Mirai: Slice of Heaven

I’m sharing a link to Mirai’s latest blog post which shows how the property came into existence. But I wanted to add my own thoughts on this if I may.

Having been to Mirai, I mention that from time to time around here 🙂 , I can say that it’s not a property, it’s one of those special places that you come across that is good for the soul. I’ve found a few over the years, many not bonsai related, such as Crater Lake in Oregon, Hornhead in Donegal, Kinbane Head in Antrim, Tookalup Lookout in Western Australia, among the Redwoods in Kings Canyon National Park in California to name a few. But I’ve been to a few bonsai related ones too. Willowbog Bonsai in the North of England has a special feel to it that I always enjoy. Peter Warren’s garden in London and Michael Hagedorn’s place in Portland both have a great vibe about them as well, but Mirai for me is as special as they come. I truly can’t wait to get back.

Click on the image below to read the blogpost.

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Bonsai Mirai: The Broadleaf Trees

At last, a smaller gallery 🙂 I wasn’t expecting a crammed deciduous/broadleaf section at Mirai but still some nice trees hiding on the benches. I know looking at the photos that I missed a few. Disttracted by those darned conifers 😀

Bonsai Mirai: The Junipers

Such a wide range of Native species Juniper on view here that I had to ask a lot of questions. What’s this one? What’s that one? Serria, Western, Utah, Rocky, California etc. Again the main feature was deadwood. Many are in early stages and some in the pics are totally raw but all have quality.

The first thing Ryan said to me was actually an apology for how the garden looked! I looked back wide eyed, you can see for yourself how it looked. What he was referring to however was the phomopsis issues on some of the junipers. He’s been discussing this on Mirai Live and the success so far this year in the use of nematodes to treat the trees to stop the roots being damaged by insect larva which in turn lets the phomopsis in. (I think I got that right!) Combined with the weather in the North West in the last few years, this had an impact on many junipers in the garden. All that said, it looks like he got it figured out as I couldn’t see much evidence on the trees now. Professionals doing the hard work and study on this sort of issue and then passing that knowledge on, has to be commended. It makes life a lot easier for the rest of us.

Here’s today’s gallery. I’m trying to do one a day so I can get this never ending trip finished on here. I’m sure you’re all bored by now.

Bonsai Mirai: The Pines

Here’s the first installment of the trees from Mirai. I’m starting with Pines. All the natives and some grafted species as well. Some top end deadwood to be seen.  All shapes, all sizes, raw and refined, an epic collection of trees and pushing the limits of what species can be utilised as bonsai.

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.

My Month Viewing Mirai Live

I’ve had the pleasure of watching the first four Tuesday Live Stream events on Mirai Live.com and thought it was time to deliver my thoughts on what I found.

Ryan, and the Mirai Team (I now feel I know you all from my online lurking 🙂 ) gave me access to the Tier 3 level of the stream back on the 14th March allowing me to view, chat, watch and learn from one of the best bonsai teachers in the Western world.

Folks, this is without doubt the biggest shift in recent times in bonsai learning. No longer are you tied to your geographical location when seeking advice and knowledge. No longer do you need to attend a workshop to learn specific techniques. This is the best single location option for learning there is, and it’s delivered in a well thought out, well structured, high quality production available onto your computer, phone or whatever device you chose to use.

Let me give you a better breakdown of my live stream experience:

Launch Party

I watched the launch party live back on the 14th March. A brave choice to do this live stream from a bar I thought. I had initially thought that it would be all studio work being streamed but the Mirai Team have created a set up that is mobile giving lots more options for content. The opening stream did have a few hiccups with sound which were quickly solved. This was first, and so far, my last experience of the live chat function on the streams. It was nice to chat with others viewing at the same time. I did notice that I was nearly the only European on there, but not surprising considering it was the small hours of the morning. Content was back to back demos with Ryan giving us his usual flowing supply of information.

