Bonsai Tutorials: downsizing the image of a full-size tree into a compact miniature Bonsai version.

Hi, everybody,

I wanted to tackle the subject of downsizing the image of a full-size tree into a compact miniature version. Off course Bonsai is not the simple copying of trees from nature, but to understand how it works can help you to realize your own ideas. I will use an imaginary example of a 50 cm/20 Inch high Bonsai and will, later on, use two of my own Bonsai of that same hight to make things clear!

After surging the web, I have found a wonderful dark silhouette image of a tree to use as an example. 


The above silhouette gives use enough info we need to recognize what it is. Even without the wooden bench underneath the tree, we can figure out how tall, big and fare away from us this tree is. So if we use these same features that give us all that info in our Bonsai, we will at least end up with the right proportion in our little tree. And that is not a bad start, believe me!


Above: So here is the silhouette of this tree more clearer to see. I have removed the two small branches that were growing low on the trunk, to make things clearer to see. And while I was at it, I planted the tree in a Bonsai pot. Looks good already, doesn’t it?


Above: The yellow dots show the outlines of the frame/skeleton of this tree. This design as Bonsai would be about 20 inch/50 cm high and material with a trunk and branches like this can easily be purchased from any Bonsai dealer that imports Acer palmatum or Ulmus but for example, a Beech or Hawthorn would do just as easily! But the amount of foliage you see here would be hard to archive with the too large foliage of most deciduous species we could use to create this image with as a Bonsai. So we should divide the messy foliage into more compact and well-outlined foliage pads. Doing this, we will create more open spaces, that clearly open up the foliage pads from each other.


Above: Here I created some clearer open spaces between the foliage layers. It is the same image, but this time it is doable to shape it as a Bonsai. In principle, you only have to fill those outlined foliage pads with the larger leaves of the species you use to create this image.


Above: Here I filled these foliage pads with the foliage I borrowed from my own Carpinus betulus with exactly the same size as this imaginary Bonsai 50 cm/ 20 Inch. I placed the silhouette and a picture of my Carpinus next to each other and then cut and pasted the foliage onto the silhouette. So the size of this foliage in comparison to the trunk and height are accurate. So as you can see this could already be doable and believable as a Bonsai.


Above: Here I filled those foliage peds with the foliage of my same sized Acer palmatum. Again the size of the foliage is accurate. So again, doable and believable!

Even though like in most Bonsai, the leaves are monstrously big in comparison to the tree image we have created, the outlines of the trunk, branches and foliage pads are correct, making it a believable image that reminds us of the trees we see in nature. Just like the painter, who only uses a few brush strokes to paint all the foliage of a large branch, we sometimes only use a few leaves to create all the imaginary foliage of a large branch.

More tomorrow, I really have to get some sleep now! 🙂

Thanks for listening again,

Hans van Meer.



Bonsai Tutorials: downsizing the image of a full-size tree into a compact miniature Bonsai version. PART II


Note: This has been posted before in Juli 2009

Hi, everybody,

today, while chilling in the warm sun, I thought a lot ( again) about what I wrote the night before about the importance of empty spaces in Bonsai design. And I came to the conclusion that I wanted to share some more of my ideas on this subject with you.

Bonsai is an illusion, a fantasy. Some one’s impression of a full grown tree in nature, that is living in a small pot. The size of the foliage of any plant or tree, in comparison to the height of the Bonsai, will always be way off. No matter what species you use. Still, if the overall appearance of this small tree gives us the impression that we are actually looking at a tree growing in the distance, we all gladly overlook this oddly oversized foliage. And that is because the artist is creating a believable illusion! He downscaled the tree, making sure that were possible all the proportions between the trunk and the branches mimic the growth of a large tree! And that is just the area were empty spaces play such a prominent part!  As long as the silhouette or outline of your Bonsai tells a believable story, you can get away with a lot of illogical things, like oversized foliage.


Top left: I have drawn a  silhouette of a branch to make things clearer. But off course, the same thing goes for a whole tree! Imagine that this is the outline of a branch that fits perfectly into your  Bonsai design. It has some very beautiful and informative open spaces, that divide the foliage layers in a way that is very pleasing to look at. And at the same time. they give us a lot of information about the size of this branch. It is a well-balanced branch, compared with the overall image and size of your Bonsai and it shows the story you like to tell!

