2019 46th Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Sale




The year’s annual bonsai exhibition & sale took place at the Monroe Community Hospital in Rochester, New York, on May 18-19, 2019. Our society of approximately 150 people have members from Erie and Williamsport, PA, Syracuse, Buffalo, Ithaca, NY as well as in the greater Rochester area. Members from these far distances prepared their bonsai and brought them for display for others to enjoy and learn.


























IMG_3766.jpgThere were 76 bonsai on display this year that included 15 Larch, which is approximately 20% of the entire exhibition. Having a single species dominate bonsai exhibitions is quite common and I’ve seen this situation throughout the United States. Exhibitions in California often feature junipers, Southeast areas shows feature bald cypress and buttonwoods, Pacific Northwest society exhibits feature collected junipers. Native species, those easy to grow and are winter hardy in areas frequently dominate exhibitions. Fortunately most have been trained in different styles.









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For the past several years we have a special themed exhibit: such as Satsuki azalea and maple bonsai. This year the society featured forests and rock planting bonsai from our member’s collections.











Shohin and small size bonsai are well represented in each of our annual bonsai exhibitions from our award winning bonsai artists.




Additionally, the Suiseki Study Group of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York had four tables filled with prize suiseki.





The Rochester Chapter 53 of Ikebana International prepare a special exhibit featuring flower arrangements from their teachers. Additionally, three of their members are also bonsai society members who displayed ikebana flower arrangements as well as bonsai and suiseki. Their teachers also present a demonstration each year in addition to a bonsai demonstration.



Finally, a popular area of all bonsai exhibitions feature a sales area and educational display, which show videos between demonstrations.

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World Bonsai Day 2019


Each year the second Saturday of May has been designated as World Bonsai Day. This is an internationally celebrated event dedicated to furthering bonsai awareness and appreciation. World Bonsai Day was initiated by the World Bonsai Friendship Federation to honor the memory of Saburo Kato, renowned bonsai master and founder of the WBFF. Clubs, organizations, arboretum collections, businesses and individuals plan special events to celebrate World Bonsai Day. Exhibitions, demonstrations, displays as well as people donating their bonsai to collections are some of the events that happened today. However, perhaps the most popular activity celebrated on World Bonsai Day is the actually working on bonsai, which happened all over the world. That’s what bonsai is all about, the trees.



Originally, I was planning a Maple Bonsai Exhibit in my studio, garden and garage display area. But, as I was selecting the bonsai I realized that all were Japanese maples, and Trident maples were not represented. So, the name was simply changed to a “Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit.” Only Japanese maples and their cultivars were displayed. OK, I included a couple of Full-moon maples as well. Most people can’t tell the difference, but I frequently explained the difference.





Each visitor received an excellent DVD by Canadian bonsai artist Arthur Skolnik and a copy of Kinbon Japanese bonsai magazine. Yes, the articles are entirely in Japanese, but the excellent color photos and illustrations are an inspiration and also educational if one looks closely.


In addition to the Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit I held a morning and afternoon workshop for advance students. Paul Tuttle traveled from Syracuse for both the morning and afternoon sessions and Rick Marriott, who assists me teaching and a member of the Monday Senior Crew also worked all day on his bonsai.




We had quite a few visitors from across the area and one gentleman from North Carolina also dropped in. He was within a couple of hundred miles from Rochester and read about World Bonsai Day and my Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit and decided to attend, he stayed for most of the afternoon too. I met him at the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo held last December, in Kannapolis, NC. Unfortunately, I’m bad at remembering people’s names, but good at remembering the common, botanical as well as the Japanese names of plants.



Many of the visitors were past students, members of our local Bonsai Society of Upstate New York as well as all of my Monday Senior Crew. This is a special select group of friends who come every Monday to assist me in any way they can to help me promote bonsai. All of them are quite familiar with the Japanese maples on display, having trimmed, mossed, bud pinched, transplanting, wiring and watering. They know my plants, however they are familiar with these bonsai in my garden, where they must live. The bonsai are not often formally displayed in my studio, garden and garage display area. I felt very honored that they took time from their busy schedules to stop by to appreciate the beauty of the Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit.




