Peter Hattingh

Introducing the then Kai's Master Artist: Surely everyone has heard of the almost legendary Peter Hattingh. Few of us have met him or know him intimately but most of us know at least some of his trees.

Peter was a horticulturist and was working for Durban municipality - Parks Development - when in 1962 he became fascinated by the novelty and uniqueness of bonsai after reading about these little trees. His first efforts were by trial and error, but in 1965 he was awarded a scholarship from Kirstenbosch to Longwood Gardens in the U.S where an important collection of bonsai are kept. Peter also saw the collection at Brooklyn Botanical Garden and in Japan he spent some time at the Bonsai Village of Omiya.


In November 1970 Peter joined the Parks and Gardens Department in Walvis Bay, Namibia, where he became Superintendent -  which is why we seldom saw him. The climate of Walvis Bay is not kind to bonsai and consequently most of Peter's trees were taken care of by Bob Richards and Bernard Coetzee. To take care of Peter's trees was an honour as they could only enhance any collection.


In Peter's opinion the indigenous trees most suited to bonsai are: the wild figs, especially Ficus natalensis, the white stinkwood (Celtis africana) and the wild olives (Olea species). Of the non-indigenous trees he favoured the Acer palmatum types, the various Cedar species and any of the short needled Pines.

Peter said his best tree was his Acer palmatum Disectum (lace leaf maple) and he considered Bernard's pines to be amongst the best trees in the Kai.

His favourite style was the "informal upright" and he was keen on forest plantings. He lied larger trees about 2ft. tall.

Peter and his wife Dawn had 3 sons and a daughter who were of the outdoor type. They spent their leisure time (apart from bonsai) sailing, sunbathing, reading and they loved the movies.

Some advice from Peter:

  1. Limit your collection to as many trees as you can take proper care of; quality and not quantity is the criterion.
  2. Pay special attention to your soil mox regarding texture and draining ability.
  3. Don't waste too much time and effort on seedlings and mediocre nursery stock. There is good material about in the "wild" or even at the bottom of the garden.

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Year Programme

We have an exciting calendar of club meetings, events and public exhibitions planned for 2017/8.

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Maple leaves turning

red-gold in the Autumn sun

falling..... falling..... gone

Random Bonsai Tip

When creating Ishizuke or a rock clinging bonsai planting there must be harmony between the tree and rock, that is, the style of the tree and the shape of the rock must have artistic harmony and it must be natural.