Below: This feminine slender sylvestris that I collected in 2012 with my dear Slovenian friend on my first visit to their beautiful country. It was growing and hanging on for dear life on the very edge of a shifting sandy hill! I had to tippy-toe and work above my head to be able to free her from her place of birth and doom! And now 10 years later she has already become one of my favourite designs! She is so unconventional feminal elegant and yet showing the struggle of her mountain life through her flaky bark, Shari, Jin and strong Nebari (roots) that cling on for dear life! Now starts the hunt for a nice elegant crescent-shaped rock-like pot!
Above: Spring 2008. Big Ron is looking just fine in this picture! Not too formal and strict and I was pretty pleased with him! It was shown in the famous Ginkgo Awards and the “Noelander Trophy” both in Belgium! Only the pot is too big I know…this expensive and handmade pot by my dear friend Brian Albright (UK) is beautiful but…too plump and massive…but that is my fold and not Brian’s! I like the arrangement of the foliage, not too strict and forced but still triangle-shaped with lots of open spaces!
Below: February 2009 Noelanders Trophy in Belgium. The wooden falcon was handmade in China for me.
Below: 29-1-2022. Today the sun was shining and I felt ok so I grabbed a little stool to stand on and a bucket for the needles that I would pluck off and started to carefully pull off the old needles of my Mugo. This old Pine has filled out so nicely after the complete restyling that I did a few years ago! And there is even some back budding on the thinner branches!
Note: Don’t remove all the old needles from a Mugo Pine!!! Unlike other Pines like Sylvestris, they don’t bud out/back easily on bare wood! They make their new buds next to last year’s growth/needles and even the year for that growth! So don’t remove all of the older needles if you want back budding!!!
I removed these last year’s needles because they were covered in black sticky residue from a late summer lice attack that I (due to circumstances) did not treat properly and way too late! Every inch of those old needles and the bark was covered with black sticky stuff that I could not remove! Those older covered needles had become useless anyway…so I did an out-of-season needle pluck! So little back budding this year for this old tree!
Above: 29-1-2022. Halfway through, the old needles on the left side branches are plucked and she is starting to look just like what I hoped for… an old and battered small tree in a pot!
Above: 30-1-2022. Later that same day and all finished, for now, so tomorrow I can start cleaning all the deadwood and treating it with Jin seal and wood hardener and then I will wire every branch and create a new look for him!
Below: I found an unknown picture on the web of my Itoigawa Juniper Shohin and Urbandori Potentilla Shohin (under 21cm) with a tiny Japanese Waterstone at the prestigious Ginkgo Bonsai Awards in Belgium. Years earlier I had won the “Dutch Bonsai Day’s Trophy” with that tiny Potentilla!
* Urbandori= is a made-up name for a tree collected in an urban environment. And yes! This Juniperus media pfitzeriana Aurea Bonsai was named Cemetree and here is why?
Somewhere around the last years of the last century, I found this tree in the cemetery where my dear old Mother was buried. I visited every week and during one of these visits, I noticed the poor Juniper of this story. This poor little tree was dug up from the ground with an excavator when some of the older graves were emptied. It lay 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, that place was like an ice rink and it looked more like skating than walking! But I made it to my car safely! Back home I immediately planted the tree in a training pot.And that is why she was called: The Cemetree! 😁
At home I planted the poor tree in the pot it still is in the picture below and from then on I gave it a lot of love and care. Some 8 years later the tree’s prickly foliage had completely turned into the normal soft non-stressed foliage! She was doing so well that in February 2008 I selected her as my demo tree at Marc Noelanders prestigious B.A.B Bonsai Club in Belgium.
Below:And this is how he looked after 2,5 hours of hard work!
Below: Cemetree (urbandori): Juniperus media pfitzeriana Aurea. Height 80/90cm. 40/50 years old. And this is how she looked a few years later in a new pot and just wired! I had no recollection of the existence of this picture or when I made it exactly ?! And found it by chance on the internet?! The bark was here just cleaned with brushes and water and was then oiled to give it protection and a nice shine (make sure not to go too deep when you do this!). The deadwood is treated with Lime Sulfur to protect and bleach it. It was a few years away from being show wordy. Shortly after I sold it to a dear Bonsai friend! I am actually very happy that after all these years I am finally able to show it here to you all! To prove that humble discarded material can become a Bonsai!
