Our Story

Image Credit: Samual Zeller

Minnesota Bonsai Society (MBS) is a volunteer organization, and member participation is what has made us one of the biggest and best clubs in the country.

MBS was founded in 1971 to create and inspire participation and appreciation in the art of bonsai. The club has special programs for bonsai beginners and offers a wide variety of programs and activities for all levels of bonsai skill.

A one-year membership is $40 for one or more members of the same household. Your membership includes access to all MBS functions, activities, and the library. MBS members are assigned a member number, which will be sent to you on joining. The member number is used for identification purposes if you show trees at a public event or sell items at our auctions, so be sure to keep track of it. Your number also appears on your yearly dues reminder card.

For security reasons we do not publish a membership list. Should you have questions about the membership or need help finding your member number, ask the membership chairman or a board member (board contact information is listed on the website).

General Meetings

Meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month (there is no meeting in January) at Hamline United Methodist Church, 1514 Englewood Ave., St. Paul. Our meetings are open to members, their guests, and visitors. The doors open at 6:30. Meetings start at 7:00 and generally last about 2 hours.

General Meeting Programs
Programs during the year include auctions of bonsai material, demonstrations by professional bonsai artists, interactive workshops, and social events. Feel free to take pictures, question the speakers, and generally participate.

Library
Our extensive library is available at the general meetings to members only. Not all materials are available at every meeting, so ask the librarian about books of particular interest to you. You may check out materials for one month. You will be asked to guarantee the book’s return with a credit card imprint or a signed check, which will be returned to you when you return the materials.

Vendors
There are usually vendors at meetings selling soil, tools, pots, and sometimes trees. Come early or shop during the mid-meeting break. Please be respectful of the program speaker and keep conversations and transactions brief and quiet during the program presentation. You may use cash, checks, or MC/Visa cards for MBS activities. Not all vendors accept credit cards.

Name Tags and T-shirts
We offer name tags, T-shirts, and work shirts with the MBS logo, and occasionally other fund-raising merchandise. Check for order sheets and vendor tables at the general meetings.

Raffle
We hold a raffle at most monthly meetings. All proceeds go to the MBS treasury and donations are welcome. Bring in a tree to show off at a meeting and get a free raffle ticket.

NEWSLETTER & WEBSITE

The newsletter is published electronically and includes information about upcoming programs and events, official business and announcements, and MBS contact information, along with stories and pictures from past events and articles about various bonsai topics.

We maintain a website at www.MinnesotaBonsaiSociety.org. The site is open to the public and includes maps and directions to club events and the annual calendar, as well as information about upcoming events, articles about bonsai, and pictures of past events. If you would like to submit articles or pictures to either the newsletter or website, please contact the webmaster (contact information listed on the website).

BONSAI SHOWS & EXHIBITS

We have two formal bonsai exhibits during the year.

1. Mother’s Day Show: Our Mother’s Day show is held at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park on the Saturday and Sunday of Mother’s Day weekend. Any member may bring trees, and all skill levels are welcome. This show is not judged.

2. State Fair: Our biggest show is held at the State Fair, where we exhibit on the Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend. This is a Fair event and open to anyone wishing to exhibit, including nonmembers. The show is judged and critiqued by a visiting bonsai master hired by the club, and awards are given. A special Novice Class is open to members with fewer than three years’ experience. Written critiques are provided for all trees and let you benefit from the expertise of a professional bonsai artist.

We encourage all members to exhibit and volunteer at shows. We can always use help with setup and teardown, and members also work at the shows to answer visitors’ questions about bonsai and MBS. This is a great way to share your enthusiasm and knowledge. Newer members are welcome—remember, even as a beginner you know more than most members of the public. Look for sign-up sheets at the general meetings.

From time to time we are asked to participate at other events. These will be announced at meetings and in the newsletter.

AUCTIONS

MBS sponsors a spring and fall auction every year as part of our program schedule. A wide variety of hard-to-find material is offered, including styled trees, raw plant material, tools, pots, books, and supplies, at both a live auction and a silent auction. Auctions are open to the public, but only members are allowed to offer items for sale. Sellers pay a 10% commission to MBS. Check the newsletter for complete seller instructions. Cash, checks, and Master Card and Visa are accepted.

