Stirring Things Up at the BSOP Circus

ABS Newsletter, June 2017

By Lee Cheatle

Bonsai Society of Portland President


Back in December of 2015, the ABS Journal Newsletter printed an article titled “Bonsai Circus…A Success Story.”  It was a short story about how the Bonsai Society of Portland had, in a few years, grown from a club of about 175 to a membership of 250.  Now, a year and a half later, our membership is over 350 strong and continues to grow.

The ‘how’ of that growth was the most important aspect of the 2015 story.  We attributed the success in large part to our dynamic general meetings. When the original story was written in 2015, our meetings consisted of what we termed our “Nine Ring Circus”.  At the time we had nine arenas of activity at each gathering.  If you didn’t get to read that article, the nine arenas included: a meet & greet table, a show & tell table, a Q&A table, a vendor section, a raffle for items donated to the club, a silent auction where members can sell their trees (20% goes to the club), a library of over 1000 items, a hospitality table providing coffee and treats, and our regular program.  The purpose of that article was to give other clubs some ideas on how to attract new members.

Since 2015 we have added a tenth ring to our Circus. We now have a two-sided formal display at each meeting which includes a free standing back drop with tables on each side.  Formal displays are created by our more experienced members consisting of show quality trees replete with show quality stands and accents.  The idea of this was to encourage our members, especially the newer members; to let them see what consistent bonsai practice can yield.  A worthy goal for all of us.

However, that is not the reason for this article. 

The purpose of this writing is to extend an invitation - one that will benefit the entire realm of bonsai hobbyists.  BSOP has grasped an exciting opportunity to team up with Ryan Neil of Bonsai Mirai.  In March, 2017, we began a series of seven educational live streamed demonstrations being filmed as part of Ryan’s Tuesday night “Bonsai Mirai Live” streamlines.  These programs take place at our regular club meetings on the fourth Tuesdays of each month through November, 2017, except for July and August when BSOP does not meet.

During these demonstrations, Ryan explains procedures that are currently being employed at Bonsai Mirai. The topics are applicable to the present time of year and provide a continuity that is often lacking in bonsai club programs.  Ryan’s demonstrations always involve several delightful specimens from his garden.

What I really want to share with you, though, is that we have the privilege of publishing all of the streamlines filmed at our meetings.  Providing links to these videos from the BSOP website allows our membership to watch the program a second or third time, to catch or repeat something they may have missed during the live presentation, or even to pause the film for taking notes.  This is an especially significant benefit for our newer members, helping them learn the how and why of creating bonsai from one of the best bonsai instructors around.

The most exciting part of this project is its availability to everyone via the public portion of BSOP’s website,  I mean everyone.  No login, no password – just look for Mirai Videos on the main menu and select any of the programs recorded to date. Anyone with an interest or curiosity about the art of bonsai can access, with no fee, these remarkable videos via our website…Yes, you read that right…FREE Ryan Neil bonsai instruction.

You may ask: Why would BSOP do this?  Be assured this is no trick; no strings attached – it is simply BSOP’s way of meeting our mission goals – “To promote interest in and the enjoyment of Bonsai, and to assemble and make available information on the culture of Bonsai.”  So please enjoy the videos, and pass the information on to everyone you know who is interested in the art of bonsai.

PS:  Save the Dates – September 14, 15 and 16, 2018, for the 2018 NW Bonsai Rendezvous, hosted by BSOP and PNBCA, to be held in Portland, Oregon.  More information is available on the BSOP website,