The light green open space, tells us that this branch is growing down from the trunk. Giving us clues about the size and age of the tree and what species it is or style it is shaped in.

The darker green open space, tells us there are separate layers of foliage in this branch. A sign of maturity and age. But they also give us a clue of the distance, between us and the tree we are looking at, making it easier for us to calculate how tall this Bonsai image is meant to look in comparison to a tree in nature!

The top brown open space, almost pushes the branch down, like a load of invisible snow. Emphasizing the downward movement of this branch. While the bottom brown open space is supporting the weight of this branch.

Top right: Your perfect branch silhouette filled with the foliage of a Juniper Itoigawa. This foliage is very small and allows you to bring much detail in this branch.

Bottom left: Your perfect branch silhouette filled with the foliage of an Acer Buergerianum. These leaves are relatively small and show great detail.

Bottom right: Your perfect branch silhouette filled with the relatively short needles of a Pinus Sylvestris.


Top left: Your perfect branch silhouette.

Top right: Your perfect branch silhouette filled with the relatively longer needles of a Pinus Densiflora. with foliage of this size, you only use a few needle clusters to fill out your wanted silhouette.  With a lot of trans parity, to keep it light. But even in this case, where the size of the needles is way out of proportion, the all-important outline of the foliage ped tells the same story as with the smaller foliage!

Bottom left: Your perfect branch silhouette filled with the very small foliage of a Buxus, Ulmus or Olive. Again this means you can bring more detail into your branch, but the outline stays the same!

Bottom right: Your perfect branch silhouette filled with the relatively larger leaves of a Fagus.

Peaking through your eyelashes helps to see the outline of your work easier!

 The outlines of this branch give us a lot of information about what we are looking at, like size, height and type of tree or style. They help us to understand what the Bonsai artist wants us to see. So Bonsai is a lot of silhouetteisme (if that’s a word?). And empty spaces are vital to bringing detail and info into a silhouette!

I hope this all makes sense? It is not an exact science, they are just my thought and it is so hard to explain my ideas like this, so I sure hope they come over a bit?!

Again it is 4 in the morning, I spent 3 hours on this PPFFFF! I am off to bed!

I will try to write some more tomorrow!

Thanks for listening,

Hans van Meer.








Hi, everybody,

I like to make/create new things out of everything that lies or grows around in my garden. In early March I planted a small Alpine plant on a beautifully shaped rock from the U.K.  HERE 

A couple of night ago, it must have been around midnight after a long and hot day, I was chilling in the back of my garden, laying on a sunbed listening to some roots reggae. It was pretty dark and because I only had a small lamp burning behind me, only a small part of my garden was visible against a dark background. Then I found my self looking for a long time at the rock planting from this post. Because I was lying down, my eyes were at the same height as the rock planting. That stood, only 2 meters away, on my workbench in front of me. There is so much to see in this simple composition, things that are so important in a successful Bonsai design as well, that I could not stop looking to analyse it all! Here are some of the things that struck me, that I would like to share with you all.



Maybe it is a nice idea to look at this picture for a while for yourself and analyse it before you look further! And remember this is not an exercise in beauty or anything like that, it is more a study of principles that are very useful and of great importance in Bonsai design. If you learn to recognize those principles in any design you look at, be it in Bonsai, painting, sculpture or architecture! It will be easier to create things of beauty your self and you will appreciate and or understand the work of others much more. I am not a big fan of over-analyzing Bonsai, but sometimes it is very interesting to find out why certain things work and others don’t! Being accustomed to these principles, that you can find in this simple rock planting, will help you in better understanding and creating your own Bonsai as well as analyzing others their work!


To make things more visible and clearer I have drawn an outline around the subject. Immediately curtain things become more visible and obvious. Do you see them?

But first, this: I don’t know if there is any proper word for it? But I like to call it “the natural viewing direction”. If you look at the above picture, what do you see first? If you learned to read from left to right, most likely the plant on the left side! Now you might think, so what?! Well, now look at the picture below that is flipped over horizontally. 


Well, what did you see first now? The arched part of the stone on the left, right? We tend to look at everything from the left to the right, but why is that important to Bonsai design? Look at the next two pictures and see how our visual habits play tricks with us.


