I am a medical doctor in private practice and live with my wife Sandi in the beautiful coastal town of George. We have four priceless daughters, four fantastic son-in laws, three grand –children so far, about thirty Koi and probably more than 500 bonsai.
The first bonsai seeds were sown during the Easter week-end of 1975. Two of my friends and I were on our way to Noordhoek to paddle ski. Driving past Kirstenbosch, we noticed that they were having a bonsai exhibition in the garden and luckily decided to stop and investigate. The magical miniature trees on display made an everlasting impression.
The bonsai seeds germinated in February 1998, nearly 23 years later.
Building fifteenth century model war-ships were the flavor of the month at that time. It took more than 2500 hours to complete the Vasa, the infamous Swedish war-ship that sank in 1626 on her maiden voyage in the harbor of Stockholm.
After hours and hours of concentration and making the finicky and intricate dead-eyes, halyards, ratlines, canons and figurines, etc. it became an absolute necessity to find something to do outside the four walls of my study cum workshop.
One of our local tree nurseries was advertising: "Bonsai for Sale". The following Saturday I bought ten trees in black bags, ten bonsai pots, some wire, a pruning scissors and pruning shear, a terribly fine bonsai potting mix and a beginners manual.
I pruned, wired and potted these trees and by the early hours of Monday morning, I was the proud owner of ten "bonsai". A Celtis africana in my collection is the sole survivor.
A model of the Bartholomeus Dias sailing ship followed, but then the bonsai bug really got stuck into my brain, blood and bones.
Acquiring bonsai knowledge
In 1998 George was still very isolated from a bonsai point of view and acquiring practical first- hand knowledge was difficult. Right in the beginning of the bonsai journey, I made the very prudent investment by spending five days with Rudi Adam at Olive Grove on a one-to -one basis.
The knowledge and experience will always be remembered.
Then the reading frenzy started. Twenty years on and after reading more than 200 books and 300 magazines on all the fascinating horticultural and artistic aspects of bonsai, the drive to know more is still going strong.
Sandi and I also developed a passion to travel and attend international and national Bonsai conferences. We have been to 18 of these during the past twenty years and will always remember them as inspirational, informative and highly sociable.