Slice of life: ‘Bonsai gives you that real zen’

If you look at young trees, they are very symmetrical and healthy-looking. But as they get exposed to the elements and get older, you always see this asymmetry in their design. If you try to get that into your [bonsai] tree as young as possible, it helps in making the tree look old.

You also need to think about design principles: Do you want tension or do you want harmony in the design? It’s really about taking the tree from the bottom and looking at it. It’s very rewarding.

I mean, you completely get lost in the world of the tree, you know?

Even when you’re working with indoor plants, or any plants, when you really start paying attention to the way that you water them, the way that you take care of them, how it affects them, it’s really just amazing.

And the same with the trees. Because you try to get this design, but you can’t work against the tree, you have to work with the tree. And that’s really the essence of it: you’re trying to make the best of the tree that you can.

And you’ve got to really have respect for the tree. So that gives you that real zen, peaceful space.

The thing is, bonsai is never really finished. Because what you’re trying to create is essentially, I don’t know if one could call it art, but I mean, it is an art. It is evolving. It never stands still. It’s a living thing.

And, when you have a tree that has been styled, in springtime when it starts growing I want to see how it reacts to what I’ve done to it; how far can you push it before you start damaging the tree.

Because of this, it’s kind of like you just can’t wait until springtime. It becomes an exciting time of the year.Henk Swanepoel, owner of the Bonsai Studio in Johannesburg, as told to Sarah Smit

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

In East Africa, the locusts are coming back for more

In February the devastating locust swarms were the biggest seen in East Africa for 70 years. Now they’re even bigger

Western Cape Judge Mushtak Parker faces second misconduct complaint

The Cape Bar Council says his conduct is ‘unbecoming the holding of judicial office’

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories