Why bonsai-growing isn't for commitment phobes

by Guy Frederick / 02 September, 2018
Joy Morton with her many bonsai.

Joy Morton with her many bonsai.

How one woman's chance encounter with a book led to a life-long passion for bonsai.

In 1970, Joy Morton was sitting with her sick daughter in Southland Hospital, Invercargill, and flicking through a book on bonsai when she experienced a revelatory moment.

“I’d never seen anything so beautiful and that was when I decided bonsai would be my life’s focus,” she says. The desperately shy gardening enthusiast from Gore was hooked.

A local plant nursery owner, the late Bert Newman, guided her with knowledge and support. Newman also organised her first talk to the Gore Garden Club; Morton still recalls the sheer horror she felt when 95 people turned up. “But after the talk, my phone ran red-hot...”

Doors kept flinging open, and life rapidly filled with demonstrations, talks, conventions and 269 weekend workshops over the next 30 years. When the family moved to Abbotsford, Dunedin, in the late 80s, Morton opened a “one-stop bonsai shop” at her home, with around 600 plants on site at its peak. That’s reduced to about 90 since she retired three years ago. Never one for thumb-twiddling, though, she’s taken up painting.

People with commitment phobias should avoid bonsai, as it takes a good 20 years of focused work to train and refine a plant. Morton, however, has patience in spades, and her talents were recognised when she was presented with a certificate 20 years ago honouring her with the title “Mother of Bonsai in New Zealand”.

“My kids used to refer to them as ‘Mum’s weeds’, but each one is a baby and has its own story,”  she reflects. “I don’t even want to think about when I may have to part from them, but hopefully my painting will keep me occupied when that time comes.” 

This was published in the July 2018 issue of North & South.

Latest

Vital evidence in Pike River mine disaster missing, say families
102465 2019-02-18 09:22:49Z Planet

Vital evidence in Pike River mine disaster missing…

by RNZ

Some families of Pike River mine victims suspect a piece of vital evidence may have been spirited away by the mining company and lost.

Read more
It's time to empower the mayor and make Auckland liveable again
102432 2019-02-17 00:00:00Z Politics

It's time to empower the mayor and make Auckland l…

by Bill Ralston

Making Auckland a liveable city is an unenviable task, writes Bill Ralston, but it's clear the mayor needs more power.

Read more
Knight star: Sir Hec Busby on his extraordinary life
102328 2019-02-17 00:00:00Z Profiles

Knight star: Sir Hec Busby on his extraordinary li…

by Clare de Lore

Northland kaumātua, master carver, navigator and bridge builder Hec Busby was hoping for “no fuss” when he accepted a knighthood.

Read more
Keira Knightley shines in bodice-ripping period drama Colette
102397 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Movies

Keira Knightley shines in bodice-ripping period dr…

by James Robins

The story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a heroine of French literature, focuses on her early struggles.

Read more
Is barbecued meat bad for your health?
102255 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Is barbecued meat bad for your health?

by Jennifer Bowden

Sizzling meat on the barbecue is the sound and smell of summer, but proceed with caution.

Read more
March of the Algorithms: Who’s at the wheel in the age of the machine?
102434 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Tech

March of the Algorithms: Who’s at the wheel in the…

by Jenny Nicholls

Complacently relying on algorithms can lead us over a cliff – literally, in the case of car navigation systems.

Read more
IBM’s new quantum computer: The future of computing
102458 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Tech

IBM’s new quantum computer: The future of computin…

by Peter Griffin

The Q System One, as IBM calls it, doesn’t look like any conventional computer and it certainly doesn’t act like one.

Read more
James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth gap
102456 2019-02-15 14:54:45Z Politics

James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth…

by RNZ

The week before a major tax report is released, Green Party co-leader James Shaw has again challenged his government partners to back the tax.

Read more