Bonsai It

March 15th, 2018
Bonsai It
The ancient art of bonsai is all about taking control of nature’s towering shade-bearers: trees.

Practitioners of bonsai use specialised tools and techniques that have been passed down through the ages.

The Adelaide Hills’ own modern day bonsai master Rob Hatcher, the horticultural supervisor at the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, holds a couple of classes through the year to help aid the learning of others who are drawn to the beauty of bonsai.

His attraction to the art form was initially a practical one.

“I’ve always been interested in Japanese gardens and bonsai was a method I could do when I was a trainee and didn’t have a garden of my own,” Rob said.

“I was living with my parents and had to have something to focus on that was reasonably transportable so I could take it with me when I did eventually leave home.”

You might assume that bonsai plants have to be tiny, but they come in all shapes and sizes.

“There’s one person, two person, or three person bonsais,” Rob said. “Which are how many people it takes to lift the plant.”

Amazingly, bonsai trees can even bear fruit.

“There is a very famous bonsai called a Nagasaki crab apple and the fruit’s about the size a crab apple usually is,” Rob said.

“It’s all about keeping them in context, but one full sized fruit on a miniature tree is the art form.”

Taking inspiration from Zen Buddhism and the Japanese aesthetic view wabi sabi – which finds beauty in imperfection – it is not surprising that the art of bonsai is rooted in balance.

“Essentially you have to get the above ground part of the plants in balance with the roots,” Rob said.

“All while styling it so it looks like a tree in miniature.

“It’s a complete balancing act.”

Rob speaks of bonsai with the care and love of a master, and though he has learned, through his years of study, the many intricacies and rules that govern the art-form, he still uses bonsai as an outlet for artistic expression.

“The thing is that bonsai is purely done for the person’s pleasure,” he said.

“Other people may look at the plant and say ‘that’s great’, and admire it but the person who shaped it has to be happy with it.”

Even though the upcoming masterclass is sold out, budding bonsai enthusiasts should be able to find enough information to get started at a local library or online, but Rob thinks there is no substitute for learning with others.

“There comes a time when it’s good to have a group to be involved with,” he said.

“The SA Bonsai Society have a Hills group and there are other bonsai clubs all around the state.”

Rob will be teaching again at another masterclass event scheduled for October 14 – but spaces are limited so you had better get in quick.

And if you want to get a more parochial experience, a native Australian bonsai workshop will occur later in the year with more details still to come.

Should you be itching to improve different areas of your green thumb, the Botanic Gardens offers a range of other workshops and masterclasses.

Kelly Bramhill coordinates the Botanic Gardens’ successful masterclass series.

“One of our other very popular workshops is for fruit pruning which we hold in July,” she said.

“We also have an orchids masterclass, one on the art of topiary, workshops all about propagation, and there are still more to be announced.”

Like Rob, there are a host of professionals working in South Australia’s Botanic Gardens, and each of them has something to share.

“We get fantastic feedback,” Kelly said.

“And the primary aim for us is to capture the knowledge that exists in the botanic garden and pass that onto the general public.”

To secure your place in the next bonsai masterclass, or for more information, call the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens on 8370 8370.

Back  Back

The Weekender Herald

The Weekender Herald aims to provide the best print medium for our clients to achieve the maximum exposure for their messages to our readers and their potential clients within our targeted area.

The Weekender Herald is an independent, innovative, good-news paper serving the Adelaide Hills and Mt Barker council areas. Founded in 1992, the paper is the leader in providing up-to-date, relevant lifestyle content. It seeks to maximise its appeal and relevance to readers and consumers on behalf of its advertisters.