Kusamono Mastery 

The live stream the following week came from the studio at Mirai with Young Choe delivering a master class on Kusamono. As a big kusamono lover I really enjoyed this session and it was nice to see Ryan taking a back seat and doing a little learning himself. Young created some truly beautiful kusamono and although she was obviously nervous at the start and was limited with the available plant material to hand, she soon got into the way of things. A great stream that I chose to watch on the Thursday from the archive rather than stay up late. I did find myself wanting to ask questions though. Perhaps a good opportunity for a follow up Q&A at an earlier time Ryan?

Spring Fundamentals

The Next stream was live from The Bonsai Society of Portland  meeting. A two hours look at the Bonsai Fundamentals that should be practiced at this time of year. This was delivered both practically in the shape of demonstrating and with the use of a white board. This should not be missed by anyone reading this. Go watch it! It’s even up there in the archive for free – Spring Fundamentals – The content takes an in-depth look at many different aspects such as repotting, feeding, top dressing, pests etc. Ryan will be back at the club once a month delivering on a different fundamental of Bonsai each time. This is worth a subscription alone.

Pine Innovation 

The last steam for my months subscription was all about design, specifically a stunning Ponderosa Pine collected from the Rocky Mountains. Ryan works the tree over a two hour archive video covering his thought process in selecting which bending technique to use. As a studio produced video, this one hits all the right marks. We get to see close up of detailed work in one camera view and then it pans back to allow us to see the full tree tree image as the design comes together. We are not subjected to long periods of watching Ryan wire either. As a well thought out production we get to cut away at several points to see previously recorded work being carried out on the tree. At points, x2 recording is used to speed up the action even further. After viewing the recorded content we return to the live action having skipped some of the more lengthy wiring work. A perfect way to view a demo.

and that’s not all…….

As a Tier 2 or 3 subscriber you get access to the archive videos which actually predate the launch party. Ryan has obviously put the system through a testing period and sitting in the archive are eleven videos awaiting your viewing. These included further studio work on some stunning creations as well as detail species specific information. There’s also a very interesting interview there with David Benavente. There’s another free one there for you to enjoy as well Beech Forest Creation. Give it a watch.

In Conclusion

Simply put, this is Bonsai TV, yes, it’s a pay channel, but the work that has went into the creation of the content is high quality and created by a team of, and I’m guessing here, 6+ (Ryan, Chelsea, Arthur, Kendall, Troy and others) and worth every penny.

The tag line of  “Design |Grow| Understand: Build your skills with Mirai” , says it all. Learn sound horticulture and impeccable technique. This is a visible, honest education in bonsai.

I tried to think of negatives, but there wasn’t much to latch onto. I think sometimes the content for me, being based in Europe, can be a little too much orientated toward native American species, but the crossover in many cases still makes this content relevant and educational. Also, as the streaming takes place in the evenings PST I’m in bed and therefore miss out on the chance to take part in the live chat. That’s it, I can’t think of anything else that niggles.

So am I in?

Yes 🙂 I just signed up for Tier 3 paying monthly. Although I could have gotten discount by paying annually, I have opted for monthly for now until I see if the benefits off Tier 3 over the Tier 2 option pay off. As I don’t get much use out of live stream chat I was on the verge of opting for Tier 2, however, the extended archive videos and extra followup content have got me opting for Tier 3 for now and I’ll see how much is made available. I would recommend Tiers 2 or 3 to anyone falling too far outside the PST timeline. As Tier 1 doesn’t have access to the archive content, this is a non-starter for me unless you live in the States.

I hope this review of Mirai live has helped those thinking of jumping on the Mirai wagon. I have chatted to a few friends who have been quick to sign up on my recommendation and their feedback has been as positive as my own. I feel that the content is suitable for all levels, no matter how advanced, we all have something to learn.

Finally, thanks to Ryan for giving me the access last month, and to his team who I will hopefully meet in June when my travels finally take me to Mirai. See you all then. I can’t feckin wait 🙂

Bonsai Mirai

Tony posted this on his blog and I just had to share it too. It’s video featuring Ryan Neil’s ‘Bonsai Mirai’ Nursery. A truly fantastic video, quality production and some absolutely stunning Bonsai. If this is what’s to come out of the USA in the coming years, we are in for a real treat. Yamadori to die for!! I’ve watched it 5 times!