Bonsai are kept outdoors for their health. Here they are watered daily, sprayed, trimmed and sometimes wired and shaped. Containers get soiled, moss becomes messy with organic fertilizer balls and sometimes a vigorous shoot or two get missed when trimming. This is how the bonsai are actually created and cared for. To fully appreciate the true beauty of a bonsai they are isolated from distractions, cleaned up and formally displayed. It’s like when you want to make a good first impression to someone or are preparing for a formal event or party. One changes from street clothes, gets cleaned up and tries to look their best for visitors and friends.



This special Japanese Maple Bonsai Display included 13 different cultivars of Japanese maples. There were several duplicates for a special shohin bonsai box display. All the display tables were different, in addition to their accessories and the flat slab underneath. No duplications were displayed, including container colors; and the trunk direction of each bonsai led the eyes to the center of the exhibit area. This took considerable time on Friday to plan out in addition to cleaning up the studio after hundreds of students created bonsai during the past few months. Friends came to help and I was on my hands and knees (don’t tell my doctor) washing the floor and scrapping up small bits of cut paste which students dropped. Unfortunately, a few of the bonsai that were recently transplanted did not have green moss, only chopped up long-fiber sphagnum moss.


I struggled and enjoyed creating an unusual shohin Japanese maple box display. Usually there are no duplicate species, container colors and styles, which creates interest. Also the trunk direction of each shohin bonsai leads the eye to the center of the composition. Since I introduced Koto Hime Japanese maple to the American bonsai community 37 years ago, I have many specimens in a variety of styles and sizes as well. All the bonsai in this special shohin box display were Koto Hime Japanese maples. Included were slanting and informal upright styles as well as a rock planting and forest. To date I have not successfully created a cascade style Koto Hime Japanese maple bonsai because of their strong upright growth characteristic. But, perhaps in the future I’ll be lucky.


Enjoy the images of the Japanese maples in the formal exhibit, as well as a few studio shots taken earlier this spring when some of the maples were in full bloom. Also a couple of photos of how Japanese maples were featured in outdoor displays.





Asia-Pacific American Heritage Family Fun Day

SOCIETY 2.JPGHarvey Carapella, Jason Henderberg and Ron Maggio answering questions



The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York Inc, also celebrated World Bonsai Day by participating in the one day Memorial Art Gallery Asia-Pacific American Heritage Family Fun Day. Several members showed five bonsai, two suiseki and one accessory planting on a small three table display. They answered many questions on bonsai and promoted our upcoming 46thUpstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Sale that will be held next weekend. Of course these volunteers also encouraged people to join our very active society of about 150 members from greater Rochester as well as from Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca and Pennsylvania (Erie and Williamsport.)

I hope everyone, all around the globe, enjoyed World Bonsai Day 2019 and remembered all the pioneers, both past and present, who sacrificed to establish the bonsai organizations, collections, exhibitions and businesses our bonsai community now enjoy. Look for more bonsai activities next year for World Bonsai Day 2020, and most importantly, please enjoy your bonsai!

Look how the following people enjoy their bonsai!


World Bonsai Day!


Each year the second Saturday of May has been designated as World Bonsai Day. This is an internationally celebrated event dedicated to furthering bonsai awareness and appreciation. World Bonsai Day was initiated by the World Bonsai Friendship Federation to honor the memory of Saburo Kato, renowned bonsai master and founder of the WBFF. Clubs, organizations, arboretum collections, businesses and individuals plan special events to celebrate World Bonsai Day. Be sure to visit a World Bonsai Day event nearby, or travel to attend.


This year I’m pleased to personally participate in a World Bonsai Day celebration by having six special Maple Bonsai Displays in my studio complex. These bonsai maples will be formally presented for people to appreciate and study the design, container & accessory selection and how they have been combined to celebrate the spring beauty of bonsai.


This spring has been quite busy for us with 30 additional new students each week, in addition to others for the Open Bonsai Workshops. Since spring arrived late this year I’m having three unscheduledspecial Open Bonsai Workshops on Friday, May 10 (1-4pm) and Saturday, May 11 (9-12pm & 1-4pm).JN:WNV.jpg

I enjoy helping and guiding students with their bonsai development and refinement. It’s great to see some of the bonsai we have been working on together for the past 30 and 40 years return to the studio for consultation. New students, just starting out also learn from watching advanced students working on their masterpiece bonsai during the Open Workshops.


