Austin Bonsai Society
Austin Bonsai Society

Speaker Biographies

Speakers Bios

Hiroyoshi Yamaji

Mr. Yamaji is a second generation bonsai grower from the Japanese island of Shikoku near the city of Takamatsu. Following his graduation from Kansai Gaidai Junior College he took over his father's bonsai business of growing bonsai. His business now includes exporting bonsai to many countries in the Americas and Europe.

Mr. Yamaji is 50 years old. He is married with four children, three girls and one boy. Consistent with Japanese tradition, he also cares for his parents in their retirement.

For the bast 35 years the Yamaji family business, Sanshoen Bonsai, has provided leadership for the bonsai growers of Shikoku Island. Mr. Yamaji is a member of the Nippon Bonsai Association and he is Vice President of the Bonsai Division of the Kokubunnji Agricultural Cooperatives. In addition to being an excellent bonsai artist and grower, Hiroyoshi has excellent English skills. He has a very disarming personality all of which make him an excellent teacher.

John Dromgoole

 Owner of The Natural Gardener, has been heavily involved in the organic industry and environmental issues for over 28 years. His nursery has been voted "Best Nursery" eight times in the Austin Chronicle's "Best of Austin Poll," and is known for supplying organic products, native and well adapted plants, and bulk compost, soils and mulches.  John is the host of Gardening Naturally, a biweekly question and answer radio program that focuses on the organic technique for home owners and weekend gardeners. He has hosted that show on KLBJ AM 590 for 20 years.

John originated the City of Austin's Chemical Clean-Up Day, which has become an annual event and has now established a permanent drop-off site. He also co-authored standards for certifying organic farms as part of a Texas Department of Agriculture Task Force.

Since 1983, John has written articles for Texas Gardener Magazine and Organic Gardening Magazine, and has won numerous environmental and industry awards.

Martha "Marty" Klajnowski

Marty has been doing bonsai for over 30 years, maintains a personal collection and has exhibited her trees around the USA. She was selected as an Outstanding American Bonsai Artist and exhibited one of her trees in the National Bonsai Foundation Show. She has served on the Board of Directors of Bonsai Clubs International, has been Treasurer of LSBF for eight years, has been President of SABS twice and once as Vice Pres., and has been chairperson of one national and two state bonsai conventions. She will be the Exhibit chairperson for the upcoming 2002 joint ABS/SABS convention. She has written and published a bonsai workbook "THE ABC'S OF BONSAI AND SOME XYZ'S TOO". In addition, she was editor and principal writer of "BONSAI TREE CARE", a compendium of some 65 trees published by SABS. Currently, she is teaching bonsai classes in the North East Independent School District, San Antonio. An artist, lecturer, teacher, Marty travels nationally to do bonsai lecture/demonstrations; and last, but not least, a Texas A& M Master Gardener. She has been the recipient of the Master Gardener Education Award of the year.

Sign up today to take a workshop with this excellent teacher - $30.00 and bring your own tree! A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon from Noon to 4 PM on October 13, 2001!!! Send your check to our treasurer, made out to ABS, at 12404 Ranch Road 12, Wimberley, Tx. 78676.

Yvonne Padilla

As a member of a Garden Club for thirty-five years, Yvonne studied horticulture and floral design. As time went by her interest turned to horticulture. She grew a few bromeliads, cactus and other assorted plants and still does; but in 1980 a friend invited her to a meeting of the Corpus Christi Bonsai Club, she joined that night. She knew immediately bonsai was the hobby for her. At that time, the Corpus Christi Club could not afford out of town bonsai speakers and many times she drove to San Antonio, Austin and Houston to attend lecture-demos and take workshops with such notables as John Naka, Bill Valavanis, Roy Nagatoshi and many others. Through the years, her interest settled on South Texas native trees, Saikei and tropicals. She has conducted lecture-demos and workshops for several bonsai clubs in Texas; and has shared her knowledge with youth groups, Master Gardeners and other organizations.

Yvonne has been an active member of the Corpus Christi Bonsai Club for twenty years and served as President and Vice-President, chairperson of three State Conventions and has been active in the Lone Star Bonsai Federation serving as Secretary, Vice-President, President and Club Delegate.

She is looking forward to visiting with the Austin Bonsai Society members and conducting a Lecture-demo on Saikei with fukien tea - which will be raffled at the end of her program.

