Story Slim Smith | Photograph Luisa Porter
Although they are about the same size as a house plant, you risk a mild rebuke from John Weathers if you ask about his bonsai plants. “They are trees,’’ he corrects. “In fact, the word ‘bonsai’ is ‘trees in a pot’ in Japanese.”
Weathers, 69, has made a hobby of growing and shaping his bonsai trees since moving to Columbus after retiring in 2007. His interest dates further back than that, though. “I worked in Japan as a civilian employee with the Navy for 10 years, and that’s where I first became interested in bonsai,” he says. “When I was living there, I traveled too much and didn’t have time to take it up then. But when I retired, I thought, ‘Well, I have to find something to do besides fish.’”
Today, Weathers has 50 bonsai trees, all of them pine, juniper or elm. “The whole idea is to make them look old, which you do by how you wrap wire around them.”
It’s pretty much a trial-and-error proposition. “Ask anyone who has grown bonsai trees for any length of time, and they’ll tell you that you wind up being a serial tree murderer,” he says laughing.
To reduce the carnage, Weathers regularly attends workshops — he is a member of the Birmingham-based Alabama Bonsai Society. He says he rarely encounters bonsai enthusiasts in Columbus, though.
“I’d love to have somebody to compare notes with,” he says.
So, if you’re a “serial killer of trees,” drop Weathers a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.