Gulf Stream Tropical Bonsai Journal
2007 Autumn Issue (First Issue) 52pp., $15.00 yearly subscription
Gulfstream Bonsai Association, Inc.
Reviewed by Will Heath*
Like many tropical bonsai enthusiasts, I was excited to learn of a new magazine that would feature only tropical bonsai and related subjects. As a bonsaist with a substantial collection of tropicals, I full well knew the lack of quality information pertaining to tropicals in the other major bonsai publications. The buzz on the Internet forums about this book was full of anticipation and excitement centered on finally having a magazine that catered to us, the often neglected and sometimes discriminated against, tropical growers.
I quickly wrote Gulfstream and asked for an issue to review.
The premise behind the magazine was a good one; bonsai in this country has grown substantially over the last decade and is well represented in every state. Tropical growers in this country such as Jerry Meislik, Jim Smith, and others have wrote books and articles, they have given numerous workshops, classes, and demos on tropicals and their care. By doing so, they have created many new converts to tropicals, earning long overdue respect for tropical species. Enthusiasts from the sub-tropical regions of America and now, with advances in indoor growing, even those from the temperate regions are all enjoying a rush of popularity never before seen. More beginners are getting involved than ever before and more often than not, they are starting out with tropical species.
The other English speaking magazines lean heavily toward non-tropical species in every issue, flirting with tropicals occasionally but always giving more space to deciduous trees and the ever-present pine. The market for a magazine that catered to tropicals would seem to be a perfect recipe for success and considering the timing of the first issue, one would be hard pressed to list any reasons such a venture would not succeed.
Yet, I was sadly disappointed when I received the first issue from the moment I took it out of its brown envelope. The first thing that struck me was the flowering Bougainvillea tucked inside of a ring of flowers on the cover which featured a rather huge Shari and was conspicuously potted right next to the back edge of a slightly oversized pot. Maybe I was expecting too much, such as a world-class example of a tropical bonsai on the cover instead of one, that although shows promise, is still obviously still in training.
This issue was devoted to Bougainvillea and two of the eight articles did in fact deal with this species, the others varied so much on subject matter that left me wondering if I was reading a bonsai magazine or a discussion/gossip forum.
Carl Rosner's 12 page piece about the renovation of a porch to a growing area is well known to most tropical enthusiasts and this although this reprint includes a short update, reprinting a well known and often read article in the first, debut issue left much to be desired in the originality department.
Another article titled "String Theory" devoted an entire 7 pages to the use of string instead of bonsai wire, giving the reader many examples including an illustration on how to tie a granny knot.
An interview with Terrence Wolfe dealt exclusively with his personal life and how he became involved with bonsai. No subject matter at all was presented concerning actual bonsai, leaving the reader with information on Terrence's job and his family life, but without a single tip or piece of solid information on tropicals.
On the other hand, Carl Rosner's piece on growing Wrightia religiosa from seeds and the two articles on Bougainvilleas were informative and worth the reading.
The magazine is of a small size, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The layout of the magazine however leaves much to be desired, of the same quality as a decent club newsletter, the pictures are way too small, all being smaller than a credit card, and the text is far too big, of a larger font than some full sized bonsai magazines. The page numbers and header located at the top of every page are much too large and I found them competing with the small pictures for attention.
Certainly the magazine is not without faults as the reader can see, but even after all the flaws one is still left with a sense of joy, a sense of belonging, a hope that this magazine will succeed and become what we all want it to, a serious source of professionally presented information targeted at and wrote for the tropical bonsai enthusiast
Much forgiveness can be given to a first issue and much admiration should be given to those responsible for the publication, anyone who makes an attempt to produce such a much-needed publication should be praised and indeed they have my thanks. I hope that as the magazine moves forward that it will involve into something that is educational, inspirational, and very successful.
Although I can't recommend this magazine based on the content or layout of the first issue, I do highly recommend it for the idea it incorporates and for what it could be, given the opportunity. Hopefully the layout will become more professional and the content will become a solid, educational, and inspiring source of information on tropicals for all of us who love them.
* About Will Heath