‘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 landscape plants.
In Miami, FL a bonsai artist discovered a perfect yamadori when she saw a small pink flower in her neighbor's grass. It had been mowed over many times. The property owner was glad to have the "annoying little stump" out of the landscape. She was thrilled to have a new shohin Malpighia coccigera in her collection.
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 pruning, carving and repotting, today it is on its way to being a beautiful bonsai! This juniper bonsai will continue to improve with refinement and age.
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.”
It’s good to remember, not all potential bonsai subjects are obvious! Who would guess these two quince bonsai are both plants from the original mess of an untamed, antique quince?
Many potential Urban Yamadori are found quite by coincidence. For example, the “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. They can be a great place to discover such treasures.
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.
Also see many species of plants, good for bonsai.
is my free monthly newsletter. Subscribe to get current tips, ideas and photos that may not appear on this site.