Ever wondered how they grow miniature trees in a tray – aka a Bonsai? Wauchope Bonsai club tells us more.
> Tell us about the origins of the Wauchope Bonsai Club.
The group was formed by a group of local enthusiasts in 2003, when it outgrew a backyard friendship group. Since then the club has continued to grow, with new members moving to the area and members from the now defunct Port Macquarie club. The club has over 25 members from the Hastings and Kempsey area, with most attending the monthly meetings.
> How did you become involved with Bonsai?
Being a gardening addict and having a suburban block, bonsai was a great way to grow more trees without living in a forest. My first bonsai was a maple in a bright blue pot in the early ‘80s.
When we bought our home it was planted in the garden and quickly became the shade tree for our barbeque table! With kids and work, I returned to bonsai in the late 1990s, and my collection inevitably grew to fill every spare spot.
> What is involved in the membership of the Bonsai Club?
The club meets on the first Saturday of the month in the hall at the Wauchope showground from 11am. Visitors are welcome. Annual membership costs $20 for singles and $30 for couples.
At the meetings, members work on their trees. There are also regular demonstrations by local experts, and the occasional visiting tutor. The meetings feature a display of members’ trees and a bonsai beginners table, to help people new to the hobby learn the ropes.
Members receive a monthly newsletter full of advice about caring for their bonsai. In addition to our own show and local displays, there are also bonsai shows in other towns and an annual national convention.
> You have an annual show; when will the next one be held?
The club’s annual show is being held on the weekend of 10-11 October at Timbertown. This will be an exhibition of traditional and native bonsai, plus suiseki (viewing stones). The weekend will also include 4 demonstrations.
It is an ideal opportunity to see the high standard of local bonsai, to meet local enthusiasts, and learn how to grow or care for your bonsai.
> For our readers who don’t know about Bonsai, give us a brief history.
Bonsai has its origins in Penjing. Penjing is the Chinese art of creating a miniature landscape in a container. The word consists of the two characters: ‘pen’ – ‘pot’ or ‘container’, and ‘jing’ – ‘scenery’.
Penjing and bonsai are closely related art forms. Penjing is the older form from which bonsai derived. ‘Bonsai’ literally means a ‘tree in a pot’ and penjing a ‘landscape in a pot’.
Penjing as an art form spans over a thousand years. The earliest historical records of a stone and a plant arranged in a container to form an artistic scenery date from the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The first historical records of bonsai in Japan date from around 1,200AD.
Bonsai was regarded as a novelty in the West until the early 20th century. Bonsai started in the US in the 1880s, and the first records of bonsai in Australia are from the 1920s. The first bonsai club (SA) formed in 1964.
Bonsai is now a worldwide hobby, with each country developing its own approach. While most bonsai are based on principles refined by the Japanese, other styles, such as Chinese Penjing, exist. Some South African trees mimic the flat tops of the acacias on the veldt. There are also less traditional styles, some verging on horticultural art.
More artistic types have done root over bowling balls or statues, not over rock. There is even a crash bonsai internet site with wrecked model cars incorporated into the bonsai design.
> How do you go about growing your own Bonsai?
Bonsai can vary in height from a few centimetres to a metre. There is no strict height limit. It is simply that the tree is cultivated in a pot and creates an image of an ancient tree in nature. A bonsai containing a fig half a metre high may seem large for a ‘miniature’ tree, until you consider that figs will regularly reach 30 metres when left unpruned.
Bonsai has a reputation for being a lot of work and being difficult to do. But if you can grow a pot plant, you can grow a bonsai. Yes, they can take some time to look after, but that is the point of the exercise – to spend time doing something you enjoy.
The first thing is to keep the tree moist – not too wet and not too dry. Placing small trees on a shallow tray filled with gravel and water is an excellent way to keep them going through the heat of summer.
The next thing is to give them a sunny spot outside. A spot where they get the morning sun and avoids the hot afternoon sun is ideal.
Most trees are repotted every couple of years, with the roots raked out and the outer third removed. The tree can then be repotted in the same pot. The potting mix is an open, coarse, and free draining mix. A good commercial potting mix with added gravel or coarse sand is fine.
The branches and leaves are trimmed regularly to keep the growth compact and shaped. The bonsai is meant to give the impression of a large, old tree.
Finally, join a club so you can learn about it with others. Learning from a teacher or by watching others is a lot more effective than reading about it in books or on the internet.
> How can readers become involved in the Wauchope Bonsai Club?
Call the club secretary (Maree) on (02) 6585-2298, email firstname.lastname@example.org or come to the Wauchope Showground on the first Saturday of the month.
Bonsai (lit. tree-in-a-tray) is the art of aesthetic miniaturisation of trees, or of developing woody or semi-woody plants shaped as trees, by growing them in containers. Cultivation includes techniques for shaping, watering, and repotting in various styles of containers.
The bonsai group has demonstrations, workshops, beginners’ lessons and displays of trees. They hold an annual show which will be held this year on 10-11th October at Timbertown.
Come along and learn how to care of your bonsai or how to make one. The first Saturday every month except December and January are the meeting days.
Venue: Wauchope Showground, High Street, Wauchope. Phone: 02 6585 3023
Office hours: Tuesday and Friday from 10am to 4pm.
Facilities: Food outlet, parking available, public telephones, public toilets.
Prices: $5 per meeting attended.
Cost: Adult Annual Membership $30 (couple) $20 (single).