The Best Bonsai Teacher

Fall colors come late in Florida, and sometimes barely at all. When David and Linda VanBuskirk invited me to join them for a boat ride on the Silver River to view the fall colors, I was thrilled.

We met up with Captain Harley Smith (another bonsai lover)and his boat on a somewhat chilly morning – with snow clouds high in the heavens. (Of course, temperatures in the 50s would prevent any such event!)

The dreary weather put no damper on the delightful views.

In addition to the orange, red and yellow leaves there were other colorful surprises. Aster carolinianus is a native Florida wild flower and was in full show-off mode.

When we arrived in the area of fresh water springs, the already very clear water became vibrant blue. According to Wikipedia “it is one of the largest artesian springs ever discovered.”

The cypress knees were one the most interesting parts of our cruise. Due to the many years of drought here in Florida, the water level is very low. The knees and roots are uniquely exposed.

As we snapped photo after photo of branch structure, roots and leaves David (also a bonsai teacher) and I agreed, the best bonsai teacher is nature itself!


I had one last surprise … a colony of rhesus macaques!

In 1938, there was a Jungle Cruise ride along the river (owned by a Colonel Tooey.) The Colonel released the monkeys to create a more “jungle-like” atmosphere. The monkeys are well established in the area (and beyond.) That day they were anxious to let us know they were there (very noisy.)

I don’t think the Colonel gave much thought to them breeding! There are at least hundreds, and by some accounts over a million.

Hardiness Zones

Did you know plant hardiness zone maps change frequently and vary according to your source? Most attribute several zones to Florida.

Since I moved from South Florida to Central Florida -approximately 250 miles – the difference in what will and will not grow here is amazing. I have to admit, identifying trees here is still a challenge, but I’m getting there.

Age Tidbits

You’ve most likely heard that counting the rings on a tree will tell you how old it is.

Did you know this does not apply to tropical trees? Most tropicals defy this ring theory, by often growing more than one ring a year.

Now, scientists have figured out how to determine the age of a lobster! Yes, just by counting the rings. These rings are located in the eyestalk, that funny little stem with the eyeball on the end. I have to wonder what made anyone ever look there!

Guest Authors

Are you a bonsai writer? Do you have a field of expertise, a permanent exhibit to promote, a unique bonsai story you want to share? Let me know.

These are just a few of the ‘Guest Author’ submissions currently on the BonsaiMary site:

“Invasion of the Voles!” by Lee Squires

“Well, It Depends” by John Callaway

Bonsai as Gifts

You probably enjoy bonsai as much as I do, however, they do not always make great gifts. If you insist, consider an “indoor”, easy to care for bonsai such as S. arboricola or Ficus (especially as first trees.)

Truthfully, I would recommend a bonsai book instead!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.