Nick Lenz

On Wednesday, February 6th, the Austin Bonsai Society was treated to a slide presentation and lecture by A. Nick Lenz, from Leverett, MA. Following his presentation, Nick evaluated several members' trees and provided suggestions for future design considerations.

Nick's topic was "Designing Bonsai for the Future," and during the course of his discussion, he provided valuable tips for collecting trees and for developing believable root-over-rock stylings. Those in attendance were entertained not only by his clever musings and thoughtful insights, but also by his slides which offered a glimpse at the beautiful trees that Nick has styled and the bonsai pots which he has created. His creative approach to bonsai, like his "Root-Over-Bronze-Barbie" styling, is both an inspiration and a challenge to think "outside the box" ...or in this case, the pot. Those not in attendance missed a rare opportunity to observe the vision of a unique American bonsai artist and potter.

Yande Li

from Suzhou, China (southeast China) Mr. Li is currently the secretary general of the Society of Suzhou Landscapes Architects and Garden Designers. Also, he is the secretary general of the Suzhou Bonsai and Flower Society. He is in the U.S. working as the design consultant for Chinese Gardens. Our speaker had been the director of the Suzhou Institute of Gardens for about 15 years until his retirement two years ago. It provided him with a lot of opportunities to research in Chinese Classical Garden Design. The Institute has done a great deal of excellent work in both historical preservation and restoration, and New Chinese Garden Design (classical style) as well. Before that position, he had been teaching the Garden Design in Suzhou Garden Academy. Mr Li presents programs as his personal effort to do some cultural and art exchange while he is in the U.S. He has approximately 120 slides on Bonsai in China. Mr. Li will be accompanied by his son, Richard, who will serve as translator.

Mary Miller

Mary Miller has been creating and teaching bonsai for over twenty-five years. Born in Washington, DC, Mary moved to Miami, FL in the late 60s and began experimenting with bonsai using tropical plants.

For many years she owned The Bonsai Bench nursery near Homestead, FL. During those years she shipped tropical bonsai all over the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. The business never fully recovered from the damage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Today the nursery is closed. Mary looks at it in a positive way and says, "I now have the much needed time to refine my personal collection."

Some of her personal favorites include buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus), tamarind (Tamarindus indica) and many of the figs (Ficus spp.) Another favorite is one she introduced to the bonsai world: Bahama Berry (Nashia inaguensis). Mary is eager to share her accumulated bonsai knowledge of tropical plants.

She was voted a life member of both the Bonsai Society of Miami and the Gold Coast Bonsai Society, Ft. Lauderdale and teaches at Fairchild Tropical Garden, Miami, FL and Miami Tropical Bonsai nursery, Goulds, FL.

Mary has been guest speaker at many clubs including the Long Island Bonsai Society, Gold Coast Bonsai Society, Lighthouse Bonsai Society, Greater Cincinnati Bonsai Society and the Detroit Bonsai Club. She gave workshops at the '96 Bonsai Societies of Florida convention, the '98 Lone Star Bonsai Federation, Houston, Texas and the Lone Star convention 2000 in Corpus Christi. Three private collectors (one in NY and two in Miami) value her bonsai talents in maintaining their personal bonsai collections.

In addition to lectures, demonstrations and workshops, Mary writes about tropicals as bonsai for Bonsai Today magazine.

Susumu Nakamura

by Mike Hansen

For over 25 years, Mr. Susumu Nakamura has been a legend among bonsai hobbyists in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, India as well as Japan. Several years ago while attending a bonsai show in Chicago, we had the honor to meet this delightful man. His rare and reverent perspective of life, nature and bonsai left an impression that we shall not forget. A friendship was born that weekend which continues to grow to this day.

Mr. Nakamura was introduced to Texas at the Texas State Bonsai Convention, in 1991, which was hosted by the Austin Bonsai Society. During that event, Mr. Nakamura quite simply fell in love with Texas and Texans and vice versa; and he has returned to teach in Texas every year since then.

For those of you who have not met Mr. Nakamura, he is the Director of Education for the Nippon Bonsai Association, and he is the long time chairman of the NBA's Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition which is held at the Tokyo Museum of Art in February each year. In addition to his involvement with the Nippon Bonsai Association, Mr. Nakamura is past Director of Bonsai Clubs International and this July he will be the featured artist at the BCI 2000 Convention in Hawaii. He will conduct a forest-style bonsai demonstration on Sunday, April 29, 2001 as part of the 25th Anniversary of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, DC.

He is founder and proprietor of the Shonan Garden Center which is a bonsai nursery and studio that he operates along with his youngest son Makoto at their home in Yokohama, Japan. 

