I have a lot of material that has been field growing that will be available starting this spring. If you are a fan of Japanese Black Pines I have several hundred nice specimens available in all sizes. Most of these trees were shaped in the field and have really nice movement taper and good branching. I also have some nice Japanese Red Pines these trees have had a little pruning and some basic shaping done to them. I have several Japanese White Pines that have been shaped and they have some size as well. I have quite a few Japanese Larch, they have some size, they are starting to bark up nicely and I have quite a range of sizes. I have five large Shimpaku Juniper that I have been field growing for over twelve years. These tree’s have been wired and shaped since they were small, they have great movement with all kinds of branches to chose from they are getting pretty large. I also have some other Shimpaku that I will be pulling some are quite nice with fat trunks.I have about ten Needle Junipers that are putting on some size and should be very nice. I am going to have some Korean and Japanese Hornbeams available in medium to large sizes, these tree’s have been growing in the field for over twelve years so they are putting on some size, have great branching and are looking really nice. I have two large Pacific Crab Apple tree’s they have been in training for over twelve years and are really nice.I have a few Western Hemlocks that have pretty good size and great movement.I have started to collect shore pines, I have quite a selection already available but should be adding new material soon.I have some really large tree’s available that I don’t put on my website because they are so large. If anyone is interested I have large Redwoods, Bald Cypress, one large Douglas Fir a large Monterey Cypress as well as other material. I have way more material than I can post on my website so if you have questions send me an email.


The basics of my field growing techniques
I do almost all of my own propagation of starter material by either seed, cuttings or air layer. I have used nursery raised starts before, but I find I have better control and get better results from starts I have raised myself. I place my seeds or cuttings in trays for six months to a year depending on the growth rate. I then prick out the starts and place them into four inch by four inch “root-maker" starter cells I root prune my pine and deciduous starts I more or less leave the roots of my junipers alone unless they are exceedingly long. The soil mixture I use for all of my starts is one third each of pumice, diatomaceous earth and peat moss. I place the starts in full sun fertilize heavy and usually in one season they have put on enough size to put into root bags and place them in the ground. I use five gallon root bags, when I first started out, I made my own. I would purchase heavy felt at the fabric store, they are easy to make I made sure to use polyester thread. I am too busy now, so I use root pouch brand bags. My soil mixture for my field grown trees is one third each of pumice, diatomaceous earth” I use Axis brand regular size” and Douglas fir bark. I fill my bags all of the way to the top: ”there will be some settling” and I make sure the soil is wet before placing the starts in the root bag. I try to get the trees, into the ground as soon as possible but as long as they are hydrated, they are Ok for a while. I hand dig the holes for the root bags and make them deep enough so when the root bag is placed in the hole the top of the soil is more or less even with the top of the soil in the root bag. Then I back fill the hole making sure the soil is filled in all around the root bag. Spring starts early here on the southern Oregon coast and I start fertilizing as soon as I see plants starting to put on new growth. I almost exclusively use organic fertilizer and the kind I use is either strait chicken manure pellets or I use a mixture of seed meal, ”either cottonseed or rapeseed” and bone meal at a four to one ratio seed meal to bone meal I am looking for an approximately 5-5-5 NPK . I pretty much fertilize all of the trees once a month, early in the season not all of the trees are active, so I wait until they wake up before applying fertilizer. There is no doubt in my mind that starting to train your trees at a young stage gives the best results. If the starts are big enough, I will wire and shape them when I first place them in the root bags, if they are not large enough, ”about the size of a pencil” I will let them grow a little and wire them in the ground. I have spent many hours crouched down or laying on the ground wiring and unwiring trees and I feel you have this unique opportunity to put more or less any kind of movement into your material if you do it before it thickens too much to bend, I use only copper wire and I let it bite in quite a bit before removing unless it is deciduous in which case I remove the wire earlier. For most of my field grown trees I only worry about wiring the trunk and maybe an important branch. I have been developing clump style trees and for those I wire them quite a bit. For me Junipers are another story, I like wild and crazy movement in my junipers and I will wire and unwire and rewire them by far more than anything else. What often times happens is when you wire one strong branch another will take over and now this one needs to be wired, also when left to their own devices, junipers will want to put on totally straight branches. I do quite a bit of pruning in the field and there is probably too much to say about pruning here but one go the basic’s I try to focus on is letting lower branches go using them as sacrifice  branches if they don’t fit into the design and then I will selectively prune branches as I move up the tree removing branches growing on the inside of a bend and trying to minimize bar branching. On some of my trees that I have really let go I will be sure to prune them late summer early fall the summer before, I am going to remove them from the field, so I have reduced the foliage mass so when the tree is transferred into a small growing container the roots won’t have to support an over-sized foliage mass. I start to remove my trees from the ground in mid-January starting with pines, then junipers, then elongating species and finishing with deciduous trees. I always remove my material from the root bags and place them in a bonsai pot, terra cotta pot, or Anderson flat, immediately using the appropriate bonsai soil for these species. I use equal parts diatomaceous earth, pumice and crushed lava for my conifers and equal parts diatomaceous earth, pumice and Douglas fir bark for my conifers. At the start of the re-potting season I will place trees in my greenhouse but pretty soon things warm up enough that they are placed outside, and I usually put them in full sun. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind when the trees are freshly re-potted is to not to over water them   