Urbandori: Height around 75/90 cm. 27/35 Inch. Pot: Japan.
For the last two days, this Trident maple was trying hard to hold on to its leaves, while I was waiting for some sunlight to make a decent picture! And this afternoon there finally was just enough natural light to shoot some quick shots of this amazing coloured foliage! And just in time because now, just a few hours later, the wind has blown off a lot of the orange/red leaves! I hope you enjoy this picture of this colourful messenger of the coming winter?!
Below: The fast-sinking sun creates surreal colours!
Below: After two nights of low temperatures almost all leaves dropped off, creating a different scene and feeling!
This morning I discovered these very lovely tiny shinning white mushrooms growing in front of my Yamadori Yew/Taxus and I just knew that I had to make some pictures of this magical scene with my cell phone as soon as the sun came out!
Yesterday I made some pictures of two of my old Hawthorns with red berries that I would like to share with you all! Although they have somewhat larger leaves than usual from all the water that I had to give during last Summers 3 months of record-breaking temperatures and that I had to remove some half-burned leaves, I still wanted to take some pictures of them because they are so pretty with these bright red berry’s and to show that they are so resilient and strong as a specie! These two are both collected by me in beautiful Walles during the second half of the nineties and since then I have always worked with great pleasure with them! I hope you like them as much as I do?!
This first one in the not so often seen Literati style is 68cm/27inch high and has stunning rare old natural deadwood/shari spiralling around the whole length of the trunk! The living bark on the trunk has deep dark cracks running from bottom to top and shows great age! It was collected in early ’97 on my second trip to the UK as the guest of Tony, Terry and Mike! I later potted it just like I was advised to do by my experienced friends…but nothing happened during the later anxious months?! So I called Tony in a panic for help and his words were: don’t throw it away and keep it sheltered and make sure it doesn’t dry out! They often skip a year after collecting! So just wait and see…and pray! And boy how I was happy when a year later it started budding like crazy! They sure are amazing survivors and pretty easy to maintain as a Bonsai! Over the years I had the big honour to show her in several big shows like the Ginkgo Awards and The Noelanders Trophy and in 2009 she even made it onto the cover of the “American Bonsai and stone appreciation magazine!” How cool is that?! And she is still going strong to date!!!
Below: Because of the way too-large leaves and the berries, the top looks too heavy…but it is normally way lighter and just right. The pot that normally suds it perfectly was specially custom-made for her by my dear old friend Brian Allbright (UK).
Below: This second Hawthorn was collected in ’96 on my very first collecting trip to the UK…as a matter of fact: my first collecting trip ever! I was invited by Bonsai live long friends Tony Tickle and Terry Foster and boy what an adventure it was for this Bonsai rookie! This one has also been proudly shown in many shows over the years and she gets more and more beautiful as she gets older! It is 43 cm/17 inches high. The pot was a gift from my old friend and great Bonsai artist and potter Dan Barton (UK) that I proudly received when I was a guest in his house. It was a pot from his personal collection and I am more than proud to show his gift under this for me already important tree!
I hope you enjoyed these images of these my old Lil’ Hawthorn friends?! Stay safe everybody! Cheers, Hans van Meer.
NO, NO!!! Don’t worry! Picture of my tinny Pine!😎 I am just fine, believe me!🤣
Like I wrote earlier in THIS post: in the early Nineties, the 6 of us went on a long route trip to Milan Italie to see among others Mr Kimura his demo an amazing Bonsai event and a very long visit to the world-famous Crespi Bonsai Center that is located just outside off Milan. And during our long visit to Crespi, I fell in love with a really tiny and weird-looking Japanese thunbergii corticosa that from memory was about 15cm/6Inch high and because of its plates-like bark that grew wider upwards to the top and created that way an image with a reverse taper! And then the very few tiny branches with just a few too-long needles on the end! The small collection of Shohin was displayed on a few shelves behind chicken wire against one of the sides of the enormous greenhouse filled with mouthwatering Bonsai! Especially for us then still a couple of newbies! So I just had to buy it to see if I could realise what I saw in this little unique gem?! I simply broke off the too-long top bark plates and allowed the smaller bottom one to extend. A few years later it was ready to be planted in this very small Tokoname pot where he lived happily for many years! That little pot fitted in the palm of my hand!It was shown in several shows. Later on, it was sold or given as a present to a Bonsai friend? Getting old and stuff and too many Bonsai memories to remember all! 😇 Cheers, Hans van Meer.
