Yamadori Style Kishu

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 | 4 Comments
Yamadori Style Kishu

I think it was back in 2007 that Jim Gremel did a workshop for BSSF, the somewhat-infamous Yamadori-style juniper workshops where he takes young trees and wires them into crazy shapes. His concept is great, it’s just that the execution takes a long time. I wired a couple trees during that workshop and recall him looking at the bends and commenting “not sure where you’re headed with this but go for it.”

While an initial styling of a juniper whip will give you a good start with adding movement to the trunk, it’s only one of many steps 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.   Make sure that the parts that you are going to keep will 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 wont get the wood growth as quickly.  (Having more trees is a good way of learning 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 can cause juvenile growth, or dieback on the roots.

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....

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.

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.

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.

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

Jin creation from branches wired in summer 2014.

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.

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

The result for this styling session.  Another year will see more growth and new opportunities to reduce some branching while emphasizing other branching.

The result for this styling session.

Eight years after Jim’s workshop I’m finally nearing the end of the creation of a quality shohin tree. Now I find myself wishing I had a batch of 20 of these rather than just one.

4 Comments

  1. jim gremel
    September 2, 2015

    I’m glad you stuck with it – your tree looks great.

    Ah… the long wait. I started along this path in 1995, so I have been waiting for 20 years. I made hundreds of them. Growing them in pots allows frequent reevaluations and refinement; the ground yields heavier trunks.

    I would post a photo here, if I knew how…

    Anyone can eliminate the wait, as I have yamadori style shimpaku in all stages of development available at my nursery.

    Thanks – Jim

    • Eric Schrader
      September 2, 2015

      Thanks for the note Jim. I agree, after 8 years of waiting, I’d say invest some money to have a couple more refined ones on hand while you’re waiting to develop others. Been meaning to get up to your place again for a while now.

      Cheers – Eric

  2. Thomdec
    September 2, 2015

    I have a juniper whip Jim twisted into a cascade a couple of years ago that is just beginning to show its potential. The trunk has thickened into gnarly, but elegant curves, with the bark taking on its own character by flaking and creating natural gin. The pads are lush with vigorous growth and are starting to take shape. I realize it’s going to take long time before my tree reaches the stages of those in the photos, but it’s off to a good start to becoming a great bonsai. It’s about working with nature, and adding your own twists along the way. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos, they are an inspiration and help to illustrate time well spent.

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