My real name is Mary C. Miller. Before I tell you about growing bonsai trees, this is a little about myself. I am a fifth generation Washingtonian. Although born in Washington, D.C., I grew up in suburban Maryland, as the oldest of ten children. Even as a child I hated the weather there, I dreamed of the tropics.
In 1967, I was working for United Airlines and took advantage of an opportunity to transfer to Miami. Miami was everything I had ever dreamed it would be. Sun, fancy hotels, warm beaches and palm trees! After a short time there, United wanted me back in DC. I declined. I had moved my children here and I was here to stay. I definitely had "sand in my shoes." I visited places like Key West, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Parrot Jungle and the Everglades. What was there not to like?
Very quickly, I discovered if you stuck a stick in the ground it would grow. I found that exciting. It perked an old interest in horticulture. I began growing bonsai trees in Miami, FL during the early 1970s. It wasn't long before I was totally consumed with these little trees. I read about them, I took a class and I experimented, and like many people, I killed a few.
Before I knew it, bonsai had become a lifestyle. My friends were 'bonsai people.' Vacations were conventions. Reading meant bonsai books. Growing bonsai trees became a big part of who I was.
In 1977, my hobby turned into my first business. Bonsai etc. was a small retail shop, with just enough space for classes, in the back. In the 70's, it seemed few people knew what bonsai was; within two years the shop closed. It was disappointing, but a learning experience for my future ventures.
In 1984, I moved to a home on one acre plus, near Homestead, just south of Miami. It was perfectly suited for a nursery business!
Local residents and guests from all over the world visited The Bonsai Bench.
We soon added a five acre wholesale location, not far away (The Big Five). My brother Tom Stoute joined me. Today, Tom is creating bonsai in Virginia. My daughter Angela Quinata also came on board. I'm sure her accounting and administrative abilities kept us out of trouble. No doubt my bonsai history would have been very different without either one of them.
During those successful and fun years, the days were long and the work was hard. We created, grew and shipped plants all over the United States, to Canada, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. But there was always time to try out new possibilities.
After a little experimenting, Tom found one of our 'weed trees' to be an excellent subject!
It wasn't long before we were growing this Leucaena glauca weed for bonsai.
Since its scientific name was such a mouthful, we called it Tropical Mimosa. (It's not related to the Mimosa as grown in temperate areas. It looks like one, however, it is a tropical plant.)
I discovered another winning subject and proudly introduced the tropical Nashia inaguensis as a new plant for bonsai consideration.
Read the full story of the Bahama Berry.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated our home and both business locations. The damage was too great and the experience too traumatic to begin again.
|Portion of roof landed far from the house. (Tornado within hurricane.)||Five shadehouses were totally destroyed. One had recently been built.||Under these trees is Angela's Nissan. Sunroof leaked, the car ran!|
After Hurricane Andrew, I continued teaching at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami. I traveled giving talks and demonstrations.
I also spoke at many conventions over the years. In 2002, I was a headliner at the 25th annual Golden State Bonsai Convention in Sacramento, California.
I started a print newsletter, which later lead to a book. In 2009 I wrote a paperback book called "Bonsai with Tropicals" about my experience and experiences in bonsai. It received good reviews ... the only complaints were "it wasn't long enough" and the "pictures were black and white." (No longer available.)
I gave a lot of consideration to writing another book, then decided to create the BonsaiMary website instead using SoloBuildIt
At the 2010 Bonsai Societies of Florida convention, I was honored to receive their Lifetime Achievement Award.
In part due to Hurricane Andrew, many things in my life changed. I eventually made the choice to downsize and leave the Miami area. I had narrowed my personal collection to the best of my trees, and continued to sell the remaining bonsai and supplies.
At some point, I realized 99% of my trees were tropicals that would likely struggle in my new Central Florida location. I then made a life altering decision: auction all of my trees, pre-bonsai and supplies!
In addition to the actual auction, there was a huge sales area with everything from rocks and slabs to bonsai pots and tools.
The Sunday October 17, 2010 auction was very successful. Many South Florida bonsai lovers attended. I was happy to know my treasures went to good homes.
My 2010 move to the small, quaint, lakeside town of Mount Dora, Florida has been a wonderful adventure. I am currently maintaining and adding to this website, writing Bonsai Banter (a monthly newsletter companion to this site) ... and I'm active in my community.
I no longer have bonsai nor bonsai related items for sale.
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For history of bonsai in general please see the very thorough Robert Baran site
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