Bonsai Convention (and Animals!) in South Africa-

In October I was in Johannesburg, South Africa to teach at their national convention. It was quite an exhilarating trip, full of great hosts, impromptu trips into the city and national parks, fun times with bonsai, and large animals that either wanted to trample you, ignore you, or eat you, so that was rather exciting as well.

Many thanks to Derek and his family, Errol and Tommy, and, for many different things, Ockie.

Here are a few photos of those two weeks, the first three courtesy Cindy Rodkin:





Tea/coffee breaks were taken very seriously, which was a delight to me. I drink Rooibos tea (African Red Bush) almost addictively back home in the United States.


Rob Kempinski at work on stage.


Walter Pall in front of a Jacaranda tree. They bloom in the spring in South Africa, which is October, and Johannesburg is known as the ‘Jacaranda City’.


One of the most engaging compositions in the show-


Obligatory megafauna shots…


I was grateful to be in the car with Ockie, who was quite familiar with navigating AWAY from elephants. Smart man. We were not supposed to drive over the elephant dung in the road, as it is the preferred residence of an endangered dung beetle.


We did get close. Or rather, they got close to us. Zebras are ‘donkeys with fancy pajamas’, as Ockie called them-


Water buffalo


This was part of a personal week exploring the southern coast, which is a modest plane ride from Johannesburg. This was in the ‘Wild Coast’ area, very beautiful, subtropical, and rural.


Remarkably dreadful shot of Weaver birds, who make these nest condos on the ends of palm fronds.


Bedrock in the ocean. I saw an octopus in the pools.


Curious tree succulent near the shore.


Grinding meal in a traditional Xhosa village.


Impromptu seminar I gave to the Port Elizabeth club.


Attempting, relatively successfully, to drive on the left side of the road. Intersections were remarkably, sometimes hilariously, scary.


This, believe it or not, is a Podocarpus that is about 1,000 years old and 120 ft / 37 meters high. A very slow growing conifer! This was near the coast, in a subtropical forest with orchids hanging off the trees.


Coastline west of Port Elizabeth.


Exquisite rock drawing in a museum, by the San people.


  1. Louise Leister says:

    Great post Michael! It looks like a wonderful trip! The pictures are beautiful!

  2. Ray says:

    Hi Michael, looks like a fantastic trip. Lots of great pics.


  3. M. Daniele says:

    Great photos Michael. Is that a monster rosemary you’re styling in the third photo?

  4. Cindy says:

    we loved every moment of your teaching! what a real pleasure to meet and learn from you Michael
    Loving your book 🙂

  5. Wilson Trindade says:

    All jararands existing in Johannesburg are coming from Brazil, where it is native. Wilson Trindade Bauru – Brazil

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, thank you! I knew it was from South America, but did not know from Brazil- Many of them grew in Tucson, Arizona, too. Never seen such large ones as Johannesburg, though-

  6. Jennifer Williams says:

    The pictures are awesome…but your captions are even better! (megafauna).
    Missing all my peeps up in the Pacific Northwest!

  7. debbieao says:

    @ M. Daniele, It looks like a “Buddleia” or common name white olive. It is indigenous and makes an awesome bonsai!

  8. Herman van Jaarsveld says:

    Glad you liked it so much being here Micheal, I learned so much from you in only one workshop! was a blast, wouldn’t mind doing it again 😉

    ps: Pretoria is called the Jacaranda city, because they are planted on both sides of the roads on the sidewalks, much bigger ones than you saw in Johannesburg

    @M. Daniele
    that is a buddleja saligna, common name: false olive, white olive


  9. Herman van Jaarsveld says:

    haha jokes on me! i mis-spelled your name 😐 Michael…is it okay if i mail you some photos of the shimpaku we worked on in the work shop? i made some changes to the apex after reading your previous post, where yyou created an apex for that white pine

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