Bonsai Study and Demonstrations in Namibia

by Jerry Meislik

During my recent trip to Namibia under the leadership of Bernie O'Callaghan we had multiple opportunities to work on bonsai trees. To see more about the fabulous Namibia trip click here.

One of our first stops in Namibia was to the bonsai collection of Don Stevenson. Don has a wonderful bonsai collection and after viewing his bonsai there was some discussion about his great Ficus natalensis tree. Discussion continued for a while but soon real work began on the tree to gently refine its image. Understand that the tree was already beautiful but the group felt that some subtle refinement could make it even better. Robert Stevens took the lead with contributions flowing in from Bernie, Tobie Kleynhansand the rest of the fellow tour members.

Ficus natalensis
Robert and Don Stevenson discussing his Ficus natalensis, 2011

Further discussions
Tobie Kleynhans and Don discussing various styling options, 2011

Don "fainting"
Don, pretending horror at the plans for his tree, 2011

Some cuts made
Don, Robert and Bernie making the cuts, 2011

After the fig was adjusted Robert spent some time in buffing up a wonderful Acacia of Dons.

Robert and Acacai tree
Robert and Don's Mesquite tree, 2011

On another day we visited the home of Wimpie Van Zyl and his gracious wife Sonette. They have an absolutely incredible home situated in a private game preserve. In addition Wimpie has an expanding and impressive bonsai collection. Bernie arranged for us to spend a whole day demonstrating on trees in Wimpie's bonsai workshop.

Our host Wimpie and Don relaxing in the chair, 2011

Sonette our super hostess, watching the action, 2011

The bonsai program started off with Tobie Kleynhans of South Africa taming a wildly growing Carissa natalensis. He somehow managed to extract a lovely windswept style tree from the innumerable snake-like branches.

Tobie addressing the study group
Tobie with the tree before styling, 2011

Tobie and Bernie
Tobie, assisted by Bernie, 2011

Tobie Kleynhans
Tobie fixing the tree in the pot, 2011

Carissa after styling
Carissa after Tobie's styling, 2011

Robert Stevens then performed his usual miracles and turned an upright tree into a gentle weeping style.

Robert and Bottle Brush tree
Robert with the Bottle Brush tree before any work, 2011

The tree after styling
The tree completed as a weeping style, 2011

I got to demonstrate on a Ficus natalensis which had a dis-arrayed root system that needed to be tamed. Most of the discussion and work lay in simplifying the root structure to make the large basal root system radial and flowing. Small secondary trunks that did not relate well to the main trunk were removed. The bushy apex was refined down to a single growing point to be filled out with future growth.

Ficus before work
Ficus natalensis with three poorly relating trunks, before any work, 2011

Bernie giving a had or two
Bernie helping me to refine the apex, 2011

Apex refined back
At the end of my demo, the future apex and the "tamed root system", 2011

The study group'
John Jackson, Wimpie, JM, Lampie, Don and John Petrescu, 2011

The study group
Terry Petrescu, Maggie, and John Petrescu, 2011

After the workshop Wimpie, Sonette and helpers put on a fabulous Namibian braai or barbecue as we call it in the USA. I want to thank all of those involved who made this day so wonderful.


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