All in a Saturday’s work!

While the rest of South Africa is watching the rugby, I got busy with some recycling.  Let me back track a bit.  A while ago, I got tools to cut and design pots made from polystyrene.  Then I got busier with pottery and discovered the joy of clay. I still like working with polystyrene and have a shed full of throw-away-packaging pieces.  (I have been known to stop the maintenance guys and ask them for the packaging. – I have a shed full).

I also have loads of thimble and mame bonsai which I keep going by standing them in very shallow water to create a micro climate.  Then an idea hit me! I can make my own penzai. (Potted landscape). As with all my bonsai, I reserve artistic rights and adapt this to my own style and memories.  I made a Phuket penzai in memory of our second honeymoon (I have two other floating in my guppy pond!) I have a Senyati Gorge in memory of my first honeymoon in Zimbabwe.

IMG_5028  IMG_5025

Some of the penzai that I built today, will be to showcase some of my kusamono, mames and thimble bonsai.

So, get some throw-away packaging, your cutting tools, and carve away!


You will also need to paint your finished penzai, and here there are as many recipes as there are bonsai rules.  I will tell you what works for me and what I have tried.

Cement Paint

1 cup tile grout (There are many colours and you can add cement oxide stain to manipulate is further)

1 cup beach sand (if you like a coarser finish – I did not use any today)

1 cup tile glue

Add tile bonding liquid till you have a sludge that will easily paint on, (As I use it up, I may add water to the remaining sludge to get it back to the original consistency) and start painting.

It is very messy, so make sure you are wearing old clothes and gloves. (I like getting dirty and don’t mind scraping cement off my nails later:-)


I give my finished penzai and initial all over coat of my base colour.  I will often then add a darker oxide (or grout) to the remaining mix and give it a more artistic finish. Please note that I am not an artist and a lot of what I make and do, is copied from what I have seen.  Also, having lived in a small rural village in South Africa, we often have to make do with what we can find.

IMG_5017You can see my torii gate in the background.

Both these penzai will be used to plant Portucularia afra cuttings to create a landscape.

IMG_5018This specific landscape was made as a display for my thimbles and mames. Obviously, it is not completely finished yet. I will add some crushed coral to the center which will be filled with water to create the micro climate.  Once weathered, you will never know it is not real!


Some ideas of what I am planning to do:

IMG_5021  IMG_5022


The story of the Bougeys

As normal, I can spot a potensai at 120km an hour. One day, I passed a construction site and there were lots of tree stumps lying around. I did slow down, I will admit, but 2 kilometers further I made a u-turn. I stopped and asked the people what they were going to do with the trees. “Oh, the rubbish?”, they asked. “Uhm…yes,” I replied. “Oh, that? We are throwing it away.” One hour and two trips later, we had it on the back of my eldest son’s car.

IMG_4100When we got home, these stumps, which had been pulled out of the ground with a tractor and hacked into pieces, were sorted from big to small.  There were 18 ‘pieces’ all together.  Some had roots and some had none. None had leaves.  I wish I knew what had happened to those.  Bougainvilleas root very easily.  The biggest killer of bougeys is rot or too much water.  In fact, they like to be dry, rather than wet.  All ofIMG_4106 these stumps were collected about 3 days after they were pulled out. That is Reevin on the right with the biggest stump.

Since about 2013, it has been Reevin’s dream to raise funds for rhino anti-poaching.  Since the 3 biggest stumps are too large for me to handle (and I already have two big bougeys), I decided to raffle the 3 (if they survive) as a thank you to him for helping me.  We are happy to say that 13 out of the 18 survived and the biggest 3 are looking awesome.

I use a simple soil mix.  I make my own compost from garden rubble, mowed lawn cuttings and leaves.  I use 2 parts compost, and 1 part river sand. I have a mix of mycorrhiza and my grandmother’s secret ingredient which I sprinkle around where roots should develop and used BonsaiBoost as fertilizer.  I fertilise straight away.  I believe that the tree needs all the help it can get to recover. I do not carve straight away and most styling will only be done once we know which branches are alive.

The trees were potted on the 28th of November 2014 and the after photos were taken on the 1st of April 2015 unless otherwise indicated.  The following photos are put in sequence to show you development. I am hoping to use this post to show progression and ultimately get the raffles going.

Bougey 1


PS – The beer bottle is for size:-)








Bougey 2









Bougey 3


Bougey 4


This photo was taken on the 23rd of June 2015. I used BonsaiBoost exclusively and NO styling has been done on this tree. It is just growing in this shape and form.  Something tells me this is how she wants to look.  I need a name for her. I will make a pot and repot in August 2015.



Bougey 5







This bougainvillea is incredible in the sense that it has two colours, no make that 3.  It has pink flowers, pink and white flowers mixed and white flowers all on one tree. This one had a dodgy shape, but I kept all the branches.IMG_4801

I am looking for someone to carve the top 3 beauts as I am not brave enough. These are the ones that will be raffled off. Send me a message. And then…”Watch this space” for the raffles  to start.