Guidelines for Bonsai Exhibitors, Volunteers and Treesitters

Download Guidelines for Bonsai Exhibitors and Volunteers

Download Guidelines for Treesitters

Scott Elser

Below are some guidelines for exhibiting bonsai at BSOP shows and for those helping with the Exhibit. There is some great information in each area that is applicable to both situations, so be sure to read everything. We didn’t want to repeat details in each section.

Arrival -Plan on having your trees to the Japanese Gardens between 12:00 noon and 4 pm on the day of set up. We will not have a place to put trees before this time and we will need your trees by 4:00 to be able to work them into the show. If they arrive later than this we may not be able to fit them in. If you would like to arrive earlier to help set up tables, tablecloths, the Tokonoma, etc… we will start to arrive around 10:00 am. These couple of hours between 10-12:00 are the most critical time for set up, so any help is appreciated. There are also some tree preparation guidelines in a separate document titled Preparing Trees for Display .

Unloading -For shows held at the Japanese Gardens, an Event Drop-off Area (tent and carts) will be provided during established set-up hours. Event Staff will be available to help unload and deliver display items to the pavilion. The Admissions Gate should never be used when carrying items into or out of the Garden. Please use the service gate (down slope to the right of the Admissions Gate). Please unload and immediately move your vehicle to the Visitor Parking lot (by the tennis courts) then ride the shuttle back to the Garden.

Parking is not permitted near the Garden/Admission Gate, the walking path leading to the Antique Gate, or in front of the Maintenance building. Parking along the access road is reserved for Garden Staff/Permit parking only. Other vehicles will be towed.

Departure – We will begin taking down the show immediately after it closes at 6:00pm on Sunday. You will be able to take your trees and other exhibit materials at that time. Garden Staff will be available to assist with breakdown and loading. Your vehicles should be in the loading zone only when items are packed and ready to load. Remember that a lot of volunteer time went into setting up the display for you to exhibit your trees, so any time you can give to take down and load the rest of the exhibit is greatly appreciated. It generally takes a little over an hour to get everything packed up.

Display Stands – Display stands for bonsai can be quite expensive. Many of us have one or two stands, but rarely do we have one that is just the right size for the tree we are showing. Any stand that you can bring will help contribute to the quality of the show, whether it fits your tree or not. We will find a stand for your tree, and your stand may be just what another tree needs. Please let us know if a particular stand goes with particular tree. If your stand works, but we can make it work better, we will only substitute with a higher quality stand.

Display stands are fragile and require great care. Please be careful on how you pick them up, and do not use the seemingly handy cross members – they can break easily. A tree should never be slid across the top of a stand, even for a small adjustment. A tree and stand be should never be moved together with the tree on top of the stand – please handle them separately. We will try and put felt pads on the bottom of pots to help mitigate any scratching. We are fortunate in the BSOP to have several individuals who are willing to share their investment in stands with the club. Please be mindful of this and take care of them better than you would your own.


Set Up and Take Down – We greatly appreciate your help in set-up and take down of the exhibit. These are just a few guidelines to help you with how we work. First of all, do not handle the trees themselves unless asked to do so. The trees are personal property on loan for the exhibition. Pick trees up by the pot only, always with two hands, even the small ones. If the tree is very large, it may require two or more people to safely lift the tree on or off of the stands without scratching, so be sure to ask for help. Trees must be lifted straight up and down – never sliding across the surface. Please read the above section on Display stands.

Order of Set Up – Our first order of business is to set up the tables in their proper place. Then we add the skirting cloths and finally the colored felt on top. When this is done, the tables are ready to be marked off in sections by bamboo dividers. We are making each six-foot section into a small display unto itself, each one telling a story. This may end up including several smaller trees, suiseki (viewing stones), scrolls, accent plants or other accompaniments. Placing trees is something that we can’t really plan out ahead of time. We start with the big trees and the trees on the ends of the tables and then begin to fill in. We are trying to make sure that the whole display has a variety of species and styles, sizes and shapes, colors and textures. And above all, that it has a nice flow. After the trees are set we begin to place accent plants, etc..

Other Duties – There are quite a few little jobs that may crop up, depending on how trees come in. This may include oiling pots, placing some moss on the trees, or a little clean up. We may need some help polishing stands, or selecting a particular stand for a particular tree. Setting up the Tokonoma and dividers are other jobs.

Parking, etc… -If you are not unloading vehicles, please park in the lower lot and either walk up the hill or take the shuttle. Just mention that you are with the Bonsai Show and you will be admitted free.


  1. Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the Pavilion nor in the Garden.
  2. Mobile phone use is not permitted inside the Pavilion nor in the Garden.
  3. All food and drink must remain in the kitchen during public hours when the exhibition is open.


Please arrive early enough for you to get your name badge and check in

Parking, etc… ­If you are not unloading vehicles, please park in the lower.

The Exhibit is in the Garden Pavilion. You can easily find it on the map.

Your Job is:


  1. Enjoy yourself. You are the ambassador for our club. This is one of the best exhibits in the Northwest. And we really appreciate your participation.     
  2. Watch over the trees, being certain to keep visitor’s and volunteer’s hands off of them. Most people do not know bonsai etiquette.    
  3. Answer questions about the club. There is a table set up with BSOP literature to help you.     
  4. Answer questions about trees. Many of the questions, like age, no one may know. We can only guess. You can also direct questions to the folks demonstrating outside, or to one of the regularly scheduled docent tours. A few of the common questions are, “How old is this tree?” Answer, “How old do you think it is?” “How much is this tree worth?” Answer, “How much would you pay for it?”
  5. A playful attitude is always a plus

A few of the gardens rules:

  1. Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the Pavilion or Garden.
  2. Mobile phone use is not permitted inside the exhibition hall or in the Garden.
  3. All food and drink must remain in the kitchen during public hours when the exhibition is open.