Each student participating in one of these special Open Bonsai workshops will be given a gift to commemorate the World Bonsai Day celebration. Each Open Bonsai Workshop is $40, while an all day session on Saturday is $75. These will be the last Open Bonsai Workshops for the spring 2019 season. Please contact me to reserve your space.



Everyone is welcome to join us on both Friday, May 10 (10-4pm) and Saturday, May 11 (9-4pm) to enjoy the special Maple Bonsai Displays.We will also be preparing for the following week’s 2019 Spring Open House & Sale,which is on May 18-19th, during the same weekend as our 46thUpstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Saleat the Monroe Community Hospital in Rochester.


2019 MidAtlantic Bonsai Festival Demo Tree



DEAD WOOD.JPGLast week at the MidAtlantic Bonsai Festival Taiga Urushibata from Japan created a bonsai Ponderosa pine. It was originally collected by Andy Smith and quite healthy. It was a difficult tree to design. Robert Mahler was the translator for Mr. Urushibata. Not knowing the condition of the roots made the recommended future transplanting more difficult One of my students, John Caulwell from Pennsylvania was the lucky winner of this unique collected bonsai.

Today he and his wife drove three hours from Pennsylvania to attend an open workshop with me and brought his new bonsai. We examined the roots and to my surprise, they were beautiful, healthy and full of fibrous small roots. It was safe for transplanting and we only removed one section of an awkward large root. Fortunately I just happen to have four containers suitable for John’s Ponderosa pine. A deep cascade was selected but needed the help of my assistant Alan Adair to grasp, pull and twist the tie-down wire to prevent movement in the new container. He even had to stand on the container to get the 4mm aluminum wire to stabilize the tree.
This Ponderosa pine is unique, as are most collected specimens. Rather than just looking at the design of the unusual trunk formation; its important to stop and appreciate the hundred or so years the tree grew on a cliff somewhere and still had the will and persistence to survive. Taiga Urushibata worked several hours to bring out the beauty of the collected tree. The lucky owner, John Caulwell and I examined the tree, prepared the roots, added mycorrhizae to the soil mix and potted the tree for the next step in the development of a new bonsai. Although the design is not complete at this time, the beauty of this bonsai can still be appreciated.

Bonsai At GardenScape 2019



GardenScape 2019 is the annual flower and garden show in Rochester, New York, which runs from March 14-17, 2019. It is held at the newly remodeled dome in Henrietta, New York, a suburb of Rochester only five miles from my garden. Landscape companies from around the area transformed the Dome, over one acre in size into a living garden paradise. GardenScape showcases the most unique designs, display, plants and products for the attendees.





This is the 23rd presentation of GardenScape, and the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and I have been fortunate to have displayed bonsai, in every year and I’m the last of the original exhibitors. This year 12 of my skilled friends helped design and build our bonsai display garden in two long days. The final result came out great after months of planning, building and forcing azaleas for the colorful garden. Unlike other exhibitors who mostly purchased forced plants for their gardens out of state. All of our plants, except for the dwarf daffodils were forced by us.


This year’s theme was “Enchanted Gardens,” and my garden featured miniature fairies among most of the bonsai. And a couple of rubber duckies in the water basin. Its important to have fun with your bonsai and many young people searched to find the fairies.IMG_3187.jpgIMG_3189.jpg


The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York won the award for the Non-Profit Award for the best garden or display with educational value for the gardening public. Their display was next to mine so half of an entire wall featured bonsai.









GardenScape is presented by the GardenScape Professionals Association, a not-for-profit organization whose proceeds will help to benefit the association’s many educational and public service efforts, and by the Professional Landscape and Nursery Trades of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region.IMG_3166.jpgIMG_3170.jpg





Each year nursery and horticulture professionals from outside the region judge the garden displays. Two or three teams consisting of landscapers, garden designers and horticulturists carefully evaluate each garden display and present many awards to worthy entries.


