Charles Ceronio started growing bonsai in 1968. He is the President andwas co-founder (in 1969) of the Pretoria Bonsai Kai. He also served as Chairman of both the Provincial and the South African Bonsai Association for a couple of years. In 1981, a small group of South African bonsai growers attended the 25th Anniversary of the California Bonsai Society on the invitation of John Naka. Since then, John has visited South Africa on numerous occasions, and Charles has been a John Naka disciple ever since. Other great masters who had an influence on Charles are Ben Oki and Roy Nagatoshi. Charles is a pioneer for bonsai not only in Southern Africa but also in neighboring Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Because Charles grew up in a country rich with plant species, he became well acquainted with the magnificent local tree species, including the Giant Baobab and the umbrella-crowned Acacias which are so typical of Africa. He feels privileged to live in a country having more than 1,000 tree species and, for this reason, gave a talk on "The Winds of Change to Indigenous Bonsai Styles for South Africa" at the first bonsai convention held in Cape Town in 1980. At that convention, he introduced South African bonsai enthusiasts to six new African styles that he had created:
- The Baobab style,
- the Pierneef or Umbrella-shaped style (which represents the Thorn trees of Africa).
- the Flat-Top Acacia style,.
- the Wild-Fig style.
- the Bush-veldt style.
- the Elbow style.
Charles' favorite bonsai style is, surprisingly, not the Pierneef or Baobab styles, but rather "forest plantings." To him, "a forest conjures up images of birds singing, the smell of fermented leaves, fairy-painted mushrooms, the rustling of pine needles and the rippling of trout streams."
In 1999, he published his book Bonsai Styles of the World. Regarded as the bonsai bible on styles, a second edition of this book was published in 2004. At present, Charles is working on a book on indigenous plants suitable for bonsai in Southern Africa. He is an advocate for growing indigenous bonsai because they adapt so well to South Africa's harsh climate. He finds it encouraging that most bonsai lovers around South Africa are now utilizing the richness of their native plant material in their own collections.
During 1999 and 2000, two of Charles' trees were selected as being among the 100 best trees in the world in the JAL World Bonsai Contest held under the auspices of the Nippon Bonsai Association. In 2001, he attended the 4th World Bonsai Convention in Munich, and in 2002 he participated in Harry Tomlinson's Summer School in Nottingham. He gave demonstrations at the Bonsai Convention in Slovakia in 2003, and in Pakistan in 2004.