I got the Bonsai virus in early 1990 and gave my first demo not much later at my then-Bonsai Club “KOYA” in Rijswijk (NL). My demo tree was a Dubbel trunk Chamaecyparis “Chamaecyparis” nana gracilis that was used for many years as a mother plant for cuttings in “Boskoop” Holland. Because of the typical for this species roots bulging and the leg of useable cuttings anymore I could buy it from the grower and daringly used it for this my first-ever demo! And I would use that Bulgin base as a feature! I planted it later in a (then) unique curved thin pot by my old friend Potter William Vlaanderen and entered it in the Yearly “Dutch Bonsai Federation” show and won first prize with it! Later we even drove all the way to the famous “CRESPI” Cup in Milan (IT) to show it there…boy, I was innocent these days sigh!!! With the tree on the leather back seat, of my 750 IL beamer (petrol was cheaper those days!😋) I suddenly had to break at a roundabout for a suicidal rabbit and that made the Bonsai fly straight into the back of my seat! Akadama was everywhere and some small branches broke! But we made it in the end and proudly showed it at this great venue! I came across the below picture on the web. I think it was made at the “Noelanders Trophy” in Belgium. Or at the “Ginkgo Award” in Belgium? I will look it up?
Below: Now some 25 years later my good friend and Bonsai fanatic Diderick Bovenlander (NL) is taking care of her very well for some years now and he has styled her further for the future!
I hope you enjoyed this short Bonsai story from way back in my early Bonsai life right up to Diederick’s present-day story?! Man, I suddenly feel old! 😱😉
Today was the perfect day for me! Why you might ask? Well while it was storming outside, I spend the day warm inside where I started wiring my Mugo pine “Woolfie” on a table that is perfectly high enough for me to work/wiring while standing up with a straight back! That way I am longer able to work…but what was more important: this table stands next to my big TV so that I can watch the Olympics with my left eye while the right one helps wire the tree! 😎🏆😉
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!
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!
The still pre-Bonsai of this story was collected in 2012 by me and my dear Slovenian friends in the beautiful mountains of Slovenia. It was growing underneath a low-hanging branch of a very old and massive Beech. The leg of sunlight and the constant defoliation of the foliage and the young branches by deer and other grassers kept it this small! I can only guess how old it is?! During this past decade, I worked to get it to bud back lower on the trunk and branches to make it more compact and tree-like! It needs a nice shallow pot or even better: a slab and a few more years of fun work to get it to show worthy! But that now lies in the hands of my Bonsai friend Diederick who is buying it from me to at it to his own amazing Bonsai collection!
Above: Impressive close-up of the massive fused inner section of the raft!
My earlier post about my favourite Prunus was so well-read that I thought she and the readers of my blog deserve better and sharper pictures! So when yesterday the sun finally broke through the clouds I shot a few dozen pictures by hand with my (real) camera! I hope you all will enjoy them.
Above: The deadwood of this young top section neats more work and ageing, but that’s for later! I will start work on it early next growing season in the warm sun! Around that same time, I will start the ageing project on that still-jong-looking bark…I have a cunning plan to help that on the way…mmwwaaahhahaha!
Above: Close-up of the natural deadwood! Besides being photographed and worked on here in my makeshift photo studio, she is also sheltered from the rain! So that all the deadwood can become dry! Then I can impregnate it to protect it from rotting away! The still-too-young bark on the upwards stump needs some more ageing of course! But who cares?! I am pretty happy so far with the fast progress of this tree…this little tree makes me happy!
Above: The deadwood on the left was worked on some more with a hammer and chisels. The rest was cleaned with tweezers and different brushes until all that was clearly rotten and not saveable was removed. In the top section, some of the living bark on the left side was cut away to break up that straight lifeline between the alive and dead section some more to make it look more natural. Some cut paste was applied to protect the wound!
Above: And there she is (for now) in all her glory! Colouring orange in the setting sun! To prevent further rotting she will spend the next couple of wet and cold months here underneath the shelter of this makeshift photo studio! During that time I will start further styling the deadwood on that straight section with power tools and hand tools! I will make sure to take pix of that process and post them as soon as possible! Oh, how I wished I had a good pot for this one?! I hope you enjoyed these somewhat better pictures?! Cheers, Hans van Meer.
* 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.
Below: Remember the post before this one about this Dutch Hawthorn and its amazing deadwood?
Below: Well as you can see, it has another great possible front with lots of natural deadwood (Shari) all along the massive trunk and great roots (Nebari)! The middle section of the top trunk section needs more side branches, but that is just a matter of time! But those roots, Shari and Jin make this side as the front a very promising possibility!
Below: The wide base with the star-like shaped massive roots is spectacular from this side! And all that deadwood isn’t too bad either!
Above and Below: Massive roots all around the base of the trunk!
The below Dutch Hawthorn (crataegus monogyna) Yamadori was collected by me in the early nighties in a seaside wed dune forest not far from where I live. Over the decades the wind coming in from the very nearby beach/coastline of the North Sea brought in fine sand in the place where the Bonsai of this story lived and in some places, it looks more like a Dunn than an actual forest! That and animals and walkers had covered her half! She had to grow fast and straight upwards through the sand for decades to stay above the ever-growing soil line! In the end after who knows how long only the (now much shorter and Jined) right side straight trunk was sticking some 60 cm/24 inch out above the actual soil (sand) level when I found her! At the end/top of this straight old trunk, it only had just a few very short but old branches, because for years it was used by the big black highland buffalo and ponies that live here as a scratching pole! The top section was all deadwood ending in a Jin that was nicely polished from all the scratching! I witnessed that scratching ritual someday and that brought her to my intention! But it was surely strange when I found out that I had to dig so deep to reach her original base! This old above-ground periscope trunk section was later successfully air-layered and removed. The 15 cm/6 Inch that was left on purpose on the tree, was turned with some hand and power tools into natural-looking deadwood (Jin).
Above: Not the best of pictures, I know…but she looked so pretty in her Autumn dress! Height: 42 cm/ 16.5 Inch. The beautiful pot is by my friend John Pitt (U.K).
Above: 3 days later! She is built up with only 5 branches that after collecting luckily sprouted lower down on the section that used to be buried under the sand/ground! I wanted her to look just like the mature Hawthorns that live where she was found. They almost all live in mostly poor sandy ground and so close to the sea that it storms a lot and because of all the sand in the Summers, it can get very hot and that’s why they grow sparsely and are very gnarly/spooky branched!
Above: Close-up of the uniquely natural split trunk and the roots/nebari. The left section of the trunk feeds the left branch and the right section the right and top branches. Beggars can’t be choosers…so I take those two opposing bottom branches for what it is! Those are Bonsai rules and I gladly take/see her as just a small Hawthorn tree in a pot…because that is just what I was/am aiming for! A believable but small old Dutch Hawthorn tree!
Above: Close-up of what is left of the former live top part that grew above the sand! I am really happy with how natural it looks after all those years since I created this deadwood top Ten Jin! Especially the natural whiteish colour of the cracked wood is priceless!