What got you started in Bonsai and what has bonsai done for you?

It’s important to remember where we came from right? So what got you interested in bonsai?

What pushed you past that “buying a tree at walmart and just sitting it in a window sill phase”? Did you have a mentor? A local club?

Has bonsai positively impacted your health? Have you found something you were missing in your life through bonsai?

I will start off!

So my bonsai journey has been a short one (2 years), but has transformed my life (for the better of course!). About two years ago I struggled with crippling anxiety and depression. It was negatively effecting my work to the point where I had to go to part time for work for 5 months. I never left my house unless it was for work or food. I needed something to get me up off my bed watching netflix or off my computer. I have always enjoyed nature, but am an IT guy by trade so I found myself inside all the time.

So I just googled bonsai, looking for a tree to buy. Then one day my Dad sent me a text that they had trees at Costco so I went and bought a ficus and a juniper. The juniper promptly died, as they usually do when they are from big box stores. At the time I had no idea what I did wrong. So from there, I started to study my mistakes. When I do something I go all out, to the point of maybe a bit of unhealthy obsession, but I needed a positive obsession in my life.

I found my local club and contacted them about coming to a meeting. Now walking into a room of strangers was just about the most terrifying thing to me at that time, but I challenged myself to confront my anxiety. So I went to a meeting. At first my skin was crawling, brow sweating, hands clammy. Then I started talking to people and I instantly felt at home.

From there my journey took off, I started going to events outside of my city, and met more people. The more I got out and interacted with people in the bonsai community, the easier it was to apply this new found confidence to other aspects of my life. I still struggle daily, but bonsai pulled me out of the worst part of my life. I have to commend the bonsai community, as they were the reason I was able to return to being normal (for the most part :crazy_face: ).

I am sure others have similar stories to how bonsai means more to them than practicing horticulture or getting involved in art. What’s yours?


When I was 15 we went to the flowerisland Mainau in the Bodensee.There in front of the castle was a Penjing exhibition with a chinese Penjingmaster.I was so fascinated. A Bit later my father gave me a Penjingbook for Xmas. That time,I think it was 1987,
it was verry hard to get informations about Bonsai.
Over the time I collected all possible books about Bonsai and experimented in my parents garden.
When I got my drivinglicence I drove to Bonsaicentrum Heidelberg,the only real bonsaishop thats time in Germany and bought a pinus parviflora and an aber palmatum


In the fall of 2016 I was working at a house (I’m in construction/demolition) that had 2 beautiful trees in front of it. They were Japanese Maples I found out after doing some google research. Since they were full of seeds I decided to take some with me and try to germinate them. All went well and 5 months later in 2017 I had 12 seedlings (out of 14 seeds). Not knowing what to do with them I did some browsing online and I always ended up on a bonsai related site. Seeing what could be done with them to turn them into pre-bonsai I started to dig deeper and deeper into all these bonsai related articles. In July I bought my first nursery stock shrubs and aluminum wire and the rest is history.


I started digging trees to experiment some more.
Over the time I had about 100 trees and i learned a lot about trees. I never really knew what work i would love for my live. I tried a lot but nothig was right.Then i saw some treeclimbers and knew this was right for me because i allways loved climbing and trees. It was verry easy for me to get a job there
because of my knowledge of trees from bonsai.
I studied a lot about arboricuture.Now,20 Year later, i am a Certified Master Arborist got a god runnig arboricuture company with my brother.All started from Bonsai.Inbetween I had a lor of trouble with the mother of my son because she did not want me to see him.we went to court for over 2 years.that took soo much of my enery that a lot of my trees dyed.
I was verry sad and almost thougt it was te end of my bonsaistorry because i did not like to see the remaining trees anymore.I allways wanted to Open a Bonsai shop when i got my one property .last year i bought a house with a nice garden and a little later i found Ryan on YouTube.Ryan and Bjorn Bjorholm gave me back my Bonsaispirit and now i am working on opening a bonsaishop.I really love how Bonsai developt over the time!Now i can See iwo Bonsai works professionell on my 55inch tv😀 ty Ryan!!!


I causually pursued bonsai online for around 3 years, but didn’t really dive in as a passion until last spring.

Last March I had a pretty serious skateboard slam that probably should have paralyzed me, but somehow walked away with nothing but a fractured humerus. However, the break required surgery, resulting in a plate, 8 screws, and 3 months in a sling. With a ton of time to kill and my mental health deteriorating due to being stuck at home constantly, I decided to start pursuing bonsai seriously as it seemed like something I could start learning with one functional arm for the time being (and needed a new hobby anyways and skateboard medical bills start to get expensive).

