I would like to show you some pictures that were made a couple of days ago during the restyling of my old yew! This yew is very special to me because it is the first Yamadori that I ever collected. And this is how I was able to do so. During the first Ginkgo Awards in ’97, I met Tony Tickle and the gang for the first time. And let just say that it clicked from the start and leave it at that! We had so much fun! So much that we all together made the Japanese guest of honour faint during the prize presentation after the gala dinner! True story this! Anyway, during that same weekend, Tony had invited me to come and stay at his place for a weekend of fun and Yamadori trips! I gave it some serious thought for 0,009 off a second and then sad in a high pitched voice YES!!!! So in early 1998, I drove all the way to the North of England. And the Yew in this story was the very first tree that I collected on the first day! And you can see on the picture below that I was pretty happy and excited! Collecting this tree changed my future in Bonsai because it was the one that got me hooked on this way of doing Bonsai. So this tree holds a lot of warm memories in it! Not in the last place because all the fun that I had with madman Tony!
Below: At the end of that same year, the upper part of the tree sadly died. Of
the few branches that survived on the lower part of the tree, only two strong
young branches were usable in my design! So I would try to shape this future
Bonsai out of only two branches! And the part that died will also be incorporate
into the future design! It is after all a sign of this tree’s past! But my first
care was to get the poor Yew back to health!
Below: And by 2003 it looked like this. The picture is not that good, but it is
the best that I have from that time. The tree has recovered well from it’s
ordeal! The higher off the two remaining branches has grown into trunk from
witch new branches has grown. The second lower left branch is styled as a
cascading branch to fill that empty space. This hanging branch pushes the whole
tree upwards, making it more balanced!
Some 2 years later the tree started to lose it health and became very weak. It
took me up to now to get it back in to it’s usual form! But it had sadly lost
most of the important left hanging branch. Only the back part of that branch had
survived those bad years!
So today I am really pleased that this special tree is still with me and that after it had these few rough years it is healthy enough again for me to restyle it!
Below: The tree before styling. The live part of left bottom branch is wrapped with a layer in water soaked raffia. Than two lengths of 2.5mm aluminium wire were applied lengthwise on the outside of the future new curves. I need to bend this now backward growing branch as much to the frond as possible. These two lengthwise placed wires will prevent the branch from breaking on the greatest stress point, the outside of the new
curves/bends that I will bring in to the branch! That was followed by another layer of tightly applied raffia. And than finally two normal layers of 3,5mm aluminium wire were brought one! This should be enough to protect the branch from breaking, hopefully! The long Jin you see in the front of that branch will be used as a anchor point for the
guide wires that I will need to hold that heavily bend branch in to its new place.
Below: side view, red arrow shows the remains of the part of that branch that use to grow towards the frond. The yellow arrow shows the branch that now needs to get as close as possible to the former place of that important missing branch!
Below: Well it worked even better than expected! From were the branch is now it is possible to give that branch enough weight to balance the design. So I was really happy with that result!
Below: Basic outline is there. I like the bottom left branch, but the branch above it is overpowering it. It is to long and most of the smaller branches at its tip are long and weak with not much change for future new buds. So why wait for something that probable will never come?! So the branch was cut back drastically to change it appearance but also to redirect more energy in to the strong zones!
Below: Here the branch is cut back to a intersection with a smaller side branch (yellow arrow). This branch will replace the cut off branch as the new leader.
Below: Branch more or less in place and I am glad with the resuld of cutting that thick branch off!
Below: Look at the difference open spaces and more separations in the foliage makes!
Below: And after a lot more work! This is the finished result for now! I had plenty more pictures, but I had to stop some were and it is getting very late over here! I am glad that I was able to bring back some of the trees original image back in to this new design!
In the future when new buds have appear higher on the newly formed branches they can be shortened just that little bid more to make the tree look just that little bit more compact! And the Jin that now holds the wires for the bottom branch in place will be shortened and restyled as soon as those wires can be removed! But for now I am glad that my old friend is back with his new haircut!
I hope you enjoyed this little story!
PS: That little fern that you can see growing in that last picture, on the right side of the trunk, has landed there by pure change! I find them all over my garden and in many Bonsai pots as well! Normally I remove them and make them into accent plants, but this one…well it looks all right for now. And they play chess and poker together..so I really did not have the heart to separate them!
It might be a off-topic, but what was the cause of the die-off problems and how did you solve that?
I think that it was a combination of two things that weakened this tree. First : underfeeding and second: standing in soaked ground for to long! Last season
I started to feed most of my trees weekly with a liquid Fertilizer and several times
during the growing season I sprayed the foliage of my yews with fish emulsion.
That worked wonders on the weaker trees! I discovered the soaked ground problem
two years ago. I had repotted two trees, a fat trunk Acer buergerianum and a
Acer palmatum twin trunk in a shallow pot, because the water did not run out of
the pots like it was supposed to do. I shortened the well established flat roots by
more than half and planted them back in there original pots. With, like always,
a bottom layer with large grain sized akadama, kiryu and bims. Than a thick
layer with smaller grain size in which the bonsai is planted. And than a thin
layer of smaller grain size to fill the pot up. Now you would normally expect
that the water would run right trough using a loose and open ground mixture like
this. Well it didn’t! At least, not all off it! After repotting I watered both
trees and I placed them in a sheltered spot. Next day I tilted the pots and
placed a piece of wood under need them. After just a few seconds water started to
run out the drainage and wire holes on the lower part of the pot. Now I could
imagine that this would happened with a wide and shallow pot, but not with a
regular pot with 3 large draining holes in them! So I started to test this on
all my bonsai, who all have more or less the same open soil mixture. And more
than half had the same problem! There was more water left in those pot than I
could ever believe. And one of the Bonsai that suffered from this drainage
problem was the yew in this story. So now every time after watering or when it
rains, I will put a small wooden block under one side of all the trees that
retain to much water! Tilted in this way much less water will stay behind on the
bottom of the pot and the water that stays behind only fills the corner of the pot
and not the whole pot! It is wise to check the drainage of your bonsai/pot every
now and then. Roots grow and fill out the pot, so things change all the time! I
know that those small blocks under need my problem trees/pots make sure that
they don’t drawn any more and to prevent root rot!
Hoop that this answers your question?!
Hans van Meer.