I would like to share the story in pictures and words of the first styling of my old Taxus Yamadori! It was ready for it’s first styling at least 2 years ago….but because of my poor state of mind during that time, I did not dare it somehow!? I just could not make up my mind those day’s and my natural ability to see a Bonsai in even a piece of straight wood seemed to be completely gone! So the tree grew and grew and without really realising it, it got better and better! Mind you, this was never an easy tree to design! There was so much going on in this ancient tree and so many thing and possibility are to consider and the longer I waited, the harder it seemed to get to find the tree among all those branches, foliage and amazing but difficult deadwood?! But about a month ago my shutters were finally opened and more of the old me came back…and one of the first things I did was creating a workspace in the open air and pick up this Taxus and without any plans, I started to work like I use to do in the old days! And this is the story of that amazing afternoon in my garden and the birth of a future Bonsai! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did?!
Here are some old pictures from 31-3-2012 when the Taxus was repotted into its present pot. It had grown an amazing amount healthy fine roots and I had no problems repotting it!
Here it is already planted in its new home. I used a mixture with Akadama, Kiryu and Bims. This is what I use with success for all my Taxus and other evergreens! When I was sure that all possible air pockets were filled with soil, I watered until the water that came out from the holes in the pot was clear!
Here it is in its new home just before watering it. Just look at that amazing and unique deadwood that was created when the poor tree was almost cut in half by a large boulder that still covered most of the tree when I found it all those years ago! That covered section amazingly stayed alive for many decades, before it finally died back to leave all this natural deadwood! No matter what, I wanted this artwork from mother nature somehow in my future design…but it would not be easy! In this picture, the branches on the left were not bigger than my pinky and one of them was brought into place to the right to later form the trunk and top out of! And one branch on the bottom left was bend behind the trunk too, in years, end up as a branch just above the long jin on the right side! My plane then was to somehow create a windswept tree! In the following pictures from a few weeks ago, you will see just how fast a healthy yew can grow!!!
The present front side of the tree. How amazing is that?! It has grown into a bush! Some of those branches were almost a meter long and the former pinky thick trunk/top branch is now almost as thick as my wrist! That new trunk needed over the past years a lot of force and heavy copper wire to be bought and held into it’s desired position!
The right side of the tree with a view over the long jin. Just how amazing are all that beautiful deadwood and all those healthy branches to choose from! I can’t wait to go in there to find out!!!
Backside view of the tree. The red arrow points at the back branch that I had let grow from the (here right) front side to end up as a branch over that long jin (here on the left of the red arrow)! That branch had grown at least 50 cm in the last 4 years!
Close up from behind the tree of that same long branch (red arrow). The right red arrow points at were this branch originates from at the front left side! By now I already had my doubts about this branch?! It those not looks naturally and it those not fulfils the purpose I had in mind when I came up with that idea! By now I realise that it would always look man-made and strange…so!!!
Front view. Red arrow: this is the point on the left front side were that same branch grows from, you can just see it disappearing behind the trunk. It just those not look right…right?! The small branches that grow toward us from just below that red arrow look just fine to create the first hanging branch out off!
Red arrow: here that branch is already cut off, leaving a stump to allow die/dry back so that those promising small branches won’t die! Better safe than sorry!
Front side view. Red arrow points at the point were the cut off branch used to be, just above that long Jin. Now there is a more natural open space and a clear view of that unique long Jin!
Red arrow: these branches that grow on the left middle side of the trunk just above the branch that I just cut off, are too straight and grow directly upwards and therefore impossible to bend in a believable way! And they were not needed, there were other branches to fill that gap! So off with their heads!!!
Backside view: The branch I am holding is a useful left or front branch. The left red arrow point at a stump left from the middle right side branch that was already cut off because the right side branch where the right side red arrow is pointing at was better placed on the trunk to fulfil that same purpose! The middle red arrow points at a Jin that is in the way of just that branch and feels very weak …so!!!