After doing some online digging, I found Todd Schlafer and scheduled an all day lesson with him after my arm was healed enough to use it. That lesson honestly changed the course of my life to an extent, as I left feeling so immensely inspired and excited that I immediately began reading and watching everything I could get my hands on. I worked as hard as I could throughout the summer learning as much as I could, and honestly at this point I’m in love with the hobby.

I’m starting at Willamette University in Salem this spring, where I plan to try and work with Ryan when possible due to the close proximity, and also plan to pursue a degree in forestry. Idk. I’d love to do bonsai as a profession at some point, and that’s a goal that I plan to work as hard as I can for.


Hey Kendall can u please put my 2 posts together?!
I made some mistakes and now there are 2 posts🤔

I’ve always loved trees. They center me. As a kid I climbed them and drew them on everything. Later I planted them everywhere in the garden. But a citBased garden around the hoise xan only accomodate so many trees. Limit reached. One day I discovered a tree seedling ans couldn’t determin the species. Off into aplanter it went, until I knew what it was and could plant it in the right place. My husband and daughters thought it was funny and gave me a bonsai book and a bonsai pot for my birthday so that I could keep my mystery tree. Oh my gosh…I can’t do that to a tree… it has to be able to live the life of a, well, a tree! But I planted the mystery tree in the bonsai pot as directed in the book. Then I decided to read the book from front to back and was FASCINATED. That was that an no seedling was safe from me putting it in a pot. Then I experimented on nursury trees and started visiting exhibitions. The bonsai bubble finally burst when ww moved to Bavaria into a penthouse appartment (I was able to take all my beloved trees with me…yipiii). It was then, five years ago, that I sourced out bonsai clubs in the closer area. The Augsburg Bonsai Club and the Bonsai Treff Kaufering were my first contacts with official clubs. Great people with great trees. They took me under their expert wings and gave me a new home. Under their guidance and friendship my trees improved immensely. With all of this my desire for older more developed trees grew. I visited courses. I met up with another bonsai group that is not an official club. Can you imgine. My bonsai network grew and grew. We go to exhibitions together and visit Bonsai Gardens all over Germany and Europe. Exhibitions like Noalanders and Arco or the National German are now all about trees, dealers and meeting up with wonderful Bonsai geeks and friends. Last year I came across Ryan’s website via one of his you tube videos. What really had me hookes was thw horticultural background he provides. I subscribed and have taken another quantum leap forward. Having done things just because you do it that way and because it was successful last time around is now something of the past. I have changes some pruning techniques and will with this years repotting make some soil adjustments in a confident way not in an experimental way.
I recently took part in a pottery course. The result is not a Tom Benda, but a Karin and it will be the new home of Karin’s European Larch…:blush::wink:


@Jens wow! I hope your bonsai shop goes well, I am sure that an arborist can take a lot of great knowledge plus inspiration from nature to make som pretty killer trees.

@Fonz Being in construction and demolition is probably going to yeild you some pretty cool oppourtunities for urban yamadori! I also have a sweet spot for Japanese maples, bonsai or not!

@Jaron.Colorado sounds like you were able to use bonsai to break out of a vicious cycle of mental health issues through bonsai as I have. I am from Indiana but have some good friends out in Denver and last November went out there and visited Todd. What an amazing dude right?! I got a cool little bristlecone from him :slight_smile: Best of luck with your studies! Being close to Ryan and being able to study under him, while getting an education that can apply heavily towards bonsai is going to be great for you!

@Karin sounds like you dove head first into bonsai and are flourishing!! So great to hear that you were able to find friends and a community! Being from America, I feel like sometimes I don’t realize how bonsai has penetrated every nook and cranny of the globe. There is a community out there for everyone and I hope that everyone can have a similar experience to you.


Ty Risco😊I will post some pictures late march early april.we just had to cut a big oak and and a fraxinus.
The sawmill comes in march to makes me slabs for my benches…


@risco My story is so similar it’s crazy! Bonsai has been an outlet and something to focus my mind on. it’s amazing how our passion for these little trees can have such a profound impact on the mental and emotional traumas we deal wtih As we’ve all learned once the bug bites, it’s all you can think about! This is also my second spring. Most of my trees died by June last year and then I started with Mirai live and haven’t lost a tree since haha


