last Tuesday evening on the 30th of January I drove all excited to Nieuwekerk aan den IJssel (NL) for the evening demonstration and meet and greet with the great Japanese Bonsai Master Kunio Kobayashi. My dear friend Teunis Jan Klein (the owner and the proprietor of Deshima Bonsai Studio) had managed to get this superstar of Japanese Bonsai to do an evening meet and greet and a spectacular evening demo on Tuesday. And on Wednesday and Thursday, a daytime workshop for 8 people under the guidance of the Master followed by an evening traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner with the master and his charming wife in the top Japanese restaurant Yama Cuisine in beautiful Rotterdam (NL). Teunis Jan has managed to organize something truly special and unique in the Bonsai world! I was regretfully only able to attend the evening demo…but boy o boy what a top evening it turned out to be! And what an amazing specimen demo tree did Teunis reserved for master Kobayashi his demo! It was a large field-grown Pinus thunbergii that he bought over a decade ago when he was in China for his work as a purchaser for a large Bonsai importer. Over those years he skillfully managed to get tons of new foliage all over the branches so there was plenty to work with for this demo! The tree has amazing bark and beautiful movement and was well fit for even a master like Mister Kobayashi is! After Teunis gave the audience some explanation how he went about to organize this 3 days event he introduced Satoko Takagi the translator who would translate every word mister Kobayashi would share with us into Dutch. And then he introduced the two skilful assistance that would help the master that evening, the first one Hugo Zamoraluna from Mexico came along with Mister Kobayashi from Japan and the second one Ralph Oduber a student of Teunis Jan that has studied at Mister Kobayashi his school Shunka En in the past. While Teunis Jan was doing this Mister Kobayashi was already very busy at work lifting the heavy tree in all kinds of different angles like it weighed nothing and if he is not almost 70 years old and not just of the plain from a long flight from Japan…amazing!!! It was funny to see that Teunis had to call him to order to stop for a minute so that he could introduce him properly to us all! He received a hearty applause from the Bonsai enthusiasts and then he was off again to what he does the best and while he was answering all kinds of questions and explaining what he was doing, he and his helpers tilted the tree in the desired position and secured it with wire to the turntable and then started to cut off all unnecessary foliage and branches.
Below: Because I was at the same time shooting a video I started to make photo’s when they were already a few minuted selecting the necessary branches and cutting off the unnecessary foliage and branches. And that was all don in an enormously fast tempo! If you just look at all the foliage on the floor at this point then you can clearly see just how far they already were when I shoot this first picture!
Below: and more and more was cut off leaving only the necessary foliage.
Below: 70 years old?! I wish that I could sit on my knees like that and I am only 57 ?! 😉
Below: the assistance started to pluck needles and wiring while the master was cutting off even more foliage!
Below: wiring the branches and foliage. On the right, you can see a picture of how the tree looked just after Teunis Jan had bought it in China all those years ago.
Below: look how he amazingly is working with tree cutters in his right hand?! And still managed to wire small branches??? But he has hat a lot of practice doing Bonsai for 15 hours a day over the last 45 years! 🙂
Below: with every wire that is applied and branches that are positioned more and more beauty is revealed…like magic!!!
Below: the growth could not control their selfs any longer when the whole top section was bent forward with the help of a special Bonsai tool! It was bent until some cracks appeared and then secured in place with some heavy copper wire.
Below: and below the amazing end result after some 3 hours of work. What an amazingly quick transformation into a very promising Bonsai! What a talented and skilful visionary is this very sympathetic, humorous and modest master! It was so inspiring to watch his every move from so close by! Thanks for a very memorable evening mister Kobayashi and Teunis Jan Klein and all the volunteers that helped that night in DESHIMA BONSAI STUDIO for making this all possible for us all!
The 2o minutes’ video of this whole stunning transformation is in the making and will be posted on my own youtube KARAMOTTO Bonsai channel in a few days time so watch this space!!!
I hope you enjoyed this for me special post of a unique Bonsai experience?!
this is how this little “PEE PINE” that I found and collected In Austria in May 2004 looked after one of its first styling way back in April 2008. 35cm/14inch. It is named “PEE PINE” because it grew well hidden between the high grass and I almost accidentally peed on it during a walk through the mountains! 🙂
Below: This was taken in Spring 2009 in its new Tokoname pot.
And yesterday still in that same pot, while rain, hail and a storm were torturing my garden, I took her indoors for yet another restyling. She now measures 41 cm/16 Inch and has matured a lot! Below:
Below: before the work started.
Below: left side view after wiring and styling.
Below: right side view.
Below: backside view.
Below: and the finished front side view. I am really happy just how mature this tinny Pine looks right now! If it is not yet sold next Spring, it will be repotted as soon as the buds start to swell back into the same pot. But a little bit more tilted to the left! And as soon as the weather clears I will clean the Shari section and Jin’s and treat them with lime sulfur.
