Walkerston resident and secretary of the Mackay Bonsai Society Violet Walsh with one of her 12 entries into the bonsai section of the Mackay Show 2019
Walkerston resident and secretary of the Mackay Bonsai Society Violet Walsh with one of her 12 entries into the bonsai section of the Mackay Show 2019 Marty Strecker Photography

How growing bonsai gave a grieving woman comfort

NINE YEARS ago after the death of her daughter, it was caring for bonsai that saved Walkerston resident Violet Walsh.

When her daughter died of cancer at the age of 43, Ms Walsh said she "needed something".

"It really has saved me," she said.

But this was not the only tragic loss she suffered. Ms Walsh's two-year old daughter died from leukemia, and her son took his own life three years ago.

After the grief of losing three children, Ms Walsh found some peace in the quiet art of cultivating tiny trees.

For her, bonsai growing was a therapy. In her time of grief the calming art of pruning, watering and caring for her bonsais gave her strength.

"They need to be watered every day, so it gives you a reason to get up and get out of bed,"she said.

"I pour my heart and soul into them."

"They rely on me."

This year Ms Walsh submitted 12 bonsais into the horticultural section of the Mackay show. With an elaborate display of flowering bonsai, she was awarded the blue ribbon for one of her plants.

 

Walkerston resident and secretary of the Mackay Bonsai Society Violet Walsh with one of her 12 bonsai entries.
Walkerston resident and secretary of the Mackay Bonsai Society Violet Walsh with one of her 12 bonsai entries. Marty Strecker Photography

But the competition was thin in this year's show. Ms Walsh was aware of only three other entries into the bonsai section not from her botanical shed.

The 140th Mackay Show was almost without a horticultural pavilion, according to its organiser Warren Driscoll.

He said the show society considered cancelling the traditional show exhibition after the horticultural society disbanded.

Mr Driscoll said the pavilion's future was put in doubt after the society's "matriarch left town".

When his business, Leaf Wood Rock Landscapes was approached by the show society to take on the pavilion, he said "Silly me said yes".

He said declining public interest in the agricultural exhibits of the show has hit the pavilions badly.

"The horticultural industry is dying," he said.

Some people had forgotten the importance of the art, he said.

"They forget what the country is made of - it's agriculture and horticulture, not this black stuff that comes out of the ground."

And Mr Driscoll means this quite literally, with older residents making up the bulk of the region's horticultural societies.

"We've got people here with 40 plus years of knowledge and no one to pass it onto," he said.

"It's an art form. We can't let it die off."

As people flowed through the exhibition, Ms Walsh was excited to see so much interest in the plants on display, especially from young people.

"We need young blood," she said.

Mackay resident Sian Swales, who displayed her insect hotels at the exhibition, said it was time for the show to return to its agricultural roots.

"It's time to get back to basics," she said.



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