2015 38th Mid America Bonsai Exhibit


The 2015 38th Mid America Bonsai Exhibit, sponsored by the Midwest Bonsai Society, was held on August 14-16, 2015. It was held at the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, just north of Chicago. The Midwest Bonsai Society has had considerable experience hosting this annual exhibit and it was well organized, judged and hosted.


The Chicago Botanic Garden has a significant and wide variety of fine bonsai, mostly donated by members and friends of the gardens. Curator Ivan Watters has taken excellent care of the bonsai collection for over ten years and retired last year. Upon Ivan’s retirement the Chicago Botanic Garden hired their first full time bonsai curator Chris Baker.
Many of the bonsai from their collection are displayed in two outdoor open courtyards on unique tables. Rather than showing photos of bonsai alone I thought I’d share photos of how the bonsai are displayed on the tables, complete with the white glass backgrounds, sound alarm and even a horizontal light strip in front.
It was very interesting and educational that Chris Baker displayed both a sinuous and raft style bonsai near each other so people could clearly see the difference.
Blue Moss Cypress trained in the sinuous style with the original horizontal trunk in a curved design.
This Juniper bonsai has been trained in the raft style with the original horizontal trunk in a straight line.
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The formal Mid America Bonsai Exhibit is held in a unique room with a hemlock wooden tall ceiling. Again I’m sharing many photos of the overall display so other groups can see the set up and perhaps get ideas for their own shows.
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The “Best of Show” entry composed of a three point display of a Trident maple, Kokonoe Japanese five-needle pine and companion planting was displayed in a large alcove. It was displayed by Gary Andes from Tennessee.
The First Prize in the professional division was awarded to an American larch bonsai trained in the sinuous style by Wm. N. Valavanis. Preparing this bonsai took considerable time and I also displayed it at the MABA Bonsai Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, last month. Since that time I spent an additional four hours of preparing it for this exhibit and that does not count the daily pinching of the new growth. Last week many hours were spent selecting the display table, hanging scroll painting, companion planting and the wooden base for it. When the Larch bonsai won the award it was displayed in the front alcove with the Best of Show bonsai. However since the three point display would not fit in the smaller area, it was put in the larger area which meant that my larger Larch bonsai was displayed in the smaller area. This did not allow the necessary space to completely display the hanging scroll and companion planting. They could have been squeezed into the smaller area but the beauty of the Larch bonsai could not be appreciated. So I simply did not display the scroll and companion planting. Actually two companion plantings were selected, prepared and brought to the show. One might think the  time spent preparing the complete display which was not shown was wasted. However, I do not consider the preparation time wasted as my friends and I learned as we tried and discussed many different combinations. That’s called “on the job learning.” Besides, I enjoy that type of exercise… .
The Second Prize in the Professional Division was presented to a Rock Mountain Juniper trained by Mark Fields from Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Many vendors from across the country brought a wide variety of material to sell. Workshops and demonstrations completed the weekend event.
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The Mid America Bonsai Exhibit continues until Sunday afternoon. If you can, try to attend to see some fine bonsai.
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Just for fun I displayed an unusual orange glazed container with a Firethorn bonsai and a Golden Acorus companion planting. Last November when I found this great container at Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Tokyo, many friends wondered what could ever be planted in the container. I found something… .

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