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Urban Yamadori

‘Urban yamadori’ is a recently coined phrase that describes using plants with bonsai potential salvaged from yards, parking lots and even trash heaps.

The word itself is Japanese for 'collecting trees in the mountains.' However, not all collected plants are from the wild.

Growing bonsai trees from seed, cuttings and nursery stock cannot compete with aged wild and landscape plants.

The first urban yamadori I ever saw was a shohin malpighia which had been run over by a lawn mower for many years.  A Miami bonsai person discovered it when she saw a small pink flower in her neighbor's grass.  The owner was glad to have the "annoying little stump" out of the landscape.

Before and After

juniper bonsai, urban yamadori

John Hill, Ohio USA acquired this once scraggly juniper from a neighbor. He potted it in a training pot and established it in bonsai soil.

After much pruning, carving and repotting, today it is on its way to being quite a beautiful  bonsai! 

This juniper bonsai will only continue to improve with age. 

yamadori, urban yamadori, bonsai

In Des Moines, IA USA Fred Truck saw this quince “in the yard of a house down the block and around the corner.

The houses there were built about 1915, so it is likely that this quince has been there for at least 90 years.

I dug up a division in 2003, August.

yamadori, urban yamadori, bonsai
urban yamadori, quince bonsai

It’s good to remember, not all potential bonsai subjects are obvious!

Who would guess these two quince bonsai are both plants from that original mess of untamed antique quince?

Where to Find Urban Yamadori

Many potential bonsai are found quite by coincidence. I recently read about a “collector” who found an old, free azalea on Craig’s List!

Many bonsai nursery owners make a habit of searching for specimens, and collecting trees with bonsai potential.

In my Miami, FL nursery days, my eyes were always open to such opportunities.

One evening I saw a row of very old bougainvillea recently plowed over by an auto accident. 

Knowing they would not be replanted, it was quite a project, but I managed to get the best one into the trunk of my little Toyota!

Years later, I learned that "the other Mary" had also seen the same opportunity and picked up several for herself.  (She had a much larger vehicle than I !)

How to Get Them -
Just Ask!

Today, some landscapers know how hungry we are for such treasures and sell old plants removed from jobs.  Others will just give them away (sometimes bare root.) 

Many homeowners will readily trade new plants for their old overgrown landscape shrubs. 

If you see something special, it may be worth knocking on the door and offering to replace the old with a new nursery plant.

Where to Go From Here

Read more about collected plants on the yamadori introduction page.

See many species of plants, good for bonsai.

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