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

This next post: downsizing the image of a full-size tree into a compact miniature Bonsai version. PART II) has been posted here before on Juli 2009. But after using it again a few months ago during a workshop for my students and all the positive reactions that I got afterwards I decided to post it again here on my blog! I hope it will help those who struggle with the principles of downsizing the large image of a real tree into a Bonsai size.

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 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.


Above: 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 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 more 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.


Above: 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 it those 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.

Tip: 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 imaginary size, age, 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 that 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?!


Thanks for listening,

Hans van Meer.



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



This next post has been posted here before on Juli 2009. But after using it again a few months ago during a workshop for my students and all the positive reactions that I got afterwards I decided to post it again here on my blog! I hope it will help those who struggle with the principles of downsizing the large image of a real tree into a Bonsai size.


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.

Thanks for listening again,

Hans van Meer.



A must see video from BonsaiTalk for all the people with the wrong idea about collecting Yamadori!!!


A must see video for all the people with the wrong idea about collecting Yamadori!

Well, don BonsaiTalk!


Hans van Meer.


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I just posted “The ten-years story of an Itoigawa Tanuki Bonsai” on YouTube.

Hi, everybody.

I just posted my latest video “The ten-years story of an Itoigawa Tanuki Bonsai” on YouTube!!! It is a video in pictures and words and shows the story of a found beautiful piece of Yew deadwood and a 3 years old small Itoigawa cutting that fused together over a period of ten years became a promising pre Bonsai! Go have a look if you are interested and let me know what you think?!


Hans van Meer.



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Restyling a small saved Pinus sylvestris Yamadori.

Hi everybody,

today after weeks of cold weather and biblical rain, we finally had a sunny day! So I graphed my chance to finally do some restyling. The small Pinus sylvestris of this post was during my 2005 vacation in Austria saved from a bulldozer! They were demolishing a large pine forest on the long road to the village where we stayed for the second year running to build a petrol station and trailer parking lots 🙁  Underneed this tall and very dense pine forest in the lush vegetation grew tiny but old Pines. They stayed this small because of the lack of sunlight and were perfect material for Bonsai! We knew this because we made long walks true this part of the forest the year before! So I asked the driver of the bulldozer in my best German if I could collect some of these poor little trees before the lumberjacks would chop down the tall Pines and the bulldozer flattened the small ones! He understood my prayer and said that it was alright as long as we stayed well away from where they were working! So we parked the car some hundred meters in front of that war zone and grabbed our collecting stuff from underneath the holiday luggage en started to surge for worthwhile trees that could be dug up with a reasonable chance to survive. We managed to save 6 or 7 before the machines came to close to be safe! The problem was then that we were there for a week plus an extra day for the travel back home and all this time these poor trees had to survive in plastic bags filled with wed sphagnum moss….this meant that after all only 4 survived that ordeal! This one was one of the lucky ones because I could simply scoup it off from a large boulder, so it had very flat and compact roots and survived without any problems! And now 12 years later one it is the star of this little story.

Below: before removing the thirth-year-old needles. 36cm/14.4Inch. The now top section grew straight to the right and was bend back years ago with the help of in water sooked raffia and thick copper wire! Now after several growing seasons, the top section has filled out enough to form a nice top out off!

Below: After the old needles were removed. Now it is time to wire all the branches.

Below: The left branch wired and more or less bent in position with all needle bundles facing upwards.

Below: the right cascading branch placed more or less in position.

Below: Left part of the top more or less in position. The new top is raised upward considerably with two 3mm wires!

Below: slowly getting there…I love to solve these natural puzzles into a nice design!

Below: Finished for now! I am happy with this result for now. In a few years time when the cascading branch has filled out some more it will most likely be shortened and made less heavy…but that will be up to its new owner because it is up for sale and probably will go to a good home off one of my students?!

Below: close-up of the nice root base, lovely old bark and natural (still brown coloured) Shari.

Below: close-up of the nice old and cracked bark.

I hope you enjoyed this little story about the life of a saved little big Bonsai?!


Hans van Meer.



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Two pictures of my Shohin Bonsai.

Hi everybody,

now that the worthless 2017 Summer has come to a rainy end, I have been doing a lot of maintenance on my Bonsai! Removing were necessary wire, weeds, fertilizer and brown leaves. While doing that I saw two of my old Sho-hin smiling at me…so I had to make some pictures to show to you all! These two have been with me for over two decades now and keep on looking better and better as the years go by! The first one is a Prunus spinosa Yamadori from the UK that was given to me by Tony Tickle all those years ago. It was first for many years styled by me as a Moyo-gi , but after a decade I saw something better in it and cut off most of the old branches on the right side to style a more suitable and natural image! And now after an other decade or so it has more or less arrived at the image that I had foreseen all those years ago! It looks so natural now and very appealing with all those berry’s still on it! 

Prunus spinosa Yamadori (UK) Sho-hin.

The second Sho-hin is a Punica granatum Yamadori from France. This little gem is even longer with me and has , slowly but steady, matured enormously during that time! It really look like a proper tree now with mature branches and really amazing roots for such a small Bonsai! The beautiful pot is by John Pitt (UK).

Punica granatum Yamadori (France) Sho-hin.   Pot John Pitt (UK).

I hope you enjoy these pictures?!


Hans van Meer.



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GREAT NEWS!!! 26 May 2018. Second edition “KEI BONSAI KAI” ten and ten “DANNY USE & FRIENDS” in “GINKGO” Bonsai center in Laarne Belgium!!!

GREAT NEWS!!! On Saturday 26 May 2018 Danny & Ingrid Use from Bonsai center “GINKGO” in Laarne Belgium will stage the second edition of the amazing “KEI BONSAI KAI” TEN and TEN “DANNY USE & FRIENDS” in Laarne Belgium!!! First of all there is Danny’s huge world class private collection to see and like in the first very amazing edition in 2016 Danny his loyal students from “KEI BONSAI KAI” will show literally hundreds of there best Bonsai in amazing arrangements through out the whole “Ginkgo” Bonsai center! And like if that would be not enough?! Just like before Danny also invited many of his old Bonsai friends from the famous and legendary “GINKGO BONSAI AWARDS” series  to show there best work!!! And I am once again very honored and proud to say that I am one of them! 🙂 This great news was told to me last week when after a to long time I finally was able to visit my old and dear friends Danny and Ingrid again in their wonderful Bonsai center!

As always we were warmly welcomed as lost friends and during a cordial conversation and coffee Danny told me about his plans for the new Show and invited me to be a part of it again. Well I wholeheartedly sad YES!!! I WOULD LOVE TO!!! Even if this upcoming edition is half the success and the fun of the first one…well than I would still love to be a part of it all!!! If you love Bonsai? Well than you simply cant afford to miss out on this opportunity to visit this amazing “GINKGO” Bonsai center were everything you ever need or want in Bonsai is for sale + the change to see hundreds of some of the best Bonsai in Europe!!! Ow and did  I mentioned that there is a hug indoors rebuild wooden american roadhouse bar for drinks and snacks!!! 😉  I hope to see and meet you all there!

Here you can see two video’s that I shot during the first edition in 2016:


Hans van Meer.


Posted in "GINKGO AWARD", BONSAI FUN., Bonsai Shows, DEMONSTRATIONS AND WORKSHOPS., MY CALENDAR., MY WORK | Tagged , , | Leave a comment