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 Post subject: Profile: Ed Trout
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 11:47 pm 

Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 9:35 am
Posts: 731
Location: Southwest Florida,US
Profile: Ed Trout
Ed Trout

Ed's love of nature, which he attributes to having grown up in Key West,
Florida, inspired him to become interested in bonsai when first introduced
to it in the early 70's.

A member of many clubs in the area, he has served two terms as
president, is a lifetime member of his local club, Gold Coast Bonsai
Society which is one of the oldest clubs in Florida and is also a charter member of the Chishiki Gawa Study Group. He is past president of Bonsai
Societies of Florida, a board member of the National Bonsai Foundation
at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C., as well as a board
member of Bonsai Clubs International and the American Bonsai Society.
Ed has traveled the USA, Canada and the Caibbean, lecturing and
teaching his art. He has been asked each year since its inception in 1994
to exhibit his trees in "Japan" at EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival.
His trees were exhibited in the 1993 World Convention in Orlando, the
2005 World Convention in Washington D.C. and at many other Florida

Ed was extremely honored to have had one of his trees selected in the
top 100 of the world in the JAL World Bonsai Contest, not only for 1999,
but for 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006 as well. He was also a finalist in 1994 for the coveted Ben Oki International Design Award.

Ed has appeared on several local television programs and was asked
to do a bonsai program for PBS-Tv, "At Gardens Gate", filmed at
Cypress Gardens in 1999.

An avid writer, he has contributed numerous articles over the years to
many different bonsai publications. Several of his trees were used as
examples of tropical bonsai in the new Sunset Bonsai book edition.
He recently authored a booklet titled "Bonsai, Before and After" for the
American Bonsai Society.

He and his wife Tina are very active in many bonsai activities.
Ed's personal blog can be seen at

The following is an on-line interview with Ed Trout

AoB: Ed, we understand you started bonsai in the early '70s. What were the challenges in those days regarding literature about bonsai, clubs and conventions?

Ed: I became interested in bonsai in a time when information was scarce and of course there was no Internet! I had always been interested in plants & growing things, something I'm sure I inherited from my Grandfather. He grew up on a farm and always had vegetables and fruit trees in his yard in Miami. I read as much as I could on the subject and even bought a tree at a nursery. It was an imported white pine and I'm sure it was dying when I bought it! Seeing that tree die, along with some other deciduous trees I bought by mail order, made me realize that I was doing something wrong. The "journey" began at that point.

AoB: Who were your most influential teachers during those years?

Ed: I attended the very first Bonsai Societies of Florida convention on Miami Beach in 1975. When I saw the plant material being used by those early pioneers, I realized that I needed to grow trees native to my environment. One of those early pioneers was Joe Samuels. I studied his work, found out that he kept his collection at a local nursery and began making regular Sunday morning trips to the nursery to just watch Joe work. I consider Joe Samuels my first and foremost teacher. Of course, when John Naka and then Ben Oki began making regular teaching trips to Florida, they became very influential to me also (& still are).

AoB: You are very active in the bonsai community. What organizations do you belong to and how do you manage time in your busy life?

Ed: I am a Lifetime Member of Goldcoast Bonsai Society, a member of a local study group (Chisiki Gawa), a Board Member of Bonsai Clubs International, a Board Member of The American Bonsai Society, a Board Member of The National Bonsai Foundation in Washington, DC, and a member of several clubs locally & nationally. I have a full time career, so right now Bonsai is just a hobby. Poor choice of words!! Bonsai is an "outlet" where I can go to relax & forget the day's turmoil. I'm close to retirement and plan to do bonsai full time then.

AoB: What are your most favorite species? Your favorite design styles and why?

Ed: I think Ficus nerifolia (salicifolia) is my favorite only because I remember seeing Joe Samuels "Cloud" the first time and being totally in awe! I also love Buttonwood, Juniper, Pines and Cypress. I love all styles and appreciate seeing any tree done well in any style. Initial styling of any tree is the first step of the "journey". Selecting the style of a tree, in my opinion, requires study, contemplation, experience, respect for the material, and a plan.

AoB: Have you ever visited our forum, the "Art of Bonsai Project" before? If yes, what do you like most about our site?

Ed: Yes, I have visited the site. It is very well done, no matter what level of experience you may have.

AoB: Bonsai has gone through a lot of changes in the last years. Where do you think bonsai is going in the States? In Europe? In Japan? Worldwide?

Ed: Like any other art form, bonsai will continue to grow, no matter where it is practiced. The "art" part of bonsai will ebb & flow with the varying philosophies. The "horticulture" part of bonsai should only get better, because of the steady advances in technical expertise.

AoB: Florida is clearly associated with tropical bonsai material. We understand you have also conifers in your collection. Do you think conifers are difficult to grow in South Florida?

Ed: The easiest conifer we can grow here in South Florida is the Bald Cypress. I have been growing Black Pines for many years. They do VERY WELL here and really don't require anything special. White Pines, Red Pines, and most of the other pines do not do well here. All junipers, for the most part, will thrive here, given good ventilation.

AoB: The ABS just published your booklet 'Bonsai, Before and After' can you tell us more about it?

Ed: To me, bonsai is a "journey", and the focus should be on the journey, and not the destination. Watching, and recording a tree's development over a period of time is the joy of bonsai. The booklet I contributed to ABS shows the "journey" of some of my trees over time, with the help of photography. ABS is offering many other booklets that detail various bonsai techniques. It was a lot of fun!