Public Bonsai Display for the South Oregon Coast

 Here is a little bit about a public bonsai display. 

  After spending most of my life in the Food Service Industry I have now changed direction and the focus of my energies is the art of Bonsai.I have built Driftwood Bonsai north of Bandon Oregon and one of my wishes is to establish a public Bonsai display somewhere in Coos County. Having decided almost twenty five years ago to make Coos County my home I have fallen in love with the Southern Oregon Coast. I also feel you would have a difficult time finding an area and a climate more suitable for Bonsai.
  There is a rich history of Bonsai Culture on the Southern Oregon Coast and part of my wishes in establishing the public display is to highlight the talents of some of the local Bonsai artists both living and deceased .This area has a rich history based on the use of our forests and using an art form such as Bonsai seems to me to be an artistic way to draw interest in the unique natural beauty of this magnificent landscape.
  Some of the locations I have considered so far include; The South Slough Estuary, Mingus Park, SWOCC, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. There would be a few basic requirements for the display that would include; access to running water, a shed workspace,a distance of 4 or 5 miles from the beach, some kind of security for expensive trees, fairly easy access to the public. This would be a draw to the area, we are already getting known around the country as an area where Bonsai is thriving so this would be a natural addition to our thriving Bonsai culture.

" What beautiful living material I will have in 2019”

As I have been walking my growing fields over the last few weeks; watering fertilizing pruning and doing other maintenance I have been inventorying in my head what I will be pulling out of the ground this next winter and spring. The first tree’s I want to talk about are Japanese Black Pines, I have lots of these they have been shaped and have great movement nice taper and I have them in all sizes from large to small. Next I am going to mention five large Shimpaku Junipers I have been field growing for over ten years. These have been wired when they were young, have nice movement close to the ground and are looking really nice. I have quite a few Korean hornbeams that have ben field growing for over ten years. These beauties have thick trunks, good variety of shapes and will make great bonsai. I have lots of Japanese larch that I will be pulling this year, these larches have thick trunks lots of branching and are very healthy. I also have some Coast Redwoods available, Bald Cypress, Needle Juniper and as always Shore pines. I am going to focus on collecting Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock as well this year. I have plenty of Trident maples, Chinese Elms and Hackberry I am going to post photo’s of these after leaf drop so people can see the branching better. If you get a chance come to beautiful Bandon Oregon and see the Nursery.

New things afloat!

We are planning some new things here on the hill. Working on bringing on an exceptional potter to make beautiful pots and containers. Mentoring a new apprentice and planning some new classes in the future. We will be adding a pot and container page in the near future to highlight the perfect companion/container for your bonsai masterpiece.  Keep checking often. The summer has been a buzz with activity. New plants, repotting and renewing so many beautiful trees. Seedlings are growing, and even a vegetable garden to round out the activities. The new parking area is finished and the garden is beautiful this time of year. Come on out and visit us when you get the chance to our spectacular Oregon coast. The weather has been sunny and the air is fresh.

