[This month’s article is a special feature on a local resident written by Andrew Lucas of Backyard Harvest.]
Despite sitting in a mini forest of elaborately sculptured and potted trees, Geelong resident Paul Buttigieg is quick to point out his amateur status when it comes to the Japanese art of Bonsai. In fact, despite being the president of the Geelong Bonsai Club, Paul even makes the assertion that at best, his thumbs are only a light shade of green. He credits his Grandfather with having greatly influenced his reverence for gardening in his childhood home at Williamstown.
“He pretty much had a market garden out the back of our house where he grew everything. But he didn’t even live there! He used to catch the train from the Western suburbs of Melbourne to our place in Williamstown, tend to the garden and catch the train home again. This happened nearly every day!”
While those vivid early memories of a productive backyard explain Paul’s interest in gardening, I was keen to know how he came to discover Bonsai. He happily points to a bookshelf with an unopened bonsai kit purchased in the 1980’s and chuckles as he admits to never opening it! Paul’s real immersion into Bonsai came six years ago when his kids purchased him a hands-on Bonsai course over a weekend in the Dandenong Ranges for father’s day. He brought home a freshly pruned Juniper Bonsai from that trip and proudly tells me that it’s still alive and doing well today.
When quizzed about the meditative benefits of bonsai he nods knowingly.
“We’ve got four kids and I’m pretty much a workaholic. So when I’m working on my trees I think it’s it’s a lot like painting, you know it takes all of your attention. So when you’re immersed in shaping a tree to the best of your ability, you’re right there in the moment – totally present.”
[Paul Buttigieg is well known in Geelong for the many hours he contributes to community and gardening organisations. Paul is currently President of the Geelong Herb Society and the Geelong Bonsai Club and is in his sixth year of co-ordinating the weekly Dig It gardening and sustainable living program on Geelong’s community radio 94.7 The Pulse.]