Here’s Your First Look

This is a sample of what’s in store at next week’s Marin Bonsai Club’s annual auction. This handsome and newly styled Shimpaku Juniper is a ‘Legacy Tree’ owned by a long time MBC member.

The auction is open to the public. Come one, come all.

August 21 – 7pm preview, live auction starts at 7:30pm.

Terra Linda Community Center
670 Del Ganado Road, San Rafael, CA

+ Google Map

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The Auction Office

In this post you’ll find info to help prepare yourself for our auction on August 21. Check back, as we’ll be updating this post over the next week.

It’s all in the details...knowing a bit more about the tree you’re considering acquiring makes all the difference. Below is a form you can use to tell potential bidders about your tree. Click here (or there) to print the form.  Fill the form out, bring it to the auction and we’ll attach it to your item.


The Seller’s inventory form is below, along with a sample of what it looks like filled out  properly (in pencil!).






Click on the form to print it and then fill it out before you arrive to give yourself more time to peruse the other auction inventory.


And….introducing the new Silent Auction form:

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June 2018: George Haas

Collecting Bonsai

Our club president, George Haas presented an excellent program on the art of collecting bonsai at our June meeting. This is a topic which has not been covered by any area bonsai club within recent memory, so most of the material presented was eye-opening for members. While many bonsai enthusiasts would not venture to the mountains collecting trees in the High Sierra, George’s description of the perils and rewards of collecting gave us all a heightened appreciation for these bonsai. And for those looking for bonsai closer to home George had plenty of tips that applied to urban and suburban collecting as well, something many of us can do in our own backyards.

Before launching into the details of collecting George emphasized the importance of ethical collecting. It might seem like a good way to jump-start your bonsai collection with trees that are decades or even centuries old and have intriguing deadwood features, but there is a right way to collect, and many wrong ways. Unfortunately with the growing popularity of bonsai more bad behavior has been observed: collectors not getting permission from property owners, or permits from government agencies to collect, collectors digging only part of the tree from the ground and giving up – not filling the hole back in so the tree can live, trying to collect too large a tree and not preserving enough of the roots and foliage to allow it to survive, leaving trash and debris behind. Whether you are collecting two hundred year old Sierra junipers or your neighbor’s boxwood hedges George enumerated the many steps of successful collecting.

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May 2018: Peter Tea

Just photos this time.

Peter explains things

Adam closely supervising Peter’s handiwork.

Twiggy much?

David – you should do more of that!

Looks like a party!

Professor Tea

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Command Center for the 2018 Marin County Fair Bonsai Show

Click on the button below to see who’s signed up for which shifts – updated 6/26/18.
Please use the ‘Contact Us‘ form or email to sign up.

Docent Schedule

This really is the highlight of our bonsai year, and if you’ve ever been a docent before then you know that it is a lot of fun. You will get to answer really basic questions about bonsai and meet nice people who are interested in your hobby. It’s also a fun time to hang out with fellow members and share bonsai experiences.

The Fair runs from June 30 – July 4 and there are 3 shifts each day. We need for all of them to be fully staffed so we can make sure our trees are safe from curious fingers, well watered, and the public well-informed about the glorious art of bonsai. So check your calendars, confer with significant others, look at the Fair schedule for other events you might want to explore on the same day, and sign up for multiple shifts, if you can possibly manage it. We need all hands on deck at the Fair, and for set up and take down as well. The Fair exhibit is a fund-raiser for the Club and one of our best opportunities to reach out to the public and recruit new members. It’s easy. It’s fun. Your Club really needs you to help out.

We will have admission tickets for docents and parking passes for those who pull multiple shifts at the June 19 workshop.



Here you’ll find answers
to the most frequently asked questions
from visitors to our show.




MBC Brochure photo

The Marin Bonsai Club has published a club information brochure for distribution. The brochure is loaded with information about our club philosophy, activities and exhibitions, and a brief history. It is intended for public consumption and new members. You will see it as a hand-out at our annual exhibitions and auction & sale. For more information, contact either Candace Key or George Haas.