This above original image of a stunning cascading Pine is a perfect example of a tree that is in perfect balance with the pot it grows in. The table ( in real life longer than in this picture) and the pot on the left, are the first thing we see when we look at this Bonsai. They together occupy the same space on the left half, as the foliage mass of the tree those on the right side. Even the empty space ( green arrow) on the left,  is about the same size as the empty space under need the right bottom branch. Like I said, perfect balance! Now, look what happens when I flip over the image of this perfect balanced Bonsai!


Some difference Huh! The first thing you see now, when you look at this tree, is the now to heavy, foliage mass. And even though everything is the same as in the original picture, the balance seems to be lost. It almost seems like the pot is too small to hold the tree upright! So knowing this phenomenon helps us when we decide in what direction we wish to style a Bonsai or what size and style of pot to use to balance the image or when we are working on our Bonsai display for an exhibition. Imagine a tall slanting tree, that can be styled, growing to the left or growing to the right. If we want the foliage of this future Bonsai to be the focal point, from where the eye travels downwards the trunk to the pot. It should be styled growing to the left side. If we want the pot to be the first thing that is knottiest, from where the eye follows the trunk upwards toward the foliage of the Bonsai, it has to be styled growing to the right side!

OK back to the rock planting and its empty/negative spaces!


That same night in my garden, but one beer later, I started to admire all the empty spaces surrounding this stone, that make it so special! If you divide this image, from top to bottom into the half, you could see how similar both halves are, yet the left side has a plant growing, where the right side has nothing but empty/negative space! Still, the empty green space on the right side is occupying the same space as the plant on the left balancing it out. Even the empty/negative space on the left bottom side is similar to the one in the right top side. So if you look at all these empty/negative spaces surrounding this rock planting,  you can see how important this often misunderstood and a bit abstract principle really are! Is it the actual shape of this stone itself or is it the empty/negative spaces surrounding it, that gives us a true sense of what it looks like? A specially when used properly in Bonsai, these empty spaces will give us so much information about vital things like size, distance and age of the tree we are looking at, that I dare to say that they are properly the most important part in Bonsai designing.  Picture this: you have just reached the top of a small hill (green arrow), and in the distance growing slightly below you, you can, despite the fading light, just make out the silhouette of a distance tree. You are looking straight ahead at this distance tree,  and your eyes are looking at a point about 20/25% from the top. Just like we are used to doing, when we look at a Bonsai, only on a smaller scale! 



Above: So what can this silhouette of a distance tree tell us? The empty spaces in this silhouette show use were the branches are placed and how long they are and how they grow and how many there are and from what height they start growing and how much space is between all the branches in comparison with the thickness of the trunk. In an instant, all this info is then sent to the brain. And this brain will compare this to all the memories we have of trees similar to this silhouette we see in the distance. The link is quickly made and then we have a pretty good idea of what kind of tree it might be, so we then know how long it probably is, from which we can deduce how far away it is growing from the point where we are standing! Do you get my point? If these similar empty spaces are well used in your Bonsai design, the brain of the viewer will recognise them, just like in the open field and it will tell him exactly from what distance and height he is watching your Bonsai image of a distant natural looking tree! Because they give us important information about the scale the artist is working in, a Bonsai should never be without some empty spaces among the branches and foliage. The proper use of empty spaces is invaluable for a believable and natural looking Bonsai!

It is not one good branch, nor is it two. It is the space in between them that is important!

I hope you don’t mind me rambling on like this, but I have a lot of time to kill and not much else to do than thinking! So why not share my thought with you all! It is half past 3 in the morning now so I will finish my “Screwdriver” and then it is off to bed! I will share some more of my idea with you tomorrow if that’s OK that is?  

Hans van Meer.


A short “Crataegus” story.


Hi, everybody,

in November 2006, my dear friend Tony Tickle invited me to come to England to do the (now famous) all weekend “BURRS” workshop. I arrived a few days before all that fun would start because Tony would take me and Morten into the beautiful “Wells” mountains for a walk and to try to find some collectable “Crataegus” yamadori. Well, I got very lucky when I discovered a small one with a lot of potential! I have no pictures of the actual collecting of the tree, but this is the view from that same place where the “Hawthorn” of this story was found and without much trouble collected by me.


