translated from Japanese means "… collecting plants in the
mountains…" and is without doubt the highlight of collecting and
creating Bonsai. Because of so many difficulties and efforts in doing
so, just very few bonsai enthusiasts are practicing this digging on the
the collecting of trees in nature is forbidden without the permission of
the landowner or the local forestry office. Protected areas are taboo
for every kind of digging.
responsible way of acting in nature is provided when you are collecting
in the mountains; for example, no tree should be pulled out when you are
having a walk in the middle of summer's heat, because the rate of death
will be 100%. Besides that, one should have the necessary horticultural
experience, or in spite of all enthusiasm for the mountain trees, one
becomes a treekiller inevitably! For the trees, the loss of leaves and
root mass, the climatic switch and the great changes in reference to
soil, rain, humidity, temperature etc... are often the reasons that they
don't survive the procedure of the collecting.
these tortured trees are small and bent, they are important for things
like protection against avalanches and erosion, for the covering,
nesting and feeding of animals etc... You should remember all of these
points before you go into the mountains to collect.
The best time for digging is the first weeks in spring; from April
to June, according to the snow on the mountains, especially for larches,
spruces junipers and pines. In September and October, mountain pines (pinus
mugo) can still be dug up easily and successfully, because these pines
stop their growth at the end of August and in autumn there will be some
growth at the roots. Deciduous trees generally should be dug up in
Spring (before the buds are swelling).
best places to find trees suitable for bonsai are in the mountains at
heights around 1300 to 2200m, the areas around the timberline are pretty
good, a harsh zone, where most bizarre trees can be found. Trees which
can be found in areas with falling rocks, steep faces and hollows have
usually a more dense rootball than trees on more nutritious soils around
the mountain pastures, which have a widespread root system.
you start digging, you have to reduce the foliage to a necessary level,
but ATTENTION: especially for pines, but also for other evergreen
conifers, the reduction shouldn't be too great. It can die because of
the big reduction of the food-generating surface (foliage). Larches and
deciduous trees can be cut back harder without problems. You have to
find a balance of the ratio between the foliage (chlorophyll) and the
you start digging you have to take away the loose packed soil and rocks
around the tree. I use secateurs, a small saw, a small crowbar and of
course my own hands for the job. In the mountains you are almost out of
place with a shovel or a spade.
best success in getting the trees growing on will be if they grow in
hollows or directly on big stones or rocks. Actually, you don't have to
dig these plants up, you only have to lift them up (maybe some roots
have to be cut). These species show a very dense rootball and sometimes
you can put them directly into a bonsai pot, so they can be styled after
just one growing season.
is very important, that you put the uncovered rootball immediately in
damp moss if available or in damp cloth or pieces of fabric, which you
have to take with you, to save it against drying out. The damp cloths
around the roots will then be fixed with special cloths out of burlap,
available in nurseries. Some plastic bags can be taken as well.
home, the tree has to be potted immediately in a wooden box (with enough
draining holes), a suitable plastic container or a big bonsai pot. The
soil I use is a well draining mixture out of akadama, granite and lime
gravel. - But everybody has to look to his own experience with soil for
is important to fix the tree in the pot with a supporting staff, some
wire etc..., so the new fine roots won't be damaged later because of any
no case should the rootball be cut back at this time to fit in a pot. If
necessary you have to use a bigger box right after the removing. - But
ATTENTION: When the box is too big, it isn't good either, because the
soil might get too wet and that may cause root rot.
first case, the freshly removed tree should survive. The rootball can
wait for 1 to 3 years until the plant has recovered and is strong and
healthy enough to be reduced again. After the potting you can put the
container in a tub of water, so that the rootball and the soil get stuck
together without pockets of air, for better drainage.
biggest problem for yamadori collected in the Spring is the change in
the climate. While in the mountains the last snow melts away at the end
of May - beginning of June, the temperature is around 0°C. Because of
that, the trees can be dug up only very late, while in the valley, there
are already summerry temperatures of around 25 to 30 °C. In autumn,
usually this problem does not exist. The tree can start growing after
its winter dormancy like usual (without stress) and is saved from such
an enormous change of temperature.
one should place the yamadori in half-shade and sheltered from wind.
Freshly dug up trees don't need too much water and some air in the soil
is good for the growth of fine roots. Additionally, I sprinkle my
yamadori every day with a fine mist of water. If the tree survives and
starts growing the following year, it can be put into the full sun.
one has achieves this until now, there should be no styling done on that
tree for at least 1 or 2 years or more. It makes sense to style the tree
when it is perfectly healthy and has had some periods of growing well
(in the valley).
the work finally starts, one should either style the tree or repot it to
a bonsai pot. Both at the same time means too much stress to the tree
and that should be avoided.