Underneath a skyscraper city, there is little time for patience, and few spaces for contemplation. But today in the shade of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney’s own bonsai master is giving a lesson in the quiet art of the bonsai.
Above: A Japanese Maple bonsai; Megumi Bennett and Galen Gannon demonstrate the ancient art of the bonsai.
Megumi Bennett, ambassador of the Japanese bonsai culture in Australia, is showing her audience the results of her life’s work in the craft of mirroring nature. Born in Tokyo during World War II, Megumi spent her childhood in the highlands of Nagano Prefecture, whose mountains and valleys left her with an enduring love of natural beauty:
“Since I was little, my grandfather was growing bonsai in Japan, and that was my first introduction to bonsai. But at that time, ikebana was a girls’ hobby, so bonsai came later. I started learning ikebana, but in ikebana, which is flower arrangements, the plants die, and only photographs remain. But bonsai keeps growing.”
Above: Wisteria and ficus bonsais.
Above: Bonsai master Megumi Bennet and one of her first apprentices, Galen Gannon, President of the Bonsai Society of Sydney
After four decades of life in Australia, Megumi is today celebrated as the founder and patron the Bonsai Society of Sydney, whose roots have grown deep in Sydney’s soil since its establishment in 1999. Asked what it is about the bonsai that inspires her, she says:
Above: A 45 year old Chinese Elm (ulmus parvifolia) bonsai by Alex Bennett
“I love bonsai because plants respond to our heart, and when we give more care, plants return that care to us. Every year, plants change and grow, and that is so cute. Bonsai is a living thing, just like a dog or cat, together with us the plant is living, and it becomes a family pet.”
Above: Megumi Bennett’s 20 year old Golden Bells (forsythia) and 40 year old Azalea (rhododendron indica) bonsais
Thanks to Megumi’s stewardship of bonsai culture, the ancient artform is today more popular than ever in Australia. One of her students, and President of the Bonsai Society of Sydney, Galen Gannon, tells me that “Megumi was my first teacher” – one who has helped him perfect his craft since 1985; “After 35 years,” he says with a smile, “I’m just starting to get some nice trees now.”
Above: A 32-year-old Lemon-scented Myrtle bonsai by Alex Bennet; a Japanese Hornbeam (carpinus japonica) bonsai; roots of a ficus bonsai; and a flowering Indian Hawthorn (rhaphiolepis indica) bonsai.
Galen says that it was his love for Japanese culture which brought him to bonsai: “I got into bonsai in Japan, where I travelled a lot, but it wasn’t until I stopped working that I was able to start bonsai. I just love it, they are very relaxing and great fun.”
“The terrific thing about it is that out there you see a tree that is thirty metres tall, and in here it’s one metre tall: that’s what we’re aiming for, to try and replicate what’s in nature.”
Hello Tim, thank you for a wonderful article (blog?) on our bonsai & Show at the RBG. It was a very successful show with amazing attendances over the 3 days. Our aim was to not only show our Bonsai to the general public but to introduce people to the art of Bonsai & to dispel alot of myths that surround this rewarding pastime. Thanks again regards Galen . ps this is the 1st blog I have read but my interest has been awoken!!
Thank you Galen, I’m glad you’ve liked it! It was a wonderful show, thanks for putting it on; I certainly learned alot 🙂
hola Timo, me a gustado mucho este articulo, sobre el bonsái, esta plantita siempre fueron mis favoritas, pero a lo lejos nunca las tuve, espero algún día tenerla.
Espero mas artículos como estas. ¡¡un gran abrazo!!
Muchas gracias! 🙏 Te animo a empezar con el bonsai, es un arte lento pero muy bonito. Yo tengo solo uno; no es tan bonito como los del articulo pero aprendo cada vez un poquito más de cómo cuidarlo.
Gracias Timo, espero poder hacerlo.