Bonsai hobby growing slowly

By Kath Gannaway
RUDI and Marlene Jerlitschka had to leave their bonsai collection behind when they came to Australia from Germany 28 years ago.
But their passion for the craft was very much part of their baggage.
The couple, who are founding members of the recently established Yarra Valley Bonsai Society, unpacked that baggage when they retired and their days are now very much taken up with their own extensive collection and with sharing their interest with other enthusiasts.
Conditions here are so different to Germany, where they had to build special shelters to cope with up to minus-20 degree temperatures.
The challenge here, they say, is to keep the water up to their hundreds of plants in our hot, dry summers.
While they prefer to shape their bonsai plants by pruning rather than through the use of wiring, the society’s membership includes others who are advocates of using wire to shape.
“The methods people use depend entirely on their own interpretation and interest,” Rudi said.
Some of the styles include cascades and semi-cascades, upright, windswept and miniature landscapes.
They look to nature for inspiration and car trips often become part of the passion when a gum tree with an interesting shape is spotted.
The success of the club has been phenomenal, with membership approaching 30 and including beginners through to experienced and professional bonsai enthusiasts.
Rudi said there were always people at the club happy to share their knowledge and help beginners with advice and through their regular workshops.
“There are any number of books on bonsai and you can read a lot about how to do it, but there’s nothing like taking a tool and being there with someone who can guide you through it,” Marlene said.
The Yarra Valley Bonsai Society meets at Japara House in Montrose on the second Tuesday of each month and holds regular Saturday workshops, the next one this Saturday, 10 January.
For further information phone Peter Raymakers on 9726 6176 or visit