2020 so far . . .

January - Rebecca Ayers' Wiring Workshop 
February - Jesse McMahon on basic bonsai design principles
Jesse presented the principles of bonsai design following David De Groot's classic book. Members each brought one tree and discussed a design plan for it. (De Groot's book is available from Stone Lantern.)
Rebecca illustrated basic principles of wiring for both conifers and deciduous trees and also discussed tools, wire sizes, and techniques, illustrated by her PowerPoint presentation. You can download both parts of her presentation  from the links below. Then members separated into groups and worked on their own trees with the help of an experienced member.
Part 1:                                      Part 2: 
Our own Felix Laughlin--who is also co-President of the National Bonsai Foundation-- is interviewed on the NBF blog on the reconstruction of the Japanese Pavilion at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC. Click the following link to read the interview.
More information on the NBF and the link to their main website are found at the bottom of this page. Also,pictures from Felix's presentation and demonstration on designing forests at our November meeting is found in "2019 so far" on this page.

Elections for 2020 - 2022

Outgoing Board for 2018 - 2019

Left to right: Tom Snow (Treasurer), Jesse McMahon (Immediate Past President), Peggy Snow (President), Felix Laughlin (At Large Board member), Jane Lovett (Secretary and Webmaster), Bob Thatcher (Vice-President), Chris Pazoles (At Large Board member)

Incoming Board for 2020 - 2022

Left to right: Tom Snow (Treasurer), Jane Lovett (Webmaster), Jesse McMahon (Immediate Past President)), Peggy Snow (President), Felix Laughlin (At Large Board member), Pam Van Tassel (Secretary), , Chris Pazoles (Vice-President and Program Director)

Bob Thatcher!

gets a pop-up bonsai card from the Arboretum,


an inscribed bonsai pot hand-made by Lynn August.

and a life-time membership in the Blue Ridge Bonsai Society,

. . . 

and our sincere and enormous thanks for all he has done for the BRBS, including keeping it alive almost by himself for many years.

On November 12th, Arthur Joura (Bonsai Curator at the NC Arboretum) gave a talk on "Yoshimura's Island", a hornbeam forest created by Yuji Yoshimura in 1995. He also talked about his personal relationship with Yoshimura. The link below will take you to William Valavanis's account of his relationship with Yoshimura and a description of Yoshimura's career teaching bonsai to Americans. 
The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Japan, a partner of our National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC, had an exhibit on Yoshimura this fall and consulted with Valavanis, who had inherited Yoshimura's bonsai library on his death

Highlights of 2019 

To start our new year right, Jesse McMahon led a discussion on  the life cycle of bonsais, both deciduous and coniferous. You must know the special needs of your tree's species and keep it healthy, but also set a goal for it at each stage of development and refinement that will get you to the appearance and style you are aiming for..
Demonstrating the result of pruning a large branch:           A juniper with a really interesting root structure:
Bonsai professional Danny Coffey discussed how to prepare a tree for show--starting two years in advance: Year1: wire and style, year 2: repot and adjust.
Danny also discussed details that judges may look for: clean trunks, no heavy wire on large branches, moss that emphasized the roots of the tree, and more.
Discussing a mature boxwood of his own and white and black pines brought by members
Related to display . . . 
Here is a photo from William Valavanis, forwarded by Felix Laughlin, illustrating the use of tall stands to get the exhibited bonsai at eye level for the viewers.
March and April: Repotting workshop with Tom Snow in March and--extra event--a Shimpaku workshop with Owen Reich in April
May: Our World Bonsai Day Exhibit at the NC Arboretum!
Felix, Tom, Peggy, and Jesse after setting up.
Click on the image to enlarge it and scroll.
June: Our annual visit from Arthur Joura, the Bonsai Curator of the NC Arboretum
This tree has been worked on periodically at the Arboretum, but has been allowed to get too leggy.
The goal today is to reduce the foliage and do some wiring so that this tree will regrow to emphasize its interesting trunk and look as if it grew this way on its own.
This year, Arthur brought a tree to work on that he had brought the first time he visited our club--25 years ago!
It is a false cypress, donated to the Arboretum by its owner because all the branches on one side of the trunk had died. It was then a little tree with a half-inch trunk, which after clean-up became horizontal and interesting.  
Yes, the tree has lost more than half of its foliage today, but it will be fine. Arthur reminds us that the more horticulture we know, the better we will be able to predict how a tree will react to what we do to it..
August: Annual potluck and auction.  (The silent and live auctions brought in more money than in any previous year!)

Silent auction

Peggy and Bob auction a tiny tree.

Food arriving

September: Demonstration by Tyler Sherrod

Original lodgepole pine

Tyler creates sharia.

Indicates eventual angle and apex.

Wired tree with its proud new owner, Pam.

November: Presentation and demonstration on forests by Felix Laughlin

Several members brought their own forests to show. Here is a very nice hinoki cypress forest.

Forests are easy to create. The individual trees do not have to be very developed. One of the great masters of bonsai forest design is Saburo Kato. With his permission, Felix and others at the National Bonsai Foundation translated his book Forest, Rock Planting, & Ezo Spruce Bonsai into English. It was published by the NBF.

Felix, with help from various members, created a stewartia forest with the trees wired onto a frame made of chopsticks glued into the pot. Click the document icon to download a detailed presentation.




Click on the picture below to open the Picture Gallery and scroll through some highlights

   Sixth US National Bonsai Exhibition   September 8-9, 2018
The US National Bonsai Exhibition, organized by William Valavanis, was held in East Rochester, NY. Almost 300 bonsais were exhibited, including trees from private collectors from many countries and displays from:

-  National Bonsai Museum at the US National Arboretum, Washington, DC

-  Montreal Botanic Garden,Montreal, Canada

-  Kennett Collection,PA

-  Chicago Botanic Garden,IL

-  Pacific Bonsai Museum,WA

-  Karamatsu Bonsai Study Group,Montreal, Canada

-  Bonsai Society at the Royal Botanic Garden in Burlington, Canada

-  University of Michigan, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, MI

The opening ceremonies included representatives of many important bonsai organizations, including our own Felix Laughlin as co-President of the National Bonsai Foundation.

Awards were given for trees and display in many categories. The award

for Best Medium Sized Bonsai was won by 

Troy Schmidt's Japanese Five-Needle Pine.











Click the link below to see pictures and the review of the Exhibition from William Valavanis himself.


The following link will open an interview of William Valavanis by Ryan Neil. 


The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is part of the U. S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. This museum belongs to us all and is a truly wonderful place to visit.

At the moment, of course, their bonsai—like everyone else’s—are mostly in bed for the winter.

The National Bonsai Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. And you may not know that the current President of the National Bonsai Foundation is our very own member, Felix Laughlin.

The National Bonsai Foundation website is at the following link:



While we are waiting for spring, Felix suggests we subscribe to their free Museum Messages newsletter to cheer ourselves up. Click below to subscribe:


Also, click the next link to download an issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine with description and pictures of the new Japanese Pavilion now being built at the National Museum.