This is the time of the year the club members really pull together to promote our club in the best possible way through the display of our bonsai. Please prepare your trees to show their best. Sign up for multiple docent shifts if possible. We need as many volunteers as we can muster.

The Fair is always so much fun; we get to promote the Marin Bonsai Club, sign up individuals for the beginners’ bonsai class and auction following the Fair, all of which attracts new members. Our bonsai exhibit is a big draw among Fair-goers and we need to make this one another standout.

I hope everyone will lend their support.

 – George


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April 2018: Chris Ross & John Doig

The doldrums of this April’s showers were broken by the antics of our club’s own favorite bonsai duo, Chris Ross and John Doig. In their usual style where Chris does most of the talking and John does all the work, the pair brought form and energy to an otherwise common cotoneaster and smiles to the faces in the packed audience.

With his opening volley, Chris jumped right into his well-known banter about what makes a bonsai. He mentioned “emphasizing the vagaries of nature” and called the goal in bonsai “what a tree could be if it went to tree college.” Meanwhile, John, who had been in the background hungrily fondling tools, busted in at this last comment, eager to get chopping on the bushy cotoneaster before them.

A few notes about the subject matter: This cotoneaster came from John’s favorite, “secret” landscaping tree source, so it had been raised so far in its life to become a shrub, hedge, or some other large-scale plant. As is, it was a sturdy, bushy, even attractive little shrub, but a clear path to a bonsai it had not. But after caring for it for a few months on his property, and some prior consultation with Chris, John had a reasonable idea where he was going to take this tree’s bonsai potential. The trunk quickly split into two, and branches of various sizes, some appropriate and others not so much for their locations, were copious all over the tree.

John was so eager to cut some obvious inappropriately located branches off that he had to be interrupted by Morris Dailey, who asked, “What about choosing the front?” Although they explained that there is just so much that is crying for removal from this tree that it’s not important just yet, Chris and John nodded to tradition and stopped what they were doing to go about selecting the front for the tree. There was some disagreement in the audience, but one side was chosen as the front, with a nearly opposite location indicated for secondary consideration once some of the clear-cutting could be done.

With the formalities aside, John proceeded to lop off two substantial branches. The first was too twisty throughout the tree, the other was puny compared to branches above it and would never catch up, no matter how much the branches above it were to be pruned. Then a small branch was cut from among some larger ones and Dan Keller took issue with that decision. The gist of his argument was: why take that weak branch and leave so many strong branches that might contribute to a lump or “knuckle,” some early signs of which were already beginning to show? John was so intent Continue reading

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March 2018: Bill Castellon

Shohin bonsai was the topic in March when Bill Castellon, an accomplished bonsai artist who used to conduct shohin workshops for our club once upon a time, gave us a highly informative lecture and demonstration on the topic of these smallest of our small trees. Clearly an extremely knowledgeable artist and horticulturalist, Bill was able to discuss a wide variety of bonsai topics in addition to shohin as he introduced us to and proceeded to transform a Chinese quince, which was raffled off at the end of the night. As a bonus, he also discussed and raffled off a black pine.

Bill began the evening with some general guidelines for shohin, then spent 30 minutes discussing some of the key points to be considered when displaying them. He pointed out that while shohin are typically defined as small trees under 20 centimeters (approximately eight inches) in height, with smaller pots than regular bonsai, simple definitions are often inadequate — a common problem in bonsai, it seems. You cannot chop all but the bottom eight inches from a larger bonsai and call it a shohin any more than you can put a shrub in a pot and call it bonsai. In addition to the subtle qualities that define bonsai, there are certain stylistic nuances unique to shohin. And Bill was there to show us a few development techniques adapted specifically to coax our trees into convincing depictions of old trees that can fit in one of our hands.

The classic shohin setup for a Japanese bonsai show — Kokufu being the gold standard of shows — is to have a multi-compartment box-stand containing several trees, along with an accent plant and a companion or supporting tree that are placed off to one side of the box-stand. Applying the triangular ideal to plan the layout, one should place the strongest trees so that they occupy the corners of the triangle. Along with numerous trees he brought with him, Bill used his own stands, props, and photographs from Kokufu show books to illustrate these and several other points relevant to showing shohin trees.

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