She grew on a steep mountainside in soil, consisting of almost nothing else than small rocks and gravel, from which I could almost entirely collect her with nothing more than my bare hands (that looked and felt like they had been looking for a pin in a pin stack)! Never the less, she had managed to grow surprisingly good roots, with a lot of small feeder roots growing close the base of the trunk. So I could cut the to larch roots back without causing to much harm to the health of the tree. From experience, I know that next Spring the tree will react to this hard root and branch cut back, with much growth of small feeder roots, that will secure the health of the tree, during this time it is recovering from the stress caused by collecting it and potting it. As soon as the tree was lifted from the ground the bare roots were wrapped in wet sphagnum moss and then put into a plastic bin bag that was tightly wrapped with plastic tape. Early next day at the venue in “BURRS” my good friend Terry Foster helped me to plant the tree in a plastic training pot, making sure that the tree was firmly secured to the bottom with aluminium wires. The Hawthorn stayed in Tony’s care during that winter. He placed the tree in his greenhouse on a heating bed. In February the following year, Tony came, just like me and many others, to the “Noelanders trophy” in Belgium to show his Bonsai and to meet up with all our bonsai friends from all over Europe that come there every year as well. He kindly brought along my Hawthorns I collected and so after the show they finally came home with me to my little garden in Holland. The Hawthorns ( I collected two) were placed in my greenhouse for protection during the rest of that Winter. In Spring I was delighted to see that the trees literally burst out with new buds all over. I removed all the buds that were unnecessary for my design from the trunk, simply by rubbing them off with my fingers. Leaving unwanted buds to grow will take the strength away from other more important buds and will leave unwanted scares in your trunk. The tree was allowed to grow freely the next growing season, in a semi-shaded place in my garden. In the next picture from August that year, you can see that she was doing really well and I knew then that I could safely give it here first styling at the end of the winter before the buds start swelling.


    And this is how the tree looked in February 2008 before the work started.


OK, before I start to work: have a look at the next two pictures of the front and back of the tree and try to discover the future  design I discovered in this little “Hawthorn”

                                Have you found it? This is what I have in mind:

To reach this ideal profile or frame, I had to do some major branch cutting! Always trying to leave as little wounds as possible, where there was no room for some deadwood/Shari on the trunk.  

As you can see in the pictures below, the yellow cuts were not much of a problem to do, but the red cut was a bit harder to reach with cutters or normal saw!  


First, all the excess branches were cut off, so I could get a  good firm hold on the tree, while I was sawing away, without pricking myself a thousand times! Then, with the help of a very sharp small bladed woodcutters knife, that is used by foresters, I was able to remove the thick branch in one go.

 Then one by one and bit by bit all the other useless branches were cut back.

A  large branch cutter, like  I use here, is a priceless tool for this kind of work! It makes a clean cut in one go, without placing to much sideways force on the tree and roots, like a saw or power tool does. No matter how good you think you hold the tree in place!

Slowly, with every cut, the new shape of this tree is revealed! All wounds are worked over with concave cutters to promote better wound healing. So that in a few years,  the tree is left with large, but natural looking scares, that can be seen on every Hawthorn here on the coastline.

After all the wounds were cut back sufficiently, they were sealed with cut paste. The large wound on the left of the tree (middle picture) is cut back to about 2,5 cm/1 inch of the truck. In the future, this stump will be worked into a small Jin + Shari or maybe only a   Shari? But this work is left for the future! Because doing it now and then leaving such a large open scare, right on the trunk line, could cause die back in the trunk! Every large wound that is left exposed to the elements; will dry/die back,    interrupting the sap flow between roots and branches! Which could kill your branches and roots or even your whole tree! Because I left the bark on this little stump, it will stay alive for a long time, preventing the possibility of trunk die/dry back!  The tree will probably even throw out a bunch of strong shouts along the rim of the wound, the tree’s own bandage! A sign the tree’s sap stream is pumping along the wound. Only after the tree has shown these signs of full recovery, will I start to take that stump away, bit by bit.

Below: Now only the top needs to be shortened right above the second right                              small branch leaving some room for the die/dry back! 


