In Japanese: “Yamadori” - Sometimes trees that remained small can be found in nature, due to natural circumstances such as a lack of nutrients.
Although it can be hard to successfully dig out the trees and transport them home, these are trees that often possess extraordinarily qualities for Bonsai purposes. Note that it is likely illegal to dig out plants from forests; permission should be granted by the landowner.
For most Bonsai tree species the best time to dig out Bonsai trees is during the early spring, just before the tree starts growing.
How to collect Yamadori Bonsai trees
Step-by-step plan for collecting trees from forests:
- First step is to carefully dig around the tree with a spade, be careful not to damage its root system (see picture 1, below).
- Carefully lift the tree and put it on (possibly moisturized) sheets. Now wrap the sheets around the root system to prevent the tree from drying out (see picture 2, below). The tree should be potted as soon as possible once you arrive back home.
- Collect some of the original soil mixture where you dug out the tree, which should be used to prepare a soil mixture for the tree.
- Choose a rather large pot with a drainage hole and fill it up to ¼ with a mixture of fine gravel and akadama in a ratio of ½ to ½ (read the Bonsai soil article for more detailed information on soil mixtures for different species of trees, climates, etc.).
- Carefully unwrap the sheets around the root system and place the tree in the pot, now fill the empty space on the sides using the collected original soil mixture mixed with akadama in a ration of ½ to ½ (see picture 3, below).
- Finally, rinse a considerable amount of water over the tree, but be careful not to disturb the soil surface by using a fine nozzle.
And then? Aftercare
Put the pot outside protected from direct sunlight and keep it damp, but not wet. Leave the tree untouched until the next spring, when it can be trained and repotted for the first time. Small quantities of fertilizer can be used during the first summer.
For reference material about training collected trees, check the Bonsai progressions part of this website. Or read the Bonsai training pages for background information about techniques like pruning, wiring etc.