The 5th US National Bonsai Exhibition


When Tony Tickle, one of the judges, said Bill Valavanis has an energy of four men at the awards banquet, he was right to the point and drew a standing ovation. Bill was the force behind this great event. When you see him directing volunteers, from setting up the displays to measuring dimensions of bonsai for the commemorative album, he is like the bunny in Energizer battery commercials, that just keeps going on and on.


L to R: Peter Warren (UK) translating for Minoru Akiyama (Japan), Bill Valavanis, Tony Tickler (UK) and Enrique Castano (Mexico). Minoru, Tony and Enrique are the three international judges.

This is the first time my wife and I attended the US National Bonsai Exhibition, held in Rochester, New York, September 10-11. We were excited by the number and the high standard of bonsai displays; one could virtually shop for anything you need for bonsai from the vendors who came from all over the US and from overseas. The exhibition and vending areas occupy two football fields, 55,000 square feet! A lot of walking.

Since we cannot take photos of trees on display, here are some photos of show preparations and at vendors’ area.


Staging area for participating trees.



More trees at the staging area.


Bobby Block fine tuning his hackberry raft. On his right are a Weeping Yaupon and a Brazilian Rain Tree. I believe they all come from Florida.

You might have read the story in Facebook how Hector Pacheco Raice tried to hand carry his Neea buxifolia flying from Peurto Rico to Rochester, and had to gate check the tree upon the insistent of flight attendant; here is Hector Pacheco doing a final trimming of his Neea and putting on mosses.



Vendors hauling in trees and bonsai supplies.


Bjorn Bjorholm adjusting the pad of a Japanese White Pine outside the staging area.


Pedro Morales and Hurley Johnson of Timeless Trees replaced some of the dried-up mosses, victims of the 1,500 miles drive from Rosenberg, Texas to Rochester, New York.


This is a humongous southern swamp landscape plantings of Bald Cypress, complete with a small hut, egret and crocodile.


Sergio Cuan (winner of the 4th US Nationals Finest Deciduous tree award) giving final touches to his beautiful Japanese Beech group planting. My wife was very excited about his kusamono (shitakusa), she hurried me to see it right away. The trees and shitakusa were set on thick acrylic stands like they were floating among clouds, a unconventional display.


We are so glad to make friends with Michael and Lunetta Knowlton. The drove from Florida and arrived three days before the show to help setting up the show. A great and dedicated couple.

A large show like this would not be possible without voluteer help, and Bill has many. David Johnson came from Canada, Joe Noga from North Carolina, Michael and Lunetta Knowlton from Florida. Alan Adair was the chief coordinator directing volunteers setting up the show, a very dedicated man. I also met Chris O’Handley, a Bonsai Nutter, after trading messages looking for each other. Chris volunteered moving trees for photographing, a very daunting task since there were many large bonsai. I met many volunteer, they are a bunch of friendly and tireless people working quietly behind the scenes.


Volunteers putting name tags on each display.


Volunteers moving a tree for photographing. At the center is Tim Priest’s Sierra Juniper, a second place winner at the 2015 Artisans Cup in Portland, Oregon.


Displays all set up by Friday afternoon. On the right is Michael Hagedorn’s very large Mountain Hemlock which won the Finest Evergreen Award, and on the left is Creighton Bostrom’s “Wave” which won the Finest Creative Award.


Joe Noga photographing my Tiger Bark Ficus , which won the Finest Tropical Award. Joe is a very dedicated photographer, working persistently in the studio. He is a quiet and kind gentleman anyone would feel comfortable meeting him for the first time. You can order the Commemorative Album  to see all 298 bonsai in this exhibition photographed by Joe.


A line of people waiting outside as the opening ceremony was going on.


Jim Gremel’s copper wire is one of the best sellers in the vending area. He is the one sitting on the left. Sitting on top of those boxes are his beautiful shimpaku junipers. My wife and I were very glad to meet Jim, a great guy with thoughtful conversations, and he promised to cook us hamburger when we visit him. We were told by our friend, Hurley Johnson, that Jim’s place is tucked in the mountain north of San Francisco and is not on Google Map.


Suthin Sukolsolvisit Royal Bonsai’s tables with superb trees from shohin to large bonsai.


Bjorn Bjorholm’s tables. Beautiful trees and he had several antique Chinese pots for sale.


Meco Bonsai. On the left of the table is Meco’s bonsai work stand.


Matt Ouwinga (Kaedaebonsai-en), selling antique Chinese pots and high end Japanese pots.


Osiga’s table selling stands and pots.


Suiseki from Sean Smith.


Bonsai West occupies several tables.


All 450 seats of the Awards Banquet were sold out days before the exhibition.


The Houston Texas gang. L to R: Ken Credeur (I have never seen him this dressed up), Scott Barbosa, Pete Parker and Vern Maddox. Not in photo, were Hurley Johnson, my wife Soon, and I was the photographer.


Well represented from various parts of the US and Canada!


My wife was thrilled to receive the Finest Companion Plant award from Kora Delaga of Bonsai Travel, California.


Finest Bonsai Masterpiece: Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, by Eric Schikowski.


Julian Adams of Adams’ Bonsai was the auctioneer at the Awards Banquet.


10 thoughts on “The 5th US National Bonsai Exhibition

    • There were a lot of work by volunteers behind the scene. The bonsai masters were in high demand to make small adjustments here ant there to clients’ trees look good.

  1. Pingback: Defoliating Ficus Bonsai | Bonsai Penjing & More

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