I just discovered that I forgot to show and discuss my baby Yamadori in my earlier Yew maintenance post! This Taxus baccata Yamadori was some 10 years ago given to me by my dear old Bonsai friend Terry Foster when I was a guest in his welcome home in the North of England. Terry and his lovely wife Charlotte took me in as one of their own every time I was one of the instructors at Tony Tickle’s “BURRS” weekend extravaganzas! And as if that was not enough…I always left with some sort of wonderful gift! Such a shame that we live so far apart! They both feel like family to us!
Below: November 2008. “Little Terry” as we named it, just after cleaning the wood and the deadwood (Jin and Shari) and treating it with Lime sulphur and wiring and styling it! Height: This 21 cm/ 8.5 Inch high. Such a little gem! 🙂
Below: Just before I pruned it. Last year it was allowed to grow freely for a whole season to recover from a bad winter! Pot: Brian Allbright. (UK)
Below: After cutting the new shoots and pinching the old needles. The too-long branches will be cut back as soon as new buds or shoots have appeared!
I hope you enjoyed this late entry to the Yew maintenance post?! Little Terry became a bit jealous! 🙂
last week it was time to cut back all the strong new growth on all my Yamadori Taxus baccata’s that I collected many, many years ago in Wales with my dear friends Tony Tickle, Terry Foster and Mike Sullivan. Last year they were all heavily fed and allowed to grow freely to build up their strength and that resulted in this year in strong growth all over all of them! So like I mentioned before, last week was the right time to cut back all the new strong growth! How do you know when the right time has arrived? Easy, when the new growth has become harder and stiffer to the touch and has become a darker colour green! Then it is time to cut back into that new growth with very sharp and clean scissors, leaving 3 pairs of needles on a strong shoot and 4 or 5 pairs of the weaker ones! But IMPORTANT: you don’t cut back the new growth on branches that are weak or the ones that you want to thicken or extend!!! But even on branches that need to grow, you should remove some/most of the old needles to promote back budding!!! After all, this is done, you give the trees at least a week time to recover from the stress and to close all the wounds from cutting them! Then you carefully pick/pull off the old needles from last season, making sure that you pull in the direction they grow! This reduces the chance of damage to the often thin branches! After all, if this is done and all goes well then many new strong buds will start to appear at the end of this season, and for sure in the next growing season! The other advantage is that because most branches are now without needles sunlight can reach all areas better and it has become much easier to select and wire them all! All this will result in healthy and strong growth closer to the trunk and main branches and the fuller appearance that we seek in Yew Bonsai and Bonsai in general!
Here are my own Yew Bonsai as an example of how it is done.
Below: The first one that I like to show you is a Yamadori baccata that was given to me as a present by Tony Tickle when he visited my house almost 20 years ago now! He had collected it himself a few years earlier and I remember him smiling when he gave it to me and said: “let’s see what you can make out of this”?! When I later took it out of its plastic training pot, I understood exactly what he meant when he said this! Underneath the wide base of the tree grew a 15 cm long thick root with only roots at the end….it looked like a lollypop! It took me the better part of 4 years to force the tree to make roots higher and closer to the trunk base so that I could finally shorten that long root and plant the tree in a more normal pot! But during those years I had already started to style the tree and found a solution to make good use of that bulging trunk section and the Jin that emerged from it on the left! And that solution was all the time lying on my garden floor! It was a viewing stone from Indonesia which, when I held them together, fitted like a clove! The small base of the tree fell exactly into a cavity in the stone and the Jin rested on top of it, like a big branch that had died back many years ago….amazing! 🙂 Then in February 2007, the Bonsai made it through the tough pre-selection of the prestigious “Noelanders Trophy” in Heusden/Zolder Belgium. The lollypop Yew had become a Bonsai! 🙂
Height 55 cm/22 Inch. Table, scroll and Shikishi Japan.
