SABA Convention in PE

November 30, 2017

Firstly, a heartfelt thank you to Willem Pretorius, Earl Jeffereys, Robbie de Witt and Hennie Reynecke for their dedication and hard work during their four year tenure as president and members of the SABA EXCO. We, as the new committee can only say thank you for everything you have done for bonsai and that we have big shoes to fill. 


We also want to congratulate EP Bonsai Society for the very successful convention held in Port Elizabeth. It is only at these gatherings that you realise how many passionate bonsai-people there are in South Africa.  Their head-liner Juan Llaga was not only knowledgeable and  a great artist, but also crept deeply into the hearts of the South Africans with his humour.


And on that note, we would like to introduce the new committee to you:


President: Caroll Dewar Hermann has been involved in bonsai since 1984. Her favourite trees are definitely the Baobab and then the bougainvillea.  She was given her first bonsai (a baobab) in 1984 and killed it.  It started a love/hate relationship with baobabs.  She loves to start trees from seeds and cuttings.  


In 2012, she registered to do her PhD in the philosophy of bonsai, which was completed in record time.  Due to the uniqueness of the topic and approach, it took another year before the University could find examiners and the degree was finally awarded to her in 2015.  Since then, she has registered a research project with her University, using bonsai as a psychodynamic tool and has just completed working with unemployed, traumatised youths.  She is currently working on a rehab project, using bonsai, with convicted criminals.  


Her day job is a lecturer in Psychology at a University, has 3 boys and is the only Bonsaichologist in the world:-)! 


Caroll's portfolio remains social media (because she is on Facebook ALL day long) and the web page.


Vice President:  Org Exley joined the Pretoria Bonsai Kai in 1988 after going to their show at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria and has been a member ever since.  He has also been on and off the committee since 2008 and has been Chairman since 2009/ He has been President of the BRAT regional committee since 2012.


He has a wide variety of species in his collection and likes to propagate from seeds and cuttings, but his best is going on digs 2 to 3 times a year where he collects Wild Olives and other species for bonsai. 

He has +- 100n bonsai in his collection as well as 200+ pre-bonsai stock in containers. He also has a few hundred cuttings, seedlings and trees growing in containers and in the ground for future use. He has workshops at this house every second weekend of the month and he has done demonstrations at club, regional and national level.  In 2013 he was invited to China by the WBFF to represent Africa at the World Bonsai Conference.  Org is also the SA representative on the WBFF. Org was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the Convention in PE for all the work he does for bonsai. Well deserved!


Org's portfolio is Regional participation, such as BRAT, CRAB,, KWANBA, etc, (because he is very strict) as well as the mini-convention.


Treasurer:  Terence O’Flaherty was on the last SABA committee and has elected to stay on.  He grew up on a farm in the old Eastern Transvaal, somewhere between Nelspruit and Waterval Boven, so Jock of the Bushveld and the ZASM tunnel mean something to him. He was schooled in White River and Nelspruit, and completed a Civil Engineering degree at Wits (sorry I am no accountant) and now work in KZN.

While he has dabbled with bonsai for a while, he has only been an active club member for 8 years. He is a member of KENGAI and done a stint there as treasurer and chair. He says:  “Bonsai gives me a chance to escape the rat race and retreat into my world. I enjoy the forest/group/landscapes to the single tree in a pot. Having been given one 2 inch B- Davii cutting while in Namibia, which I nurtured and eventually made cuttings, I now favour this species. I prefer to develop the tree myself (with some help now and again) rather than buy one. I do however try a bit of everything and aim to have 5 or so of each to keep me out of the house when I retire.”


Terence's portfolio is that of Bean Counter because he is so good at it.


Secretary: Victoria Harrison grew up on farms around the Eastern Cape and finally settled in East London, so the love of nature and outdoors has always been in her blood. Her dad dabbled in bonsai so she started going to the shows for inspiration and in 2010 joined Border Bonsai Society. 


She says about her favourite tree – “well I still feel like a beginner and want to try absolutely everything but if I look around my jungle, elms just really grab me!”


