Bending a branch or a trunk with the help of aluminium or copper wire is one of the most important and commonly used techniques when styling raw material or Bonsai. Hard to bend and easy breakable branches or even trunks are often tightly wrapped within water-soaked Raffia before the wire is applied to protect them from cracking or breaking. when that is done properly the change of breaking while bending is reduced to a minimum! But the appliance of a bundle of these sometimes 1.5 meters long and socking wet strings of Raffia on a good ramified or smaller tree with little room to move and breakable branches and foliage is not that easy! No fare from it, because they get stuck behind every little branch or foliage and more often than not small branches are broken when applying wet Raffia, especially on deciduous trees! So A couple of years ago to avoid that risk of damage, I started to use regular household 5 mm Sisal rope that you can buy all over the world in any good household store. A long enough cut off piece of Sisal rope is so much easier to hold, handle and apply than those heavy wet sticking to everything strings of Ravia! When the branch/trunk is enough protected with tightly wrapped Sisal, I will wet the Sisal thoroughly with water and then seal it all tightly with electrical tape. This way the Ravia will stay wet for many months preventing little cracks that might occur from bending to dry out! The necessary wires to bend the branch or trunk are applied over the tape and then bending can be done safely!
Below: A thumbs thick Prunus mahaleb yamadori trunk is safely heavily bent with a minimum of wires.The branch on the left side still needs to be soaked and tightly wrapped with tape.
Below: Taped, wirred and bended with out any damage or problems!
Below: Late summer the tape is cut with a sharp hobby knife and removed! Without any harm or damage, the Sisal rope is very easily rewound to get it off…so much easier and safer than with Raffia!!!
Give it a try the next time you have to protect a branch or trunk on a difficult to reach or fragile tree!
Way back in the early seventies, I must have been around 12 years old when my niece took me to the “Plaswijk park” that was and still is in another side of Rotterdam where I used to live. This beautiful old large amusement/nature park was home to several animals like monkeys, kangaroos, births and horses that children could ride around an U shaped parkour for 10 cents. There was a space tower overlooking on one side the park and on the other side the boats on the lake and the islands that surrounded it for a large part. You could take a trip on a longboat to see those lakes or hire a rowing boat to do the same. And it was home to one of the largest playgrounds I had ever seen! With crazy dangerous attractions that would not pass any safety check these days! And there was a very old “mary go round” and several typical “Dutch” restaurants with Patat (chips, fries) with mayonnaise or Poffertjes (small pancakes) with melting butter and powdered sugar on top! MMMMmmm!! Needless to say that I had a great day and was even allowed to visit the stables and to help with walking around the track with the ponies! After that visit, I went back many a time to help and play and had many greasy adventures with many human and animal friends there! Later I even had my first paid work there renting out the rowing boots or running the box office of the “Maze”, where I use to show pretty girls the way out for a kiss! 😁 But the best part of it all was the interaction and helping taking care of the many animals that lived there!The often amazing adventures that I had in the “Plaswijkpark” were and still are a great lesson in friendships human and animal alike…it certainly was one of the best and important times in my life! This park fired a life long love for animals, nature and pretty girls!😉
These next few pictures where originally made in 1974 by my dear Father who I proudly showed around the park. Some time ago my big Sister Hennie restored these next pictures from those original old slides. 😘Below: me aged 13 with “Lorre” one of several parrots that lived in the park.
Below: with “Sjacko” the cheeky little capuchin monkey.
Below: always going for the hair!
Below: with my dear old girlfriend “Anja” the Baboon. She was so lonely all by herself and was so thankful for any attention…that is to the right person! 😁 She could flee me (carefully scrapping off little pieces of skin) for as long as I sat with her!🥰
The often amazing adventures that I had in the “Plaswijkpark” (Rotterdam) were and still are a great lesson in friendships, human and animal alike…it certainly was one of the best and important times of my life!Thanks, Sis!!!
Remember my earlier post from 2018 were I with a saw separated one Sabina Juniper Yamadori into two Sabina’s?! I had bought it a year earlier in 2017 at my long time Bonsai friend Teunis – Jan Klein his amazing Bonsai Center “Deshima” (NL). In April 2018 I believed that it was strong enough to be sawed in half! By doing so I created two new beautiful trees! Below: Just before the separation.
Below: Successfully separated to become two Bonsai in the future!
Below: Fast forward to half September 2020. The two new pre-Bonsai have been heavily fed the whole growing season and both look very ready to be styled for the first time!
Below: The second one always reminded me of an old cascading Literati Juniper that I found very inspiring in my early Bonsai years. But for that sort of image, I have to tilt it heavily next repotting to create the cascading movement! But that is for the near future!