Below: The same tree 10 years later! Healthy…but in need of a haircut and complete wiring!
Below: Side view
Below: After shortening all the healthy shoots! Next, on the agenda is pinching most of the old needles and then rewiring the whole tree and cleaning the live section and the deadwood section and applying lime sulphur.
Below: Side view. Out of model….but he looks healthy enough!
Below: The second one that I like to show was in 1999 given to me (again) as a gift from Tony Tickle when we said ower goodbyes at the end of the historic second “Ginkgo Awards” in Belgium. This next year’s picture was taken in my garden just after I repotted it. The left arrow points at the large Jin that you can see on the left in the second picture below. The bottom arrow points at the large branch that I removed completely so that I would be able to create a more compact middle-size Bonsai (Chuhin)! The large Jin/Shari section that you can see in the middle of the trunk in that same second picture is all that remains of this large branch!
Below: September 2007. The same tree, but now as a Bonsai! It was earlier also shown in one of the “Noelanders trophies” together with another small size Yew that I will show you next! Height: 35 cm/14 Inch. Pot: Klika & Kuratkova Table: CHR furniture (B)
Below: The same tree before cutting the new shoots. The right bottom branch has lost some thicker branches on the backside that need to be replaced and filled with new young branches in the next seasons! The ones growing from there are left alone to thicken and extend, so no cutting or pinching! The rest of the tree will be treated as explained before!
Below: Right side view of the tree. Note how the top leans towards the front…like in most of my Bonsai designs!
Below: After cutting the new shoots. The length of the branches is like in the first tree too long and the desired silhouette is lost! But after the new buds that will appear have opened and grown enough, well then all these too-long branches will be cut back so that the proper silhouette will return!
Below: 1999. A young and thinner me and my dear old friend Tony Tickle on a collecting trip in Wales…good times! 🙂
Below: The third example. Here is one that I collected myself during one of those exciting trips late last century with Tony, Terry and friends!
Below: And this is how it looked in September 2007. In a custom-made pot by old friend Brian Allbright (UK) and another table custom-made by CHR furniture (B). Height 28 cm/11.2 Inch. This Bonsai was shown together with the one before this in the Noelanders trophy.
Below: And this is how it looked before pruning began. It has outgrown its beautiful Tokename pot, where it has been growing for almost a decade! So I have to start looking for a new beautiful and more spacious one!
Below: Right side view.
Below: After cutting the new shoots. It is obvious that the left side of the top needs to be wired and repositioned!
Below: In this left-side shot it is even more obvious that the left side of that top needs to be filled up by lowering the branch above that big gap! This open space arose when a major branch died back!
Below: Collecting one of the Yews from this post!
Below: The fourth example. This one was collected by myself during one of the collecting trips I made with Tony and friends during the late nineties in Wales. As soon as I got home it was planted in a hard plastic Bonsai container and then left alone to recover!
Below: After the first signs of recovery I removed all the useless growth of those long branches so that all the energy would go to the foliage that matters! And then the tree was left alone again to get stronger for its first real styling!
Below: The tree consists of left and right sections with a strip of deadwood running in between from top to bottom. A year later, when the tree was looking very vigorous, I decided that it was safe to perform a drastic pruning! So I cut off all the foliage and branches from the left section of the tree, leaving the stumps so that they could be turned into Jins. And I removed all the bark from that left section, creating a nice contrast between the live (brown) section and the deadwood (white) section! The branches that were useful for my design were wired and then the tree was left alone (as long as it needed) to recover from it all!
Below: A year later it was doing just fine so I planted it in a proper Bonsai pot.
Below: And this is how that same Bonsai looked in September 2007. That same year it was proudly exhibited in the fifth and last edition of the now legendaries “Ginkgo Awards” in Belgium. I like the contrast of colours in this tree and the circular design! Almost like yin yang…live and dead! But what I like most is that I created a design with an otherwise big no-no….the right bottom branch that grows directly out of the inside of that curve! And still, it works and makes you look twice because it is so unconventional! And that was just what I hoped to achieve with this design!