For now, I’m really pleased with the outcome of this little Hawthorn, I love it’s movement and bark texture. I am really looking forward, to next season to see where all the buds will appear! If I’m lucky they will grow just about where I need them.  And if not….who cares? Together, we will think of something.

I hope you liked what I did so far? And I will keep you all posted on this little tree’s progress.


Hans van Meer.




Hi, everybody,

On Wednesday 6 February    I was invited to do a (short) demo at the monthly evening club meeting of the B.A.B (Bonsai Association Belgium). This great club, which was founded by Bonsai master Mark Noelanders is responsible for staging the now famous yearly “Noelanders trophy”  in Zolder Belgium. That’s why I know most of their members for many years now and I enjoyed myself immensely in this home away from home for me (and I like their beer).

I demonstrated on a Juniperus “media Phitzeriana Aurea” that I have been preparing for this first major styling for many years now! I found this tree in the cemetery where my dear old Mother I visit every week. The little tree was dug up from the ground with an excavator when some of the older graves were emptied. It laid there above ground, almost completely bare-rooted and frozen solidly for weeks on end. So I went to the caretaker and asked him what was going to happen to this old tree? He told me that it would be destroyed with all the other scrubs that were pulled from the ground, as soon as the ice was gone from the ground so that they could use their trucks again. So I asked him if I could save the trees live to make a Bonsai out of it? Luckily he gave me permission! Then I happily even managed to lift it onto my shoulders as well! But getting it into my car was something else! Man the place was like an ice rink and it looked more like skating than walking, but I made it to my car safely! I planted the tree in the pot it still is in now and from then on I gave it a lot of love and care. All the 8 or 9 years up to this demo were used to get the foliage to grow closer to the trunk and to get the same type of mature soft foliage on the whole of the tree’s foliage. Because the tree was so severely cut back when it was removed from the ground it had made a lot of immature and prickly foliage on the lower branches, it took me a lot of time to correct that stress response. This more than 60 years old tree is of a strange variety that reacts very poorly to the normal techniques I have used on other Juniperus Phitzeriana trees. Even the bark is of a strange greyish/light brown colour. So this tree was well prepared for this demo and was doable in the 3 hours I was supposed to have for my demo, but after Mark was through with the introductions and stuff, I was left with just 2 and a half hours! So I explained to the audience that this would be the first real styling of this prepared tree and then started to wire the tree like a mad man. During my work, I explained how the tree was prepared to reach this point. I even managed to get some important deadwood work done to enhance the movement of the trunk and then quickly brought the main shape into the branches. I ended just in time and was happy that I was able to show this first stage in this future bonsai in this short time. Because there was no time to do fine wiring, the final image looks still rough, but you can see clearly where this tree is going in the future. I did a demo 5 years earlier here at this club on a yamadori Pine (last small picture). I made a drawing then to show how I was going to try to style this tree and how it would look in the future. I brought this same demo Pine tree I made then to this demo, together with the original design drawing. It was good to see and hear the positive reactions from the people when they saw that it is possible to make a future bonsai at a demonstration! I promised to show this Juniper at their club in about 5 years. But I hope to be back sooner here in this friendly club,   

                           Above: The tree before the 2,5-hour demo started.

Above: Waiting anxiously for Mark (on the right) to stop talking so that I could begin my introduction talk and stylings work!

Above: Yes finally and now it is wiring like a madman to get finished in time!

             Above: close inspection from the knowledgeable club members!

                     Above: Only the main branches were wired to safe time!

Above: Than Jin and Shari were reworked or created, especially the straight right Jin needed work to give it some movement!

Above: Then wiring the last few branches so that I could start the actual styling of the whole image!

Above: Bringing all the branches and foliage into the desired position.

                     Above: And then a well deserved very cold Belgium beer!


Above: The end result for now. Note that no fine wiring was done so I was actually very pleased with how the tree looked despite that! And note the optical trick I did to give that completely straight Jin some visual movement! Not bad for only 2,5-hour!

Above: On the right the drawing that I made 5 years ago for the first styling of this Mugo Pine Yamadori that I did here at this club and on the left how this Bonsai (named Z) look to date. Looks pretty close to the original design…he said a bit proud! 🙏👍 I enjoyed myself immensely again at Mark’s very friendly club and I hope to be invited again in the future?!                 