Below: It will be styled tilted something like this with a sharp inclination like a ski jumping ramp, with smaller and thinner foliage peds on the lower part of the image creating a lot of visual speed down to the left! I am very excited about this second one and am looking forward to start styling them both further!
First a short recap/history: It was discovered and collected by me during my visit to the U.K in November 2007. It was growing from underneath a large flat like bolder that itself was covered by several smaller once! Below: After some hard work finally freed from its crushing heavy load!
Below: Spring 2010. After a scary time where it lost most of its foliage, it fought back with a lot of strong-growing new branches! I saw such beautiful movement and story in that long broken thick branch that protrudes to the right from the base of the trunk. But I basically had to rebuild her a completely new frame from here bottom upwards! With all-new branches on an in my eyes a very promising live base for something daring?! But such a change to create a vision you have from your inspiring living entity don’t come too often when you live in an almost Yamadori less country like Holland! So, of course, I went for it!
Below: An hour later in itsnew pot with plenty of room to grow fast producing lots of growth on the fast thickening branches!
Below: 24-4-2016. After 6 years of heavy feeding and free growing, it is time for branch selection and foliage thinning. All this time I was thinking a lot about how to utilise that long almost ripped off to the right protruding Jin in my design!
Below: One hour and one full garbage back with cut off branches later, this is all that was left of the 6 years of growth! The new top truck section was in this time gone from pinky thick to wrist-thick…amazing!
Below: 17-9-2020. And this is how she looks today. A windswept Yew. Besides som guidewires, there is not much wire on it at this moment. The future plane is that in just a few more years it will look like a Yew that is bettered by seasonal winds and storms from the left-behind. The direction of the deadwood and long Jin are a prove off just how fears and devastating these winds are! In the near future when all the now still young branches are more matured and a bid fuller with small foliage, the outline of the foliage pads and the total outline image will be more clearer! But no way with perfectly triangle-shaped foliage peds on exuberant bright deadwood as we see so often these days! Nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong! But with limited and precious time on my hand…why should I do what so many others have done before? I wanted to create my expression of strong wind trough a struggling but surviving tree! And it happens to be this Yew with that long Jin that started the thought of that idea again in my head! Funny how those things go?! And now the hunt for a special rectangular pot has begun and the next couple of years will be spent on filling and refining all the smaller foliage and deadwood. Height: 65cm/26 inch.
Yesterday I made some pictures of two of my old Hawthorns with red berries that I would like to share with you all! Although they have somewhat larger leaves than usual from all the water that I had to give during last Summers 3 months of record-breaking temperatures and that I had to remove some half – burned leaves, I still wanted to take some pictures of them because they are so pretty with these bright red berry’s and to show that they are so resilient and strong as a specie! These two are both collected by me in beautiful Walles during the second half of the nineties and since then I have always worked with great pleasure with them! I hope you like them as much as I do?!
This first one in the not so often seen Literati style is 68cm/27inch high and has stunning rare old natural deadwood/shari spiralling around the whole length of the trunk! The living bark on the trunk has deep dark cracks running from bottom to top and shows great age! It was collected in early ’97 on my second trip to the UK as the guest of Tony, Terry and Mike! I later potted it just like I was advised to do by mine experienced friends…but nothing happened during the later anxious months?! So I called Tony in a panic for help and his words were: don’t throw it away and keep it sheltered and make sure it doesn’t dry out! They often skip a year after collecting! So just wait and see…and pray! And boy how I was happy when a year later it started budding like crazy! They sure are amazing survivors and pretty easy to maintain as a Bonsai! Over the years I had the big honour to show her in several big shows like the Ginkgo Awards and The Noelanders Trophy and in 2009 she even made it on to the cover of the “American Bonsai and stone appreciation magazine!” How cool is that?! And she is still going strong to date!!!
Below: Because of the way too-large leaves and the berries, the top looks too heavy…but it is normally way lighter and just right. The pot that normally suds it perfectly was specially custom made for her by my dear old friend Brian Allbright (UK).
Below: This second Hawthorn was collected in ’96 on my very first collecting trip to the UK…as a matter of facts: my first collecting trip ever! I was invited by Bonsai live long friends Tony Tickle and Terry Foster and boy what an adventure it was for this Bonsai rookie! This one has also been proudly shown in many shows over the years and she gets more and more beautiful as she gets older! It is 43 cm/17 inch high. The pot was a gift from my old friend and great Bonsai artist and potter Dan Barton (UK) that I proudly received when I was a guest in his house. It was a pot from his personal collection and I am more than proud to show his gift under this for me already important tree!
