Two of my favorite saying are "If you’re not living on the edge your taking up to much space" and “do what the average man is not willing to do and you will have what the average man does not”. For the last 4 or 5 years I have volunteered to do a demos at a few local Garden Centers. Since I usually book out my calendar two months in advance. I began coordinating the demo in January for March 21st 2015. in addition to that Our local club has its annual show the last week of March, this year it fell on March 28, 29th 2015 and I usually put a few of my plants in that show. To top it off I had my bonsai class with students that week, to say I was busy was an understatement!

A show to me is a way to put your best bonsai trees and plants on display to not only show your local community bonsai at its finest, but to also to encourage people to get involved with bonsai at some level. That is its most basic form at least to me. My first introduction to a bonsai show was again our local club and what I remember most was the presentation of the bonsai's with the clean lines and white background. I am sure somewhere somehow along the line Gareth Shepherd and or Kathy Shaner had a major hand in helping this club get started and also showed them how to do a bonsai display. I helped set up our local show for the past 7 years including two when I was president of the club. A great thing about any club is that they purchase, build or acquire all the necessary backdrops, felt, skirts, tables, table cloths, rent a space and provide all will see later why I am telling you this.

Something happened to me that really helped shape my future bonsai thinking ... I attended, studied and graduated from Sensei Boon Manakitivipart intensive course in 2013. Part of his in-depth teaching Bonsai course focuses on display...but not just any old display but how to display on steroids, a whole new focus level. Or as some would say ... It' was so next level that my hair and back of my eyes sockets hurt. In fact to this day on a monthly basis we study display and how to display at the monthly Bay Island Bonsai meeting.

While perusing Facebook in early March I saw a chance to share bonsai with the community and teach my students a lot more about what it takes to put on an exhibition. A local artesian Dawn Teall in cooperation with the Capitola Mall in Santa Cruz decided to try a new event called Third Friday Art Walk. They would hold this event every third Friday in the mall and allow Artists of all kinds to display their art in empty mall space. What a great idea for Ron Anderson Bonsai's first exhibition to be set up in an urban environment...Art and Living Art! The only challenge was it was going to be Friday March 20th, 2015. I was already completely over booked, oh what the hell…what’s one more event. We met with Dawn who was going to show us the small space we were going to have to set up a few trees. I thought the space would be small where I was to set up. It turned out to be 80 percent of the old couch purse location around 1500 square feet or more? Here is where it gets interesting!!!

Inside the mall... So cool!

I didn't have one thing in my possession to put on such a large exhibition...pucker factor times 10 comes to mind. I sat down with my best friend, partner and wife....KD Anderson who happens be all three of those. We began with; what do we need to put on this exhibition. The following is a basic list we came up with if you ever where to do this yourself. Oh yeah we immediately placed orders for what we didn't have.

This is a basic List of things you may need have to do in no particular order for setting up the display…

1. Since I didn't have custom made sheets for the tables we ordered nice super large sheets that could be wrapped around an 8 foot long rectangle table.

2. Eight or Six foot tables to place your bonsai on.

3. Felt of some sort, blue is nice.

3. A large cart to move all your stuff around to include your trees (it will save your back)

4. Some chairs for you and your crew

5. Signs or directions

6. Food or snacks (cookies are a hit) to get you and your visitors through the event

7. Supplies: you should include a tape measure, safety pins, string or yarn for tying or hanging things, different colored marking pens, business cards, paper and pen, broom and dust pan large and small, small hammer and nails, duct tape, Scissors, Measuring tape.

8. Advertising: everywhere you can, you need to tell everyone about your event way in advance would be best so people show up..

9. Backdrops for display if you can make them

10. A camera for before during and after photos.

11. Some friends or students to help you (thank you Shawn, Ashley and Nathan)

12. Big jug of alcohol to celebrate when you are done!!

13. Don’t forget your Bonsais

14. Clean all weeds out of your accent plants (kusamono), or accent piece and make sure you have plenty of diaza’s to put them on.

