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President’s Message: Youth Movement

Over the last 10 plus years, I’ve “enjoyed” my sacrificial participation in the development of the mountain bike racing careers of our two sons as they grew up.  One day I was dragging them around the trails, an easy day for me while they would be panting and knackered at the end of the ride. Then it seemed like in the next ride it was them thrashing me while I hung on for dear life. Of course, my predicament only got worse with each subsequent outing with them. What does this have to do with bonsai you ask? Well, it seems another parental sacrifice is about to be made.

This week Bonsai Mirai launched the 2nd volume of their free “Beginner Series” videos. The new student learning about the art, design and care of bonsai is Mirai’s project manager, “Eve” (who also happens to be my daughter). An accomplished painter and video production artist, Eve always enjoyed poking fun at me and my feeble efforts to practice the “art” of bonsai ever since she started painting in middle school. Fast-forward 12+ years, and after working at Mirai for 3 years, Eve has gained a healthy appreciation and respect for the artistic aspects of bonsai. Of course, she still pokes fun at my bonsai efforts because I am at the furthest point on the artistic spectrum from her boss, Ryan Neil. And now it looks like, similar to her brothers, soon she’ll be dishing out the soul-crushing experience of surpassing me and my 30+ years of bonsai practice… Ok, since we are talking about me, maybe that’s not all that high of a bar.

Mirai’s Beginner Series documents the progress of a new bonsai practitioner as they learn skills and techniques of bonsai by watching Mirai’s online video library, “Mirai Live”. Subscriptions start at $18/month with a 7-day free trial: With literally thousands of hours of bonsai education video content, a new student can quickly develop the skills necessary to create and care for bonsai. Eve is learning her bonsai skills by only watching Mirai’s online video content without direct instruction from Ryan.

In her debut video, you can watch her work on the first tree she ever has laid hands on. Rather than starting with conventional nursery stock, she is using trees that BCSB members might recognize. The two bougainvilleas that make a cameo are Tom Post’s trees (more about these in a future newsletter). The third tree, which she works on in the rest of this video, is a lavender star flower or crossberry (grewia occidentalis).  She mistakenly attributes this tree to Tom; however, Ann Erb actually donated the tree for auction at the 2018 BCSB show. I won it with the highest bid (probably much to its dismay).

You can tell Eve isn’t receiving instruction from her boss because you’ll see some classic beginner pitfalls like being a little too rough and breaking a few branches while wiring.  In the end, however, you’ll be impressed with her “finished” product (the first design on her first tree) in this 15-minute video. She clearly takes a different attitude and lighthearted approach to her bonsai practice. In this spirit, her future projects will integrate aspects of bonsai with kusamono and shitakusa in her creations because, well, she’s Eve! Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.  While you are there make sure you read through the positive comments from video viewers. When someone says something like… “If you’re having a bad day, just watch this and you can’t help but instantly feel better. Definition of wholesome, a joy to watch…” about your kid, you are more than willing to accept that you will soon be the second-best bonsai practitioner in the family.

The “Beginner Series” videos are free to watch. To access the entire Mirai Live video library requires a subscription. After watching Eve’s and Josh’s (the previous beginner) progression video, you can decide if this online method of learning and improving upon your bonsai skills and techniques is a worthwhile investment.


Last Month: Members’ Critique Session

It was very exciting to be back in-person for our August meeting and it was good to see everyone’s non-digital faces (insert your favorite mask quip here). Several members brought trees for advice and input on a variety of aspects from styling to tree health. We observed all the best health guidance including wearing our masks, socially distancing, and open windows with plenty of air-flow. The meeting started off with a surprise, as Joe Olson made the transfer of Presidential power official with the sacred handing down of the Bonsai Broom and Dust Pan. Behind their masks, it was difficult to tell who was more excited by the ceremony, but my money was on Joe. Although, he did point out that he is still storing the Official Coffee Pot as we opted to go coffee-free for the first meeting back.

