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One Hundred Issues of Bonsai Banter
July 16, 2018

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One Hundred Issues of Bonsai Banter
... Wow!

A lot has happened since the first issue.

I was still living in Miami, Florida and for Bonsai Banter Issue #1, I wrote "I get no sympathy from my northern friends, but freeze and frost warnings are serious in South Florida. (Especially if you have 100 tropical bonsai in your back yard.)

I continued to tell how many folks actually saw snow flurries during that storm. And I shared a few of the things we had to do in the tropics, to prepare for such potential disasters!

I had been writing about bonsai for many years. (You may have seen articles in early Bonsai Today magazines, among others.) In 1996, I began and mailed out a print newsletter - 'Bonsai with Tropicals.'

Writing a newsletter (online) was completely new to me. html? No clue. You may have noticed, in that first issue, I hadn't figured out how to create links!

Between then and now, I had a huge bonsai auction, sold my house in Miami and moved to the most wonderful, small lakeside town in Florida ... Mount Dora.

The approximate elevation is 177 feet, in Miami my elevation was 7 feet.

My BonsaiMary website has developed and the newsletter continues. The links, larger pictures and font types etc. of today's Bonsai Banter have been a long, but enjoyable, learning curve.

For this Bonsai Banter 100th anniversary issue, I decided to answer a question I'm often asked. "What is your personal favorite BonsaiMary site page?"

Since there are well over a hundred pages, I really had to think about it.

I decided the 'Stuff Article' listed on a page full of Bonsai Tree Articles had to be one of my favorites.

This is a page somewhat tucked away and often overlooked. However, it is also the page most often requested for 'permission to reprint.' It's a true bonsai story with a message.

(I did some minor editing and and added a few extras to the page for this "Special Edition") And now the article . . .


Bonsai "how-to" is important of course, but in some ways this article may be even more important. It is truly a lesson I learned the hard way. I hope you find it inspiring.

It’s been over 40 years since I began growing bonsai trees. During those years, I found it necessary to buy many plants (just to make sure I didn’t miss out on anything) ... species I had never tried, specials I saw at garden centers and bargains at club auctions. It was seemingly endless.

Somewhere along the way, I also decided I should have one of every tropical with any bonsai potential and I expanded my hunt. Of course, not all the plants I bought were even good beginner bonsai trees, but "I could grow them on."

After a few years of growing bonsai, I started selling some of the plants I had gathered and rejected. The selling became a business. The business grew and so did my habit of buying. I sold lots of the ‘stuff’ and watched others make decent bonsai out of it!

It took about 15 years to discover I had lots of plants, I had very few bonsai.

The Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) shown here, was one bonsai I managed to style and maintain for many years. (The first branch was eventually removed.)

Where did the time go?

After 30+ years of growing bonsai trees, I finally figured it out. I had so much ‘stuff,’ I had no time to develop it or even take care of it properly. It was not an easy habit to break, but I finally managed to do it.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated our home and both business locations. You can read more about that here: Personal Bonsai History

A few years after Hurricane Andrew, I closed the business. I continued teaching at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami and traveled giving talks and demonstrations. In my new spare time, I worked on my trees. I began to use the bonsai how-to-lessons I teach.

One such lesson ... taper, taper, taper ... finally encouraged me to cut off several huge branches on this old Pixie Bougainvillea. (It had been sitting in a cut-down nursery container for years.)

I cleaned up the dead wood and painted lime sulfur on my favorite Conocarpus e. (buttonwoods.)

Even the weeds were getting under control. Many Ficus were root pruned and placed in shallow pots.

I tossed or sold everything without a decent trunk and narrowed down the number of plants. (Ask any of the old timers about my auction and many sales.)

2010 auction photo - 'Waiting at the Gate'

Moral of This Bonsai Story

For those of you just getting started in bonsai - and some of you old-timers who have similar buying habits - discipline yourselves!

After many years of neglect your ‘stuff’ will be nothing but ‘old stuff.’ It doesn't go to shows nor end up in magazines.

It's still just ‘stuff,’ no matter how old it is.

Until Next Month

Thank you!

If are new to Bonsai Banter, I hope you will continue to read it and share your thoughts.

If you've been with me a long time, thanks for staying when the messages were way to short, not of your interest or just sounded like I was searching for words (sometimes that happens!)

A special thanks to everyone supporting our advertisers!

I'm not sure I'll make it through another hundred issues ... but that's the plan!


Mary C. Miller

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