By day, the high-powered vice president of commercial sales for Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder Manatee brokers big deals. But after hours, John Swart enjoys the smaller things in life. Seriously small. As in bonsai.

Swart got hooked on the ancient Oriental art of bonsai, literally translated as "tree in a pot," 15 years ago. Swart prunes, shapes and trains tree cuttings into diminutive designs that mimic their larger shapes in nature. An 18-inch ming tree in his conference room, for example, normally would be nine or 10 feet tall. It takes years to groom every branch and twig into the desired shapes, but Swart says he's patient "to a fault."

Always interested in the outdoors, Swart previously lived in urban areas where he couldn't garden. "I picked up some magazines on bonsai and started to play with the ideas," he says. Since then, he's trained more than 200 miniature trees. ("I create them and my wife JoAnn takes care of them.") He brings some into his office and often gives them to friends or charity silent auctions.

His colleagues, he admits, would be surprised at his gentle hobby, but he says he's profited professionally by it. "It forces one to be creative and to look at details, both important in the real estate business. And it's relaxing; when you're doing something you like, you stop waking up in the middle of the night thinking about business. Besides, he adds, "It's fun. It's important to have fun in business."

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