Reiner Goebel Posted January 30, 2018 by TBS Webmaster


To all members of the Toronto Bonsai Society, it is with a sad and heavy heart that I pass on the news of the passing of one of our beloved members Reiner Goebel. Please see below for details.


GOEBEL, REINER January 26, 1937 – January 26, 2018 Husband, father, chartered accountant and bonsai expert. Reiner died on January 26, 2018, after a short illness. He leaves behind his wife of 47 years, Mary-Gayle, his son Matthias (Dirk) and his daughter Nicola, his sister Ursula Jeissmann in Germany, as well as many friends, business associates and other bonsai enthusiasts. Visitation will be held on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 from 6 – 6:30 p.m. at the R.S. Kane Funeral Home (6150 Yonge St., at Goulding, south of Steeles). A Celebration of Reiner’s Life will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Children’s Miracle Network. Condolences

R.S. Kane Funeral Home
6150 Yonge Street North York, ON M2M 3W9
(416) 221-1159


Reiner Goebel joined the Toronto Bonsai Society in 1981.  A general interest in gardening led him to reading many gardening books, one of which included a chapter on bonsai. The pictures of small trees in a minimum of soil fascinated him and he decided to give it a try. In those days, books on bonsai were rare. A visit to the bookstore at the Toronto Botanical Garden turned up a copy of John Naka’s ‘Bonsai’, in those days not yet known as ‘Bonsai I’. That visit also led to information about The Toronto Bonsai Society and its Spring Show due to be held just a few weeks later. What an eye opener that was! Not only all kinds of tiny trees in what  – to a gardener – seemed like totally insufficient amounts of soil, but also a vendor who sold material specifically intended for bonsai – Japanese maples, junipers and pines in variety.  By the end of that growing season, Reiner had about five or six plants that he hoped would eventually look like what he had seen.

During that first season and for many seasons thereafter, he attended every workshop that came his way to learn from experienced local members as well as from the teachers the TBS brought in regularly. The workshops were invaluable in the process of learning about the horticultural and artistic aspects of bonsai and very necessary to answer any questions left unanswered by books.

In 1983, Norman Haddrick introduced Reiner to collecting trees from the wild, and the passion took a whole new turn. Incredible, these trees that had survived extreme conditions over decades and centuries and attained shapes that defied description. To him, working with such material became a higher form of bonsai, and over time most of his bonsai consisted of collected material.

Fairly early on Reiner was recruited to serve on the TBS Executive, which further deepened his appreciation of the hobby. On the Executive, he served as a Member at Large, Editor of the Journal for four years and Treasurer for practically ever.

Around 1990, the TBS membership voted for applying to Bonsai Clubs International (BCI) to hold one of its conventions. Reiner was conscripted to act as Chairman of the Convention Committee and, what else, Treasurer. The application was successful and the TBS was awarded the convention for 1997. To facilitate smooth communication, Reiner decided to join the Board of Directors of BCI, where he served as Recording Secretary. He later also served as Director and Treasurer of the American Bonsai Society (ABS).

The 1997 International Bonsai Convention organized by TBS members was a great success. It featured ten demonstrators: six from abroad and four recruited from the TBS membership. The workshop and demo material consisted of collected material only. It attracted attendees not only from Canada, but also the US, Europe and New Zealand, over 300 in all. John Naka and his wife were invited to attend as Guests of Honour.

In time, Reiner was asked to lecture on bonsai himself, often together with John Biel, both at the TBS and in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, England and the US. His favourite demonstrations included slide presentations with photographs he took while working on his trees, showing their development over many years, something that is difficult to convey in a one-hour demonstration. Deciduous trees, and especially Japanese maples and American larch, were Reiner’s favoured species, but his collection also included numerous pines, junipers, cedars and other odds and ends.


When pursuing this hobby, Reiner recommends the following in no particular order :

  1. Make full use of the TBS with its library, workshops, demonstrations and members’ locally specific knowledge.
  2. Don’t be afraid to prune. Nothing will ever be a bonsai without pruning.
  3. Examine established bonsai noting what ‘makes it work’ or not. Here, the Kokufu-ten albums of first class Japanese trees are of immeasurable value.
  4. Be aware that a bonsai consists of a tree and a pot and that each is an inseparable element of the whole.
  5. Photograph your trees individually at least three times a year. In Reiner’s opinion, there is no better way to show that you are on the right track in what you are doing. By October most people will have forgotten what a tree looked like in April unless they photographed it.
  6. Don’t forget to water. You won’t have a bonsai without pruning, but without watering, you won’t even have a plant.
  7. Be prepared for that raw material to take several years to mature into a bonsai. So, be patient and apply proven techniques consistently.
  8. In choosing an appropriate number of trees to grow for bonsai, keep in mind that during the growing season they will require a lot of attention: daily watering, regular fertilizing, timely pruning, wiring and eventual unwiring, repotting at regular intervals and getting them ready for Winter in November and for Spring in March.