A few days ago I happily started to give my 5 trunk raft Winterberry or Ilex verticillata 5 trunk raft its yearly springs haircut when I noticed to my horror that many small and some ticker branches had died during last year’s reasonable mild winter?! So I had no other choice than to get him out of its beautiful “Isabelia” pot to look if something was wrong with the roots?! And what I discovered was that a lot of the older soil was not all removed during its last repotting and had become compact and socky underneath the large base! Many other roots that did have room had become long, leggy and without much feeder roots circulated the whole pot!
Below: Jan. 2018. The tree in better times during the yearly “New Years” toast at “DESHIMA” Bonsai centre (NL). I was also very proud that he was selected to shine in the prestigious Noelanders Trophy (B) later that same year!
My handmade “air pruning” plastic pot. Some months ago I discovered to my surprise that for no apparent reason a lot of the smaller and even some thicker branches had died back on my 5 trunk Winter Berry (Ilex verticillate) raft. So I took it out of its pot and discovered that the very compact rootball had a lot of very strong fleshy long ones growing around the outside and dos smothering the smaller important feeder roots and blocking the holes in the bottom of the pot! I had noticed a few of these long useless thick roots before during an earlier repotting and simply removed them! He was doing just fine back then and showed no ill effects after the removal of those roots?! So to get the tree back to that former so obvious good health I must stop these useless killer roots from coming back! So I decided to make my own special homemade “air pruning pot” for it to grow in for a season or two! Because, when plants/trees are growing in a pot that allows the air to penetrate through the holes in its walls, like in the makeshift plastic mash pot that I made, then roots will never grow to that length and or thickness. Why do you ask? Because as they grow and reach the bottom and the sides of the pot, they are naturally pruned (dried up) by the air, which forces the plant/tree and Bonsai to sprout new, fresh roots that in turn penetrate deep into the depths of the soil. I had an old open structure plastic food/fruit crate that has just the right sizes! I covered the inside with the famous black gauze we use to cover the holes in our pots with! 1 mm wirers were used to hold it in place. Below: The finished makeshift open-air Bonsai container!
Below: The new air pot and behind it the poor Ilex and in the background two other trees waiting for their turn.
Below: In its new pot just after watering until the water that runs through was clear.
I placed her in a warm and sunny spot and hope that she will recover back to her former health! More repot stories will follow soon!
“DESHIMA” Bonsai Centre: Ir Lelystraat 44 2912 CH Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel. The Netherlands.
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).
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!
On the 9th of February 2018, the Monday after the Famous “Noelanders Trophy” in Belgium were I also showed one of my own trees. My dear (UK) friends Tony Tickle and Terry Foster came to visit our house on their way to their boat back to England that leaves from Europort (NL) only some 15 minutes from where we live. Like every year when they come we eat, laugh and most of all share Bonsai stories and gossip of course! And then it is: let’s SEE THE GARDEN en what you have been up to!!!! It is always an honour to show my work to such great artists and knowledgeable friends like these two! And as always they are honest and when they like it…well then you can be sure you are on the right way! Like he usually those: Tony made a video of this Bonsai garden (10×5 meter 😎)meeting that I only discovered and saw 2 days ago for the very first time! Ow and watch out for the moment where Tony shows the ramifications on one of my small hawthorns that has never been filmed from all sides before! So if you are interested to see my work from 4 years ago in my garden with English commentary from Tony himself! Then this is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjUlxfa46ow&t=219s
That Gin made of Blackthorn or Sloe berries is an acquired taste indeed! Bud after half a bottle you are more or less used to the taste and probably past out!!!
Below: But I don’t think that there are enough berries on my Yamadori Shohin Blackthorn Prunus spinosa?! But this afternoon in the sun I was wiring some small branches on it with a coffee at hand and was thinking: I want to show this ideal scene anyway to you all!
Below: Close up of the beautiful natural old deadwood.
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 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 wiring the tree! 😎🏆😉
I am currently restyling my old Mugo pine that I named “Big Ron” and today I wired left and right bottom branches and brought them more or less in the desired position. Next couple of days I will take pictures of the daily progress of this styling and post them here in this post! So more tomorrow!
Below: Way back in 2007 my old Belgium Bonsai friend Danny User (owner of Ginkgo Bonsai Center in Belgium) asked me if I wanted to be a demonstrator during the very last famous “Ginkgo Awards”?! My reply was: HELL JEH!!!! Needless to say that I was over the moon and very honoured! Later I drove up to Belgium to look around his amazing Bonsai Center to find that special demo tree for my demo. And that was by no means an easy task because the place is enormous and there were literally thousands to look through! My luck was that I preferred to demo on virgin Yamadori material and of those, there were only a few hundred to go through! After a few hours and a lot of coffee, I found a large field grown Japanese Yamadori Yew! Below: Tadaaaaaaaa!!! It has a lot of raw deadwood to style and only two locations with bushlike short branches and foliage.
Below: Preparing the tree for wiring and styling in a tent that was hot as a sauna! Finding just the right branches to style in those bushes was serious business! Because what you cut off can’t be put back on!
Below: And this was the end result of those 2 days of very hot and hard work! I was pretty pleased with the (for now) end result! This demo was one of the highlights of my Bonsai career and I just wonder after all those years: who knows who bought it back then and who now owns this tree and if it is still alive?! It would be such fun to know this and maybe to show here on my blog how it is doing and looking now??? If you know anything then please mail me here: firstname.lastname@example.org Cheers, Hans van Meer.
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!