There is a misconception that bonsai trees are from Japan, but this is not so, according to bonsai expert Farouk Patel. The Parkhill resident said any tree can be a bonsai.

“The word ‘bonsai’ means the art form of keeping a tree small in a pot. You have to learn the art of making the bonsai, the different styles and how to develop those styles.”

With over 2000 bonsai trees in his yard and with over 35 years of experience taking care of these trees, Patel is an expert. Patel has trees dating back hundreds of years and some new ones, though he does not have a favourite, he says that he loves them all equally “like a father loves his children”.

When Durban North News visited Patel at his home recently, he spoke of now his passion for bonsai trees began. He bought only three trees at a flea market near the ICC in Durban more than 35 years ago. “When I bought the trees I had no idea how to take care of them, most of my knowledge about bonsai trees I learnt from books and I am still learning today.”

Over the years, he has had visitors and bonsai masters visiting his home to view to admire his collection. Most of his trees are dug from bushes from Durban and the Midlands.

“A bonsai can be anywhere, you can find a bonsai in your yard and not know it. It is all about replicating nature in a pot. When people work on their bonsai with pride, the finished product is beautiful,” said Patel.

His passion for his trees can be seen in the way he takes care of them. He spends hours watering and pruning them. He feeds, maintains and protects them from pesticides and other elements. The amount of work he puts into his bonsai trees is commendable as he goes out of his way to find a perfect rock or dead wood for a specific tree to make that perfect fit.

“I enjoy working on my bonsai trees. I make sure that they each get the individual attention they deserve but I am getting old now and and my concern is who is going to take care of them when I am unable to. My children used to help me, but they are all grown up now and they have other commitments.” Patel is the chairperson of the Durban Bonsai Society, a group of enthusiasts who meet every second Sunday of the month at Lions Club in Durban North to share ideas and tips. To find out more visit the Durban Bonsai Society on Facebook.