WORKSHOPS, EVENTS & MEETINGS

General Meetings
Meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month (there is no meeting in January) at Hamline United Methodist Church, 1514 Englewood Ave., St. Paul. The meeting topic will be posted the month before on the website or on social media. Our meetings are open to all skill levels of members, their guests, and visitors. The doors open at 6:30. Meetings start at 7:00 and generally last about 2 hours. Vendors, book library, and raffles with prizes will be at every general meeting.

Bonsai Basics & Intermediates Meetings
Every year the Society offers free entry level classes for members. We call it Bonsai Basics & Intermediates. The class meets monthly, usually on the third Tuesday and Thursday of the month, for about 9 months. Classes cover the basic concepts of bonsai, from wiring to wintering. These meetings are conducted by experienced club members who are happy to share their expertise. Attendance is voluntary; pick and choose the meetings of interest to you, no sign-up required. We find most people new to bonsai will want to attend most meetings. At the end of the class year your group may want to form a study group to continue learning on its own. This is a wonderful way to form friendships within the Society.

Introduction to Bonsai Workshops (Open to the Public)
Novice Workshops are how most of us got started. These 1-day workshops are taught by club members and are open to the public. The cost is $75.00 and includes a tree, pot, supplies, and classroom instruction. They typically run 6 hours with a lunch break. If you haven’t taken one yet, it’s a great hands-on learning experience. If you have, volunteer to help teach new students!

Member Workshops
The Society hosts two master bonsai artists each year to conduct programs and workshops for members. Programs are presented at the general meetings and workshops are held on weekends, usually in 3 or 4 hour sessions. Upcoming workshops will be announced at the meetings and in the newsletter, and there will be sign-up sheets available at the meetings. Space is usually limited to 6-8 people per workshop, so sign up early. Observer spots are also available and great for all levels.

The Society underwrites the majority of the cost and participants pay a modest fee, usually around $50 for a bring-your-own-material workshop. A limited number of silent observer spaces are available for a nominal fee. These workshops are an opportunity to learn from some of the world’s best bonsai artists. They are here to teach, and members are encouraged to participate regardless of skill level. Bring your own tools and wire.

In addition to club-sponsored workshops, visiting masters may have time available for private instruction. If you or your study group is interested in booking time with a master, contact the master coordinator for more information.

Picnic, Holiday Party, Annual Banquet, and Members Tour

The Society sponsors various social events throughout the year. Check the website and newsletter for this year’s events and dates.

The summer picnic is usually held in July, and sometimes replaces the July general meeting. This is a potluck social affair, and you are welcome to bring your family. The club grills burgers and brats and provides buns, condiments, drinks, and table service. You bring a favorite dish to share.

The members’ tour is an opportunity to visit the collections of various club members. The tour usually includes three or four homes and is held on a weekend during the summer.

We have a holiday party as our December meeting. This is also when board elections are held. The club furnishes sandwich and veggie trays and beverages. Members bring a favorite dish to share.

Our annual banquet is generally held in January or February, when there is no monthly meeting. The event includes dinner, a cash bar, and usually a fund-raising raffle or auction.

Study Groups

Many private bonsai study groups have been formed by Society members. These are groups of people wishing to explore the art more deeply. While most of them are made up of MBS members these groups are not sponsored by the Society. We do encourage private groups of this nature and will cooperate as much as possible to promote the art of bonsai.

The typical study group is made up of a limited number of people wishing to pool their resources to work together and learn more about bonsai. They may hire a visiting master for a private workshop, go on field trips to collect trees, conduct their own workshops, or socialize. Many study groups are formed by classmates from the Tuesday evening Bonsai Basics classes. Membership in study groups is usually by invitation. If you want to participate in a study group and can’t find one, consider starting your own.

Questions or Comments

If you have questions about MBS or would like more information, board members’ contact information is listed in the newsletter. Feel free to talk to someone at a meeting or send an e-mail with your comments, program suggestions, or feedback.

Members are also welcome to attend board meetings, which are held on the fourth Tuesday of the month (see the website or newsletter for time and location). If you have business you would like to discuss at a board meeting, please contact the president and ask to be added to the agenda.

Contact administrator@minnesotabonsaisociety.org with any questions.