Bonsai Mirai: The Place, The Team

Mirai. What can I say that can conjure up just what this place is like to visit? Some single words spring to mind, inspirational, awesome, mind-blowing, all over used words that truly fit this place but none actually can sum up my visit to Mirai. I have so many photos I’m going to split them up over multiple posts, but they don’t even start to express this place. I have spoken to people who’ve there before I made this trip and watched them struggle with the same lack of words. Simply put, just go there yourself.

I arrived late on in the afternoon with my head still buzzing from Michael Hagedorn’s trees but also thinking about how I’d be received by Team Mirai. It is a team for sure especially after the launch of Mirai Live back in March. You watch the streams, hear the voices, hear mention of names, and catch the odd glimpse of someone other than Ryan. But they’re there working hard in the background. I was about to land in on them, with my accent and interrupt their day. I needn’t have worried of course. Like every other stop on the Bonsai road, we were both warmly welcomed.

First I heard that famous voice from the streams, Kendall was there somewhere. Little did I know that it was her saying goodbye and walking to her car in the opposite direction. Are we destined to never meet Kendall. She wasn’t there the next day either. Where were you Kendall? 🙂 Joking aside, I was gutted I missed getting to see you.

As I walked into the garden I saw two things. Instant impact of stunning bonsai was the first and second was Troy finishing off his day’s work. Some people you click with instantly in bonsai. We are all over the world, living in different countries, doing different things, but bonsai attracts, in the main, quality people but a few of these are kindred . Troy was one of these people. He’d obviously been warned that the Irish were coming! He knew who I was. I got to spend a little time with him later on talking bonsai, and about our trip and only wish he’d been about the following day to get to know him better. Every time he went to go home we ended up chatting on. Great to meet you Troy.

Ryan then appeared on hearing voices and man hugs ensued . I’ve met Ryan before at a rather special weekend in the snow at Willowbog Bonsai back in 2013 so man hugs were allowed 🙂 We had a quick catch up before he sped off to collect his son from day care. This gave me a chance to roam the garden, look at the trees and meet up with Arthur and Ricardo the techie guys behind Mirai Live. These guys are kept busy and the quality of their work is evident for all to see every week. It was great to grab some coffee time during my visit and sit chatting with these guys about Mirai Live and the plans for the future. What a great place to work. As you can see I managed to get a shot of me in the sweet spot that is the live studio 😉

Another Team member was Lime, and I’m gutted that I didn’t get a photo of us mate. What a story this guy has, but it’s his to tell. We had a lot in common and bonsai to connect us. A Portland Timbers fan as well, so we got to talk Football. Yes football, not soccer! I look forward to your Ireland trip in the near future my friend.

I have suggested that a ‘meet the team’ portion be added to Mirai Live, I think they were already headed that way but hopefully this post, more wordy than usual, fills in a few gaps for those of you who are Super Tuesday fans.

When Ryan returned we were all invited out for a meal in St Helens in a great spot called CCB, Columbia County Brewing. Food was amazing and the craic was mighty, if they knew what craic was of course. A great way to finish off a busy day. The plan was for me to spend time at Mirai the following day. Ryan had a Pines 1 study group there so I got to spend the day wandering the garden. I have so many photos it’s obscene. As a result I’m splitting them up into a few posts. Below is the gallery of the The Place and the people of Mirai. I’ll make a start on the trees in the next post.

My time at Mirai was special, both Allison and I were made feel at home and part of the team. We capped it all off with a trip into Portland with Ryan on the second night for a great meal at Jakes. Portland is my kind of City, I’ll be back. Too many friends, not enough time.

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Crataegus Bonsai

After Crater Lake it would be hard to find anything in nature as inspiring on the rest of the trip. Therefore I switched to Bonsai for inspiration for the rest of the short time we had left :-). Leaving Klamath Falls we moved North West over the high desert and down into Portland. A chunk of this was done in the rain so we missed some mountain views along the way. It can’t always be perfect 🙂

My next stop was Michael Hagedorn’s place, Crataegus Bonsai. You should know who I’m talking about if you follow this blog. I reblog a lot of Michaels posts as they are always so informative and well timed for seasonal work. Michael also posts kusamono which as you know is also a major passion of mine. This was one spot I was really looking forward too. I had been emailing with Michael to plan my visit and although he had a class on, he was still keen for me to come.

The weather improved the closer we got and on arrival the sun was shining. We were met by Andrew Robson, Michael’s apprentice and shortly there after by Michael who was just finishing lunch with his students. One thing that stands out at every bonsai establishment I visited was the warm welcome, and here was no different. A very relaxed atmosphere and happy faces. This looks like a great environment to study. The Pacific Northwest is truly blessed with bonsai opportunities. Michael got the students to work and between times spent some time walking the garden with me. Andrew was also very helpful but I was pleased to be left to my own devices for a while and just study the trees.

And then a truly magical thing happened! My long suffering wife, who has had to deal with my addiction for 24 years, having hordes of people visit my house, catering for these visitors, etc etc. made a statement. ‘I get it’. Just three words, but I was floored. She explained that after Crater Lake and the amazing trees there, showing all the age and character that you could imagine, and then coming into a garden were the bonsai looked just like that, she got why I do this mad thing called bonsai. She swore me to secrecy and straight after I told Michael all about 🙂 I’ll get a stern look for posting this here too, but hey, live dangerously. So, if you have a spouse who doesn’t get it, take them to Crater Lake and then a tour of the bonsai spots in the Pacific Northwest. Real bucket list stuff.

