Rod Hockings and his Bonsais.
Rod Hockings and his Bonsais.

You can't stop at one bonsai

ROD Hockings has a forest in his back yard - just in miniature.

"Welcome to my obsession," the treasurer of the Hastings Bonsai Group said.

"You may have heard of Bonsai - little trees in pots, but beware, they have a way of taking over your life! You might be tempted to get one, confident that you can stop at one, but once the bug bite.

"I'm up to 63 but I'm really trying to control it - just as well our yard is not that big."

So how did Rod get into creating and looking after Bonsais?

"Back in 1975 my Mum won a fig bonsai in the Bowling club raffle, she was always a gardener but knew nothing about Bonsai," he explained.

"She watered it and kept it alive until age made caring for it difficult and gave it to me. I no longer have my Mum, but I do have the Bonsai - which is doing very well."

When he heard about a local club starting up in Port Macquarie he decided to go along with a friend not only is he still going but he is also now treasurer of the club.

"We meet at the Rotary Hall on Hastings River Drive, from 10am till 3pm on the first Saturday of the month," he explained.

"New members are always made to feel welcome and anybody can pop in to have a look at what we do. Our club has also got our show on from 21-23 February next year at Port Panthers. There will be demonstrations as well as Bonsai from beginners to members that have been doing it for 40+ years."

So is it expensive?

"You can spend thousands of dollars on a bonsai, but I get the most fun from developing a cutting, shaping it to look like an old tree," he laughed. "It's heaps of fun and is a very Zen activity.

"No matter what else is happening in your life, when you are working on a Bonsai you get totally focused. I've lost count of the number of cups of tea that have gone cold cause I was so intent on what I was doing."

Rod said while everyone assumes Bonsai's originated in Japan, the Chinese were actually the first to train plants in pots that they call Penjing. The Chinese monks introduced the art to Japan where it was called Bonsai which means "Plant in a pot".

"The Japanese have Bonsai that are hundreds of years old, and even have a pine that survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima," he said.

"I'm 66 and one of the few regrets that I have is that I didn't start earlier.

"When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

"My advice is give it a go. Find out where the nearest club to you is (search Bonsai clubs), and go along for some fellowship and the start of a lifelong learning experience."

Keep well, be happy, Rod (the second photo is Mum's fig).

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