I hope you enjoyed these images of these my old Lil’ Hawthorn friends?! Stay safe everybody! Cheers, Hans van Meer.
In late March 2012 I was invited by my dear new friends from beautiful Slovenia to come collecting in May. I was all excited because we here in Holland don’t have much Yamadori and not in the least place because I had to make the long 11 hours drive up their alone for the first time! Their welcome was just as heartwarming as the collecting experience the next day! They took me to a large field where Prunus mahaleb grew in between and over boulders. They where over many years roughly cut back witch created tons of deadwood all over! And forest and or ignited fires had torched that deadwood just like we try to imitate on our Bonsai! They were truly amazing and I was over the moon when they asked me: choose anyone you like! They were all looking for the best ones for me and then after seeing a bunch of super ones, this amazing one was the first one they collected for me and the star of this post! The amazingly burned deadwood that runs all along the trunk was why I fell for it…BIG TIME!
Below: They had to move some pretty large and awkward rocks to get to the roots and had to use a large saw to cut the roots to free it!
Below:After a few more days of fun with my friends in beautiful Slovenia and the long drive home in a car full of angry ants, I planted it in a plastic training pot.
Below:5-5-2012. YES!!! The first sign of life is there!
Below:6-6-2012. And more fresh foliage has appeared! Just look at that stunning natural burned deadwood!
Below:9-7-2012. Just look how much new foliage has appeared all over the trunk! Some of those lower small bottom branches that grow from just above the soil line will be bent down with wire into the soil to become new roots! This technique that I have done on my Hawthorns in the past is great to create the beginning of a good Nebari!
Below: 25-1-2014. With pain in my heart, I had to remove some of the beautiful but unusable Jins.
Below: 18-2-2015. The basic truck structure is more or less there already and the branches are allowed to grow freely to thicken.
Below: 22-4-2015. A new small branch has appeared from just above the soil line and is very useful to bend down to create a new root with! The red arrow points at one that I did back in 2012.
Below: With the help of two U shaped piece of wire the carefully bend down branch is held in to place.
Below: The Red and Green arrow point at two other ones that I created in 2012. As you can see this is a very easy technique to improve the Nebari!
Below: 9-6-2015. The tips of these new roots are kept above ground, so that they stay alive to change into roots and to thicken!
Below: 26-2-2016. The basic branch structure is getting there! It is a two trunk or even better a Mother and Child future Bonsai!
Below:26-2-2016. Up to now six new roots are successfully created this way, that otherwise would have never existed! So when you have the change to try it on any of your trees, go for it!!!
Below: 14-4-2018. This otherwise beautiful natural Jin is too bulky for the overall design so I will carefully reshape it with my Dremel power tool.
Below:14-4-2018. I really love to work on deadwood because you can creat and enjoy your work almost instantly!
Below:14-4-2018. I styled the whole Jin thinner and with more details and lengthened it more downward!
Below:14-4-2018.Then I carefully torched it to mimic the original cracked deadwood and then I applied pure Jin seal/lime sulfur over it to bleach it so that over time it will look just the same as the original burned deadwood!
Below:13-7-2020. The new roots are slowly getting stronger and will be hopefully sufficiently thicker by the time that the tree is ready to be showed.
Below:13-7-2020. The contrast in this close up between the colours of the amazing natural deadwood and the shinning bright new foliage is in my humble opinion just breathtaking! Ying/Yang in a Bonsai!
Below:13-7-2020. The branch placement and open spaces between them are very much to my liking, it already begins to look like a full-size tree!
Below:13-7-2020. The final picture (for now) of my “Mother and Child” Prunus mahaleb Yamadori. Height: 70 cm/28 inch. Base: 38 cm/15.5 inch.
I hope that she will be show worthy in 4 or 5 seasons and the hunt for a beautiful pot will start as soon as these scary times are behind us! I hope you like this story of this Yamadori so far?! Stay safe and keep them small! Cheers, Hans van Meer.
NO, NO!!! Don’t worry! Picture of my tinny Pine!😎 I am just fine, believe me!🤣
Like I wrote earlier in THIS post: in the early Nineties, the 6 of us went on a long route trip to Milan Italie to see among others Mr Kimura his demo an amazing Bonsai event and a very long visit to the world-famous Crespi Bonsai Center that is located just outside off Milan. And during our long visit to Crespi, I fell in love with a really tiny and weird-looking Japanese thunbergii corticosa that from memory was about 15 or 16cm high and because of its plates-like bark that grew wider upwards to the top and created that way a reverse taper! And then the very few tiny branches with just a few too long needles on the end! The small collection of Shohin were displayed on a few shelves behind chicken wire against one of the sides of the enormous greenhouse filled with mouthwatering Bonsai! Especially for us then still a couple of newbies! So I just had to buy it to see if I could realise what I saw in this little unique gem?! I simply broke off the too-long top bark-plates and allowed the smaller bottom once to extense. A few years later it was ready to be planted in this very small Tokoname pot that where he lived happily in for many years! That little pot fitted in the palm of my hand!It was shown in several shows. Later on, it was sold or given as a present to a Bonsai friend? Getting old and stuff and too many Bonsai memories to remember all! 😇 Cheers, Hans van Meer.
