Small trees from little acorns grow

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ROB KNOWLES

FOR all those who are fascinated by the elegance and beauty of bonsais, David Brewis gave an in-depth talk and demonstration of the art of miniature trees at this months’s Port Alfred Garden Club meeting, held at Red Leaf Nursery last week.

Brewis said he came from a family of plant lovers.

“When I was young I always wondered how plants would respond to my interference. Bonsai was just an extension of this fascination, ” he told the packed audience. Having joined a bonsai club in East London, Brewis said it took him about two years to learn some of the basic techniques.

He owns a shop in the Kenton area where he sells soils, plants and the various accessories required to create and nurture bonsai plants.

“Bonsai simply means ‘tree in a pot ’,” Brewis explained. “The tradition began in China but migrated to Japan 200 years later.” It wasn’t until the early 1900s that bonsai became popular in Europe, and not until the ’50s that interest began to be expressed in South Africa. Brewis said any tree can be made into a bonsai, but some trees were more suitable than others.

“I choose indigenous trees such as wild olive, wild fig, acacia, pineapple, or more,” he said. “But you can also use succulents such as spekboom, or cedars, maple and other trees to miniaturise.” He said a hobbyist can always purchase a bonsai, or a preformed tree, or they can grow it from seed.

“It is sometimes thought to be cruel to trees, but it is not,” Brewis said. “It is just a matter of pruning, something we would do anyway to trees in our gardens. ”It does, however, mean manipulating a tree’s growth, but healthy trees respond very well.”

He also reminded his audience that bonsai trees are just trees, and are thus not really suited to growing indoors. He reminded them that trees need rain and sun. “The biggest killers of bonsais are too much or too little water and positioning the trees in the wrong position,” he said.

Bonsais also need to be re-potted, perhaps about every two to four years, he said. “Young trees should be re-potted every one to two years, while older trees around every two to five years.”

Brewis also gave a practical demonstration of pruning a bonsai to redirect growth and to keep the tree healthy.

“If there is enough interest, I would be willing to establish a bonsai club here in the Kowie,” he concluded his talk.

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