Bonsai at Oyama

Bonsai began in South Africa in Johannesburg in the mid 50’s by the Timms brothers, and came to Cape Town during the mid 60’s. Becky Lukas, one of the drivers of the establishment of bonsai in South Africa who stayed in St James went to Japan and studied for several months under a Japanese master. Bernard Coetzee was one of her students and in 1985 decided with Des Slade to start a new club in the Plumstead area; they called the club Oyama Bonsai Kai (literally translated to big mountain bonsai club).

The club held its first exhibition at Kirstenbosch in 1986 and as never looked back. It has been a leading innovator in national bonsai ever since its inception producing some of the leading figures in bonsai in SA.

Whilst Des took on the responsibility for running the day to day club, Bernard focused more on teaching bonsai design. He was a proponent of “design without style” a process of designing trees around their good features and the tree would end up in a style rather than trying to force a tree into unnatural designs. Over the years the system of growing Bonsai to a style ruined many trees that were forced into the style of the grower’s choice. Bernard realized that this was not the way to go about designing and led Oyama members to rather design the tree around its good features, making more natural Bonsai. This is a principle followed by a great many growers today and is taught at Oyama’ Beginners Course.

We hold our Easter Show yearly on the Easter weekend at Kirstenbosch's Sanlam Hall where most club members get involved in the running of the show and interacting with the general public.

There are many types of growers in the club. Social growers who just enjoy a few trees and dabble in growing them. There are growers who want good tree but never have enough time to give. The bonsai fan who is not interested in growing bonsai but just wants a fabulous display and buy’s established trees. And of course the bonsai grower who eats and dreams about bonsai going to all parts of the country to dig out material as well as going to conventions in all parts of the world. Oyama welcomes them all.

The main feature of the club is its monthly meeting held every second Wednesday of the month in the Plumstead Naruna Scout hall on the corner of Churchill and Attlee roads. Meetings start at 8-00 pm but there is lots of activity from 7-15 onwards. Pre meeting you can take your tree along and consult with experienced members if you have problems related to either the health of the bonsai or if you are not happy with the design of the tree. We have a well-stocked library with books and the latest overseas periodicals from America and England about the art of bonsai. We have some items for sale at the hall that the club buys in bulk and passes onto members at very competitive prices. The meetings consist of talks about species or demonstrations of techniques followed by friendly chat over tea and cake.

A monthly newsletter is also emailed to the members consisting of useful growing hints for the month as well as other articles and club news.

Regular workshops are also scheduled throughout the year. These are great opportunities to see other grower’s trees. Bring trees along for advice and to work on them with other members.


The club brings out a monthly Newsletter, about all the exciting happenings.

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