National Show Debrief

Hi all Mirai Live folks who attended the National Show. Wanted to start a thread where we can debrief about the wonderful event, share photos, and even some design critiques on the trees in the show.

What was your favorite display? Were you surprised by anything in the show? It was so amazing to meet some of you all in person. Looking forward to another big weekend at the PNW Rendezvous with BSOP.


It was nice to (briefly) meet you, Kendall. I never was able to track Ryan down to say hello. Weekend goes by too quickly.

Can’t really pick a favorite tree or display, there were so many impressive specimens. But one of my favs was actually the smaller hornbeam (American I think?) group by Thomas Bjorholm, I think. Troy’s pine (he’s the “Mirai Troy”, right?) was another smaller but captivating specimen. The tall/literati black pine that was in the Suiseki section, by Brian Hollowell I think? Was a very lovely/evocative specimen.

Could go on and on…each exhibition seems to get better.

Hope everyone had a good time!


It was my first time at the National Show so I found it a bit overwhelming in terms of sheer quantity of awesome trees. Hard to pick a favorite. The maple that won best deciduous was one of my favorites.

I had to restrain myself in the vendor area (but still spent too much! :p) Wish I could have bought one of the trees to bring back to Canada, but the inspections and paperwork required was too daunting.

It was nice to meet you when I stopped by the booth to buy a tee.



I wasn’t at the show, but Ryan was nice enough to deliver my trees via the covered wagon on his way east. Such a great guy and the trees are beautiful!


This is my First time as exhibitor and my third assistance to National Exhibition. I want share my compositon of an Neea buxifolia from Puerto Rico.


General impression: almost too much to absorb. Had to go outside to clear my senses on several occasions. One really has to “work” tvo take in the patience and skills that the exhibitors brought forth.
Specific impressions: 1.) the accent materials were almost as impressive as the trees.

(Who would have thought of an accent reflective of decaying wood from the forest floor?)
2.) Ryan Bell’s lectures on Bonsai pots were worth the price of admission. Ryan needs to have the other Ryan as a guest on Mirai Live. If not the most knowledgeable pottery person alive, Ryan certainly is in a select handful of experts.
3.) listening to Bonsai critiques by Kathy Shaner. She always starts by pointing out positives about a tree. Only then, does she reflect, as she sees them, on weaknesses to the composition. Finally, she offers opinion as to how weakness can be eliminated or mitigated. (Another thought for Ryan to broadcast critiques to improve current compositions, not just to create new ones.)
Finally, bring money! Vendors, vendors, and more vendors!


Yes I did love that black pine, got to meet brian as well. The deciduous trees really amazed me - one brazilian raintree comes to mind. Also the shohin were really impressive.


this is very beautiful. thanks for sharing! Is that a sara rayner container? She definitely had a good haul in the vendor booth.


Could not put it better myself Buck1945. The Exhibition was so overwhelming we should work out a specific approach on how to absorb and get the most of such shows.

The Exhibition seems to keep getting better. It is too bad that because of distance some regions are not able to fully participate.

Ryan’s time was in high demand but I was able to say hello and even got some advice on one of my trees when he and I happened to be at the right place, at the right time. It was nice to have brief chats with Kendall, Colton and Lyme (sp?).

There were so many good trees. One of my favourite’s was a pinus banksiana (jack pine) by Serge from Montreal.

And two trees entered by, I believe his name was Adrian Martin. A lodgepole with grafted Japanese white pine foliage and a shinpaku juniper, both medium sized trees were also great trees. The winning trees were deservedly selected.

On to a better National in 2020.


Thank for comment. Yes this is a Sara Rayner pot.


