Monday, March 28, 2016

Yamadori, Bonsai in nature

When you start learning about bonsai you start to come across the word yamadori. Although I have not confirmed the literal translation many have said that it means collected from the mountains. There is a kind of mystique about wild collected bonsai trees. It is a  throwback to the golden age of Japanese bonsai. I can picture people climbing cliffs to extract a prized tree to sell to some feudal lord.  

I was hiking through Joshua Tree National Park when I came across a wash that cut through some boulders. Off in the distance I saw pinyon pine. I got closer to take a picture. I started to go around a boulder for a better shot when I saw the most amazing thing. I saw a two and a half foot pinyon pine growing out of a crack in the rocks. It had dead wood, it had great taper, it had lots of needles. I was awe stricken.  

joshua tree national park


joshua tree national park
My backpack for scale

What is yamadori really? It  is a tree that has not had enough water, or nutrients, or grew to high of an elevation to develop properly. Some have had animals gnaw on it.  Some have had weather maim it. I Believe that you can replicate all of this at home. Take a moderately sized woody plant. Grab a baseball bat (or cricket paddle) and take two good swings at the plant. Let grow for two years and swing at it one more time. Let grow for two more years than harvest. Then you can have a plant that will be uber hard to work with just like yamadori. In fact I believe some people grow trees  in the ground and let the wildlife forage  and walk amongst the trees. They harvest the trees and sell them as yamadori. I am not criticizing, More power to them. The greatest benefit to buying yamadori I think is to work on a big size tree that is a slow grower. 

Yet, like i said earlier there's a feeling of something special about yamadori. To collect a wild grown tree. Then help it survive, then help it thrive. That is very special. Maybe it is not the tree itself but the work that goes into the tree that is special. I would love to hear your ideas about yamadori. Cheers.

Update 04/22
In this video Walter pall talks about yamadori bonsai and shaping them.