Why? Because then you will also remove all the Mycorrhizae Fungi that your Pine needs so hard to survive! Why this warning? Well, a few weeks ago I came across a Bonsai care video on YouTube by a very popular online Bonsai amateur who advocated and then showed how he with a water hose removed all the soil together with the O SO valuable Mycorrhizae from his Mugo Pine?! Giving a lot of newbies that watch his channel completely the wrong and harmful information!
What are mycorrhizae and how do they work and help our Bonsai to grow healthy?
Mycorrhizae are actually a fungus. They exist as very tiny, almost or even entirely microscopic, threads called hyphae. The hyphae are all interconnected into a net-like web called a mycelium, which measures hundreds or thousands of miles—all packed into a tiny area around the plant. 99.9 percent of all plants live together with Mycorrhizae and benefits from it!
In nature mycelium of a single Mycorrhiza, in turn, can extend outward, connect multiple plants (even plants of different species!), and even connect with other Mycorrhizae to form a Frankenstein-like underground mash-up called a common Mycorrhizal network.
In a common Mycorrhizal network, it’s hard to tell where one mycorrhiza ends and another begins. Because of this vast network, a single plant can be connected to a completely different species of plant halfway across a forest!
Mycorrhizae actually connect to plants in two ways. One form, called ectomycorrhizae, simply surrounds the outside of the roots (e.g., Pines). Another form, called endomycorrhizae, actually grows inside of the plant—their hyphae squeeze in between the cell wall and the cell membranes of the roots (sort of like wedging themselves in between a bicycle tire and the inner tube).
Under normal conditions, you’re not likely to see Mycorrhizae because they’re so small. But every once in a while, something amazing happens: the Mycorrhizae will reproduce and send up fruiting bodies that produce spores—we call them mushrooms and they can some times even be seen growing in our Bonsai pot next to a Pine! Some of these mushrooms are even edible, like truffles or chanterelles.
Below: This pretty Picture from late September 2009 shows some beautiful harmless mushrooms growing between the roots of my old Chinees Pinus parviflora (white pine)! They can’t do any harm as long as they don’t grow from in-between the live bark or on your deadwood! This old friend has not been repotted for some 7 or 8 years now!
How do plants help Mycorrhizae?
Plants make great gardeners. Just like we fertilize our gardens, plants feed their own Mycorrhizae. Plants will take excess sugar produced in the leaves through photosynthesis and send it to the roots. From here, the mycorrhizae are able to absorb it to sustain themselves. There is very little sunlight underground, and even if there was, the Mycorrhizae wouldn’t be able to harvest it like plants because they don’t have the equipment needed for photosynthesis. The sugar from the plants literally keeps the Mycorrhizae fed and alive.
How do Mycorrhizae help plants?
Plants don’t give up their valuable sugar resources just for the fun of growing fungus gardens. They get a lot of things in return from the mycorrhizae, mostly in the form of nutrients.
Most plants are able to get nutrients themselves through their fine roots, but they have a limited ability to do so. Their roots need to be in direct contact with the soil to absorb the nutrients, and plant roots only grow so small. Fungi, on the other hand, can get much smaller. Fungal hyphae can wedge in between individual bits of soil to cover almost every available cubic millimeter of soil. This increases the total surface/feeding/drinking area enormously and allows the plants much greater access to nutrients than they could ever get by themselves. For many plants living under difficult conditions, they wouldn’t be able to survive at all without mycorrhizae. BUT! And here gomes the important part for every Bonsai grower: Some desidius trees and all CONIFERS dont have those all importand fine roots and are there for tottaly dependent on Mycorrhiza for there survivel!!!
What those Mycorrhizae do for its host? Wel it absorbs nutrients such as phosphorus and magnesium and brings it directly to the plant roots. Here, they exchange the nutrients they’ve collected for some sugar. It’s a fair trade, and both sides benefit greathly from it for many millions of years now. The Mycorrhiza treads can absorb even the finest water particles in the soil and deliver them to the fine tree roots! These absorption tree roots can only absorb water trough osmosis (pressure differences). With too little water, those fine roots just cant do their job! But the Mycorrhiza can and there for are the best stress manigers for all plants, they help to deal with large variations in temperature, soil conditions and therefore also dehydration!