Overwhelming, Intimidating. Exhilarating. Educational. Nurturing. I think that would best sum up the experience of the past weekend of my first National Show. I was fortunate enough to have my mentor at the event. He got a sneak peak on Friday and saw most of the display before hand so when I met up with him Friday evening he told me what to look for but also encouraged me to enjoy the experience because of the amount that I would see. Suthin’s Japanese black pine and his attention to detail in wiring were very impressive. Most of the trees being sold in the vendor area were remarkable. If I ever win the lottery…

I also really enjoyed John Kirby’s Shohin display. I saw the Mirai booth but didn’t see Ryan initially but while listening to Michael Bell’s demonstration on containers overheard Ryan talking to people. I was looking for the right time to say hello while staring at all of the Mirai trees I had seen him design in videos but it didn’t seem to work out. I finally caught up with him while he was watering trees. He was very sincere since I really didn’t know what to say (felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story unable to tell Santa he wanted the bb gun) and he asked me what I was interested in. I told him I always loved Redwoods but don’t have the chance to grow them well since I have no outdoor space. Ryan reflected on coming back from Japan and being overwhelmed about what he was going to do and said I should just enjoy the experience and not be overwhelmed. He thanked me for the support as a member. Later I met Kendall and Colton and we briefly discussed Mirai, Oregon, beer and Muir Woods. They couldn’t have been kinder people.

On the shuttle to the show I rode with some fellow NY’ers who asked me about my background, told me they were members of the NY Bonsai club and invited me to a class this past Monday. We met at the botanical garden where we re-potted some dawn redwoods in a forest setting. While re-potting all of my trees ended up in a straight line and my mentor told me I might want to reconsider placement. I channeled the Beech Forest creation stream and didn’t put the tallest tree up front in the middle but more to the side in the rear creating more of a natural environment. I’m looking forward to future meetings.

When I told most people what I was doing in Rochester this past weekend I got a lot of strange looks. I even remember getting off the plane thinking, “Did I really just fly to Rochester to look at trees?”. Not only was the experience worth it but the people, just as important as the art that I viewed, made it all very rewarding. This seems like an industry where there could be and probably are a lot of egos. But what I saw was a community of people that were very gracious and encouraging to one another. They were also willing to share their knowledge about trees and solutions to problems with said trees. The people with knowledge could have easily been dismissive; that would have taken no effort and been expected. It is encouraging to someone like me to be a part of this community and I look forward to the next opportunity to interact with people in person who a part of this art form.

A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all the members of the Mirai team. Please keep doing what you are doing and we’ll continue to support you.


Overwhelming is a good term! I’ve attended 5 now (missed the first, hadn’t gotten into bonsai at that point). Very fortunate to live in the Rochester area, for this reason anyway. Ask me again in February and you might get a different response!

During the last one 2 years ago I was on the “photo crew”, moving trees into the photo studio and back to the display areas. It was about 100 deg in there and very crowded. That was stressful but a good way to get a look at each tree up close and personal! Though I don’t know if I’ll forgive Dan Robinson for that “contraption” he displayed his tree on. I’m amazed it held up throughout the show.

Feel like it would be good to have another day at these events as two days doesn’t seem like enough time to really take it all in. Don’t think that’s practical, though.


some photos!



Some great pics above:)

Was really impressed with the show, hats off to Bill V for putting everything together. It was also so cool to meet some of the Mirai crew in person, what a great group pushing Bonsai forward in the U.S!

@ryan nice call on Woodley, I don’t see any 170’s getting past him:)


Awesome tree and composition


Woodley is a monster!


Had a super great time meeting the entire Mirai crew, everyone was seriously awesome. That sense of community was the last straw in motivating me to join a local club.

As a first bonsai outing, it really was overwhelming. My favorite part was seeing some super high level eastern native material. While I love seeing the stuff you guys do with western natives, as someone on the east coast, seeing some eastern white cedars and a cool eastern white pine at their pinnacle was truly eye opening. The second I finish typing this post I’m going to scour the Q&A index for info on them!


Here’s a pic of my entry from the National Show. I collected this Sierra Juniper in 2010, very exciting for me to take it from the mountains to the National show:)


Well done Jeremiah. From mountain to Exhibition AND Award for Best American Bonsai (I think that was the category). There is a renewed hope for all of us.