Hans van Meer.                 




Hi, everybody,

I can clearly remember the day that Danny User asked me to demonstrate at his 2007 “Ginkgo award”! He called me (which he never those) at work and asked if I had something to do in September next year? And if not, would I like to demonstrate at his next and last “Ginkgo awards”? He knocked me right off my feed and I accepted full-hearted YES!!! The “Ginkgo award” holds a special place in my heard and to demonstrate there is and was a dream come true for me, so I could not be any happier!

Two days before the event I drove to Danny and Ingrid Bonsai Centre “Ginkgo” in Belgium to bring in my 4 bonsai that were selected for the show, and to find a suitable tree for me to demonstrate on among the literary many hundreds of raw material that you can find there. After I brought my Bonsai to where they were photographed for the commemorative “best Bonsai in Europe” book, I headed outside to look among the many hundreds of trees to find an inspiring tree. But even with this many choices, finding a tree among the many that Danny has in his enormous place is not as easy as it might seem! I searched for the right tree as if I was buying it for my own collection. The tree had to appeal to my taste of Bonsai and tickle my imagination at the same time. My demonstration trees always reflect where I’m at that moment in Bonsai and it must always end up looking the same as when I had styled it in my own garden as a future Bonsai for my private collection! A big part of my Bonsai collection today, still consists of my former demo trees. After a long search, I ended up with two possible candidates! Both Yamadori “Yews” from Japan. One with a lot of fantastic deadwood to work on with heavy machines, but almost now foliage to work with. And one with a lot of problems to solve, but enough foliage to work with. They both had a good possibility to demonstrate on and to become a good pre-Bonsai that reflecting my approach, taste and style. Because working on the first tree mend, that I had to be doing wood carving for most of the two-day demonstration, making a lot of noise with my power tools, bothering the other demonstrators and the stand workers that were all in the same big greenhouse with me! So I chose the second tree, it was more challenging for me anyway, with a lot more nice Yamadori problems to solve or incorporate into the design that I envisioned when I first looked at this lovely tree. The tree gave me lots of good Bonsai vibes!

                                 Picture 1: shows the chosen front of the tree.

                    Picture 2: shows me when I just discovered my demo tree.

 Picture 3: shows the very hot demonstration airier. Some big names with on the fare right, U can just see  William “Bill” Valavanis from the USA, next to him Udu Fisher from Germany, next to him Sandro Signeri from Italy and I’m the one on the left and I’m from Holland.

 Picture 4,5,6: The start of my demo, Here I am cleaning and plucking the branches to prepare them for wiring.

Picture 7: here you can see me removing the too long and to highly placed top branches. Leaving some stumps that might be useful later, when I start working on the deadwood design!

Picture 8: Here I am looking where the all-important live lines of the tree are running. I do this with a small sharp chisel, peeling away the bark until I reach the live parts. In this case that was quite difficult to determent, because of the little difference in colour between the life and the dead part. So needless to say: I had to be very careful.

Picture 9: After I was really sure where it was safe to work, I could start working freely, without any fear for the health of the tree in the back of my mind. All I just had to do, was stay in between the lines! I worked with both power tools and hand tools to first remove all the rotted wood and other unwanted parts. Then I just started to free flow, taking bits away, discovering a point of interest or beauty, a Little creating or revealing. But always working very carefully, following the grain of the wood. Gradually I worked towards the point were smaller bits were necessary on my power tool, to create, or reveal more detail in the deadwood. It is advisable to always wear Eye protection and always use a mask! The dust from working on a Yew with power tools is irritating to your eyes and can give you a bad chest pain and cough for days! BELIEVE ME!!! I know what I’m talking about! (ugh ugh) :).

Picture 10, 11,12: My good old friend William van Vlaandre (inventor of the “SAMURAI” power tool bit), gave me one of his specially made power tools, loaded with his biggest “Samurai”, to use on the bigger parts of deadwood at the top of the tree. And it went like a warm knife through butter! Amazing you could make a small canoe out of a big tree in half an hour with this monster! Even the otherwise almost unworkable fresh and therefore wet wood, was no problem! It left a smooth surface! And with some care it was even possible to create more subtle details as well, it worked great! Only both my arms would disagree with these statements, they looked like I had been carrying 3 hedgehogs on fire! LOL! 😬😊

                            Picture 13: More detailed carving on the top “JIN”.