Since I was child, I had always been fascinated with unusual looking trees. I sketched a lot of gnarly/unusual trees, broken trees, drew landscapes and forests (post forest fire), trees that look or resemble humans (inspired by a cartoon called Inhumanoids) or animals (dragons and sorts) without knowing what Bonsai was. Then comes Karate Kid, where I first heard about Bonsai. I tried it out but there wasn’t much books or exposure back home (Philippines) so I was growing mango, avocado, star apple trees on the ground trying to make them look like a bonsai tree. High School and College shifted my interests, I still sketch trees whenever we go mountain climbing.
Moving to United States sort of brought back the interest (2008, SC). It is when we went to the Rhododendron Garden in Federal Way, WA for our new home in WA (2013) to buy some rhodies that changed everything. There was a demo by Dave de Groot, we watched his demo and we won his demo tree (group planting). We still have it and it is still alive up to present. This got me to reading and learning more from youtube videos, Bonsai Empire courses, and now through Mirai which is really great. The way Ryan teaches matches how I learn best and this was very helpful. Thank you to the Mirai Team, especially to you Ryan!


I grew walking the woods and camping with my Dad, so I developed an appreciation for nature early on. But as an adult, life and work took over, and I got away from it. Then I married a biologist with a green thumb, and after we bought a home together, I found that gardening relieved a lot of stress for me (I’m a career police officer). One day, my wife brought home a juniper bonsai from Walmart, and I was hooked. I began reading and watching videos, and of course, buying a few nursery trees :grinning: I realized quickly that I enjoy everything about bonsai, even the repetitive stuff, which is different from other hobbies I’ve had in the past (I used to build computers, and the repetitive, little stuff frustrated the heck out of me!) Anyway, four years later, I’m still practicing bonsai, and I intend to until I’m too old to hold a pair of scissors! For me, bonsai has reconnected me to nature and my Dad, and it has improved my life in many other ways (I’m more patient, more understanding, etc.)

On a side note, if there’s anyone who is debating whether or not to join Mirai Live, you should most definitely join. I’ve learned more in this last year from Ryan and his team than I learned on my own the previous three years combined! It’s worth every penny!


I’m in Ottawa, Canada and bonsai has been immensely helpful to me. It started back when I started studying horticulture at the local college, I had a blue star juniper that I killed, I had some wire but I never did much with it after that. I’m also a single full time dad for 5 years so I never gave it much time.
Since then, I graduated and work full time as a greenhouse grower for herbaceous and tropical plants and I love my job and am proud of my practical horticultural knowledge. This past September I went to the Montreal botanical garden with my father and I discovered their bonsai collection. This had such a profound impact on me that I could cultivate my favorite types of plants (trees) in containers and enjoy the finer nuances of a new style of horticulture. Since then I’ve been hooked and it’s all I want to learn about.

It has helped with stress, anxiety and depression. Since joining Mirai and benefiting from the straight and to the point and horticulturally supremely proficient knowledge from Ryan, everything has changed. I would love the opportunity to meet Ryan one day. He is my hero and inspires me to be the best I can be. Thank you Ryan and Mirai team!


I’ve always had this odd obsession with trees. I spent most my early childhood climbing them. As a serving infantry man through the 90 I would often find the calming nature of being surrounded by trees the tonic I needed to get me through tough times.

In 2011 a customer of mine noticed me examining a really old and rather scruffy looking Scots pine in his garden. He said to me “My late wife had grown it from seed as bonsai for 35 years, I’ve no love for it so you’re welcome to have it if you wish”. So not wanting to take it on and kill it, I had no horticultural knowledge at all, I searched out a local bonsai group. I took the pine to their February meeting and one of the older members did an initial styling on the pine while I watched. I was fascinated! Bonsai had me hook, line and sinker.

I struggle with many of the people involved in the community and their motives but I love the actual art form so much I can’t see a time in my life that won’t be dictated by bonsai.


My mother loved gardening and desperately wanted my brother and I to love it too, but she wouldn’t give up any patches of her precious garden for us to be able to try :smile:

In 1988 she showed me an article by Peter Chan from Herons Bonsai here in the UK. Once I read Peter’s article I realised I could do Bonsai without needing to land-grab garden from her.

We visited Peter at his amazing nursery, and my dad and I fell in love with his forest plantings.
Soon I had about 10 young starter trees and saplings in nursery cans, but tbh I was too scared to do anything with them. I don’t think I ever fed them, just watered, and I didn’t really understand the consequences of my actions (or lack of actions). When I went to college 5 years later, they all died.