Mr. Nakamura is in great demand as a teacher in Japan and around the world. We have found him to be an extraordinary teacher. This will be a rare opportunity to study with an world class bonsai instructor, so don't miss it.

Kathy Shaner

We are very fortunate to have one of today's most knowledgeable and personable bonsai artists giving our March program Those that have listened to Kathy give a lecture or watched a demonstration or have taken part in one of her workshops know how stimulating and easy to understand she is. You don't get the feeling that she is teaching so much as she is sharing. Kathy has a wealth of knowledge, practical experience and skill to share.

Kathy, from San Jose, California, began bonsai by taking lessons from several prominent California instructors. The Golden State Bonsai Federation took a notice of her talent and eagerness to learn and named her their first intern to study bonsai in Japan.

Yasuo Mitsuya, one of the top bonsai professionals in Japan, accepted Kathy as an apprentice. She worked and studied hard during the standard five-year apprenticeship. This was a very difficult undertaking. Kathy was taught in the same manner and under the same conditions as a Japanese apprentice would be. She had the additional challenges of learning a new language and culture.

Kathy's determination and perseverance paid off at the end of five years. In 1993 she was awarded her certificate as a bonsai professional by the Nippon Bonsai Kyodo Kumi which governs bonsai in Japan. Not only is Kathy the first non-Japanese to receive the prized certificate, she is the first woman of any nationality to be so honored. She learned her lessons well.

Kathy travels extensively giving lectures, demonstrations and seminars. She is an instructor at El Dorado Bonsai, Inc., a bonsai school of distinction in Placerville, California.

This will be Kathy's fourth visit to our club. She was one of the headliners at the l997 Lone Star Bonsai Federation convention sponsored by the Austin Bonsai Society. Make plans to attend our March meeting. Not only will you learn, you'll have a good time in the process.

Mas Imazumi

Mas was born in the United States, but spent his early childhood years in Japan. He returned to the United States and served in the U.S.Army. After his discharge, he began his career as a landscape gardener specializing in Japanese gardens in California’s greater bay area. Over 48 years ago, he began the study of bonsai under the late master, Homei Iseyama. With Mr. Iseyama’s encouragement, he began demonstrating bonsai techniques at various Japanese bonsai exhibits. He was the first to do so in Northern California.

Currently, he is an instructor for a number of bonsai clubs in Central and Northern California, where he gives workshops and demonstrations. He travels extensively in the United States and Italy - judging bonsai, giving demonstrations and leading workshops. Additionally, He has arranged tours to Japan for bonsai and sight-seeing trips.

He has served in various capacities on the Board of Trustees of the Golden State Bonsai Federation and on the Editorial Board of Golden Statements for almost 6 years. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the American Bonsai Society and wrote articles for their Journal. Presently, he is a regular contributor to Bonsai: Arte e Natura, Italy’s bonsai magazine. He is, also, an active member of several bonsai clubs in the bay area.

Boon Manakitivipart

Boon’s start in bonsai was the result of a birthday gift: of a small juniper bonsai. Before long, he joined the Bonsai Society of San Francisco, the club through which he took his first beginner class in the spring of 1989. Anxious to learn as much as possible about bonsai, Boon studied with as many teachers as he could find in California.

Serious study began when he hosted Akio Kondo, Kihachiro Kamiya’s first apprentice. Mr. Kondo arrived as what the Japanese call a first-year professional, and he stayed at Boon’s home for one year.

In 1993, the Golden State Bonsai Federation awarded Boon a Teacher Development Scholarship; two years later, he received the Ben Oki International Design Award for styling a Sierra juniper.

In 1995, Boon received several informal offers to study bonsai in Japan. Several months later, he traveled to Tokai En, Toyohasi, Japan, where he studied bonsai as a formal apprentice with the Kokufu-prize-winning Yasuo Mitsuya.

No longer an apprentice, Boon still returns every year to Japan for prolonged work periods in the famous bonsai garden Tokai En.

In 1998, Boon founded and became the teacher of Bay Island Bonsai. He also started his service and styling company, Bonsai Boon. In April 2000, Boon won the Grand Prize in the Kindai Bonsai Styling Contest in Japan (Sponsored by Kindai Bonsai Magazine). All contestants had to style a large Japanese white pine, Boon was the only non-Japanese in the top ten. Today, Boon makes his living as a full-time bonsai artist in Northern California. He styles client trees, lectures, puts on demonstrations, holds workshops, and finds sources for customers’ show-quality bonsai.