Finally, after trying it in vain for more than a week, I managed to post the last of only two saved copies of the originally produced video! I was finally able to do it with NCH VideoPad…this was the sixth one I had downloaded to solve this problem! The first program Cyberlink power director 12 that came with my computer had all kinds of for me unsolvable problems and crashed several times! And one of the 2 copies of the original finished video that I could save from them capt on showing up flipped after posting it on youtube?! Even after flipping it over with a downloaded program it still showed up wrong?! No help could be found on or from youtube…so I was glad that I was finally able to post this second copy with the help of VideoPad!!! Although the sound on this only left good version is not too good, I still hope that it is enjoyable for the Bonsai lovers out there?! It brought me a lot of headache and frustrations …bud it thought me to only work with good devices and programs and most of all: SAFE MORE THAN ONE COPY !!!
More videos will be uploaded soon (if all goes well that is)! 😉
I am happy and relieved to tell you all that last night I finally posted Part I of the story of “the Elephant” onto YouTube! It took me 6 days and late night to do it right….but I finally was happy enough with the result to post it!!! It took me this long because I had to go through many hundreds of pictures on 2 computers and 3 external hard drives to find the best ones! Then I had to improve most of them to finally be able to load them from my old computer onto my new computer, where I had to make a film of them with a for me totally new and unknown program named: CyberLink powerdirector…..and that was not that easy…to say the least!!! It has been some years since I cursed that much!!! 😉 But I have to say that the final result is very satisfying…so I hope you like it too?! Tonight I will start to work on Part II which is all video and covers the massive repotting I did this spring, when after living for 10 years in a wooden box, “the Elephant” was finally planted in its first real Bonsai pot! I hope to upload that in a week or so?! For now, I hope you enjoy this first part?!
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 shoot 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 this year in strong growth all over all of them! So like I mentioned before, last week it 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 harderstiffer to the touch and has become a darker colour green! Then it is time to cut back into that new growth with a 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 to 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, this is don and all goes well than 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 for how it is don.
Below: The first one that I like to show to 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 see what you can make out of this”?! When I later took it out off 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 compleat wiring!
Below: Side view
Below: After shortening all the healthy shoots! Next, on the agenda is pinching most of the old needles and then rewire 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 of Tony Tickle, when we said ower goodbyes at the end of the historic second “Ginkgo Awards” in Belgium. This next year 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 replacedfilled 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 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. 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 my self 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 in 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 my 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 consist of a 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 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 collecting 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 live….sins then on I decided that this was what I wanted to do Bonsai! And sins 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, 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, healthy with the main focus on fuller and better branch structure! Growing, cutting, pinching and wiring etc. ect…..ect. 🙂
Below: Just look 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 end image that I had in mind all those years ago when I gave it it’s 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 it 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 to 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 than 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 ramification! 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 objective 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 wellbeing 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!
it has been a while …I know! But believe me, a lot has happened in my normal and in my Bonsai live! I have over 60 trees to take care of in a very limited and crowded garden space (10 x 5 meters) and that makes it very hard to get around and to work on them! And taking decent pictures of it all, or these days video’s is even harder to do! I am proud to say that in my normal life I have spent the last 6 mounts to successfully detoxified from 10 years of heavy neuropathic pain medication and 20+ years of antidepressant medication! And by cutting down on sugar and carbohydrates I have overcome my recently discovered diabetes and lost some 20 kilos! So you see…I have been busy! 😉 I am currently finishing the video of my big Yamadori Larch “the story of the Elephant” part I for youtube and it will be posted in a few days! Part I is all pictures and words, simply because I did not have a video camera in those early days! So watch this space! Part II is all video and shows the compleat story of the massive undertaking of repotting it from the big wooden box where it lived in for 10 years, and into its first real Bonsai pot! And it shows “the Elephant” later on with new fresh green foliage….doing just fine! I hope to finish and post this part II in the next few weeks?! So again….watch this space!!!!
And what more? I have been busy with my workshop group and that is very fulfilling to do! Not a lot of styling has been done up to now, but I did do a lot of maintenance the last couple of mounts! And I will show some of that later on, but first I want to share some approach grafts that I made on one of my old Yamadori Prunus mahalebs from Slovenia!
Below: remember this picture showing the marcot (air-layering) that I was planning to make on this big old Prunus mahaleb?! Well, the left bottom branch that you see in this pictures grows from just below the stump (red drawing) that was left when it was separated from the rest of the tree. On this, by now thick remaining branch, I made 3 approach grafts to get some new branches closer up to the trunk!
Below: the marcot after separation.
Below: a year later in full bloom.