Below: The tree before shortening most of the new growth. And after that, it is time to rewire and restyle the whole tree again!
Below: Left side view showing the deadwood/Shari and Jins.
Below: After cutting most of the new shoots.
Below: It is thinned out a lot! Now it is time to remove most of the older needles from the strong branches so that light can reach in and new buds can appear!
Below: The fifth and last example. This Yew was actually the first tree that I ever collected and yes it was Tony Tickle again who made that possible for me! I met Tony for the first time in 1997 at the first-ever “Ginkgo Bonsai show” in Belgium and we have been great friends ever since and had some amazing Bonsai adventures together since then! It was during that first meeting that Tony invited me to come to collect with him in the UK! I could not believe my luck and sure enough in early 1998, I drove all the way to the north of England! And the next day, the first tree I ever collected, was the Yew that I am next going to show and discuss!
Below: Happy me with my first collected Yamadori ever!!! This Yew marks an all-important turning point in my Bonsai life….sins then on I decided that this was what I wanted to do Bonsai! And since then I have nearly always worked exclusively on raw unstyled material that I often found and collected myself! I wanted to have all the excitement from the beginning to the end…I choose the long way…but my way! And this Yew started that all of, so you can imagine that it holds a warm spot in my heart! 🙂
Below: In my garden, it lost the whole top section, but luckily the bottom foliage survived!
Below: A not-so-good picture made inside my house in 2003. As you can see that half of the dead top section was removed right up to the red arrow in the above picture, and only a small Jin remains! The large upwards-going Jin you see in the below picture is the dead upwards-going branch that starts just above that red arrow in the above picture!
Below: September 2007. Just rewired, repositioned, live wood cleaned and Jins and Shari’s treated with lime sulphur. Table: CHR furniture (B)
Below: Early 2008 in its present pot. From here on it was all keeping it very happy, and healthy with the main focus on fuller and better branch structure! Growing, cutting, pinching and wiring etc. etc…..ect.😉
Below: Just look at how full the tree is today! Now there is more than enough foliage to work with and to bring the Bonsai further and closer to the end image that I had in mind all those years ago when I gave it its first styling! This pot is by now a bit too small, but is in the style that I would like to use when the Bonsai is finally ready to show…so the search is on! And the tree needs to be tilted more to the right when it is repotted back in this or in its new pot!
Below: After cutting and pinching. The copper wire in the top of that Jin is there to prevent it from accidentally breaking when I move it around! My garden is covered with galvanized iron gauze (normally used in concrete walls), so a mistake is easily made when lifting up a tree too high!
Below: Left side view of the tree. Again notice how far my Bonsai lean forwards! This, in my mind, creates a lot of depth and creates a feeling as if the tree leans over you. If I learned one thing from looking at hundreds of Japanese Bonsai in books and in real life then it is this principle! Depth creates a sense of reality…even in pictures!
In between writing this, I spent a lot of fun time with the all-important task of the branch and new growth selection and branch shortening or removing on all the Yews! And although it is a sign of good health, a lot of growth of small and larger branches is useless or unwanted. It blocks out sunlight for the new growth and the branches that are important in your design! So it should be removed or shortened! Then there is branch shortening to reduce the overall size and mass of your design! And last but not least, branch shortening to create better branch structure and ramifications! By cutting back a larger branch right up to where there is a strong shoot or even bud, you will create shorter and better ramification branches and better taper! This should be one of the main objectives of Bonsai and is in modern Bonsai often neglected! You should not be only proud of the outside image of your Bonsai, but also of your branch structure!!! And it is very important for the well-being of your Bonsai! For example, the first Bonsai from this post was after this (long) branch selection round reduced by some 20% !! After all the here discussed Bonsai have gone through this same procedure, they will all be wired, styled, cleaned and treated with Lime sulphur. After that, I will make new pictures and show them to you! I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful and interesting?!
Now I will start to work again on my new Bonsai video that is almost finished…it only needs music underneath it! That might sound easy to some…but for a novice like me, it all is a big difficult puzzle?! 🙂 It is Part I of the story of “the Elephant” my big Yamadori Larch. So watch this space!