She started out buying trees but as she got into the swing of things, she started preferring to create her own tree from scratch- "it’s much more rewarding and has my own stamp on it. My friends think I have too many bonsai but I don’t listen, who needs that kind of negativity! I love to travel and visit bonsai friends - I’ve managed to see quite a few bonsai en in the last two years.I think the bonsai community in South Africa is so welcoming and encouraging. I look forward to conventions for the catch up and discussions but also for that boost of inspiration that always comes with it. Since PE convention I have spent a lot of time in my garden looking with a different ‘eye’ ."


Victoria has the portfolio (for now) of keeping us all informed and assisting David with the photo competition.


Additional Member:  David Brewis is originally from East London. He became involved with bonsai about 20 years ago by the influence of none other than Mr Miyagi! 


He didn't really know what he was doing for about 10 years until he joined Border Bonsai Society in East London.  Then 4 years ago he relocated to the Port Alfred area. Eventually he couldn't keep traveling 200km for meetings anymore and finally decided to start a new club for his area. After being given the opportunity to give a talk and demo for the Port Alfred Garden Club, the new club started. That was 2 years ago and now Sunshine Coast Bonsai Club is a registered club with 28 paid up members. 


He say: “My favorite tree is the Wild Olive in the natural style. Charles Ceronio was a big influence in my life and I really like the natural approach by Walter Paul. I must add Tobie Kleinhans to the mix as an inspiration. But I have learnt so much from so many individuals especially Hannes Fritz on carving techniques. 


I inherited the "gardening gene" from my mother's side of the family and as a youngster I was always intrigued by the way in which different plants responded to my interference by pruning; unfortunately not to my mother's delight though!


 There is nothing in nature quite like a tree. Without trees we simply could not exist. We can learn a lot from trees; the way that their environment has moulded them into their beautiful forms, sometimes gnarled, broken and abused yet they never complain and always keep growing to their fullest potential.”


David's portfolio is photo competition and the calendar (we can't let a good thing go!)


Additional Member:  Hannes Fritz was born and bred in Heidelberg (Gauteng) and have been living there his whole life (39 years). He has been growing bonsai since 1990 when he was only 12 years of age.  His dad, who is a horticulturist, bought him his first bonsai book and he has never looked back. His mentor was Johan Bester from Heidelberg. Hannes visited him throughout the years and feels that Johan had taught him a lot. Hannes says: “My favourite species to work with is Celtis sinensis and I used to prefer Japanese styles, but have developed my own unique style. I joined Pretoria Kai in 2005 and started my own club, Suikerbos Kai in 2013. I enrolled and won all the New Talent prelims and then proceeded to win the final Young Designers competition in 2006 at the Cape Town convention. My trees have been chosen as top 10 winners at various BRAT competitions.


 I am well-known in the South African Bonsai Society and have hosted workshops at various Kais throughout the country. I have also been a guest speaker at various local international conventions. My club, Suikerbos Kai hosted the May 2015 BRAT in Heidelberg. I represented Africa as a guest speaker at the 8th WBC in Saitama City, Japan in 2017.


I am working as a goldsmith for Rare Earth Creations in Hyde Park, Johannesburg and assists my dad in landscaping over weekends. I've been married for 14 years and have 2 busy boys.”


Hannes's portfolio is organising the New Talent competition, because, well, he is new:-)


The SABA Convention in PE

Chicken pox (got a clean bill of health from the dr), big winds and torrential rain going through the Transkei (is there still such a place?), nor a B&B that messed up my booking was going to stop me.  We couldn't wait for the convention to start! So, Thursday Cocktail evening was alive with bonsai chatter, catching up with old friends, making new (old Facebook) friends and new, new friends. 








The event was formally opened by the Executive mayor of PE, Athol Trollip, who even admitted to dabbling in bonsai. He claimed to have a few trees, killed a few trees...We want to assure him he was in good company!



The convention started off with demonstrations by Robbie de Witt and Antony Smith. Although it is nice to have international artists, I still say, our local artists are brilliant and I will always support them.  
















Before (left) and After (right)



 Antony's before (below) and after (right)













After a stunning lunch, it was the long awaited turn of Juan Llaga from the Philippines.  It was worth the wait.