                                  Picture 14: View on the demonstrating area.

Picture 15: The three top branches that would make up the whole top part of the tree, we’re way too thick to be bent with just wire! So they first had to be protected with tight applied layers of in water-soaked Raffia. Than 4 strings of copper wire was placed lengthwise along the part of the branch that needed to be bend. Then another layer of wet Raffia was applied and then some more normal wiring with thick copper wire on top of that layer. Now I was sure that I could bend the branches with minimal risk of harming the tree. It would only need great force!

Picture 16, 17, 18: Now I could safely start, to gradually bend the very tough branches into their desired positions. Taking my time, piece by piece, until I could secure them with the help of some thin copper wire attached to a couple of Jins and one small screw.

Picture 19: After a wild long night playing snooker (pool) with my Bonsai friends and only 4 hours of sleep, I started with the detail wiring of the tree. Trying to keep in pace with the marching band in my head!🥴

Picture 20: Finally the real fun part of styling a tree hat arrived. When I am bringing all the branches into position, I am totally in the zone, I love it, it is magical to almost paint with foliage until I feel it looks good. Trying to create something I like and find beautiful in Bonsai, within the boundaries of what each tree has to offer to me, is always a wonderful experience. To do it on this stage with this valuable material Danny entrusted me with, made it even more elevating and meaningful to me!

Picture 21: Close up of the basic first deadwood on the back part of the tree and the branches.

Picture 19, 20: Some last detail works on the deadwood using a very hard plastic brush, that left a grain-like texture on the still soft fresh part on the top.

Picture 21: YES! Finished and drained, but happy with the result and the beer that was waiting on the other side of the camera!

Picture 22: The final result. I hope you liked this little demo story and the final image of this pre-bonsai? It was, as I said before, a great honour to do! Especially because this was the last “Ginkgo award”! It was a very happy and a bit melancholic experience!


                               My “Ginkgo Award 2007” demonstration tree.

                                A “Taxus cuspidata   Yamadori from Japan.


Hans van Meer.




So let’s look at another design option for Irene’s Yew. Again I start with the same drawing of the frame of the tree, without the branches.  


So now I want to try and see if I can get any movement in this straight tree. I plane to use the right branch, it grows at a nice angle from the trunk and has a nice secondary branch growing on an interesting place. So now I will virtual tilt the tree to the left to create some movement and angles to the tree trunk.


It’s a start, but still not enough movement for my liking!


Now we are talking! I like to create angles in my designs, and I like to have branches, foliage or Jin’s emphasising the movement these angles create. Let me try to explain: the arrow on the left points at the future corner in my trunk design. This is a point were your eye, when you follow the line of the trunk upwards, turns from going left, to going right. If you emphasize this important point with a branch,  foliage or Jin, you will create a place for the eye to stop at, before it travels further upwards. (second arrow)

Those two thick trunks on the left are too straight and without any interest (in this design!). So they must be converted into deadwood,  so they are used to benefit the design.


Here you can see how I might shape the Shari and Jins to emphasize that part where the tree changes direction. I also converted the back branches into Jins. Now I’m going to place the foliage in such a way that brings balance to the overall design. But also in a way that again enhances the movements of the tree!


It is not easy to draw a picture with my mouse, but something like this is what I mean. Now the same tree is transformed in a typical bonsai style. That evokes a completely different feeling than the early-er formal broom style I made.


First, the movement of the tree goes to the left and then where it changes to the right, I created an eye catcher in the form of that Jin. A place for the eyes to stop on there way up the tree and to enhance the change in trunk direction. It also divides the, otherwise to big,    empty space on the left side of the tree, preventing that the tree is being pushed too much to the right and looking unbalanced.


The first branch on the right leans nicely on the empty space that is trapped under-need it (dotted line).  Supporting the tree imaginary, holding it up, and therefore keeping the tree in balance. Empty spaces are one of the most important features for a successful design but are often neglected or misunderstood.

So there you have it, another vision and possibility for “Mom’s Yew”. I will have another idea ready in a few days. We have a lot to think about and a lot of decisions to make! But that is the fun in designing a bonsai.


Hans van Meer.