Reprinted from website:

Dennis Makishima

Dennis was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area; growing up in the local Japanese American community. He had been exposed to bonsai his entire life, but did not take a lesson until 20 years ago; and was fortunate to have studied with many prominent bonsai instructors from the area. Currently, he is continuing his association with Mas Imazumi of Berkeley and Hiroshi Suzuki of San Francisco; but has served a one-and-a-half year apprenticeship with bonsai master Yasuo Mitsuya in Toyohashi, Japan. His was the second apprenticeship to be sponsored to Mitsuya-san's nursery.

He is a past Education Chairman of the GSBF, which he enjoyed most because of the exchange of bonsai knowledge with others, and has taught aesthetic pruning for 10 years in the Horticulture Department at Merritt College in Oakland. It was there he instituted a most successful program for promising bonsai artist and established the Merritt College Bonsai Club. These Merritt College students distinguish themselves by offering needed assistance at many of the Golden State's Northern events.

Having a bonsai background has helped him tremendously in his occupation as an ornamental tree pruner. He specializes in the aesthetics of pruning small, focal point trees and old, historically significant trees. He believes one should always respect nature, the trees on which we work, and creative process of fellow hobbyists.

For over the past 10 years, he has conducted numerous lectures, workshops and demonstrations throughout the United States. His favorite topics in bonsai are Japanese Black Pine, Maples, Shimpaku Juniper, Chamaecyparis, Flowering Trees, the Art of the Winter Silhouette and Finding the Line of a Tree.

Herb Gustafson

Mr. Gustafson started studying bonsai 45 years ago. He has completed apprenticeships in China and Japan under the guidance of Toshio Kawamoto, Tom Yamamoto, We Ye-Sun, T’ai Ichi Katayama and Kenji Murata. He was honored to be asked to care for some the National Treasures of Japan as well as the private personal bonsai collection of Emperor Hirohito inside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Mr. Gustafson’s personal collection of bonsai has 3 trees over one thousand years old, including the oldest known bonsai in the world at 1392 years of age.

He has lectured on bonsai in over 30 countries around the world and has appeared on radio and television programs teaching bonsai, including the syndicated “Ask an Expert” public information program broadcast nationwide. He has taught bonsai for 22 years at Portland Community College, Lane Community College and the University of Oregon. He is a certified U. S. Dept. of Agriculture Advanced Master Gardener and has taught landscaping and ornamental horticulture through the Oregon State Agriculture Extension Service. He is the past president of the Portland Bonsai Society, Honorary Life Member of the Bay Area Bonsai Society, past president of the Eugene Bonsai Society and is now serving his third term as Director of Bonsai Clubs International. 

Herb is credited for being the most published bonsai author in the world. His 18 published works also include Penjing, Pensai, Saikei, Bonseki, Bonkei, Suiseki and Japanese Garden Design.

Hobbies include singing opera, composing music on his synthesizer, golf, and cooking. He is a recent graduate of the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Paris, and is working on his next book; a cookbook extolling the virtues of Pacific Northwest seafood.

Hal Mahoney

Hal has over 30 years of bonsai experience. He began teaching bonsai in 1976 when he introduced bonsai as a credit earning course into the Science Curriculum of a local public high school. He is a past president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York and of the Long Island Bonsai Society. He is also a founder of the Eastern Suffolk Bonsai Society and of the regional Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Societies. Hal served as a vice president of Bonsai Clubs International and served for several years on the Editorial Board of Bonsai Magazine. Hal has published many articles on bonsai.

“Hal’s innovative techniques in bonsai are renowned.” In addition to classical bonsai, his major areas of interest include Chines Rock Penjing, Saikei, and Water and Land Penjing. One of his Chinese Rock Penjing is featured in the book, Outstanding American Bonsai and an Hinoki cypress that he designed is now residing in the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection. He is currently involved in developing techniques for CLAFT style forest planting and saikei.

Hal has been a demonstrator at many major conventions across the United States, including our own LSBF Convention that was held in Corpus Christi.

