I first came across Gede Merta’s name in Peter Thali’s article, entitled Bonsai in Bali, in 2008’s “Bonsai Focus“, issue #133. The article featured several very talented Bali bonsai artists and their beautiful trees. Another article followed in the 2009 issue #122, with Master Gede showing how to create a ficus with massive trunk and good nebari by fusing together young plants and seedlings. I was curious how this fused ficus looks now, and I had the good opportunity seeing the result when my wife and I were vacationing in Bali last month. With the helps of Adhy Satya and Budi Sulistyo of the Indonesian Bonsai Society, we got in touch with Master Gede and he generously welcomed us to his nursery.
In Indonesia, the honorific way of addressing a person of seniority is to use the word “Pak”, which literally means “Father or Uncle”. Everyone in Bali bonsai circle addresses Gede as Pak Gede.
Pak Gede is a very unassuming person. He dressed casually, more often bare chested at home. He is very friendly and has a hearty laugh. He sits cross-legged on the floor while working on bonsai. Lindsay Farr in his World of Bonsai video called him the Bonsai Buddha of Bali for the way he sits. He used to be a co-owner of a restaurant in Bali beach resort area, called Bonsai Cafe, where customers can enjoy the food, beach and bonsai in the garden. Unfortunately, Bonsai Cafe had closed and Pak Gede is currently running his nursery called “Paras Bali” in Denpasar.
Although Pak Gede speaks very little English, we were able to communicate since we could speak passable Malay language, occasionally we needed translations by his younger brother, Dayan, on words we did not know as there are some differences in the Indonesian and Malaysian Bahasa languages. His wife, daughter, son and brothers were there when we arrived. Pak Gede has been teaching them his bonsai knowledge, and they help out in the nursery. Pak Gede has high hope Dayan will succeed him and become a future outstanding Balinese bonsai artist.
Pak Gede was very generous, he did a demo for us trimming an over-grown shohin Premna microphylla. This shohin was over-potted in a large plastic pot filled with crushed lava. The purpose is to maintain enough moisture in Bali’s hot climate and to encourage a better root growth. This Premna was started as a cutting about 8 years ago. It is now a spectacular specimen tree ready for show.
What happened to the fused Ficus microcarpa from the 2009 Bonsai Focus article? Here it is 5 years later!
The attached seedlings had fused into a massive trunk and side branches, Some evidences of fusing could still be discerned but they would be undetectable in a few more years.
Pak Gede is also famous for his Pemphis acidula which were collected in the wild. His Pemphis has powerful trunk, marvelous carved dead woods and great movements.
I am not kidding when I said Pak Gede is multi-talented. Besides bonsai, he does oil painting, wood sculpturing, and foot reflexology massage treatment. He has treated many patients, all gratis! He said that is the best use of this gift to benefit people. We saw some photos of grateful patients with him on the wall.
Pak Gede has many award trees. They can be seen in the gallery of his blog and facebook:
Some of his award trees: