The emergency repotting of my 5 trunk raft Winterberry “Ilex verticillata” in a special way!

A few days ago I happily started to give my 5-trunks raft Winterberry or Ilex verticillata 5 trunks raft its yearly springs haircut when I noticed to my horror that many small and some ticker branches had died during last year’s reasonably mild winter?! So I had no other choice than to get him out of its beautiful “Isabelia” pot to look if something was wrong with the roots?! And what I discovered was that a lot of the older soil was not all removed during its last repotting and had become compact and socky underneath the large base! Many other roots that did have room had become long, leggy and without many feeder roots circulated the whole pot!

Below: Jan. 2018. The tree in better times during the yearly “New Years” toast at “DESHIMA” Bonsai centre (NL). I was also very proud that he was selected to shine in the prestigious Noelanders Trophy (B) later that same year!

My handmade “air pruning” plastic pot.
Some months ago I discovered to my surprise that for no apparent reason a lot of the smaller and even some thicker branches had died back on my 5-trunk Winter Berry (Ilex verticillate) raft. So I took it out of its pot and discovered that the very compact rootball had a lot of very strong fleshy long ones growing around the outside and dos smothering the smaller important feeder roots and blocking the holes in the bottom of the pot! I had noticed a few of these long useless thick roots before during an earlier repotting and simply removed them! He was doing just fine back then and showed no ill effects after the removal of those roots?! So to get the tree back to that former so obviously good health I must stop these useless killer roots from coming back! So I decided to make my own special homemade “air pruning pot” for it to grow in for a season or two! Because, when plants/trees are growing in a pot that allows the air to penetrate through the holes in its walls, like in the makeshift plastic mash pot that I made, roots will never grow to that length and/or thickness. Why do you ask? Because as they grow and reach the bottom and the sides of the pot, they are naturally pruned (dried up) by the air, which forces the plant/tree and Bonsai to sprout new, fresh roots that in turn penetrate deep into the depths of the soil. I had an old open-structure plastic food/fruit crate that has just the right sizes! I covered the inside with the famous black gauze we use to cover the holes in our pots with! 1 mm wires were used to hold it in place. Below: The finished makeshift open-air Bonsai container!

Below: The new air pot and behind it the poor Ilex and in the background two other trees waiting for their turn.

Below: In its new pot just after watering until the water that runs through was clear.

I placed her in a warm and sunny spot and hope that she will recover back to her former health! More re-pot stories will follow soon!

“DESHIMA” Bonsai Centre: Ir Lelystraat 44 2912 CH Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel. The Netherlands.

teunisjan@deshimabonsai.nl  https://www.deshimabonsai.nl/ https://bonsaishop.nl/

Some more Spring repotting.

Below: This shohin Yamadori Yew (Little Terry) was collected in Walles! It lives in a Brian Albright pot. He has been with me since the mid-nineties… almost three decades now! It was a gift from my dear old friend Terry Foster (UK). Terry and Tony Tickle were very important in my early Bonsai life and I am very grateful for all that they did for me out of pure unselfish friendship! 🙏👍

Below: My old Acer palmatum deshojo in the middle of her yearly haircut. She has been with me right from the start of my Bonsai life in 1990 and has since almost doubled in size!

Below: My Literati Hawthorn that I collected in the mid-nineties on a collecting trip with Tony Tickle in Walles. I have been fortunate to show her in many big Shows like “Noelanders Trophy” and “Ginkgo Awards” both in Belgium. It now lives for more than two decades in this beautiful pot by my dear old friend Brian Albright (UK).

More soon! Cheers,

Hans van Meer.

Repotting my BIG Larch (XL) against better judgement!

Although he was and still is doing just fine, in several places some long leggy roots had grown above ground that needed attention! So I just wanted to make sure that the pot is not full of these kinds of unwanted roots! It is a large tree in a heavy pot filled with at least 5 bags of Akadama and 10 meters to cross to the place where I repot/work! And now imagine the ego of a proud 61 years old former weight lifter with a bunch of back hernias and weak knees! Well, tree and pot made it alright…I didn’t! It was just too much on my knees (I need new ones soon) and my .. back hurt like a mother…! So today my hurt ego thought: let’s repot him! So I lifted it again, but with attitude now and got that job done. But now I had to free the tree from its years-long home using root hooks, old cake knives and screwdrivers! And that was not as easy as it may sound! It took me more than an hour to create a ditch around the tree. And by laying my left hand on the rim of the pot holding it down, while I with my right hand carefully press backwards against the tree until it is freed from the bottom of the pot! Now I could lift him out of the pot into a large plastic repotting tray. And then start the tedious work of carefully coming out the root and removing the old soil! Long and leggy roots are shortened or removed completely! There are more than enough small roots to assure the tree’s good health. My hurting back and knees were more than happy that I had just enough prepared (sifted) Akadama and Bims leftover from last year’s potting sessions to fill the whole bottom of the pot with, in this case, some 5 cm/2 Inch. Then in the place where the centre of my tree would be, I made with that same soil a small hill of about 10 cm/4 Inch high! Then I place the centre of the tree on top of that hill and start to carefully twist the tree downwards into its desired place! This way you can make sure that all the crevasses underneath the tree are filled with soil! Carefully twist, shift and push until the desired position is reached and fill up the rest of the pot with your soil. And use a chopstick to carefully fill every space in between those roots! Then the wires are tightened some more! Then very anxious and careful for my poor back and knees, he was brought back to its old place where he crew so happy all those years and watered until the water that poured out from the bottom wholes was clear! So I am happy and proud that I made it possible for this tree to stay healthy and happy in my garden for some more years! And who knows what the future will bring…but that’s for later!

