This is a progressive Bonsai story in picture and words of a common Hawthorn “Crataegus monogyna” yamadori. A story starting way back in 1997 when it was found and collected by me on a beautiful mountain side in North Whales (UK). From there this story follows this future Bonsai during it’s styling years in Holland leading right up to the year 2006 and the now legendary and famous “Ginkgo awards” in Belgium.
In February 1997 I was invited, by some dear bonsai friends from the North of the U.K, to join them for a Yamadori trip in the North of Wales.
Above: This first picture was shoot on the actual mountainside were the “Crataegus” from this story was found and collected by me. This whole mountain side seemed to been covered with loose rocks, that were send off, sliding down the hill at the slightest touch, covering everything in their way. Almost noting could survive in this hostile environment , except for some very old small Hawthorns and Blackthorns.
Above picture: Here I am trying to have a closer look at the base of the tree, while trying hard to keep my footing to not end up several meter lower and having to climb up all over again! This was all very hard to do at as it is, but I also had to work very carefully when I removed those rocks, one by one, out from under all those entangled thorny branches. Collecting Hawthorns from this mountain was hard, and after wards, despite the use of heavy protective gloves, my hands still looked and felt terrible, it took weeks for all those broken of thorns to grow out of my hands! But I got the tree out nicely and that is the only thing that really counts!
Above: The tree was planted in a plastic container, in a mixture of Akadama and Kiryu. This is a picture of the tree in my garden, as you can see it was already severely pruned, right were it was collected. This makes it so much more easier to carry the trees down the mountain!
Above: But still there was some more heavy cutting to do. So with the use of a power saw, I sawed the tree right back down to where some strong buds were appearing on the trunk line, from which I could started to create the new apex.
Above: Next season, front side of the tree.
The tree reacted perfectly on the heavy pruning with many new buds. I selected the best ones and some for safety and removed the unwanted ones. These future branches, were allowed to grow freely. By doing so, the tree also regained it strength, wile the new branches gained length and thickness.
Above: Right side view. Here you can clearly see the beautiful movement of this tree. The new apex of this Literati is leaning very much toward it’s viewer, just how I like to do in most of my designs.
Above: Back side of the tree.
Above: In early Spring of 1998, because the tree had grow so well last season, I decided it would be safe to repot it. Because of all the long roots that where cut off, when the tree was collected, it had responded with a lot of new small roots. So now it was the perfect time to put it into a smaller pot, but with enough room for the roots to grow.
Above: You can see, from looking at the dark line/section on the base of the trunk, up to were and at what angle the tree was potted in its previous container! This extra gained length and movement of the lower trunk, that this re potting revealed, came as a nice bonus surprise.
Above: This picture shows the tree early in the following year. The pot is turned anti clockwise, because the movement of the trunk was even better from this angle. So I styled the branches with this as a new front.The new main branches are still small and juvenile, but they are already showing the future design of this tree. The next growing season will also be one of: plenty feeding, letting grow and then cut and wire. Hawthorns are fast growing and can be styled in a reasonable short time. The bark on newly formed branches ages quickly, so therefore they are perfectly suited for a life as Bonsai.
Above: This little Turtle Dove kept me company for two seasons. During the first Year when he/she was young and still had no partner, I gave him/her some feedings. That was enough to have him/her hanging around my work bench all day long. Half a sleep on the base of the tree right behind where I worked. Patiently waiting for some birdseed or bread. The next year started the same, but later he/she showed me a new found partner. They hanged around for a few more weeks and then flew away, to do what Turtle Doves do.
Above: This picture was shot in December 2004. The main and secondary branches are more or less in the right place now, small changes in their position are made with the help of small iron pipes and plastic strips. This is how she looked when my good friend and favorite potter Brian Allbright (uk) saw the bonsai when he came to visit me later that year. I asked him if he would design a special pot for this Hawthorn. We spook about some of my ideas on what I had in mind and would like to see in this pot. And the rest was up to Brian unique vision in pottery and knowledge of Bonsai. He promised to bring the pot with him on his next visit to Holland in February 2005. Just in time for me to re pot the tree in it so I could show It in the Ginkgo award 2005 in Belgium.
Above: The first off May 2005. The tree in its beautiful new pot, Brian did a great job! The tree fitted nicely and looks pretty happy in its new home; with all those fragrant flowers. The tree was kept underneath a protecting screen frame, to prevent sun burn on the leaves and attacks from insects (caterpillars are always a problem where I live). I wanted to make sure its would look at its best at this all important Bonsai show.
Above: September 2005 at the Ginkgo Awards in Belgium. This is how the Bonsai looked at the show. Although we suffered one of the hottest Summers ever, the tree looked still pretty fresh, with deep red berry’s. The tree was accompanied by a small plant in a Brian Allbright pot and some gravel on a rock slab from Japan, as a depiction of the place where I found this tree. I found a old Japanese scroll with nice patina and cracked surface, just like the bark on the tree. The descending line of the top of my tree to the right side, is followed by the line of the tops of the trees on the scroll, disappearing in to the distance creating a extra sense of dept to the composition.
Above: May 2006, This bonsai has come a long way from that mountain in Walls to were it is now. And I must admit, I am pretty pleased with the result so far! This elegant tree has become one of my favorites Bonsai in my collection. I really enjoy the different images this old tree shows during the changes of the seasons.
The end (for now).
Hans van Meer.