Tobie Kleynhans

July 23, 2018


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 beginning

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.




Positive influences

  • Bonsai rekindled my love for photography and inspired Sandi to make it her main hobby. 

  • Influenced us to take up Karate again as a sport and both of us acquiring black belts (3`d Dan).

  • Inspired us to go on camping expeditions (especially wild camping) in remote areas of Southern Africa in pursuit of beautiful landscapes, rocks and trees.

  • Confirmed my love and respect for Land Rovers.

High lights

  • Winning the first Tommy Flaxman photographic competition in 2003.

  • Sharing the stage with Min Hsuan Lo, Rudi Adam and Peter Hattingh as a demonstrator in PE 2004.

-         Solo exhibition of 50 bonsai in the Moederkerk hall to raise funds for the church. 

-         First visit to Omiya bonsai village in Japan 2006.

-         First international demonstration in Slovakia 2008.

-         Founding Kat Rivier Kai with eleven other founding members in 2009.

-         Writing for, editing and publishing Yoroshika, our monthly magazine since 2009.

-         All the invitations to lecture or do demonstrations at other clubs in South Africa.

-         Writing and publishing Potensai – Bonsai Starter Manual in 2014.

-         Organizing the annual Autumn Bonsai Festival ( ABF ) since 2015.

-         Winning the BCI Writer, Photographer of the Year award in 2016.

-         Winning the second prize in the Bonsai Focus Photographic competition in 2017.

-       The meeting and viewing the gardens of famous bonsai masters including Jerry Meislik, Dan Robertson, David de Groot, Bill Valevanis, Takayama, Kato, Daizo Iwasaki, Konio Kubayashi, Kimura, Murata, Montri Suksermsongchai, the Koreshoff's, Ray Nesci, Robert Steven, to name some.

-       Making precious bonsai friendships and meeting the most interesting people while having great fun.



  • Not to have met John Naka in person.

Favorite sayings

  • "Clear your mind and your arse will follow."

  • "A faint heart never created an exciting bonsai.

  • "Do not allow laziness to stand in the way of creativity."

(Tobie is one of the biggest supporters of the SABA Monthly Photographic Competitions and he has won both the Indigenous and Exotic categories on numerous occasions. Tobie's bonsai garden is the most beautiful that I have ever seen and he was featured recently on an episode of Kwela on kykNet. Tobie's passion for bonsai is contagious and he loves sharing his knowledge, making him one of our favourite bonsai artists (imo) - Caroll)

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

Kathy Steyn

July 5, 2018

Please reload

Recent Posts

August 4, 2019

April 1, 2019

February 11, 2019

December 10, 2018

July 23, 2018

July 17, 2018

Please reload

Please reload

Search By Tags