Below: XL on the makeshift repotting table.

Below: After he was finally freed from his pot, I carefully combed out her roots and shortened the too-long ones and completely removed the long ones without many small feeder roots on them!

Below: With a chopstick, the soil is carefully pushed and wiggled in between the roots making sure that no air pockets are left!

Below: After all the empty spaces between the roots are carefully filled with soil the tree is watered until the water that runs out of the bottom holes is completely clear! He should now be alright for another 3 or 4 years!

My prayer goes out to the people in Ukraine!

Cheers,

Hans van Meer.

ukraine

Wiring and styling my Yamadori Pinus sylvestris cascade.

The last two days were spent nice and warm indoors in our living room wiring my Scots pine cascade.

It takes this long because I can’t stand too long on my feeds these days! It was collected 10 years ago in Slovenia by me and my Slovenian friends. It took a lot of time and heavy wiring to bring that falling branch to this desired position! But now it is fixated, so only the thinner branches now needed wiring to stay in place! I like this design and I hope to find a real special cascade pot for it in the future!

I hope you like what I have created this fare?

Cheers,

Hans van Meer.

Bonsai Tip: Using tubing to prevent wire from cutting into a branch.

And then now another (I hope) helpful tip! A lot of us use aquarium tubing (see the picture!) to prevent the wire from digging into the bark of the tree when we are bending thick branches toward each other with the help of a tension wire between those two branches!

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See the example below: Imagine that the right side tubing is bent around a tree trunk or branch! And now we want to bend that left side tubing just like the right side around a trunk or branch, but then we have a problem because we can’t stick the wires through the tube to tighten them together (red arrow)?!

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Below: Well here is the solution to that problem! With the help of a concave cutter (see the picture!) cut out a small bite off one side of the tub!

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Below: So that you are left with a piece of tube that looks like this (see the picture!)!

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Below: Now you do can run both ends of the wire through both ends of the tube en run them through the hole you just cut out! Slide the tube down the wire as tightly against the bark as possible and with a tong twist both ends of the wire as tight as necessary to bend and hold the two branches or two trunks in position!

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Hope this will help you!

Cheers,

Hans van Meer.

Bending a thick pine branch with cheap and easy to use sisal rope!


Now I know that I wrote before about using 5mm thick household sisal rope instead of raffia or burlap to protect the branch that you want to bend from breaking! Well, they say: the proof is in the pudding! So here we go: I had to wire a mature thumb-thick branch on my old White Pine (Pinus parviflora) from China and then bend it a lot! So I had to protect it from cracking, but I was oud off Raffia?! But I did find half a ball of sisal rope more than enough to protect that branch with two tightly wind layers of sisal on top of each other. Then this now with sisal protected right branch was wired with 4 mm aluminium wire and then slowly bent pretty severely to become almost a back branch! All without any trouble whatsoever! So my advice: always have some sisal 5 mm rope around as a backup!
Cheers and stay safe everybody,
Hans.

P.S.: Below is a link to the YouTube channel of “Love Bonsai” where I for the first time saw a lovely and strong Chinees female Bonsai artist protect the thickest of branches with sisal rope and then wire them with aluminium wire! And boy did she bend them and never brake one!!! Go have a look!!!👍👍👍

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkCqvi9lTv3_yVE4ctvDYPA/videos

Cheap and easy to use alternative for Raffia.

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 chance 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, wired and bent without 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 place or fragile tree!

Cheers, and stay safe!

Hans van Meer.

Update on the one Sabina Juniper that became two Sabina’s Junipers Yamadori.

Remember my earlier post from 2018 where I with a saw separated one Sabina Juniper Yamadori into two Sabina’s?! I 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 the middle of 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 starting styling them both further!

I hope you like my ideas for these two Sabinas?!

Cheers, and stay safe everybody!

Hans van Meer.

Update pictures of my windswept Yamadori Taxus.

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 ones!


Below: After some hard work finally freed from its crushing heavy load!

Below: Spring 2010. After a scary time when 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 her bottom upwards! With all-new branches on and 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 doesn’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 its new 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 went during this time from pinky thick to wrist-thick…amazing!

Below: This is how she looks after all the unusable branches were removed!

Below: 17-9-2020. And this is how she looks today. A windswept Yew. Besides some guidewires, there is not much wire on it at this moment. The future plan 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 protruding long Jin is proof of just how fears and devastating these winds are! In the near future when all the now still young branches are more mature and a bit fuller with small foliage, the outline of the foliage pads and the total outline image will be much 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 through 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.


I hope you like it?!

Cheers, and stay safe everybody!

Hans van Meer.

8 years in the life of my Prunus mahaleb Yamadori.

In late March 2012, I was invited by my dear new friends from beautiful Slovenia to come collect 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 there 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 were over many years roughly cut back which 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 them!

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 pieces of wire the carefully bend down branch is held in 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 chance 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 create 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 the tree is ready to be shown.

Below: 13-7-2020. The contrast in this close-up between the colours of the amazing natural deadwood and the shining 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.