Charles Ceronio was the first 'real' bonsai artist I met. I attended a show in Richards Bay and there was this man, larger than life, doing a demo. I attended the workshop the next day with a Celtis I bought from Rob Clausen. It needed serious restyling as I had just left it to grow wild. Charles instructed me to defoliate so 'we could see what was going on' and I was carefylly removing leaf by leaf, when he walked up and stripped a whole branch of all its leaves in one go. When he saw the horrified look on my face, he just burst out laughing. Since then, I do the the "Charles Defoliation". He also liked to 'give haircuts'. Must say: my haircuts remain a barber's cut! Charles became one of my mentors and I often phoned him just to chat. He remains one of the biggest influences of my bonsai life.
Years ago, when I managed the SABA website, I had a whole gallery on our bonsai masters, of which Charles was one. Due to popular demand, I am reposting that insert it here. Thanks to Elsie, who supplied the photos for the gallery, we have a record of Charles trees, still one of South Africa's much loved artists. The excerpt below was sent to me by Charles in about 2012 for the BiSA magazine.
Since childhood Charles was very interested in nature and in plants in particular. As a youngster he was involved in gardening and he believes he inherited his green fingers from his late mother and her parents who were great gardeners in their own right. He started growing bonsai in 1968 after attending one of the first bonsai exhibitions held in Johannesburg at the time. Since then he was hooked on bonsai and it became part of his life ever since.