I loved the variation in species at Crataegus and am fast falling in love with many of the American ones. Nice also to see Japanese Black Pines being developed from humble beginnings. I had a ball looking at the accents as well and Michael and I had a good chat about what plant types are used both there and back home. You’ll see from the photos that I didn’t miss many.

A massive thank you to Michael and Andrew for adding us to an already busy day.

The galleries just keep getting bigger! Apologies if there are any doubles but some are with the camera and some with the phone which causes me grief now I’m home. From here I moved on to Mirai, a little place in St Helens, you may have heard of it! I will be breaking it down into a few different post as the amount of photos I took was total greed!

 

Crater Lake – A Magical Place

Of all the places I have EVER been, Crater Lake is the most magical I have ever seen. There. That’s a bold statement. I’ve seen some nice spots in my time on this planet but there was something about this place that was magical, spiritual, call it what you will, but it left both of us in true awe at the sight of the place. It helped than there wasn’t to many other people about. It wasn’t hard to wander off along the rim and find a quiet spot were not a single sound of humans could be heard.

It’s the deepest lake in the United Sates and was formed 7700 years ago. The local Indian tribe treated it as a religious site and only people of wisdom were allowed to view it. That’s obviously stopped if I was there, but I take their point. It’s special.

The views as you see are truly stunning and even though I was only able to visit a small portion of the rim due to snow, it was spectacular to see it in this rugged condition. I will be back in the future to ride that rim, all 33 miles of it.

The trees, Mountain Hemlock and Limber Pine were showing every bit of the tough conditions they have to survive in. I stood for a long time studying the deadwood and taking inspiration from natures shaping of these old characters. Surely Mountain Hemlock should be utilised more for bonsai?

I have probably overdone the gallery yet again, but what could I leave out!

Coastal Redwoods

Having seen Sequoiadendron Giganteum I was keen to see the best of the Sequoia Sempervirens or Coastal Redwood. This meant taking a bit of a detour between Redding and Klamath Falls. We left Redding and headed west through some beautiful country in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest dropping down into Redwood National and State Parks. Stunning views along the way and even the roadworks at a landslide on the 199 didn’t bother us as we got to stop and see a stunning river gorge.

Our first stop proper was the Lady Bird Johnston Grove of Redwoods. A compact walk through old growth Redwoods with loads of character and a quiet spot with very few tourists about. We were able to stroll through and take it all in. Another one of those special moments on our trip.

We then moved on to Prairie Creek, home of the BIG Redwoods which were a treat to behold. I had a stiff neck the next day, and no wonder, after staring skyward for long periods of the day.

Photos just don’t capture the immenseness of these trees. It nearly takes you to have someone standing in each photo to help capture the scale of what you are seeing. These trees are survivors with many showing signs of fire damage. The deadwood in many places was as exciting to view as the living.

I’ve added some wildlife pics and coastal shots too. A coastline that doesn’t get talked about very much but stunning. I’ve tried to make the images run chronologically but they may be  mixed here and there with some from the camera and some from my phone. Enjoy. Next up is Crater Lake, probably my favourite piece of America so far, and that’s saying something.

 

Bonsai @ Lake Merritt

After two amazing days in San Francisco we moved on towards our next over night stop in Redding. On the way we stopped off in Oakland to see the Bonsai collection at Lake Merritt.

It was interesting to compare this to Huntington Gardens, Huntington was a more elegant location and inspiring in it’s own way but I think I actually preferred the bonsai here at Lake Merritt. I was told that local club members regularly take the trees home to work on them and I think this shows in the quality and condition. The watering system here also looked the part and I didn’t see any sign of suffering on any tree.

I had a few favourites, I’m a redwood convert and the ones a saw here were excellent with tight tight budding. I can only dream of getting mine that tight! Some amazing junipers of course and a fantastic Japanese Black Pine that I think would be the first one I’d save if the place went on fire. The heat there that day, it might just do that at some point!! Free entry, well done. Donations were evident which was nice to see, I made one myself and bought a T-Shirt for my rapidly growing collection. Some accents there but would have been nice to see them displayed along with the trees but perhaps problematic for watering.

I’m so glad I made the effort to drop by and see this collection. I did manage to peek in at the overflow area, I’d have loved 30 minutes in there too. If you’re in the Bay area, make sure you pop in for a look.  Gallery, the biggest yet I think, is below. Next up will be Redwood National Forest and those awesome Coastal Redwoods.

Boon’s Bonsai

After a busy few days of bonsai home and away, I’m only now getting back to the USA trip photos. Here’s the next chronological instalment…..

Next up after Yosemite was a drive back across California to the Bay area and San Francisco. On route one of our stops was in Hayward to see Boon and his amazing Nursery. As with most of my Bonsai stops on this trip, there was a busy nursery found on arrival. Boon’s was no different with a workshop in full flow and many trees being transported in and out for work. Boon made us very welcome even though he was busy with students and Paul, his apprentice, gave us a guided tour of the trees.

It was interesting to see the impact a more northerly location had on the species range in the nursery with much more variety than in LA.  A comprehensive watering system was in evidence and can be seen in the photo gallery below. As we were delayed in the Bay area traffic (horrendous) we arrived later than expected and photos were all a bit of a rush and mostly taken with my phone. Sun was low and many of the pics are in a bad sun/shade combo position. As a result they don’t do justice to the quality of the trees on the benches.

A big thank you to Boon, Paul and Matt for their time on the day and it was nice to chat with the other students as time permitted. A real pity I was unable to accept the invite to dinner with Team Boon but San Francisco beckoned after a long drive. I’ve added a couple of photos from there as well just for flavour.