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In Memory of a Special Bonsai Artist
July 28, 2016

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In Memory of

James J. Smith

September 9, 1925 - June 29, 2016

Jim Smith was a softspoken man, more than willing to share his bonsai passion, ideas and techniques. Today his trees can be see in many collections including the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

Bonsai clubs and bonsai businesses will especially remember him as grower of a fantastic selection of mostly tropical pre-bonsai for workshops and classes.

In October 2009, Jim donated 100 of his best specimens to Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce, Fl. (The display was designed by Vero Beach architect, Peter Moor.)

Jim's grandson shared many beautiful memories of his 'Grandpa Jim,' including this comment ...

"Growing up I spent summers helping him at his nursery in Vero Beach. His bonsai was how he made a living for as long as I can remember, and it was what he loved to do. The most important thing he would never let me forget is, to "make sure you love what you do."

No doubt, Jim definitely loved what he did.

Jim Smith was well know for the many types of Ficus trees he grew.

(One of his Ficus retusa is shown here.)

However, a visit to his personal collection may have shocked many of you by the number and size of his Portulacaria afra!

His tips on growing this 'small leaf jade' plant were simple ... "rare root pruning, frequent foliage pruning and regular fertilizing!"

Lazaro J. Quintino took his son Matthew to visit Jim's nursery in December 2010.

This photo is a testament to the size of some of his 'Jade Trees.'

Jim Smith's family requests donations be made to the Heathcote Botanical Gardens for the continuing support of the James J. Smith Bonsai Gallery.

You can do this online at:

Jim Smith-Heathcote Botanical Gardens

Summer Dormancy? Yes!

If you haven't already noticed, look closely, you may find some of your bonsai trees are wilting in the heat. Before you water, check the soil moisture, you may be surprised!

Many years ago I noticed a summer dormancy period with my legume and buttonwood bonsai in South Florida. The trees had seemingly shut down. They “pouted” and even shed a few leaves.

Another symptom was little to no new growth. ‘Summer dormancy’ is a temporary inactive phase caused by chemical changes within the plant cells. This growth arrestment is caused by high temperatures.

During this time, allow your bonsai to rest. If cared for properly, they have stored up enough nutrition to sustain themselves. Do not try to perk them up with fertilizer, it won’t work!

Before you water, make sure your bonsai need it. Don’t overwater!

Watering Bonsai Page

Refine Your Collection

At least once a year, give your collection a serious critique. If you can’t be honest, hire someone to do it for you.

"Refining a collection" means more than trimming and repotting.

Sort out any trees you no longer love and ones that have no future (with you.) If you only sort out a few, this is best done around club auction time.

If you are really cleaning out, have a big, one day sale and/or auction. Be sure to promote it! The picture shown above is of folks waiting in line for one of my events. (In the good old days.)

Don’t worry about “getting your money back”. If they gave you pleasure and hopefully many lessons, you got your money’s worth.

From Ten Steps to Good Bonsai

Chop, Seal and Signature Resources

Are you going crazy trying to identify the chop on your favorite bonsai pot? Is it Japanese, Chinese, Korean?

Today many Western countries also use seals.

Try this link if you think you have a Tokoname bonsai pot.

Bonsai Chops Around the World is a great site. It opens up to a world map. Begin your search by selecting a country.

Ryan Bell's passion is to encourage appreciation of the art of bonsai pottery through accurate information, images, and history. His site, Japanese Bonsai Pots has an amazing number of bonsai pot chops ... not only Japanese! After going to his site, if you still can't identify your pot, email Ryan at with a picture.

BonsaiMary Gets Mail

About Buttonwwod

Bob Wertz, Oakland Park, Florida "Great issue Mary. Love your info on Buttonwoods. Keep up the good work."

Portia C., Palm Bay, Florida - "Thank you again for the most interesting and informative newsletter. Buttonwood is one of my favorite and I have several."

About Serissa

David Fukomoto, Kurtistown, HI - "Aloha Mary, This is probably one of the great mini-bonsai plants - while you’re keeping it alive - but the greatest sadness when it dies back!"

Gabriel G. - "Thanks for sharing the Serissa story. I have checked out several pages of your site but hadn't seen that one. Good stuff. I guess I was confused too. Lol. Thanks for setting me straight."

A New Sponsor

Joe Cain was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. A retired firefighter with a passion for bonsai since 1985, today Joe has a bonsai nursery. And his 'Artisans Bonsai' schedule of speakers is amazing. In addition to the nursery ad, watch for special speaker announcements on the BonsaiMary site.

Pedro Morales is coming August 27 and 28th!

With Appreciation

With an average of 20,000+ unique visitors a month to my website, I continue to "meet" many of you.

If you have a question, an answer or a story to share, please

Contact Me

Many thanks to all my subscribers who do continue to share bonsai thoughts, questions and pictures.

A special thank you to the BonsaiMary site sponsors.

Supporting these advertisers, helps keep the BonsaiMary site alive and well.

One of the hottest summers ever has hit the Northern Hemisphere, so until next month, wear a hat, use sunscreen and drink lots of water!

If there's crazy weather where you are, please stay safe.

Most Sincerely,

Mary Miller

P.S. If you have a bonsai business, consider sharing it with my visitors.

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