Yamadori Junipers With Jim Gremel

MBS members had the opportunity to work with California bonsai professional Jim Gremel creating yamadori bonsai from young shimpaku juniper whips.

Jim Gremel preparing rafia to wrap tree – Image by: RDS Photo

Jim is a nurseryman and well known bonsai stylist having won national awards. Jim supplied some of the junipers. Others were purchased earlier in the summer from Telperion Farms. The assortment was a combination of Kishu and Itoigawa species. All had tight foliage – one being a little lighter green then the other.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Yamadori is actually a name given to collected trees from the wild. Typically, yamadori are old, gnarled, trees showing the impact of weather and the environment with broken branches (jins) and gnarled, dead, weathered veins (shari).

We are attempting to speed up the aging process to achieve a home grown Yamadori through techniques learned during the workshops.

Jim has been using this technique for more than 10 years in his own California nursery.

Jim started out by showing us how to correctly prepare raffia by tying bundles of four or five strands together at one end, rolling the joined strands into a little bundle, and hydrating them with warm tap water. Jim had a bunch of raffia rolls stored in a zip lock bag. We each got a bundle. We straightened the strands, squeezed the water out and very neatly and tightly applied the raffia from the trunk base to the top. Applying raffia in a continuous, “mummy” like rap protects the tree from damage during the bending process.

Jim Gremel demonstrating shaping the tree – Image by: RDS Photo

After the raffia, two strands of aluminum wire spaced apart were applied to the trunk. Two wires are better than one for smooth bending of the trunk.

After all this was done, we then twisted our little shimpaku junipers into a little “slinky” dog. Pulling here and there with pliers gave our junipers unique character and eliminated the monotony of an even spring. We wired the small branches and had a little yamadori in the making.

Jim told us to keep the wire on the main trunk until it formed wire scars. It locks in the squiggly shape better and gives the trunk more old character.Jim has been doing this for a number of years and has many little “yamadoris” in various stages of development.

After more development, the tree owner can remove bark from some branches creating (jins) and remove bark from the trunk to create sharis. Most of us came away from the workshops with two or three of these little yamadori starters and look forward to developing them in the future.

Preparing to wrap tree with rafia – Image by: SMK
Jim Gremel advising on shaping partipant’s tree – Image by: SMK