The GardenScape Competition Mission Statement:

To raise the level of horticultural entertainment and education by rewarding imagination, creativity and the highest quality execution at GardenScape.




Our display won awards the following awards:

The Plantsman’s Cup for the best overall use of plant material featuring design and horticultural excellence.

Best small garden exhibit

Most impressive display of a single forced specimen under the direct supervision of the exhibitor.

Best integration of fragrant flowers in a garden.

Best use of planted containers in a garden.

Best garden or display with educational value for the gardening public.


Additionally my display included a new larger gazebo designed by Joe Lentner.



Harvey Carapella, Alan Adair and I presented continuous demonstrations working on two different trees at a time. Questions were answered during the event about what we were doing as well as general bonsai techniques.





Additional information at: rochesterflowershow.com

Refining A Japanese Maple Bonsai By Transplanting

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September 2018

Joe Noga has been growing and training his Shishigashira Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira,’ for over 35 years. This dwarf cultivar of Japanese maple has been selected and appreciated in Japan for over 300 years. It is commonly trained for bonsai in Japan and is generally easy to air layer to produce a bonsai. The lovely dark green leaves are interesting and curled, which is not a good characteristic for bonsai because when reduce in size they become deformed and do not look like maple leaves. They are however, slow and compact growing and quite popular for bonsai training.

Joe grew his Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai in Rochester, New York for decades before moving his large and excellent bonsai collection to Winterville, of Carolina, nine years ago. In Rochester, his maple bonsai thrived in a full sun exposure all day long, while in North Carolina shade must be provided to avoid leaf burn by early summer.

He wanted to display his bonsai in the 2018 6thUS National Bonsai Exhibition which was held in September 2018. Usually by September most of the dark green lustrous foliage would be burned and unsuitable for display. I suggested Joe bring it to Rochester in May to display in the Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Sale then leave it with me where I would care for it and keep it in the full sun for the summer and prepare it for the US National Bonsai Exhibition.


During the five months under my care I had the opportunity carefully study the design of the Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai. Although the root display was impressive a slight rotation would improve the total aesthetic impact of the bonsai, showing a wider surface root display. Like many fine bonsai masterpieces this bonsai can be displayed from two sides. The surface roots, trunk design and branching can be appreciated from both the front and back views. This comes in handy for display, and a bonsai with left to right, or right to left eye movement is necessary for the designated show area.

Joe and I discussed rotating the front to refine the design and decided to transplant the bonsai the next time I visited to help him with his bonsai collection. Today, February 27, 2019 we had the opportunity and made time to transplant his Shishigashira Japanese maple.


After removing the bonsai from the container, the pot was cleaned, wired and prepared for receiving the tree after root pruning. A nifty inexpensive hose nozzle (under $5) from Lowes, which produces a powerful strong spray, was used to remove old soil after trimming back the long fibrous root system. Joe washed the roots, picked away soil, trimmed fine roots and repeated the process several times until the root mass was ready for potting.




Considerable time was taken to carefully reposition the bonsai in the container making certain that the trunk, branches and surface root display looked good from both sides. The two side views were important to provide an upward trunk with slight lean towards the front.


Two side views

Finally, the tree was set into the container and then bottom, main and top soil was added. The tree was securely tied into the container with sissy wire and the entire root mass was carefully firmed with bamboo chopsticks which are flexible and safe, unlike metal chopsticks.







IMG_2975.jpgFinally, small pieces of chopped long-fibered sphagnum moss was carefully applied to the entire soil surface. The moss should be fine and pressed flat on top of the soil surface. Often people use the long-fibered sphagnum moss like “mulch” and loosely apply it making it easy to be dislodged, quick to dry out and more importantly look messy. The compact moss layer helps to retain some moisture, avoid soil erosion and keeps soil from splashing on the trunk making it dirty. Like everything worthwhile, applying a compact and neat proper layer of long-fibered sphagnum moss takes time and practice.

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December 2015



February 27, 2019– one view



February 27, 2019– another view

The Shishigashira Japanese maple was then thoroughly watered, until clear water ran from the drainage holes and the bonsai was protected from wind and frost. The refinement change is quite subtle, unnoticeable by most people, but Joe and I can see the improvement. We celebrated with a sushi dinner.