Ed Trout's backyard

AoB: Ed, when you look for potential bonsai material, what are the most important aspects?

Ed: This is a great question! Early on,everything I saw had great bonsai potential! That's how I (and most others) ended up with entirely too many trees in the beginning. I think one of our early bonsai pioneers here in Florida said it best when I asked him why I had so many trees. Norm Nelson responded with "we all have the image of the perfect tree we want to create in our mind. We see a tree that might be that perfect image, buy it, work on it, and soon realize it will not be that perfect tree. We buy another, and another, and another, until we've got too many. None of them will ever be that perfect tree because there is no such thing as a perfect tree." I still to this day, bring home trees that I've bought and can't figure out WHY I bought them. But then I tell myself again that it's not the destination, but the journey that should be enjoyed. When you look at a tree, it will either move you or not. Only buy the ones that move you!!

AoB: You are giving classes and also style trees at Miami Tropical Bonsai in Homestead. Is this a time when you actually nurture your spirit and your inspiration? A relaxing time?

Ed: I love going down to the nursery to work on some Saturdays. Alva and Fred Hayes, the owners of Miami Tropical, let me work on anything I want. It is very rewarding. It's a beautiful nursery, with a lot of great material. I teach and learn in a wonderful setting.

AoB: How do you like the traditional convention format? Do you think this is a time for changes or improvements? Why do you think so?

Ed: We may have reached a point where the number of new people doing bonsai is growing slower that the number of conventions each year. This means that each organization must compete for those available attendees. I believe innovation, education, and excitement must be the watchword of current conventions. Luckily, we have some very talented people in all of the organizations, so I think they will find a way!

AoB: In your opinion, is there a way that clubs can offer more effective workshops and more tailored demonstrations according to budgeted events?

Ed: The most effective workshops and demos I've seen are those in which the planning begins very early (2-3 years prior). Material can be obtained at a better price and effectively grown on during that period by the club(s). Then better, more desirable, easier to work or demonstrate on material can be offered. Most of the time, those workshops are sold out way ahead of time.

AoB: If you were to visit your most favorite bonsai site in the world, where would that be and why?

Ed: I've always wanted to go to Japan on one of Ben Oki's trips. Maybe one day when I retire. I consider myself a traditional stylist of Bonsai. Seeing the place where that tradition started is a dream.

AoB: If you could only keep three of your bonsai, which three would you keep and why?

Ed: That's like asking me which of my children I would keep. I've recently downsized my collection due to the ever present danger of hurricanes. Giving up some of those trees, some of which I had over 30 years, was not easy, but necessary at my age.

AoB: Focusing more on the art aspect in bonsai, when judging trees, how much do you approximately allow for the successful artistic approach?

Ed: I believe every tree in every exhibit should be honored for that person's artistic effort. Whether or not that effort meets some criteria of judging is entirely an opinion. But opinions of your work are an important part of the whole "journey" and must be evaluated for their positive influence.

AoB: Cheng's "Si-Diao" carving technique seems to be "the frosting on the cake." What are your thoughts about this method?

Ed: Master Cheng's work is an example of the technical advances being made by artists around the world. "Stunning" is the only way I can describe his work.

Ed Trout during a demo

AoB: You travel quite a bit and do many workshops and demos around the country. What is your opinion on the current perception of American Bonsai by the beginners you meet?

Ed: I believe the perception of bonsai by beginners is the same today as it was 30 years ago. They are in awe, until they "get their hands dirty". The more you do, the easier it becomes. That's true for bonsai or brain surgery.

AoB: What is your personal perception of American bonsai today as compared to other countries?

Ed: I think American Bonsai is doing ok. We're still "beginners" at it, in comparison to other places. But to me it should not be a contest. A beautiful tree is a beautiful tree, whether it's done in Boise, Idaho or Melbourne, Australia.

AoB: What bonsai Magazines do you read and, if you could, how would you change them?

Ed: I have to admit, I subscribe to every magazine I can on Bonsai. They are all a source of inspiration. The more good photographs, the better! I've always said that a photograph can be viewed in any language!!

AoB: America has many different climates, from deserts, to mountains, to forests, to your own everglades, it is a collectors paradise in many ways. Is there much collecting being done in Florida and are the techniques used there very different from the more traditional techniques often wrote about?

Ed: I have to admit,I'm not much of a collector. I like to do my "collecting" at a nursery. I went collecting one time with the great Mary Madison. We were collecting bald cypress and I swear I thought I was going to "die" in that swamp! Collecting is better left to professionals, in my opinion.

AoB: What species of native trees do you see in Florida that inspire you?

Ed: Buttonwoods are my favorite, along with Bald Cypress, Live Oaks, and some of our beautiful old Slash Pines.

AoB: Some incredible beauty can be found in Florida with trees that have Spanish Moss hanging from them. Do you think a viable way will ever be found to mimic this eerie effect?

Ed: I've seen things like miniature orchids in some bonsai. They look pretty neat...Don't know why Spanish moss wouldn't work in the right tree.

AoB: What native plants are being used as accent plantings in Florida?

Ed: I don't grow any accent plants,and really don't know names.I have used air plants as an accent.

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