grown from a smaller cutting.

Significantly smaller.

Being the president of the Central Florida Bonsai Club I am, however, a member of the Epcot Selection Committee, headed by our intrepid leader (and OrlandoBonsaiTV YouTube guy) Paul Pikel. So I had some responsibilities.

Or perks.

The morning of the install found me having a chocolate croissant and a hot mocha. We had stayed the night at The Contemporary Resort to make sure we are all just a short way away from the Epcot park.

But it’s still an early morning, we had to be at the backstage staging area at 7am.

And it was also a chilly morning for an early March day. You’ll notice the jackets (no snow, though. It is Florida)

Here’s Steve’s willow leaf ficus (if you zoom in, yes, the sign has a misprint. It is not a Brazilian Raintree).

A leafless tamarind from Ben. For those wondering, this legume can be a deciduous tree in cool enough winter. But Ben defoliated it before the show.

This year we had the pleasure, but also the honor, to be able to show one of the trees (A ficus exotica) that was created by late, great, Jim Smith. It is among the trees that’re on display at the James J. Smith Pavilion at Heathcote Gardens down in Ft Pierce. Here’s three of my blog posts showing all the trees on display Part one, Part two, and Part three

The curator now is a fine gentleman named Tom Kehoe. Take a trip and see all the improvements he’s made. And be astounded at all the trees.

This is the 2019 exhibitors and the committee team. Notice how cold they all look!

As I said, being a part of the committee has perks. Sunset over the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Fireworks over The Magic Kingdom. That’s Space Mountain in purple there.

The Epcot display is a program of the Bonsai Societies of Florida, but my local club also plays a part in the Flower and Garden show. We have what I call a Meet n’ Greet booth on select weekends in the Festival Center.

The trees are smaller, but we get to talk to the guests.

Getting back to the Epcot/Bsf trees, the display is there for a full three months, from the beginning of March to the end of May (there’s still time to see them!) and because of that, they really change and grow. I believe this is the most unique and amazing part of the show.

For example, here’s a lysiloma from Mike and Lunetta.

The beginning of the show…

And mid show.

And Julie’s amazing bougie at the beginning of the show….

And mid show again.

Plus we get to see all the trees from our legends, this is Mary Madison’s buttonwood.

Current Bsf President, Ronn Miller’s giant green island ficus.

This is a tree from Puerto Rico (and Cesar) called a mulletta

Here’s a special tree from my friend Jerome from The Bonsai Supply

The pics are from Mari, his wife. Jerome calls it a “root over statue”, in the spirit of the Angkor Temple in Cambodia.

Though the statue is a Chinese soldier.

There’s Jerome, for scale. The tree was the subject of a recent Bonsai Focus Article, if it seems familiar.

This was on the day of install. Jerome is from Switzerland but even he was cold.

A spectacular Brazilian Raintree from Dr. Reggie

A sweet Campeche from Jesus.

A spiny black olive from Mike.

Bob’s weeping bottlebrush.

Rob’s elæagnus.

A great willow leaf from Hames

Alan’s ilex cornuta, this was his first show, as well as for Jerome, Bob, and Steve and David, who’s tree is coming up.

David’s podocarpus. This was the install day….

And just a week ago.

Randy’s willow leaf ficus.

A terrible pic but an awesome tree, Christian’s Raintree.

Jesus has two trees, this is a cool, carved bald cypress in the conifer style.

And Christian is showing off his range with a spectacular juniper. He and Jesus are among the top bonsai artists in Florida, I’m glad to be their friend. This is my favorite tree in the show. So it gets to be last tree I show you.

Before I end the post, I would like to mention an absent exhibitor.

Since the beginning of the festival, 26 years ago, there has been an artist who has had a tree in every year. His name is Ed Trout.

This year he chose not to submit a tree. I’m not going to guess why and I haven’t talked to him about it about why either.

But I missed him.

Ed is one of the last true gentlemen of bonsai, in the vein of Yuji Yoshimira or John Naka.

And a true artist. He can work on and design any type of tree, whether it’s a conifer, a deciduous, broadleaf, or tropical.

Ed will be one of the Headliners at D&L Bonsai Nursery’s World Bonsai Day celebration this Saturday, May 11, 2019

I’ll be attending the event and I hope to see you all there (check out D&L’s Webpage about the event for directions and schedule).

Back at Epcot, if you get the chance, go see the trees this year. The pictures are pale and flat compared to in person.

If not this year, they’ll be there next year as well, so mark your calendar, the beginning of March through the end of May, in Orlando, Florida, at Epcot.

And while you’re in town, you can visit my nursery too. I’m just twenty minutes away from Disney, right near the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

7 thoughts

  1. Well you certainly are a good teacher. How many years did it take to grow that beautiful ficus? Liz Fisher

    ⁣Sent from BlueMail ​

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    1. Steve has been growing it for maybe 20 years.
      And don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim credit for that, I’ve been helping him refine it for around five years. He’s done most of that amazing work

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  2. My wife and I are going to Epcot this weekend to see the trees and go to the convention. Can’t wait! Will the nursery be open this coming weekend? I always read your blog but I’d love to come check out some of your stock! How do I find the place? Thanks!
    -Paul

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    1. I’ll be at Epcot this Friday (5/17) and for a few hours on Sunday but I should be in most if the day Saturday and the afternoon on Sunday.
      For the convention I’ll be at the hotel Thursday-Monday (5/22-27)

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