2015 Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo

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The 3rd Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo was held on December 5-6, 2015 at the elegant North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Sponsored by bonsai hobbyist Steve Zeisel, this exhibition is unique on the east coast featuring deciduous bonsai without foliage so the true beauty can be appreciated. You can’t fake the beauty of deciduous bonsai, or at least, it is very difficult, because everything is exposed to the viewers once the leaves drop.

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The venue is quite spectacular, even more regal than those I’ve seen in Japan and Asia. White marble walls and columns were tied together with an unusual geometric floor pattern surrounding a round table, truly a piece of art itself. The four story rotunda is the tallest south of Washington, D.C.

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This year there were 62 individual bonsai displayed by individuals, not organizations, thus offering free expression of exhibits. And, there were some unique, stunning non-conventional displays, all in good taste. Creativity ran wild this year, which was not present in the first Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo three years ago. Although most exhibitors and visitors came from the southeast, many traveled from the northeast as well as Florida. The quality of bonsai in Florida is rapidly becoming more refined and three of the top awards went home to Florida.

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The displays showed individual thought in the tree and accent selection as well as the set up and “story” artists conveyed to the viewers, many completely North American.

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There were about a dozen vendors from the east coast offering containers, display tables, tool, supplies as well as bonsai and pre-bonsai. The two rooms were busy throughout the weekend.

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On Saturday Owen Reich, from Nashville, Tennessee, presented a demonstration on Silverberry bonsai talking and making a few changes on an old specimen originally imported from Asia. He showed and demonstrated the necessary respect when working with an aged bonsai.

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Wm. N. Valavanis next did something different; he showed a PowerPoint program designed for the public to introduce them to classical bonsai art. Information was also presented for experienced bonsai hobbyists as well. Following the program he demonstrated the basic techniques for creating a bonsai from common nursery stock.

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Sunday’s two programs began with a critique of the entire exhibit by Wm. N. Valavanis where constructive comments were made on the bonsai, containers, training, display as well as the display tables selected. Lively discussions took place when exhibitors were questioned about their displays.

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In the afternoon Ken Duncan and John Geanangel from Columbia, South Carolina, worked together creating an unusual clinging-to-a-rock style bonsai using old Kingsville dwarf box. Composed of heavy stones the bonsai will be kept on a nursery cart and protected during the winter. John also filmed the exhibit and posted a video on You Tube at: https://youtu.be/3dXmvg60y_0

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During the exhibition and demonstrations Joe Noga was in a back room, his normal dark habitat, professionally photographing all the bonsai. The high quality images will be displayed upon completion of adjusting the color.

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Steve Zeisel should again be congratulated on organizing and hosting a beautiful display of naked bonsai for the community. I was again honored to be able to participate in some way and look forward to the next Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo next December.

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