Fast forward to August 2017, and I was starting my own Youtube channel about my pets and gardening (I grow fruit and veg, succulents, carnivorous plants, plus normal ornamental plants), I was doing lots of research, and stumbled across Bonsai Mirai. I watched one of the BSOP streams first, and couldn’t believe the knowledge that Ryan had, and his ability to deliver that information to the audience. I jumped straight in with a tier 2 membership and have quickly amassed 19 trees from 3-4 years up to 8 years old.
Imagine if I’d kept my original trees, they’d be about 33 now. :roll_eyes:
Nevermind, onwards and upwards :smile:


Bonsai popped in and out of my life from childhood to marriage. But it wasn’t until we bought our home that I saw the previous owner’s bonsai collection. I jumped right in. Didn’t find the local club for at least a year and nothing survived that first year.

Bonsai has taught me patience. You can’t hurry the process beyond what the tree will let you do. And many shortcuts can have disastrous results. There are no shortcuts. If someone comes up with one, it becomes a technique. If you come up with it on your own, say goodbye to your tree.

Patience and meditation


The story of my bonsai life:

30 something years ago I saw a little movie called “The Karate Kid” and always liked the idea of growing trees in miniature that replicate nature.

Fast forward 15 years from that I began collecting trees from local nurseries after watching a TV series here in Australia on cable called “Way Of Bonsai” created by Lindsay Farr, who incidentally did an interview with a young Ryan Neil studying in Japan in one of his episodes.

The bug bit with some force and my collection grew until I went overseas and left my trees in somebodies care who clearly didn’t care for them as I did. When I returned home 2 months later all my trees were either dead or dying.
It was at this point I lost the love for both the person I trusted and caring for trees.

5 more years passed by and I visited a local expo, it was at this point I decided to get a bit more serious about this art form. I joined a club learned what trees grown well in my area, collected local trees and seeds and started growing what I couldn’t find in nurseries.

Now almost 10 years on from there I’ve had children and very little time to spend on my collection of 108 stock trees in growth development and only 1 tree I could call a bonsai in refinement but they are all alive and well. My plan is to keep the most interesting ones and sell the rest leaving me with about 30 or so trees I can retire with.

The bug has seriously bitten hard this time round and with almost 15 different species (listed below) I keep collecting from nurseries and growing from seed, at 44 years of age my only wish now is that I was 25 years younger. Lol

In my development collection:
Japanese Cedar
Japanese Larch
Japanese Elm
Japanese Maple
Chinese Elm
Junipers, shimpaku, nana, prostrata, procumbens
Lebanon Cedar
Local Ash
White Spruce


My story is similar to others. I grew up loving the outdoors and climbing trees. Then my grandfather started showing and telling me what each tree was and how they differ. While in the Navy, we stopped in Japan where I saw my first bonsai. I was hooked and amazed that all the trees around the world could become bonsai trees and live with me. Then I noticed bonsai trees in Hawaii, then in San Diego and other places. I got one but didn’t know what to do with it. My first one went to a friend when I left the Navy, my second one went to another friend when I moved to Colorado. My third one was a ‘S’ shaped Juniper. Still didn’t have a clue what to do with them but when I retired to the Desert SW, I took a class, joined two clubs and now have seven bonsai in the works with two being in bonsai pots. I’m limited to how many I can have and have given two away to friends to get them interested in joining in the fun.

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I started bonsai at a time were I wasn´t interested in plants at all, but my wife was. My wife parked me on a saturday morning in the garden center at a central spot while she was looking for some Flowers. This central point was the bonsai tray and I fell in love with this small trees that reminds me to ‘Karate Kid’. The tree died but the love stayed (with wife & bonsai). 15 years later I own approx. 12 bonsai, 6 long-term projects and 20 never-ending-stories.



Bonsai has already been somewhat a part of my life. Not a huge part, but it’s always been present as a thing I maybe would want to pursue at some point. One of my grandfathers used to practice bonsai. He passed away before he could share anything about it with me, but I do remember them being around the backyard (where I couldn’t be too rowdy) and I always liked them. On the other side of my family, we have a tree fruit orchard so I’ve done a lot of odd jobs around the farm and assisted with pruning, grafting and other tree maintenance tasks (as well as picking too).

A few years ago my wife got me a bonsai starter kit. Something with some peat pot, coco coir and a three types of seeds. I think she must have noticed how I always lingered around the trees whenever we found them (Portland Japanese Garden, Huntington Library in Pasadena, etc). So, I planted the seeds and said “cool, what now?” And while I was waiting for the trees to start sprouting, I started watching lots of youtube videos, and then books and blogs and other stuff online. The seedlings sprouted but there really isn’t much I could do with them yet, so I started getting some nursery stock and now have a small beginner collection (and those seedlings are still around too). Very thankful I found Mirai Live as it is an incredible source of bonsai and horticultural knowledge.