What is a yamadori bonsai? What is a pot-grown bonsai? Here are a few simple definitions:
- Yamadori: Bonsai made from an older collected tree
- Pot-Grown: Grown as a bonsai its whole life
A yamadori was crafted over a very long time by the elements, by it’s location in nature. These birth marks are what make them so extraordinarily special when we make bonsai from them. A pot-grown tree, on the other hand, has been crafted by hand from its beginning. Old pot grown trees tend to have clear evidence of styling choices that date way back to its beginnings as a young plant, partly obscured by time in a pot.
Why are these distinctions important? Other than being able to tell one from the other, why should we care? It is just a labeling system. Nothing more.
Or is there something more?
If you take a minute, you may notice that these two types of bonsai actually feel different. Or rather, you feel different standing in front of them.
On the one hand, a gnarled pine that was harvested from a mountain far away. On the next bench, a stately maple created by an air layer many years ago. What does the pine make you feel? How about the maple?
A collected pine might make us feel tranquil or stimulated, and the maple majestic or whimsical—but those are specific to the style. Specific to the individual tree. What about how they were made? For that is more important than we tend to recognize.
If you’re quiet and take a minute to wonder, you might notice a similar thread of feeling when you stand in front of all your yamadoris, and a different thread of feeling when you stand in front of all your pot-grown trees. I think it’s this:
- That bonsai made from a yamadori connects us to the wild
- And a pot-grown bonsai connects us to another person
And it’s curious, is it not, that each is still the medium of a tree, but one speaks with the voice of nature, and the other the voice of community. Both beautiful. Both necessary.
(This is part three of a series that, as my father dryly points out, has no reason being a series as there is no link between them whatsoever. You might also like: The Hook To Hang Our Hat On: Part I, and Sight of the Blind Mind: Part II)