First impressions from the “KEI BONSAI KAI” exhibition in Belgium.

Hi everybody,

today is the Sunday after my visit to the long-awaited “KEI BONSAI KAI” exhibition that my dear old friends Danny Use his wife Ingrid and their amazing club members staged last Saturday in their famous Bonsai Centre “GINKGO” in Laarne Belgium! Danny staged this unique Bonsai show to commemorate the first friendships that were made when he, almost 20 years ago, staged his now legendary first “Ginkgo award back in 1997! In February this year, some 10 years after the last “GINKGO” Award was staged, friends from these early hours and from all around Europe were called by Danny and were to their surprise invited to exhibit there by now matured work at this “KEI BONSAI KAI” exhibition and one of them was little old me! So I prepared 4 of my show-worthy Bonsai for this one-off show, from which 2 Hawthorns had to be cancelled because they were attacked by insects that caused bums on most of the foliage! But XL my big Yamadori Larch and Wolfie my Mugo Pine were show worthy! On the Friday before the show, both trees, tables and other accessories were carried into my car to arrive some 2 hours later at the “Ginkgo Bonsai centre”! I had not seen Danny and Ingrid for almost 10 years, but was greeted by them as if we had seen each other only yesterday…..that was very heartwarming!!! We have a long and intense history together and it was good to see and feel that nothing has changed since then!!! From all sides, Danny’s helpers jumped out to help me lift the big Larch and heavy table chest onto trolleys and they drove them for me past the hundreds of stunning Bonsai that were already on display…..I was immediately amazed by all their quality!!

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Danny had saved a beautiful Tokonoma for my big Larch and it was the first time for me to be able to do that!!! Creating my composition in this special space was a first for me and therefore very exciting and a real honour! As you can see here, I am happy with the way it all looks! And I am especially proud that this is a Bonsai from a tree that I collected myself all those years ago and that almost all branches and the top section were created from nothing! Later that evening my friend Mario Komstra, for who I have the highest regard, discussed with me this tree and he gave me an honour that surpasses for me every award there is to win! He called this old larch a Bonsai and an important European tree! Coming from him, I think this tree and me did all right up to now! But he also pointed out that there are still things that could and should be improved! Like the thickness of some of the branches and the top trunk section and maybe a shallower pot in the future! Points are taken Mario and thanks for the discussion and talk we had…you are an inspiration in many ways my friend and I do hope to visit you sometime, when things are better!!! 😉

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This is a picture of the second Bonsai that I brought along with me! This is “Wolfie” the Mugo pine that I swapped so many years ago with another old friend Wolfgang Putz when my dear friend Tony Tickle (UK) and I visit him in his beautiful place in Austria! The beautiful accent stone is yet another gift from another old Bonsai friend from the UK, Terry Foster!

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It was very intense and hot work building up my compositions underneath all that glass of the greenhouses that make up a large section of the “GINKGO” Bonsai centre! So I was glad to be able to sit down with my old friend Danny and my new friend, the very talented Frederic Chenal from France! This picture is taken in front of Danny’s unique “Route 66” roadhouse music bar that is built right in the middle of his Bonsai centre! Above the entrance, you can see one of Danny’s many hotrod bikes that he collects along with all kinds of paraphernalia that has to do with it! You got to love this guy!!! 🙂

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Across from the roadhouse, above the entrance and the pay desk, there are loads more of Danny’s collected stuff! Ranging from petrol pumps to children’s miniature cars and bikes!

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More to the left even more collected stuff! Just underneath this, you can see the entrance to space where Danny’s students made a very inspiring exposition of Bonsai in the dark!

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Imagine this composition in complete darkness, which was impossible to capture with my camera, because it kept on using its flashlight! But I hope you get the idea. It was all so inventive and uniquely made, really breathtaking and inspiring!

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And here is another picture I made in that dark room! just look at that amazing old wood they used to create that Tokonoma and the contrast it makes with that modern lighted base where the Bonsai stands…great stuff!!!

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Lunch among friends during the show on Saturday. Danny is here telling the great story, of how he, me, Ludo and Carlos drove all through the UK to convince and invite artists like Colin Lewis, Harry Tomlinson, Dan Barton, Salvatore, John Hanby and Marco Invernizzi to come to the first “GINKGO AWARDS” in 1997! We drove about twice the distance then was really necessary and the way that happened is a classic story that still makes everybody who hears it laugh! It was good to hear about the adventures Danny and I had all those years ago! I am so glad we got reacquainted again and that nothing has changed, besides the colour of our hair and the shape of our bellies!! 🙂 He and Ingrid are indeed great friends and I am very grateful that I had the chance to spend this wonderful weekend with them again!!! Thanks, Danny, Ingrid and all who made this wonderful show possible…..and I will see you soon!!!

In the next couple of days, I will work on a video that I shot of this great event and of all the wonderful trees on display! This is a first for me so it might take me a while….but watch this space for the link!

I was smiling when writing this! Bonsai, Bonsai friends and everything that’s got to do with it is so special and uplifting! I wish the whole world could do it! Keep them small!!


Hans van Meer. 



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