15. Water and a Water bottle for spritzing your bonsai and to help keep bonsai mix moist.


Here we are beginning to clean the bark of a juniper to make it look better for the show

Here we are cleaning and treating some deadwood with Lyme sulfur

A few trees half way finished

A few bonsai plants after mossing and their possible accent plants

Getting an idea of what plants look best, Here we are doing a three point display (thats Shawn Silbaugh and Ashley Hubback holding up the backdrop)

Beginning to set up for the event

My Beautiful wife KD Anderson always helping me out (this is her really i am trying to work here face!!)

Other areas we displayed in

Shawn and Ashley taking a break after helping set up

Three point display Juniper flows to the wisteria, Wisteria flows to the stone

In this picture you see we are still using a three point display, but controlling the flow of the power by moving the accent plant closer to the informal upright Juniper

Juniper, Ume, Kusamono

Very traditional display, Japanese black pine, maple clump just beginning to bud and kusamono

Of all the bonsai trees we had on display, this one was commented on the most.

Here is a list of thing you might consider doing to your plants and pots to prepare them for show and a few things to have on hand.

1. Small none abrasive brush to clean pots; if you’re worried about removing patina clean with mild soap and water with a wash cloth before putting your bonsai in the pot.

2. Natural oil for dressing your pots, it’s best not to use anything stinky!!

3. Super small leaf moss…not Irish moss!! Best moss is small moss growing in the shade.

4. Soft tooth brush, to clean trunks of trees and remove moss or mold from deadwood.

5. Bonsai display stands

6. New Zealand Sphagnum moss

7. Wash plants with a steady stream of water to help remove any old cob webs, leaves or debris from you plant.

8. Lyme Sulfur for any touch ups on deadwood

9. Don’t have moss; it OK, use red or brown lava sifted to the smallest you can sift to and us it (moss is usually used in spring displays)

10. A helpful hint to make your tree look extra nice and retain some moisture during the show is to remove about 1/8 to ½ inch of soil and put down a small layer of sphagnum moss before you put down your layer of moss or dressing.

This one is a small pet peeve of mine … you don’t have to have the best tree but at least clean the pot, oil it and remove the cob webs, bugs, leaves, dirt and debris and cover up the dirt so it looks more natural.

Our Experience!!

We could not set up until 4 PM, the event was to begin at 7 PM. We mad rushed to set everything up in three hours including bringing plants 100 yards from my truck. Seems easy except you’re in a mall parking lot so you just cannot leave your trees sitting in the back of your truck. We actually finished setting up 45 minutes early and were able to take a small break.

Right on the dot when it hit 7 PM we were almost overwhelmed… it was freaking great. So many people with so many fantastic questions. In two hours we probably had 500 or 600 people, maybe more come through our area of the mall. I could barely answer one question when another person would begin with another question. My students who were helping watch over things became instant Docents explaining what they could about the display we had geared toward this community event.

Here are just a few of the comments we heard

1. Oh My God, how beautiful

2. Did you grow that from seed?

3. How old is that

4. How do you know it’s that old?

5. I thought bonsai where some sort of dwarf tree.

6. I need to get my husband to do this to get him out of the house.

7. Do you have to water much?

8. Is there a store that sell that little moss?

9. Does it hurt the tree when you wire it?

11. Will it stay that size?

12. Are those flowers real?

13. Every plant I touch I Kill, I would really need lessons to keep one of these alive.

14. I have a brown and black thumb!

15. How long do you have to keep the wire on?

16. How long does it take for something like that to grow?

Long Blog Long!! We had an amazing time showcasing just a few trees to very interested and extremely curious crowd. I hope we planted lots of seeds in their minds for future hobbies, balance, mental health and Zen. It really was a neat venue for the Capitola mall and a very smart idea (Third Friday Art Walk) from Dawn Teall.

To my students who were able to help!!! I could not have done it without you and look forward to one day see all your displays. Thank you Shawn Silbaugh, Ashley Hubback, Nathan Rhett … life is a lot more fun when you are around.

I actually left so much out of this blog about all the work the students did and the practice displays we did before the actual event. In the end it all came together though it made for a very interesting few weeks.

Written by Ron Anderson — August 14, 2015