Juan already had a huge South African following on Facebook, (I know, because we all argued about the spelling of his name), but we were all still very impressed with the talent of Juan. Especially with species, such as the Wild Olive, which he is not familiar with.  The Olive that he worked on was later auctioned off during one of the most exciting auction “shows” I have ever had the privilege to watch!


Juan stood looking at the tree for a veeerrrrryyyy long time!


Then he called in the elves...


This amazing result was eventually auctioned off and now resides in KZN. Stunning!


On Saturday afternoon, Hannes Fritz equally impressed with his chainsaw. Bonsai is not for sissies, I tell you!


 And in this picture, you will se Jonathan Cain talk about the "Forbidden Branch" trophy awarded by the President of ABA. This came about when Hannes Fritz was styling a tree by Masahiko Kimura during the 8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama City, Japan. Hannes was instructed by Kimura not to remove a branch, but this hindered Hannes' design. hannes was torn between honouring Kimura's instruction and demonstrating his talent.  Hannes chose to remove the branch and this is now preserved as the Forbidden Branch following in the African style and spirit of bonsai (Jonathan Cain, PE, 2017).



On Sunday, some went digging and some stayed to listen to Mike Shute (left) and Cliffie Marais (right).


       Go big or go home!


By Sunday, the enormity of President of SABA had sunk in and the hard work started.  Your new committee has already had its first meeting and issues that will be given priority to, are:                     

  1. Protocol for the photo competition, rules, judging and criteria;

  2. Protocol for the New Talent competition, rules, judging and criteria;

  3. Protocol for accepting members on Facebook page;

  4. Protocol for Lifetime Achiever's awards

  5. Benefits for SABA members

  6. Portfolios for each committee member

  7. Reverting back to a convention every 2 years due to financial constraints and the South African economy.

  8. Regional representation.

  9. A new bank account with EFT capabilities and a money market investment.

  10. According to the constitution, subs are due 60 days after the financial year, which is the 1st of July, therefore, subs must be paid by the 31st of August based on all the members in the club at that time. 

  11. It was suggested that SABA members get a discount for SABA events, such as conventions and that non-SABA members pay a premium.  The hosting club and SABA will split the additional fee. 

  12. For many years, there has been a call for the names of SABA club members.  The EXCO is not asking for contact details, just the names, in order to know who are members and who are not.

  13. Another major issue that was raised during the AGM, is the irresponsible digging practices of some bonsaiists.  Willem reported receiving two complaints with regards to people in KZN and in Gauteng.  I will write an article on this issue at a later stage, but digging and collecting species is a very contentious issue, which up to now has not been legislated.  Let's try and keep it that way.

If you have any ideas on how we can run SABA better for the benefit of bonsai, or what you would like SABA to do for you, please send us an email with your ideas to


The November photo competition will go ahead based on past criteria and judging. As in the past, the new committee will be the judges until we have received input from clubs, regions, etc and a protocol has been established.  Photos can be sent to We are looking forward to keeping up the high standards of the previous committee.


We would also like to congratulate Viky Peterman, the chair of the newly (re) constituted CRAB. We look forward to many more clubs joining the party!


The other exciting news is that we are launching our competition for a new logo.  The winning entry will be decided by popular vote and the committee will have final say. 



  1.  We are looking for an indigenous tree that would represent bonsai in South Africa.

  2. All entries must be in high resolution .jpg. NO OTHER FORMAT WILL BE ACCEPTED.

  3. Please use something original or have permission for the images you use. SABA will not be held liable for any copyright infringements.

  4. You can enter as many times as you like.

  5. The committee reserves the right not to make use of any of the entries.

  6. Should your image win, you cede all rights to SABA.

  7. No correspondence will be entered into and the committee’s decision is final.

  8. The competition will end on 31 December 2017

  9. Please send entries to: 

A last word on the website:  please fill in the form "Join our mailing list" on the "Home" page, that way you will be notified of every update and never miss out on exciting news.  On the "Events" page, is a relatively  updated calendar of bonsai happenings in South Africa, if you want to plan your holiday to include a show or workshop somewhere.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Best in bonsai,

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