Red arrow: Here that Jin is already broken off by hand. As you can see it was just hanging on by a small piece and would probably have been broken in the future anyway!
Front side view again. White arrow points at the future top left branch. Green arrow points at the future top branch. The yellow arrow is pointing at the first right-hand branch. The red arrow points at an in the way front branch stump that was removed. Blue arrow points at a better placed front branch. And the purple arrows point at the long Jin section that is beautiful but in the way of the branches that need to fill that space!
Purple arrow points at the place were the Jin will be cut off with a saw! Leaving enough off it to bring in some strong screws to support the thick copper wirer’s that will be needed to hold down the branches in there place when they are bent down with great force! I know that this is a great looking Jin, but removing it is necessary so that the branches can be brought into their desired position! It will also open up the view to the rest off the dead wood in the back and the branches that otherwise will be hidden! And open space is very important in my Bonsai designs so .. some time you have to break the egg to make an omelette!
So the thick Jin is sawed off with a hand saw. That took some force because Taxus wood is very strong and this piece was very old. Big decisions, but necessary for my design!
Cut off after hard work. Amazing that just a few weeks ago I could not make any decisions or had any ideas or even interest in this work…now I am very happy that this period is behind me…I missed this so much and it was so far out of reach at one point! I’m a happy man!
The cutoff Jin. It was necessary to be removed, but now I find it hard to throw it away!!! Yews make such beautiful deadwood and this piece is so stunning! I will keep it at least for a while to hold it every now and then and use it as a model for my deadwood work or students! I must be getting a bit sentimental at my old age !!! But seriously it those not becomes any easier to decide to remove something old that mother nature has created so wonderfully!
Backside view again. Red arrow points at the just cut off stump. The green arrow points at a nice branch with a large Shari running over the full length off it. Blue arrow point to the spars little tin branches that grow only on the tip of this old branch! Although it is a great unique branch, it can not be used in any way in the design and would even look silly seen from the front! It would always be a long bare branch with some foliage on the tip of it! And bending it is also not an option…believe me, I thought long and hard if there was a way to use it, but there wasn’t! So then you have to make a decision and I did!
Left red arrow: Here you can see from the front how awkward this branch is placed and how strange it looks, it dwarfs the trunk! The top arrow point at the only small branches that grow on the tip of it!
Here the branch is sawed off. I leave a long piece that might be shaped into a Jin, I can always remove it more or completely in the future if necessary!
The sawed-off section. As you can see: it only had a few tin branches growing on the thick tip…but still it wasn’t an easily made decision! Creating a Bonsai often means that you have to make big decisions! If you don’t do that it will bite you in a few years time and life is to short to do that!
Red arrow points at a branch that grows directly opposite to the other one! The other on is important to the design, so this one looses and needs to be cut off!
This Jin is half rotted and loose! It is broken off by hand, this leaves a natural look as if it was always so! this tree has beautifully deadwood everywhere…I am so lucky with this material!!!
Front side of the tree. Most branch selection is now don and I shift my focus for a while to the deadwood sections! There are a lot off distractions in the flow of that long jin that need to be dealt with!
Right side of the tree, looking over that long Jin. Here you can clearly see just how much branches and foliage is removed from the tree! But still there are one or two branches that might have to go when I am bringing it all into the desired positions!?
Back side of the tree. Now that all obscuring stuff and branches are more or less removed, all becomes much more clearer! It now is so much more obvious were I am going to with my plans!
Left side of the tree. In this shot the branch structure is very clear and even the open spaces are nicely visible from this angle! The branches are way to long now, but they will be shortened in the future when there is enough foliage to work with closer to the trunk on those branches. For now there is more than enough foliage removed to keep it safe…the trees health is important now!
Wow just look how much branches and foliage is removed…must be more than 75 %! Now light and air can reach the hundreds of tiny buds and small branches that are on the branches that remain on the tree! I am sure she will do just fine and will recover quickly! Next is the styling of this great tree…but that is for part-II! I hope you enjoyed it so far and join me in the next edition?!
Hans van Meer.