Introduction to SA Bonsai
Monkey-thorn, Apiesdoring Bonsai

Bonsai is a living art form. Growing bonsai is an all-consuming hobby. Bonsai was started by the Chinese more than a thousand years ago, but was adopted into the culture of the Japanese and then perfected into the art of bonsai as we know it today.

The term bonsai is derived from Bon-Sai, Bon being the Japanese word for “tray”, while Sai translated as “planting”. The word “bonsai” is both singular and plural in its usage.

Bonsai are kept outdoors throughout the year, with only brief display indoors to show off flowers or leaf coloring. Bonsai must be kept damp; it is only a myth that Bonsai must get water once a week.

For many centuries the Japanese Bonsai masters refined the techniques of the art of Bonsai to a point where an aged specimen was considered to be a prised family heirloom.

Bonsai was little known in South Africa +/-60 years ago, but thanks to a few South Africans like Charles Ceronio, Johan Ras, Eddie Van der Westhuizen, Hennie Smit and many more Bonsai started in South Africa in 1960, The Pretoria Bonsai Kay was formed in 1968 and was the first club in South Africa.

Thanks to these pioneers South African Bonsai can at any time be compared to the rest of the world. South Africa is the only country in the world that have our own Bonsai styles and is recognized by the Japanese Bonsai Masters.

“The art of Bonsai is much more than just planting a tree in a pot. There must be a feeling, a love for nature, especially a love for trees, and a state of mind which gives great contentment and a fulfilment in creating your own Bonsai” By Doug Hall.

A bonsai is neither a dwarf variety, nor is it a tree miniaturized by means of magic. Keeping the roots confined in a pot assists with mobility and allows for a unified composition but that is not what keeps a bonsai small and beautiful, either. The size, shape and attractiveness of a bonsai is entirely dependent upon its owner’s dedication to its daily care and his or her taste and artistic ability.

Bonsai is not a hobby for the rich and leisured, but it does involve some expense and demands considerable time and commitment if one is to be successful.

A selection of the tools used in bonsai, ranging from ordinary household items to a few highly specialized implements.

A group of professional bonsai gardeners from Tokyo immigrated to Omiya after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, in search of spacious land, suitable for making bonsai. Omiya Bonsai Village was established in 1925. In 1935, there were about 30 bonsai gardens. After the war of World War II, Omiya Bonsai Village has become popular so that VIPs all over the world and many tourists have visited. The 1st World Bonsai Convention was held in Omiya city (present Saitama city), demonstration and workshop etc. are held and it succeeds.

Try out the techniques for yourself (if you kill a few trees, don’t worry – we’ve all done that!). Above all, have fun – that’s what bonsai is all about.

Thank you Colin Lewis and late Charles Ceronio for allowing me to make use of some of your content.  Thanks to the late Boet Strauss for teaching me.

Blue Spruce (Han-Kengai) From Colin Lewis


Started playing with Bonsai trees from 1978

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