Yamadori-Style Kishu Bonsai Case Study

Yamadori-Style Kishu Bonsai Case Study

Bonsai Design kishu Yamadori

Have you ever attended a yamadori-style juniper workshop, where the teacher takes young trees and wires them into crazy shapes? I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop like this back in 2007 with Jim Gremel. The concept of the workshop is great fun, with one caveat; the execution takes a long time. I wired a couple trees during that workshop, and while an initial styling of a juniper whip will give it a good start to becoming a bonsai with movement to the trunk, this is only one of many steps you need to take before you reach the point of having a good refined tree. Here are a few things to consider along the way:

  • The trunk section that you initially wire is only one element; as more branching grows add movement to compliment the movement of the trunk.
  • You are going to have some large jin that will need reduction later. The parts that you are going to keep will need to have enough movement and interest to make them a feature rather than a liability.
  • The hardest thing to do is wait - but you just have to. If you go picking off foliage all the time and cutting off branching you won't get the wood growth as quickly. My advice is to have other trees in your collection to work on, so it's easier for you to "ignore" long-term projects.
  • When you start reducing things, do it in stages. Remove some large branches, wait a year, and then remove the rest. Eliminating all of them at once can cause juvenile growth, or dieback on the roots.

For more details on the process, read my previous article, "Designing Yamadori-Style Juniper Bonsai." I'm going to focus on the tree I wired during Jim's 2007 workshop. For this tree, after wiring some additional branching I let it grow for years, once potting it up into a large wooden box to allow for ample room for root growth.

One of the earlier shots I have, the tree in February 2012. Note the numerous long large branches. I had even been working on a plan to air layer off a few.

When I decided it was time to reduce the branching I initially just chopped off half the tops of the long branches and then put it back on the bench to continue growing. A few months later in July 2014 I reduced the rest of the sacrifice branches and wired all the remaining small branching to give the tree more directionality and personality.

July 2014 – I did heavy cutback on the tree eliminating many of the sacrifice branches and giving it the beginning of a style.

During repotting in January 2015 I went from the large box to a much smaller container. At this point, after repotting I spotted what I thought might be a better front. I had some time to think it over since it was winter and I wouldn’t be doing any branch work until mid-summer. Since then, every time I looked at the tree I would rotate it, consider the original front against the new possibility and evaluate which was more interesting. I concluded that the new front had a more interesting trunk line because it will feel more dynamic than the original front.

August 2014 – the tree is healthy and growing nicely. Time for some styling. This is the new front, which is different from what I had imagined for years during the growing phase.

Eliminating some of the branching to reveal more of the twisting wood.

Jin creation from branches wired in summer 2014. During that styling I wired many of the small branches on the top and then right side in a pattern that would accentuate the windswept quality of the tree once they were turned into jin.

A made-to-order jin. The branch is small and headed in a direction that indicates a strong wind influence.

Eight years after Jim’s workshop I’m finally nearing the end of the creation of a quality shohin tree [main image at the top of this article]. 

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