Gabrielle Gibson's bonsai will never grow tall enough to be seen over the fence of her Wollongong backyard, but the little trees were born out of big ideals.
"These old trees are looked upon in the bonsai world as inspirational forms," said Ms Gibson, a member of the Urimbirra South Coast Bonsai Society. "In ancient times, in China, they used to scale incredible cliffs and mountains to dig them up. The aim is to create bonsai that resemble full-sized, natural trees."
Society members will lead bonsai-styling demonstrations at Wollongong City Gallery this weekend, as part of an exhibition of nature-inspired Chinese and Japanese ceramics from the Mann-Tatlow Collection of Asian Art.
The society was started in 1974, when bonsai trees were quite new to Australia and enthusiasts were experimenting with how to convert Australian natives into bonsai form. They found that just about any tree could be converted.
The society occasionally hosts "bonsai hunts" where, with the permission of landowners, members search for old-looking little trees, with characteristics suitable for training into bonsai.
"Most people are fascinated by them," Ms Gibson said.
"With our diminishing outdoor space, people are looking for something more compact that will keep them in touch with nature."
Society members will demonstrate styling techniques for figs today and conifers tomorrow, from 12.30 to 2.30pm, as part of a wider event from midday to 4pm each day.