Envisioning the Future – The Beginnings of an Urban Yamadori

In my previous post (5 Reasons Bonsai will Benefit  Your Health) I talked about the attitude of a bonsai artist as being optimistic or hopeful in the future.  Here’s an example of a tree recently collected from a project we started this week. An urban “yamadori” ( yamadori usually means collected from the wild).  It’s a test of the  “hopeful future” attitude.  There were several shrubs that needed to be removed from this site including a large Thuja.   During the initial review of all the plants, I decided that only one of the shrubs was worth keeping as a landscape shrub (a viburnum davidii) and everything else were going to be trashed.   After 1 hour into the process of removing the shrubs, the “plant hoarder” in me kicked in.  Two of the larger shrubs seemed to call my name and begging to be saved from their ultimate doom into the compost pile.  I succumbed to the call and took a second look.  I kept a large trunk Purtugal Laurel the large Arborvitae or Thuja (not sure what kind).  The Thuja is the one I will focus on in this post.  This small tree or large shrub is about 6 to 7 feet tall and was growing at the corner of a house where one side had little to no foliage.  The trunk is about 10  inches in diameter but had little root ball since the soil it was growing in a hard pan clay soil.  Despite of this condition, I saw a small ray of hope from this poor tree as there were new buds trying to grow at the lower branches closer to the trunk.  These trees grow pyramidal with a bunch of branches growing from the trunk in a tight location, it appears that the trunk may have a reverse taper (which is not ideal for bonsai).  But knowing some of all the potential techniques I can use to make this in a bonsai, all of a sudden I had a vision for this tree’s future.  So I said to myself,  I’ll give it a chance” .  Here’s my vision for the future of this tree.

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This is about a 5 to 6 year project. The back part of the tree which has lost foliage from being against the house will be “sharied”. Some of the branches will be “jinned”. If the foliage will respond as I’m envisioning it, I will shorten the entire height to about 15 inches. This sketch is how envision this tree in the future.
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This is a bad photo of the tree before removing it from the ground. This is the side losing some foliage.
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This is the tree after removing about half of its height. This conifers will need their foliage to help their roots to grow. I kept what I can. The roots were exposed so I got a plastic bag from the recycle bin (from the neighbor’s recycle bin, garbage day that day) to keep the roots from drying out.
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This is the tree in “The Garden of Hope”. Hope it will make it.

The drawback of this tree is that it is a slow grower.  I will get it establish first in the next 2 to 3 years.  Right now I just put this tree back in the ground.  It will need to be nursed back to health.  Once I see it healthy, I will cut it back drastically to force some more growth closer to the trunk.  I will fertilize it regularly in the next 2 years.  I will then transfer it into a pot with part of the root in a bonsai mix.  Wait for it to recover during the initial transplant (probably during early winter), first styling and wiring will probably around 4th year.  It’s about a 5 to 6 year project maybe longer.  Right now I have a place in my yard I call “The Garden of Hope”, most of the plants in this section are just hoping to survive.  Worst case scenario it will not make it, at least I tried.  Second best thing, I will have a potential future bonsai material.

I was chatting with John Muth (Bonsai NW owner) after this and mention my project to him, he pointed out a very good point, that sometimes you must have the intuition/knowledge/wisdom to know when a material is bad and not worth spending time on.   For me this tree invited me with it’s new buds forming, I slight undulation of the left side of the main trunk that combined with “shari” could have potential.  We’ll see what nature will give me in the future.

Published by tony bonsaiko

My little trees are my daily reminders of our grand connection to this beautiful and mysterious universe.

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