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Interview with David Gibson

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with David and spend some time admiring his trees.

David is aged between 54 and 56 and lives on the north side of the river. During his younger years he became interested in horticulture after seeing his mother growing ornamentals and his father growing food.

He joined Bimer in 1986 when the club was still meeting at the old Hawkins Nursery at Albany Creek. David studied horticulture and developed an interest in bonsai after seeing the Len Weber bonsai collection at Grovely TAFE. He became involved in bonsai after purchasing two trees from a co-worker at Hawkins.

David has been a member for over 35 years and is a life member. Bimer has been the only club that David has been a member of. He has served Bimer in the roles of Vice President and Committee member. While VP he was also show captain as the two roles went hand in hand back in the old days.

How old were you when you first got into bonsai? David was 20 when the bonsai bug bit. He did an intermediate course with the Bebbs when they had their nursery at Moorooka and has learnt much from Bimer members and demonstrators.

Who was your first inspiration? There have been many – David recalls when John Naka toured the country and he loved his 2 books. Also Robert Stevenson, Bill Valavanis and Harry Tomlinson who Bimer brought out as visiting demonstrators. Locally, David was adopted by Maida Flavell and became her “protégé”.

What your first tree and do you still have it? David’s first tree was a Leopard Tree which he moved on as he felt the species didn’t present well as a bonsai. His oldest surviving bonsai is a celtis which was started in 1988.

What is your favourite species and why? Chinese elm came up as a favourite species for David. He explained that albeit a poor colour display there are 4 distinct seasons on show with an elm. So even though the tree slows down during winter he feels you get so much more out of the tree.

Why do you do bonsai? It has been a part of David’s life for so long now it is in his DNA. It is a love of watching the tree progress from a starter to a finished tree that spurs him on. He believes that bonsai is a melding of horticulture, art and technique – without all three there will not be a bonsai.

Who would you say is your mentor? David struggled to name just one, but I feel Harry Tomlinson was at least a sentimental favourite. David still has the juniper he worked on when Harry came to Australia in 1997.

What is your best tree and why? David feels that it changes over the years . At the moment it is a Chinese elm he has been working on for 5-6 years that started as a ground grown tree.

What mix do you use? Commercially available potting mix opened up with diatomite, zeolite, pumice or scoria. He uses the same mix for all his trees.

What is your fertilizing regime? Osmocote when repotting and liquid fertilisers such as Powerfeed.

If there is just one piece of advice you had listened to when you first started what is it?

If David could go back in time with Dr. Emmett Brown he would tell himself to be patient. At the start things can’t be rushed. He would also pass on some tips about recognizing good stock.

As we looked around the garden David showed me some of the trees and related the history that goes with him. He has an olive that Maida started as a collected tree from SA in 1960. He has continued stewardship of the tree and this just shows how much of a personal link there is between us and our trees.

David’s trees have been included in many international publications and he is very proud of this achievement.