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

Happy growing,

Tom Roberts