Terry Ward
Terry’s love for nature and artistic ability are reflected in his bonsai. His initial studies in the late 1960’s were from the then limited bonsai publications in English. His first formal lessons were with the late Bob M. Kayo in California and he continued his studies with other noted bonsai sensei. Terry, a Native Texan, his wife Sheila and all their trees moved from Half Moon Bay, CA to Austin in 1993.
Terry has given lectures, demonstrations and workshops at clubs, state and international conventions. He founded state-wide and local bonsai groups and has served bonsai organizations such as The Texas State Bonsai Exhibit, Lone Star Bonsai Federation, California Shohin Society and Golden State Bonsai Federation in different capacities. Terry was named an Outstanding American Bonsai Artist by the National Bonsai Foundation in 1987.
Terry’s beautifully styled and arranged bonsai attract attention wherever they are displayed. He loves to teach and is able to convey an understanding of his thoughts, feelings and techniques. Styling and display are two of his favorite bonsai topics. His lectures and workshops are places for sharing and learning. To him, bonsai offers unlimited opportunities to gain knowledge and make new friends.
Terry and Sheila, who is a teacher in her own right, owned and operated Persimmon Hill Bonsai Studio and Nursery in Austin for many years. They are active members of the Austin Bonsai Society and the Shohin Society of Texas.
Bill Valavanis
Bill became interested in bonsai (and horticulture in general) at age 11 and pursued this interest by studying Ornamental Horticulture at SUNY Farmingdale and Cornell University.  He has made over 50 trips to Japan in order to study under various bonsai masters.  He is the proprietor of the Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, NY, where he maintains a fine collection of classical bonsai.  Bill also keeps a busy worldwide teaching schedule for bonsai and horticultural organizations.  He began publishing International Bonsai magazine 32 years ago.  He has authored two books and has had many articles published in English and Japanese, as well as various European languages.  Through his magazine publication and educational programs, Bill freely shares his 45 years of dedicated bonsai study and experience with students and serious bonsai fanciers.
Sean Smith
Sean is a resident of Marysville, PA, where he owns and operates Custom Oriental Wood-craft along with an extensive background in carpentry, Sean has more than 20 years experience with bonsai and suiseki.  He has lectured on both topics in the United States and in Europe.  Sean carves daiza for renowned bonsai and suiseki enthusiasts all over the world.  In 2001, Mr. Arishige Matsuura, President of the Japanese Suiseki Associations, proclaimed Sean to be the number one daiza carver outside Japan.  Along with his bonsai workshops, Sean will be conducting a whokshop on carving daiza.
Ed Trout
Ed was born in Ohio and grew up in Key West, FL.  He became interested in the art of bonsai in the early 1070's when there was not a lot of readily available information on the subject.  Ed became a student Joe Samuels who inspired him to begin working on tropical material, and it has since become his specialty.  Ed has traveled the USA, Canada and the Caribbean, lecturing and teaching his art at numerous bonsai conventions.  Each year since 1994, he has been asked to exhibit trees in Japan at EPCOT'S Flower and Garden Festival.  His trees have been selected in the top 100 several times at the JAL World Bonsai Contest.  Ed is a prolific writer on the subject and his articles have appeared in several bonsai publications.
Michael Hagedorn
Michael's Hagedorn's love of bonsai has taken on several incarnations, ranging from making bonsai pots and containers for ten years as a talented ceramic artist to wiring bonsai for the Kokufu show in Japan.  Serious study began under Boon Manakitivipart of California, in his first intensive program in 2000.

In 2003 Michael ventured to Japan to apprentice with Shinji Suzuki, a manic and philosophic experience documented in his book, Post-Dated: The schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk.  On returning in 2006, he settle near Portland, Oregon to pursue his dream of creating, teaching, and writing about bonsai.  Of artistic and aesthetic concerns, he seeks sensitivity, delicacy, humility, and easy, unforced grace in bonsai work.  He maintains the collections of clients, and created bonsai for those building collections.  Michael also runs the Seasonal program in his studio for bonsai enthusiasts of every level.

Ryan Neil
Ryan Neil was born & raised in Colorado, on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains.  Throughout his youth the fantastic array of tortured and stunted trees surrounding his home created a deep appreciation and fascination with nature and the resilient nature of plants.  Upon graduating high schook, Ryan decided to pursue an education in horticulture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.  He already had the intention of pursuing bonsai professionally and apprenticing in Japan, however it wasn't until he was introduced to Ben Oki of Los Angeles that his dream of apprenticing with the world renowned Masahiko Kimura would become a reality.

Ryan studied under Kimura for six years.  All of his experiences have allowed him to grow and develop as a bonsai professional.  Ryan's objective and interest since his recent return from Japan is to continue to help promote the art of bonsai throughout the Unitied States, and more importantly raise the level of knowledge and skill among us.