My First Visit to Mirai


I first visited Mirai five years ago after meeting Ryan Neil and seeing the set up at Mirai I signed up for classes. I decided to start with pines for no reason. When I first showed up at Mirai on a cold January weekend I wasn’t sure what to expect. In all honesty I was a little intimidated by Ryan and wasn’t immediately at ease. I was enthralled with the discussions and when we went out to the green house to start repotting it became obvious that I was entering a new world.
  I come from a family of educators and I spent over 15 years teaching culinary arts. I went to the best culinary school in the country and as my Mother always says, “if you want to be the best you want to learn from the best”. Teaching Bonsai is very much a hands-on endeavor and when you are working on Bonsai with Ryan it is very serious. He teaches at a high level and most of the techniques were new to me and some very advanced. When Ryan is teaching he doesn’t mince words and he doesn’t hesitate to correct your work and will stop your mid-stream if he sees you doing something wrong. I am used to being in Ryan’s position, telling people what to do and how to do it. Now with the roles reversed I appreciate the concern the teacher has for the student’s opportunity to learn and maximizing that opportunity. I always say that often the most well learned lessons are from mistakes we make because most people don’t want to repeat mistakes. Ryan does a very good job of explaining what you did wrong and how to fix it in the future.
  One of the things I like the most about my time at Mirai are the other students I have met and some of the conversations that take place. I have concluded that people who do Bonsai are highly intelligent and obviously creative, they tend be environmentally aware and forward thinking. Every Saturday evening after class the group gets together for dinner drinks and more conversations. some of these evenings will be with me forever due to the incredibly stimulating conversations that take place as well as the great food and drinks. I do notice that sometimes on Sunday the group is a little mellow.
  I have told Ryan on numerous occasions that the money I have spent at Mirai is the best investment I have made in my Bonsai pursuits. I always look forward to my time spent at Mirai and it is a highlight of my year.


Our Bandon Coast Has Much To Offer

I have been living on the Southern Oregon coast for 25 years. Prior to living here I was living in the Portland area, I used to vacation in Bandon and fell in love with the area.
 Coos county is situated approximately 100 miles north of the California border. Coos Bay is the largest community on the Oregon coast.

The area was first settled in the mid 1800’s and gold was the first draw for inhabitants to the area. Coal mining was also a large industry in the early days of the south coast. However, logging has ruled the economy for over 100 years, and up until 2005, Coos Bay shipped more logs than any other port in the world. We are known for growing trees!

The Southern Oregon Coast is my favorite place in the world. The natural beauty of the area is spectacular with mile after mile of stunning sandy beaches backed by rugged headlands and mountains coming right out of the sea. The whole area is very rugged with the Siskiyou mountains bordering the southern part of the county. Numerous rivers filled with thriving fish populations wind their way through the rugged country side.

We are known as a tourist area and some of the activities include lots of outdoor activities for the sportsman including fishing, clamming, crabbing, and hunting. Other attractions are hiking, climbing, mushroom picking, biking, golf(we have world famous golf resort, Bandon Dunes) as well as the Oregon dunes recreation area where ATV’ rule the day.

The area is rich in natural resources and all of the outdoor stores sell supply’s for panning for gold. We also have large deposits of iron or as well as nickel and lead. That being said I think the most important resource is the natural beauty of the area as well as the friendly and helpful people who live here.


I have used three different types of propagation but I will describe the Seed method.

I have had great success by growing trees from seed. There is often some treatment seeds need in order to germinate successfully. These include stratification and scarification. The process is simple. First the seeds are soaked in warm water for 24 hours, then the seeds are surrounded with propagating material and refrigerated for anywhere from 30 to 90 days. After this, the seeds are placed in growing trays, set in an environment conducive to germination and hopefully soon hundreds of seedlings sprout into trees. Alternately you can sow the seeds in the ground in the fall and let nature do its thing.
I start my seedlings in trays, after one season of growth I prick the seedlings out and root prune the seedlings making sure to cut off any tap roots. Then I place the seedlings in Rootmaker starting cells for 2 seasons before placing the starts in root bags and growing them in the ground until they are ready to be placed into Bonsai pots or training containers(I use Anderson Flats or Terra Cotta pots.

I make my own soil for growing trees and my mix is equal parts of Pumice, Diatomaceous  earth, and fir bark. The felt grow gags I use hold between 4 and 5 gallons of soil, I place them in the ground with the soil level of the grow bag even with the ground. 

The trees are ready to harvest between 8 and 10 years generally depending on the species. I find that transitioning the trees from the ground to growing containers is not too difficult and my success rate is almost 100%.

Generally, the trees have so much stored energy they are able to undergo severe root pruning and not miss a beat in the transition from ground to container.

The trees are fed heavily with organic fertilizer. It is difficult to over fertilize with organic and have I have never had any problems with over fertilization. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me or leave me a message at  medohilltw@gmail.com

Happy growing,

Tom Roberts