Additionally, the Mycorrhizae help plants out in a whole bunch of other ways. Mycorrhizae hardence and helps to protect their plants against diseases, salt and toxins. Mycorrhizae can also serve as a sugar delivery service when plants shuttle sugar back and forth to different plants connected to the same common Mycorrhizal network. Perhaps most bizarrely of all, the common Mycorrhizal network can also serve as a means for plants to “talk” to each other—an Internet made out of fungus!
Putting it all together!
Mycorrhizae forms an invaluable part of ecosystems around the world, and can be found in some form or another in just about any ecosystem. In many places, whole forests and ecosystems wouldn’t exist at all without their mycorrhizal friends!!!
Tip: When you repot your Pine make sure to collect as many of the very recognisable white Mycorrhizae threads from the root ball and pot that into the rootball in the fresh new soil! This will help the making of a new healthy roots environment enormously!
In short: to all newbies Bonsai friends who read this article: Don’t take just one person’s word or video for the Bonsai truth! Because the number of video views doesn’t show if anyone is a knowledgeable Bonsai authority or not! But their Bonsai/work often dos! Look things up in books and online or watch video from people that truly know what they are talking about! Join a Bonsai Club and talk, ask and learn there from the people with experience and Bonsai that clearly show that they understand Bonsai!
Cheers and stay safe,
Hans van Meer.
Note: that for me to get it all just right and in proper understandable words I used parts of it from free to use sources! If I can find the right info, so can you! 😉
The Little Bonsai from this story was a wonderful gift from my dear British friend Terry Foster when I stayed at his home many many years ago! He pointed out some, especially in those early days, amazing Yamadori Blackthorns and said: pick one!🥳 So, of course, I went for the odd one out! This little wonder of nature must have been suffering from prevailing winds from the sea and that forced him to grow upwards in a spiral-like way like one of those old barber pools from yesteryear! And above that, it had amazing old wrinkled bark and deadwood that makes his crown look like an Ant Queens head! So my choice was made! This Blackthorn in this small pot is a slow grower and it took a very long time to create these branches and foliage but it is slowly getting there!Heigt: 30cm/12inch.
During my last week search trough, thousands of foto’s I came across some forgotten foto’s I made of the first styling of a Yamadori Juniperus sabina I did way back in 2004. This tree was a gift from my old Bonsai friend and highly regarded college Serge Clement from Switzerland. He gave it to me right after that years Noelanders Trophy and it was if I remember it well used as a demo tree by one of the other demonstrators that year?!
Below: At home the next day I removed all the copper wire and then this Sabina is basically needly cleaned virgin material again! It now was pretty basic material with a nice Shari running along its trunk.
Below: The biggest problem that I faced was that the long base of the tree that was growing from the front of this container to the back of the container where it finally decided to grow upwards, but still away from us, and it would take some heavy bending to make it more compact and interesting!Basically, that top needs to be placed above that section were the trunk appears from the soil!
First, the whole top was tightly wrapped with a layer of in water-soaked Raffia and then lengths of aluminium wire were placed lengthwise on the outside of the to make heavy bend. Then the other layer of wet raffia was applied over it all and only then was I able to slowly and safely but with great force bring the whole top section in its new place!
Now fast-forward some 8 years to the year 2012 at the last edition of dear friend Tony Tickles famous/infamous Burrs Bonsai weekend experience where I was once again one off the lucky teachers. My friend Mickey from the UK who the year before became the new care tacker of this tree was also there and had brought along the Sabina of this story to further improve it. A college teacher had told the disappointed owner Mickey (bellow) that it would be difficult to bend the thick and old trunk that fare. So realy motivated we first tightly applied a layer of in water-soaked Raffia and then a few lengthwise placed 4 mm copper wires on the outsides of the curve and then another layer of Raffia and then normal wiring on top of that. And then we together slowly bended the whole top section from the back side (see picture) to the front side of that trunk without any trouble. Micky had the time of his live! 😊 I wonder how they both are doing and I hope fine and healthy! 👍😊
Above: before bending with owner Micky. I am so excited!!!😬😁
Above: Sucses! The whole top is compleatly on this (front) side of the trunk now!But because of all the heavy bending, the fine wiring would be done later when the tree shows she is healthy and without any ill effects or weakness from what we have don! Patience is an important basic tool we all need in this hobby/art form!The deadwood was treated with Lime Sulfur to bleach it and to protect it.