For several years now, the Autumn Bonsai Festival in George has been on my bucket list. Every year, at the last minute, something comes up and I have to cancel. I was determined to go this year. I studied the weather, bought new winter warmies, ordered my whisky well in advance and set off to drive through the Transkei, visiting some bonsai friends (new, newer and old) along the way. I checked in a day early, so I could visit En’s (that’s what my holidays consist of) and this one was no different. I am sure there were many more, but I did not factor in the hospitality of all the people I visited, so only managed three in George.
The afternoon of the opening was chilly (for me), but I bravely joined the registration queue. With lots of hearty laughter and long-time-no-sees, it was not difficult to find the venue and the excited buzz was palpable. A lot of old friends were gathered and the joviality of bonsai spirit filled the beautiful hall.
The trees on display stopped me in my tracks and what I saw, can only be described with an ”oh wow”! The trees in George are magnificent and in a class of their own. I must admit that from here on, it is very difficult to be objective, and it is my personal opinion that Tobie Kleynhans’ trees cannot be compared. Although I had the privilege to have a personal tour the day before of his (immaculate) garden, it was breath taking to see his and some of the club members' trees in a formal display. In fact, all the trees were just exquisite. As I walked past each tree for the first time that weekend, I wish I had time to hear every tree’s story! There was a majestic air about the trees, beautifully displayed and to be quietly enjoyed! Mouthful? I know!
There was an awesome line-up of local talent and I could not wait to get started. At 09h00 exactly, Tobie welcomed all and the festival was off.
First off was Viky Petermann, talking about pot selection for difficult or unique trees. We all have at least one of those trees that won't go or fit into any pot you have ever seen. Viky's talk encouraged us to let our imagination go and try something different. Her high quality powerpoint show included images of the most outrageous and stunning combinations I have seen in a long time.
From Kimura who used "pots" that defy gravity to Furukawa's non-traditional and unconventional pots. Some pots were just plain crazy, like Lenz's alien-egg pot to David Crest who planted a bonsai in/on/around a vacuum cleaner. Most notably was Harry Harrington's planting in Victor Harris (Erin Pottery)'s pots. If you want to be this daring, your combination has to "work", in that the tree and the pot should either compliment each other or make a serious statement. Viky's talk made that statement. I wanted to leave straight away to go home and make an outlandish but stylish pot. The only thing that kept me there, was that Tobie's talk was next.
From vibrant to quiet and unassuming! It was not the first Tobie-demo I have seen and every time I am amazed at the man's talent. Tobie started his demo by drawing several design options of an unstyled Olea.
From his designs, he asked the audience to choose one by democratic vote. We voted and voted until Tobie's favourite design won!