Some more Spring repotting.

Below: My shohin Yew (Little Terry) collected in Walles in a Brian Albright pot. He has been with me since the mid-nineties… almost three decades! 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 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 this kind of 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 image 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 some 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 wirers are tightened some more! Then very anxious and carefully 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 mutch 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 all carefully filled with soil the tree is watered until the water that runs out off the bottom holes is completely clear! He should now be alright for another 3 or 4 years!

My prayer goes out to the people of 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 in 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 example below: Imagine that the right side tubing is bended 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 cant stick the wirers trough the tube to tightened 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 branch/es 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 that 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 those she bent them and never brakes 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 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!

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 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!

I hope you like my ideas for these two Sabina’s?!

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 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 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 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.


I hope you like it?!

Cheers and stay safe every body!

Hans van Meer.

8 years in the life of my Prunus mahaleb.

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.

Never ever wash out the soil of a healthy Pine!

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!

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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! 😉