Below: (red arrows) I made with a sharp and clean tiny curved chisel wounds in both the mother branch and in the small sucker branches that grow from way down low on the trunk. These unwanted sucker branches would normally be removed constantly from anywhere on the trunk. Because they leave behind ugly scars if you let them grow too long….and Prunus mahaleb’s make a lot of them all through the growing season! Sometimes so much that when they just appear, I use my small burner to get rid of them!
Below: (red arrows) left one shows the one that I made first. Right one shows the second one, that is like the first one tight down securely with the help of a tie-wrap and then is sealed with cut paste to prevent drying out!
Below: red arrow points at the third one that I made. Behind that arrow, you can see the big deadwood stump that needs some more shaping!
Now it is waiting for en hoping that they will fuse together properly so that I can create better ramification closer in the desired design for this promising future Bonsai. If so, then I can shorten the thick mother branch you can see in the above picture by some 25 cm or more! So fingers crossed! I hope you enjoyed this little update in the life of this old Yamadori?!
Next post is about pruning and pinching my Yew Yamadori Bonsai…so watch this space!
remember last year 29-4-2016 when I told you all about my plan to air layer a thick and old second trunk of my large Prunus mahaleb Yamadori that I collected a few years ago with my dear friends from Slovenia in Slovenia?!
Below: The red line shows the original massive trunk of the tree that would stay with me in Holland after the separation of the thick second branch ( yellow line). This branch section would be given later to my old Bonsai friend Tony Tickle to say thanks for all he has done for me over the last two decade! I can easily say that I would not have been where I am now in Bonsai without the help of Tony! He took me on my first Yamadori trips and arranged many demo’s and workshop abroad for me! Just to name a few: the E.B.A in Stratford (UK) , 2 times Joy of Bonsai in Bath (UK) and last but not least 4 times at his own Bonsai extravaganza weekend workshop in Burrs (UK)! 6 of my best Bonsai that I have shown in many prestigious events, like the Ginkgo’s shows and the Noelanders trophy, I have because of Tony’s kindness….so I am finally glad that I can give something special back to this important friend of mine!!!
Well on 17-5-2016 I made the air layer as I wrote and showed here !!
Below: This is how the marcot/air layer looked that day.
Below: on 28-7-2016, just over 2 months later there were lots of new roots to see pushing against the plastic bag! So it was already time to separate the branch from the tree!
Below: I left the plastic on there to protect the fragile roots! With a saw and a bit anxious the branch was cut off! This took surprisingly long because the branch consists out of 75 percent hard deadwood!
Below: Finally finished! Only the duck tape was holding the branch in place here! The here still thin and young branch you see beneath the cut will play an important part in my design of the original tree! But that is another story!
Below: Just before the marcot is planted into it’s new temporary home. Just look at all those strong new roots! I could not be happier!
Below: The sphagnum moss was kept on there and the pot was filled with a mixture of: Akadama, Kiryu, Bims en regular rough garden soil. It was not possible to secure the new tree in the regular way, so I tied it down with wire and hooks around the pot rim. And watered it good before I placed it out of the wind in a half shaded and not to hot spot in my garden. From now it was praying and hopping for the best!
February 2017: Like every year Tony visited my house the day after the Noelanders trophy before he sails off to the UK again. We drink, eat, talk Bonsai and gossip like an old woman! And of course he wanted to see my trees and the Prunus I promised him 2 years ago! 🙂 He liked it a lot and wanted to take it home that same day! But I convinced him that it would be better to leave it for a other year in my garden so that the roots would be able to grow even stronger! That way the bumpy rite home could not harm the health of this new tree! But next February in 2018 when he visits my house again it will be his! And I think that the next couple of pictures that I shot a few days ago of this new tree and future Bonsai in full bloom, will show just why I’m sure that he will!!
Natural deadwood is something we can never copy! Thats why working on and with these ancient Yamadori is such a honour and privilege to me!
Below: View of the stunning base. The spot were I made the air layer was carefully chosen just below this wides spot just below this little tree on the right side of it! This natural little tree is almost completely surrounded by really old deadwood and show how resilient mother nature can be! From there on up wards, it is all very old and weathered deadwood with only a small live vain running right up to the top, that keeps the rest of the tree alive! This small tree on what is really a Literati tree is very unique in my vision and, if necessary, I will convince Tony to keep it on there! 🙂
Below: Half way up the tree. Just look at the cracked, burned and naturally bleached old deadwood. This trees grew in between the man made rock land devisions and were considered a pest by the farmers on whose land they grew and were chopped and burned regularly over many decades! Thats how the became so gnarly and full of this stunning deadwood!
Below: And finally a shot of the whole new tree and future, in my humble opinion, unique and stunning Literati Bonsai! I am really proud of it….and I hope my friend Tony will be pleased with it?! He deserves it!