The Yorkshire stonemason who has been growing Bonsai trees for the last 60 years

For Vic Hollings his 40 best bonsai trees have been like a large family, which he has lovingly looked after for the past six decades.

Every day during the growing season they need attention; a bit of water, a trim, and every couple of weeks, a feed.

The only time he and wife Carlina pack their bags to go on holiday is deep in winter, when there are no shows and the trees are effectively asleep.

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The 78-year-old happily admits to not knowing their Latin names, and identifies them by their age – most are in their 50s and 60s now.

Vic Hollings, from Keighley, who has been tending his collection of Bonsai trees for 60 yearsVic Hollings, from Keighley, who has been tending his collection of Bonsai trees for 60 years
Vic Hollings, from Keighley, who has been tending his collection of Bonsai trees for 60 years

Vic, who's a regular at agricultural shows and gives talks at societies and to the WI, inherited a love of gardening from his father.

At an age when his peers were in the pub, Vic, who was working at York Minster at the time as a stone mason, was reading up on bonsai trees. The word bonsai refers to the shallow bowl the trees are kept in and not the plant itself.

When his dad was digging up a privet hedge, Vic took a root with a stem – and his passion was born.

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He picked up a lot of knowledge from the late Harry Tomlinson, the internationally renowned expert on the art of bonsai, who exhibited in Britain as well as Japan and won multiple awards.

Tomlinson was the judge of the bonsai section at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show and ran his own studio which Vic visited in Nottingham.

Over the years Vic travelled the country working as a stonemason and returning at the weekend to look after his trees.

“I could earn a good living and then I started buying a lot of small trees mostly from the growers.”

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Every fortnight the trees get a liquid seaweed and tomato feed – plus a tablespoon of baking soda to bring out the colour in their leaves. They are kept under nets in four polytunnels at his home in Keighley, which let the rain through and keeps the air moist. Overwatering, aphids and mealybugs are the enemies of his trees – he once a lost a valuable olive tree to aphids.

Some cost a lot of money – his 62-year-old oak is worth £9,000 to £10,000, he says.

He and his wife, who shows orchids, have amassed many trophies – too many at times.

“Practically every show we've been to we’ve picked up a trophy. We had the mantlepiece and Welsh dresser full of trophies – I told her to stop as I couldn’t clean them all,” he says.

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What he most loves is going to the shows and educating people about the trees.

As someone who loves architecture, he finds them inspiring: “It must be one of the oldest forms of art,” he says.

“It’s creating something out of a lump of wood.”

Now nearing 80, he would be prepared to let his prized collection go – but not for pennies.

“If someone came to me and offered £100,000, I would give them – they can have the hard work.”