Regarding the trees, Jeff S. brought a Crape Myrtle previously owned by Tom Post and a Blue Rug juniper with some potential health issues. Ann E. offered advice on flowering that Crape Myrtle bloom on the tips of new growth. Joe O. had an Italian Stone Pine seeking advice on planting angle and front. We also rediscovered another benefit of our normal meeting space, the ability to look simultaneously at the front and back of a tree with the large wall mirror! John B. brought a Forsythia, Portulacaria afra ‘prostrata’, an English Oak,and a semi-cascade Sarcocaulon vanderietiae that had the most beautiful white flowers. He also had a large sack filled with cuttings of P. afra ‘prostrata’ for the taking. Allan H. sought advice on the best front for an olive styled after the ancient cultivated olives of the Mediterranean. He also brought an unknown juniper for advice on whether to graft it for more compact foliage and to help pick the best front.

Steve G. also displayed what was definitely the most refined “bonsai” complete with a display stand. It turned out to be a LEGO kit bonsai that can also flower if you are patient enough to apply the very small, pink plastic pieces. The meeting wrapped up with a raffle for a Portulacaria afra in a bonsai training container and an assortment of Satsuki and Indica variety azaleas. Phil W. won first selection and claimed the P. afra, although I suspect that his daughter Phaedra will lay claim to it.

~ Allan

Tuesday, September 14, 6:30 PM: Glenn Griffin – Azaleas

Our azalea expert-in-residence, Glenn Griffin, will be our September speaker. His program will be: Repotting Azaleas Workshop Session plus Care and Styling Hints. “We will cover the material for the Azalea Workshop repotting follow-up session that had to be canceled in July. There will be a condensed repotting demo on one azalea. There will be discussion of future care issues and evaluating styling options.” Proof of Covid vaccination or a recent negative test (within the last 72 hours before the meeting) will be required. Face masks will be required at all times. And the Club waiver of liability form will also be needed to attend.

Saturday, September 18: Mel Ikeda, 9:00 AM-Noon & 1 PM-4 PM

Mel Ikeda will lead workshops to be held outside in the garden area at GVCC. Tables will be provided and socially distanced, one person per table. This does limit how many Club members we can accommodate, so if you are interested in attending, please let Carol Hicks know as soon as possible which session you want to attend. Bring trees that you want help with or have questions about. The same COVID rules listed above apply to the workshops too.

Last Month: Our First In-Person Workshop in Almost 2 Years!

Our first group workshop was held in the garden area within the GVCC. Oddly enough, it was raining (Southern California speak for heavy mist) when we first got there. But no one complained. The only groaning was for Steve Gibson’s jokes. Fortunately, Steve stopped long enough to take a few photos of Keith, Susanne, John B, Debra, Phil, Tina, Carol, Glenn and me. It was great to be back. I was getting tired of talking to myself all the time while pruning.

~ Ernie

Upcoming Bonsai Events

October 2-3 Santa Nella

Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) will host the 2021 GSBF Bonsai Rendezvous. The event theme is “Bonsai Rendezvous.” A two-day event for renewal and celebration for the love of bonsai. No registration fee. Open to the public. Free bonsai demonstrations both days. Free professional bonsai critiques, Bring Your Own Bonsai and Do It Yourself Bonsai settings. Vendors from Northern and Southern California in one huge location. There will be silent auctions for quality bonsai and related items. There will be no banquet dinners. Additional information and a schedule of activities are available on the GSBF website. For further information or to volunteer in support of the event, contact Rich Guillen at or call 831-348-5015.

October 9 Van Nuys

The Bonsai Swap Meet celebrates its 7th year in 2021. We have buyers coming from San Diego, Fresno, and Phoenix Bonsai Society. We will have 40-50 sellers and 100+ buyers. The sellers will receive specific instructions. It’s free. You are invited to The Bonsai Swap Meet Saturday, October 9th at 10 am at 7100 White Oak Avenue, Van Nuys, California. Please park on White Oak. This is an informal opportunity to buy, sell, swap bonsai trees. Please contact Keith at if you have any questions or want to see the trees that sellers are bringing. It’s free to attend. You don’t want to be late. Bring cash.